The year is racing away and it is already mid-April…phew. With the ski season drawing to a close and the summer sun not yet here to lure us to the beach, we need to think of something to fill the mini-break void. At this time of year most people are reluctant to splash out too much, often opting to keep saving for a bigger holiday later on, but that does not mean we should deprive ourselves of the odd weekend adventure to shake off the winter cobwebs. And nothing says ‘adventure’ more than adrenaline sports.
“Sounds like an expensive route to a heart attack” you might well say, but adrenaline comes in all shapes, sizes and speeds, and a couple of days of outdoor excitement do not have to break the bank.
Take the plunge
When anyone mentions bungee jumping, images of a treacherous jump into some valley or other in New Zealand or South Africa spring to mind, but you don’t have to spend hundreds on a long haul flight in order to feel the rush and bounce of the bungee cord. There are numerous places all over Europe offering the opportunity to bungee with established, safety-aware companies in picturesque surroundings.
For around £70-80 (€85-95) you could be bouncing into the Pitz Valley from Austria’s highest pedestrian suspension bridge, or dive 43m from an aerial tram cabin over the Gauja River in Sigulda, Latvia. If you really want a story to tell why not head to Switzerland where you can play at being 007 himself for the day? The Verzasca Dam bungee jump near Locarno was made famous when it featured in the opening scene of GoldenEye. The extra height, at 220m, and of course the extra fame do add to the price, but you can still bag this unforgettable experience for under £200.
Anyone with a bit more spare cash lying around and a hunger for a thrill should check out the Macau Tower bungee in Macau (a Special Administrative Region of China) or sign up for a longer tour in New Zealand where a bungee jump is just one of the experiences on offer.
Perhaps a step up from the bungee jump is the sky dive. There is no rope to dangle from and instead of jumping from fixed platform your point of departure is somewhat higher: up in the clouds from a moving aircraft. Sounds terrifying in theory, and I defy anyone to maintain a regular heartbeat just before they take that final step onto nothing, but people all over the world have made the jump and lived to tell the adrenaline-fuelled tale.
Of course this activity involves a lot of equipment, space and highly trained staff, but that does not mean that you cannot find a reasonable deal that ensures your safety as well. Your best bet in Europe may be the Swiss Alps, adding an incredible view into the deal alongside the obvious adrenaline rush. For those venturing further afield, New Zealand once again offers some of the most popular spots along with neighbouring Australia.
Ride the zip wire
A winner with all ages the zip wire can range from a short whizz in a playground to a full-flung jungle journey. This article is aiming at people looking for a thrill, so I have been investigating locations that offer a longer, higher and more exhilarating ride.
The great thing about this activity is that as well as providing the excitement of a dizzying fairground ride it also allows you to see things that you might not otherwise have the chance to, and at very close proximity. For example, it has become a popular way to get around above jungle and wooded areas, riding above the trees but close enough to get a great view of the wildlife and often ducking under the dense canopy.
A mere £34 will get you into Tarzan Park in Latvia’s Gauja National Park where you can zip through the treetop course, overcoming several obstacles along routes of varying difficulty. Other zip wire destinations can be found dotted around Europe, but considering the fact that it is a great jungle activity it is probably best done, well, in the jungle. Zoom through the vegetation at the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico or delve into the San José rainforest in Costa Rica: obviously getting to the destination will be more pricey, but the zip wire experience itself is still a snip at £50 (€60).
For those of you who cannot quite bring yourself to hurl your body out of an aeroplane or jump off a viaduct, but who are still seeking a more toned down thrill, paragliding is the answer. With this activity you have the height, you have the sensation of flying, but the free-fall-hurtling-towards-an-almost-certain-death aspect is removed.
As you approach the launch platform and start to prepare for lift-off it is easy to convince yourself that the experience head will be a scary one…but in reality the launch itself is nothing at all like stepping off a cliff; you literally run forwards and soar gently into the air. Your instructor, to whom you are reassuringly strapped, will direct you up, down, and round, and should be able to tell you lots of interesting information about the landscape as you glide above it. This slower paced air activity is perfect for seeing you surroundings from a new perspective – one great place to paraglide is over the coast of an area with a coral reef, which looks incredible from the air.
Excellent paragliding spots within Europe include Oludeniz in Turkey, where you can take off from the peak of Babadag Mountain and land on the beach, and various places in Switzerland, usually costing around £100 for a 45 minute – 1 hour descent. Outside of Europe fantastic paragliding sites can be found throughout the Americas, from north to south, with a huge range of scenery on offer and plenty of impressive mountains to take off from.
So, it turns out a ‘holiday’ does not have to be entirely geared towards relaxation – it can appeal to your wild side too. With so many activities available in Europe at reasonable prices, adrenaline sports are certainly a viable option for a weekend getaway.
Go on, I dare you…
This blog post was contributed by the one and only Rachel Stewart, aka @TommyGirlTravel, talented writer and member of the pocketvillage family.
Want to check out some of the trips mentioned above yourself?
Go check out this list of bookable activities: