Top 10 active short breaks

Short on time, but with a never ending adventurous spirit? We’ve picked our top 10 active short breaks to get you sailing and sea kayaking, hiking and horse riding without exhausting holiday allowances. You’ll be wolf tracking in Poland and driving a team of huskies in Lapland, or spiking adrenaline levels coasteering along the extraordinary Pembrokeshire coastline. These are big trips, offering big adventures, but in bite-sized portions of five days or so.

1. Sailing & sea kayaking in Croatia

Croatia’s coastline could have been created just for water loving wanderers. Jump in a kayak and you’ll find coves and caves tucked away on rocky islands. Sailing trips take you between tiny fishing ports and to quiet beaches away from Croatia’s main tourist hotspots. Help to heave up the sails, or dive in and snorkel in the crystal clear water to up the adventure levels.
When to go: April to October
Our top trip: Sailing in Croatia
See all our trips: Croatia short break adventure holidays
Read more: Croatia travel guide

2. Arctic adventures in Lapland

Spot the Northern Lights on a nighttime snowshoeing safari into the Finnish forest, or drive your own team of sled dogs across a vast, snow covered Arctic lake. Lapland, spanning the northernmost regions of Finland, Sweden and Norway is a spectacularly beautiful winter playground. Don your thermals and discover traditional Sami culture alongside cross country skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing.

When to go: December to April
Our top trip: Northern Lights short break, Finland
See all our trips: Winter activity holidays
Read more: Winter multi activity holidays travel guide

3. Coastal adrenaline in Pembrokeshire, Wales

Discover the breathtaking Pembrokeshire Coast National Park on a short break that proves you don’t need to travel far for a big adventure. Dotted with sandy bays and vertiginous cliffs, the rocks here are home to a plethora of wildflowers and sea birds. You’ll be kayaking, hiking and coasteering, keeping your eyes peeled for the porpoises and dolphins playing in the deep waters of Cardigan Bay.

When to go: May to October
Our top trip: Sea kayaking holiday in Wales
See all our trips: Pembrokeshire holidays
Read more: Wales travel guide

4. Multi activities in Romania

Gorgeous Transylvania is a living fairytale, with steep-roofed houses in higgledy-piggeldy villages, creepy castles and sweeping mountains. It’s also a living adventure playground. Head to the western Carpathian Mountains and you’ll be hiking, cycling and caving, enjoying flower filled Alpine meadows and crystal filled underground caverns. All the while you’ll experience warm local hospitality and an insight into rural Romanian life, unchanged for centuries.
When to go: March to October
Our top trip: Romania activity holiday, Western Carpathians
See all our trips: Carpathian Mountains holidays
Read more: Carpathian Mountains travel guide

5. Adventures on horse back

Remote, gloriously green and yet easily accessible, the Wye Valley is perfectly suited to a short adventure break. Let your horse – and local guide - take you further than your feet ever could into remote hills and wild valleys, along unmarked paths littered with legends from as far back as the First Century.

When to go: April to September
Our top trip: Short break riding holiday, Wales
See all our trips: Horse riding holidays
Read more: Horse riding travel guide

6. Wilderness adventure in Sweden

Hike, paddle and pedal between local guesthouses in Sörmland, a swathe of forested countryside just outside Stockholm, dotted with lakes. Head north to the pine forests of central Sweden for a magical stay in a fairytale woodland camp, with guided hikes in search of moose and beavers, or wild camp and kayak your way through the Saint Anna Archipelago for a really remote wilderness adventure.

When to go: June to September
Our top trip: Sweden kayaking short break
See all our trips: Sweden short break holidays
Read more: Sweden travel guide

7. Auroras and waterfalls in Iceland

Black beaches, green skies: an adventure in Iceland is always a little bit different. On a short break, stick to the south coast. You can spend time enjoying Reykjavik, before heading out around the Golden Circle driving route to see wild natural highlights. There are geysers that froth to high-rise height, and waterfalls that roar. Pick a trip where you don't stay in the capital, but instead somewhere more remote, minimising the light pollution so that the Northern Lights get a look-in. Going in late autumn means that you have more hours of darkness, maximising your chance of getting a glimpse.
When to go: October and November
Our top trip: Iceland northern lights adventure holiday
See all our trips: Iceland short breaks
Read more: Iceland short break travel guide

8. Hiking in the High Atlas, Morocco

So close to Europe you can almost touch it, yet a world away in terms of culture and exoticism, Morocco makes for an exhilarating, beguiling and accessible short break. Head into the High Atlas mountains and you’ll enjoy traditional Berber hospitality (glass after glass of mint tea is par for the course) after hikes along a myriad of mountain trails. Guided or self-guided, you choose.

When to go: All year round
Our top trip: Kasbah du Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains
See all our trips: Atlas Mountains short break holidays
Read more: Atlas Mountains travel guide

9. Wildlife tracking in Europe

Europe’s distinctive, yet often overlooked, wildlife is accessible on a short break. Strap on your walking boots and join an expert local guide to track wolves in Poland, Slovakia or Sweden, or travel deep into the Finland’s northeastern wilderness, hiking and canoeing, to reach remote wildlife hides. Your aim? Up close encounters with brown bears, one of Europe’s most powerful predators.

When to go: May to September
Our top trip: Watch brown bears in Finland
See all our trips: Short break wildlife holidays
Read more: Short break wildlife travel guide

10. Cycling in Portugal

Cycling at your own pace over three days, exploring the small towns and beautiful beaches of the eastern Algarve. Relax at the cafes and restaurants along the way, soaking up the atmosphere of the Portuguese lifestyle. Add in a glass or two of Vinho Verde and Portugal becomes a perfect choice for cyclists short on time.
When to go: All year round
Our top trip: Cycling in the Algarve
See all our trips: Cycling holidays in Portugal
Read more: Portugal cycling travel guide
Written by Sarah Faith
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ashley Knedler] [1. Sailing & sea kayaking in Croatia: Arnie Papp] [4. Multi activities in Romania: Podu Stricat] [7. Fire & ice in Iceland: Naveen Raj Dhanapal] [10. Cycling in Portugal: manjerix ]