As children get older, braver and sportier, family holidays become more and more about adventures and activities – less about what you can see and more about what you can do. Mountains become places for biking and hiking, rivers are sites for rafting, the sea is a location for snorkelling and kayaking rather than paddling or sandcastle-building.

Our active family holidays in Europe include all of these pursuits and more in classic destinations such as the Greek island of Crete, as well as places you might not have thought about, including the tiny gems of Montenegro and Slovenia. We’ve showcased our favourite European activity holidays with kids, but if you don’t see anything that floats your boat, raft, canoe, or paddleboard, pick up the phone for more ideas and inspiration.

Our top 10 Active Family Holidays in Europe

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1. Norway

Kayaking on Norway summer family holiday

Kayak on the fjords with optional overnight camping

A destination perhaps more readily associated with winter holidays and snowy landscapes, Norway also dazzles in summer. Our Norway family holidays expert Helene sings the praises of hiking to waterfalls, canyoning, white-water rafting, kayaking on fjords with overnight camping, hiking in Jotunheimen National Park, and cycling, but that’s just the tip of the Norwegian iceberg – as our Norway in Summer, Norway in Winter, and Voyage to the Arctic itineraries display.

“Norway is such a gob-smackingly beautiful country. The range of activities kept us well occupied and weren’t too onerous for us over 50s! We were bowled over by the beauty of the dreamlike fjord landscapes.” Kelsey Family (with child aged 15)

2. Madeira

Family walking in Madeira, active holidays Europe

Mountainous Madeira is a hiking paradise

This under-the-radar insider family secret is an island outpost of Portugal, with mesmerising volcanic landscapes. Standouts for our expert Claire, are its hiking along levadas (unique walking trails along irrigation paths), cycling, canyoning, whale and dolphin watching, sea kayaking and snorkelling. Our Madeira short break can accommodate many of these, or you can extend it to take in more – let yourself be inspired by our Madeira family holidays feature.

“We had a fun holiday. I would definitely recommend your guide, Roberto. We really enjoyed all the activities. Thanks so much for your help in organising the trip for us.” Family L (with children aged 13 & 15)

3. Montenegro

Montenegro family rafting

Go rafting on the Tara River

This tiny off-the-beaten-track country is jam-packed with action – and you can take in most of it in a single trip, from its remote mountains to its charming seaside. Our MD Liddy singles out rafting on the Tara River, hiking the mountainous Durmitor Ring, and taking a boat across Lake Skadar or cycling around it as her favourite activities with kids in Montenegro. Our article on the Top 10 Things to do on a Montenegro family holiday has more info on these and other activities.

“We had an unforgettable time in this beautiful country where we took huge pleasure in meeting some pretty amazing people.” Littleboy Family (with children aged 11 and 13) 

4. Greece

Family of four at the Acropolis, Greece, on active Europe holiday

Choose Greece for a mix of culture and outdoorsy activities

With its beaches, mountains, islands, olive groves and pine forests, Greece is a fabulous place for outdoorsy families – perfect for everything from swimming in crystal-clear waters to hiking to secluded monasteries and white-water rafting. Our Greece family holidays expert Charlotte particularly recommends hiking up Mount Zas on Naxos and taking a snorkelling tour off Amorgos (for both, see our Athens and Cyclades Islands itinerary), plus sea-kayaking off the mainland Peloponnese (part of our Peloponnese Adventure). For more ideas see our Top 10 Things to Do in Greece with Kids.

“A great balance of activities and then quieter days when we needed them – the best family holiday we’ve ever had.” Family D (with kids aged 6, 10 & 13)

5. Azores

Girl smiling as she goes coasteering in the Azores on active Europe family holiday

Coasteering in the Azores is great fun for active kids

Another Portuguese archipelago out in the Atlantic, the Azores rivals Madeira for dolphin and whale watching. Our destination expert Lee also highly recommends hiking around volcanic craters, mountain biking, climbing Mount Pico, cooking food in the ground of a volcano, and hiking through vineyards. For this and more, see our family holidays in Azores guide and our Azores short break.

“We had an absolutely awesome time! We swam with dolphins. We rode bikes around a crater and paddled kayaks across a crater lake. We watched our 8-year-old overcome his fears as he leapt from 8m high into the deep blue sea on our coasteering adventure.” Cocoa Family (with children aged 8 and 12)

6. Turkey

Kids on an activity holiday in Turkey's Cappadocia region

Go ballooning in Cappadocia and explore the extraordinary landscapes

This is a vast country with enormous amounts to do, but while many come for the beaches and water sports, great as these are, our Turkey family holidays expert Caroline urges you to go hiking and hot-air ballooning in Cappadocia, renowned for its ‘fairy chimneys’, kayaking over the ghost city of Kekova, hiking to the village of Ölüdeniz with its blue lagoon, and slathering yourselves in mud in Dalyan hot baths. To see how these fit into a family holiday, sneak a peek at our Turquoise Coast Adventure and Highlights of Turkey suggested itineraries.

“Cappadocia was amazing. Recommend the sunset horseback ride if your backside can handle it! Stunning. The balloon was the biggest hit. We all loved it. Also exploring the rock formations (Monk Valley for example) was a lot of fun for the kids.” Wayman Family (with children aged 12, 16 & 18)

7. Slovenia

Family swimming in Lake Bohinj, Slovenia, on active family holiday in Europe.

Grab a paddle board, swim, kayak and picnic at Lake Bled

Packing a huge punch for its size, this little jewel squeezed in between the Alps and the Adriatic is best – according to our Slovenia family holidays expert Sinead – for its whitewater rafting, canyoning, hiking in the remote Logar valley, paddleboarding on Lake Bled or on the river in Ljubljana, and exploring caves and gorges. In Kranjska Gora, you can even cycle over the border into Italy. Our Highlights of Slovenia itinerary fully immerses you in Slovenia’s jaw-dropping landscapes, or stay a bit longer with our Slovenia and Croatia holiday for even more outdoor fun.

“We had an amazing holiday. The kids loved the SUP, canyoning and rafting activities, and all the jumping in. My 7-year-old even managed the 8m jump on the rafting trip! We loved everything about Slovenia.” Young Family (with children aged 7 and 12)

8. Iceland

Snorkelling in a dry suit in Iceland where the tectonic plates join

Snorkel at the Silfra Fissure where continental plates meet

Our expert Robyn stresses that the ‘land of fire and ice’ isn’t just for the chillier months – hence our different winter and summer itineraries. In fact, you may be surprised how many ‘wintry’ activities you can do in Iceland even in summer – snowmobiling, for instance. Among Robyn’s top recommendations for family holidays in Iceland are glacier hiking and kayaking, horse riding, sea kayaking, and snorkelling in the Silfra fissure between two continental plates.

“This was an absolutely superb trip. Snorkelling at the Silfra Fissure was a unique experience in the glacial waters – with 100% clarity it was superb.” Norcutt Family (with kids aged 13 and 14)

9. Croatia

Sea kayaking in Croatia, mother and son, family holiday

River or sea kayaking in the crystal-clear Adriatic are top family experiences

Kayaking on the Zrmanja River, white-water rafting on the Cetina, cliff jumping in the Kornati National Park archipelago, and cycling and snorkelling on Sipan after sea kayaking there from neighbouring island Lopud… These are the highlights of our Croatia family holidays says expert Emma. With its remote canyons, cascading waterfalls, soaring peaks, national parks and rugged coastline, Croatia is one of our most popular destinations for active family holidays in Europe, whether you choose our Croatia short break, expand your stay with our two-week Highlights of Croatia itinerary, or cover two bases with our two-centre Slovenia and Croatia holiday. If you’re undecided about which to pick, let our Top 10 Things to Do in Croatia with Kids guide you.

“Finally, a holiday that we (the adults) would have chosen pre-kids, that we could enjoy with our kids. Your itinerary worked so well for us as a family.” Walker Family (with children aged 7 and 9)

10. Crete

Hiking in Crete on active family holiday in Europe

Hiking in Crete is spectacular

Our 10-day Crete Adventure immerses you in this history-drenched Greek island where, as Liddy points out, thrilling outdoor activities abound. She especially loves hiking in the Oleander Gorge, mountain biking, sea kayaking, swimming and surf lessons. And after all that alfresco active fun, you can take part in a cookery class and learn to replicate hearty local dishes that will give you energy for your next adventures. For more see our Top 10 Crete activities.

“We learned and saw so much of Crete without even trying to and I have to say I totally fell in love with the place. Such an amazing island. We all found the activities extremely rewarding.” Holme Family (with children aged 14 and 17)

Find out more about what other families have said about their holidays with us on the customer review pages in each of our European destinations.

What next…

Inspired? Get in touch for help planning an active family holiday in Europe that’s exactly right for each family member, with the ideal balance of excursions, activities and relaxation – ring us – 01728 752751 – or use our website contact form.

Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel
I’d love to hear about your experiences of active holidays in Europe and see your holiday photos so do email me at [email protected].