For many of us, international travel is a means to escape, wind-down and de-stress by the beach (maybe with a good book in hand, or a cocktail or two). But there are other ways to recharge and return home revitalised.
Getting active is a fun and easy way to boost mental and physical wellbeing, so why not incorporate it into your next holiday? Sporting holidays are a great way to improve — or learn — a new skill, leave with a sense of achievement, and perhaps more adventurous holiday snaps to share with family and friends.
We looked at how well equipped the 50 top world holiday destinations are for hiking, cycling, skiing, water sports and yoga. We then considered weekly budgets and the number of tourists to find the most accessible and affordable ‘active holidays’ for your next big trip abroad.
The world champions
The study reveals that Australia is the top destination for an active holiday, scoring in the top 10 for all the sports other than skiing. Australia offers the most hiking trails per tourist, with 9653 different hiking routes on offer (or 1,095 routes per 1 million tourists). With beautiful coasts, rugged outback, mountain ranges and tropical rainforests, there’s a diverse range of landscapes to explore on foot. Australia is also the 4th best destination for water sports, the 8th best for yoga and the 10th best for cycling.
You may know Brazil as the world’s football capital, but the Latin country is a haven for sport lovers of all kinds. Coming 2nd in the study, Brazil scored particularly well for cycling; with the 4th most routes per tourist. The country came 11th for water sports, and 12th for yoga retreats and number of hiking trails, although — like Australia — the tropical destination is no skiing hotspot.
Norway came 3rd in the list. An alternative to the ski-season favourites, France and Switzerland, Norway offers the third best skiing option for international travellers when considering the length of ski slopes on offer.
Completing the top five were Switzerland in 4th place (which came top for skiing options per tourist) and the United States in 5th position (which came just behind Australia for hiking trails per tourist).
Best countries for cyclists
When ignoring data per tourist, it’s no surprise that Germany, Italy and France have the most listed cycling route options. But looking at the number on offer per tourist, there are plenty of alternative and attractive destinations to explore by pedal-power.
Even when taking in the amount of visitors per year, Germany is the ultimate cycling destination, with at least 1,500,000 routes listed. In second place — a trip promised to make you sweat — is Switzerland (although there are plenty of easier lake-side routes for beginners). In third place Poland offers the third most routes per tourist, thanks to a large recent investment in biking infrastructure. Cyclists can expect forest and river-bank trails, mountain trails and newly built city cycling lanes — check out the GreenVelo route to get started.
The most ski slopes per tourist
It’s no surprise that looking at the sheer length of ski slopes on offer, the United States and France both have over 10,000 KM of ski runs to race down. But if you don’t want to be squeezed into a ski-chalet, Switzerland, Austria and Norway offer more slopes to ski on per tourist. Switzerland is also the second most expensive destination on our list, so if you’ve wanted to try your hand at skiing but have been put off by the price, then Austria and Norway are excellent places to begin.
But not everyone wants an adrenaline rush on holiday. To reap the mental benefits of physical activity in a more chilled environment, why not do as celebrities and influencers do and try a yoga retreat? India is the home of yoga, and our data only fortifies its title as the ultimate yoga destination. With a whopping 797 yoga retreats — by far the most per tourist too — choosing the perfect retreat will be a stress-free experience.
With the tenets of Buddhism and Hinduism being central to its culture, Indonesia is a worthy runner-up. Whether you’re into eco-yoga, hot-yoga or something more luxurious, there’s something for every type of Yogi in Bali and beyond.
But you don’t need to travel across the world to downward dog. Portugal has over 221 listed yoga retreats and offers some livelier options which combine sports like surfing and yoga.
Top places for water sports
Again, it’s no surprise that bigger nations, like the United States, win on sheer volume of facilities. But per tourist, Egypt, Vietnam and Indonesia are refreshing options for a water sports holiday.
Egypt topped the list and has been gaining interest with water sports enthusiasts over the last few years. The coral reef in Sharm el-Sheikh is considered to be one of the best diving spots in the world, and elsewhere, visitors can expect to snorkel alongside turtles and dolphins.
Vietnam and Indonesia, in 2nd and 3rd position, are both great destinations for adrenaline junkies. These south-east Asian spots are great places to try kitesurfing, parasailing or water-skiing, with Vietnam offering slightly more choice per visitor.
Which destinations are most popular?
But where are Brits searching for their active holidays the most? By using Google Search Trends analytics, we can see that, likely due to travel restrictions, most Brits have been searching for active holidays in the UK and Europe.
The most searched European destination for an active holiday is Greece. Greece is an obvious choice for a sea-soaked Mediterranean adventure, but it is also the 7th best country in the world for choice of Yoga retreats.
Croatia was the next most searched for destination (and is the 6th best world destination for water sports facilities), and France, famous for cycling and skiing, was the 3rd most searched for spot.
Considering the recent anxiety around travel, it’s clear that European destinations are currently more appealing. Rather than heading to Greece or Croatia, our research suggests the top sporting destinations in Europe are Norway, Switzerland and Germany.
After a difficult few years, we all deserve a break. We hope this study inspires you to plan your ultimate, active holiday and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Swap your flip-flops for trainers, your book for a bike, and explore the world one adventure at a time.