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Although Europe has long been a popular destination for travelers, there is a growing group of adventurers who claim that the region has become too “touristy.” Tour operators have responded to the demand for more authenticity by creating adventure programs in Europe that offer active experiences outside of the major tourist attractions. Now, clients can experience unexpected journeys that promote feelings of individual discovery and exploration.
In Spain, several tour operators have developed programs that focus on regions of the country that are less traveled. From the beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean and a dormant volcano in the middle of the Atlantic to snow-capped mountain ranges in the Pyrenees and the lush, green countryside of the North, Spain offers a diverse landscape. Visitors can not only hike, snorkel, bike and rock climb there, but discover these less-traveled regions at the same time.
Walk Through RiojaTravelers can discover the fertile valleys, mountains and picturesque villages of La Rioja, a hidden part of Spain, on Boundless Journeys’ (www.boundlessjourneys.com) Vintage Rioja walking tour. The seven-day trip begins in Bilbao and takes visitors through the countryside and small villages of La Rioja before ending in Haro, Spain.
Priced at $4,595 per person, the tour features a visit to a traditional Rioja bodega (winery); historic 16th- and 17th-century monastery accommodations; entry into Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum and Yuso Monastery; and an optional cooking class taught by Francis Paniego, chef of the famed El Portal restaurant.
Run With the BullsGap Adventures (www.gapadventures.com) invites adrenaline junkies to attend one of Spain’s most famous events: Fiestas of San Fermin, also known as the Running of the Bulls. The special eight-day tour, which is led by an experienced local guide, begins in Barcelona, where guests can visit cathedrals and museums, before heading north to Pamplona, Spain.
The trip includes three days of encierro (bull-run) viewing in Pamplona and San Sebastian, Spain, from a private balcony and with commentary from a local expert. The tour ends with a visit to the Guggenheim Museum and wine and tapas tasting in Bilbao. Prices start at $1,799 per person.
Explore With the FamilyAdventure travel in Europe is not restricted to young singles and couples — it can include the whole family, too. iExplore (www.iexplore.com) offers many adventure tours to Spain, including the iExplore Spain Family tour. The eight-day, privately guided tour involves a numberx of activities and encompasses a vast area of Andalucia. Families can visit Donana National Park and swim with sea lions; bicycle through the Grazalema Nature Reserve; tour a bee museum and taste honey in Cadiz; and go horseback riding on the beaches of Tarifa — all while sampling the local cuisine. Priced from $4,295, per person, based on double occupancy. Children under 12 are free.The tour includes all excursions, guided tours, a driver, return transfers and inland transportation.
Bike St. James Pilgrimage WayEvery year, thousands of thrill-seekers travel on the famous St. James Pilgrimage Way — a collection of medieval pilgrimage routes that cover all of Europe and end at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in the city of the same name. Bravo Bike (www.bravobike.com) offers an eight-day biking tour beginning in the Pyrenees, a mountain range in the north of Spain, and follows the Camino de Santiago (St. James Pilgrimage) to the celebrated tomb of St. James in the city’s cathedral. This trek, which pilgrims, Europeans and tourists have done for thousands of years, features impressive views and stops at ancient monuments and small villages. The tour is priced from $1,827 per person and includes seven nights in three- to four-star hotels, based on double occupancy; almost all meals; a local bike tour leader; all transfers and luggage transfers; transport to and from Madrid; bicycle rentals; admission fees; a CD photo album; welcome gifts; and a Madrid city bike tour.