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  • VISITEUROPE.COM

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    European Union: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, ...

Water Sports in the Islands & Archipelagos

So you’re curious about the islands of Europe? Your choices are almost innumerable! From Iceland to Cyprus, Finland to Portugal, Scotland to Malta, whatever you seek in the way of scenery, climate, and craft, you can find. Europeans are wild for water sports and will be happy to help you “get your feet wet” and enjoy a great active holiday on the water.


With 850 kilometres of fine white sand Portugal’s coast has something for everyone - and that’s before we’ve even touched on the islands. In the north, where the sea is rougher than in the south, the most popular water sports are open water fishing, surfing and bodyboarding. Have a go at these in Ofir, Póvoa de Varzim, Leça da Palmeira and Espinho. The Azores’ nine islands are perfect for anyone who loves water sports and the open air. You’ll definitely want to go swimming, either in the warm sea or the volcanically formed swimming pools inland. Boat trips, surfing, windsurfing and body boarding game fishing and superb scuba diving are other options for fun in, on, or under the Atlantic.

Spain has 25 sea resorts where you can try all kinds of active days on the water, all year round. They’re sprinkled along the coasts of Andalusia and Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands, and the coasts of Galicia, Asturias, Murcia and the Region of Valencia.

Experience the excitement of sailing, try your hand at windsurfing, leap in the air on a water bike, have a go at waterskiing, thrill to the adrenaline rush from parasailing, or immerse yourself in the depths of the sea. Sea kayaking, banana boats, snorkelling, cruise trips and deep-sea fishing are among the other water activities available at Spain's Marine Resorts. There are also courses available and direct supervision by specialised instructors.

Germany's North and Baltic Sea coasts and its lakes offer excellent windsurfing and kite surfing conditions for beginners and pros alike. Free your spirit serenely, canoeing or kayaking on still waters, or break loose nature’s forces shooting the rapids. With its great variety of lakes and rivers, Germany is the ideal place for paddle sports and offers great facilities for these waterborne adventures. Nature parks, idyllic biosphere reserves or entire cities can be explored from a totally new perspective, either alone or in a group with a canoe. In Brandenburg, which has an abundance of water, the entire network of rivers and lakes invites you to go on limitless water sport adventures. From waterway to waterway floating along the rafters and boatmen’s old trade routes through the pristine landscape – who would want to go ashore?

Denmark is the ideal destination for an active holiday in the blue element. Set sail in calm, deep fjords or the small sounds ringed by beach trees. Klitmøller and Vorupør are names that ring bells with surfers around the globe – there’s no need to wait for the wind to come up because it’s always windy in Denmark. If you spot a surfer with a sail caught high in the wind instead of fixed to the board then you’re looking at kite surfing, the latest trend in surf sports. Canoeing might appeal if you prefer calmer communion with water; Denmark has countless navigable rivers. Prefer a kayak? Then into the fjords and inshore waters you go, or at the other extreme, take a sea kayak in the Copenhagen canals for sightseeing.

Kayaks and canoes are the way to a lot of fun in the waterways of Norway. Close to Bergen, the Nærøyfjord is perfect for paddling. Western Norway has dozens of fjords worth checking out but there great opportunities for canoeing and kayaking throughout the country. Paddling along the Telemark Canal or on Lake Femunden in the wilderness of Hedmark is especially popular. You can also go sea kayaking on the Oslofjord or on one of the many lakes in the forests that surround Oslo. Sea, river and lake paddling are three different experiences, but each one offers a special closeness to nature and the chance to observe bird and wildlife that motor noise would never allow. You also have the option for a variety of scuba diving; for the ultimate indulgence go above the Arctic Circle, where you might get the chance to dive with the magnificent killer whales during the winter season.

Take your canoe and glide silently and smoothly across a clear lake in Finland. One of the best places for canoeing in Finland is on the extensive waterways of Saimaa. You can choose a short, relaxing canoe or kayak trip lasting a few hours, or go on a trip lasting days or even weeks. Routes are varied, mainly sheltered and suitable for both canoeing and kayaking. And if you get hungry, Finland's salmon rivers offer fly-fishing enthusiasts splendid opportunities to wear down genuine whoppers.

With an enormous coastline, exquisite and diverse archipelagos and at least one hundred thousand lakes, Sweden has more then a lot to offer those in search of aqua. Activities include windsurfing, diving, sailing, cruising, swimming, skiing and so much more. Hundreds of canoeing routes criss-cross Sweden from north to south. Paddle to places the larger boats never venture and find your very own tranquil paradise on some deserted island. Seeking something a bit unusual? Then build your own timber raft using only logs and rope and go rafting down a river, or try wreck diving on one of thousands of sunken ships along the Swedish coast. It’s said that diving to an undisturbed wreck is like travelling back in a time machine.

A beautiful long coastline and over 1,500 islands tells you there’s plenty of water in Estonia, and where there’s water there are people having fun with water sports. Beach life and swimming are highly popular in the summer when Pärnu becomes the summer capital of Estonia. The sea is generally very shallow and ideal for travelers still sporting water wings. If you fancy something more active then try windsurfing , ice-surfing or jetskiing. 2,000 rivers and streams offer plenty of canoeing and sailing opportunities; canoeing in one of Estonia’s five national parks or around the islands are favorite excursion. Over 40,000 vessels are estimated to have sunk in Estonian waters over the centuries, including a recently discovered (suspected) Swedish Viking ship, so Estonia is great for a diving holiday.

Listen to the roar of the waves in your ears or the hush of the barge as it passes you by, and you'll know why Ireland is a water-lover's haven. Local and international surfers take to the waves around the island along a coastline that's big on thrills with exhilarating swells and pristine beaches. Meanwhile, windsurfers adore the steady winds and countless safe, clean beaches that make Ireland a number one destination. For scuba divers there are thousands of miles of coastline to explore;
water-skiers and wake boarders will also find great facilities around the country. Canoeists will thrive on the passion the Irish have for canoeing, and you’ll be spoiled for choice with white-water, downhill, slalom, surfing and sprint canoeing. For something truly local: Each July the Park hosts the Northern Ireland Bog Snorkelling Championships and visitors are welcome to come along and try out this unique sport.

Water is everywhere in Holland, with so many lakes, canals and estuaries, so boating is the way to go! Consider barging, traditional sailing or wind surfing. Angling is a popular sport since access to water is almost unavoidable and the fishing grounds are so good, and there’s always North Sea fishing for a bracing day offshore. Holland offers plenty of choices for catching the waves on a windsurfer. Try Zeeland’s delta, the lakes between Flevoland and Gelderland, or the Maas lakes in Limburg. If you tackle the North Sea, you should be reasonably experienced, as it can be quite unpredictable. Imagine water-skiing in Holland, gracefully working your way around the lakes or along the canals.

Looking for exciting river adventures, or a more peaceful sea kayak voyage? Either way, Croatia’s waters offer great potential for water sports. Did you know that canoeing is a tradition that has been going on for centuries here? Traditional Croatian canoes are called “trupice” are used for fishing and transportation on the river Neretva delta even today, but are great fun for family and group excursions. On a canoe trip with a guide you’ll paddle past castles and fortresses. For unforgettable rafting, remember the names of these rivers: Kupa, Dobra, Mrežnica, Korana, Una, Zrmanja and Cetina. Islands, islets, rocks and reefs fulfil anyone’s nautical dreams. The ideally laid out islands are separated by no more than 10 nautical miles and include about 1500 bays and ports, so the Croatian Adriatic is ideal for sailing under full sail or cruising on motor boats. Experienced divers in search of attractive endemic Adriatic flora and fauna or sunken Roman galleons and naval ships, Croatia is your scuba dream come true!

Cyprus has bewitching beaches but relaxing in the sun is only one way to revel in your holiday on this sparkling island. You can indulge in a myriad of water sports: Try the water park or bungee jumping for an extreme thrills. Discover the magic of the underwater world by snorkeling or diving in the warm crystal clear seas. Windsurfing and sailing can be enjoyed all the year round, thanks to steady winds and calm predictable seas, while coastal cruising and deep-water fishing are also popular. You could even use the island as a base for a short cruise to other nearby countries, but are you sure you want to leave?

Greece is all about the sea, an aquatic heaven full of life surrounding its islands and washing the long mainland coast. Water sports are very popular in Greece, the water is so enchanting and awesome natural attractions await in Aegean and Ionian Sea. Dive, sail, swim, paraglide; you can submerge yourself in or fly over the turquoise liquid in a number of ways, or pump some adrenaline in the white water high in the Pindus range when you travel inland.

Turkey, with hundreds of rivers, provides great opportunities for water sports like rafting, canoeing and water-skiing. The most famous is the River Coruh, renowned internationally as one of the fastest flowing in the world; the Altiparmak flows through a strikingly beautiful valley enveloped by high mountains. Recommended for canoeing and rafting, the river has a high flow-rate year round because of the run-off of melting snow. Within the seas of Turkey, divers can discover a fascinating submerged world, from underwater caverns to sunken ships and even the remains of ancient cities. The islands in the open seas around Tekirova have a wonderful array of sea life including huge thornback rays and dolphins can be seen throughout the year.

Malta is a paradise for skin and scuba divers. The sea is warm all year, usually has excellent visibility, and is calm in terms of turbulence and wildlife danger, so it’s an unbeatable dive location for beginners. You only need a snorkel to spy underwater marvels, but go deeper and you can time travel by descending to the sunken wrecks of Malta’s maritime past. Above the surface (at least that’s the idea), try the full gamut of water sports: windsurfing, sea-kayaking, jet skiing, water skiing, wakeboarding and paragliding. The Islands are superb for sailing – or harbour cruises for those who prefer to relax on board.

Italy offers endless and amazing opportunities for water lovers. Surrounded by the saltwater playgrounds of the Adriatic and the Mediterranean and graced with the Alps and the Apennines for elevated water works, you have loads of recreational choices. Enjoy the sea for windsurfing, kite-surfing, swimming, sailing, and waterskiing at Italy's countless marinas and ports, or head to the summer mountains for white water rafting and kayaking, fishing in the pristine waters of rivers and lakes, paragliding and hang gliding over spectacular landscapes. Italy’s famous lakes number over a thousand, and at larger lakes the adventurous can have fun testing their skills water skiing, canoeing, windsurfing, sailing, scuba diving, and even fishing in a national level competition.

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