Vacation like an Olympian
If the Games are inspiring you, take a look at these holidays with the focus on Olympic sports such as sailing, archery, kayaking swimming and cycling in beautiful spots around the world – from Thailand to the Adriatic coast.
Whitewater kayaking, New Zealand New Zealand is considered one of the world’s best locations for kayaking, dubbed by tour operator Water By Nature as “Paddlers’ Paradise”. This thrilling two-week trip – suitable for more experienced kayakers (class 3+/4-) – is led by experts JJ Shepherd, Mike Abbott and Koryn Gould, who have lived with some of the world’s finest rivers on their doorstep. The trip will include paddling the Hurunui and Buller rivers, as well as taking on the 11-metre Maruia Falls, with helicopter flights on three of the days, giving visitors plenty of opportunities to take in the spectacular views below. Granted, it’s a trip that will most likely appeal to the more committed kayakers out there. Those after a more accessible, cheaper, white-water adventure could try out a three-night rafting trip in Switzerland (from US$785 including accommodation and most meals), with a chance to try some paragliding or mountain biking.
Mountain biking in Morocco An Olympics sport since 1996, mountain biking has long been a popular holiday activity. For those feeling inspired by the pros, who will be tackling steep drops and rough terrain on the Rio off-road course on August 20 and 21, it’s easy to find affordable biking holidays. Experienced cycling-tour company Skedaddle runs plenty of mountain bike holidays: One of the stand-out trips, however, is a nine-day, vehicle-supported tour across the stunning Jebel Sirwa mountain range in Morocco, sleeping under the stars in the Sahara and camping with nomads in the mountains. The trip will take bikers past ancient kasbahs and traditional villages, with pit stops for mint teas and in the odd oasis to cool off in.
Horse riding in Italy Olympic equestrian events can be a little difficult to relate to at times. Watching an aristocrat make a horse dance during dressage isn’t quite the same as galloping down the beach with the wind in one’s hair, while the waves crash in. With that in mind, for those looking for an Olympic-inspired horsey holiday, we would suggest opting for the latter. Horse-riding travel specialist Zara’s Planet offers an eight-day tour of Sardinia that combines country trails and beach rides, staying in an old country house, with swimming pool, jacuzzi and terrace, where fantastic Italian cooking can be sampled. But, for a horse-riding holiday that truly screams “epic”, a trip to Bitterroot Ranch (from $2076 including all meals and accommodation in log cabins), in the heart of America’s Marlboro country in Wyoming, could be the answer.
Sailing in Thailand It’s difficult to think of a more beautiful place to learn how to sail than in the tropical climes and clear waters of the Andaman Sea. Sunsail runs Royal Yachting Association-accredited courses from Phuket, where the competent crew qualification can be gained over five days sailing along the beautiful coastlines to picturesque islands, living on board a 43-foot training yacht. You can also sign up to similar RYA sailing courses at most Mark Warner beach resorts, such as the San Lucianu Beach Resort in Corsica (from $908pp for one week full board including flights), where it’s just one of a long list of sports that can be tried out.
Swimming the Dalmatia coast Croatia’s Adriatic coast is dotted with more than 1,000 tiny islands with tranquil rocky beaches, warm water and small fishing communities. Swimtrek offers a seven-day guided tour based on the Šibenik archipelago, visiting islands such as car-free Zlarin, a beautiful, peaceful spot with an attractive village. There will also be a chance to visit inland sites, such as the Krka national park with its waterfalls. With 3km of swimming per day, the trip is perfect for those who are less experienced in open water.
Archery in Austria For the more target-oriented among us, there are few places that offer such a perfect set-up as the Tiroler Adler hotel in Waidring, Austria. The traditional hotel, surrounded by mountains and at the head of the Pillersee Valley, is surrounded by an impressive set of archery courses, where packages offering plenty of time to learn – or perfect – bow-and-arrow skills can be booked. The archery centres are not just your typical bullseye-onhaystack fare – they have targets hidden among the forests and ferns in the form of artificial deer, stags, bears and various other majestic woodland creatures to challenge the aim and help visitors get lost in a timeless huntsman (or -woman) fantasy.
New Zealand is considered one of the top spots on the planet to hop in a kayak thanks to places like the Milford Sound, above.