Summer is the perfect time to explore Europe’s great outdoors. Whether you’re an experienced adventurer or looking to escape the crowds in cities and immerse yourself in nature, there are countless opportunities to discover Europe’s natural beauty.

From kayaking in Portugal to exploring Croatia and Slovenia’s wild sides, there’s something for everyone. Take a bike tour through Ireland or a cultural walking adventure in Norway. Join a photo expedition in Iceland or explore the English countryside in the Cotswolds. Admire the stunning beauty of the Dolomites. 

Here are seven summer nature adventures for your next European vacation:

1. Paddling Portugal’s River of Wine

Explore European culture and history, sumptuous meals, biodiverse ecosystems and luxurious accommodations while you kayak and hike your way through the world’s oldest wine region. Demarcated in 1756, more than 2,000 years of winemaking have shaped the Alto Duoro Wine Region into a terraced, vine-covered, biodiverse destination. The area is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because the long tradition of viticulture has produced a cultural landscape of outstanding beauty that reflects its technological, social and economic evolution.

paddling portugal's river of wine happy woman traveler kayaking

© Daniel Blankenheim

Novelist José Saramago called it the eighth wonder of the world, and it is a treasure most tourists to Portugal miss. Beyond Portugal’s cities and beaches lie vast natural landscapes perfect for your next European summer adventure. Hike through the Serra de São Mamede Natural Park and kayak Ria Formosa Natural Park’s protected lagoons, marshes, and channels, where you can observe the park’s rich birdlife, including flamingos, storks, and eagles.

Portugal’s Alentejo region offers a unique blend of nature, conservation, and adventure, perfect for travelers seeking an immersive and sustainable travel experience. On Nat Hab’s Paddling Portugal’s River of Wine Europe tour, travelers enjoy boutique hotels, historic farmhouse inns and luxurious wine estates on a kayaking adventure far beyond Portugal’s much-loved Algarve and cities.

If you like your kayaking and hiking followed by pastel de nata and Port wine, this may be the Portugal adventure for you. It is a perfect European vacation for those who want to experience Portugal’s natural beauty while indulging in some of the country’s finest wine.

2. Croatia and Slovenia’s Wild Nature: From the Adriatic to the Alps

Croatia and Slovenia are renowned for their stunning natural beauty, including some of Europe’s most extensive and least impacted mountain wildlife habitats. In a matter of days, you can explore from the Adriatic coast to Europe’s easternmost Alps.

croatia boat ride with travelers

© Monika Mikulec

Witness the ruins of Zadar’s Roman forum and baths, a large colony of rare griffon vultures nesting on Cres Island’s cliffs, and one of the world’s most impressive karst landscapes in Plitvice Lakes National Park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its extraordinary natural features and undisturbed production of travertine. Savor salt that has been produced the same way for 1500 years, along with local truffles, honey, cheeses and wine. Wander alpine trails or simply enjoy the vista from the top of the lift on Slovenia’s Mount Vogel, part of the southern Julian Alps and Triglav National Park. No visit to the region is complete without seeing Lake Bled.

With Natural Habitat Adventures, you can explore both countries on a Croatia and Slovenia summer adventure that will take you through national parks, river canyons and stunning coastlines. Visit the historic cities of Ljubljana and Split, sample local cuisine, and experience the culture of these two fascinating countries.

This summer adventure is perfect for travelers who want to experience the wild nature of Croatia and Slovenia while also getting a taste of the local culture and locally-produced food.

3. Explore England’s Outstanding Natural Beauty

For a change of pace, visit the Cotswolds, England’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. People have been living, farming and working in the Cotswolds for 6,000 years, and still, the landscape is defined by the bedrock of Jurassic limestone that creates a grassland habitat rare in the UK. The area’s rolling hills are dotted with stone villages and stately homes crafted from golden-colored characteristic Cotswold stone. Growers and artisans committed to preserving natural habitats and producing local food and arts shape the local culture.

english countryside cotswolds wildflower field summer travelers photographing flowers

© Hollie Galloway

For an insider’s look at Cotswolds conservation, Natural Habitat Adventure’s Cotswolds tour features an itinerary specially designed for refined, exclusive access to local individuals and organizations committed to rewilding and regenerative agriculture.

Walk ancient footpaths, explore historic market towns, and visit some of the region’s most picturesque villages. Enjoy private tours of Hidcote and Painswick gardens and the royal gardens at Highgrove House; a private visit to Woodchester Estate, off-limits to the general public; a private canal cruise; private falconry experience; and other behind-the-scenes access with private presentations and exclusive dinners with local experts.

If you are inspired by history, architecture, scenic walking, and community-led conservation, the Cotswolds may be the summer adventure for you.

4. Photograph Iceland on Your Summer Adventure

Iceland’s remarkable natural beauty and biodiversity make it an ideal destination for nature lovers and conservation enthusiasts.

If you’re planning a summer adventure to Europe and have a passion for wildlife and photography, why not explore the rugged coastlines and volcanic peaks of Iceland’s Snaefellsnes Peninsula, where you may spot humpback, orca and minke whales? Witness the iconic Kirkjufell Mountain, one of Iceland’s most beloved landmarks, and Vatnajokull Glacier, the largest glacier in Europe. If you’re lucky, you’ll get great photos of puffins and maybe even the elusive Arctic fox on your Iceland adventure.

photographing waterfalls and rainbows in iceland

© Court Whelan

Iceland’s most popular summer travel destinations include the Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon and the city of Reykjavik. The Golden Circle consists of three equally stunning locations in Southwest Iceland: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss Waterfall. Venture beyond these hot spots, and you’ll find vast, unspoiled natural habitats.

Our Iceland photography tour is an unforgettable journey around the island’s stunning landscapes, from volcanic mountains and glaciers to black-sand beaches and sweeping tundras. Along the way, you’ll encounter a variety of iconic wildlife species and learn about the unique challenges facing Iceland’s fragile ecosystems.

An Iceland photography tour is an incredible opportunity to experience the beauty and biodiversity of one of Europe’s most spectacular destinations. Whether you’re a seasoned nature photographer or simply a lover of wildlife and conservation, this summer adventure could be the trip of a lifetime.

5. Discover Ireland’s Wild West by Bike

If the idea of pubs, puffins and fantastic people sounds ideal, you may enjoy cycling the rugged coastline, rolling hills, and lush green valleys of southwestern Ireland.

bike riding cycling tour ireland green fields countryside rolling hills coast waves sea cliffs

Bike through Killarney National Park, and you may catch a glimpse of the only remaining herd of wild native red deer in Ireland. Take a day trip to the Aran Islands to watch puffins and petrels. Summer is a particularly good time to spot several species of whales (humpback whales, fin whales, minke whales, and orcas) off the southwest coast of Ireland as they migrate to feeding grounds in the cooler waters of the North Atlantic.

Starting in Dublin and ending in Galway, DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co. offers a unique 5-night cycling summer adventure highlighting the coast, castles and Ring of Kerry. See Slea Head—Europe’s most western point—and bake soda bread. Explore the sandy beaches and craggy cliffs of the Dingle Peninsula. Visit the Ivearagh Peninsula, dominated by Magillycuddy’s Reeks—Ireland’s highest mountain range, also known as “the black stacks.” Pass through the iconic Gap of Dunloe, a narrow rocky opening in the heart of the peninsula that leads to the shores of Lough Leane. See Ross Castle, poised on the Lakes of Killarney.

If walking is more your style, you may want to explore the Kerry Way, a long-distance walking trail in southwestern Ireland, which passes through several protected areas, including the Killarney National Park, the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, and the Beara Peninsula. These areas are home to a diverse array of wildlife and are important sites for conservation and recreation.

6. Have It All Hiking in Italy’s Dolomites

The Dolomites, a majestic mountain range located in northeastern Italy, offer stunning scenery, rich cultural heritage and history, and a wealth of outdoor activities, not to mention Prosecco tasting and both Germanic and Italian culinary options. While the Dolomites are primarily known as a winter destination for skiing and snowboarding, the summer months offer a completely different experience with opportunities for hiking, biking and rock climbing.

Happy woman hikers with backpacks walking in mountains, Dolomites, Italy

If a high-end, high-altitude gourmet hiking adventure complete with unique mountain cultures and World War II history is up your alley, try hiking in Italy’s Dolomites region. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a nature lover willing to walk, there are trails to suit all levels of fitness and experience.

The Alta Via 1 is a classic trekking route that runs for over 75 miles through the heart of the Dolomites, offering breathtaking views of rugged peaks, alpine meadows, and crystal-clear lakes.

For a more leisurely stroll, the Val di Funes is a picturesque valley dotted with traditional mountain huts and picturesque villages, while the Alpe di Siusi is the largest high-altitude meadow in Europe, offering gentle trails and stunning views.

Nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Dolomites are collectively known as the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site. These sites include the natural parks of the Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Fanes-Sennes-Braies, Puez-Geisler, and Sexten Dolomites, as well as the Pale di San Martino and the Brenta Dolomites.

The parks are home to numerous rare species, including the golden eagle, snow vole, Alpine marmot and ibex, and the brown bear, which was reintroduced in recent years. Plant life includes rare lady’s slipper orchid and the edelweiss, a variety of wildflowers in the summer, including gentians, daisies, and orchids. Puez-Geisler Nature Park is home to the dwarf pine, which grows at high altitudes and can live for over 500 years.

Off the Beaten Path offers a Dolomites Delight 7-night small group summer adventure itinerary from Bolzano to Venice that includes a top-notch European tour leader, accommodations ranging from mountain huts to award-winning boutique hotels, and carefully curated food and wine experiences, including a stop on the Strada del Prosecco (Prosecco wine route) for a special tasting at a family winery.

If you love mountains, hiking, nature, history, food and wine, this may be the summer adventure for you.

7. Norway’s All-Day Sun Summer Adventure

For culture, history, food and multiple modes of transport on your summer adventure, Norway offers cities that have more trees than permanent residents and unparalleled opportunities for kayaking, scenic train and funicular journeys, and boating excursions.

Couple sitting against amazing nature view on the way to Trolltunga. Location: Scandinavian Mountains, Norway, Stavanger.

Take a spectacular ride on the Flåm railway and connect to a cruise through narrow Nærøyfjord to spectacular Sognefjord, the largest fjord in Norway. Explore the glaciers by water and land as you kayak on a placid glacier-fed lake and join a guided walk on Jostedal Glacier. Summit Mt. Fløyen by scenic funicular, where the walking trails deliver amazing panoramic views.

Discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site Urnes Stave Church, built in the 12th and 13th centuries, bringing together traces of Celtic art, Viking traditions and Romanesque spatial structures. Situated on a promontory in the remarkable Sognefjord on the west coast of Norway, the stave churches constitute one of the most elaborate and technologically advanced types of wooden construction that existed in North-Western Europe during the Middle Ages.

Classic Journeys’ Norway Cultural Walking Adventure offers all of this and far more on its itinerary from Oslo to Bergen. Hike through lush forests and explore the majestic waterfalls of Hardangerfjord. Cruise through the Geirangerfjord, and take in the beauty of the surrounding fjords and glaciers. 

Which European Summer Adventure Is Right for You?

No matter which summer adventure you choose, exploring Europe’s natural parks, reserves, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites by foot, bike, kayak, ferry or funicular is a great way to experience the beauty and diversity of the continent’s natural landscapes.

With a variety of ecosystems, ranging from mountain ranges and coastal areas to forests and wetlands, Europe offers endless opportunities to discover its rich and unique flora and fauna. Summer is an ideal time to explore these environments, as the weather is generally warm and sunny, and many species are active and visible.

Additionally, many countries in Europe prioritize conservation efforts and sustainable tourism, so visitors can be assured that their activities are not harming the environment. Whether it’s hiking in the Dolomites, kayaking in Norway’s fjords, cycling in Ireland’s countryside, or kayaking Portugal’s river of wine, a summer trip to Europe’s natural areas provides an unforgettable experience that is both exhilarating and educational while also fostering a deep appreciation for the natural world and ways we can protect it.

Check out all of Nat Hab’s European Adventures to learn more and start planning your trip today!