From world-famous ski resorts to expansive mountain trails, Europe is the perfect destination for those keen to incorporate exciting sports into their gap year. Regardless of what outdoor pursuits you enjoy or when you intend to travel to the continent, you can try a fantastic range of activities.
So much choice can, however, make it difficult to decide where exactly to go on an activity holiday, so here's a guide to three of the best year-round sporting destinations Europe has to offer.
The French resort of Chamonix has long been a popular place for ski holidays, not least because it has 69 pistes suitable for all levels of experience. If you're learning to ski as part of your gap year adventure you'll want to stick to the green runs designed for beginners, although if you're capable of handling something more difficult the ten black pistes should prove a sufficient challenge for your skills.
Chamonix hosted the first-ever Winter Olympics back in 1924, so sport lovers will find it an iconic destination to visit on their gap year travels through Europe. However, don't make the mistake of thinking there is little to do during the summer months. When the snow has melted, you can try your hand at paragliding or mountain biking, before visiting the water park where you will find river rapids, whirlpool baths and a 25 m swimming pool.
If you're making France the focus of your travels, you'll also want to visit Tignes. Situated high in the Alps, this resort offers a diverse range of sports and activities in both the winter and summer, meaning you can have fun all year round.
Head to Tignes in the warmer months and you'll get to explore a vast complex of hiking trails. Don't worry if you're not an experienced walker, as there are routes suitable for all fitness levels and - given its position in the Vanoise National Park - there is the opportunity to spot a diverse array of wildlife during your trek, from ibex to marmots. Other activities you can try here during the summer include fishing, tennis and golf, while the naturally-formed 25-hectare lake means you can have a go at kayaking.
If you are planning a visit in the summer months you'd be easily forgiven for thinking you won't need your skis, but that isn't necessarily the case. A number of blue, red and black grade runs on the Grande Motte glacier are open between June and August, so there's the chance to spend a morning on the slopes and the afternoon sunbathing.
Of course, if you want to experience all of Tignes's ski facilities you'll need to come in the winter months when more than 150 runs are available. As well as skiing and snowboarding, you can try ice diving, dog sledding and snowmobiling.
Greece is a great place to try a range of water sports and, if you're hoping to incorporate a windsurfing holiday into your year out, Vassiliki Bay is one option you definitely ought to consider.
This small town on the southern coast of Lefkas sees windsurfers from all across the continent arrive every summer to show off their skills on the water. Although the wind - known locally as Eric - is quite gentle in the early morning, it steadily becomes stronger as the day progresses - meaning that beginner and experienced windsurfers alike benefit from suitable conditions. Vassiliki Bay's pleasant temperatures and flat terrain also makes it a good place to enjoy hiking and cycling all year round, so don't worry if you can't make it for the peak windsurfing season or you don't like getting wet.