This adventure vacations travel guide is not just for those who are merely seeking an adrenaline hit on vacation, but also for those simply seeking some fun. Be it on the water, climbing mountains, close to home or on the other side of the world. Adventure is for everyone – whether you want to climb mountains, sail the seven seas or cycle every European byway and highway.
Some of the world’s most phenomenal rock formations have been created through billions of years of natural erosion. Water is a serious repeat offender with sandstone, basalt, limestone and even granite being reduced in size and shape through constant contact over time. Canyons – giant clefts in the side of a landform or mountain – are one such formation that always gets full marks when it comes to jaw dropping scenery in remote and rocky regions.
If you’re looking to get up close and examine the source and the consequences of a canyon’s natural erosion, then a canyoning vacation is for you. Trekking, scrambling and clambering over boulders might all be necessary to navigate down through a canyon, and when you hit water, you just keep on going. Naturally smooth slides and chutes; deep, dark plunge pools; and waterfalls where the only way down is to abseil; if you’re looking for an active vacation with a difference, then canyoning is where you get to make a splash off the beaten track.
Our Canyoning Vacations
what is canyoning?
WHAT IS CANYONING?
Canyoning is all about navigating natural paths that have been carved into a mountain’s bedrock stone by the elements. These deep grooves will have grown naturally over time with smoothed walls, narrow gaps, sheer drops, and, in some cases, amazing waterfalls
Usually you’ll need to hike, scramble and climb down rocks in order to reach free-flowing rivers and streams, deep in the canyon. That’s where the fun begins. Following the course of the river will lead you to natural slides, chutes and deep plunge pools; it’s up to you – and your guide – how you get down. Skid, slide, jump, float, swim, abseil; where there’s a will, there’s a way.
The only part of canyoning that is at all technical is abseiling or, as it’s known in French, rappel. Abseiling occurs when there’s literally no other way to safely get down a steep rock face or vertical drop. With the correct kit, abseiling is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require lengthy training sessions or a high level of fitness.
Although there are gradings to define the difficulty of a descent, canyoning is basically a fun sport and a great way to get into some really remote and wild regions of a country with a local guide who knows the region and its culture like the back of his or her hand.
what does a canyoning vacation entail?
Canyoning vacations can provide an introduction to the sport over a weekend or help you develop your skills and confidence over a longer duration. For beginners the trickiest part is the abseiling. Some rappels can be quite high and you might be descending into a waterfall where rushing water is cascading all around you. Sounds fun to some, hellish to others. The reality, from both points of view, can be really quite surprising.
Small group vacations
Small group vacations
You’ll be joining a small group so as to make as little impact on the naturally peaceful surroundings as possible. The size of the group also allows you to stay in smaller, locally owned, accommodation. Mountain gites, lakeside campsites and guesthouses in remote villages all feature within our canyoning vacations. This means that you’ll be supporting more remote communities and helping local business owners, well away from the more popular tourist destinations.
Your base will usually be close to a canyoning site or at least just a short transfer away. Some canyoning vacations take you around a region, staying in different locations; others are based in just one place. Sometimes walking is the only way to get to the top of a canyon if there’s no road access.
Experience & fitness
Experience & fitness
Although canyoning and abseiling don’t require any experience, you might well be trekking long distances and negotiating some pretty rough and ready landscapes, so the fitter you are the more you’ll appreciate the experience. That said, it’s not a race to see who can get to the bottom first. Anyone can slip and twist an ankle so a safety first attitude is just as important as being brave enough to jump off a big boulder or abseil down a 40m waterfall.
Keeping your things dry is really important. Dry bags and containers will be provided or you can bring your own if you prefer. Specialist canyoning gear can be hired all will be included as part of the price. Always best to check what’s included before signing up to a tour or lugging a lot of unnecessary kit through customs. Canyoning gear includes abseiling equipment, helmets, wetsuits, and specially designed shoes, packs, and rope bags.
Days can be challenging, rewarding and just great fun - which all adds up to them being pretty tiring. Evenings won’t be crazy nights out on the town. They’re much more likely to involve a couple of beers and a chat after a communal evening meal or around a campfire. Then you’re more than ready to hit the hay. The last night, of course, is usually much more of a celebration.
If you'd like to chat about Canyoning or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
WHEN’S THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO GO CANYONING?
WHEN’S THE BEST TIME TO GO ?
Spring is definitely the most exciting time of year to go canyoning. Natural streams and mountain rivers are at the peak of their powers with thunderous falls echoing the closer you get to the drop. Exhilarating stuff! However, water will be icy cold and even with a wetsuit you still might find yourself shaking and chattering after abseiling or plunging into a pool.
If you’re canyoning in summer, some streams might not be flowing quite as freely but they won’t have dried up completely and you might also find isolated pools of bath-warm water – perfect for a wallow. Summer temperatures allow kit to dry quicker and provide more consistent weather conditions as well as longer evenings to rest and relax outdoors. A lack of water will also create longer abseiling descents so perhaps bear this in mind if this is something you’re particularly dreading.
For many, early autumn is the best time of year to go canyoning. Mountain streams are often at their warmest during September. Water levels will also be beginning to rise which, coupled with lush foliage, can make for an incredibly scenic experience. Weather is much more unpredictable in the run up to winter and canyoning trips in Europe tend to stop running at the end of September.
THREE OF THE BEST CANYONING LOCATIONS
Head into the Middle Atlas Mountains, around 150km northeast of Marrakech, where the amazing Ouzoud waterfalls provide one of North Africa’s best canyoning locations. Also featuring the vast Bin el Ouidane artificial lake, the Ouzoud region has a great range of canyons and cascades as well as huge rock formations, such as La Cathèdrale, which is fast becoming one of hottest spots on the canyoning circuit.
Canyon de Viey, near Bareges, and Canyon de Heas, near Gavarnie, provide all manner of chutes, falls and dramatic drops for those looking to go canyoning in the French Pyrenees. Over the border, the Spanish Pyrenees also provide plenty of canyoning fodder, especially for abseiling enthusiasts interested in dramatic 150m drops. The Río Vero and Foratata canyons in Sierra de Guara Natural Park are certainly up there with the best of them.
The Sierra Nevada Mountains in Andalucía is one of Spain’s top canyoning locations. The Río Verde canyon, in particular, has a full range of thundering falls, water chutes and deep green rock pools – perfect for a good day’s canyoning. Overnight accommodation in the white washed mountain villages of the Alpujarras region offer an authentic glimpse of life above Granada as well as access to some of the local hotspots before they get too busy after mid-morning.