Travelling on expedition may conjure up images of tropical beaches in Malaysia, sand dunes in Namibia, or trekking through the Andes in Peru, but, wonderful as they all are (and they are, very wonderful), you don’t have to go so far to have an amazing expedition experience. Check out these four closer to home destinations which tick all the right boxes, within just a few hours flight of the UK.
Nestled between the Balkans and the Alps, you can cross Slovenia in just 4 hours from east to west. It packs a real punch in such a small space too – epic mountain peaks, pristine alpine lakes, and a whole array of traditional cakes are just a few of the highlights. Being such a small country, it’s easy to get from place to place, so a week or ten days on expedition here will give you plenty of time to hit the big sights and try lots of activities. First stop, Lake Bohinj, at the foot of the Julian Alps, is a paradise for adrenaline junkies – offering kayaking, paddle boarding and rafting, as well as treks with breathtaking views at every turn. Stop off at picture-perfect Lake Bled on your way back to Ljubljana, where there’s time to soak up some culture before your flight home.
Famous for its spectacular mountains, amazing lakes, and beautiful coastline, Montenegro is another off-the-track spot you’ll want to check out if you’re planning a short-haul expedition. Durmitor National Park has some of the most challenging hiking trails in Europe, and is home to wolves and bears, for some added intrigue. For an adrenaline fix, Tara River Canyon, the “Tear of Europe”, provides top-class rafting through crystal-clear waters and steep-sided canyons in a UNESCO World Heritage site. Montenegro’s picturesque coastline is the perfect place to end the expedition. Wind down by exploring it’s quaint towns by bicycle, or hit the water in a kayak to see even more!
An emerging hotspot, Albania still has a real untouched feel, but that’s unlikely to last long, as this destination brims with expedition and adventure potential. There aren’t many activities you can’t check off your travel list here – trek through Tomorr National Park, rivalling Durmitor with it’s unique wildlife including wolves, bears and birds of prey, then head down to the Lake Tomorri where you can hop in a kayak and explore further. Soak up traditional culture in Berat and Tirana, a real contrast to home, and wind down your expedition with a trip to the Albanian Riviera. Home to some of the most pristine beaches in Europe, you can explore this turquoise coastline by paddleboard to get a closer look.
Last but not least, Slovakia is a beautiful and diverse country; dotted with national parks, lakes, and rivers. With endless opportunities for outdoor activities, it’s the ideal spot for a week-long school expedition. The Mala Fatra National Park is one of Slovakia’s hidden gems and is dedicated to preserving the area’s natural beauty and biodiversity. Pop your boots on and hike through the lower parts of the Western Carpathian Mountains exploring the rugged terrain if you’re feeling up to the challenge, or the wildflower meadows and forests if you’re looking for something more relaxed! Immerse yourself in the culture and travel by traditional raft or make the time to taste some of the delicious Slovak cuisine. By the time you head home you’ll feel like you’ve experienced the best of what Slovakia has to offer.
Whether travelling near or far, leadership expeditions provide valuable opportunities for students to step outside their comfort zone and challenge themselves, building confidence, resilience, and leadership skills as a result. All of these destinations provide an easy opportunity to achieve that, in a unique and adventurous environment, all within just a few hours of the UK.
Written by Emily Sandon & Liz Tuck