Top 10 travel adventures for 2018 - would you ride Europe's fastest rollercoaster?
Get your adventure on...
Looking for a holiday with a difference this year? Pól Ó Conghaile has the best travel adventures from Ferrari rollercoasters to freediving in the Bahamas...
1. Red Force at Ferrari Land
What: Europe’s fastest rollercoaster
Why: If you like cars, and ‘coasters, you’ll love Ferrari Land – a bright red, €100m theme park at PortAventura World in Spain. Unveiled last year as an uber-branded treat for thrill seekers, its highlight is both the highest (112m) and fastest (0-180kmph in five seconds) rollercoaster in Europe. The idea is that you experience the full range of F1 sensations, from acceleration through top speeds, before jamming to a halt less than 45 seconds later… yikes. Other attractions include 55m tall bounce-back towers and F1 simulators. Got kids? A new children’s area opened this April.
Did you know: The world’s fastest rollercoaster is at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi (240kmph). The tallest (456 feet) is at Six Flags in New Jersey.
Details: One-day tickets for PortAventura Park and Ferrari Land start at €55 for adults and €47 for children. portaventuraworld.com/en
2. A hotel room on skis
What: See the Northern Lights from a glamping cabin
Why: Set a couple of kilometres east of Kilpisjärvi, in Northern Finland, three glamping cabins are available to rent as part of an Aurora Wilderness Camp. The cabins are on skis, deep in the Arctic Circle, and towed to an optimal spot for seeing the Northern Lights… thanks to a clear roof. The cabins measure 2.5m (wide) by 4.5m (long) and are around two metres tall, with a bed, table, gas heater, stove and a dry toilet to boot. Oh, and warm drinks and breakfast are provided.
Did you know: Experts have estimated that if the sky is clear, visitors have a 70+ pc chance of seeing the Northern Lights in the Kilpisjärvi area.
Details: A three-night trip with Off the Map travel (offthemap.travel) costs from £1,599/€1,824pp, excluding flights. Book now for winter 2018/19.
3. Go skydiving... indoors
What: Ireland’s first indoor skydiving experience
Why: Fancy freefalling at 200kmph without having to worry about heights or weather? Well, now you can – thanks to the island’s first indoor skydiving centre.
Vertigo Indoor Skydiving has opened in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, allowing adrenaline junkies to experience freefall conditions. Suitable for those aged four and upwards, the technology has been used by the movie industry to film stunts for a host of blockbusters – including the final fight scene in Jackie Chan’s Chinese Zodiac. You can use it to train for skydiving qualifications too.
Did you know: You need to be shorter than 6’5” to fly. Sorry, Mr. Toner.
Details: Sessions from £45/€51 with wearevertigo.com.
4. Do New York as a day trip
What: Take a shopping sprint to NYC
Why: Yes, it’s madness. But there’s method to it. Norwegian, the low-cost carrier, has expanded its schedules from Dublin, and now operates double-daily departures to Stewart International. With flights set to depart at 8.30GMT, arriving in the US at 10.30am local, and leaving again at 21.25, that opens up the prospect of shopping and business daytrips. The airport express bus to Manhattan takes about 90 minutes, but the real win may be at Woodbury Common – the outlet centre in Central Valley, just a 30-minute drive away in Orange County.
Did you know: Norwegian has low lead-in fares, but checked bags and meals are extra. Keep an eye on the costs… especially if you’re bringing shopping home.
Details: Flights from around €119 each-way in May (norwegian.com).
5. Take a dip in the Devil’s Pool
What: The ultimate infinity pool at Victoria Falls
Why: Forget hotel infinity pools. For the Instagram to end them all, take yourself to the Zambian side of Victoria Falls, where a rock pool at the very edge of the 100m drop has to be seen to be believed. The Devil’s Pool is accessible in drier months from August to January, when the Zambezi’s water level drops, and requires a swim and a rocky walk to reach. Guides make sure you don’t plummet over the edge – unlike the wild waters of the river just feet away. Just don’t forget your camera.
Did you know: Some 500 million litres of the Zambezi River spill over the Victoria Falls every minute. The spray – known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke that Thunders) can be seen over 30 miles away.
Details: Fly to Lusaka via Addis Ababa from Dublin with Ethiopian Airlines (ethiopianairlines.com). See also zambiatourism.com.
6. Snorkel between Europe and North America
What: Squeeze between Iceland’s tectonic plates
Why: Nope, we don’t mean snorkelling across the Atlantic. Iceland’s Silfra Fissure, located in Thingvellir National Park, is a gap between two tectonic plates – meaning swimmers can actually insert themselves between two continents. Yes, it’s bloody freezing (you’ll be immersed in 2-4 degree glacial water). But it’s also safe (no diving qualifications required), fully insulated dry-suits are provided on tours, and the water is gin-clear. Bragging rights guaranteed.
Did you know: The European and North American continental plates continue to pull apart by around two centimetres every year.
Details: Trips with Extreme Iceland (extremeiceland.is) or Dive Silfra (divesilfra.is) cost from around €112. Fly to Iceland with WOW air (wowair.ie).
7. From Comeraghs to Copper Coast
What: A turf to surf adventure in Waterford
Why: Starting in the Comeragh Mountains, this full-day adventure sees you trek to the ocean via the Mahon River, taking in spectacular scenery (watch out for Coumshingaun, the epic corrie lake), before switching to a kayak. Paddling onto the Mahon River, and continuing out of the estuary, you’ll end up floating along the off-radar and underrated Copper Coast. The trip takes from 10am-5pm approx.
Did you know: Highwayman William Crotty, who was hanged in Waterford City in 1746, is said to have buried his treasure in the Comeraghs.
Details: The meet point is usually in Waterford City, with trips from €99pp with The Irish Experience (theirishexperience.com).
8. Ride the world’s fastest zip-line
What: The 125mph zip is closer than you think…
Why: ZipWorld Velocity 2 is the world’s fastest zip line – and the longest in Europe. Strung over Penrhyn Quarry in Snowdonia, Wales, it sees riders hit speeds of up to 125mph – and four people can ride different lines at the same time. Riders start by building confidence on a ‘Little Zipper’, before proceeding to a new ‘Skyline’ building, squeezing into ‘stealth trollies’ and taking flight. The 20-degree decline means you’ll travel from 0-60mph in just 10 seconds. Yegadz!
Did you know: Kilkenny’s Castlecomer Discovery Park (discoverypark.ie) claims to have the longest zip line in Ireland, at 300m.
Details: Velocity 2 costs between £75/€85 and £85/€97pp (peak and off-peak). See zipworld.co.uk for more. Rides are weather-dependent.
9. Hike the Zion Narrows
What: An alternative Wall Street
Why: Utah’s Zion National park is home to some epic slot canyons, and ‘The Narrows’ see gorges taper to just 20 or 30 feet… while walls tower like skyscrapers overhead. To get there, you need to wade upstream through the Virgin River – the journey can be a short sampler (turn back when you want), or an all-day adventure like the 10-mile round-trip to Big Spring. No permit is required for the hike – though you need to be comfortable in water that ranges from ankle to waist-deep. When the river is high or a Flash Flood warning is issued, the canyon closes to all travellers.
Did you know: The canyon is accessible year-round, but early spring sees higher water levels due to snow melt. October/November are least crowded.
Details: free; nps.gov/zion; utah.com.
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10. Learn to freedive in the Bahamas
What: Hold your breath in Dean’s Blue Hole
Why: Diving is great, but let’s face it – there’s a shed-load of heavy gear involved and the breathing is loud and intrusive. Enter freediving – where swimmers learn special techniques to hold their breath underwater, enjoying the freedom and mindfulness of shorter, unencumbered dives. William Trubridge is a world champion, and his Vertical Blue runs a ‘school’ at Dean’s Blue Hole, a 200m deep “salt-water swimming pool” at Long Island, Bahamas. Beginner courses give students the basic techniques and theory of freediving, with an emphasis on efficient breathing, relaxation and sensitisation to being underwater. A new world awaits.
Did you know: Dean’s Blue Hole is the deepest cenote of its type on earth. It was formed when a limestone chamber caved in from above.
Details: Beginner courses from $525/€426 (school.verticalblue.net).
NB: All prices subject to change/availability. This feature originally appeared in Linout Magazine, published with The Irish Independent.