Before the pandemic, we used to spend most of our adult lives telling everyone we know that we need a holiday, even if we’d just gotten back from one. We’d use our few days off to fly somewhere at ungodly hours, rush through our destination, complain about all the other people doing the exact same thing and return home weary and exhausted. Now, everything has changed.
COVID-19 halted non-essential travel worldwide. As Europe slowly eases into a post-COVID world*, travel around the region is picking up. But it’s a different kind of travel: one that is more experiential and slow-paced. One where bucolic settings that are easy to get to by bus, train or car have become the norm.
We’ve selected five ways for you to come out of confinement and explore things in your own backyard, from farming holidays in Austria to reading retreats in Italy. Sit back, relax and feel good about the world again.
On the farm
Set in the mountainous Tennengau region of Austria, Lammerauhof Farm in Abtenau is a family-run bed and breakfast that has been welcoming guests since 1948. The working farm, owned by Anita and Reinhard Windhofer, affords plenty of activities for your R&R: from cycling, to hiking to ping pong. The Windhofers serve fresh milk from their cows as well as baked breads and pastries for breakfast. Bask in the mountain views as you pet rabbits, dogs, cats and their pony, Sissy. End the evening with homemade schnapps before settling in for the night.
Lammerauhof Farm offers three apartments and total seclusion, making it a safe holiday plan for small groups.
In the swim
We all know how to float but very few of us actually master the art of swimming. Why not use this holiday to hone your skills? Swimming has been proven to be the perfect sport: low-impact, calorie-burning and soothing to the soul. Swimquest offers week-long swimming holidays in small, controlled groups around the world. Head to Formentera, one of the smaller Balearic islands, near Ibiza, Spain, for a “Total Immersion” week. Coach James Ewart guides participants on how to swim farther, faster and without pain. Explore the island’s sandy beaches and turquoise water, which make for a pleasing respite from the bustle of Ibiza.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Swimquest is opening their bookings from September onwards. They are also offering a flexible cancellation policy in case these restrictions change before your arrival.
King (or queen) of the castle
Europe is brimming with castles, and some of them double as hotels. Château d’Hassonville in Marche-en-Famenne, Belgium, is a 17th-century masterpiece surrounded by the Ardennes. Guests can choose from 20 tastefully appointed rooms and unwind in the outdoor sauna and hot tub. Head out on a private forest walk or rent a bike to explore on your own. If you’re even more adventurous, the hotel can arrange a falcon tour or group fencing class.
At your arrival, you will find all the safety measures required by the Belgian government, such as masks and antibacterial gel at every entrance. The restaurant will operate at half capacity to make sure social distancing rules are followed.
Read about it
Have you ever wanted a holiday where you do nothing but catch up on reading? That dream can become a reality at La Macchina Fissa. This eight-room villa in the Parco del Mincio near Mantova, Italy, offers reading retreats that would make any bibliophile drool with envy. Boasting 6,000 books, La Machina’s library is a veritable treasure trove of tomes and the manse also boasts more than 250 works of contemporary art. Experience the authentic Italian way of life as you help your hosts tend their garden.
La Macchina Fissa will only take up to six guests at a time, which follows guidelines set by the Italian government. The owners will advise you of the latest COVID-19 restrictions in the area during booking.
Is there a better way to become one with nature than riding a horse into the sunset? From first-timers to equestrians, Unicorn Trails will provide the perfect horseback riding holiday. Experienced riders who know their Arab from their Warmblood will delight in the eight-day Carcassonne Pyrenean Trail run, which spans the mountain range dividing France and Spain. If you’re a novice, opt for the short-break alternative, which lasts for only four days and provides plenty of time to sightsee and taste your way through the region.
The trail’s remoteness as well as participation limits—eight people max—make it an ideal excursion for anyone looking to maintain social distance.
*This article was produced pre COVID-19. Since the pandemic, travel regulations are in constant flux. Borders and businesses may close temporarily or permanently. Please travel safely and check out the Open Travel Index for up-to-date information on restrictions and regulations.