For most of us, holidays equal relaxation, fun and food! But for an increasing number, a holiday is a chance to learn a new skill, get fit or put our bodies to the test with detoxifying diets and cleanses. There are plenty of activity holidays on offer across the UK, with yoga retreats and arts and crafts holidays proving particularly popular. We’ve looked to the continent and chosen 5 which do actually look quite tempting! What do you think?

A Yoga Retreat in the Algave, Portugal


Known as one of Europe’s best-value destinations, Portugal’s Algarve is also one of the most laidback spots with people heading there to lie in the sun and relax. In recent years, yoga retreats have been popping up right along Portugal’s beautiful coastline. A typical day will involve a couple of yoga classes, a relaxed stroll and some great food tasting – take a look at an example holiday plan and picture yourself enjoying the routine with new found friends. If you fancy a surf or a swim, the Algarve’s beaches will be close by so don’t worry – there’s still plenty of time to play in the sea in between yoga classes!

A Juice Detox in Marbella, Spain


If you’re really determined to get in shape for the summer, you could try a juice detox at wellbeing retreat Shanti-Som, a chic spa in Marbella. The detox programme is not for the faint-hearted however – lasting for five days and subject to strict rules, it involves daily yoga sessions, cleansing drinks and colonics. Forget G&Ts for the time being as juices at this retreat range from veggie-based concoctions to verdant wheatgrass juices. This liquid diet is combined with a series of colonics, including coffee, clay and garlic.

While this may sound a little scary, we’re told that people travel far and wide to experience the nutritional coaching in such a beautiful setting! What are you waiting for?

Winter Ice Swimming in Finland

Those crazy Finns!

People often associate Finland with Nokia, lakes and saunas. Given that winter temperatures can plunge to -25C, it’s surprising to learn that many Finns like to start the day by taking a dip in a frozen lake. This ritual was recently captured on film by Finnish photographer Markku Lahdesmaki – we dare you to watch without shivering:

If you’re inspired by this, you can sign up to a course at a winter swimming school near Tammiranta.  Every morning, after hauling yourself from the hole in the ice, you can make a beeline for the sauna where you can follow tradition by hitting yourself with silver birch boughs, or vihta. Suitably refreshed and certainly awake, you then have the rest of the day to explore!

Throw Pots in the Languedoc, France


Whatever people may say, the BBC’s Great Pottery Throw Down shows that arts and crafts are back in the limelight. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to throw a pot or try your hand at something new, an arts and crafts residential lets you pick up new skills while seeing somewhere new. Kim Grayson’s pottery school in Foix, a Pyrenean town close to Toulouse and set in the mountainous Ariège, caters for novices and experienced potters, letting you throw a range of pots and experiment with underglazes and decorations.

Set among such pretty landscapes, you’re not going to get tired of staring out over the hills any time soon!

Prosecco Tasting in Italy


Prosecco, officially Britain’s favourite fizz, comes from vineyards lining the steep hills of Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, a picturesque valley half-way between Venice and the Dolomites. Visitors can spend their days hopping from grower to grower, sampling the best vintages and learning about the expertise that goes into every glass. Round off a blissful week of bubbles and risotti by heading to the region’s capital, Venice, to sample a few more regional specialities at the atmospheric bacari. Now this sounds like our kind of retreat!

Which activity retreat would suit you best? 

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Images via Flickr: Patrick SavalleTake Back Your Health Conference, Lynn D. Rosentrater, Patrick Down