By: Sheri Matthews
OK, so vacationing in some of the most beautiful places in the world is mostly, mostly, about relaxing. But athletes don’t just turn off the switch that easy. If you’re the kind of person who checks out the hotel gym facilities before you book your stay, check out some of these athlete-friendly vacation destinations that are sure to get your blood pumping.
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
This iconic landmark is a spectacular, bucket-list type activity for the avid hiker. Peru’s jewel offers a multi-day trek up the Salkantay route to altitudes reaching 15,500 feet — a challenging climb that takes you around the second-largest mountain in the Cusco region. Maybe most attractive, it’s not as crowded as the more tourist-driven Inca trail. What to pack? Your hiking boots, gear, attitude pills and, obviously, a camera.
***Other trips for the active hiker.
2. Athlete Bike Tours – Anywhere you want to be, Trek Travel
This one is for the serious cyclist with a taste for luxury accommodations and fine dining. Luxury Bike Tours has designed bike trips almost anywhere you want to go, for all levels of cyclists, from Europe to the Rocky Mountains and everyone in between.
3. Wine Country, California
Perfect for the training triathlete with an appreciation for wine. With miles of vineyard-lined roads, it’s home to the Water to Wine half marathon, the Alderbrook three-mile race (part of a three-race series), and the Vineman half-Ironman (70.3 miles). Registration for the 70.3 Vineman for 2014 is full, but the relay for the full Vineman is back! Starting at Lake Sonoma, this scenic course takes you through the Healdsburg wine country and finishes at the Alderbrook Winery for a picture perfect post-race drink.
4. Whistler, British Columbia
Home to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler is great for anyone looking for outdoor activities for every season. Whatever your favorite activity – skiing, hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting – it can all be had here in some of the most beautiful and scenic surroundings anywhere in the world. And for the ladies, the shopping is as good as the views.
5. The Houstonian Hotel – Houston, Texas
Everything’s bigger in Texas, even the hotel fitness center. For the gym rat who needs to get their workout in, and especially for those who feel it’s completely normal to base their hotel choice on the fitness facilities, the 175,000-square-foot space has 300 cardio and weight machines from high-end brands like Cybex and Technogym. Add to that the indoor running tracks, extensive outdoor grounds, tennis courts, and a state-of-the-art pool complex, and you’ve got no excuse to miss your workout just because you’re on the road. Oh, and your room comes complete with a yoga mat.
6. Coasteering – Wales, Britain
Imagine flinging yourself 100 feet off a cliff into the crashing waves below, scrambling up a gushing waterfall, or squeezing yourself through caves so small that the sheer thought would send a claustrophobe into shock. You’ll be outfitted in protective gear, of course, such as a helmet, wetsuit, lifejacket and harness. All you need to bring is your adrenaline-seeking self.
7. Bhutan, Thimphu
Nestled in the eastern Himalayas, it’s a trek to get there, making the Kingdom of Bhutan just the ticket for the jet-setting athlete who does not want to follow the crowd. Mountain biking and camping trips will highlight Bhutan’s cultural facets by following paths that take guests through monasteries, markets, and lots and lots of stairs. It’s the happiest place on earth east of Disneyland.