List Words : Rhodri Andrews | 07 September

13 fantastic short breaks that squeeze big adventures into small timeframes

From whale-watching in the oceans of Norway to exploring the ghost town of Chernobyl, there's no reason why a short break can't mean a big adventure. Take inspiration for your next trip...

As many travellers know, you can see and do an awful lot in just a handful of days. Whether you spend your long weekend making friends with mountain gorillas or roaming the Canadian wilderness, maximising your precious holiday allowance can lead to some incredible and unexpected experiences. Thankfully, tour operators are now offering more choice than ever before, stretching your imagination as well as your annual leave. As these 13 trips prove, it's amazing where a short break can take you...

1: Portugal

Mix city with countryside

Boats cruise along the River Douro (Inntravel)

Inntravel's Porto & the Douro Valley tour fits a lot into a small escape, as you skirt Portugal's many sights. Explore churches and winding streets in Porto's UNESCO listed Old Town before moving on to the sun-drenched vineyards of the Douro Valley, via a train ride through sprawling olive groves and woodland. Squeeze in a visit to some of the region's port wine producers, then rest up on a cruise along the twinkling waters of the River Douro.

Who: Inntravel (01653 617000;
When: Selected dates: Sep-Oct 2017
How long: 4 nights
How much: From £530 (excl flights)


2: Scotland

Canoe through the Cairngorms

Open Canoeing in Scotland (Wilderness Scotland)

Scotland is on our doorstep, and less travel means more time to explore. Paddle its wilds on Wilderness Scotland's action-filled Open Canoeing: River Spey Descent trip. Fine-tune your canoeing skills before heading into malt whisky country, sliding past the pine forests of Balliefurth. Keep your eyes on the skies for golden eagles and ride exhilarating rapids before descending to the salmon-rich pools of Delfur, under the gaze of Ben Aigan.

Who: Wilderness Scotland (01479 420020;
When: 4 May, 29 June & 14 Sep 2018
How long: 3 nights
How much: From £625 (excl flights)


3: Norway

Whale-watch in the peace and quiet

Whale watching in Norway (Discover the World)

You needn't travel far for a unique wild encounter. Discover The World's Tromso, Northern Lights & Whale Watching trip sees you board the world's first hybrid-electric ship. It runs silently across the fjords, meaning orca and humpbacks are more likely to swim closer, as you combine the natural world by day with aurora-spotting at night.

Who: Discover the World (01737 214291;
When: Selected dates: 1 Nov 2017-14 Feb 2018
How long: 3 nights
How much: From £1,146 (incl flights)


4: USA

Nip over to New Orleans

New Orleans (Bon Voyage)

If you want to fit more in, visit a busy city. Bon Voyage's Big Easy Break sees you wander New Orleans and soak in its party vibe, sound tracked by jazz bars. Fill up on Creole cuisine and beignets (doughnuts), then walk the French Quarter on a cocktail tour, visiting the Celebration Distillation, the oldest rum distillery in the US. 

Who: Bon Voyage (0800 3160194;
When: Selected dates: Oct 2017-Apr 2018
How long: 4 nights
How much: From £1,265 (incl flights)


5: South Africa

Wine and history in Cape Town and beyond

South African coast (Intrepid: Lindsay Pieterkosky)

South Africa's friendly latitude lets you avoid time-sapping jet lag, so you can fit more in on Intrepid Travel's Cape Town and Winelands trip. Tour the region's excellent vineyards before exploring a city packed with sights, from towering Table Mountain to the tragic history of Robben Island.

Who: Intrepid Travel (0808 274 5111;
When: Daily departures
How long: 5 days
How much: £570 (excl flights)


6: Iceland

A snapshot of the aurora

Northern Lights, Iceland (Explore: Andrew Green)

With its natural sights and iconic road trips, Iceland is ideal for those short on hours. Explore's Northern Lights with Expert Astronomer trip hits fast-forward as you go from Blue Lagoon to learning about the lights with night-sky guru Andrew Green. Then hit the road on the Golden Circle (Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir, Thingvellir NP), ending with an aurora-spotting boat trip.

Who: Explore (01252 883703;
When: Selected dates: Oct-Dec 2017; Feb-Mar, Oct-Dec 2018
How long: 3 nights
How much: From £1,119 (incl flights)


7: Ukraine

Kiev is open for business again

Kiev, Ukraine (Regent Holidays)

Soak up a lot of history in a short time on Regent Holidays Kiev and Chernobyl Group Tour, as Ukraine's capital sheds its recent past to welcome back travellers. Wander the Old Town and its gilded churches, then complete your trip at nuclear disaster site Chernobyl and its ghost town of Pripyat, an unforgettable experience and sight.

Who: Regent Holidays (020 7666 1244;
When: 29 Sep 2017; May-Sep 2018
How long: 5 nights
How much: From £960 (incl flights)


8: Canada

Soak up a slice of Newfoundland

Newfoundland, Canada (Audley)

Just a six-hour flight can land you in wild Canada, as Audley Travel's Newfoundland & Labrador trip shows. Hike freshwater fjords and dramatic tablelands in Gros Morne NP, then hit the coast in St Anthony, spying whales, icebergs and Viking sites.

Who: Audley (01993 838700;
When: Year round
How long: 4 nights
How much: From £1,300 (incl flights)


9: Rwanda

Get close to gorillas

Rwanda Gorilla (Exodus: Kenny Gray)

Enjoy a Gorilla Short Break with Exodus and trek through the Virunga Mountains for one of travel's wildest experiences. Spend time with a family of gorillas, as you prove you don't need a year off to have a life-changing escape. It will be unforgettable.

Who: Exodus (020 3553 0182;
When: 3 Jan 2018
How long: 5 days
How much: From £2,649 (incl flights)


10: Morocco

Fire over to Fez

Leather tanning, Fez (Dreamstime)

With direct flights from the UK, join Steppes Travel for a Short Break to Fez and capture a quick dose of Moroccan magic. Wander the medieval city's labyrinthine Medina alleys and colourful souks and admire the handiwork of local craft with a visit to a pottery workshop and traditional bakery. Be awestruck by the intricate architecture of the 14th- century Madrasa Attarine and complement your trip with a visit to ancient Meknes or the Roman hilltop fort of Volubilis.

Who: Steppes Travel (01285 601050;

When: Year round

How long: 4 days

How much: From £995 (incl flights)



11: Norway

Hop, skip and ski

Oslo winter park, Norway (Tord Baklund Visitoslo)

Jump across the North Sea to the Norwegian capital on Oslo Winter Park Ski Holidays with Ski Safari. Hit the slopes or take to the alpine landscape on snowshoes, with the skyline framed by the capital and Oslofjord on one side and thick forest and snowy peaks on the other. What's more, the ski centre is carbon neutral and the food is made from sustainable ingredients, so you can ski safe in the knowledge you're not damaging the planet.

Who: Ski Safari (01273 224062;

When: Dec-Apr

How long: 3 nights

How much: From £515 (incl flights)



12: Germany

Enjoy a Christmas cruise


Christmas markets in Cologne (Dreamstime)

Get your Christmas shopping started in the best possible way with Amadeus River Cruises on its Magic of Advent on the Rhine trip. Begin in Cologne, gliding first to the 2,000-year-old town of Koblenz. Meander its maze-like alleys, cosy lanes and Christmas market stalls before slinking through the Rhine Valley and the craggy Lorolei Cliffs to the wine-making hub of Rudesheim. Toast your second festive market with a glass of the mulled variety before making your way back to Cologne.

Who: Amadeus River Cruises (0800 035 6411;

When: 10 Dec 2017

How long: 3 nights

How much: From £699 (incl flights)


13: Georgia

Cut through the Caucasus

Georgia (TravelLocal)

Georgia's northern wilderness has never seemed so close on a Long Weekend in Svaneti with TravelLocal. Head up to the mountain village of Becho and learn to make kubdari (meat pie) before hiking the rugged Svaneti region through lush forest to the dreamy Ushba Falls. Spy the crumbling Svan towers in UNESCO-listed Mestia before joining a cooking class, making cheese and chvishtari (cornbread), feasting on your tasty efforts.

Who: TravelLocal (0117 325 7898;

When: Year round

How long: 5 days

How much: From £540 (excl flights)