Ok, I'm totally in LOVE with Italy. We've been there 9 times now. Looking for suggestions for breaking my dependence on this beautiful country. In college my husband (then fiance) and I did THE backpacking trip - Germany, France, Spain, England, Germany, Switzerland (yep, no Italy back then) When we did this, it was a 5 week whirlwind trip- you know, college kids) In our adult life we've been back to England (bike trip around Wells to Stonehenge) Hiked in France (Alsace region) Hiked in Switzerland and I've taken my son to Munich for 5 days, and my daughter to Rome for 5 days. Did a hiking trip to Peru. Get the idea that we like an active vacation? Trying to plan a trip for 2013 - May. My idea is to get back to Italy (we were just there in Sept this year) I think my husband is ready for something else. My bucket list included hiking in Nepal, going to China, but these will have to wait until retirement so we have more than 2 weeks at a time. Where do we go next?
How about Hiking El Camino? the trek that ends in Santiago de Compostela, Spain?
I've always wanted to do that!
Hiking in the Dolomites, maybe hut to hut, or village based if you prefer. Spectacular scenery, world-class trails, great food, welcoming people. Try a via ferrata if you are adventurous. It is Italy, but very different (you are as likely to have your hotelier greet you in German as in Italian).
I've fallen in love with the Balkans, although in many parts hiking is out due to land mines. I haven't been, but what about Slovenia? It looks beautiful, and it's cheaper than Switzerland...you could combine it with a trip to Austria or Croatia quite easily too.
I like Ireland and Scotland, there are great hiking areas in both.
Europe works well for active cycling vacations if you want to switch it up a bit. Especially along some of the main rivers: * Vienna to Budapest along the Danube * Trier to Koblenz along the Mosel
* along the Loire valley in France
My favorites are The Dolomites in Italy, the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland, The Cotswolds in Britain (more like footpaths) and Hadrians wall in Northern Britain.
Kayak the Danube from Vienna to the Black Sea. ignore me. im jealous. Seriously, you might research the High Tatras from Krakow across into Slovakia.
Turkey is great for culture, hiking, scuba, lots of fun activities, especially around the 'Turkish Riviera' in the SW area. Fly in to Dalaman, then pick from many amazing towns. If you're worried about the current political situation, Croatia has the same amazing travel opportunities on a smaller scale.
I know how you feel about Italy. Have you been to Sicily? Turkey is an excellent choice for an active vacation, especially if you like diving among sunken ruins.
Go to Greece! One of our favorite islands is Lesvos, a large island near the Turkish coast. We have never hiked or biked this island ourselves, but on a trip back to Athens one year, we were talking with a couple who had just spent 3 weeks biking around the island and were just bubbling with enthusiasm talking about what a wonderful time they had. There's lots to see, scenery ranging from a petrified forest to sandy beaches. Abandoned forts, castles. The people are wonderful, the prices low, the food delicious. You can take a day trip by ferry over to Pergamon, an ancient ruin in Turkey. Also, the island of Crete has the Samaria Gorge, which is evidently a great hike, which again we've never done but have read a lot about. Crete is also a large island and would have much to see. It's not anywhere near Lesvos ...you could not easily combine the two. With just two weeks, I'd stick to just one island. But that's just me ... admittedly a slow traveller.
Crete is definitely a good choice. Perfect combination of fantastic historic sites and beautiful nature. The Samaria gorge is simply gorgeous and an unforgettable hike. Try to go in May or June, spring vegetation is absolutely stunning and the weather perfect.
Ralph ... Ellen and I do live in the same town. I'm actually in Puglia right now, and we've made arrangements to meet when I return home, as she's considering a bike tour in this region. I will be bringing photos of Greece as well as Puglia, to our meeting. Lots of bicyclists in Puglia. We met four, from Wisconsin, at our B&B in Lecce. They had just spent 10 days on bikes from Bari to the heel of the boot, ending in Lecce. Had a great time. But I think I'd still recommend Greece!