10 holiday destinations that could improve your fitness

Bupa Health Editor Natalie Heaton
Health and Lifestyle Editor at Bupa UK
10 August 2017

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This article is more than three years old. It reflects the best available evidence at the time of publication.

Going on holiday is the perfect time for new adventures, and with so many amazing places to visit in the world, you’re probably spoilt for choice. When you’re out and about exploring a new country or trying out a new activity, you could be getting some added health benefits too. Chances are you’ll be so busy enjoying yourself you won’t even notice.

We’ve explored some of the best places where you can immerse yourself in ancient history, witness beautiful scenery and experience some of the world’s most iconic sites. What’s more, we’ve also calculated the calories you could burn while doing them! Here are our top 10 travel destinations for your health.

1. Take the stairs up the Eiffel Tower

Earn that croissant and beat the queues by taking the stairs instead of the lift up France’s famous Eiffel Tower. Not only can you enjoy the view at the top, but you’ll have walked up an impressive 704 steps. How long it takes you to reach the top will depend on your fitness level, so you can take it at your own pace and enjoy the experience. If it takes you half an hour – at a slow pace you’ll burn about 140 calories and at a fast pace you’ll burn about 308 calories.

For a gentler approach, you could take the lift up and walk down, burning about 123 calories.

What can you see from the Eiffel Tower?

Some of the city’s most iconic sites include:

  • The Arc de Triomphe
  • The Champs Élysées
  • The Tuileries Gardens
  • The Louvre Pyramid and Museum
  • Notre Dame Cathedral

An image of the Paris landscape, featuring the Eiffel Tower

2. Explore Pompeii

Explore the ancient ruins of Italy’s Pompeii, which covers 163 acres of land (though a third remains unexcavated). Tourism sites recommend you spend between two to four hours here, wandering the streets to get a real sense of the place. Strolling for two hours could burn 280 calories, while four hours of walking could burn up to 560 calories. Booking a tour is a good idea, or you can find your own way with a handy map. If it’s hot when you go, be sure to take a water bottle – there are lots of water fountains to refill and cool off. Don’t forget sunscreen, shades and a hat, and comfy shoes too.

Did you know?

  • A volcano eruption in 79 AD buried the city of Pompeii 16ft under.
  • Before the volcano erupted, it had previously lain dormant for 700 years.
  • 81 loaves of bread were baked in the Modestus bakery on the day of the eruption.
  • Between 12,000 and 15,000 people were thought to have lived in Pompeii.
  • It’s estimated that there were around 200 bars in Pompeii.
  • The largest house in Pompeii is the House of the Faun which covers 32,000 square feet.

An image of the ancient city of Pompeii

3. Snorkel or scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef

Did you know – the Great Barrier Reef is bigger than the UK, Holland and Switzerland combined? It’s made up of over 900 islands, stretches over 2,600km and is so big you can see it from space. Wherever you choose to take a dip along Australia’s Eastern coast, snorkelling for half an hour can burn about 175 calories. If you can’t drag yourself away from the sea, then forty-five minutes of snorkelling could burn about 263 calories and an hour up to 350 calories.

The average scuba dive lasting between 40 and 50 minutes burns between 327 and 408 calories. And all that lugging around of heavy diving equipment is the equivalent of lifting weights in a gym too!

What you might see on the reef:

  • Six species of sea turtle.
  • Whales, dolphins and porpoises – about 30 species have been seen.
  • Over 1,500 species of fish.
  • 17 species of sea snake.
  • 215 species of seabirds.

An image of a scuba diver in the Great Barrier Reef

4. Cycle the winding roads of Mallorca

The Spanish island of Mallorca has beautiful terrain for cycling – whether you want to ride on the flat or climb some hills. If you’re into cycling, then covering 100km will take you around three hours (going on average about 33kph) and could burn over 3,300 calories.

For a more leisurely ride, (about 19kph), you could burn around 1,428 calories over three hours.

Some popular routes include:

  • 63km: Alcudia – Puerto Pollensa – Cap de Formentor Lighthouse – Pollensa – Alcudia
  • 110km: Palma – Santa Maria del Cami – Lloseta – Caimari – Lake Gorg Blau – Port de Soller – Soller – Bunyola – Palma
  • 112km: Puerto Pollensa – Sa Calobra – Selva – Inca – Pollensa – Puerto Pollensa

There are lots of routes and distances to choose from - Cycling Locations has all the info you need for planning your ride.

An image of a road in Mallorca 

5. Catch the waves in Bali

The Indonesian island of Bali is renowned for its amazing waves and surfing is a great whole body workout. An hour-long surf can burn around 210 calories, and if you’re at a more competitive level, you can burn about 350 calories in an hour.

You can catch the waves all over the island but some of the top surf spots for beginners include:

  • Kuta beach
  • Tuban beach
  • Legian beach
  • Seminyak beach
  • Echo beach (Pantai Batu Bolong)

And if you’re a seasoned pro you can check out the surf spots at:

  • Uluwatu
  • Suluban
  • Padang Padang
  • Impossibles (as nicknamed by experienced surfers)
  • Bingin

An image of people surfing in Bali

6. Traverse the UK’s longest seaside pier

Southend pier in Southend-on-Sea, England, projects 2.16km out into the Thames estuary. If you take a walk to the end and back, spending over an hour walking at a pleasurable pace of 4kph, you could burn just over 210 calories. If you only want to walk one way, there’s a little train you can catch which will take you to the end.

What else can you do at Southend-on-Sea?

  • Ride the rollercoaster at Adventure Island.
  • Visit the RNLI station.
  • Do a spot of fishing.
  • Play some crazy golf.
  • Sit on the beach and have an ice cream.

An image of the sea and Southend Pier

7. Go wild swimming in the deepest lake in England

Touted as the best and deepest (80 metres) lake in England, why not try wild swimming in Wast Water lake in the Lake District? It’s 5km long if you’re a confident swimmer and up for a challenge. There are swim trips and guides available too. Those who’ve taken the plunge describe it as dramatic and stunning, with the clearest water, surrounded by majestic mountains.

Lake swimming burns around 210 calories in half an hour and 420 calories in an hour.

An image of the beautiful Wast Water lake in the Lake District 

8. Jog around Central Park

A run through Central Park in New York is an experience for sure – even the New York marathon takes its last miles through the iconic park. A full loop through Central Park is about 9.8km. This will take you about an hour and 15 minutes if you’re running at a speed of 8kph and you’ll burn around 726 calories.

Not only that, but there’s plenty to keep you entertained as you run too. The park is full of meadows, forests, lakes, monuments, wildlife and architecture.

Check out this free running map to help you plan your route.

After you’re finished running around it, make the most of your time in Central Park with these activities:

  • Visit John Lennon’s memorial mosaic at Strawberry Fields.
  • Chill out in Sheep’s meadow; take a picnic and a Frisbee.
  • Visit Belvedere Castle to see great views of the cityscape.
  • Visit one of the lakes, ponds and reservoirs for a spot of boating.

An image of a woman running in Central Park, New York

9. Climb El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

If you’re an elite rock climber, this climb in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains is bound to be on your bucket list. It stretches up over 3,590 feet into the sky. The world record for climbing this mountain was set by pro climbers Hans Florine and Alex Honnold in 2012. They completed it in two hours, 23 minutes and 46 seconds! Though according to park rangers, most climbing groups take 3-5 days to complete some of the most popular routes.

If you go climbing for two hours, you could burn around 1,120 calories.

Did you know?

There’s never been a fatal incident, but black bears do live in Yosemite National Park – about 3-500 of them in fact. Experts say one of the best ways to protect bears and keep everyone safe is to clear up after yourself. Don’t leave any litter or food wrappers lying around, and store all your food correctly so that the bears don’t sniff it out. There are special regulations to follow for this.

An image of El Capitan in Yosemite, USA 

10. Walk the whole length of the Great Wall of China (just joking)

The official length of the Great Wall of China is 21,196.18km. That’s the equivalent of 175,000 football fields. However, a more sensible option is to do a one day hiking tour. Most people do the Jiankou to Mutianyu section of the wall. It takes about five hours and covers 10km. The terrain is mixed, some of it steep.

Hiking on uneven terrain for five hours could burn around 1,855 calories.

An image of the Great Wall of China

*The amount of calories burned is based on an average person weighing 70kg.

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Bupa Health Editor Natalie Heaton
Natalie Heaton (she/her)
Health and Lifestyle Editor at Bupa UK

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