Lifestyle & Culture

Cool and hot! Dispatches’ 2018 curated list of Europe’s best water parks

(Editor’s note: Terry Boyd also contributed to this post on Europe’s best water parks.)

Good news, kids … for most of Europe, 2018 is turning out to be one of the hottest, driest summers in history. So it’s way past time to take the plunge at one of the great water parks from Germany to the Canary Islands.

And there are sooooo many choices from a tropical rainforest inside a dome the size of several soccer fields in Berlin to Europe’s highest free fall slide in Spain and an entire outdoor adventure are in Innsbruck, Austria. That said, some of the water parks are more suitable for big kids than small, and we trimmed a couple of the more boring ones from our 2017 list, as well as two that got really low ratings on TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced reviews.

Nearly every water park on this list has added new rides since 2017 with more coming. And many have raised prices accordingly.

But first, let’s go to the future!

Galaxy Erding, in Erding, north of Munich, Germany

One of Europe’s largest water parks/thermal spas, Galaxy Erding in Germany, just got the craziest real-world application of advanced tech we’ve heard about lately – a VR water slide that outfits guests with a VR headset. So how does that work? Well, the park bought a bunch of waterproof VR headsets, according to the Verge.

The headsets use a tracking system that uses ultrasound sensors and accelerometers to make sure riders don’t get dizzy and, you know, become unwell in the water. The kids apparently see surreal images in the custom virtual reality content that changes through the season … and matches the motion of the slide. Or something like that. There’s a full pdf you can download if you’re really that interested in the science. But we’re pretty sure the idea is to give water park patrons an experience like no other.

The VR is an extra 2 euros per slide.

Not into VR? Galaxy Erding is part of Therme Erding, a giant thermal spa. It has a lot more conventional features, including 26 water slides, several really big ones, and eight new summer slides in a newly designed outdoor area.

Featured rides include:

• the X-treme Faser water slide, with speeds over 70 kilometers per hour. (You have to be 15 years old or older for this one.)

• the Kamikaze, with a 60-degree drop. (Just for context, 90 degrees would be vertical and probably fatal.)

• the Black Mamba with lighting effects

There’s a wave pool, a giant covered pool with palm trees and an island theme, and a thermal spa. So this is more of a spa with water rides. Make that VR water rides. Good news for parents and kids.

Entry prices: Now, about the tickets – we’ve never seen this, but you pay according to time and feature. So, say you want to go to the slides and tropical spa area; you pay 18 euros and up. BUT, there are a million different deals and discounts according to when you want to go. And there are all-in tickets starting at about 35 euros.

See the ticket and pricing pages of the website here.

Open: The spas and part of the water park are open all year.

TripAdvisor ratings: Galaxy Erding/Therme Erding gets great reviews on TripAdvisor, garnering a 4.5 out of 5 stars on 2,301 reviews, with lots of rave reviews. The only negatives included signage only in German.

SIAM PARK, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Siam Park in Tenerife has been named the world’s best water park by TripAdvisor for several years in a row. And it’s the first Green water park.

The park is meant to evoke a trip to Thailand with temples and floating markets. The highlight of your visit to this park is a ride named Tower of Power, which starts at the height of 28 meters and takes you down to the pool with speeds up to 80 km/h. 

The only negative? This is a fantastic water park, crowds are huge and lines are long. Even the food gets good reviews. BUT, worst website ever if you’re trying to order tickets online.

Interesting bonus fact via Wikipedia: Siam Park is the world’s first green water park. The park’s water is heated to 25 °C (77 °F). To conserve the island’s water, Siam Park has a desalination plant on site, which desalinates 700 cubic meters (25,000 cu ft) of seawater per day. After the water is used in the rides, the park recycles the water by using it to water the park’s plants. In addition, Siam Park has the first natural gas plant in the Canary Islands.

Features: Crazy water slides like the Kinnaree, the Tower of Power and the Dragon. The wave pool also gets rave reviews on TripAdvisor.

Entry prices: Tickets start at 25 euros for kids (up from 13.50 last year!) and go all the way up to 440 euros for VIPs and you can get them online here. All-inclusives start at 119 euros for adults. But here’s a tip from TripAdvisor: Pay the extra 15 euros for Fast Pass.

Open: Year-round

TripAdvisor ratings: Siam Park gets great reviews on TripAdvisor, garnering a 4.5 out of 5 stars with 25,683 reviews. In fact, it’s been their No. 1-rated park in the world for two years running.

Area 47, Innsbruck, Austria

This just seems too obvious: Put your water park on an Alpine lake next to a river! Which is what some shrewd Austrians did to create Area 47.

The result is a combination water park and extreme outdoor experience with rappelling, water skiing, wakeboarding, white water rafting and rock climbing. (Check out the video.) There are also water rides, a diving tower and a hydro-speed slide.

In the water park itself, there are water slides and the usual rides … and cliff diving in case you get bored.

This is billed as Austria’s largest outdoor recreation area, and trust us … most people won’t get bored!

Entrance price: Tickets start at 24 euros, but activity prices are a la carte. And there are accommodations if you want to spend a few days.

Open: April to the end of September.

TripAdvisor rating: Four stars out of five from 200 reviews and the negative reviews were mostly from hard-core rock climbers who were disappointed with the climbing facilities. The rides and other activities got raves, with two thumbs up for family fun outdoors.

Aquapalace, Prague

Our friend and fellow expat Charlie de Wilde just stopped by on his way home from Prague to Amsterdam, raving about Aquapalace. Aquapalace is the largest indoor water park in Eastern Europe. Charlie rates the waterslides as world-class. But there’s so much more, with this on the German model of incorporating spas and fitness into the water park experience. And the weird thing … it’s not very well known outside Prague!

Features: This is basically two acres of attractions including what Aquapalace touts as “the longest side in the Czech Republic,” a wild-water river and a wave pool. There are 14 different choices of saunas including Finnish-style saunas, Roman baths and an outdoor pool. Finally, there are spas, health & wellness and fitness facilities.

So, this is kind of an indoor/outdoor water park combined with a five-star hotel spa vibe at a year-round park. More about chilling than big thrills at the mega-outdoor parks in Spain and Croatia. Though there are a lot of nice touches including swim-up bars with DJs.

The website:  It’s okay and (mostly) in English.

Pricing is a la carte depending on how many days you want to spend there and how many activities you want to try. Prices start at the equivalent of about 20 euros. You can see the complete (and complicated) pricing list here.

There’s also a special offers page on the Aquaplace website that includes hotel offers.

Open: Year-round.

Trip-Advisor rating: Four and a half stars out of five (456 reviews). There are a lot of rave reviews, especially from people with smaller kids … and it’s clear Aquapalace is virtually unknown outside Prague.

AQUAPARK ISTRALANDIA, NOVA VAS, CROATIA

The giant, 20-acre Aquapark Istralandia always ranks at the top of TripAdvisor’s list of Best Water Parks – Europe, only one spot behind Siam Park and is one of Croatia’s best places for a family day out this summer. (This is a new park, just opened in 2014.)

The park has 12 different slides – both big and small – including Croatia’s highest free-fall slide which sits at a height of 27 meters. The focus here is on family fun in the sun.

Features: Check out the video above for the Space Rocket. THAT is cool! Free Fall also looks pretty terror-inducing, which is a good thing. Finally, the foam parties are a nice touch.

The website: For once, a water park has a great website. Lots of features including a downloadable map.

Entry prices: Full-day tickets start at the equivalent of 24 euros for High Season and you can get them here. But there are also half-day tickets and family packages. Decisions, decisions ….

Open: May through mid-September

TripAdvisor rating: Four and a half stars out of five (1,454 reviews). Reviewers use the word “amazing” a lot!

SLIDE AND SPLASH, Lagoa, Portugal

A personal favorite: Slide and Splash in Portugal’s Algarve. Our yearly family vacations in Portugal were not complete without a day spent at this fun water park.

From the foam slides and the Lazy River to the Black Hole slide, we always enjoyed every minute spent at this 16,000-acre water park.

Features include:

• Several rides that are only for big kids including the new Big Wave, which is ranked as an “extreme ride” limited to kids at least 1.20 meters tall, and the Black Hole, which gets 5 stars (the max) on the adrenaline scale!

• Huge water slides and splash areas suitable for kids

• Shows with exotic birds

Entry prices: Tickets start at 18 euros for kids, and you can order tickets online here.

Open: 28 March to 2 November for 2018

TripAdvisor rating: Four and a half stars out of five, 2,450 reviews.  

AQUALANDIA, VENICE, ITALY

Water park Aqualandia (not to be confused with Aqualandia, Spain) has an impressive list of thrilling water slides that are for daredevils only. Most notably, a ride called Captain Spacemaker where you sit down in a rubber dingy which fits 3 to 4 people and then you make your way down a steep, 42-meters-high slide reaching speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour!

This is a combination of water park and Disneyland, with pirate-themed shows and attractions.

Features: Captain Spacemaker … only for the brave (crazy). There’s a new virtual-reality ride called “Scary Falls” that just debuted this year. And the Jungle Jump looks awesome. The website is pretty good and you can sample all the rides and attractions before you go.

Admission prices: There’s a special on the landing page for 49 euros per person for the park AND hotel. Otherwise, one-day tickets start at 28 euros for kids and 32 euros for adults.

Open: 26 May to 9 September

Note: Water park operators have a note (in Italian) on the website warning customers of “free” ticket scams.

Trip Advisor rating: Four out of five stars, the lowest on the list, with 2,601 reviews. Got dinged mostly for not having as many rides as other water parks.

PORTADVENTURA CARIBE AQUATIC PARK, PORT SALOU NEAR TARRAGONA, SPAIN

If a 31-metre plunge does not sound absolutely terrifying to you, check out this water park in Spain. King Khajuna, a 31-meter-high free fall slide with a 55-degree descent, is PortAdventura Caribe Aquatic Park’s star attraction.

Oh, and the best part? This park is located only an hour drive south of Barcelona, making it the perfect place to cool off and relax during a city trip.

Features: In addition to the aforementioned King Khajuna, there are a bunch of rides and water slides ranging from mild to wild. The Mambo Limbo and El Tífon look pretty wild, while little kids will like El Galeón Pirata. Lots of variety as well as splish-splash water features such as a wave pool.

Entry prices: Tickets start at 25 euros for kids and 29 euros for adults per day. But if you’re making it a holiday, you can get multi-day tickets online here, and they’re discounted accordingly. Also, there are multiple hotels on the property starting at 69 euros per person per night. There are two other PortAdventura theme parks nearby including the new FerrariLand.

Open: May through September

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