Step away from it all and get back to nature! What better way to enjoy the great outdoors than in one of Europe’s national parks. Europe is a vast continent with a diverse landscape and rich wildlife ready to be discovered. It comes as no surprise that the continent has hundreds of parks, ranging from those with massive glaciers to thick forests and rapid waterfalls. Each park is different and unique and with so many to choose from, it is difficult to choose the ten best ones. We have put our thinking caps on and composed a list of ten national parks in Europe that are perfect to explore.
Plitvice National park, Croatia
Plitvice National park is the largest national park in Croatia and covers approximately 115 square miles. The park is famous for its pristine forests with waterfalls and great hiking trails. The park opened its doors in 1949 and was added to the UNESCO world heritage list in 1979. Mainly due to its striking scenery, the park receives over a million visitors a year from around the world. The park has sixteen interconnected lakes with impressive waterfalls. Depending on the angle of the sun and quantity of organisms in the water, the colour of the lakes seems to change several times a day. The colours range from a deep green to azure blue.
Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland
Vatnajökull National Park was established in 2008 and encompasses Europe’s largest glacier. The glacier by itself is so large that it covers 4% of the country, while the complete park covers 13%. The glacier has a size of over 3,000 square miles and is so massive, that it covers mountains, deep valleys and even active volcanoes. Because of the diverse landscape it is one of the best places in the world to see the interaction of ice and fire. You will find many hot springs surrounded by icy hills.
Goreme National Park, Turkey
One of the highlights of western Turkey, the Goreme National Park is home to some of the most spectacular scenery you will ever see. This incredible landscape was formed by blistering winds, raging water and erupting volcanoes over millions of years. The park was added to UNESCO in 1985 for its cultural and natural significance. Next to the amazing scenery of the land itself, the local population has been carving the porous rock for hundreds of years. They have created tunnels, houses and even churches in the rock. The area can be explored on foot, by hire car or by bike. The best way to comprehend the vastness of the area is by hot-air balloon.
Jotunheimen National Park, Norway
According to ancient Norwegian mythology the Jontuns or trolls – call this stretch of land
their home. Jotunheimen National Park is a vast and undisturbed mountainous area in the east of Norway. The area is perfect for hiking, and offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. The park includes Norway’s highest Mountain as well as massive lakes, rivers and glaciers. The area is home to reindeers, bears and other animals. You can go rafting, climbing, riding and glacier walking in the park.
Black Forest National Park, Germany
Famous for its reference in several fairy tales such as the Brothers Grimm’s Hansel & Gretel, the Black Forest gets its name from the density of the forest canopy which blocks out the sunlight. The mountainous area in the southwest of Germany is well liked among travellers and people who have a love for the outdoors. The park has more than 18,500 miles of hiking trails, which makes it the perfect place for exploring and, biking. There are several towns in the park, including Baden-Baden, which is famous for its natural hot springs. The river Rhine splits the landscape which makes it possible to view the forest from a cruise on the Rhine. During winter the area is also a great place to cross-country ski.
Triglav National Park, Slovenia
Triglav National park can be found in the northwestern part of the country and is the only national park of Slovenia. The park officially opened in 1981 and is famous for its mountain ranges, lakes and valleys. The tallest mountain Mount Triglav, from which the park gets its name, is almost two miles high and is located in the centre of the park. Climbers and hikers can visit the small tower on top of the mountain and get stunning views of the area. Throughout the park there are many hiking trails which can be explored.
Oulanka National Park, Finland
Oulanka National park is located in the east of Finland and is close to the Russian border. The national park has been shaped by massive glaciers that cut through the landscape thousands of years ago and left massive gores and crevices behind. The hiking trails cross the rivers several times and take you up the mountain to get a breath-taking view of the area. White water rafting is very popular in this national park as the river is crystal clear and ranges from calm deep waters to shallow rapids.
Belluno Dolomites National Park, Italy
Belluno Dolomites National Park was created in 1990 and currently extends over 125 square miles. Only two hours from the hustle and bustle of Venice, this national park is located in the Northeast of Italy. The National Park is famous for its large stretches of forests with green pastures and high mountains. The park is home to over 1,300 plant species which accounts for a fourth of the entire species in Italy. There are many hiking trails to explore with beautiful flowers, foliage and views along the way. Recently the park started to renovate old villages located in the area, which appear as ghost towns as the residents left many years ago. The view of the villages with the mountains in the background creates quite the magnificent scene.
Ecrins National Park, France
There are a total of ten national parks in France with Ecrins National park being the one which offers the most impressive views. The mountain ranges, with over 100 peaks which are over 1.8 mile high, offer a splendid view of the lush green valleys below. In winter most of the hiking trails are closed due to the snowfall in this area. In winter it is possible to go snow walking and skiing.
Hoge Veluwe National Park, The Netherlands
In the heart of the Netherlands near the city Arnhem you will find the Hoge Veluwe National Park. Because of its central location it is one of the most popular attractions in the Netherlands. It is particularly famous for its diverse landscape, which ranges from thick forests to sand dunes. The park was originally built as a hunting park and now has become one of the largest nature reserves in the Netherlands. The park is home to several types of deer, boar, snakes and an abundance of bird species. The Hoge Veluwe National Park is predominantly flat, which makes biking the best way to enjoy its diverse scenery.