Best National Parks In Europe
If you are thinking of hitting the road to explore Europe you are most certainly in for a treat. As one of the oldest landmasses Europe is rich in landscape, flora and fauna and at some places, it will take your breath away and leave you speechless. With such diversity and natural beauty to explore it’s worth making some kind of plan about where to head first. Perhaps one of these stunning national parks could be where you begin the trip of a lifetime.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Croatia has the most impressive Karst formations in the world because of the hydrology and geomorphology of the Dinaric Karst National Park. It is where you will find Mesozoic limestone carved out by water. The entire topography of the area has been determined by the ratio of less porous Jurassic limestone sediments to water. The lakes, which don’t drain, have been formed inside natural non-porous Tufa barriers made of carbonate material that has precipitated out of the mineral-rich water.
Wild Taiga, Finland
This untouched and unexplored natural wonder has breathtaking views ideal for capturing in beautiful photographs. It is an area packed with wildlife including brown bear, elk, forest deer, wolverine, wolves, beavers, flying squirrels and predatory birds. It is a mecca for natural photography. This animal rich natural habitat extends into the provinces of Kuusamo and Pohjois-Karjala, which constitute the neighborhood of Wild Taiga.
This beautiful park is centered around the massif Durmitor and is about 39000 acres. The River Tara runs through over 82 kilometers into the Tara River Canyon one of two canyons located to the north and south of massif, the other being the Piva River Canyon. Located in the wide mountain region in North West of Montenegro and surrounded by the rivers there are 23 mountain tops situated reaching over 2.3 km in altitude. This region of Durmitor part of the huge Dinara mountain ranges. Durmitoris is characterized by huge lush-green forests, deep gorges and high tops. Tara Canyon itself is a natural habitat to over 130 kinds of birds and 1500 types of flora and considered the largest and best canyon in the whole of Europe.
The Triglav National Park is situated on the highest mountain in Slovenia a summit at 2.864km. The name of the park and the mountain derives from the mountain’s shape from the south-east side. Triglav means three-headed and is also the name of an ancient Slavic deity who, it was believed, had a throne on the mountain top. The mountain is featured on the national coat of arms and Slovic flag and is a true national symbol.
Goreme National Park, Turkey
Words are not enough to describe the beauty of this national park. The skyline is breathtaking. Fairy chimney rock formations give the landscape a feel of the mystical and make Cappadocia’s Goreme National Park a must-visit place for all travelers and vacationers. It is more than worth it to make a visit here on the trip of a lifetime.
Ordesa National Park, Spain
Timeless and the first of its kind in Europe, the Ordesa is a great choice for wildlife lovers. The park is in the majestic Pyrenees and borders France. Entry is from the Spanish side. You can spot some of Europe’s most unique animals in the rich forest areas and high meadows. These include the Pyrenean Chamois, wild boar and mountain marmot. Elegant vultures and golden eagles are among many other species of bird and animal. Sadly, after best efforts at preservation, the most iconic species for the area the bucardo or Pyrenean Ibex finally went extinct in 2000.
The entrancing flora and fauna of this national Park will leave you spellbound. As you travel through it you can’t help but notice the proliferation of aspen trunks that denotes the presence of beavers in the area. You can also spot beaver lodges and otter holts along the banks of the river. Every year, flooding draws numerous migratory waterfowl onto the wide flood plains. Swamp forests have a huge range of woodpeckers, particularly three-toed and white-backed. If you head for a spot above the floodplains you can see eagles and black storks. The golden eagles are thriving on the fens and there are nesting areas full of great snipe on the alluvial meadows.
Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland – Probably the Best Option!
Surprisingly, the national park, Vatnajökull, established in 2008, is the only park on the earth that offers a superb mix of glaciers, mountains, thrilling examples of volcanic activity and geothermal energy. The park is situated at the glacier Vatnajökull, which itself covers almost 12% of Iceland. There are several places of special interest that are worth seeing on any visit to this park.
Skaftafell is the favorite of most Icelanders and tends to enjoy the best weather in Iceland which makes it unmatched for scenery. Skaftafell used to be a separate national park but was later combined with the Vatnajökullglaciar, the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park and a few others to make the enormous Vatnajökull National Park.
The visitor information center has information on some of the most awesome hiking trails in the northern hemisphere. One of the most popular routes is through the waterfall, Svartifoss, providing a breathtaking vista has it cascades over cliffs black basalt columns. Most of the trail is easy and you don’t have to be a superman to complete it in about 1.5 hours, although the end of the trail near the waterfall can be slippery when wet.
Another viewpoint close to Svartifoss is the Sjónarnípa, which offers picturesque views over the glacier tongue. This is the largest ice cap in Europe and it is possible to hike with a guide. The guides are well-trained and well equipped and have in-depth knowledge gained from life long first-hand experience of the area. They will share interesting facts about the glacier and show you the best vista points.
A Few Additional Options to Consider
Sarek National Park, Sweden
This park, in Sweden’s northern municipality, Lapland, holds a special place in the hearts of the nation. Rightly so, with its 23 peaks over 2000m, it is considered a national treasure. Its beauty is outstanding and with the northern lights overhead in the colder months, January to March, it becomes spellbinding.
Cinque Terre, Italy
This colorful and vibrant amalgamation of four towns creates a unique atmosphere. Each one is different and yet mingles effortlessly with the next town along. It’s a bit away from the wilds of nature, but you will enjoy the vivacious coastline of Italy. You wouldn’t be able to go by car, so you are on own with this exploration and it will totally be worth the effort!
Pembrokeshire National Park, Wales
The Pembrokeshire National Park hugs the coastline of South Wales. It is a must-see on any tour of Great Britain. With a temperate coastal climate and so many scenic coastal walks, pristine secluded beaches, particularly Dobby’s Beach visiting is a worthwhile and uplifting experience to cherish.
Swiss National Park, Switzerland
This popular spot is a treat for the eyes and a big one. There is only one national park in Switzerland (yes, that’s true) and the beauty of this one is equivalent to a thousand. The views are awe-inspiring with mighty mountains and picturesque landscapes. Get yourself a good travel camera with plenty of terra bytes because you will want to capture each and every vista. Autumn is particularly stunning with the leaf color change transforming the park into a tapestry of golden color.
Cheile Nerei Beusnita National Park, Romania
Romania might not be on the top of your list. If not, perhaps it is time to put it there. This national park will change your opinions about hiking and exploration. It has such a lot to offer. With beautiful mixes of lush-greens and clear blues, the endless forests and trails are best explored on foot. It is in total isolation. Just you and nature.
There could never be a definitive list of national parks to visit in Europe but whether you head for volcanic Iceland, tree covered Sweden or the coastline of Wales even the short visit will leave you refreshed and spiritually uplifted. Throw in Switzerland, Italy, and Eastern Europe into the mix and you probably won’t want to want to leave.