20 national parks to visit in Europe
There are so many nature reserves and national parks on my bucket list! And I think there are many of you who are nature lovers, just like me. I love the silence of the nature, the beauty and the flora and fauna which you can find. I also love to photograph beautiful sceneries of nature. Are you still looking for inspiration of nature parks to put on your own bucket list? In this article you can find 20 national parks around Europe.
1 Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
For me, this is the ultimate favorite national park and the one which is number one on my bucket list. From photos and stories from people, it looks like a stunning national park and I cannot wait to visit it. A visit to Croatia isn’t completed without a visit to the Plitvice National Park. You can find here lots of waterfalls and many beautiful lakes. There are even possibilities to stay the night in one of the accommodations in the park! You can visit the Plitvice Lakes through the whole year, but in summer it can be very crowded, so please take that into account when planning a visit.
The entree fees differs per period. In the winter time (from the 1st of November until the 31st of March), an adult pays 55 Kunas and children from 7 until 18 years old pay 35 Kunas. In Spring and Fall (1st of April until 30th of June and 1st of September until 31st of October), an adult pays 110 Kunas and children from 7 until 18 years old pay 55 Kunas. In summer (1st of July until 31st of August), an adult pays 180 Kunas and children from 7 until 18 years old pay 80 Kunas. Children until the age of 7 can always enter the park for free.
2 Caldera de Taburiente, La Palma
The island La Palma is already well-known for its many possibilities to hike and that’s also the reason why many people are travelling to the island. One of the places you can have a perfect hike, is in the Nature Park Caldera de Taburiente. Here you can find a crater (in the heart of the island) which is 1,5 kilometers deep and 9 kilometers wide. The crater arised approximately 35 million years ago after a volcanic eruption. In the national park, you can also hike to a beautiful viewing point, named the Cumbrecita. Definitely worth a visit!
3 Écrins, France
This national park is located in three departments of France, namely Isère, Rhône-Alpes and Hautes-Alpes. It’s a National Park with a large surface which is well-known for its glaciers, like the ‘Glacier de la Girose’, ‘Glacier de la Meije’ and the ‘Glacier Blanc’. The highest point of the national park is located at the ‘Barre des Écrins’ (4.102 meters) and at the ‘Dôme de Neige des Écrins (4.015 meters).
When you’re planning a trip to the Écrins and would like to hike, the best time to go there is from the end of June until the end of September. This is the time when there normally is only a few or no snow at all.
4 Saxon Switzerland, Germany
Saxon Switzerland is a hilly climbing area and national park around the Elbe valley South-East of Dresden, located in Saxony. Together with the Bohemian Switzerland in the Czech Republic it forms the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Saxon Switzerland alone had approximately 1000 climbing peaks, as well as several hollows. The national park is mostly popular by national and foreign climbers.
Not only features the national park mountains, but also castles. The culture landscape is definitely worth the visit. You can find many medieval and baroque castles with gracefully gardens, old religious building and much more which make the Saxon history a real life experience.
5 Soomaa, Estonia
Soomaa national park is the biggest national park in Estonia. The most popular sights in the national park are the Beaver Trail, the Riisa and Kuuraniidu nature study trails, the Ingatsi boardwalk leading to 8 meters on the highest bog in Europe, the watchtowers and the suspension bridges. There are many guided tours through the park to explore the nature of Soomaa. You can for example canoe or make a snowshoe hike.
6 Belluno Dolomites, Italy
The Parco Nazionale delle Dolomiti Bellunesi (The National Park of the Belluno Dolomites) has numerous hiking trails crisscrossing the two 2000 meter high mountains that rise up between Belluno and Feltre. Hiking Belluno offers nature lovers beautiful panoramas. Belluno Dolomites is a popular tourist destination where art, history and culture form a perfect bond with its captivating surroundings. This extraordinary landscape is dotted by many a quaint town, impressive mountains, beautiful valleys and quiet woods.
7 Vatnajökull, Iceland
Vatnajökull, which means ‘water glacier’, is the biggest glacier in Iceland and the second biggest of Europe. This glacier is bigger than all glaciers in Norway and the Alps together. In this area you’ll find some of the most stunning and diverse sights in Iceland. Among those are Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnjúkur, its most active volcano, Grímsvötn, beautiful waterfalls such as Svartifoss by Skaftafell and Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall, stunning canyons such as Jökulsargljúfur and Ásbyrgi, and the breath taking Jökulsárlon, an ice-riddled glacier lagoon that is one of the most beautiful attractions in Iceland.
8 Lake District, England
The Lake District (also locally named as the Lakelands) is an area with an insane beauty and is the most popular national park in Great Britain. The national park is located in the region Cumbria, in the North-West of England. It features mountain tops and beautiful valleys which overlook the deep, specular lakes. It also features more than 3200 kilometers of hiking- and biking paths what makes the park perfect to explore by foot or bike. However, there are also many possibilities to explore the national park by other outdoor activities, like canoeing, kayaking, swimming or sailing.
9 Göreme, Turkey
I think we all know this national park by photos. It’s part of Cappadocia, a historical region of Turkey. The national park is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. It became part of the list in 1985. Here you can find beautiful rock formations, gorges and caves. The plateau of the Göreme valley is a spectacular example of the erosion of the vulcanic tuff by wind and water. The valley can be discovered and admired in many ways, for example from an air balloon, but also by foot or by mountainbike.
10 Veluwe, the Netherlands
A national park in our home country! The ultimate way to explore this national park is by bike. De Hoge Veluwe National Park is one of the largest continuous nature reserves in the Netherlands, measuring in at 5400 hectares. Located in the national park is the museum Kröller-Müller. With its sculpture garden and the largest private Van Gogh collection in the world, it’s definitely worth a visit.
Of all the ways to become acquainted with the natural life of De Hoge Veluwe, the most fun way is by going on a safari, where the forester will take you on a four-hour walk to show you all the park’s special spots.
11 Mount Etna, Sicily
During last summer’s vacation I got the opportunity to visit this beautiful national park. At 3329 meters, mt Etna is Italy’s highest mountain south of the Alps and the largest active volcano in Europe. It’s in an almost constant state of activity and eruptions occur frequently. During your trip to Sicily it’s definitely a must to hike this beautiful national park and volcano. You can explore the spectacular craters and the lava stones.
12 Sarek, Sweden
You can find this beautiful national park in the north of Sweden. It’s the biggest national park of Sweden and features alpine peaks, massifs, glacial valleys, turbulent rapids and a rough terrain what makes the park perfect for outdoor activities. You need to be prepared when you’re planning on visiting this park, while there are no marked paths or other facilities. You have to be a real adventurer. You can best visit the park in late Spring, summer or early fall, while there isn’t that much snow yet.
13 Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Scotland
In Loch Lomond and the Trassachs National Park you can find rough landscapes, an exciting history and delicious local dishes and drinks. Loch Lomond is a big lake in Scotland, which gives nice opportunities for a boat trip and explore the national park.
14 Durmitor, Montenegro
National Park Durmitor is a natural oasis in the North-West of Montenegro. Since 1980, this national park is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. If you are located at the coast of Montenegro and planning a trip to Durmitor, then you can easily reach it by driving over the new road (this road connects the Bay of Kotor and the national park). In the center of Durmitor you can find the town Zabljak, which is surrounded by 23 mountaintops, which are more than 2200 meters high, and 18 mountain lakes. Durmitor features many mountaintops, sharp gorges, snowy ridges, extensive grasslands, old forests and unique, glacial mountain lakes.
15 Timanfaya, Lanzarote
In the South-West side of the Canary island Lanzarote you can find the most rough side of the island: Parque National de Timanfaya. Here you can clearly see that the island has a volcanic origin. The national park has been named to the first town that has been wiped away due to the volcano eruptions of 1730 – 1736.
If you would like to pay a visit to the national park, you have to be prepared. You can visit the park each day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. You have to pay an entrance fee, where after you can drive until the big parking place at the restaurant named El Diablo. From there, you can go by bus further to the volcano landscape. During the trip you can have a nice view over the craters and volcano stones.
16 Ordesa, Spain
Ordesa is the hiking paradise of Spain. It features some spectacular walls and enormous cliffs, intact nature, tops above the 3000 meters and breath taking valleys. There are many possibilities for hiking trails in the national park, both with a guide as hiking alone.
17 Triglav, Slovenia
The Triglav National Park is located in the North-West of Slovenia and has a size of 800 square kilometres. The nature park is named after the highest mountain of the country named Mount Triglav, which has a height of 2864 meters. This is also the most popular attraction of the national park. Climbing the mountain and reaching the top is a must for every practiced mountain hiker. You can explore the park by foot, by bike or by doing some more adventurous activities, like paragliding.
18 Hohe Tauern, Austria
The national park Hohe Tauern is with its 1.836 square kilometres size one of the biggest nature reserves of Europe. The park has many highlights, like the highest mountain of Austria: the Grossglockner (3789 meters), the longest glacier of the East Alps: the Pasterzenglacier and the highest waterfalls of Europa: the Krimmler Wasserfallen. Hohe Tauern offers many beautiful opportunities to make great hikes.
19 Jotunheimen, Norway
Jotunheimen is an often intact mountain area at the East side of Norway. Here you can find the highest mountains of Norway: Galdhøppigen (2469 meters) and Glittertind (2464 meters), but also beautiful waterfalls, rivers, lakes, glaciers and valleys. In this national park you can make the most spectacular mountain hikes: from little walks close to a parking place to multiday hiking trails from cabin to cabin.
The highlight may be the path of Memurubu to the mountain hut Gjendesheim, via the narrow mountain ridge Beseggen. The views to the South over the lake Gjendevatnet and the lake Bessvatnet may be the ultimate dream for each hiker.
20 Teide, Tenerife
El Teide is with its 3718 meters height the highest mountain of Spain. The central crater has a circumference of 48 kilometers and remembers the big volcano eruptions in the 18th Century. If you’re looking for beautiful flora and fauna, you’re definitely at the right place at El Teide National Park. You can hike around for hours, through sandhills, lava fields and rock formations. The highlight is to reach the top, named Pico del Teide.
Have you ever been to one (or more) nature parks from the list? I still have plenty to go, but have visited a few of them. What are your experiences?
Photo credits: Flickr.com