11 Stunning and Best National Parks in Europe You’d Love to Hike
Europe is a jewelry box filled with magnificent gems, from gorgeous architecture filled with history capital cities to beautiful national parks. Every corner is a place to be explored! Indeed, Europe is a continent where you’ll find holiday destinations of all sorts. In here we compiled for you a list of stunning and best national parks in Europe you’d love to hike!
Need inspiration? I got you, buddy, read here.
You’ll surely love to explore one (or more) national parks listed in here on your next holiday to Europe! With no further ado and continues blabbing, as I tend to do in most of my posts, read on and be inspired where to on your next visit to this beautiful continent because you’ll never know what sort of gems you’ll come across any time.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Here’s the list of the best national parks in Europe
- 1.1 1. Peneda-gerês National Park, Portugal
- 1.2 2. Triglav National Park, Slovenia
- 1.3 3. Hardangervidda National Park, Norway
- 1.4 4. North York Moors National Park, United Kingdom
- 1.5 5. Göreme National Park, Turkey
- 1.6 6. Vanoise National Park, France
- 1.7 7. Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
- 1.8 8. Snæfellsjökull National Park, Iceland
- 1.9 9. Oulanka National Park, Finland
- 1.10 10. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
- 1.11 11. Killarney National Park, Ireland
- 1.12 Ordesa National Park, Spain
- 1.13 Belluno Dolomites National Park, Italy
- 1.14 Cinque Terre, Italy
- 1.15 Black Forest National Park, Germany
- 1.16 Vatnajökull National Park
- 1.17 Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland
- 1.18 Rago, Norway
- 1.19 Saxon Switzerland National Park, Germany
- 1.20 Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria
- 1.21 Écrins National Park, France
- 1.22 Sarek National Park, Sweden
- 1.23 Pembrokeshire National Park, Wales
- 1.24 Swiss National Park, Switzerland
- 1.25 Mljet National Park, Croatia
- 1.26 Cheile Nerei Beusnita National Park, Romania
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Here’s the list of the best national parks in Europe
Photo by François Philipp | CC 2.0
1. Peneda-gerês National Park, Portugal
Portugal’s only national park, Peneda-Gerês was established in 1971 to protect its flora and fauna. Today, nature conservation is still the main goal, but tourism is booming as visitors vie to bask in the park’s immense majesty. The park is extremely popular not just for its stunning yellow hills blanketed in wildflowers or sublime waterfalls, but also because of its rich history. Here, you can visit tombs and dolmens constructed thousands of years ago by Stone and Bronze Age peoples, visit the wondrous shrines at Senhora da Peneda and São Bento da Porta Aberta, or tour the Roman road once used to travel between ancient civitates. The natural grandeur paired with the inspiring constructs make for a visit no one won’t soon forget.
Photo by Grant Bishop | CC 2.0
2. Triglav National Park, Slovenia
The sole national park in all of Slovenia, Triglav National Park packs enough punch to make you glad there aren’t more to cut into the time you could be spending here. Named for the highest peak in the park— and, indeed, in all of Slovenia— Triglav National Park was created all the way back in 1924, making it one of the oldest European parks. Best known for its soaring peaks, Triglav offers amazing vistas for the rugged hiker willing to fight for the reward. Trekking through virgin forests surrounded by ancient limestone cliffs will transport you back in time as you leave civilization behind, making this an extremely thrilling place to visit in Europe. Keep an eye peeled for the chamois and Alpine ibex that roam the park; the deft-footed goats can be spotted picking their way across the ranges quite often.
Photo by Sergio | CC 2.0
3. Hardangervidda National Park, Norway
The largest national park in Norway is an outdoorsman’s paradise. The expansive plateau, one of the largest eroded plains in Europe at 2,500 square miles, is covered by scrubby moorlands and numerous lakes, rivers, and streams. Entirely above the treeline, you can see for miles in every direction, making it a great spot for hiking and cross-country skiing. If you’re planning a long trek, be sure to pack a fishing pole: the waters here are teeming with fish. Fans of reindeer will find that Hardangervidda is among the best national parks for them, as its herds are some of the largest in the world. There’s nothing quite like watching thousands of reindeer move in harmony across the plains; it’s a sight everyone should see at some point in their lives.
Photo by Andrew Bowden | CC 2.0
4. North York Moors National Park, United Kingdom
For the more timid nature enthusiast, North York Moors strikes a beautiful balance between wild splendor and civilized charm. The rolling heather moorlands are absurdly gorgeous when the purple buds are in bloom. Vivid green lawns juxtaposed against the crumbling grandeur of Middle Ages monasteries and priories create a fascinating dichotomy of man and nature. Three castles open to the public can be found in the park, giving visitors a chance to stroll through real, tangible human history. Market towns and tiny villages transport you back in time and make for great shopping after a day of exploring the moors or getting some sun at the beach. The North York Moors have everything one pictures when thinking of the ultimate English countryside experience; that’s why I believe that it’s on the shortlist for the most beautiful place in Europe.
Photo by J Brew | CC 2.0
5. Göreme National Park, Turkey
The first UNESCO World Heritage Site on this list, Göreme is something else entirely. Most don’t usually picture parks as varying shades of brown, but Göreme is special in that its environment was shaped by thousands of years of volcanic activity. Today, visitors flock to admire the “fairy chimneys” or hoodoos towering over the sparse plateau and the wind-worn mountain ridges and valleys. Perhaps the biggest draw, though, is the Rock Sites of Cappadocia, hewn rock structures dating back to the 4th century. These are seriously striking, almost alien to look at, and there is quite a bit to look at: Cappadocia is one of the largest cave-dwelling structures in the world. Wandering through the subterranean cities and villages invokes a feeling like no other, and the wonder is only multiplied when you stop to think what kind of tools those early peoples accomplished such a massive, intricate undertaking with.
Photo by Dave | CC 2.0
6. Vanoise National Park, France
High in the French Alps between the Tarentaise and Maurienne valleys sits France’s first national park. Officially created back in 1963, Vanoise National Park originally started as a game preserve for the rapidly disappearing Alpine ibex and chamois. The park stretches across the southeast of France and continues across the Italian border to the Gran Paradiso National Park. Together, they make up the largest alpine park in the world. Hundreds of miles of footpaths mean hikers will need weeks to explore fully, but even a day here is worth it. The stunning views are second only to the number of adorable fuzzy animals you might catch a glimpse of, including the Eurasian badger, ermine, and weasel. Towering mountains on all sides make you feel like you’ve been transported to a magical, medieval universe.
Photo by Marguerite | CC 2.0
7. Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Another UNESCO Heritage Site, Durmitor National Park is home to the deepest gorges in Europe and some lofty peaks, regally perched above the clouds. Formed thousands of years ago by melting glaciers, today Durmitor is home to verdant valleys and mystical underground streams. Glacial lakes pepper the landscape with bright splashes of blue, earning the nickname “mountain eyes” from the locals. The park is a hugely popular tourist destination, known for its scenic hikes, mountaineering, climbing, and canoeing opportunities; plus, it’s near Montenegro’s most famous ski resort, Zabljak.
Photo by Kanbron | CC 2.0
8. Snæfellsjökull National Park, Iceland
Mystical and stunning, Iceland’s first national park, opened in 2001, has a reputation as an otherworldly place. The young park lent its enchanted and enchanting air by its marvelous namesake, Snæfellsjökull glacier, a 7,000-year-old stratovolcano coated with a thick layer of ice that, if you’re anything like me, you recognize as the site of the expedition in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. The glacier is known as one of the seven cosmic energy centers of the world, an important place for locals who regard it as a muse and mecca of purity— even the less spiritually minded among us will feel something here. Snæfellsjökull is one of the best national parks in Europe for tourists who want a unique experience thanks to this feature gifting it so many other interesting pieces, like the lava cave opened to the public in 2011. Gorgeous vistas await on any of the many hiking trails, though many tourists are attracted by the abundant birdlife and perfect conditions for bird watching. If you’re interested in that, here’s a post about nature and beauty of bird feathers.
Photo by Heather Sunderland | CC 2.0
9. Oulanka National Park, Finland
Paddlers looking for a European thrill will find a happy home in Oulanka National Park, site of numerous rapids ranging in difficulty from beginner to challenging. High in the uplands of northeast Finland, right on the Russian border, Oulanka is a study in the untamed wilderness. Short trails are perfect for hikers who want a day trip to absorb the natural beauty, while backpackers can easily enjoy a more rugged extended stay without ever feeling bored. Canoers of any skill level can revel in the natural beauty of the lush river valleys and timeworn gorges from an entirely different perspective. No matter how you choose to tackle the wilderness, keep an eye out for the park’s extraordinary taiga species, including the much-beloved reindeer, majestic moose, and regal wolf. Not just the fauna is exciting; Oulanka, too, boasts rare and exquisite flora including my personal favorites, two genera of endangered orchid that here dot the forest floor in abundance: Calypso, a brilliant mauve bud, and lady’s-slipper, an intriguingly shaped white and hot pink blossom.
10. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
One of the oldest national parks in Southeast Europe – founded in 1949 – and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes just might be the most Photos of Iceland in Summer; it is most definitely not to be missed. Visitors would be crazy to not devote at least a couple days to the gorgeous park, chock full as it is of ethereal waterfalls and bright, colorful lakes; deep, cool caverns and soaring limestone cliffs. This place is so remarkable; the Croatian government teamed up with a digital media studio to create a virtual tour for anyone wanting a glimpse of the splendor. Words don’t do Plitvice Lakes justice: instead, conjure up a mental image of the Garden of Eden, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, whatever verdant paradise your heart desires, then place it on Earth and turn it up to 11. It still won’t measure up. It is that beautiful!
Photo by Robert Linsdell | CC 2.0
11. Killarney National Park, Ireland
Irish gold awaits at the end of the rainbow that seems to gleam in perpetuity right at the heart of Killarney. Gifted to the Irish government in 1932, Killarney started as a smallish parcel that has expanded over the years to encompass a bit over 25,000 acres now. The park is home to a particularly unique place to visit in Europe: the Purple Mountains, so named for the deep, rich color of the shivered slate that makes up their surface. There are some great things to see in the park, including gushing waterfalls and heathered boglands, but perhaps the best selling point is how accommodating the park is for relaxing tourists. If you want to take a load off while enjoying the scenery, consider a boat trip on one of the lakes, or a jaunt in a horse-drawn carriage. Be sure to visit the Muckross Traditional Farms for a glimpse of 1930s rural Irish life!
There are more National Parks in Europe than you can imagine therefore further research is needed if you don’t fancy any what is listed here. However, I’m not sure what else to recommend since these are some of the famous ones you’d probably want to visit for an adventurous hike! Clearly, Europe is abundant with many, many, many sites to see and it is just about prioritizing what you want to visit and your holiday in Europe will be a blast, I can assure that to you. These best National Parks in Europe are only a few out of many others but nonetheless, some of the beauty you’ll stumble upon when you visit this awesome continent. Also, not to mention, other national parks around the world are all equally stunning to say least.
Ordesa National Park, Spain
Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park is a beautiful nature park in Europe, and it falls under IUCN Category II in the Pyrenees of Huesca province in Aragon. In Ordesa Valley, this national park was founded in 1918. The protected region of this national park was enhanced in 1982 to cover the entire area. In 1997, UNESCO covered it in the Biosphere Reserve of Ordesa-Viñamala. The territory of the park includes the municipalities of Broto, Torla, Fanlo, Biesla, etc.
Pyrenean ibex was the center of attraction in this park, but it went extinct unfortunately in 2000 despite having preservation efforts. Other species include a kind of goat-antelope, the Pyrenean chamois, along with boar, alpine marmot, and water mole or Pyrenean Desman; and birds like the bearded vulture, golden eagle, hawks, griffon vulture, and royal owl.
Belluno Dolomites National Park, Italy
The Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park is located in the province of Belluno in northern Italy. The national park was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2009. Dolomiti Bellunesi national park was planned in 1988, and was established officially in 1990 by the Ministry of Environment with an aim to –
• Protect the historical, natural, environmental and landscape values, and preserve the bio-genetic values of geomorphology, flora, and fauna
• To promote environmental education and scientific research
• To improve the lifestyle of the population
• To protect the forest, agricultural and breeding activities
Cinque Terre, Italy
The Cinque Terre national park is a conserved region inducted as the first national park in Italy in 1999. Located in the La Spezia province of Liguria, the Cinque Terre is the smallest national park spread over 4300 acres in Italy, and it is also densely populated with over 5000 permanent residents out of five towns. Along with the territory of the cities like Vernazza, Corniglia, and Manarola, Cinque Terre holds the communes of La Spezia and Levanto. In 1997, it was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Despite having apparent features of the Mediterranean flora, there is no lack of microclimates different from one another, and it has created a range of landscapes. Some of the flora species are Aleppo pine, pine, chestnut, and corks. There are several Mediterranean species in the coastal and hilly regions like sea cineraria and samphire. Some of the flora species include thyme, shrub rosemary, and lavender. It also includes species of succulents and trees which are visible from a lot of trails.
Some of the fauna species include raven, the gull, and the peregrine falcon; and mammals include weasel, dormouse, mole, marten, badger, wild boar, and fox. Some of the common reptiles here are rat snake, the common wall lizard, the viper and grass snake which thrive in the rock, and amphibians like salamanders and frogs.
Black Forest National Park, Germany
If you are into fairytale delights like gingerbread houses, The Black Forest of Germany, Schwarzwald is indeed a paradise. Some of the beautiful small villages like Kinzig, Triberg, and Calw are coupled with half-timbered houses and a lot of places to buy well-carved woodcrafts like wooden cuckoo clocks.
If you want to connect with nature, there is no better place than the Black Forest in Germany. It is one of the most beautiful national parks in Europe and houses dense forests, mountains, and lots of flora and fauna. It has a lot of outdoor activities with hiking galore.
Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull national park is among the most beautiful places in Europe for nature and one of three parks in Iceland, including Jökulsárgljúfur in the north and Skaftafell in the southwest. The vast varieties of landscapes created by the forces of geothermal and volcanic activities, glacial ice and rivers combined are some of the best features making it one of the most beautiful views in Europe.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland
It is the biggest park in Europe, and it is centered on Loch Lomond in Scotland. It has a vast range of Trossachs and hills. Established in 2002 by Scottish Parliament, it was one of two national parks along with Cairngorms National Park.
In the British Isles, it is the fourth largest national park in Europe, with a total land area of 1865 sq. km and the boundary of around 350 km covers it. It includes 19 Corbetts, 21 Munros (including Ben Lui, Ben Lomond, Ben More, Beinn Challuim and two peaks named Ben Vorlich), Argyll and Queen Elizabeth forest parks, and 57 nature conservation areas.
The national park includes two National Nature Reserves, including The Great Trossachs Forest National Nature Reserve and Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve.
Rago National Park is located in Sørfold municipality in Nordland County in Norway. It is the best nature park in Europe spread over 171 sq. km located east of European route (E06), around 10km northeast of Straumen village. Founded on January 22, 1971, Raho borders Padjelanta National Park of Sweden, which borders two other parks and it has combined all of the protected lands of 5400 sq. km. It is one of the largest national parks in Europe.
The Litlverivatnet and Storskogvatnet lakes are located in the park. In the southeastern region of the park, it has a lot of glaciers. It lacks in rich variety of plants partly because of harsh weather and poor quality of soils. It mostly has pine forests. A lot of alpine plants flourish around the trees. It also lacks a wide range of animals and bird species. It only has moose which lives along with reindeer. It also has wolverines, golden eagles, and willow grouse.
Saxon Switzerland National Park, Germany
Saxon Switzerland National Park is located near Dresden, a Saxon capital, in the German Free State of Saxony. It is positioned partly in Saxon and in the German part of Elbe Sandstone Mountains. The national park is the heart of the natural region of around 710 sq. km. Humans also cultivate it in various areas.
It includes 40% of the core area and is covered around entirely by forest. It has got the status of one of the most beautiful places in Europe for nature. It has been declared as a National park in 1990.
Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria
Hohe Tauern or High Tauern is the mountain range on the Central Eastern Alps. It has high peaks located east of Brenner Pass. The High Tauern National Park is located around 100 km of the main stretches on which the Austrian Alpine Club forms as a freeholder and its territory is spread over the three states of Tyrol, Carinthia, and Salzburg.
With around 1834 sq. km of a landscape, it is the largest of seven national parks in Austria, along with being one of the best national parks in Europe. It is split into the core area, including the Grossvenediger massifs and Grossglockner massifs, with the prohibition of agriculture purpose and fringe zone for farming in alpine meadows and forestry.
Écrins National Park, France
It is among the ten French national parks in the southeast of France, and it has a hilly area of Dauphine Alps, north of Gap and south of Grenoble, shared between Hautes-Alpes and Isere. At the Barre des Ecrins, it is located at the altitude of 4102m, and it covers over 918 sq. km of high mountain areas, including glacier fields, high peaks, alpine pastures, glacier valleys, lakes, and subalpine woodlands. The borders of the national park include the central valleys of Romanche, Drac, and Durance rivers. More than 800,000 tourists flock here every year.
Sarek National Park, Sweden
Located in Jokkmokk Municipality of Lapland, Sarek national park is the oldest and most prominent park in Europe established around 1909. It is located opposite two other parks Padjelanta and Stora Sjöfallet. Sarek National Park is shaped circular with a diameter of about 50km. Mountaineers and hikers frequent Sarek. First timers are suggested to have a guide as there are no accommodations and marked trails.
There are two bridges located here in the vicinity of borders. It is among those areas in Sweden which receive the heaviest rainfall. So, hiking relies on weather. Turbulent streams make it sometimes harder and threatening to cross if you don’t have proper training.
Pembrokeshire National Park, Wales
Located in the Pembrokeshire coast of West Wales, Pembrokeshire Coast is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. In 1952, it was declared as a national park. It is the only national park in the UK which has been known for its magnificent coastline. The national park has a vast landscape of sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, wild hills, wooded estuaries, covering the entire landscape of over 629 sq. km. It is covered into four sections.
Swiss National Park, Switzerland
The Swiss National Park is located in the West Rhaetian Alps in the East of Switzerland. It is positioned in the Graubünden canton, between S-chanf, Scuol, Zernez, and Fourn Pass in Engadin valley with Italy. It belongs to the Biosphere Reserve of UNESCO. Founded on August 1914, Swiss National Park is one of the oldest national parks in Europe.
It is Switzerland’s only national park since 2009. There are plans to have more national parks. It is spread over 174.2 sq. km., and it is the largest conserved area of the nation. It is not allowed even to light a fire or sleep out of Chamanna Cluozza, a mountain hut.
It is also prohibited to disturb plant species and animals or to take anything from the park. In the Alps, it is the only park categorized as a strict nature reserve by the IUCN, highest protection level.
Mljet National Park, Croatia
The most unusual aspect and a major highlight of Mljet National Park are the two saltwater lakes – Veliko Jezero and Malo Jezero, which are connected to the sea through a narrow canal. You can stroll through the ponds lined by pine trees, cycle through the park, paddle in the lakes by renting a kayak or swim in the blue water.
The small islet of Sv Marija has the former Benedictine monastery in the heart of Veliko Jezero dated back to the 12th century. Now, it is a restaurant, accessed by small boats which are scheduled regularly. This park can be approached at either end through the settlements of Polace and Pomena which have a lot of restaurants and accommodation.
Cheile Nerei Beusnita National Park, Romania
It is one of the best parks in Europe and among the most beautiful places, and an ideal destination in Romania when getting easy hikes in the woods. This national park has the best of remoteness, and it conserves its natural wonders and biodiversity, along with its waterfalls and blue lakes. This protected area is stretched over 36,758 hectares in the south of Aninei Mountains from Caras-Severin, with three protected regions.
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- Have you ever been to any of the National Parks in Europe mentioned on this list?
- If yes, which ones?
- If not, which ones you’d love to visit?
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