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!
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.
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’s 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 one’s 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.
*Updated on 15/01/2017
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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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