The Top 30 National Parks in Europe
Jotunheimen National Park (Norway)
Countless towering mountains bordered by glaciers and icy lakes make the national park look something that came from a fantasy novel. It’s a perfect fit for thrill-seeking hikers and mountaineers because of its challenging peaks. Jotunheimen means ‘The Giants Home’, which was named by Norwegian poet Aasmund Olavsson. Legend has it that once upon a time, the trolls (jotner) lived in the area now known as Jotunheimen.
Jostedalsbreen National Park (Norway)
Jostedalsbreen is a glacier that’s the largest in the continental EU. The national park is ideal for trekking in the summer months, but the temperature remains comfortable throughout the year. Winter or early spring is considered to be the best time to visit the park when the temperature is cooler and you can tour underneath the glacier.
Saxon Switzerland National Park (Germany)
Home to dense forests and serene mountains, the national park is better known for its rock formations. The Bastei Bridge is one of the few man-made structures in the park, which also provides some of the best views of the park. It is popular among both rock climbers (700+ summits) and hikers (400+Km marked trails) looking to explore untouched nature.
Vatnajökull National Park (Iceland)
Considering the size of the small island nation, it might come as a surprise to many that Vatnajökull is Europe’s 2nd largest national park. Its majestic mountains, glaciers, ice caves and stunning beauty attracts thousands of hikers and visitors each year. Established in 2008 and designated as a World Heritage Site in 2019, it’s among Iceland’s three national parks, and is linked with the other two.
Gran Paradiso National Park (Italy)
Italy’s first national park is home to Alpine ibex, which were once an endangered species and the main reason behind establishment of the park (in 1922). Gran Paradiso is the only 4000-meter mountain in the country, while the park is also home to other mountains, woodlands, meadows and glaciers. Considered to be Italy’s Yellowstone, Gran Paradiso is a great destination for cross-country skiers as well as outdoor enthusiasts.
Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park (Italy)
Covering the remote southern edges of the popular Italian mountain range, the national park challenges hikers who prefer hiking lonely trails. Other activities you can take part in include skiing, paragliding and climbing. Sheer cliffs, vertical walls, long valleys and 18 3000+ meter peaks are some of the reasons why the national park was recognized (in 2009) as UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.
Gargano National Park (Italy)
Gargano National park features a mix of coastal gems including striking white cliffs and sea caves, which can be best experienced in a boat tour. Tourists can also dive in the Tremiti Islands or explore the Umbra Forest, which is an ancient dense forest that features lush foliage. Away from the Alps, Garango is a peaceful destination meant for relaxation and spending some quality time away from urban jungles.
Durmitor National Park (Montenegro)
The national park is home to Montenegro’s highest mountain, world’s 2nd deepest gorge, rugged wilderness and cliffy mountains. There are 48 2000ers in the national park (2000-meter and above), which means hikers can get spoiled for choice, while there are plenty of opportunities for skiers too depending on when they visit the national park.
Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park (Spain)
The national park is home to enormous forests, meadows, glaciers, waterfalls, gorges and karstic landscape that unfolds like a movie scene. It’s Europe’s one of the oldest national parks and a World Heritage Site with hiking trails that crawl throughout the mountains. The Arazas river is the key highlight of the national park, but there is no shortage of things you can do in the mountain playground.
Oulanka National Park (Finland)
The national park offers the kind of wild nature hikers and travelers have come to expect from Finland. Bordering Russia, the national park is a paradise for outdoor lovers, including hikers and canoeing. Many of the impressive spots such as Ristikallio Cliffs and the Oulanka Canyon are easily accessible, allowing non-hikers to enjoy its stunning beauty. The hiking trails range from less than a kilometer to 80+ kilometers.
Hohe Tauern National Park (Austria)
Being the largest Alps protected area, the national park is home to glaciated peaks, mountain lakes, forests, rivers and waterfalls. Breathtaking landscapes, over 10,000 species of animals and 1,800 plants make it an ideal destination for hikers as well as people who want to get closer to nature. Grossglockner is also located in the national park, which at 3,798 meters is the highest peak in Austria.
Triglav National Park (Slovenia)
Triglav is a showcase of the natural beauty of Slovenia and a symbol of the country. It’s the only national park in the country and home to Mount Triglav. In addition to hiking, other popular activities include water activities such as kayaking. The national park is an ideal destination for hikers and tourists looking for quiet forests, green valleys and stunning views.
Sarek National Park (Sweden)
Sarek national park is one of the most beautiful and remote parts of Europe as well as one of the oldest. It is home to sprawling valleys, mountains, diverse wildlife, glaciers and rivers. The park was established over 100 years ago and is home to Sweden’s six peaks and around 100 glaciers. However, hiking up its mountains requires preparation, experience and a certain level of physical fitness.
Göreme National Park (Turkey)
Riding on a hot air balloon at sunrise is considered to be the best way of appreciating the beauty of Göreme National Park. The place is known for its cave towns, which can be experienced on foot. Mountain biking and hiking allow people of all fitness levels to experience the stunning landscape that looks like ‘fairy chimneys. The heat is intense during summer, so visitors usually come during spring/fall.
Plitvice Lakes National Park (Croatia)
Home to some of the most spectacular waterfalls in Europe, Plitvice Lakes national park boasts 16 lakes. Waterfalls swiftly make their way from on lake to the next, including the beautiful Veliki Slap waterfall (78-meter high). It was recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1979. The lakes cover only one percent of the total area of the national park, so there is a lot more to explore.
Peneda-Gerês National Park (Portugal)
Peneda-Gerês is the only national park in Portugal and is located in the country's extreme north near Spain. It’s more than a national park as it was established to preserve wildlife, mountain habitats as well as local villages and culture. Hikers can choose between 15 hikes ranging from moderate to difficult, while day-time hikers also have a lot to explore, including majestic waterfalls, river valleys and mountain villages.
Bialowieza National Park (Poland)
The national park is home to herds of bison and primeval forests and the only landmark in Poland to have been recognized as a world heritage site. Hiking is a popular activity here, but there are some parts of the reserve that are off-limits and hikers must be accompanied by a guide when visiting these. It was established in 1923 to serve as a reserve on the Polish-Belarusian border.
Écrins National Park (France)
The national park is situated in the Alps and considered a perfect destination for mountaineers, climbers and hikers. Its pristine wilderness can reach as high as 4100m and offers all kinds of environments, including mountain peaks, glacier fields, woods and pastures. It’s very popular among outdoor enthusiasts, so you should not have any trouble finding activities the year around, including skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.
Pyrénées National Park (France)
Ranging from greenery to waterfalls and canyons to wildlife, the national park is bird-watcher’s paradise and a great destination for hikers almost any time of the year. Tourists can also enjoy a variety of other activities, including a ride on the Train d’Artouste.
Cévennes National Park (France)
The national park is one of the very few untouched corners in the whole country. The mountainous countryside has a lot to offer to tourists as well as hikers, including biodiversity, caves, remote villages and torrents. The Biosphere Reserve is rich in different varieties of flora and fauna and also happens to be a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site because of the original French rural life.
Timanfaya National Park (Canary Islands)
Timanfaya is the most popular and impressive destination in Canary Islands, thanks to movie-like views created by volcanic landscapes. Being the only active volcano in the Islands, the soil of Timanfaya alternates in color between black, red, orange and blue because of eruptions that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Jagged boulders and geysers are some other things that represent the volatile geology of the region.
Cairngorms National Park (Scotland)
Being UK’s largest and newest national park, Cairngorms offers a unique mix of majestic mountains, lochs, villages and lochs. Hiking and rock climbing are fairly easy here and suitable for almost every skill and physical fitness level. The national park is home to the UK's five of the six highest peaks. It is also Scotland's premier skiing destination and home to several distilleries.
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park (Scotland)
The national park is centered around the big lake Loch Lomond and offers scenery the country is famous for. The lake is a great spot for jet skiing, kayaking as well as fishing. The forest of Trossachs is a great place for hiking and cycling and offers great sceneries of the Scottish Highlands.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park (Wales)
From gentle moors to beautiful beaches and mighty cliffs, the coastal national park has a lot to offer to everyone. It is home to a variety of landmarks, including Blue Lagoon, Strumble Lighthouse and the Barafundle Bay bench. Many prefer taking the 186-miles Pembrokeshire coast-path around the national park, which provides a unique experience along the Wales seaside.
Killarney National Park (Ireland)
Ireland’s first national park is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is full of natural beauty and has a lot of historical significance. It is popular among hikers and cyclists who like getting off the track and exploring attractions such as Torc Waterfall, Muckross House and Ross Castle.
Cheile Nerei-Beușnița Național Park (Romania)
The national park is among the less known parks in the continent because of its remoteness, but it’s a hidden natural gem waiting to be explored. That’s what makes it an ideal destination for hikers who don’t like crowded places. It’s also home to some incredible animal and bird species, but it’s the stunning landscapes that attract most visitors, including waterfalls and lakes.
Snowdonia National Park (Wales)
With around 1500+ miles of trails, the national park is hiker’s paradise and spans 800 square miles. Some parts of the park are private property, so hikers need to stay on marked trails or make sure they are permitted to enter such areas. Most tourists visit the northern parts, while those who prefer staying away from the crowd pick remote parts.
Lake District National Park (England)
Picturesque lakes dot the landscape of the national park, including England’s deepest lake Was Water and the largest lake Windermere. Endless lakes are broken by quaint villages and beautiful valleys. That’s why it's no surprise that the region is associated with a number of poets. The mesmerizing color palette is something not to be found anywhere else and includes deep purples, blues and greens.
Swiss National Park (Switzerland)
Since 1914, the national park is one of the most well protected and oldest natural reserves in Europe. It has been recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and spans over an area of 174.2 square-kilometers, making it the largest protected area in the country. The national park is a strict natural reserve, which means no one is allowed to take home anything or bring dogs in the park, even leashed.
Valbonë Valley National Park (Albania)
The remote mountains, lakes and rivers of the nation park take hikers and tourists away from the mass culture and busy parks. The temperature stays relatively cool in the summer months and although it can take some time to travel to the national park, the travel is simply worth the stunning views.
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