Today (August 17, 2020): Top 10 most beautiful national parks in Europe
Travelers to Europe love to visit the Old Continent’s world-famous cities and cultural sites. But as magnificent and surreal as Europe’s cities are, so too are Europe’s less known National Parks. Many travelers associate National Parks with the USA , but Europe also has an abundance of spectacular wilderness areas and equally impressive hikes on offer. To help you plan your next getaway in the great outdoors, here are the my 10 top picks of Europe’s most beautiful and breathtaking national parks.
What is your favorite National Park in Europe? Leave a comment.
There is more information (with YouTube clips & reviews) below the slideshow.
The National Park of Saxon Switzerland in eastern Germany, south-east of Dresden, offers endless ways to spend an outdoor holiday. The 93 km region between Pirna and the Czech border is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe, embracing a unique and evocative landscape. The mighty Elbe river wanders through the national park’s thick forest, past villages and mighty hilltop castles. More than 700 summits are available to rock climbers, while for those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, there are 400 km (250 mi) of marked hiking-trails, steep treks, paths and some cycle routes through the National Park.
- Official website: Saxon Switzerland
Plitvice Lakes is the oldest and largest National Park in the Republic of Croatia. The process of tufa formation, which results in the building of the tufa, or travertine, barriers and resulted in the creation of the lakes, is the outstanding universal value for which the Plitvice Lakes were internationally recognized in 1979 with their inscription onto the UNESCO World Heritage List. The most attractive part of the park – the lakes – cover just under 1% of the total park area. The lake system is comprised of 16 named and several smaller unnamed lakes, cascading one into the next. The lakes end in the impressive waterfalls Sastavci, with the Korana River springing under the base of the falls.
- Official website: Plitvice Lakes
Located on Finland’s eastern border, Hossa National Park offers the best setting in Europe for photographing and watching big beasts such as bears, wolves and wolverines. Founded in 2017 to commemorate Finland’s centenary of independence, the country’s 40th National Park is an important natural forest and is widely known for its bright waters. The area has been inhabited since the Stone Age and the larger area around the National Park remains one of the least densely populated regions in Europe. As a result it’s the wildlife that rules this kingdom, with frequent sightings of brown bears (which can be observed from the relative comfort of a hide).
- Official website: Hossa National Park
To the north of Huesca, in the Aragonese Pyrenees, aficionados of high mountains will enjoy a unique National Park in Spain: Ordesa and Monte Perdido. Consisting of four valleys (Añisclo, Escueta, Ordesa and Picuaín) and Monte Perdido (with 3,355m or 11,007 ft the third-highest peak in the Pyrenees), the landscape’s majestic scenery unfolds like a scene from a film, where different ecosystems flourish together. The area is a natural paradise where you can explore meadows, enormous forests, incredible gorges, glaciers, experience perpetual snow, and admire the unique karstic landscape, formed over thousands of years.
- Official website: Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park
The Gran Paradiso National Park is Italy’s version of Yellowstone. Located between Piemonte and Valle d’Aosta, it’s the oldest National Park in the country. The park was created in 1922 when Savoy King Vittorio Emanuele III donated his legendary hunting reserve to the country in order to protect species that would have otherwise become extinct, such as the ibex, now a major symbol of the park. Named after Gran Paradiso mountain, the park is contiguous with the French Vanoise National Park. Its rugged scenery and spectacular hiking trails make Gran Paradiso National Park one of Europe’s best destinations for outdoor lovers and cross-country skiers.
- Official website: Gran Paradiso National Park
Straddling the Isère and Hautes-Alpes Departements, Écrins National Park covers a central mountainous area of 91,800 hectares ranging in altitude from 800 m (2625 ft) to 4,102 m (13,458 ft). A favorite destination for nature lovers, this vast unspoiled territory is home to a very rich flora and fauna, including chamois, ibex, golden eagles, foxes, squirrels and marmots, and plants like edelweiss, blue thistle, genépi and gentian. The Écrins mountains are also a paradise for hikers, with no fewer than 740 km (460 mi) of waymarked footpaths, as well as for climbers: it’s considered the second mountaineering site in France.
- Official website: Écrins National Park
Austria’s Hohe Tauern National Park is the largest protected area in the Alps. Forests, mountain lakes, impressive waterfalls, wild and wonderful rivers and glaciated peaks characterize the national park landscapes, interspersed with lush alpine pastures. The Grossglockner, Austria’s highest peak at 3,798 m (12,460 ft) above sea level, resides in splendor amongst 200 peaks over 3,000 m (10,000 ft). More than 10,000 animal species and 1,800 plants have found perfect the perfect refuge amidst the Hohe Tauern Mountains. The National Park House in Matrei in East Tirol offers a great overview of the entire nature reserve.
- Official website: Hohe Tauern National Park
Vatnajökull National Park – Europe’s largest national park – is one of three national parks in Iceland. It encompasses an enormous area in south Iceland and was officially formed in 2008 by joining together Jokulsargljufur and Skaftafell National Parks. Vatnajokull glacier dominates the area, which is larger than all of Europe’s glaciers combined. There are lovely views from the Ring Road of Vatnajokull and the many outlying glacial tongues. The glacial tongues stretch down from the ice cap towards the ocean, affording travelers some awe-inspiring views. On 5 July 2019, Vatnajökull National Park was inscribed as a World Heritage Site.
- Official website: Vatnajökull National Park
Once upon a time, according to Norse mythology, Jotunheimen was the place where the jotner – the trolls – lived. The area was given the name Jotunheimen, meaning “The Giants home”, by Norwegian poet Aasmund Olavsson Vinje in 1862. Home to numerous majestic mountains, beautiful lakes, and wondrous glaciers, Jotunheimen is Norway’s most popular national park. Visitors can fy with eagles standing on top of the mighty Galdhøpiggen or just lie on their back in the lush meadows of this natural beauty embraced by picturesque Lom, the green slopes of Gudbrandsdalen, traditional Valdres, the waters of the Sognefjord and the eternal ice of the Jostedalsbreen glacier.
- Official website: Jotunheimen National Park
The site of the Dolomites comprises a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps, numbering 18 peaks which rise to above 3,000 m (10,000 ft). It features some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere, with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys. A serial property of nine areas that present a diversity of spectacular landscapes marked by steeples, pinnacles and rock walls, the park also contains glacial landforms and karst systems. It is characterized by dynamic processes with frequent landslides, floods and avalanches. The Dolomites were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2009.
- Official website: Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park