Built for conservation purposes, the national parks have left many travelers in awe of their magnificent landscapes, wild inhabitants, and picturesque views. Over the years, these reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed lands have attracted tourists and locals alike who are looking for an adventure that will allow them to commune with nature. Some of the world's most beautiful national parks can be found in Europe, but with 472 of them (based on the list of the International Union for Conservation of Nation) to discover, we picked ten that are considered to be the best.
1. Belluno Dolomites (Italy)
Located in the northeastern part of Italy, Belluno Dolomites is a mountain range of 26, forming a part of the Southern Limestone Alps. It is named after the carbonate rock dolomite. Because of its light-gray colored cliffs and spires that are often covered in snow, it is also known as the Pale Mountains. People visit here for skiing, free climbing, mountain climbing, base jumping, paragliding, and hang gliding. The mountain was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.
2. Durmitor (Montenegro)
Montenegro, the sovereign state in Southeastern Europe is home to the Durmitor National Park, which includes the massif of Durmitor, the Canyon of Tara, and the rivers of Susica and Draga. This park is known for its lush forests, deep gorges, and a great number of flora (over 1,500 kinds). It is also home to over 130 kinds of birds.
3. Ecrins (France)
There are ten national parks in France, one of them is called Ecrins (Parc National des Ecrins). It is located in Hautes-Alpes, in the south-eastern part of France. The park is famous for its glacier valleys and fields, subalpine woodlands, alpine pastures, and lakes.
4. Ordesa (Spain)
The Ordesa National Park offers a beautiful view of a large stretch of valleys, rivers, and pastures lying at the foot of Mount Perdido. One of the best things you can see in this park is the Cola de Caballo (Horsetail Falls) waterfalls, named so because it looks just like a horse's tail. The falls is about 1,700 meters in height and can be reached after a 3-hour trek through the forest, past by a few rivers. Other points of interest in Ordesa are the Gradas de Soaso Rapids, the Garganta viewing point, Cascada de la Cueva, among others.
5. Plitvice Lakes (Croatia)
One of the oldest parks in Southeastern Europe, the Plitvice Lakes National Park (Nacionalni park Plitvička jezera) can be found in Lika-Senj County, Karlovac County in Croatia. It covers the mountainous karst area of central Croatia, with over 296.85 square kilometers of protected area. This heavily forested national park is world-renowned for its 16 terraced lakes that cascade from one another, extending into a canyon of limestone. It can be explored on foot, which may take about 6 hours. You may shorten the trekking time by taking a boat and a bus ride that will take you to the Veliki Slap where the trek begins. Swimming, however, is not permitted in these lakes.
6. Sarek (Sweden)
In Sweden, on a county called Norrbotten, lies a mountain that shares a resemblance with the Alps. Sarek National Park is a high mountainous region with great massifs and deep valleys. This park is close to two other national parks, the Stora Sjofallet and the Padjelanta. Sarek is popular with seasoned hikers and mountaineers for its challenging terrain conditions. There are no marked trails. Hence beginners are advised to go with a guide. The largest valley in the park called, Rapa Valley is known for its river delta, waterfalls, and glaciers.
7. Saxon Switzerland (Germany)
The Saxon Switzerland National Park (Nationalpark Sächsische Schweiz) is a 93.5 square kilometer of national park located in the German Free State of Saxony. It is also known for its other names, Saxony Switzerland and Swiss Saxony. On why it has Switzerland on its name when this can be found in Germany, it's because it was named by two Swiss artists, Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff. The two compared the landscape of this park with the Swiss Jura region in Switzerland. It was not until a German author, Wilhelm Lebrecht Götzinger, published the name in his book that "Saxon Switzerland" stuck and became widely known to the public. There are over 1,000 climbing peaks and several hallows in this national park making it a popular spot for mountain climbers around the world.
8. Triglav (Slovenia)
There is only one national park in Slovenia, and it's the Triglav National Park (TNP). It is named after the highest mountain in the area (and in the whole of Slovenia), Triglav, which elevation is about 2,864 meters. Visitors may come to Triglav to do mountain hiking and guided tours. There are five park trails in the area; the Soča Trail, the Tolminka troughs, the Triglavska Bistrica Trail in the Vrata Valley, the Pokljuka Trail, and the Radovna Cycle Route. The excursion, on the other hand, is fairly easy that is also suitable for children and elderly people. A minimum of 5 participants per excursion is carried out by the specially trained experts of TNP.
9. Vatnajokull (Iceland)
There are three national parks in Iceland, one of them is the Vatnajökull National Park. It's a 13,920 square kilometers of land, covering the Vatnajökull glacier, Lakagígar, Langisjór, and Krepputunga. Vatnajokull is the second largest national park in Europe. It is divided into four territories; Northern Territory, Eastern Territory, Southern Territory, and the Western Territory. Each territory is managed locally. The visitor centers can be found in Skaftafell and Höfn (southeast Iceland), Skriðuklaustur (east Iceland), and Jökulsárgljúfur (northeast Iceland). This national park is open for hiking and camping (except during winter).
10. Wild Taiga (Finland)
If you want to experience a wildlife adventure, then Wild Taiga is the place for you. Located on the eastern border of Finland, Wild Taiga has a wide area of natural wilderness, which makes it an ideal place for viewing and photographing animals in the wild. Among the animals that you can see in this park are bears, wolves, elk, forest deer, flying squirrel, beavers, predatory birds, etc. Other activities that Wild Taiga offers to its visitors are canoeing, cycling, fishing, hiking, summer multi-activities, and horseback riding.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marjorie Gavan is a writer by profession and by passion. She has a degree in B.S. Journalism and now has 15 years of writing and editing experience under her belt. She currently works as a knowledge specialist in an IT company in Quezon City, Philippines. She chronicles her travel adventures in her blog, Coffeehan.