For some people, summer means sea, sunbathing and exotic beaches, but for people who seek for the adventure, this period is ideal for excursions in the opposite direction… away from the crowded shores. The only passport for these excursions is the need for exploration and love for Nature.
Here are 10 of the most beautiful National Parks in Europe:
Le Parc National des Pyrénées / Ordesa y Monte Perdido (Location: borders between France and Spain)
With high peaks rising to over 3,000 meters, abundance of waterfalls and mountain torrents, 230 high altitude lakes and vast forest areas, the Pyrenees National Park is a stunning concentration of natural riches found only in the Pyrenees.
Here, in an area covering some 50,000 hectares along the Spanish border stand the giant cirques at Gavarnie and Troumouse, the impressive Vignemale massif and the Pic de Néouvielle.
Jotunheimen (Location: Norway)
With over 250 mountains of almost 2000 meters high, including the 2469 meters Galdhøpiggen, Jotunheimen offers nature at its peak. Hike, bike, climb or ski. Flow with rivers and listen to waterfalls, camp wild and free or spend the night sleeping inside the park’s wooden huts, cabins and lodges.
Saxon Switzerland (Location: Germany)
Bizarre stone formations and spectacular views are only a few of the wonderful characteristics of this region that is ideal for hiking, but also for a relaxed day out. For those who like nature, it’s surely the most beautiful landscape to be found in Saxony. In late autumn or even winter you’ll nearly be alone outside the villages. There are also many rock castles and caves within the region, most worth a visit. However, the rock formations and the natural spender continue and this region is known historically as the Bohemian Switzerland.
Vatnajökull (Location: Iceland)
Vatnajökull glacier is the largest glacier in Europe, covering 8% of Iceland’s landmass. It’s the central feature of the Vatnajökull National park, found in the south west of Iceland, a popular spot for activities like glacier hiking from Skaftafell and boat tours in the Jökulsárlón.
The canyon Jökulsárgljúfur was carved out by glacial floods centuries ago. At the upper end of the canyon, you’ll find Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Further north, the horseshoe-shaped canyon Ásbyrgi is believed to have formed when Óðin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, stepped his foot down from the heavens.
Goreme (Location: Turkey)
Goreme National Park and Cappadocia is a unique design of nature with slopes full of fairy-chimneys, rich water resources at the base of the valley, abundant flora, and numerous rock cut, frescoed churches.
Cappadocia, which was sculpted out of the tuff of the Erclyes and Hasan Mountains through millions of years by sand and water erosion, became the seat of several civilisations, and a silent witness to the cultural history of Anatolia. Cappadocia also covers underground cities. These enchanting and only partially revealed subterranean cities of Cappadocia are believed to have deeper levels awaiting exploration. The most extraordinary underground cities are in the regions of Kaymakli, Derinkuyu, Mazl Ozkonak and Tatlarin.
Ordesa (Location: Spain)
In this Park, you’ll find routes suitable for everybody, so you can explore, at your own pace, the valleys, pastures and rivers which lie at the foot of Monte Perdido. A series of easily accessible trails will lead you to natural wonders such as the waterfall known as the “Cola de Caballo”, the Gradas de Soaso rapids, and to viewing points like the Garganta, set atop a cliff. You’ll be surrounded by mountains over 3,000 metres high, and you may be lucky enough to see bearded vultures (with wingspans of over 2 metres) as they soar above the summits.
Gran Paradiso (Location: Italy)
The stunning park is found in the northwestern part of Italy in the Alps. Besides striking landscape, valleys, mountain lakes, glaciers and alpine meadows, various endangered species, like Alpine Ibex, chamois, eagle-owl and more, find a home here.
There are various small villages scattered in the park, where tourists can find visitor centers and learn more about the reserve. Many people go there to have a good hike and admire the incredible views, that open from the mountains. Also animal and bird watching are among common activities.
Oulangan Kansallispuisto (Location: Finland)
In the rugged landscape of the Karhunkierros Trail, you will observe the power of water. The many trail options and hanging bridges of the Oulanka National Park will take you to the most impressive waterfalls in Finland. The jumps of wild brown trout, the dives of European dippers, the unlimited beauty of the aapa mires and the lovely calypso will challenge even the experienced nature photographer.
Soomaa (Location: Estonia)
The flora and fauna of Soomaa National Park are compelling. When travelling on the rivers it is often necessary to navigate past fallen aspen trunks – typically the work of floods and beavers. During the great floods each year, numerous migratory water fowl can be seen on the flood plains. In the swamp forests it is possible to run into the White-backed Woodpecker and the Three-toed Woodpecker, while Lesser Spotted Eagles and Black Storks can be seen hovering above the flood plains. There are numerous nesting areas for Great Snipe on the alluvial meadows and Golden Eagles dwell in the fens.
Plitvice Lakes (Location: Croatia)
Plitvice Lakes is the oldest and largest national park in the Republic of Croatia. With its exceptional natural beauty, this area has always attracted nature lovers, and already on 8 April 1949, it was proclaimed Croatia’s first national park. 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 a unique universal value, for which the Plitvice Lakes were internationally recognised on 26 October 1979 with their inscription onto the UNESCO World Heritage List.