Europe’s National Parks
In the list of the beauties of Croatia, the Plitvice Lakes rightfully occupy the first place. It is an incredible combination of lush greenery and sunny green-blue colors, cascading lakes and flowing waterfalls. The main waterfall of Plitvice is Veliki Slap, its powerful stream rushes down from the height of 72 meters. Part of the territory of the park is occupied by a relict pine forest, under some waterfalls there are caves.
It is better to visit Plitvice lakes in warm seasons: in summer the natural beauty opens in all its beauty and variety, besides, the sunny weather makes the water more saturated in color. However, in summer there are more visitors here – it is better to come in the morning. In autumn, the Plitvice lakes are no less picturesque, and in spring the waterfalls are the most full-flowing.
Plitvice Lakes are located in the mountains in northern Croatia. It is most convenient to get to them from Zagreb, as well as from Zadar, Rijeka and central Dalmatia.
2. Saxon Switzerland, Germany
Located in Eastern Germany Saxon Switzerland attracts with its beautiful mountain landscapes, lush forests, historical and natural beauties. Such a romantic name to this place at the end of the XVIII century was given by Swiss artists A. Graff and A. Zing. The place still attracts artists from all over the world, who come here in search of beautiful scenery. In the vicinity of the famous Bastai cliffs, one of the most beautiful places in the reserve, there is a whole “Artists’ Path”, which offers very picturesque views.
It is also worth seeing the Lichtenhain Waterfall, visit the ancient fortress Königstein, which towers menacingly over the Elbe, walk through the rock gate Kustal, take a ride on the old streetcar Kiernichtal through the most famous places in the park.
There are many hiking trails in the park. To enjoy a leisurely walk, it is better to choose comfortable and warm weather. It is best to get to Saxon Switzerland from Dresden – the park borders begin 30 kilometers from the city. You can get from Prague (part of the park is located on Czech territory), in this case the travel time is about an hour and a half.
3. Durmitor, Montenegro
Durmitor – a mountain range in north-west Montenegro with relict forests, glacial lakes, springs and picturesque canyons of the rivers Tara and Moraca. The highest point of the massif is Bobotov Cook (2522 m). The natural park is striking in its scale, beauty and grandeur.
On the territory of the national park there are 18 lakes formed by glaciers. The most famous and most accessible to visitors is the Black Lake. There is a belief that at its bottom rest the remains of an ancient monastery. Near the lake there is another striking attraction – Shkrk Cave. Tara River Canyon is as beautiful as the famous Grand Canyon in the United States – it is the largest canyon in Europe.
The park is located at the foot of the mountain of the same name in the northwestern part of Montenegro. By car the travel time from Budva will be approximately 4-5 hours. The popular ski resort Zabljak is part of the national park.
4) Triglav, Slovenia
Triglav is the only national park in Slovenia and one of the oldest in Europe. The mountain of the same name is the highest point of the Julian Alps, its height is 2864 m. It is the most recognizable symbol of Slovenia, the image of Triglav can be seen on the flag and the coat of arms of the country.
Alpine lakes, picturesque mountain gorges and waterfalls are the main beauties of Triglav Park. Bohinj, the largest of the lakes, is located at an altitude of 525 m above sea level. The fabulous views of the lake surrounded by mountain peaks will impress even the most experienced traveler. One of the most picturesque waterfalls of Triglav, Savica is situated not far from the lake. The small towns of Bovec, Kobarid and Tolmin are worth visiting the Socha river valley. People come to Triglav to do hiking, to wade the rapids of the Soca River and just to relax on a hot day on the shore of a mountain lake. In the summer months it’s especially pleasant to spend time in the park, because of the high mountain climate there is no exhausting heat. In winter, the area around Mount Triglav is a popular place for ski holidays.
Slovenia is a small country, so a trip to Triglav is not time consuming and requires little effort. Very close to the park is the famous resort of Bled, and the popular ski resort of Kranjska Gora is part of the national park. Triglav is close to the borders of Austria and Italy.
5. High Tauern, Austria.
The largest national park of Austria includes the territory of three federal states – Carinthia, Salzburg and Tyrol. The High Tauern combines three mountain ranges – Glockner, Venediger and Grantespitze. As the name implies, here are the highest mountains of the Eastern Alps.
The highest peak, Großglockner reaches a height of 3,798 m. This impressive peak is the main dominant feature of the national reserve. On one of the slopes there is a 10 km long Pasterze Glacier, which attracts a lot of tourists. Next to the glacier is the best observation point in the park – the Franz Josef peak. The Lichtensteinklamm Gorge, one of the highest waterfalls in Europe (370 m), fascinates with its beauty and power.
The slopes of the Eastern Alps are equally good all year round. If you want to enjoy hiking and the rich natural world of the reserve, choose the warm season. The Austrian Alps look equally good in the rich palette of warm autumn colors and blooming spring colors, and the winter slopes offer amazing skiing and charming views of snow-covered mountains.
The national park is best reached from Salzburg or Innsbruck.
6. Lake District, UK
Romantic land of beautiful lakes, green forests and fascinating mountain scenery, praised by English romantic poets. Recreation in the Lake District is meditative. Everything here disposes to unhurried walks, relaxed and quiet contemplation of surrounding beauties, getting pleasure from life.
There are 16 lakes in the park, the largest of which is Windermere. The infrastructure around this lake is the most developed, and the place itself is the tourist center of the Lake District. In Windermere there is a wide choice of different hotels, you can even plunge into the atmosphere of good old Victorian England, choosing to stay in one of the old mansions. The picturesque small town of Keswick has a true English charm. Once upon a time, deposits of graphite were discovered in this area, so now there is a pencil museum.
England is known for its rainy climate – mid-summer is the best time to go. The Lake District is in the county of Cumbria, in northwest England. The fastest way to get here is from Manchester, from London the road will take a few hours.
7. Ordesa y Monte Perdido, Spain
Majestic mountain peaks, flowing waterfalls, caves, mountain valleys, gorges and canyons – all this beauty is found in the national park of Ordesa y Monte Perdido in the Spanish Pyrenees. The park was named after the third highest peak in the Pyrenees, Monte Perdido (3,355 m).
The park is often compared to the Grand Canyon, all because of the stunning beauty of its canyons, some of the deepest in Europe. Unlike the American attraction, the local canyons are covered with lush vegetation. The most notable places in the park are the Escuaín Gorge, the canyons of Anisclos and Ordesa, and the Cola de Caballo waterfall. The park has several hiking trails of different lengths and levels of difficulty.
The park is located in the province of Huesca. The nearest village is Torla, where you can stay overnight.
8. Vatnajökull, Iceland.
The name of this Icelandic park was given by the giant glacier Vatnajökull – the largest in Europe. It occupies 8% of the territory of Iceland, and in some places the ice is up to 1 km thick. The elements of ice and fire mingle here everywhere, forming fantastic landscapes. Fabulous beauty of the caves of blue ice next to hot underground springs, waterfalls mix with volcanic lava, which makes the water appear black, and fields of frozen lava strike with unearthly beauty.
The most impressive objects of the park are the giant glacier, ice caves, Dettifoss waterfall and the black waterfall Svartifoss (with columns of black lava). In the park a lot of volcanic craters, in the largest of them laid hiking trails, and some formed whole lakes where you can swim, such as in the crater of the volcano Askja. Fans of extreme will appreciate the safari in the Ice Lagoon Jökülsaurloun, where you can swim among the icebergs.
The closest to the national park is the city of Höbn, from Reykjavik you can get there by bus, car or water transport.
9. Pribalaton Upland National Park
The pride of this national park, stretching north from Lake Balaton to Malé Balaton, is the rare species of flora and fauna among which you can find relict plants and endangered, Red Book species of birds and animals. Only here you can see an amazing plant native to the Ice Age – mugwort.
Landscapes of the park are amazingly diverse: picturesque mountains and flat landscapes with swampy meadows, and craters of extinct volcanoes, and caves with underground lakes. The main attractions of the park are Tihany peninsula with the abbey and basalt tuff rocks, caves Loci and Tapolca, thermal lake Heviz, botanical garden Zirc, Schalfeld manor with a nursery of domestic animals and gray wolves.
The reserve is easily accessible from Budapest by train, bus or rented car.
10. Swiss National Park
We conclude our review of Europe’s most beautiful national parks with the oldest park located in southeastern Switzerland. The park was opened in 1914 on the day the First World War began and is now one of the most developed in Europe.
The park stretches across the slopes of Mount Engadine. Alpine meadows, pine forests, beautiful lakes, incredibly rich flora and fauna attracts tourists from all over the world. For the convenience of visitors there are many hiking trails and sightseeing paths. Unlike many other nature reserves, you can’t ride a bicycle in this park. A nice bonus is the free entrance to the park and the availability of a large number of free parking lots nearby.
To get to the park is easiest from Zurich – take a train to the nearest to the park town Zernets, from which the buses.