National Parks provide a safe haven for wildlife and a place of escape for all those seeking refuge from the modern, over populated areas in the world. Many endangered species have survived thanks to the existence of national parks, and those of working in these beautiful areas forever strive to protect wildlife and promote conservation, while also inviting visitors to take a breather and be immersed in nature as it once was.
It is very difficult indeed, to choose the best national parks in Europe, every single one of them is a sanctuary for flora, fauna and endangered species and everyone of them is characterized by its very own unique wild beauty.
For obvious reasons, my favorite national Park is my very own Zillertal High Mountain Park, and I am forever going on about just how stunning my part of the world is, but, believe it or not, there are other amazingly beautiful national parks in Europe, all must-see destinations of wild beauty and rugged tranquility, in fact Europe has no less than 460 national parks, all places of exquisite beauty, wild landscapes and an abundance of flora, fauna and animals. I am going to name just 5 and must stress that I could have picked 50 others of equal quality and value and so very well worth visiting:
The beauty of Vatnajokull National Park is almost surreal and it is certainly breathtaking, with volcanoes, mountain ridges, large canyons, huge cliffs, waterfalls and glacial rivers and a stunning silence I have never experienced anywhere else.
Before visiting the park it is important to know that it is divided into two areas, the highland area and the lowland area. Only the lowland area is accessible all year round, though with difficulty during the occasional snow storms, whereas the highland area is only accessible between the months of June through till September, all dependent on snowfall. There are a number of visitor centers providing information and advice for explorers and adventurers. The weather can be unkind, and mild, sunny days can soon turn cold and nasty and anyone who has ever been to this beautiful park cannot sufficiently stress the importance of adequate weather and safety equipment. So before you visit, be prepared to have your breath taken away and come with top quality gear.
Etna National Park
I cannot think of Italy without having my mind wander off to stunning Sicily and Etna National Park. Visited by many to experience the power of lava eruptions, the park is much more than that and is rich in flora, fauna and animals and a natural explosive atmosphere that is hard to describe. Etna National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 for its “exception level of volcanic activity”. The park extends from the summit of Mount Etna right down to the beautiful towns and landscapes surrounding it, and its black sand, volcanic rock, not to mention the erupting lava, will leave you speechless. If you are thinking of climbing Mount Etna, remember that you will be passing through a range of climatic zones, from orange and lemon groves, through oak and beech forests, right up to an altitude of 2500m where everything is covered with a layer of shrubs and finally up to the snow covered peak.
Goreme National Park, Turkey
Goreme National Park has an air of mystery and spirituality and this landscape, dating from 4000 BC, is considered to be one of the most unusually beautiful places in the world. It is particularly famous for its “fairy chimney” volcanic rock formations and is complemented with natural slopes, abundant flora and fauna and rich water sources. One of the most interesting areas of Goreme National Park is Cappadocia, a place renowned because of its subterranean cities, partly explored and incredibly rich in history and heritage. Today, 2500 people reside in this amazing landscape. Some have called it the freakiest landscape in the world and it is definitely on my must-hike list and you can explore independently or hire one of the extremely knowledgeable local guides.
National Marine Park of Alonnisos Northern Sporades, Greece
On occasion, I leave the mountains behind and seek the ocean instead, and what better place than Europe’s largest marine National Park of Alonnisos, Northern Sporades, Greece. Seascapes and marine wildlife are just as much at risk of extinction and require our tender loving care and attention. The National Park of Alonissos and Northern Sporades is a most exquisite marine reserve for both terrestrial and marine species and is home to hundreds or animals, flora and fauna, and you will also find remarkable archeological and historical monuments. When you visit there, you can explore and observe the wildlife in the area, go for a swim, take a dive or go fishing and be sure to take some pictures of this fantastic oceanscape.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Of all the places I have visited, I have never seen water in such splendid colors and different shades. The sixteen cascading lakes and 90 waterfalls nestled amongst thick beech forest covered mountains are more beautiful than you can ever imagine. Naturally, these amazing mountains are now a World Heritage site and are considered by some to be amongst the most stunning in the world. Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest national parks in Europe and attracts visitors in their thousands each year. Thanks to the dense beech, spruce and pine tree forests, this park is also home to bears, wolves, bats and lynx. There are 8 different hiking routes, the shortest of 3 hours to the longest (8 hours).
The park’s popularity is continually on the up and up and you will always be joined by throngs of people when hiking in this stunning national park.
There are 455 more national parks in Europe, all well worth visiting, as every single one of them is uniquely valuable and beautiful.