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The Gap Year Blog

Top 5 National Parks in Europe - Frontier

7 Jun 2018 14:15 PM

Photo Credit: flickr | Jon Shave

Edited with Permission by Frontier

More and more national parks and nature reserves are springing up every year and with good reason. With our ongoing battle against global warming, cordoning off more and more areas of the world to let return to nature goes a long way to protecting it. There are loads of benefits to these though. Often these areas of the world are of staggering natural beauty and/or a hub of biodiversity. These can all be enjoyed by travellers and adventurers and you don’t necessarily have to go to the far side of the globe to find them; here are 5 of the top national parks in Europe!

Plitvice Lakes National Parks – Croatia

Not only a national park but also a world heritage site, Plitvice Lakes is one of Europe’s oldest national parks, having been a national park since 1949 and garnered its UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979. Comprised of a serious of mountainous cascading lakes of the clearest bluey-turquoisey colour that tumble and weave through some of the strangest and most alluring rock formations on the continent, much of the underground geography is also unexplored. Such is its attraction to visitors, there is a cost to enter but it’s not expensive and well-worth the money for a day’s trekking. Over a million people visit Plitvice every year which is impressive for a relatively small national park. Croatia has become one of Europe’s top destinations since the turn of the century and Plitvice is one of the reasons. It’s definitely somewhere for your bucket list.

Photo Credit: flickr | moarplease

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park – Scotland

The U.K is greatly underrated for its natural beauty. There are hundreds of square kilometres across Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland that could’ve made this list but we had to narrow it down to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. Something about the mythical nature of the Scottish Highlands won the day. Unusually for many national parks, this particular one is home to over 15,000 people and stretches over nearly 2,000 square kilometres. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs has numerous titles and designations associated with its name, including having two national nature reserves within, being a Scottish natural heritage zone and having 57 designated special nature conservation sites dotted through the landscape. That gives you some idea of how special it is. So special that there are too many things to be able to list here! Windy and tussock-ey moorelands, deep dark lochs, multiple mountainous peaks known as ‘Bens’ and thick forest all make this a mysteriously attractive destination. Scotland is filled with gorgeous scenery but Loch Lomond and the Trossachs ranks as one of the best. You can even see the Northern lights!

Photo Credit: flickr | john mcsporran

Vatnajökull National Park – Iceland

TECHNICALLY part of Europe, Iceland is well known as being mind-bending in its natural wonders. Some pictures make the whole place look fictional, it is that dramatic and eye catching. Home to only three national parks, Iceland has such a small population relative to its size that most of the country is the epitome of nature untamed. Vatnajökull National Park is a flagship of its natural phenomena though, stretching for over 14,000 square kilometres and containing all the geographical power and beauty that Iceland has become sysonomous with. The biggest glacier in Europe, multiple volcanoes, geothermal activity and fast flowing rivers help make Vatnajökull the second largest national park in all of Europe, finishing runner-up only to Russia. This place covers 14% of the entire country it is situated in. Scale here cannot be underestimated. If you like nature at its most epic, Vatnajökull (or Iceland in general to be fair) is certainly somewhere that’s a must-see.

Photo Credit: flickr | Bertrand

Bavarian Forest National Park – Germany

Bordering the Czech Republic and the Czech Bohemian Forest (the coolest named national park, let’s be fair), the Bavarian Forest National Park forms the largest portion of contiguous forest in Eastern Europe, lying at the opposite end of the Germany from the mythical Black Forest, this national park is a not-as-well-know-but-equally-awesome member of Europe’s great historical forest ancestry. The national park was formed in 1970 but this area of the continent has been woodland for thousands of years. It is home to a nature park as well as brown bears, gray wolves, lynx and otters, all of which are protected by the nature park. Hopes of reintroducing European Bison are also a possibility for the area. Ideal for forest strolls, picnics and camping in certain areas of the mystical woodland, this national park has always been the setting of many local folk tales and literature throughout its life. You may be just as lucky to see a fairy or an elf as you would be to see a bear or wolf!

Photo Credit: flickr | Thomas Gerhard

Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park – Italy

The Dolomites are an extremely famous feature of Italy for their unique geological architecture, harsh but stunning conditions and local culture that lives in proximity. This national park in the province of Belluno and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009, receiving millions of visitors a year. Various species of mammal, bird and reptile can be found here scampering around the rocks and rivers, making a visit all the more special. Not only that but its proximity to local towns means you can add a bit of relaxation and Italian culture to your visit. Safeguarding the environment of this national park was one of its main goals when it came into existence which has been massively successful as many efforts to preserve the area were put into place and are flourishing throughout. A more striking looking mountain range in Europe you will be hard pressed to find so you should definitely get yourself on down to Italy for a walk around Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park.

Photo Credit: flickr | Andrea Omizzolo

There’s no reason you need to venture to the far off reaches of the earth to experience the great outdoors. It’s an unfortunate frame of mind that many of us have that this is the case. These are also only SOME of the places available to you, read a bit yourself and you’ll find an endless list of places to go, things to see and stuff to do! Get packing a bag for your next European trip and safe travels!

By Guy Bezant - Online Content Editor

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!