Europe’s most beautiful nature parks

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

When the hustle and bustle of city life becomes too overbearing and the wilderness starts calling, Europe is rife with options for outdoor adventures. Pick a country and plan to spend some time outside hiking, biking, horseback riding or even canoeing. The options are endless when you discover these nature parks in Europe!  

Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia

This park is the oldest and largest national park in Croatia. Though the 16 terraced lakes are certainly what draws the crowd, they only cover about 1% of the park itself. Don’t miss hiking around both the upper and lower lakes on one of seven routes. You’ll find the rushing Veliki Slap Waterfall, at 255 feet high, near the lower lakes. The rest of the park is covered in forest vegetation. The northern region is home to numerous valleys where you can visit a wild deer ranch or go horseback riding. 


Fast rapids at the Oulanka river.

Oulanka National Park - Finland

The Kitka River rushes throughout this park and is surrounded by a rugged, yet beautiful, landscape. Here you’ll find hiking trails galore, hanging bridges, waterfalls and wild rapids. If overnight camping is in the cards for you, look for the wilderness huts where you can make camp. They were once reindeer herder cabins! The Karhunkierros Hiking Trail, which is just over 50 miles long, is the most popular trail in Finland. Along it you’ll find rapids of the Kitka River, pine forests and water meadows. If you want to complete the entire trail, plan for four to seven days. 

Triglav National Park- Slovenia

Babbling brooks, alpine lakes and vast valleys are just a few of the things you’ll find in this park. Add in some diverse flora and fauna and you’re in for a treat! This is the only national park in Slovenia and it is located in the eastern Julian Alps. The park is named after its highest mountain, Triglav, which looms at 9,396 feet. While you’re there, don’t miss the Kozjak Waterfall or the Tolmin Gorges, which are located at the lowest point in the park and connected to the Tolminka River. Hike through the gorges and to Dante’s caves for a two hour outing. Pick a lake and go for a swim, or if you’re feeling adventurous, go canyoning in upper or lower Predelica. For even more of an adrenaline rush, go kayaking, canoeing or rafting in the Soca River. 


The picturesque Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park.

Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park- Spain

Located in northern Spain, this park boasts a massive canyon, dramatic ridges and towering summits in the Pyrenees Mountains. The center of the park is home to Monte Perdido, the third-highest Pyrenees mountain peak. Of the four deep canyons here, the most famous is Ordesa. Hikers will find four main routes that will take them through the canyon. On either side, cliffs rise over 2,500 feet, while the end showcases Mount Perdido. Head out on your own or opt for a guided tour while you explore this area. 

National Park of Belluno - Italy

Perhaps mostly known as a skiing destination, this park is just as wonderful during the warmer months! Ranging from the Cismon Valley to the Piave Valley, this natural panorama is truly a delight. The rigid mountain tops and various rock faces are home to golden eagles, who majestically soar over the land. Wander the valley floor and take in the beautiful flowers that carpet the area. Explore the park on foot, by bike or on horseback. Stop at the nature museum and cultural centers for more information on this stunning area. 


The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park - Scotland

Though you may not find the famous Loch Ness Monster here, you shouldn’t rule out this park as a potential place to visit for some fantastic Scottish landscapes. Here you’ll find a massive body of water surrounded by rolling bluffs. Climb any of the “wee hills” for a spectacular view of the area. Take a boat to Inchcailloch, a small island in Loch Lomond, and look for wildlife and enjoy views over the loch. Maybe you’ll spot a fallow deer! Throughout the rest of the park, keep your eyes peeled as you may witness an otter hunting along the shores or an osprey fishing

Rago National Park - Norway

Since 1971, this park has been welcoming visitors to take in the views of thundering waterfalls, peaceful lakes and countless rugged mountain tops. Though this park isn’t particularly well known for wildlife, you can enjoy the harshness of the land itself and will occasionally see moose or reindeer. Hike to either Storskogvatnet or Litlverivatnet Lake or take a stroll by the Rago River. For some stunning waterfalls, wander through the Storskogdalen Valley and keep an eye out for furry beavers! 

Whether you’re after a leisurely horseback ride or a rigid hike, there is something for everyone regardless of which country you pick! No matter where you decide to go, get outside and moving in Europe’s beautiful nature parks!

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