Europe has an abundance of national parks worth exploring whether your thing is hiking in Norway, exploring castle ruins in Portugal, or even sampling local cheese in Slovenia, the national parks of Europe are there and they appeal to a wide range of interests.
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- Jotunheimen National Park, NorwayJotunheimen National Park is home to Norway’s highest mountain, Galdhopiggen. It’s got all the waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and glaciers, everything you’d want for an outdoor adventure. It’s also known for its thrilling day hikes and hut-to-hut treks.
- Saxon Switzerland National Park, GermanySaxon Switzerland National Park actually borders on the Czech Republic and is nowhere near Switzerland. Climbers who come here can choose from among different sandstone summits, shaped by the Elbe River for years. In fact, one of the best ways to take in the rocky terrain is from the source that created it: the Elbe. Entrance to the park is free.
- Plitvice Lakes National Park, CroatiaThere are 12 lakes in the Upper Lakes area and four in the Lower Lakes group. Boardwalk-style hiking trails lead around many of them, allowing you to get up close without disturbing the delicate ecosystem. This National Park is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its geological and ecological value.
- North York Moors National Park, EnglandExplore the coast on the cliff path but don’t worry too much about sticking to trails; most of the park is open access, so you can wander at will through wooded valleys and past grazing sheep. Beyond the natural highlights of the park, this chunk of the earth has witnessed a considerable amount of history, with remains in the area dating to the end of the last Ice Age on through the Cold War.
- Bialowieza National Park, PolandThis rare area of undisturbed nature is Poland’s oldest national park, covering the principal part of the Bialowieza Forest which is considered the last original bit of European lowland forest. It also was named UNESCO World Heritage Site. The oldest and most protected sections of the park are only accessible with a guide, but there are areas for hiking and biking that do not require supervision.
- Gargano National Park, ItalyThe Gargano National Park located in Puglia in the rocky coastline of white limestone cliffs adjoining blue waters of the Adriatic is a major draw. A long time ago, this section of land was separated from Italy, which helps explain the geography dotted with almond, orange, and olive trees.
- Sarek National Park, SwedenSweden has a lot of national parks worth exploring but Sarek is otherworldly. The park is accessible by hiking or skiing in and you will probably end up wading through the water since there are few bridges and this actually adds to its appeal. You have to know how to read a map and compass as they’re essential.
- Archipelago National Park, Finland This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is in the Baltic Sea off the southwest coast of Finland and can be reached by ferry, taxi boat, sailboat, or kayak. The larger islands have villages where cattle and sheep still graze, while some of the smaller ones are rocky islets.
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