Best National Parks in Europe

35 of THE Best National Parks in Europe You Need to Visit

Most Beautiful National Parks in Europe According to Travel Experts!

With a total of 500, it’s really difficult, yes almost impossible to determine the best national parks in Europe.

The question is, what does make some parks better than all others?

Is it untouched, natural beauty? The amount of offered sports activities? Or even the important history and culture of a park?

Is there a special sight? A one-of-its-kind attraction nowhere else to be found which gives a national park enough uniqueness to be among the greatest?

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a certain percentage of a sale if you purchase after clicking.)

I wanted to take a closer look at this and asked more than 30 travel writers & experts about their favorite national parks in Europe.

The result is a colorful mix of different national parks spread all over the continent, starting from the cold north of Iceland to the warm island of Sardinia in the south.

Whether it’s majestic waterfalls, impressive mountain ranges, sheer endless landscape or even sand dunes – each national park offers something no other does.

And I swear, after reading this post you may want to add one or another (or even all) to your Europe bucket list.

So, let’s dive right in!

On a side note: National parks are listed in alphabetical order of the countries.

1. Butrint NP, Albania

Recommended by Anuradha of Country Hopping Couple

The first of the many amazing national parks in Europe is Butrint National Park, a 9400-hectare reserve located 18 km from Sarande in Albania, close to the Greek border.

It comprises rich and diverse landscapes, freshwater marshes, lakes, dense forests and archeological ruins.  

The ancient town of Butrint has a 2500-year-old history and its ruins are distributed across 30 km within the National Park.

Butrint truly represents the bygone history and the rise and fall of many empires from Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian to Ottoman.

Best national parks in Europe

Thanks to its rich history, Butrint National Park became a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. This archeological site is one of the prime attractions that put Albania on the map! 

Some of the must-visit sites include the Sanctuary of Asclepius, Roman amphitheater, Great Basilica, Venetian castle and an archeological museum.

Allow at least 2-3 hours to explore the archeological ruins. Be sure to take plenty of water and wear appropriate shoes as it involves a lot of walking.

There’s a regular bus service from Sarande to Butrint that takes 30 minutes. 

2. Theth NP, Albania

Recommended by Emily of Wander-Lush

Located in far-northern Albania near the border with Montenegro, Theth National Park is one of the most ecologically important landscapes in the Balkans.

Not only is this one of the most beautiful national parks in Europe, but it’s also one of the least-visited, making it perfect for hiking sans crowds.

Located in the Albanian Alps, the park was established in 1966. It encompasses valleys, mountains, waterfalls, forests and dramatic limestone rock formations.

Several cute alpine villages within the park’s boundaries, including Theth, offer comfortable homestays, local restaurants, and hiking paths of varying difficulty.

Theth National Park Albania

The best way to explore this part of Albania is by doing the popular Theth to Valbona hike, a moderate full-day walk that leads you from one village to the next via a stunning mountain pass.

It’s actually preferable to trek the opposite way, starting in the Valbona Valley National Park and ending in Theth National Park.

The city of Shkoder is the main departure point for Theth. To get there, you can book a van and boat combination ticket that will take you into the mountains via the scenic Koman Lake Ferry.

Summer is the best time to visit for hiking. Temperatures are still mild into June and July and the wildflowers are out in full force.

3. Gesäuse NP, Austria

Recommended by Steve of Austria Direct

The newest national park in Austria is the Nationalpark Gesäuse in the southern province of Styria.

Just coming up for the 20th anniversary of its foundation in 2002, the nature reserve in Upper Styria combines the steep peaks of the Gesäuse mountains and the fast-flowing waters of the Enns river.

Although the national park is relatively small and can easily be explored in a couple of days, the mountains are a magnet for hikers and climbers, while the challenging rapids attract kayakers and rafters in the summer months.

In the winter snowshoeing and ice-climbing are popular pastimes.

Gesäuse National Park Austria

The park is situated just to the east of the town of Admont, with its famous abbey and historic monastic library.

This small town is probably the most convenient to use as a base for a visit to the park. It has a decent range of accommodation and is close to the main rail and motorway connections at Liezen.

Those planning more adventurous trips on the rock and in the water may wish to stay in the tiny village of Johnsbach.

This small settlement has been classed as a ‘Bergsteigerdorf’ – a ‘mountaineering village’ – because of its tradition and history of alpinism.

4. Una NP, Bosnia

Recommended by Ellis of Backpack Adventures

Una National Park is Bosnia’s newest and largest national park. It is located in the northwest of Bosnia just south of Bihac and runs along the border with Croatia.

Its defining feature is the river Una with its blue, turquoise and emerald green colors. In fact, the park is all about water with a network of river streams, white water rapids and waterfalls.

Una National Park was established in 2008 with the goal to protect the unique flora and fauna around the Una, Krka and Unac rivers.

Its rich biodiversity includes a number of endangered animals and plants as well as Europe’s three largest predators. Wolves, lynxes and bears are very difficult to spot, but they do roam around. 

Best National Parks in Europe

The park’s natural beauty is reason enough to visit, but there are also some historical and cultural sights such as ancient citadels, monasteries and mosques.

You will need a day to see the park’s highlights including the largest waterfall in Martin Brod, the ancient village of Kulen Vakuf and the most spectacular waterfall of Strbacki Buk. 

Bihac is about three hours from Zagreb and five hours from Sarajevo by car or bus. In Bihac it is easy to arrange tours to the park but you can easily use your own transportation as well.

5. Krka NP, Croatia

Recommended by Cosette of KarsTravels

Croatia is a country with beautiful nature and one place to see this beautiful nature is in Krka National Park.

The national park is roughly in the middle of Croatia, only a 20-minute car drive from Šibenik or a 15-minute boat ride from Skradin.

Krka National Park has seven waterfalls, with the largest and most popular being Skradinski Buk. The waterfalls are all in the Krka river, which runs through the whole of the park.

In the river is also Visovac Island with an abbey, museum and church on it. So besides gorgeous nature, Krka national park also offers cultural and historical attractions.

Krka National Park Croatia

Other attractions in the park are the 19th-century water mills, the archeological site of Burnum (an old Roman camp) and the Oziđana pećina cave.

When visiting, a must-do is the hike of roughly an hour around Skradinski Buk. Although this is estimated without the usual crowds.

Sadly, as of 2021, swimming at the waterfall is forbidden. On this trail, one of 22, Skradinski Buk can be seen from all sides.

Estimate at least a whole day for a visit to the park. The park has several attractions, and a bus and a boat ride are needed to reach most of the attractions. 

6. Plitvice NP, Croatia

Recommended by Michael of The World Was Here First

Another one of the best national parks in Europe is Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. It’s home to majestic waterfalls, crystal-clear blue lakes, and spectacular viewpoints, thus one of the most beautiful places to visit in Croatia!

Located about a 2-hour drive from Zagreb and 2.5 hours by car from Split, you can come to Plitvice Lakes on a day trip.

Nevertheless, it’s best to plan to spend at least one night in the region so you can get an early start, beat the crowds and enjoy the beauty of the park with fewer people around!

There are a couple of different routes that you can choose from when walking through the national park, however, if you have a full day, it’s worth tackling Route C or H which will take you through the Lower Lakes and Upper Lakes.

Plitvice National Park Croatia

On these routes you’ll see all the major waterfalls, be able to enjoy a boat ride across the lakes, wander through some less-visited trails and have plenty of time for photo stops! 

It’s worth planning ahead when visiting Plitvice Lakes and packing a lunch and plenty of water as restaurant options are limited. Moreover, there are only a few places to fill up water bottles in the park.

7. Linnansaari NP, Finland

Recommended by Katja of Globetotting

There are over 188,000 lakes in Finland and some 180,000 islands. Many of these are located in Finnish Lakeland, the largest lake district in Europe.

Visit during winter months and the region is a wonderland of snow and ice.

Travel in the summer, however, and you’ll see a labyrinth of clear blue lakes and emerald-green islands with rivers and canals running through them. 

At the heart of this spellbinding region is Linnansaari National Park.

This is the perfect spot to spend summer days just like the Finns do; hire a summer cottage and spend your days exploring the lush green islands and swimming in the freshwater lake.

Linnansaari National Park

Linnansaari is also a great place for wildlife spotting. The national park is home to the rare Saimaa Ringed Seal, which was once hunted to near extinction but is now protected.

You may also spot majestic ospreys. 

One of the best ways to explore Finnish Lakeland and Linnansaari National Park is on a road trip around southern Finland.

8. Urho Kekkonen NP, Finland

Recommended by Pia of Next Stop TBC

Urho Kekkonen National Park in Finland’s northeastern Lapland is home to Korvatunturi fell where, based on legend, Santa Claus lives.

The national park offers authentic Lapland wilderness and the area is said to be one of the best places to see the northern lights.

In addition to hiking, winter activities include cross-country skiing, bicycling and snowshoeing.

The best and most popular times to visit are either around September for amazing autumn foliage or from mid-February to April for perfect cross-country skiing in Lapland Urho Kekkonen National Park.

The winter months could also be a special experience with the polar night, snow and possibly very cold temperatures. June could be a good time to experience the midnight sun.

best national parks in Europe

Urho Kekkonen National Park is a perfect destination for families with kids as there are clearly marked, fairly easy trails as well as wilderness huts and fireplaces for breaks.

Experienced hiking enthusiasts have plenty of wilderness to explore also off the beaten path.

The national park is easy to reach despite its remote location 250 km / 155 mi north of the Arctic Circle.

The closest airport is Ivalo which is a 30-minute bus ride away from Saariselkä, the closest town with lots of options for accommodation and other activities.

9. Calanques NP, France

Recommended by Sarah of CosmopoliClan

Along the Mediterranean, between the cities of Marseille and Cassis, lies one of France’s most spectacular landscapes and one of the best national parks in Europe.

The Calanques National Park is a collection of towering limestone cliffs that stretches out into the sea. The nine rocky inlets or Calanques are the park’s eye-catchers thanks to the aquamarine waters that separate them.

Several boat tours allow visitors to catch a glimpse of this natural wonder from a distance.

The only way to access the attractive coves is by kayaking your way to them or by taking one of the several hiking and mountain biking trails that crisscross the park.

Calanques National Park France

The inlets near Marseille are more easily accessible while the ones near Cassis involve a rather strenuous workout.

Shoulder season is the best time of year to visit the Calanques National Park because during summer, the influx of (mostly inexperienced) hikers might cause some congestion at the narrower parts of the trail.

Closures due to the risk of fire occasionally occur too.

Arriving early allows plenty of time to visit the park in the morning and explore either one of the neighboring cities, bustling Marseille or enchanting Cassis, in the afternoon.

10. Pyrenees NP, France

Recommended by Elisa of France Bucket List

The Pyrénées National Park is one of the eleven national parks in France and it covers the French side of the Pyrénées mountain chain.

It spreads from the Mediterranean Sea in Spain to the Gascogne Gulf in the Atlantic Ocean in France and acts as a natural border between Spain, Andorra, and France.

The Pyrénées National Park is located in the departments of Hautes-Pyrénées (Occitanie) and Pyrénées-Atlantiques (Nouvelle-Aquitaine).

It offers nature lovers endless hiking and rock climbing possibilities in spring and summer. In the winter, it is home to some good ski pistes for all the family.

Pyrenees National Park

Animals roam around totally free and there are also some rural villages in the park. Overall, the Pyrénées National Park has more than a million visitors per year.

The best way to access the Pyrénées is by car, and you can decide to do a multi-day hike or, like in this French Basque Country itinerary, combine short walks in the mountains with some sightseeing.

11. Berchtesgaden NP, Germany

Recommended by Renee of Dream Plan Experience

Picture this: deep dark forests, crystal clear glacier lakes, idyllic valleys and a soaring mountain range. 

This is Berchtesgaden National Park in southern Germany – a destination known for active holidaymakers with a passion for mountains, nature and the great outdoors.

Spend the day exploring the endless hiking trails from easy footpaths to challenging mountain climbing.

Or tour Königssee, a deep emerald-green glacier lake, that is only accessible by a quiet electric boat.

The boat tour offers two stops, St Bartholomew and Salet. Along the way, the boat will slow down and blow a blast on a trumpet and the incredible echoes bounce back from the mountain walls.

Berchtesgaden National Park

This incredible lake is often mistaken for a fjord due to its close proximity of the steep mountain right next to the water’s edge. 

At the St Bartholomew’s stop, sits a pilgrimage church. The church stands out because of the beautiful baroque architecture of its red onion dome roof with the rugged Alps providing a stunning backdrop.

The last stop the electric boat makes is Salet. From there, a short walk brings you to Obersee, a small, but equally pristine crystal-clear lake.

Moreover, there’s a hiking trail that takes you to Röthbach Falls, Germany’s highest waterfall. 

12. Saxon Switzerland NP, Germany

Recommended by me

Less than an hour’s drive from Dresden is Saxon Switzerland National Park, another one of the must-see national parks in Europe.

It was established in 1990 and covers an area of more than 90 square kilometers.

The ultimate highlight of the national park is the Bastei Bridge. This sandstone bridge spans over a group of almost 200-meter-tall rock needles.

While its initial purpose was to provide an opportunity for visitors to admire the national park from different viewpoints, it is now its main attraction! 

Bastei Bridge Saxon Switzerland

Nevertheless, there are a bunch of other places to see in Saxon Switzerland.

Near the Bastei Bridge, for example, you can find the open-air museum Neurathen Castle. It was once the biggest rock castle in the region but today there are only a few parts of the rooms and passages left. 

Another great attraction near the bridge is an area called Schwedenlöcher (Swedish Holes). This mystical, gorge-like valley with its untouched, lush nature is the perfect place for every hiking lover.

To get to these three main attractions, you can either take the car or the train from Dresden.However, keep in mind that if you take the train, you have to do a 30-minute hike up to the Bastei Bridge.

13. Vikos-Aoos NP, Greece

Recommended by Chrysoula of Greece Travel Ideas

The Vikos-Aoos National Park, one of the most beautiful national parks in Greece, is situated in Epirus in the northwestern part of the country and 30 kilometers north of the city of Ioannina.

This stunning national park was founded in 1973 and covers 127 Square kilometers. It takes its name from its two dramatic gorges; the 20-kilometer-long Vikos and the 10-kilometer-long Aoos.

The depth of the Vikos Gorge varies from 120 – 490 meters and at Oxia in the deepest part, there is a viewing platform.

In contrast, there are numerous monasteries in Aoos Gorge and attractive single-arched bridges built between the 17-19th centuries.

Best National Parks in Europe

Much of the area in the national park is covered in woodland and there are mountains, rivers, and canyons to explore.

At 2,497 meters, Mt Tymfi is the highest point and features a huge plateau that – many say – resembles Table Mountain in South Africa.

The area is rich in wildlife including brown bears, deer, otters, lynxes, and wild cats.

It is the perfect place to follow one of the hiking trails to soak up its natural beauty. There are plenty of great sports to enjoy including kayaking, mountain biking, and rafting to keep you busy for a week. 

14. Thingvellir NP, Iceland

Recommended by Cristina of Honest Travel Stories

Choosing a national park in Iceland is like choosing ice cream flavors: you have your favorites, but you’d rather have them all.

But Thingvellir takes the cake, and you’ll probably agree after you read what you can do there.

The national park is located in South Iceland and pretty close to the Capital city of Reykjavik, which makes it an easy trip no matter if you spend 8, 9 or even 10 days in Iceland.

You can get there either with a rented car or by using one of the multiple options for day trips from Reykjavik.

Thingvellir National Park

Get ready to be amazed by the park as it’s a geological wonder.

You can see the fissure between the American and European tectonic plates, something that is usually hidden below the ground and you cannot see with the naked eye.

But what’s totally worth doing is snorkeling or diving at Silfra.

A part of this fissure is filled with the clearest water in the world. It’s the only place worldwide where you can do this and the water visibility can be up to 100 meters.

Isn’t this a good reason to visit Thingvellir national park?

15. Killarney NP, Ireland

Recommended by Cath of Travel Around Ireland

Another one of the best national parks in Europe is Killarney National Park.

Located in the southwest corner of Ireland in County Kerry, this was the first national park in Ireland. It was created mostly from the Muckross Estate which belonged to the Herbert family until the mid-1850s.

The National Park is one of the best things to do in Killarney and the town of Killarney sits on the edge of the park. Reaching the park from Dublin will take less than four hours.

Killarney National Park has a host of things to do including visiting Muckross House and Gardens, a Victorian mansion teeming with history and antiques.

best national parks in Europe

There is also Muckross Abbey which has an ancient yew tree in the middle of the cloisters courtyard said to be as old as the abbey.

Ross Castle, the lakes of Killarney National Park and the Torc Waterfall are must-sees as well.

Killarney National Park is an area of outstanding beauty and a great place for those who love the outdoors. To truly explore the park you will need at least two days, allowing time for visiting some of the best spots.

Plus, you may want to extend your time near the park to discover the Ring of Kerry too.

16. Asinara NP, Italy

Recommended by Claudia of Strictly Sardinia

Off the north coast of Sardinia, Asinara National Park is one of the most unique national parks in Italy, combining a unique, rugged landscape and some of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia.

It comprises the entire island of Asinara, which measures about 52 km in length. Thanks to its unique history Asinara managed to protect its nature and wildlife.

Throughout the 19th and most of the 20th century, the island was first used as a leper colony, and then as a prison and eventually a high-security prison.

The national park is a fantastic hiking destination, with many hiking trails varying in distance and difficulty. The most famous one is that leading to the lighthouse.

It’s best explored on a bike or even an e-bike, as it is quite hilly!

Asinara National Park

Asinara is packed with beautiful beaches – Cala Sabina is the most easily accessible one; whereas others can’t be accessed as they are turtles’ nesting grounds.

Another species you will be able to spot there is the albino donkey; but there also are boars, foxes and various species of birds. 

One thing you can’t miss when visiting is the central prison. It’s the place where mafia bosses Toto Riina and Bernardo Provenzano were kept. 

You can get to Asinara by ferry from Stintino (about 20 minutes) or from Porto Torres (around 90 minutes).

17. Cinque Terre NP, Italy

Recommended by Erki of Genem Travels

Cinque Terre is located in the northwest of Italy, in the Liguria region. It’s the smallest national park in Italy but on the other hand the most populated.

High density is due to the famous Cinque Terre villages Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The closest bigger city is Genoa (80 km away).

Cinque Terre National Park was established due to its scenic landscape, historical landmarks, unique culture, and maintaining agriculture.

Cinque Terre

The national park area lies on a narrow strip next to the Mediterranean Sea. It’s surrounded by steep hills covered by fields of lemons, grapes, and olives.

There are several hiking trails to discover the area which are known as the Blue and High Paths.

The most recognizable part of the national park is the five fisher villages mentioned above. It’s a highly touristic area around the villages, but less traffic would be around High Path trails and surrounding smaller villages.

Even though it’s the smallest national park in Italy, there are still so many things to see and do.

Spending three days there is recommended in order to get the full experience around the magical Cinque Terre area.

18. Gauja NP, Latvia

Recommended by Nam of Laugh Travel Eat

Gauja National Park is only an hour north of Riga and is named after the river that flows through the valley.

It covers 90,000 hectares with beautiful red sandstone gorges cut by the river with a dense forest, with a few towns and cities inside the vicinity.

But the true charm of the Gauja National Park is its blend of history and nature.

The area is dotted with manors and castles, a relic from the conflicts between the Livonian Order, a crusading order, and the local nobilities.

The best way to explore is to hike the area from town to town. Krimulda, Sigulda, and Turaida are home to manors and castles, about an hour or two hikes from each other, and suitable for those without a car.

Gauja National Park

Don’t miss the famous Gutmanis Cave between Krimulda and Turaida, the biggest in the national park with a tragic romantic story.

For those keen on a road trip, Cesis is on the other side of the national park with a charming old town.

For those short on time, a day trip from Riga is doable but three days would be best. Be aware that the summer and winter opening time differs for the castles.

19. Durmitor NP, Montenegro

Recommended by me

A landscape like in ‘The Land Before Time’, deep blue mountain lakes and free-roaming sheep. Welcome to Durmitor National Park in Montenegro!

This park was established in 1952 and can be found in the northern part of the country, close to the Bosnian border.

The 390 square kilometers wide area is mainly formed by breathtaking glaciers, rushing rivers and underground streams.

In winter, Durmitor National Park is a major ski resort, whereas in summer it’s popular for hiking, rafting and other outdoor sports.

Numerous trails with different difficulty levels are perfect for hikers of every age. The bravest among them can even climb up to Bobotov Kuk.

With more than 2500 meters, it’s Montenegro’s highest peak.

Best National Parks in Europe

The small town of Zabljak is the perfect base for your Durmitor adventure. From there, you can easily plan a lot of day hikes or visit the nearby mesmerizing Black Lake.

Those who are short on time can drive through the park and admire it from the car.

However, if you want to discover all the remote places and try different outdoor activities, you need to spend at least two or three days there.

20. Lovcen NP, Montenegro

Recommended by Kami of Kami and the rest of the world

Lovcen National Park is one of the most spectacular places to visit in the Balkans.

It is located in the southern part of Montenegro, not far from the Adriatic Sea and popular destinations like Kotor.

The national park was proclaimed in the Lovcen mountain massif in 1952 to protect the unique nature as well as the historical and cultural heritage of the area.

Unfortunately, there is no public transport serving the place so the best way to reach Lovcen National Park is by car. Some tours from Kotor also cover the place.

Lovcen National Park

While the whole Lovcen National Park is a great place to visit and go hiking, the most spectacular point is Jezerski vrh with the mausoleum of Petar Petrović Njegoš (19th-century prince-bishop of Montenegro) on top.

From the parking lot, you need to walk up 461 stairs to get to the mausoleum but it’s worth the effort – the views from there are spectacular! If the weather is good you can even see half of the country.

Be sure to also stop in the village Njeguši (still within the national park) to try local goodies that can be found only there.

21. Stabbursdalen NP, Norway

Recommended by Megan of Megan Starr

Arctic Norway is brimming with beautiful and fascinating nature.

Norway, as a whole, has a plethora of national parks and one of the most underrated (and least visited) is Stabbursdalen National Park in the far north of Norway near Magerøya island and the North Cape.  

Located in Finnmark County around Porsanger, it is so remote that it is not really on the typical Norway itinerary. 

It is surrounded by small fishing villages and the largest towns near it are Honningsvåg and Alta. It is also not too far from Finland.

There are plenty of hiking trails and cabins within the park. One of the most popular sights is the Stabbursdalen Waterfall. It is located 8 kilometers away from the central part of the park and is marked by signs.

Another popular waterfall in the park is Stuorra Binalvarri.  You will need to trek through the world’s northernmost pine forest to find your way there.

If you’re wanting to just take a day trip to Stabbursdalen National Park, the best place to base yourself is near Nordkapp or Honningsvåg, Norway. From there, the drive to the park is a couple of hours. 

It is truly one of the most beautiful national parks in Norway and all of Europe.

22. Slowinski NP, Poland

Recommended by Sasha of The Alternative Travel Guide

Slowinski National Park is an unusual place on Poland’s map that will charm you at first sight.

It is one of the most beautiful and largest national parks in Poland and was created to protect meadows, coastal lakes, swamps, peat bogs, and forests.

Nevertheless, its main attraction is the moving dunes

Tourism is allowed in the national park, but visitors can only walk along designated routes. The total route length is 140 kilometers, however, the walk through the dunes is only three kilometers. 

The dunes are fantastic! As soon as you’re there, you’ll totally forget that you are in Poland but feel teleported to the Sahara instead.

After a walk through the dunes, you will be rewarded with beautiful, wild, and empty beaches

Slowinski National Park

In the vicinity of the moving dunes in Leba, there is Lebsko Lake which is also worth visiting. In spring and summer, it’s nice to sail there by boat. 

If you’re interested in learning about World War II, there’s an opportunity to take a boat ride from Rabka to the Rocket Launcher Museum which is located in the park as well.

You can visit Slowinski National Park’s main attractions within one day, but if you like the place, it’s worth staying for two or three days.

23. Peneda-Geres NP, Portugal

Recommended by Jorge of Portugal Things

Peneda-Geres is a luscious green national park in Northern Portugal. It’s only an hour’s car or bus drive from Porto away.

Lakes (natural and manmade), mountains, trails, waterfalls, lookouts, Roman ruins, and imposing castles – this national park has it all! It’s also home to some traditional villages with a unique setting and cultural heritage.

There are plenty of activities to do in Peneda-Geres National Park, for example, swimming in several waterfalls and lagoons, hiking, canoeing or other watersports.

However, the most famous attractions in the national park are Pedra Bela Lookout (one of the most beautiful lookouts in Portugal), Albergaria Forest (a beautiful ancient forest), Tahiti waterfalls (possibly the most beautiful of the many falls in Geres), and Misarela Bridge (incredible bridge hidden in a canyon).

Peneda Geres National Park

You should spend at least two days in Geres, as there is so much to do, but it can also be easily visited as a day trip from Porto.

If you have time you should definitely do a hike. For a short hike, the Roman Geira trail is probably the best. For a longer, full-day trail, you have the Minas dos Carris trail.

Furthermore, if you are spending the night in Peneda-Geres you should stay in one of their picturesque villages, making it an unforgettable experience. 

24. Serra da Estrela NP, Portugal

Recommended by Cath of Moving to Portugal

Nestled in Central Portugal is the beautiful Serra da Estrela National Park.

Situated approximately 300 km from the capital Lisbon, a journey that will take three and a half hours, this national park contains the largest mountain range in Portugal.

Covering 1000 square kilometers, this is also the home to the source of three rivers in Portugal.

Much of the park is at an elevation of 700 meters above sea level and it also contains the highest peak in Portugal, the Torre.

Serra da Estrela National Park Portugal

Some of the best things to do in this national park include hiking, enjoying the amazing scenery and discovering things like the Senhora da Boa Estrela, a carving of the local Saint of Shepherds on the rock face.

You can even ski at the top of the national park in winter.

Although you can enjoy a lot of this national park in one day, exploring the park fully will require a few days.

To do this stay in Seia, from where it is just a short 40-minute drive to the Torre. This area of outstanding natural beauty is a must if you are visiting Central Portugal.

25. Danube Delta NP, Romania

Recommended by Jade of The Migrant Yogi

The Danube Delta is Romania’s most treasured natural wonder and a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Delta is a biosphere reserve situated to the far east of Romania, close to the Ukrainian border. It’s got the third-largest concentration of biodiversity in the world!

Taking a boat tour through the Danube Delta is one of the most popular ways to experience its natural wonders.  

While Tulcea is the general ‘entrance’ to the Danube Delta, you may also consider staying in the fishing village of Sfântu Gheorghe. Hostels, hotels, AirBnbs, or camping are popular accommodation options.

Best National Parks in Europe

From either of these places, you’ll find many different ways to experience the Delta. You can choose from large operations and ferries to local guides who are keener on sustainable tourism

If you stay in Sfântu Gheorghe, try a boat tour with Georgian Dumitru, a Romanian ecologist who is passionate about the area and familiar with all of the ‘secret spots.’

He speaks fluent English and French as well.  

In 2011, the Danube Delta received the Quality Coast Gold Award for its accomplishments and efforts in tourism geared toward sustainability and preservation.

26. Triglav NP, Slovenia

Recommended by Leo of Safari Nomad

The Triglav National Park was named after Triglav, which is the highest mountain (2864 m) in Slovenia and lies in the heart of the park. Triglav is the national symbol and pride of Slovenia.

The fastest way to reach Triglav National Park is by car. Its entrance is in the town of Kranjska Gora, which is located only 85 km north of Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana.

Triglav National Park Slovenia

This nature reserve hides endless alpine meadows, deep valleys, mountains and beautiful lakes.

The park is ideal for hiking, climbing, rafting and cycling. It offers wonderful hiking trails, among which is the Soča Trail most popular.

One of the most visited places is Vintgar Gorge, only 6 km away from the famous Lake Bled. Another hidden gem is the Savica waterfall, which is one of the most famous waterfalls in Slovenia.

Plenty of accommodation can be found in the form of hotels, mountain huts, camps and glamping.

27. Donana NP, Spain

Recommended by Paulina of Paulina on the Road

Donana National Park is situated across the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cadiz. It is an incredible and extensive nature reserve that was discovered in 1969

The park had become a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994 and now it is popular for its stunning biodiversity, a striking community of sand dunes, lagoons, marshes, forests, and endless beaches.

Precisely, it is home to a diversity of flora and fauna and the last shelter for many endangered species.

With breathtaking landscapes, unique ecosystems, and a range of wildlife, Donana is a great place to visit. 

Donana National Park Spain

You can easily plan a day trip to the park from Seville. The jewel of Andalucia offers a lot of things to do.

These include taking a horse ride to explore beautiful windswept beaches, seeing flamingos in the Marshall Islands, exploring the unbelievable sand dunes and having a memorable swimming session in the Atlantic Ocean.

If you want you can also explore the province of Huelva on the way as it’s in the park’s proximity.

28. Timanfaya NP, Spain

Recommended by Suzanne of The Travelbunny

Timanfaya National Park is one of the top things to see in Lanzarote.

The park, in Spain’s fourth-largest Canary Island, is made up of over 100 volcanoes and lava fields which cover an area of over 51 square km. They are known as Montañas del Fuego – Fire Mountains. 

The rippling lava fields make up the park and are the main focus of Lanzarote’s UNESCO biosphere reserve. Because the park is protected, visitors need to join a tour to see it.

El Diablo buses leave from the car park next to the restaurant every 20 minutes for a 2-hour drive around some of the most impressive volcano craters and lava rocks.

Commentaries in three languages tell about the area and how the landscape was formed thousands of years ago. 

Best National Parks in Europe

Visitors keen to walk through the park can book the Ruta de Tremesana, a three-hour hike, with a park ranger. These tours get busy so it’s advisable to book early.   

Make sure you see the ranger demonstrate the intense heat beneath the earth. A bucket of water is poured into a small hole in the lava where it re-emerges in a violent jet of hot water and steam. 

If you’ve hired a car it’s easy to get to the park – the island is quite small and easily navigated. Otherwise, you can join an excursion from one of the resort towns.

29. Swiss NP, Switzerland

Recommended by Jessie of Pocket Wanderings

Covering over 170 square kilometers, the Swiss National Park is the oldest national park in the Alps and one of the first in Europe.

As you would expect from the mountainous regions of Switzerland, it offers breathtaking alpine scenery, from luscious forests to pretty meadows.

The Swiss National Park is located in eastern Switzerland within the Western Rhaetian Alps.

It is accessible from Zurich via a 2.5-hour train to Zernez – a picturesque village that has the same enchanting feel as the many fairytale towns in Switzerland.

National Parks in Europe

Once in Zernez, visitors can take a postal bus service to the park. Alternatively, driving from Zurich takes around the same amount of time.

The park offers extensive hiking paths and nature trails, including some tough and challenging trails for experienced hikers.

Visitors cannot veer off the marked trails due to strict conservation rules. This means that the park still feels relatively untouched and the abundance of wildlife and foliage has been preserved.

There is plenty of wildlife to spot within the park, from ibexes and marmots to bearded vultures and golden eagles.

Around 2-3 nights is a good amount of time to spend in the Swiss National Park. This will allow you to soak up the spectacular surroundings in your own time, and try a few different hikes.

30. De Weerribben-Wieden NP, The Netherlands

Recommended by Frans of Ask The Dutch Guy

The Weerribben-Wieden is a national park of the Netherlands in the Steenwijkerland.

It’s only an hour away from the capital city of Amsterdam and you can either rent a car, take the train or the bus to get there. 

The park is proof of the Dutch’s centuries of hard work with waters that produced this unique landscape and water villages surrounding the park.

Besides the unique reed beds here, you can also spot rare animals like black terns, egrets, and otters here. 

De Weerribben Wieden NP

Explore the park by hopping on an electric boat, canoe or rowboat that you can rent in Giethoorn and other small villages that surround the park.

There are also hiking routes that have been plotted in the park that are perfect for nature lovers. Moreover, there are walking and cycling routes as well. 

Enjoy the beauty of serene nature in Weerribben-Wieden. There are so many things you can do there. From camping, hiking and cycling to other activities that are perfect for everyone!

When it comes to accommodation, you’ll find plenty of places to stay in the national park. There are also enough restaurants to satisfy hunger.

31. Kinburn NP, Ukraine

Recommended by Inessa of Through a Travel Lens

Photogenic pink salt lakes, rare populations of pelicans, and the biggest orchid fields in Europe are just a few of many highlights of the Kinburn National Park in Ukraine.

The location is under the radar for both the locals and the tourists. This makes it a gem of wildlife and a unique traveling experience.

The only way to get to Kinburn is by a speed boat departing from Mykolaiv twice a day in summer. The trip takes 40 to 60 minutes, depending on the weather.

Kinburn National Park

Kinburn is a suitable destination for both, fans of camping and those who prefer cozy guesthouses. The recommended time for a stay is at least three days.

Two of these will pass in visiting all of the location’s popular destinations, including the pine trees forest, the end of the spit where the Black Sea and the bay waters clash and renting a boat to see the pink pelicans at sunrise.

Plus, the waters of the Black Sea are very clear in this part of Ukraine, which makes Kinburn perfect for a day of snorkeling and sunbathing.

32. Brecon Beacons, United Kingdom

Recommended by Mansoureh of Travel With Mansoureh

The Brecon Beacons National Park is one of the most beautiful and best national parks in Europe, located in the south of Wales in the United Kingdom. 

It is less than 30 miles from Cardiff and only a 3-hour drive from London. To get there you can fly to either London or Cardiff and then take a bus or train to Merthyr Tydfil.

Driving is the most convenient way to get to this national park which gives you more flexibility. 

The famous Brecon Beacons range of mountains with its magnificent upland formations are the main attraction in the park.

There are numerous hiking trails, but if you are up to a challenge, you can summit Pen y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales. 

National Parks in Europe

The Brecon Beacon landscape is perfect for adventure. You can join one of the many organized group activities like canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding and whitewater rafting.

You can also explore the park on a mountain bike or on horseback. There are different cycling tracks and bridle paths for all levels.

The Brecon Beacons is also home to some breathtaking waterfalls, stunning caves, amazing lakes and ancient landscapes.

33. Cairngorms NP, United Kingdom

Recommended by Kat of Wandering Bird

If you enjoy national parks, you need to add the Cairngorms National Park to your Scotland road trip itinerary.

This is the largest national park in the UK and National Geographic voted it one of the top 20 places to visit IN THE WORLD.

The park is 4500 square km and contains a mix of mountains, valleys, castles, whiskey distilleries and watersports.

One of the most popular reasons to visit is hiking. There are multiple trails and walks within the park (you can purchase guidebooks at the tourist offices), or you can just turn up and wander wherever you fancy.

A word of caution- the weather can change very quickly in this area, so please carry appropriate equipment/ clothing.

Best National Parks in Europe

If hiking isn’t for you, how about some outdoor sport? Within the Cairngorms, you can enjoy cycling, skiing or golfing at one of the many golf courses!

There’s also fishing, kayaking, windsurfing and other watersports to enjoy. Several watersports centers in the park offer lessons and gear hire.

If you’re not wild camping in Scotland in a motorhome or camper, there are plenty of places to stay within the park, including local B & Bs, hotels, hostels, campsites and log cabins.

Otherwise, if you don’t mind a little adventure, you can also hire an electric campervan to explore the national park in a sustainable way.

You need to stay for at least three days to really experience everything the park has to offer. 

34. Lake District, United Kingdom

Recommended by Maja of Away With Maja

The Lake District National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the UK and is located in northwest England.

It’s best to have your own car to get around. However, you can get to parts of the park by train from Manchester or even London, and there is a solid bus network within the park.

The mountainous scenery in the Lake District (sometimes just called “the Lakes”) is truly spectacular, and it’s one of the best places to go hiking in the country.

Lake District National Park

While it’s difficult to choose just a few, some of the top walks are Latrigg Fell (easy), Catbells (easy/moderate), Loughrigg Fell (moderate), Old Man of Coniston (difficult) and Helvellyn (difficult).

All of these are Wainwrights, a term given to notable fells in the Lake District by Alfred Wainwright, a walker and guidebook author.

There are also plenty of cultural activities in the Lakes too as it was the home of authors Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth.

While you can see a substantial amount of the Lake District in two days (particularly if you’re not interested in long hikes), you could easily spend a week there.

35. Norfolk Broads, United Kingdom

Recommended by Anisa of Norfolk Local Guide

The Norfolk Broads is a national park made up of a network of rivers and lakes, located near the city of Norwich in the East of England.

With over 120 miles of waterways and a variety of attractions, you will want to spend at least a few days exploring the Broads. It’s a true haven for wildlife and history lovers.

The best way to see the area is by boat. Of course, you could do a boat tour, but it will be more fun if you hire your own boat.

Luckily, you don’t need to be an experienced boat driver as the water is calm and the speed limits are low. Alternatively, you can explore in a kayak or paddleboard.

Best National Parks in Europe

In addition to exploring the area by boat, you can learn more about its people, boats, and wildlife at the Museum of the Broads.

See the ruins of St.Benet’s Abbey, the only monastery in England not officially closed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. 

In Ranworth Village, you can climb the church tower for panoramic views or visit the Norfolk Wildlife Conservation Center, a thatched building floating on Ranworth Broad. 

When you need a break there are many charming pubs to choose from.

There are also plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife throughout the Broads including unique dragonflies and even rare birds. 

It’s a Wrap!

With Norfolk Broads being number 35, this list of the best national parks in Europe is now complete!

Now it’s very likely that one of your favorites is missing.

As I already stated at the beginning of this blog post, it’s tough to choose only a little amount of the 500 parks.

It’s like choosing your favorite travel destination. In the end, we decide on one, although we love more, if not all.

And if we’re honest, probably all national parks in Europe deserve to be on this list. 😉

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Do you want to travel like me?
Here are some of my favorite travel tips and resources:

Flights: I prefer using CheapOair or Skyscanner to book flights. The destination everywhere feature is perfect for finding some cheap deals!

Accommodation: is my favorite site to find some great hotel deals. I do love staying at a local place as well, thus I book an Airbnb every now and then.

Travel Insurance: There are many reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having one. I use the simple and flexible one from World Nomads to be protected against unforeseen events.

Tours: I love taking tours to explore destinations like a local. My favorite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.

Camera Gear: I use a Nikon D5300 camera with an 18-105 mm and a 10-20 mm wide-angle lens to take my photos.   

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  1. So many beautiful national parks! i’ve been to some of these before, and agree that Donana National Park is really pretty and there is a lot of wildlife to see there. Plus the weather is awesome!

    1. Omg wow. I had no idea there were this many amazing parks in Europe. How pretty. Would love to visit Iceland and go back to Norway too.

  2. Such a complete list! I would love to visit all the national parks, especially Lake Districts, since it was one of the places I was meant to go in 2020.

  3. This is GOLD! I haven’t heard about many of these National Parks before, and they all look amazing! I cannot wait to visit Estonia and Finland – they are on top of my bucket list when I travel to Europe again and these parks are absolutely incredible. Thanks for this complete list of amazing places to visit.

  4. Such a comprehensive list and many beautiful national parks to visit. Definitely worth saving for future reference.

  5. What an awesome list! I have been to some of them, but there are also some I´ve never heard abot. Great post, there is so much more to see and explore in Europe, can´t wait for warmer months and hopefully opened borders 🙂

  6. Wow! So many new places to add to my someday list. Saxon Switzerland NP in Germany looks like it’s straight from a dream!

  7. Sooooo cool! I haven’t spent much time in Europe but when I can get there I’ll be sure to hit at least one of these on the list! I’m saving for the future!

  8. What a useful post! I’m glad to see so many Uk suggestions in there. I’m keen to explore more of the UK while travelling is so disrupted and also to reduce my carbon footprint. There are some great ideas in here!

  9. What an incredible list! I love national parks and I’m adding ALL OF THEM to my bucket list! Theth National Park in Albania looks so pretty! But that waterfall in Bosnia looks incredible! I’ll admit, I’m a bit gutted the Yorkshire Dales National Park in England didn’t make the list, it will always be my personal favourite. Thanks for the great guide!

  10. All of these National Parks look so beautiful! I definitely added a lot of them to my bucket list whenever I am able to travel back to Europe. This is amazing and very detailed Alina. 🙂

  11. What an inspiring post! I’ve only been to one of these National Parks so far (Plitvice in Croatia) but I want to see them all! Only 34 left to go 🙂

  12. Wow! What a great list. It just highlights how much more of Europe I still have to see…& how beautiful it all is. I have only visited a few of these but Killarney National Park, I fell in love with when I visited.

  13. There are so many amazing parks in Europe. I would love to be able to visit all of them! We are thinking about a several months long European road trip when things open back up again.

  14. These all look incredible! I’m saving this post for when international travel opens up a bit more to go see some of these!

  15. What a great compilation, Lina! For some reason, I’m most attracted to the ones in Albania. Probably because I know very little of this country, so it feels shrouded by mystery to me.

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