Hiking In Europe : 10 of The Best National Parks to Visit
When it comes to hiking in Europe there are many national parks up for offer. In fact, Europe has over 504 national parks altogether, with only seven countries that don’t have any. With all these to choose from, it’s almost impossible to know which ones you should plan to visit next time you are on the continent and even more so which will offer you the best hiking experience possible. Luckily we’ve narrowed down some of our picks for the best national parks you have to visit whenever you are next time you have the urge to go hiking in Europe.
The Best National Parks to Visit for Hiking In Europe
Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park – Italy
While this may be the smallest national park to be featured on our list of national parks to visit when hiking in Europe, it is still incredibly iconic. Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park covers 15,000 hectares and is located entirely in the province of Belluno, Italy.
Established in 1988, the national park extends from the Cismon Valley until the Piave Valley. It is full of beautiful sights such as gorgeous landscapes, golden eagles, lovely Italian villages, and the Dolomite mountains, with mountain ranges including Alpi Feltrine (Vette di Feltre, Cimonega, Pizzocco, Brendol, Agnelezze), Monti del Sole, Schiara, Talvéna, Prampèr and Spiz di Mezzodì.
Cairngorms National Park – Scotland
Home to the second highest peak in the UK, Ben Macdui (1309m), Cairngorms National Park in Scotland is full of some of the best spots for hiking in Europe. Located between the cities of Perth and Inverness, the national park was established in 2003, and since then has been extended out to Perth and Kinross. It is the largest national park in the whole of the UK and has become a popular destination for hikers to visit.
The park may be the home location for the second highest peak in the UK, but it does feature other iconic peaks such as Cainr Lochan, Cairn Gorm, and Benn Mheadhoin. Additionally, it is full of many challenging hikes for you to choose from all right in the middle of the Scottish Highlands. So if you fancy hiking some of the most impressive peaks in Scotland, the UK, and even Europe, Cairngorms National Park is the place for you.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park – Wales
Of course, we all know the iconic and incredible Snowdonia National Park, perhaps the most famous national park in Wales, if not the UK. However, we wanted to highlight another one of Wales’ impressive National Parks, this time a more coastal one. Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park is one of three of Wales’ National Parks (the others being Snowdonia Brecon Beacons) and was established in 1952, it goes along the Pembrokeshire Coast in the west of Wales.
Full of landscapes of rugged cliffs, award-winning sandy beaches, and, the moorland areas of Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park offers different scenery t than you’d expect of Wales from Snowdonia and offers some of the best routes you can find for hiking in Europe.
The Peak District – England
Whenever we discuss hiking the Peak District National Park, located in Central England, is an often mentioned location by us, and for good reason. As the oldest and first-ever national park to be made in the UK the Peak District holds great historic importance and is still one of the most popular destinations for hikers to visit in England. There are many different walking and hiking routes throughout the Peak District, such as Mam Tor, The Limestone Way, Jacobs Ladder, and the Kinder Scout Circuit.
It is to be expected that you will be surrounded by the stunning English countryside, but there are also many iconic places to visit in the Peak District along with your hikes, like the ancient and historic limestone caves or the incredible Chatsworth House and Estate. With this clearly being a favourite amongst the people of Britain, its an excellent spot you have to try when you are planning to go hiking in Europe.
Durmitor National Park – Montenegro
If you fancy having more of an exploration-filled experience when hiking in Europe, Durmitor National Park, Montenegro is the national park to go to. This largely unexplored national park is located in north-western Montenegro and was founded in 1952 and was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1980.
It is described as one of the last remaining areas of unspoiled wilderness in Europe and has many impressive views such as its towering limestone peaks and glacial lakes known as ‘mountain eyes’. The park also has 48 peaks all of which are over 2000m in height, with the highest peak, Bobotov Kuk reaching 2523m in total.
Olympus National Park – Greece
Not many national parks on our list for hiking in Europe can claim that they hold the residence to ancient gods in them, however, Olympus National Park in Greece can. Mount Olympus isn’t just the tallest mountain in Greece, it is also well known in Ancient Greek Mythology as the residence of the twelve principle Olympian Greek gods, including Zeus. The hike up Mount Olympus is possibly one of the greatest experiences you can have when hiking in Europe, just seeing the mountain itself is a highlight, however, the park is full of other amazing hiking routes too.
Additionally, Olympus National Park is also very famous for its incredible unique biodiversity. There are around 1700 known species of plant within Olympus 25 percent of the plant species found in Greece are located within the national park. It is also home to around 32 species of mammals, 108 species of birds, and many reptiles, amphibians, and insects, so you better be on the lookout for some fantastic natural sights.
Triglav National Park – Slovenia
This selection might not be the first choice people think of for national parks to go to when hiking in Europe, but it is definitely one that should be put at the top of your list. Covering 840 square kilometers, 4% of all of Slovenia, Triglav National Park is full of rich heritage and Slovenian culture.
It is Slovenia’s only national park and is perhaps most notable for containing the highest mountain to be found in Slovenia – Mount Triglav. Standing at a total of 2864m it is a true challenge to reach its summit and if you are truly wanting to tackle all the best and most noteworthy locations when hiking in Europe this is one to add to your bucket list.
The area is full of hikes that take you through the park’s beautiful and untouched nature, from mountain ridges and summits, glacier lakes to rivers and raised bogs and so much more. There is also plenty of wildlife to be on the lookout for including species of wolf, bear, and lynx.
Wicklow Mountains National Park – Ireland
Our next spot for hiking in Europe, Wicklow Mountains National Park spans 54,000 acres and is very close to Dublin, Ireland. As only one of six of the national parks in Ireland, Wicklow is more than deserving to be featured on this list and is an incredible location to visit when hiking in Europe. The area is full of gorgeous scenery, amazing hiking trails, and countless wildlife spotting opportunities and is the location of the highest waterfall in Ireland, Powerscourt Waterfall which is located at the base of Glensoulan Valley.
The most popular area to visit within the park is Glendalough, which attracts more than 1 million visitors per year. For history enthusiasts, it is the home to what is known as the Monastic City, which contains the ruins of an early Christian settlement. It features the ruins of buildings from the 10th through to the 12th century as well as a round tower and churches. There are also 6 marked hiking routes in Glendalough that you can enjoy and choose from.
Pyhä-Luosto National Park – Finland
When you think of hiking in Europe, maybe a location straight out of a Christmas card isn’t exactly what comes to mind. While you can of course visit this national park in summer where you can travel through the greenery of its forests and see its lakes all in sunlight, the most magical time to visit Pyhä-Luosto National Park, Finland is in winter. There is a true change in the landscape as lakes become frozen over, icicles form what once were waterfalls and snow covers the ground in thick layers, and let’s be real who doesn’t want to go to Lapland in winter?
Combining one of the oldest national parks in Finland, Pyhätunturi National Park, with a newer extension to the Luosto area in 2005, the park is now a fantastic and popular tourist destination year-round, but of course especially so in winter months. The park has many things to do such as cross country skiing, snowshoeing and of course, as we are covering the topic of hiking in Europe, lots of hikes! You can even see the Aurora borealis, which is truly one of the most incredible sights you could ever see.
Vanoise National Park – France
The final one of our choices for locations for hiking in Europe is Vanoise National Park. While the original intention of its creation was to protect the native Alpine Ibex species, Vanoise National Park in France is also an important site for the protection of species of flora and fauna. Created in 1963 as the first national park in France, Vanoise National Park is located between the valleys of Tarentaise and Maurienne in the French Alps. It covers 53,000 hectares altogether and is dived into two sections the central area for ramblers and skiers, the outer-lying section for ski resorts, and local villages.
Besides the species of Alpine Ibex, the emblem of the Vanoise National Park, other wildlife that can often be spotted in the national park are marmots, wolves, mountain hares, badgers, and, weasels. There are also more than 100 species of birds found in the park, most notably the golden eagle and bearded vulture. It is truly one of the best national parks for exploring nature and hiking in Europe.