The remnants of Europe’s yesteryear are well-established in the minds of those enchanted with wanderlust—cathedrals, coliseums, canals and all. Beyond the historical relics of the Renaissance and the Roman Empire, an even older beauty is present, just waiting to be witnessed. “National parks” may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a trip to Europe, but truth be told, some of the most beautiful places in Europe are the stretches of land that lay unblemished by human civilization, landscapes painted by the deft hand of Mother Nature over the course of millions of years.
With that, a European vacation doesn’t have to be one or the other—you can see the postcard-perfect iconic landmarks and still find time to witness nature’s breathtaking landscapes. Get acquainted with a few of the most beautiful national parks in Europe that await your discovery, right outside the conventional cityscape.
Killarney National Park has been designated as such since 1932, but don’t let that fool you—its woodlands have stood in one form or another since the end of the last glacial period, over 10,000 years ago. These woodlands cluster around the lower slopes of the mountains that loom colossal on the horizon, while all of the above is reflected in the world-fabled Killarney Lakes—located at same mountains’ bases. Put succinctly, the scenes viewed here are that of a storybook, enchanting beyond definitions of reality. Think of it as a necessary side-trip threaded between the likes of Limerick and Cork.
Seaside cliffs scrubbed with aromatic ocean breeze. Immaculate beaches drawing stark contrasts to the pastel-blue waters just yonder. Over 2,500 feet above, atop those same scenic cliffs, sits a sprawl of towering pines that seems to stretch on forever. Italy has long been known as a “must-visit” for many vacationers, but the greater Gargano area has stayed a tight-lipped secret by the locals—the same way a local Maui islander may be reluctant to tell you about their favorite little-known beach. Nestled in the eye of this Italian paradise peninsula is the Gargano National Park, a treasure amongst treasures. Gargano is a straight shot across the country from Naples; If Italy is a boot, then this is the spur. One look at the locale is more than enough to make you want to stick around.
The highest peak of the Julian Alps, Mount Triglav is the nexus for the surrounding Triglav National Park, which radiates out from it like a verdant dreamscape. While this slice of northwest Slovenia holds the claim as the country’s sole national park, it proves a treasure trove of wonder for any visitor.Venturing out and finding gems of experience amongst the forest pays dividends—for example, the 50-foot Kozjak Waterfall resides within a semi-secluded cave, and the Tolmin Gorges offer a hike through mossed-covered gulches and ravines carved out by effervescent-hued mountain water. Triglav National Park lies adjacent to the mountain town of Bled, one of the most beautiful places in Europe in its own right: from the 11th-century castle atop the cliff to the quaint gothic church perched on the island in the middle of the lake composed of melted-sky, all of Bled (and the greater Slovenian countryside) is downright jaw-dropping.
In the near-heart of Turkey, the bridge of land between Europe and the Middle East, is the Göreme Tarihi Milli Park—a world away from its northern counterparts. Fairy chimneys (huge pillars of rock eroded by millennia) dot the arid landscape like a forest of massive stone mushrooms. Carved into the surreal locale is a network of ancient settlements and accompanying artifacts certain to awaken your inner archeologist. However, the true can’t-miss experience here isn’t underground, but in the sky: soaring over Göreme in a hot air balloon more than justifies the day’s drive from Istanbul.
Want to get started planning your own trip to some of the most beautiful places in Europe? Speak with one of our travel agents. Not only can they help you iron out the intricacies of your itinerary, but also they can supply you with exclusive perks and amenities to all of the leading names in the industry—the adventures listed above benefit you exponentially with the bonuses of Intrepid Travel.