9 of the best national parks in Europe that’ll give you wanderlust

Often overlooked for the cobbled streets of Paris, iconic London landmarks and the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Europe’s national parks are some of the best in the world. Spilling over with majestic flora and rare, unique wildlife, Europe has so much more to offer than just its cities. Polish off your hiking boots, pack your sports gear, rent a car and experience Europe in a way you never have before. Here’s 15 of the best national parks on the continent that are bound to give you serious wanderlust. 

 

Insider tip: for those parks a little way out from the airport, use Ryanair Car Hire for the best deals! 

1. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

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iStock Remedios

An endless flood of turquoise and green whichever way you look, the chain of sixteen terraced lakes that make up the Plitvice region are a sight for sore eyes. Joined together by a series of waterfalls, the shimmering turquoise lakes belong to the Dinaric karst area, one of the most impressive of its kind in the world. Make use of the walkways and hiking trail and see for yourself why this is one of the best national parks in Europe.

 

Flights to Croatia 

2. Belluno Dolomites, Italy

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iStock Haidamac

Shared between the provinces of Belluno, South Tyrol and Trentino, the Belluno park is the dream destination for every hiker and climber. Founded in 1993, the area is located in the north-eastern part of Italy and forms part of the Southern Limestone Alps. With most routes leading to the 2,565 metre high Monte Schiara peak, the views from the top are nothing short of spectacular.

 

Flights to Italy 

3. Triglav National Park, Slovenia

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iStock AlbertoLoyo

The only national park in the country, Triglav centres around a mountain standing 2,864 metres high and is located in northwest Slovenia. The idyllic Alpine landscape boasts glacial valleys , forests, villages, mountain pastures and an array of flowers indigenous to the area. Not only is it a hotspot for hikers, the park also offers a huge selection of water sports and other outdoor activities.

 

Flights to Slovenia (fly to Croatia) 

4. Wild Taiga, Finland

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iStock USO

Ideal for spotting forest animals, Wild Taiga covers an area untouched by human hands. Right in the heart of Kainuu, the park is home to an array of wildlife including elk, brown bears, forest deer, beavers, wolves and a collection of rare predatory birds. Travel to the clear lakes and rapids of the natural area for the ultimate authentic experience.

 

Flights to Finland 

5. Ordesa National Park, Spain

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iStock Consu1961

Sitting on the border with France, Ordesa is one of the first national parks ever to be named in Europe. Located in the Pyrenees mountain region, the park is home to some incredible wildlife, including golden eagles, wild boars and vultures. With so much to see, you could spend weeks exploring the natural surroundings of one of Europe’s best national parks.

 

Flights to Spain

6. Saxon Switzerland, Germany

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iStock javarman3

Covering two areas in the heart of the German Free State of Saxony, this park centres around a natural rock formation. A stone’s throw from Dresden, the Malerweg walk is one of the most popular in the country and is best tackled at sunset when the sky puts on a spectacular show over the surrounding hills. Adjoining the Bohemian Switzerland National Park in the Czech Republic, the travel opportunities here are endless.

 

Flights to Germany 

7. Ecrins, France

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iStock francois-roux

Located in the Alps, Ecrins covers a large portion of the Massif des Ecrins and is one of the main standouts in France’s collection of national parks. The mountainous terrain makes the park perfect for exploring and animal watching as you walk thorough meadows, around gorgeous lakes and over hills.

 

Flights to France 

8. Sarek National Park, Sweden

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iStock D-Micke

Regarded as a national treasure in Scandinavia, the area offers a great chance to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. With high peaks and deep valleys, the region looks a lot like the Alps and has only one hiking trail, the Royal Trail. Well known for its Rapa Valley, magnificent delta and rich wildlife, the area also boasts hundreds of glaciers and small waterfalls.

 

Flights to Sweden 

9. Soomaa, Estonia

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iStock elvinheinla

The protected wetlands of Soomaa are bursting with captivating flora and fauna. Take a trip along its rivers and come face to face with the beavers, white-backed woodpeckers, lesser spotted eagles and black storks who migrate to the area’s marshy flood plains. Book a flight to Estonia and see for yourself why this is one of the prettiest parks on the continent.

 

Flights to Estonia

 

Tag us in your photos of the best national parks in Europe using the hashtag #ryanairstories for the chance to be featured on Ryanair’s Instagram.

 

- Lucy Norris