Plitvice Lakes Croatia


The Best National Parks in Europe


What could be better than a visit to Europe’s most treasured landscapes? Mother Nature’s finest works of art that enrich your travel memory book and add some truly unforgettable moments! National Park status says more about an area than just its pure visual brilliance. It highlights the incredible natural beauty in every corner. Europe is home to some of the most beautiful sights on the globe, and some are little known. They’re largely undiscovered wonders waiting to be explored. Uncover your wanderlust for national parks below, you’ll be truly blown away by the beauty unravelling before your eyes…

Plitvice, Croatia

Some places are too incredible to put into words and Plitvice National Park in Croatia is certainly one of them. Strolling through the park, you’ll be treated to visions similar to a watercolour painting. Picture 16 crystalline lakes, winding through Plitvice in turquoise harmony – these are truly exceptional sights. Trying to find adjectives that do them justice is a tricky task! Waterfalls appear from limestone rocks, creating a clash of colour with green vegetation. The woodland homes deer, bears, wolves and boars scuttling through the greenery. And your keen eye may even spot rare birds taking flight above. Croatia’s oldest and largest national park is sure to be a standout addition to your holiday itinerary!


Cinque Terre, Italy

Tucked away in the mountainous Italian Riviera, a visit to Cinque Terre is a must! Its five villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso form an iconic scene. These names might not ring a bell but they’re probably already on your bucket list! The views are like something from a storybook, a film fantasy or a dream. Gaze at rustic colourful houses sitting ruggedly on rocky coves. The buildings here climb cleverly above emerald waters, with little sailing boats floating calmly below. Complete your Italian venture with a visit to local restaurants hidden in puzzles of streets. You’ll savour every flavour of local classics from pizza to pasta, washed down with irresistible fruity wine.


Peneda Geres, Costa Verde, Portugal

Portugal’s only national park is like the work of a talented artist. A careful hand and delicate strokes have created a view of pure beauty in the north. But this is no painting! What you are viewing is a work of pure nature. Granite mountains overlook puzzles of peaks, valleys and oak forests. Sitting seamlessly for visitors to explore and admire. Stroll through the mysterious greenery, or trot joyfully on horseback.

Friday 13th is no unlucky day here – it sees the celebration of Noite das Bruxas held at the village of Montalegre. This lively street party is fuelled by Queimada, a local liqueur drunk with honey. Time your visit right, and you may witness the unforgettable festivities. Peneda Geres is a refreshing spot of beauty away from Portugal’s bustling coastline.


Caldera de Taburiente, La Palma, Canary Islands

What springs to mind when you think of La Palma? This unsung Canary Island has a lot to admire! Its national park is one of the most savoured in the world. You’d be forgiven for assuming the crater at Caldera de Taburiente resulted from a major meteor. Think again – it’s in fact a striking natural phenomenon. Photos simply don’t do justice to its vast size and impressive vision. Sitting to the west of its Canary Island sisters, La Palma can be reached by ferry from Tenerife. On your visit here, marvel at the volcanic crater surrounded by dramatic mountains and scattered with red pines. This magnificent erosion crater is the largest in the world at 8km wide and 2km deep! In perfect contrast to the dramatic scenery, freshwater springs and streams weave their way through the greenery with peaceful elegance. This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve lovingly protects some of Europe’s best geological diversity.


L’esterel, France

Get your fix of feisty French beauty with a visit to L’Esterel National Park, boasting mountains that stretch from Provence towards the Mediterranean coast. Fiery red hues shine from igneous rock, contrasting impressively with blue tones of ocean. Massif de L’esterel lures walkers, runners, mountain bikers and horse riders who explore marked trails. Perhaps you’ll venture on a supervised hike run by the ONF (National Forest Office) and delve into their local knowledge of hidden inlets. Or opt to take a more relaxing stroll along blissful walkways. Coastal roads provide a different vision, seen as some of the most beautiful routes in France. Just a short drive away, Les Adrets De L’Esterel is the perfect base for your mesmerising Côte D’Azur getaway!

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Helen Wright

Helen Wright is a Junior Content Executive at James Villa Holidays.

If I'm not in the gym attempting to keep fit or challenging myself to a new personal...

See all articles by Helen Wright

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