The most picturesque parks around Europe

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

There’s no better place to reconnect with nature than in one of Europe’s beautiful national parks. With rolling hills, snow-capped mountain peaks, forests, rivers and lakes, it’s difficult to know where to choose. If you fancy detoxing from your busy life and ditching your laptop and mobile phone for a while, here is our guide to the most picturesque parks to visit in Europe and what to see and do when you’re there!

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs Scotland

You don’t have to travel to the highlands to experience Scotland in its finest form - Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park are just 40 miles north of Glasgow. Stretching across 720 nature packed square miles, the region is a must for anyone escaping the city for a weekend of serenity. You can choose to stay on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, awakening to gentle lapping of water and vistas of rolling hills from a 5-star suite, or opt for the peaceful natural beauty of Loch Katrine or Loch Ard. Each loch has its own appeal. If you enjoy kayaking, windsurfing, gourmet cuisine and retail therapy Scottish style, Loch Lomond should be at the top of your list. However, if you prefer to spend leisurely days hiking, cycling, golfing and sipping single malt at a nearby distillery, choose Loch Katrine or Loch Ard in Trossachs National Park. Climbers will be in their element, Scotland’s most southerly munro, Ben Lomond is easily accessible wherever you decide to stay and fans of Scottish folklore can follow in the footsteps of Rob Roy MacGregor or step into a scene from Amazon’s ‘Outlander’ series on the shores of Loch Katrine. 

Bavarian Forest National Park - Germany/Czech Republic

The low-lying expanse of Bavarian Forest National Park stretches for around 100 kilometres along the German/Czech border. It’s an enchanting wilderness offering a selection of seasonal activities from hiking and cycling to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. But before you begin your adventure, find your bearings at Baumwipfelpfad Bayerischer Wald. Situated in the middle of the forest near Neuschönau, the site boasts a treetop walk which guides you through lofty fir, spruce and beech trees, giving you an elevated perspective of the vast woodland. You can climb the observation tower for insta-worthy photos of snow-capped Alpine mountains and afterwards, enjoy a refreshing drink in the pretty beer garden. The forest is also a place to spot wildlife. Tierfreigelände is a barrier-free park, home to wolves, lynx, bears and European bison and with guided tours available, you can learn more about the magnificent species which make the forest their home.

Goreme National Park, Cappadocia Turkey

Goreme National Park in Cappadocia, Turkey is a magical place, sprinkled with dramatic, honey-coloured rock formations known as fairy chimneys. Most visitors begin their epic adventure at Goreme Open-Air Museum. Carved into a jagged rock face, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is compiled of monasteries and churches, each holding secrets to Cappadocia’s past. You could venture underground deep into the warrens of Kaymakli or Derinkuyu – two of the region’s underground cities, once home to up to 20,000 people. However, one of the best ways to see this surreal natural wonderland is at sunset from above, via hot air balloon. As you glide over the fairy chimneys of Love Valley and animal sculptures of Imaginary Valley, shades of ochre, indigo and flame light the landscape, and you’ll begin to realise there’s no other place like Cappadocia.

Lake District National Park, England

The English lakes are known for their timeless beauty. A home to poets, artists and writers, this charming corner of Cumbria in north-west England boasts some of nature’s best work. You can spend days picnicking by energy-infused stone circles beneath clear blue skies or enjoy a tranquil boat ride on Derwentwater or Lake Windermere, hopping off to explore bluebell glades and slate villages. If you feel more energetic, pack several bars of sugar-infused Kendal Mint Cake and take to the rolling fells for scenic views of the countryside. The charming lakeside towns of Windermere, Keswick and Ambleside are perfect for those seeking a lively escape with shops, fine restaurants, museums and theatres. However, if you wish to bask in nature’s glow, partake in artistic or creative pursuits around Coniston, Grasmere, Wastwater or Ullswater.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Croatia’s most popular tourist destination, Plitvice Lakes National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The park, located in a mountainous region between Zagreb and Zadar boasts 16 lakes, myriad cascades and a host of wildlife including deer, wolves and bears. Lakes and waterfalls separated by travertines or natural dams gain their distinctive teal and cerulean shades due to the abundance of algae, plants and moss in the water. Wooden pathways link different areas of the park so you can stroll for hours, photographing birds in ancient beech forests, admiring endemic plant species or hiking to waterfalls for a picnic. Alternatively, view scenic landscapes from the comfort of an electric boat, discovering hidden corners you can’t access from land. One of the best ways to explore Plitvice Lakes National Park is via a private tour from Zagreb which enables you to tailor the trip to your specifications.

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