Lonely Planet Writer

Picturesque places to celebrate European Day of Parks

Today is the European Day of Parks, a day that draws attention to the importance of parks and the way they preserve the continent’s national resources. The purpose of the special day is to educate and discover new ways to promote diversity in our parks, as well as recognising the measures that can be taken to reduce our carbon footprint and promote sustainability in local communities.

To celebrate the day, Hundredrooms, the holiday rental search engine, has put together a list of some of the most beautiful national parks in Europe.

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, Scotland

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, Scotland. image: Hundredrooms
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, Scotland. Image: Hundredrooms

Loch Lomond is a spectacular freshwater loch that is the largest inland stretch of water by surface area in the UK. Only a short drive away from Scotland’s central cities, this location of astounding natural beauty filled with purple heather is one of the most striking sights in Scotland. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park attracts a staggering four million visitors each year, making it one of the UK’s most popular natural locations.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre in Italy. Image: Hundredrooms
Cinque Terre in Italy. Image: Hundredrooms

Extraordinary, vibrant and breathtaking are words used to describe this national park in Italy. A wonderful combination of cultural and environmental features, this national park is a sanctuary for wildlife as well as the site of medieval quarters. Its panoramic trails scale across the overhanging coasts and look down on to small beaches and coves.

Göreme National Park, Turkey

Göreme National Park, Turkey. Image: Hundredrooms
Göreme National Park, Turkey. Image: Hundredrooms

Created by the process of erosion and home to abundant flora, hills and valleys and alluvial streams, the Göreme National Park in Turkey is steeped in history. The unusual rock formations, often referred to as ‘fairy chimneys,’ are said to be the old dwellings of the region’s inhabitants who date as far back as the 3rd century.

Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland

Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland. Image: Hundredrooms
Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland. Image: Hundredrooms

Sharp shards of ice, rugged rocks and glistening icicles make up the Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland. Home to a large variety of wildlife, this vast glacier is like a playground for the seals that can often be seen relaxing on top of floating icebergs. Although the large lake is a spectacular sight, global warming is already taking its toll on this harsh environment.

Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote

Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote. Image: Hundredrooms
Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote. Image: Hundredrooms

The landscape and wildlife on the island of Lanzarote were completely transformed in the 18th century thanks to massive volcanic activity. With volcanoes still steaming away, life is only beginning to return to this land. Its unique landscape is a place where you can discover rare plants and wildlife.

Prokletije National Park, Montenegro

Prokletije National Park, Montenegro. Image: Hundredrooms
Prokletije National Park, Montenegro. Image: Hundredrooms

Prokletije National Park is one of Montenegro’s best-kept secrets due to its inaccessibility. Home to its own special species of flora and fauna, increasing numbers of people are venturing to this unique location. As well as its biodiversity, the region is rich in history and culture.

Iron Gates National Park, Romania

Iron Gates National Park, Romania. Image: Hundredrooms
Iron Gates National Park, Romania. Image: Hundredrooms

One of Romania’s main natural attractions, the Iron Gates National Park has a distinct presence as one of Romania’s protected areas. This area of natural importance is home to many aquatic birds that migrate to the park for the mild winters. As well as the birdlife, the park is also home to rare reptile species, wildcats and even brown bears.

Azores, Portugal

Azores, Portugal. Image: Hundredrooms
Azores, Portugal. Image: Hundredrooms

The Azores region is an archipelago composed of nine volcanic islands off the coast of Portugal. Although not officially recognised as a national park, it is a hub of biodiversity. The islands may appear extremely green, but the vegetation has been altered in recent years due to wood being used for building and land for agriculture. It has been estimated that over half of the species of insects will become extinct if intervention is not made.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia. Image: Hundredrooms
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia. Image: Hundredrooms

This beautiful set of turquoise lakes, waterfalls and springs wrapped in thick vegetation are the most well-known in Croatia. It is estimated that over one million people visit this beautiful location each year to enjoy the interconnecting rivers and natural organisms.

Saxon National Park, Switzerland

Saxon National Park, Switzerland. Image: Hundredroomx
Saxon National Park, Switzerland. Image: Hundredroomx

Rich with eroded rock formations, carved valleys and gorges, the Saxon National Park in Switzerland is a place where it’s still possible to catch a glimpse of rare species such as the eagle owl and the flat dormouse. The area’s vegetation is thriving and is home to an ecosystem of unique and different species.

Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria. Image: Hundredrooms
Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria. Image: Hundredrooms

Located in a beautiful Alpine mountain setting, Hohe Tauern in Austria is the largest nature reserve in the Alps. Its snow-capped peaks, rolling mountainsides and variety of species found there make this national park a place with amazing photo opportunities. It’s a perfect location to practise outdoor pursuits such as cycling and climbing.

Petra tou Romiou National Forest Park, Cyprus

Petra tou Romiou National Forest Park, Cyprus. Image: Hundredrooms
Petra tou Romiou National Forest Park, Cyprus. Image: Hundredrooms

As one of the most picturesque beaches on the island of Cyprus, this national park is a spectacular place to take some incredible photos. Spanning 10km along the coast and covering 250 hectares of woodland, it is home to a large number of unique orchids with special characteristics.

For more about Europe, check out Lonely Planet’s Best in Europe guide.