Trying to discover the best national parks in Europe? Europe is a continent of stunning natural beauty, with some of the world’s most incredible national parks.
From the mountains of Austria to the sun-soaked trails of Portugal, there’s an incredible variety of landscapes and activities to explore. Whether you’re looking for a perfect day trip in nature from a European city or you want to explore a national park for a few days, we have you covered.
I asked some top travel bloggers who’ve travelled far and wide to recommend the best national parks in Europe and how to enjoy them with kids.
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Best National Parks in Finland
Finland is home to some of the most incredible national parks in Europe. From the pristine forests of Lapland to the shimmering waters of Koli, Finland’s stunning landscapes are sure to leave a lasting impression. My recent trip to Helsinki and Nuuksio national park inspired me to write this post. A city break doesn’t just have to be about seeing the major sights of a city, you can also stay a bit longer and use the city as a base to explore nearby national parks.
Nuuksio National Park
This beautiful park is often called ‘Finland in Miniature’ because of its diverse habitats, It’s a great way to get kids out and about in nature, with plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting, bird watching and relaxing walks through the park.
Nuuksio National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including elk, deer, foxes, and squirrels. Kids will love trying to spot these animals in their natural habitat, and there are several lookout points in the park where you can observe wildlife.
Nuuksio Reindeer park is the perfect place to visit with kids, where you can sip coffee and eat cinnamon buns in the tee-pee, learn about the reindeer and even try your hand at digging for amethyst.
If you want to experience Finnish culture and traditions, a Finnish hut experience is a great activity for families. You can rent a traditional Finnish hut in the reindeer park and even feed reindeer through your bedroom window!
Oulanka National park
Oulanka National Park is in the north of Finland and is adjacent to the Russian border. It can be reached from Kuusammo where the airport has flights to Helsinki, 900km to the south.
The National Park is made up of dense forest interspersed with wide lakes and fast flowing rivers that flow through deep gorges and over rapids.
This national park is probably best known for its wildlife including brown bears, the unique calypso orchid, brown trout, Siberian jays, and white-throated dippers.
In the winter months the national park is covered in a thick blanket of snow. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are the perfect ways to get out into the park. Both activities are great for families of all ages and allow you to really discover the park.
In the summer months there is an 80km hiking trail that runs north to south through the park. Wilderness huts allow you to complete the hike over multiple days or break it into small parts.
There are also shorter hikes through the woodlands, and it is possible to white-water raft on the rivers and kayak across the lakes.
Basecamp Oulanka is open year-round and is perfect for family stays. The accommodation is basic, but each room is a self-contained chalet with a communal restaurant area. They provide instructors for activities and hiking guides if you want to explore beyond the larger trails.
Recommended by Suzanne, Meandering Wild
Koli National Park
Finland, the land of thousands of lakes, is the place to visit if you want a vacation full of nature. If you are visiting Southern Finland and want a change of scenery, you must visit Koli National Park.
Koli may not be located in Southern Finland but in Eastern Finland, but it is only a 5-6h drive from Helsinki which is why it’s a perfect weekend destination plan. You can also grab the train to Joensuu from where it’s easy to take the bus to Koli.
Why visit Koli? It is beautiful during each season. During summer you will see the best lake views ever with many outdoor activities to be done. During winter it’s perfect if you wanna go downhill skiing/snowboarding or cross-country skiing.
It’s also a perfect destination for families as there are plenty of family activities to do. You can go sledding and ice skating during the winter season.
During the summer season, there are many spots to go fishing, mini golf, a farmyard zoo, a scenic lift, hiking, and more.
And there is a hotel (Sokos Hotel Koli), right on top of the hill, right by the national park, and the best views of Koli. This is the perfect spot for families as everything is close by.
Recommended by Ronja, Ronja Goes Abroad
National Parks in Germany
Germany has many national parks to explore. There is something for everyone. From romantic forests to rugged mountains and pristine lakes, Germany’s national parks offer an array of experiences that will captivate the senses and provide lasting memories.
The Black Forest is a well-known mountain range in the south wester of Germany, one of the best national parks in Europe.
With an area of about 6,000 square kilometers, it is the largest low mountain range in Germany. It offers a diverse landscape with dense forests, beautiful clear lakes and picturesque valleys.
Popular starting points for exploration are the city of Freiburg im Breisgau or even Basel, a Swiss city on the Rhine.
Some of the most famous highlights of the Black Forest are Lake Titisee, Lake Schluchsee and the Triberg Waterfalls.
Lake Titisee and Lake Schluchsee are both popular places to swim and renting boats, while the Triberg Waterfalls offer a breathtaking natural spectacle. Fantastic hiking trails for all fitness level are connecting the different natural highlights.
Families will especially love the Black Forest, as there are many activities suitable for children.
For example, the Feldberg, the 1493m highest peak offers a special family trail called “Wichtelpfad” or the picturesque Titisee has a water slide paradise. There are also many amusement parks and zoos that are ideal for a family outing, such as Europa-Park Rust, Vogelpark Steinen (bird park) and Affenberg
Recommended by Linda, Playing Outside
Jasmund National Park
Jasmund National Park is a small but gorgeous national park in northern Germany on the island of Rügen. Königsstuhl is the most well known part of the park where you can see dramatic white chalk cliffs that drop off to the sea.
For outdoor enthusiasts, there is a hiking trail from Sassnitz that hugs the coast and eventually takes you to the Jasmund National Park visitors center. The trail is roughly 10-11km and is steep with lots of ups and downs, so it’s not recommended for those who aren’t in good shape.
The visitors center has lots of kid-friendly info panels, videos, and activities for you to learn about the landscapes. There’s a lookout point just a few minutes from the visitors center, and a short trail beyond the bus parking lot.
These are great kid-friendly options for seeing the views without long hikes. Outside the building are a few food trucks where you can get sausages or other simple food for lunch.
If you’re not up for hiking from Sassnitz to the park, take the public bus from Sassnitz to the park. Private vehicles aren’t allowed near the visitors center at the national park.
Rügen is a popular destination for beach vacations as well as hiking and other nature activities. The island is a great weekend trip from Berlin or Hamburg, and you can reach several different towns by train. Binz is one of the cutest towns on the island, and Strandhaus Belvedere has hotel and apartment style options.
Recommended by Ali, Berlin Travel Tips
Saxon Switzerland National Park
Located in Eastern Germany, Saxon Switzerland National Park is one of the best national parks in Europe.
Known for its diverse scenery, from dense forests, steep rock formations, and the beautiful Elbe valley, there are many opportunities for hiking and exploring.
One of the best and most popular hikes in Saxon Switzerland National Park is the Bastei Bridge & Swedish Holes loop. The hike is 3.9 miles round trip and takes you up to the iconic Bastei Bridge that was built over 200 years ago.
The bridge is built in between tall, needle-like rock formations and offers some of the best views in Saxony overlooking the Elbe river.
While here, you can take a look around and explore the remains of the Neurathen Castle that was originally built on these rocks a few hundred years ago.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly hike, the Bastei Bridge hike is your best option, as it’s the quickest and easiest hike in the national park.
The best way to visit Saxon Switzerland National park is on a day trip from Gorlitz or from Dresden, Germany. The drive is between 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes from both of these cities and is easy to get to from either place. If you prefer to stay in the national park, then Berghotel Bastei is an excellent option.
Recommended by Jenoa, The Travel Folk
Western Pomerania Lagoon
The Western Pomerania Lagoon Area is one of the best national parks in Germany. It is a vast protected area that spans from the Darß-Zingst peninsula to Rügen.
The park covers an area of 786 square kilometers, of which over 80% is water. The park is home to a diverse range of plants and animals, including sea eagles, cranes, sea scorpions, and porpoises.
The different salinity levels of the park’s waters enable various species to thrive, creating a unique biodiversity. Visitors can explore the park through a network of well-marked hiking and biking trails.
Guided tours are also available, and several exhibitions offer detailed information about the park’s flora and fauna. In the autumn, bird lovers can enjoy the spectacle of around 60,000 cranes migrating through the park and stopping off to rest.
The park has several viewing platforms to observe these birds. National parks in Germany are large areas with an original natural landscape that is free from economic use and human influence.
The Western Pomerania Lagoon Area National Park is divided into two zones: the core zone, where nature is allowed to rule freely and human intervention is prohibited, and Zone II, which is to be preserved through special care and use.
Visitors are reminded to stay on marked paths, not disturb animals or take plants, and not enter the core zone except on designated paths.
The Western Pomerania Lagoon Area National Park is one of seven national parks in Northern Germany and is a unique natural paradise for visitors to explore.
Recommended by Elle, Only in Germany
National Parks in Portugal
Portugal is a country known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning natural landscapes.
With its diverse terrain of mountains, forests, and coastlines, Portugal boasts some of the most beautiful national parks in Europe, which offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures and family-friendly activities.
From hiking and cycling to wildlife watching and beach hopping, these national parks provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and a chance to immerse in nature. Here are the best national park in Portugal.
Serra Da Estrela National Park
Serra da Estrela National Park is a breathtaking natural park located in central Portugal that can be enjoyed as a day trip from Porto, or as a trip of its own.
Covering an area of approximately 101 thousand hectares, it is the largest protected area in Portugal and is a popular destination for nature lovers, hikers, and those seeking amazing sunsets.
It’s home to the highest peak in mainland Portugal – Torre – which stands at 1,993 meters above sea level and is uniquely accessible by paved roads.
It’s a popular spot all year around, but in winter it transforms into Portugal’s only ski field where you’ll find Portuguese families enjoying the minimal snowfall on homemade sledges.
The area is also famous for the traditional rural architecture of its mountain villages and the iconic “queijo da Serra,” a type of cheese made from sheep’s milk and only made in the Serra Da Estrela mountains. This can be bought from one of the many shops inside the market at the peak, along with local hams, wine and liquor.
There are many hikes of all lengths in the Serra Da Estrela National Park, a popular family friendly one being Rota do Poço do Inferno; a one hour loop that takes you past a waterfall (season permitting) and more stunning views.
Reccomended by Declan Officer, Officer Travels
Parque Natural da Arrábida
If you’re looking to escape the bustling city of Lisbon, a trip to Parque Natural da Arrábida is a fantastic choice. The national park is only a 40-minute drive from the city and a paradise for hikers and cyclists. The mountain range of Serra da Arrábida offers stunning views, and there are many sights to discover.
Examples are the Convent of Our Lady of Arrábida, Forte de Santa Maria da Arrábida, and Lapa de Santa Margarida.
Kids will love stunning beaches like Praia de Galapinhos and Praia da Figueirinha. For experienced hikers, a visit to Praia dos Penedos is not to be missed.
One of the highlights of your trip to Parque Natural da Arrábida might be the bottleneck dolphins that live off the coast!
Boat tours leave the town of Setúbal daily, and people even spot them from their kayaks! Setúbal is also a lovely place to stay overnight. Cafofos da Zeta is a family-friendly accommodation in the historical centre of Setúbal. The property has a car park, so you can easily venture out again the next day to explore more of Parque Natural da Arrábida. Tip: don’t forget to visit the town of Azeitão! It’s a wine lovers paradise!
Recommended by Marga, Discover Portugal
National Parks in the UK
The United Kingdom is a country of stunning natural beauty, rich in history and culture, and home to some of the best national parks in the world.
From the rolling hills of the Peak District to the rugged landscapes of Snowdonia. Here are the best national parks in the UK.
The Peak District
The Peak District was the first national park in the UK, and today it is still one of the most visited. It is located within five counties, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester. It is also within a four hour drive of 80% of the UK population making it is the most accessible national park in the UK.
From mountain biking to rock climbing, paragliging, caving and hiking, the Peak District is full of outdoor activities to keep the whole family busy.
Some of the best walks in the Peak District include hiking to the highest point, Kinder Scout (636m), and the beautiful Mam Tor, also known as Shivering Mountain.
There are also some of the best show caves and caverns in the country, such as Speedwell Cavern, Peak Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern.
The city of Sheffield is only 10 minutes drive from the entry point to the National Park so it is easy to base yourself there, but there are plenty of beautiful villages in the National Park that are worth visiting such as Castleton in Hope Valley
It is home to the 11th century ruins of Peveril Castle, one of England’s earliest Norman fortresses, and is a good place to experience a traditional afternoon tea or a pub lunch after a day exploring the hills.
Recommended by Roshni, thewanderlustwithin.com
New Forest National Park, UK
New Forest is a quintessentially British destination featuring free-roaming animals, soaring pine trees, cosy pubs, fantastic restaurants, chocolate box villages, and thatched cottages that look straight out of a postcard.
New Forest is primarily known for hiking and biking and there are lots of trails for all abilities.
There are quite a few rental companies to pick up bikes with many offering a carousel for younger kids. Cycling through the pine trees seeing lots of wildlife is incredible. Not to mention stopping at cute country restaurants to refuel along the way.
Boat trips are another great activity. One of them is a river cruise along the 12-mile Beaulieu River which is nice on a summers.
There are plenty of playgrounds and campgrounds in New Forest. In fact the campsites are often the best place to stay since it’s possible to see the herds of infamous wild horse.
It’s not uncommon to see tens of them wander past.
The tall trees trail off Ornamental Drive is ideal for families with kids. With giant Redwood and Sequoia surrounding the area, take a picnic to admire the surroundings.
Explore Beaulieu Village, Exbury Gardens and Moors Valley Country Park. Another great attraction Little Beaulieu which is not the same thing as the village. It’s actually a very cute theme park.
Recommended by Karen, Travel Mad Mum
Lake District National Park
A fantastic destination to visit in Europe is the Lake District, the second-largest National Park in the United Kingdom. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is great to see on a day trip from Manchester. It features spectacular mountains, waterfalls, lakes, and the largest common grazing system in all of Europe.
One of the best things to do in the Lake District is to climb England’s tallest peak – Scaffel Pike. However, if you are not an avid hiker, there are plenty of other activities such as taking a cruise on Windermere or exploring Wray Castle.
Lake District is also home to one of the oldest stone monuments in England. Castlerigg Stone Circle dating back to 3200 BC is set in picturesque scenery and is free to visit. It is located just a short drive from Keswick where travelers can also visit amazing museums such as Puzzling Place.
Keswick has some of the best accommodations in the Lake District with over 300 family-friendly hotels. If you want to stay nearby Keswick, Borrowdale Gates Hotel offers sweeping views of Lake District National Park. Moreover, it is surrounded by beautiful bodies of water such as Derwentwater, Thirlmere, or Crummock Water, offering an unforgettable trip to England.
Recommended by Paulina, UK Every Day
Covering over 519 sq miles of unspoilt Welsh countryside, the Brecon Beacons is without a doubt one of the most stunning national parks in Europe.
It is the perfect place for an outdoor escape for all ages, offering gentle walks, mountain hikes and animal encounters, to cascading waterfalls and traditional Welsh villages to explore. Hikers and walkers visiting the Brecon Beacons will enjoy the challenge of climbing the highest mountain in South Wales –
Pen-Y-Fan, or taking a more gentle stroll around Llangorse Lake with its fabled connections to the mighty King Arthur! A gentler pursuit is to glide along the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal on a traditional Welsh canal boat or hop aboard a steam train ride on the Brecon railway.
Horse riding through the countryside is an excellent way to see the Brecons off the beaten track. And for those wanting an unusual animal encounter, forget llama-trekking; in the Brecon Beacons, it’s all about the sheep. Trekking with sheep is a fun activity to try in Wales and one the kids will love!
The Brecon Beacons can be reached from Cardiff, Swansea or Bristol as a day trip.
For families, a stay at the Castle of Brecon comes out #1 on Booking.com
Recommended by Angela. Where Angie Wanders Blog
Yorkshire Dales National Park
The Yorkshire Dales National Park is a stunning landscape of rolling hills, lush valleys, and dramatic cliffs.
Located in the North of England, it is easily accessible from either York, Leeds or Manchester, and makes for an ideal day trip or longer holiday destination.
With its unique combination of natural beauty and easy access to nearby towns and villages, it’s no wonder that the Yorkshire Dales has become one of Britain’s most popular national parks.
From scenic hikes with spectacular natural views such as the famous Malham circular walk to exploring historic ruins and discovering hidden waterfalls, there are plenty of activities suitable for families visiting the Dales.
For those looking for something extra special, why not try a guided tour on horseback or take part in an outdoor adventure activity such as rock climbing or kayaking? A visit to the Yorkshire Dales can be as relaxing or adrenaline filled as you desire!
And if you’re planning to stay overnight then look no further than Masons Campsite in Appletreewick. This family-friendly campsite is tucked away on a picturesque riverside with breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Masons offer many accommodation options from camping to unique glamping getaways.
The site has fantastic facilities including bathrooms, showers, firepits, shop, breakfast cafe and more. You can also visit the traditional English pub, The Craven Arms, just a short walk away for a hearty evening meal.
Recommended by Hannah. Get Lost Travel Blog
Undeniably one of the Best National Parks in Europe is Dartmoor, England.
Situated in the South West of the country, Dartmoor covers 368 square miles and is absolutely breathtaking!
It’s nearest city is Plymouth and it’s easily Dartmoor is easily accessible from Plymouth, it’s nearest city, by car and can take just a 15 minute drive depending on location.
There are two notable hikes that you absolutely must try out. One around Burrator Reservoir where you can walk the circumference and take in the beautiful views of this huge body of water from all angles. You’ll also get to see a 19th century dam which is beautiful!
The other is the hike up to Avon Reservoir Dam. Once you get to the top you’ll realise how absolutely stunning this place is. You can even walk across the dam if you fancy some more exploring!
What makes Dartmoor National Park so unique is it’s landscapes. Whilst it’s mostly low lying vegetation, there’s absolutely tons you can see on your hike.
From cascading streams to wild deer and ponies, Dartmoor is a great day out for the family or for those that love the great outdoors and enjoy feeling the wind in your hair. During your hike and at the summit, you’ll have the opportunity to see for miles and miles making it truest a great experience!
If you’re looking for something extra special to do, why not stop for lunch and a traditional Devonian pub for a classic steak or some fish and chips!!
Recommended by Alex and Leah, Alex & Leah On Tour
Please see my submission for your collab below and a photo of Snowdonia attached. Let me know if you need anything else. Thanks
Snowdonia National Park in North Wales is an area of outstanding natural beauty within the UK. You not only have the highest mountain in Wales, Mount Snowdon, but you also have awe-inspiring landscapes everywhere you look.
Snowdonia spans over 823 square miles and is dotted with around 100 lakes. If you’re an active family then you will revel in the mountainous landscapes and the rambling opportunities across the public fields. Tackle some of the hiking trails, including Mount Snowdon itself.
If this is a step too far then catch the unique Snowdon mountain railway to the summit instead and admire the sweeping views across Wales.
Another activity that you can enjoy with the kids is the Zip World Caverns. If you’re adventurous and your kids are 7 years or older then tackling the obstacles of the underground Welsh caverns should be on your bucket list. This is truly not for the fainthearted!
There are ample lodges around Snowdonia that make for great family holidays, or you can stay in Bets-y-Coed, a quaint Welsh village nearby.
Recommended by Kerry Reed, Adrenaline Junkiez
National Parks in Ireland
Ireland is a land of breathtaking natural beauty, steeped in history and culture, and home to some of the most stunning national parks in the world.
From the rugged coastlines of the Wild Atlantic Way to the rolling hills of the Wicklow Mountains, these parks offer the perfect opportunity to explore the great outdoors and experience the natural wonders of Ireland.
Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park in Ireland is one of the best national parks in Europe and is very family-friendly. Located in the southwest corner of the Emerald Isle, the national park is one of the best things to do from Killarney itself.
Spread across more than 10,000 hectares, the Killarney National Park contains many things to see and do and it is split by the iconic Rong of Kerry circular route, a popular destination in Ireland for visitors, especially during summer.
The landscape is a mixture of mountains and valleys, one of which is the famous Gap of Dunloe where you can take a jaunting car ride with the kids.
The park also boasts three lakes, contains the beautiful Torc Waterfall, and is also where you will find Muckross House and Abbey, and Ross Castle, a great place for kids to explore.
You can visit parts of the national park on foot or by bicycle from Killarney or you can delve further into the park by car. Hiking is also a popular activity in the park during summer.
And if you are looking for a family-friendly hotel, the Hotel Killarney is a good choice. It has a playground, indoor soft play, a pool, and other great amenities for families.
By Cath, Travel Around Ireland
Wicklow Mountains National Park, Ireland
Located about an hour south of Dublin is Wicklow National Park, home to the almost mystical Wicklow Mountains. The area is popular with travelers from across Ireland and around the world because of its beautiful views, proximity to Dublin, and its thru-hiking trail, the Wicklow Way.
The most iconic spot within Wicklow National Park is undoubtedly Lake Glendalough, a glacial lake that is nestled into a valley in the mountains.
The Spinc trail is the most popular hiking trail in the park and it offers views from alongside and above the lake. After you’ve explored the lake, you can walk or drive to an adjoining set of monastic ruins that includes a stone tower and many Celtic funerary stones.
There are plenty of wonderful places to stay in Wicklow, but families will particularly love Croneybyrne Courtyard. At Croneybyrne, the rentals are fully outfitted cottages with plenty of space for kids to spread out and easy hikes within a 5-10 minute drive of the property.
As a bonus, the Clara Lara Funpark – a small adventure park with canoeing, go karts, and barbecue pits for cookouts – is located just up the road.
If you have a few days to spend in the Wicklow Mountains, try exploring some of the hidden gems nearby. You can walk through hillsides covered in heather on Trooperstown, a small mountain near Croneybyrne, or stroll through the Vale of Clara Woods.
Contributed by Amber from Amber Everywhere
National Parks in Poland
Poland is a country of diverse landscapes, ranging from the towering peaks of the Tatra Mountains to the tranquil lakes of the Masurian Lakeland.
It is home to several stunning national parks that offer a glimpse into the natural beauty and cultural heritage of this fascinating country. Here are the BEST national parks in Poland!
Bieszczady National Park
Bieszczady National Park, located in southeastern Poland, is one of the country’s most beautiful and pristine natural reserves. It covers an area of over 292 square kilometers and is home to diverse wildlife, breathtaking landscapes, and cultural heritage sites.
Its varied landscape includes vast forests, rolling hills, mountain ranges, and meandering rivers. Visitors can explore the park’s natural wonders by hiking through its many trails, which range from easy walks to more challenging treks.
For those looking to take a day trip, the park is easily accessible by car from Rzeszow which has an international airport. Families with children can enjoy wildlife watching, bird watching, and guided tours of the park’s cultural sites.
Many of the park’s hiking trails are quite long, but for families with children the Berezki-Koliba Studencka Trail is about a 2 hour hike that takes you through forested areas.
For older kids who love to hike, the Wolosate Tarnica Trail will take about 4 hours and take you to the highest peak in the mountains.
Bieszczady National Park also has the Ustrzyki Dolne Ecological Education Center which is great for families with children to learn about this magnificent national park.
Recommended by Diana, Travels in Poland
Tatra National Park
Tatra National Park is located in the Tatra Mountains in southern Poland. The whole area is divided into two parts: High & Western Tatras.
High Tatras are best known for their mighty high peaks, alpine lakes, and glacial valleys. On the other hand, Western Tatras are a little lower in elevation and known for picturesque valleys and hills, dense forests, and lovely meadows. This spectacular area with countless breathtaking views is home to a diverse range of landscapes, among which everybody will find something for themselves.
There are about 250 kilometers of marked trails in Tatra National Park. Trails vary in length, elevation gain, and difficulty and go through flat valleys, hills, and mountains with the highest summit Rysy reaching a height of 2499m a.s.l.
Tatra National Park is a must-visit destination for families who love spending time in nature. Besides going up on trails they can watch highlanders (pl. górale) grazing sheep in valleys and taste local specialties made from their milk (like oscypek, bundz, or zyntyca).
They can also take the cable car to Kasprowy Wierch to enjoy stunning views from above without getting tired, or take a long walk to Morskie Oko, a stunning alpine lake. There are also plenty of attractions in the local town, Zakopane.
There are many things to do and see in the area, so we recommend planning a visit for at least one week, best more. There is a very good bus or train connection from Kraków (where the closest airport is located) to Zakopane. Nosal Apartment is a great choice for families, located in a quiet area close to the center.
Recommended by Sonia , Happy Little Traveler
National Parks in Croatia
Croatia is famous worldwide for its stunning green national parks. Here are the BEST national parks in Croatia for your next family adventure.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest and largest national park in Croatia. With exceptional natural beauty, it’s counted among the most beautiful national parks in the world.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice features 16 greenish-blue terraced lakes interconnected by about 90 beautiful waterfalls stretching into a deep limestone canyon with cliffs.
The network of 16 lakes forms two groups-upper (12) and lower lakes(4).
The national park is part of the Dinarides karst region, deemed one of the most impressive karst landscapes in the world. The hydrological, geological, and geomorphological traits set apart the landscape.
The park offers eight hiking trails ranging from 4 km to 18 km. Programs A, B, and C start at entrance one, while programs E, F, and H (reverse of A, B, and C) start at entrance two, and Program K takes you through the entire length of the park.
While you wend your way through the wooden walkways over the crystal-clear streams, don’t forget to stop by beautiful lookout points.
Crossing over little wooden bridges stopping in between to see tiny fishes swimming in the streams beneath them, and boating on the lake, kids love every moment at this stunning national park.
Less than 2 hours away, you can easily explore Plitvice Lakes as a day trip from Zagreb. However, I’d recommend spending a day or two in or near Plitvice Lakes to embrace the unparalleled natural beauty at leisure.
Ethno House is one of the most beautiful and unique family-friendly properties near Plitvička Jezera National Park.
Contributed by Anjali of Travel Melodies
Kornati National Park
Kornati National Park in Croatia, often called simply Kornati Islands, is a fascinating group of islands in Croatia. Located in the Dalmatian region and is a famous destination for day trips from Zadar.
The NP is covering an area of approximately 320 km2 along the coast, this is a natural jewel. Due to its stunning beauty, numerous islands and unspoiled underwater environment, this national park is a real highlight under the best national parks in Europe.
It was established in 1980 and now consists of 89 islands and reefs. These beautiful islands form the largest and at the same time the densest island group in the entire Croatian Adriatic Sea! The scenery is especially striking, with droplet-shaped islands of pale limestone and the deep blue sea creating a picture-perfect setting.
The largest island in the Kornati National Park is Kornat. Kornat means crown, and it is also the namesake of the National Park. The islands in the Kornati National Park are strictly protected, a guarantee that this natural jewel will be preserved for a long while. Not only the 89 islands, but also the sea and underwater ecosystem are part of the park.
The best way to explore Kornati National Park is by boat. Boat tours are available from many resorts on the mainland.
Recommended by Martina, Places of Juma
National Parks in Spain
Spain is a country known for its rich cultural heritage, stunning beaches, and vibrant cities.
But did you know that it is also home to some of the most beautiful national parks in Europe? From the snow-capped peaks of Picos de Europa to the rugged coastlines of Andalusia, Spain’s national parks offer visitors the chance to explore breathtaking natural landscapes and get up close with the country’s unique flora and fauna.
Here are the best national parks in Spain.
Sierra Nevada National Park
Sierra Nevada National Park in Spain is one of the best national parks in Europe. Home to the southernmost ski resort in Europe in winter and the highest peak in mainland Spain, the national park boasts incredible hiking opportunities in the summer.
There are spectacular waterfall hikes like Vereda de la Estrella and hard multi-day hikes where you can climb several of the 3000-meter peaks that are in the park.
There are several shelters both staffed where you must book in advanced and simple shelters without facilities where you can stay for free.
The most epic family hike, however, is Cahorros de Monachil where you cross multiple hanging bridges, waterfalls, and balance on the edge of the ravine holding on to metal handles in the rock wall (do not panic, it is only about a meter down) and some places you must crawl under the rock wall as it bends out above the path.
You are better off wearing a flexible pair of leggings for hiking or shorts for this hike, as you will be moving around in every possible way.
Around the national park, there are many charming white villages to stay or you can book a hotel in Granada city like the Hotel Macià Granada Five Senses
Recommended by Linn Haglund, Andalucia Hiking
Picos de Europa
One of the best National Parks in Europe is tucked away in northern Spain, the Picos de Europa National Park. This is one of Spain’s first national parks and includes the three autonomous communities of Cantabria, Asturias, and Castille and León.
This National Park is unique, as it has high mountains peaks, but is only 15 miles from the Bay of Biscay.
The Picos de Europa is best accessed with a car. Two popular gateway cities are the seaside city of Santander and inland from Oviedo. Both cities offer bus connections in the summer months.
The Picos de Europa is so diverse. The park boasts hilltop villages, unique regional cuisine, Roman bridges, and impressive basilicas.
Natural treasures include limestone mountains, alpine lakes, river valleys, and deep gorges. With so much diversity, the Picos de Europa is perfect for families and adventure travelers.
The Picos de Europa is home to endless hiking trails. Trails are casual day hikes to multi-day treks in the high mountains. The most famous trail in the Picos de Europa is the Cares Gorge hike.
Since the park is spread across three regions, there are many places to stay. Families should look at staying in the village of Arenas de las Cabrales, which has an interactive cheese farm, is close to numerous hiking trails, and has tons of accommodation options.
Recommended by Megan, Packing Up the Pieces
Other AMAZING National Parks in Europe
National Park of Royal North Sealand
The National Park of Royal North Sealand – or Kongernes Nordsjælland in Danish – is just to the north of Copenhagen, making it an incredibly easy and worthwhile trip from the Danish capital.
As Denmark’s second largest national park, there’s a ton to see and do here for all ages. The area was actually originally a hunting ground established by King Christian V of Denmark from 1670 onwards, now known as Store Dyrehave (the Great Deer Park) and home to Denmark’s largest deer population.
These beautiful animals continue to roam the criss-cross of paths throughout the park, making it very easy to spot them as you explore.
And these paths extend well into Gribskov, one of Denmark’s largest forests that also forms part of the National Park. Here, you’ll see towering oaks that, with the soft light filtering through, seem to create the fairy tale environment that Denmark’s most famous son, Hans Christan Andersen, may have been inspired by.
There are great hiking trails in Gribskov, although a better way to see more of the area if you’re short on time is to take a day trip from Copenhagen with bikes (if you’re just visiting, there are plenty of bike hire shops in the cycle friendly city). Jump on the train to Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød, an impressively large Renaissance castle that towers over a lake.
From there, you have various ways you can go, whether it’s cycle route 105 through the Gribskov forest or cycle route 110 to Store Dyrehave and back.
Whichever option you choose, this National Park is a great day trip from Copenhagen with an amazing combination of history and nature.
Recommended by Astrid, Seek Scandinavia
Thingviller National Park, Iceland
One of the best national parks in Europe is the unique Thingvellir National Park in Iceland. It’s located in a rift valley where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. You can literally walk between two continents (or snorkel in the Silfra fissure between the plates).
The park is home to other geological wonders as well – including lava fields and geysers. Visitors to Thingvellir National Park can easily spend a full day exploring.
From hiking the trails to seeing waterfalls, the park has something for everyone to enjoy. Many of the paths are paved, making them easy for kids to navigate.
The park is also a significant part of Icelandic history.
The park was home to the Althing, which is one of the oldest parliaments in the world, dating back to 930 AD. It represented the whole of Iceland and continued to meet every year until 1798.
If you’re spending three days in Reykjavik, it’s easy to take a day trip to Thingvellir.
It’s located only 40 km (about 25 miles) from the capital city. Thingvellir National Park is also part of Iceland’s golden circle. The Reykjavik Marina Hotel is located in the heart of the city and a great place for families to stay.
Recommended by Pamela, The Directionally Challenged Traveler
Cinque Terre National Park
Cinque Terre National Park is located in Liguria, Italy, and covers approximately 4,300 acres.
The park was established in 1999 and includes the five stunning villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
These villages are perched on rugged cliffs and contain colorful houses and beautiful vineyards overlooking a dramatic coastline.
Many people spend a few days exploring all the villages in Cinque Terre, but it is also an easy day trip from Florence! Families can enjoy delicious food (it is the birthplace of pesto, after all!), beautiful beaches perfect for swimming, and hikes across the five villages providing breathtaking views.
The Blue trail spans the five villages, with the most popular hikes being from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza and Manarola to Riomaggiore. This itinerary will help you plan your hikes. Don’t forget to stay for the sunset in Riomaggiore!
Families usually opt to stay in Monterosso al Mare since it has the biggest beaches, making it perfect for kids to roam and play. Hotel Pasquale is the recommended accommodation for families. It provides stunning views and is one of the few hotels with access to a private beach.
Overall, Cinque Terre National Park is unique and a must-see for anyone heading to Italy and looking for beautiful nature combined with Italian charm!
Butrint National Park
One of the smaller and more unique national parks in Europe, Butrint is a 29 km-squared National Park in Southern Albania that is home to ruins from the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Venetians.
It is believed that the Greeks originally settled in Butrint sometime around the 6th Century B.C. They made the journey by boat from nearby Corfu, which is why visiting Butrint National Park is today one of the most popular Corfu to Albania day trips to embark on.
The site, which spans an impressive 2500 years of history, is set on a section of the Albanian Riviera – a beautiful coastline that has earned Albania its nickname of being the ‘Thailand of Europe’.
Despite being relatively small, Butrint National Park encompasses an impressive array of terrains, including freshwater lakes, wetlands, salt marshes and islands. Perhaps the highlight of the National Park however is something entirely man made, the Venetian Castle that sits proudly on top of the hill in the centre of Butrint.
The nearby Saranda Palace is the best place to stay as a family near Butrint, thanks to its affordable prices, outdoor swimming pool and spacious family rooms. The hotel is found in the larger town of Saranda, which is only a 20-minute drive from the National Park. View the best things to do in Saranda here.
What it lacks in size, Butrint more than makes up for in history and intrigue, making it one of the most fascinating national parks in Europe to visit.
Recommended by Ben from Ticket 4 Two Please
National Park Zuid-Kennemerland, Netherlands
Zuid-Kennemerland National Park is one of the 21 national parks in the Netherlands. It is located about 20 kilometers west of Amsterdam, making it a perfect destination for a day trip from the Dutch capital
The landscape of National Park Zuid-Kennemerland is quite diverse, it has sand dunes, beaches, forests, lakes, and heathland. You can enjoy the park from one of the many hiking trails. When you’re hiking you will come across various viewpoints, offering beautiful views.
You also occasionally pass memorial monuments from World War II, making it an educational park as well. Recommended hiking trails are the blue trail to Parnassia Beach and the Yellow Trail called Bleek & Berg.
Other fun activities include cycling, swimming in one of the beautiful dune lakes, and wildlife watching. in addition to a lot of different bird species, you might also encounter deer, wild horses, foxes, and Scottish Highlanders when you’re exploring the park. If you’re lucky, you can even see wisents (European bison)!
One of the best places to stay near the park is Poort Beach Boutique Apartments, which is located on the beach.
Recommended by Jacoba, Travel with Co
Bucegi Natural Park, Romania
Bucegi National Park is one of the most popular places in the Carpathian Mountains, in Romania. It is a protected area because of its outstanding beauty, as well as the wildlife living here.
The park is quite large, stretching over three different counties in Romania.
There are several different attractions that tourists with children would enjoy in Bucegi.
Firstly, the park is home to Bucegi plateau where you can find two rocks that have been sculpted by the winds over centuries, to resemble shapes.
One of them is called “Babele” (representing a group of old ladies) and the second one is called the “Sphinx” (it is similar with the Sphinx in Egypt, but entirely natural). You can reach the plateau from Busteni by cable car.
Another great place to visit with children is Bran Castle, often referred to as Dracula’s Castle, which is at the edge of the park.
Here you can also try a typical Romanian cheese that is only made in this area, which is smoked and then preserved in fir bark.
There are plenty of trails around the Bucegi National Park. It is recommended to always check the difficulty of the trail and never attempt hiking without proper shoes.
Also, pay attention to the wildlife. The Bucegi National Park is home to bears, lynxes, deer, wild boars, and the protected black mountain goat.
On the cliffs of the Bucegi mountains you can also see one of the most delicate flowers in Romania, which is protected by law and can’t be picked up, the edelweiss.
The best places to base yourself to explore this beautiful Romanian park are Sinaia, Busteni, or Brasov.
Recommended by Joanna, The World in My Pocket
Read More: Bucharest with Kids City Break Guide
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Hohe Tauern, Austria
The Hohe Tauern National Park is the largest natural park in Austria, and it is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The area is about 1,856 square kilometers large and sprawls across 3 regions, Carinthia, Salzburg, and Tyrol.
Over 300 glaciers can be found in this area, making it the longest continues glaciated area in the eastern alps.
The most famous glacier is the Pasterze glacier, which is situated below the highest peak of Austria, the Großglockner mountain.
The Grossglockner high alpine road in Austria leads from Fusch, near Bruck, to the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe, where you can see the Pasterze glacier and the highest peak of Austria.
Various exhibitions about the Eco-sphere and biodiversity can be visited along the way. A 30-minute-long trail leads down to the Pasterze glacier, where visitors can see the drastic changes and glacier melt over the ages.
Many other hiking trails in the area promise an adventurous experience close to nature. Alpine ibex, marmots and golden eagle can be seen.
The most beautiful period to visit is in spring, when the road has been freed from meter high snow layers and rare spring flowers are blossoming. The best place to stay overnight in the area is either in a family-friendly locally run 4-star hotel in Fusch or in Heiligenblut.
Other stunning places in the area, that should be added to an itinerary, are Zell am See, Bad Gastein and Kaprun. The next best airport is located in Salzburg city, about an hour from Fusch. So, everything is close by making this a perfect place for families with kids.
Recommended by Marina Helene and Paul, Paulmarina Travel
Triglav National Park
Located in the northwestern part of Slovenia, Triglav National Park is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places in Europe. The park is named after its highest peak, Mount Triglav, which stands at 2,864 meters and is the highest point in Slovenia.
The country’s only national park, Triglav is best known for its unique geology – with sharp peaks, deep valleys, and crystal-clear lakes that reflect the surrounding mountains.
Encompassed in the park, the Julian Alps are a range of mountains renowned for their jagged mountains and dramatic rock formations.
An ideal summer destination for outdoor enthusiasts, you’ll find some of Slovenia’s best hikes in Triglav, including the Vintgar Gorge, a breathtaking trek through a ravine carved out by the Radovna River.
The gorge is an easy hike with kids, and is just a few kilometers from the popular Lake Bled resort town where you can stay at Hotel Park for an ideal family getaway.
While Vintgar Gorge can easily be hiked as a day trip from Lake Bled or Ljubljana, you’ll want to give yourself at least 2 days to explore the rest of the park. Drive the Vršič Pass, the highest road in Slovenia, and admire the rocky mountain peaks as you navigate through them.
Whether you’re hiking in the Julian Alps, paddling on a glacial lake, or exploring the park from the comfort of your car, Triglav National Park is a stunning natural treasure that is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Recommended by Melissa, parenthood and Passports
Don’t forget to plan ahead when visiting the National Parks in Europe
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Sylvie Simpson is the founder of European Cities with Kids. For the past 6 years, she has been travelling all over Europe whenever she has the chance, both solo, for work and with her daughter. Sylvie is on a mission to help people make the most of city breaks in Europe with kids and helps over 50,000 readers per month plan and make the most of their trips in Europe with kids.