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The best national parks in Europe

Europe is home to a constellation of spectacular national parks, some of them UNESCO world heritage sites. Grab your boots, we're leaving!

Europe offers numerous destinations where lovers of adventure tourism and nature can enjoy wonderful national parks that everyone should visit at least once in their life. From the icy beauty spots of Iceland to the voluptuous scenery of Croatia and the gorgeous greenery of Asturias, the continent is home to a natural heritage that is not only perfect for sports lovers (who will have fun rising to the challenges posed by nature) but for photography enthusiasts as well, because all of these places offer stunning landscapes and magnificent views.

1. Picos de Europa (Spain)

Asturias has the highest peaks of the Cantabrian range, a winding, breathtaking landscape of limestone mountains flanked by endless green meadows. It also boasts little villages like Amieva, Cabrales, Cangas de Onís, Onís and Peñamellera Baja, all of which also happen to offer some excellent places to eat.

How to get there: Fly direct to Oviedo, drive for just under an hour to Cangas de Onís and from there take a bus to the Lakes of Covadonga, one of the most beautiful parts of the Picos de Europa.

2. Cinque Terre (Italy)

This little national park, one of the most beautiful in Italy, is often eclipsed by the Gran Paradiso (in the Aosta Valley and Piedmont regions) and the Gargano National Park in Puglia, to mention just some of the country's best-loved natural treasures. Located in La Spezia, Liguria, Cinque Terre covers an area of 3,800 hectares and is formed by five villages that are well worth visiting (and taking lots of photos, because the little coloured houses that tumble down to the sea and the sheer authenticity they ooze are truly irresistible).

Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare are five must-see places on your route through this landscape where sea and mountains combine to create stunning vistas that will take your breath away. They are all UNESCO world heritage sites and they all offer numerous activities that you can do nearby: hiking (the 47-kilometre Sciacchetrail is the most popular route in the park), water sports, canoeing, diving, and much more.

How to get there: The best option is to fly to Genoa, which is barely an hour and 20 minutes by road to Cinque Terre.

3. Plitvice Lakes (Croatia)

Croatia is a fascinating country with numerous tourist attractions, from coastal towns that represent the essence of the Mediterranean to the fairy-tale landscapes you'll discover as you travel through the country. For example, the Plitvice Lakes offer a genuine natural spectacle in the form of waterfalls, forests, rivers, streams, and no less than 16 lakes. The beauty of this place can't be overstated, it's like the idea we all have of paradise. You'll want to say goodbye to the hustle and bustle and daily grind and stay here forever.

How to get there: You have two options: fly to Split, in Croatia, a little over two hours from the Plitvice Lakes, or alternatively fly to Zagreb, approximately the same distance from the lakes.

4. Snæefellsjökull (Islandia)

Es difícil no enamorarse de Islandia nada más aterrizar en Reikiavik, pues es un país diferente al resto, donde diversos tipos de paisajes se van sucediendo casi como si fuesen diapositivas, un lugar con una luz inconfundible donde todo es plácido y hermoso. El parque natural de Snæfellsjökull es un prodigio de 170 kilómetros cuadrados que cuenta con cuevas, glaciares (uno de ellos inspiró a Julio Verne en su Viaje al centro de la Tierra), senderos, cascadas y una sucesión de paisajes entre apocalípticos y paradisíacos sin parangón en el mundo.

Cómo llegar: ¡Muy fácil! Ya puedes reservar un vuelo a Reikiavik y aprovechar también para disfrutar de esta capital vibrante y cosmopolita.

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