National park holiday ideas

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Sophie Gackowski

Sophie Gackowski
HomeAway travel expert


Woodland in Plitvice LakesIt’s hard to write an article on Europe’s best National Parks. Not due to lack of inspiration, of course – there are 359 to choose from. And that’s the difficulty, really: a whole lot of beauty, and just one article to fit it into. 


Here, we take a look at five of Europe’s best, but also diverse, National Parks – covering bleak moors and mineral-rich lakes, cliff-clinging towns and Caribbean-like islands, finishing it all off with lava-laden landscapes. Feeling inspired? Read on.

 

 

Top five National Parks in Europe


   

Dartmoor National Park, England Dartmoor National Park, England

We had to start with one of our own, right? Well, not exactly – this choice has more to with sheer beauty than national pride. The 368 square miles that make up Dartmoor National Park are nothing short of cinematic: ponies roam wild on it sweeping, tawny moors; gurgling streams moisten already verdant, mossy rocks; and enormous tors (or granite hills) stand proud when turbulent, sleeting skies appear. Dartmoor National Park is arguably Devon’s most alien landscape, but something the entirety of Europe should be proud of. And speckled as it is with rustic cottages and warming pubs, it is, in short, an outstanding place to explore.

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Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Have your finger on the pulse of trending travel? Then you’ll know Plitvice Lakes has soared in popularity over recent years. Perhaps a little sad for those who wanted to keep it a secret; all the better for those of us who can now gaze upon, and help to protect, its majesty. A UNESCO World Heritage site, its 16 mineral-rich lakes have gradually meandered through the rocks, creating cascading waterfalls and trickling streams all the while. Aside from the flurry of butterflies here, its wooden bridges are some of the most photographed in the world. And at just two hours from Zadar, it’s now amazingly easy to take a day trip to the fairytale park.

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Cinque Terre National Park, Italy Cinque Terre National Park, Italy

A little different to the others on this list is Cinque Terre National Park – not big, bleak or brimming with rare wildlife, but just as beautiful. The ‘five lands’ cover just 15 square miles, but Monterosso and Manarola, Vernazza, Riomaggiore and Corniglia are awesome – and not in the overused sense of the word. Since they gained National Park status in 1997, not a single tourist trap, souvenir shop or vehicle has been allowed to pass their pastel-coloured houses (though Monterosso was already a little resort-like – you’ve been warned!). Clinging perilously to the cliffs, the man-made terraced vineyards slope down to deep-blue waters.

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Cíes Islands National Park, Spain Cíes Islands National Park, Spain

Made up of three islands – Monteagudo, Do Faro and San Martiño – the Cíes Islands are possibly Spain’s most enchanting. It wasn’t until 2000 that they were given National Park status, but since then, here are the rules: no watersports (though snorkelling is permitted); bring all rubbish back with you; only 2,200 people allowed to visit each day. It may seem like a tightly run ship, but all of these things help to protect its beauty. One of the country’s most important spots for wildlife, particularly birds, it’s also covered with white, sandy beaches. While it’s not possible to stay on the Cíes Islands, most take the 45-minute boat trip from Vigo.

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Teide National Park, Tenerife Teide National Park, Tenerife

Ok, ok – so we’ve technically given Spain two spaces on the list. But Teide is so grandiose that it’s hard not to pay it attention. And, for the same reason, it doesn’t really matter where you stay on holiday in Tenerife – it’s that big. It offers over 50 walking trails through its volcanic landscape, topped with El Teide itself, reaching 3,718 metres high (the highest in Spain). With 14 plants found nowhere else in the world, almost 1,000 archaeological sites pertaining to the Guanche people (many aren’t signposted to avoid you lot taking souvenirs...) and some of the world’s most alien geological structures – well, I don’t need to say any more.

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Holiday Homes Away From It All

Traditional farmhouse accommodation near Snowdon | Perthi-Uchaf

This traditional farmhouse accommodation is just outside Llanberis the popular tourist destination at the foot of Snowdon. A substantial detached property set within 3 acres of land the cottage is the perfect base to explore this mountainous regio...

Spacious Three Bedroom Holiday Cottage Near Criccieth | Dulwyn

Ideally located in a quiet rural location this spacious three bedroom holiday cottage near Criccieth is the perfect location for exploring the mountains of Snowdonia to the east as well as the beaches of the Llyn peninsula to the west. Two separat...

Two Bedroom North Wales Holiday Cottage | Derwin-Fawr

Derwin-Fawr is traditional detached two-bedroom North Wales holiday cottage on a working farm on the western edge of the Snowdonia National Park. It's central location allows guest to enjoy the mountains of Snowdonia as well as the famous sandy be...

Large Self Catering Cottage | Bennar Beach Dyffryn Ardudwy

Pastel painted garden furniture sits on a manicured lawn. Shaded from the midday sun by a clematis, hanging heavily on a nearby trellis. The borders are full of flowers and a noisy finch twitters angrily as I try to photograph it all for the websi...

Self Catering Barn Conversion with Sea Views | Cefn-Isaf

Cefn-Isaf, a self catering barn conversion with sea views, is located in a spectacular position on a Welsh mountain farm. Behind the cottage, ancient oak woodland stand bravely at the foot of the rugged slopes of the Rhinog mountains. In front, hi...

Quiet Country Holiday Cottage in Snowdonia North Wales| Tal-Y-Waun

This quiet country holiday cottage in Snowdonia is the perfect retreat for guests wanting to escape the noise of daily life. The original farmhouse together with the adjoining barn and dairy has been carefully and tastefully renovated to provide a...

This one bedroom self catering barn conversion in the Conwy is in an idyllic village location with country walks and a village pub right on your doorstep.

This one bedroom self catering barn conversion in the Conwy is in an idyllic village location with country walks and a village pub right on your doorstep. The use of natural materials and local skilled craftsmen has resulted in a renovation that i...

Old Priory Cottage, Dunster

Old Priory Cottage is a charming house, hidden from the road in a walled garden. It's in a unique and a very special setting - just a few minutes' walk from the High Street in Dunster and less than a stone's throw from some of Dunster's historic ...

Escape to this Anglesey cottage, explore the island and the lovely beaches

Ysgubor glyd holiday cottage, anglesey enjoys a tranquil countryside setting and offers the perfect base to explore this magical island and beyond. Be it a relaxing romantic break, a fun filled family holiday or a leisurely break amongst friends, ...

Fourteen, luxury hot tub cottage in historic Conwy.

Fourteen is a romantic haven set in the cobbled lanes of Conwy. Behind the sash-windowed cottage exterior, the style is crisp and modern, but deliciously comfortably and cosy; perfect for any season of the year. Everything you need for a luxurious...

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