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

Cottages In Pickering & North York Moors.

2 x 1 bedroom cottages (sleeps 2 each), 2 bedroom cottage (sleeps 5) and 3 bedroom cottage (sleeps 7). Rawcliffe House Farm offers self catering holiday cottages in Pickering & our self catering studio rooms in the North York Moors. Both the self ...

Keepers Cottage

Overview: Keepers Cottage set in charming surrey is a crisp, modern 6 bedroom country house. The bright, generously proportioned accommodation of over 4000sq ft of principal living space, offers the perfect holiday home for exploring the South Ea...

Tower Gatehouse

A luxury award winning period property, built in the time of Edward I, built approximately 1270. The first historical mention is in 1307 when Bogo de Knovil died and his estate reverted to the Crown. So this Grade II medieval hideaway boasts seven...

Valley Cottage

Valley Cottage is a self catering cottage located in an incredibly secluded valley directly under the Black Mountains near the famous booktown Hay-on-Wye. There is no noise pollution or light pollution and it is completely void of any mobile netwo...

Idyllic Luxury Retreat In Derbyshire

Adjoining the owner's house this attractive cottage has been fully refurbished to an exceptionally high standard offering a comfortable relaxing environment for that all important break.The property is surrounded by magnificent views within the N...

Luxury Holiday Cottage Complex South Devon indoor pool, playrooms, nr beach

Higher Bowden holiday cottages are luxury self-catering holiday cottages in Devon suitable for all the family set within a complex in a spectacular rural setting of 6.5 acres - a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. The cottages are loca...

Samphire Cottage - a coastal that sleeps 6 guests in 3 bedrooms

Samphire Cottage is a very pretty seaside property, less than 100m from the seafront , located on the edge of the Conservation Area. This comfortable, well-presented cottage sleeps six with a dining room, downstairs cloakroom and kitchen diner wh...

A pretty coastal fisherman's cottage in the pretty village of Kingsdown

Myrtle Cottage is a lovely cosy holiday home, located in the heart of Kingsdown village and walking distance from the beach. The moment you walk through the white picket fence your perfect holiday begins...whether you are looking for a romantic br...

148 Middle Street - a coastal that sleeps 6 guests in 2 bedrooms

148 Middle Street has been beautifully restored by the owners to a very high standard providing a wonderful haven where you can escape reality, relax and unwind. It is an idyllic romantic getaway for couples and can also accommodate small families...

The Queach Z45, traditional, stone and slate cottage with stunning sea views

150 yards up from Mousehole’s bustling little centre of shops, pubs, cafés and pretty harbour is The Queach, a very traditional, stone and slate cottage with stunning right-out-to-sea views. A few granite steps and a pretty bit of front garden rai...
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