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

CROYDE BARNCOTT | 4 BEDROOMS | CROYDE | SLEEPS 9

CROYDE BARNCOTT OVERVIEW Situated in the very heart of Croyde village, BARNCOTT is a wonderfully featured property just a ten minute stroll from the beach. It is presented in a country cottage style, featuring wood-beamed ceilings, flagstone floo...

BUCKS MILLS SOUTHWOOD | 4 BEDROOMS | BUCKS MILLS | SLEEPS 8

SOUTHWOOD is a character 4 bedroom Devonshire cottage dating back a couple of centuries. Originally two cottages, Numbers 11 & 12 have been 'knocked through' on the ground floor with the two original stairways remaining. A perfect character cottag...

WOOLACOMBE PEBBLES COTTAGE | Sleeps 6 | Golf course | Outdoor swimming pool

WOOLACOMBE PEBBLES COTTAGE OVERVIEW PEBBLES COTTAGE is a gorgeous home situated within the quiet Willingcott Valley Resort and is a wonderful combination of a family holiday park in a great location, but without the chaos which so often accompanie...

WOOLACOMBE DUCKS COTTAGE | 3 Bedrooms | Sleeps 6 | The best of coast and country

WOOLACOMBE DUCKS COTTAGE OVERVIEW DUCKS COTTAGE is a gorgeous home situated within the quiet Willingcott Valley Resort and is a wonderful combination of a family holiday park in a great location, but without the chaos, which so often accompanies a...

BRAUNTON GRANARY COTTAGE | 3 BEDROOMS | BRAUNTON | SLEEPS 6

BRAUNTON GRANARY COTTAGE OVERVIEW GRANARY COTTAGE benefits from a village location only a short gentle walk from the heart of Braunton, enabling guests to take advantage of a selection of pubs and restaurants offering a choice of different styles...

INSTOW ROSEMARY COTTAGE | 5 Bedrooms | Westleigh | Sleeps 10

INSTOW ROSEMARY COTTAGE OVERVIEW Get away from it all in the wonderful peace and tranquility of the picture postcard village of Westleigh, near Instow, Bideford. Set in the rolling Devon hills with some views of the Torridge Estuary in the distan...

GEORGEHAM SUNSHINE COTTAGE | 2 Bedrooms | Charming country cottage with log fire

GEORGEHAM SUNSHINE COTTAGE OVERVIEW This lovingly decorated home has 2 bedrooms, sleeping 4 people + cot, and is within short walking distance of Georgeham village, through beautiful country lanes, where you can find a shop, excellent pubs (The Ro...

CROYDE YELLOW COTTAGE | 3 BEDROOMS | CROYDE | SLEEPS 6

CROYDE YELLOW COTTAGE OVERVIEW Located in a quiet part of Croyde, this is the ideal holiday home for families or friends looking for a relaxed break in this beautiful part of North Devon. Croyde beach, famous for its waves, is just a 10 minute le...

Luxurious, High Quality, 'Green' Cottages (Lake District & Dales National Parks)

Stunningly beautiful and renovated to the highest standards,The Hyning Estate offers seven newly renovated holiday dwellings and a stunning communal bar with panoramic views over farmland and the nearby Lakeland fells. Design, Quality materials, r...

Melkington Lodge Cornhill-On-Tweed

A charming and beautifully presented period cottage set in a pretty garden with fabulous far reaching views to the Cheviot Hills. The accommodation, which is presented to an extremely high standard, comprises a cosy sitting room with open fire (l...
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