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A 1-Day Guide To 11 European National Parks

Although often overlooked, Europe is also home to nearly 500 national parks, and every single one of them is rather unique.

By: G. John Cole + Save to a List

Europe isn’t all sophisticated cafés and austere galleries. If your tastes tend towards something a little more physical, there are some serious doses of nature to be found on this wildly diverse continent. Tamed or untamed, photogenic or hands-on, Europe has a startling variety of national parks – nearly 500 of them – and if you find yourself attracted to a certain region’s culture you can usually find its natural equivalent in the nearby parkland.

If you’re on a whirlwind tour of Europe, hopping trains and hitchhiking from border to border, the idea of locating and exploring the continent’s national parks may feel a bit overwhelming. How much can you really explore in those few promising hours between sunrise and sunset?

More than you think. In dreamy Finland’s Oulanka National Park, for example, you can sign up for the Könkään Keino Day-trip, an 8km, three-hour trail through herb-laden forests and ostrich ferns on the way to the red dolomite cliffs of Kiutaköngäs Rapids. The River Oulankajoki, by your side, reaches all the way from Republic of Karelia in Russia to the White Sea – but you can circle away from it and be back in civilisation in time for a late lunch.

Italy’s Cinque Terre National Park, on the other hand, offers the chance to get your feet (and more!) into the water. If the parkland is an intriguing mix of the wild and the cultivated (it has been farmed for over 1,000 years), there are plenty of diving spots to get yourself back into nature’s untamed rawness.

And this just scratches the surface of what’s available. The infographic below from Medway Leisure Travel collects a dozen of Europe’s disparate National Parks into one place, with the special twist that they all offer a great adventure that can be completed in a single day. So next time you hop off that train, you needn’t feel confined to the city: nature is calling!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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