Vast prehistoric forests, dizzying waterfalls and dark blue seas crashing into rugged coastlines – Europe is home to some of the world’s best destinations for nature lovers. Check out our list to find out where European nature steals the spotlight.
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1. The Dettifoss Waterfall, Iceland
This gargantuan waterfall rips through the land of fire and ice by spilling over its edges 500 cubic metres of water every second. With a height of 300 metres and width of 100m, no other waterfall has a greater flow of liquid running through its veins in Europe. This colossal example of natural might is unmissable when on a trip to Iceland.
2. Lakes of Plitvice, Croatia
The mesmerising Plitvice Lakes are a source of national pride for many Croats.
Boasting over 16 bodies of turquoise water fenced in by luscious forests, this astounding nature reserve is the perfect antidote for the city blues. These grand lakes were converted into a national park in 1949 before being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site 30 years later.
3. Giant’s Causeway, Ireland
The Emerald Isle’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site is an intriguing amalgamation of rock formations deeply rooted in Irish mythology. This coastal marvel with over 40,000 interlocking columns, set to a backdrop of rolling green hills and dramatic North Atlantic seas, is said to be the remains of a causeway built by an ancient Irish giant called Fin McCool. Local folklore claims that he constructed this causeway in order to travel 25 miles west and settle a dispute with a Scottish giant. Others believe it was produced by molten rock firing up through fissures in the earth millions of years ago. Hear both sides of the story on a trip to Ireland.
4. The Opal Coast, France
Gaining its name from the sparkling waters lapping its sandy shores, the Opal Coast is an unspoiled stretch of natural splendour. A heady mix of 120 kilometres of beaches, sand dunes, and chalky white cliffs dotted with seaside resorts, such as Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, Wimereux, Wissant, Berck-sur-Mer, and Hardelot-Plage, make this idyllic northern tip of France a must-visit destination for nature lovers.
5. Bardenas Reales, Spain
With its bizarre lunar-like rock formations, golden eagles and imposing canyons it’s hard to believe that this dramatic landscape resides in sunny Spain. Spanning over 42,000 hectares, Bardenas Reales is one of the few deserts in Europe and undoubtedly one of the most impressive. Highlights of the dramatic plains include the Castildetierra (seen above), the Monumento Al Pastor (the monument to the shepherd) and its many birds of prey: vultures, eagles and owls. This UNESCO protected site of otherworldly beauty has been used for a bucketload of adverts, films and popular TV series, such as Game Of Thrones.
6. Białowieża National Park, Poland
This lush Eastern European national park is a portal to prehistoric times where gigantic Bison still reign supreme. Europe’s oldest forest also shelters mighty elk, majestic roe deer and fearless wild boar. The plentiful lakes and ponds are also teeming with aquatic life including otters, beavers and the extremely rare European tree frog.
7. Postojna Cave, Slovenia
Slovenia has so much more to offer nature lovers than its alluring lakes. The enchanting Postojna Cave is home to one of the most magical train journeys Europe has to offer. Hop aboard the world’s first cave railway to meander through a labyrinth of stalactites and stalagmites under the glow of grand chandeliers hanging from the canopies. Equipped with towering mountains, babbling brooks and the world’s biggest castle built into the rocks, this Slovenian wonder is a living breathing fairytale.
8. Matterhorn; Switzerland
Straddling the Swiss-Italian border, the mountain’s dagger-like form pierces the skies above and looms over vast lakes. The Matterhorn’s ominous presence and notoriety as one of the world’s most difficult to climb, warrants its title as the king of the Alps. Since the introduction of a railway in the early 19th century mountaineers have come to conquer this peak from the Hörnli Hut via the northeast Hörnli ridge. Other trekkers also undertake the 10-day-long trek around the mountain, to savour the ever-changing landscape whilst ascending this Iconic precipice.
9. Laurisilva de Madeira, Portugal
This Portuguese archipelago brimming with fauna and exotic flowers is a treasure trove for admirers of leafy escapes. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest surviving area of laurel forest in the world, and home to an array of plants and wildlife, including many endemic species such as the Madeiran long-toed pigeon.
10. Naeroyfjord, Norway
The mighty fjords are long yet narrow inlets of sea cutting into mainland Norway. Gaze out from steep cliffs for breathtaking views of the dark waters gliding through rugged mountainscapes, or cruise through Nærøyfjord (literally meaning narrow fjord) by boat from the town of Flåm. The Gulf Stream’s warming currents mean the fjords are a haven for porpoise, seals and an abundance of fish.
Marvel at the astonishing natural beauty of the Fjords by joining us on one of our Nordic escapes.