Any guide to European national parks would be incomplete without featuring some of the natural islands, forest parks and mountainous landscapes in the North of Europe. Northern Europe here mainly refers to the Scandinavian countries and Iceland. While the temperatures tend to be cold, especially up in the Baltic mountains, the extraordinary scenic pleasures are well worth the visit.
Hardangervidda is known worldwide as Europe’s largest mountain plateau, meaning the land near the top of the mountain is level enough to hike on relatively easily. Connected by a marked path, the level ground stretches across the middle of the Southern region. This Norwegian national park is geographically significant as the largest national park in the country, covering 1,321 square miles.
The lofty region of Jotunheimen is ideal for mountaineering activities. Alpine mammal hunting has been going on in the Jotunheimen National Park since the Stone Age, as evidenced by the remains of prehistoric hunting camps that have been found here. In the present day the region is famous for hiking. Visitors can spot deer and wolverines roaming the slopes of the two highest peaks in northern Europe, as well as around another 250 intermediate mountains above 1,900 metres.
Mols Bjerge, Denmark
The 180km² Mols Bjerge is a vast and varied landscape, with its scraggy hills and forests in the central region and eastern coastal beaches. Inland, the Kalos marshes and high heathlands contains more than half of all Denmark’s plant species, which is part of the reason Mols Bjerge is protected with national park status. The varied landscape means a variety of bird species, from sea birds of prey to forest-nesting birds make home here.
The first marine national park in Sweden was identified as requiring protection just over ten years ago, after becoming a favourite of many locals and tourists alike over the past few decades. This coastal Swedish national park does well to cater for visitors, with water activities such as kayaking and canoeing. Lobster and prawn fishing are permitted and it’s also a great place for bird-watching. Over 12,000 species of bird and amphibians live on the island and in the waters of the Atlantic sea.
Located in the northern Sweden Lapplandmedia (‘Lapland’), Sarek National Park is more like what you would expect of Swedish landscapes. There are 100 glaciers among snowed-over mountain peaks, but also green hills and valleys where flocks of deer roam. The landscape is unique to the rest of Europe and wonderful in its natural state, having been protected for over 100 years.
Nuuksio National Park is a forested park with nature trails and birdlife tours near Helsinki in Southern Finland. The park is well-utilised by tourists without disrupting the fauna or birds. Watersports activities are available on the cliffside lakes, while on the cliffs the national park is popular with skiiers and cyclists. The rugged, rocky scenery is typically Finnish, yet there are designated paths for tourists.
The old continent has a wonderful and wide selection of diverse nature and protected areas – something for everyone, and you are sure to discover what fascinates you.