Flora & fauna
Europe is abundantly rich in natural attractions and equally active in terms of protecting them. For such a populated continent Europe has an amazing array of huge open spaces, some of which are remarkably unspoilt. There is increasing numbers of people involved in protecting them as well, as issues over climate change and natural resources rage. In total, there are approximately 359 National parks in Europe. The number keeps changing because every year, each country has the potential to open a new national park, in order to preserve another particularly beautiful and fragile area.
National parks in Europe offer visitors a wide variety of scenery. The vast range of parkland terrain makes possible an equally varied selection of outdoor activities. Walking and hiking are the most popular ways to visit the parks in an environmentally-friendly manner. However, some parks provide bicycles as an alternative means of non-polluting exploration, and some even offer equestrian trails and rides in horse carriages. In the more mountainous areas, you can try rock climbing, or take to the water for fly fishing, rafting and canoeing, or even a steamboat (such as on the Elbe river in Germany). At the seaside you can enjoy touring by boat, or hop in a small craft to go bird watching in tidal marshes and lagoons. In some cases, hiking excursions can last for several days, so you can sleep in the open air, under the stars.
Remember, however, that available activities vary from one park to another. Some have very strict rules and it is up to the visitor to consult the tourist boards or the parks themselves to be fully informed of detailed regulations for visiting and enjoying these protected natural areas.
The Europarc Federation is the umbrella organisation of Europe's protected areas. It unites national parks, regional parks, nature parks and biosphere reserves in 38 countries, with the common aim of protecting Europe's unique variety of wildlife, habitats and landscapes.
Certain European National parks are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, whose mission is the protection and preservation of our world heritage, both cultural and natural.
Holland lists 20 national parks, in Friesland, Gelderland, Utrecht, Seeland, and the Northern Brabant. Drenst-Friese Wold National Park combines woods, moors, and sandy terrain over an area of 6,100 hectares/23.5 square miles.
Upper Sûre Natural Park spreads between Belgium and Luxembourg, in the Luxembourg Ardennes. The two countries share a joint project to develop this cross-border area, basing themed visits on local legends.
Among Estonia’s five national parks, the most well-known are Lahemaa and Karula. Lahemaa’s principal attractions are its sandy beaches, immense pine forests, 200 species of birds and more than 900 species of plants.
Germany presents visitors with a choice of fourteen national parks offering marvellously preserved, outstanding scenery, from the high mountains of Berchtesgaden to the beech forests of Eifel and the mudflats of Hamburg, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein.
Austria's seven national parks cover more than 2,356 km2/909 square miles and include alpine massifs, alluvial forests, valleys and steppes.
Bulgaria’s three national parks are Central Balkan National Park, Rila National Park, and Pirin National Park.
Montenegro possesses five national parks: Durmitor, listed by UNESCO, with seventeen glacial lakes including the famous Black Lake, the fascinating Ice Cave, and Tara Canyon, the deepest canyon in Europe.
Serbia can be proud of its five national parks: Djerdap National Park is an assortment of valleys, gorges, and canyons, crossed by the Danube;
Among the ten national parks of Hungary, Hortobágy National Park, with its 52,000 ha/200 square miles of plains and swamps, is the largest in Hungary.
Poland is rich in national parks with twenty-three to its credit, each of them representative of its region and the natural beauty of Poland.
Norway is extremely and justly proud of its twenty-five national parks of vastly differing character, including high mountains, glaciers, evergreen forests, and lakes.
Spain’s thirteen national parks are excellent representatives of the regions in which they are located.
Portugal has thirteen natural parks and one national park. The splendid Peneda Geres National Park is where the Iberian wolf and the royal eagle live in a world of contrasting granite and lush vegetation. Italy’s twenty-three national parks are considered a rich endowment in Europe.
Finland is sometimes called the 'land of a thousand lakes', but that is an understatement. We counted them, and there are a total of 187,888. Protecting nature is one of the main functions of national parks in Finland . The national parks are protected areas for the more valuable and characteristic habitats and land forms in the country, such as the archipelago, lakes, forests, peat lands and fells.