By Anders Lorenzen
In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis, much focus has been given to low-carbon travel and the merits of staycations. And with good reason. Visiting your local nature hotspot is a great holiday idea; not only does it have a lower carbon footprint than a long haul holiday, but you’ll play a role in its continued protection by supporting conservation efforts, sustainable and eco-tourism. And you may just feel a little rewilded yourself too.
Here we bring you our top 11 of the best natural places in Europe highly worthy of a visit:
1 Gran Canaria, Spain
The stunning Spanish island caters for tourists all year round with a range of outdoor activities for nature lovers. The island recently signed up in support of the UN’s sustainable development goals. A third of the island is protected as a Biosphere Reserve – an initiative led by UNESCO.
The Lopesan Hotel Group offers a wide selection of stays on the island.
2 Month Blanc National Park, France
The roof of Europe. Europe’s highest point is the centrepiece of this stunning national park named after it. It is popular to visit all year round and offers a range of adventure sports. Hiking to the top of the mountain will give you an in-depth view of how climate change is impacting the region, with many Alpine glaciers on the retreat. But take some time during your visit to look into the many environmental conservation efforts taking place too.
3 Isle of Skye, Scotland
The largest and the northernmost of the major Inner Hebrides islands, Skye is an ever-popular destination for hikers and bird watchers alike. It is rich in outdoor activities ranging from walking and climbing to sailing and a series of cycling routes. The island also hosts a series of great sustainable restaurants and cafes.
4 The Black Forest, Germany
This mountainous area in southwest Germany is said to have inspired the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Several parts of it are designated as specific conservation areas, including two nature parks and one National Park. There are several initiatives to promote eco-tourism in the area.
5 Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Formerly part of the old Yugoslavia, Montenegro is a mountainous and rugged Balkan country. The country is ranked highly on biodiversity and no better place to experience it than paying a visit to Durmitor National Park which is the country’s largest protected area.
6 Picos de Europa, Spain
The lesser-known of Europe’s mountain ranges, the Picos are a popular holiday spot for many Spaniards. You can get there by following the popular pilgrim walking route Camino de Santiago or join it on your departure from the walk; it doesn’t get much more low carbon travel than that.
7 Carpathians, Romania
This stunning mountain range is home to a diverse range of wildlife including bears and wolves. Part of the area is also the centre of ambitious rewilding efforts.
8 Mount Etna, Italy
Towering just over 3,350 metres above sea level, Mount Etna is one of the tallest active volcanoes in Europe. Its fertile volcanic soils support a variety of agriculture, including orchards and vineyards. Researchers have been looking at using the ash from volcanic eruptions as a sustainable building material. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
9 The Pyrenees, Spain / France
The Pyrenees are one of Europe’s most famous mountain ranges, honing France with Spain. Each year they are home to the spectacle of the world’s best-known cycling race, the Tour de France. Locals and tourists alike animatedly run after the cyclists to edge them on as they destroy themselves racing up the relentless and bare mountain peaks. The area is also home to conservation efforts to protect the dwindling remaining brown bear population.
10 Lapland, Finland
The sparsely populated remote region is the largest and most northernmost point in Finland and sits in the Arctic Circle. It is one of the best places to observe the Northern Lights. It is home to the Sami people. Local governments have been working hard to promote sustainable and eco-tourism in the area and its goals are aligned with the European Commission’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
11 Benagil Sea Caves, Algarve, Portugal
A unique and stunning spot to rewild your soul by taking a wild swimming dip in with the backdrop of these stunning caves.