When you think of a European vacation, you probably think of glamorous and historic cities: Paris, London, Rome and others. You most likely call to mind bustling city streets, architectural marvels, cathedrals, and museums.
Marelisi Trek, Borjomi National Park | Image Credits: Pavelmarek100 / CC BY-SA 4.0

However, Europe also has a lot to offer in terms of wilderness. Despite its population density, a number of wilderness areas remain in Europe today, and visiting them offers truly unique experiences.

Oulanka National Park, Finland

In the Northern Ostrobothnia and Lapland regions of Finland, heading toward the Artic Circle, you’ll find the glorious wilderness of the Oulanka National Park. The park covers over 100 square miles and has very good hiking trails, taking in incredible rivers and waterfalls, home to wild brown trout, European dippers, and aapa mires.

There is also rock climbing, canoeing, and lookouts with incredible vistas, as well as wooden cabins in the park which can be used for free by visitors and hikers. In winter, the park is covered in snow, making it ideal for snowshoeing adventures.

Best time to visit: The park offers activities all year round. Hiking, climbing and water activities are best enjoyed during the warmer months from June to September, and snow activities can be found here during winter

Pieni Karhunkierros Trail, Oulanka National Park, Finland
Pieni Karhunkierros Trail, Oulanka National Park, Finland
Image Credits: Timo Newton-Syms via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Central Balkan National Park, Bulgaria

Nestled in the heights of Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria you will find the Central Balkan National Park. With a total area of 716 square kilometers and altitudes up to 7000 feet at the Botev Peak, the park covers five different provinces in Bulgaria.

With ancient forests, the park is home to a variety of rare and endangered plants and wildlife, including many medicinal plants, birds, reptiles and larger animals.

Hiking trails through this unspoiled wilderness take in rocky peaks, forests, waterfalls, and dramatic cliffs. In June, visitors will delight in fields of wildflowers, will the fall leaves are impressive in September.

Best time to visit: Weather is best from June to September, though July and August can get more crowded. The other months may be rather cold, but you will pretty much have the park to yourself.

Central Balkan National Park, Bulgaria
Ray hut & Botev peak, Stara planina, Bulgaria [Public Domain]

Majella National Park, Italy

On Italy’s Adriatic Coast is the Majella National Park, a rare piece of wilderness in densely-populated Western Europe. It is also a place of religious significance, with more holy places per square mile than anywhere in the world except for Tibet.

The mountainous park is home to rare species such as the Appennine wolf, wild boar, red deer, wild cat, and the brown bear. There are also an incredible number of plant species to be found here, with over one third of all Italy’s flora in just this park.

Hiking trails allow visitors to glimpse not only this amazing nature, but also historic monasteries, quaint villages, and sample traditional Italian food from the region.

Best time to visit: The summer months offer the best weather, although August is peak season and can be both hot and crowded, therefore the ideal times to visit are June, July and September.

Majella National Park, Italy
Majella National Park | Image Credits: Pimlico27 [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, Georgia

In the Eastern-European country of Georgia, once part of the Soviet Union, is the fascinating Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.

The area offers not only incredible landscapes, but also culture and history, with medieval villages, artisans, historical monuments, and famous mineral volcanic springs.

The park itself covers 85,000 hectares of native forest and alpine meadows, with excellent hiking trails through wild and untouched nature. The trails can be enjoyed on foot, or by horseback with the experienced guides who work in the park.

Best time to visit: May to October, when the weather is mild to warm. In the colder months, the weather here is inhospitable and hiking trails may become dangerous.

Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, Georgia
Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, Georgia | Image Credits: Paata vardanashvili [CC BY-SA 4.0]
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