Natural wonders of Europe?
May 23, 2005 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Most travellers to Europe concentrate on the culture and the man-made historical artifacts. What specific places would you go to if you wanted to concentrate on the natural wonders instead?
posted by smackfu to Travel & Transportation (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
One candidate might be the Bialowieza forest.

The Wikipedia article on it.
posted by jazzkat11 at 1:48 PM on May 23, 2005

Meteora, Greece.
posted by Dean King at 2:03 PM on May 23, 2005

Iceland! Geysers, volcanos, glaciers, hotsprings, dead lava fields, new forests, aurora.
posted by xo at 2:03 PM on May 23, 2005

I went hiking in the Swiss Jungfrau region (above Interlaken, an amazing lake activity region), and stayed at the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald. Absolutely spectacular views, hiking, skiing, glacier climbing, mountain bike riding, etc. Bring food up there though, as the closest grocery store is a gondala and a bus ride away. Highly recommended. Also: hiking in Spain, Croatia (be careful of areas that are not explicitly marked as de-mined), France, sailing the fjords in Northern Europe, canoeing, the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, the list goes on. I guess the question is a little broad: are you thinking of summer or winter? That would narrow it down a little.
posted by fionab at 2:05 PM on May 23, 2005

The World's Top 100 Wonders.
posted by mlis at 2:05 PM on May 23, 2005

The Beara Peninsula County Kerry in SW Ireland--Mountains. ocean, cliffs. lakes, streams, fields and hills all with in hiking/walking distance--pastoral and rugged--in the off season only
posted by rmhsinc at 2:07 PM on May 23, 2005

the Lake District in north-west England. Scottish islands and highlands. Welsh mountains. Yorkshire Dales (England).
posted by altolinguistic at 2:32 PM on May 23, 2005

not a natural wonder, but this bridge looks pretty darned impressive.

second Meteora. also try Metsovo.
posted by killy willy at 2:47 PM on May 23, 2005

Iceland. The Camargue in SW France. The Alps (Switzerland and half of northern Italy). Sooooo much in Greece. Seriously. Meteora's amazing, and nearby is the Vikos gorge which is stunning. It has a number of old, stone villages teetering on mountain peaks, white water rafting, and a six hour hike up to a mountain lake that looks straight out of Heidi. The islands... Santorini and Zakynthos. Mani, down in the Peleponnesos. Tons of hiking trails there and one of the most beautiful places you'll ever find, with stunning beaches all over the place.
posted by the_savage_mind at 2:50 PM on May 23, 2005

The Cliffs of Moher, in County Clare, Ireland.
posted by ubersturm at 2:56 PM on May 23, 2005

Go to the Vale of York (Yorkshire), and take an archaeologist who specializes in historical geography. Worked for me.
posted by goatdog at 3:08 PM on May 23, 2005

The Giant's Causeway, Northeast Northern Ireland. Absolutely amazing that it's natural.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:47 PM on May 23, 2005

Parque Nacional Ordesa y Monte Perdido in Northern Spain.
posted by Staggering Jack at 4:17 PM on May 23, 2005

The Amazon rainforests?
posted by kindall at 4:29 PM on May 23, 2005

I third the vote for Iceland. It's so much like another planet that it's actually where NASA sent astronauts to simulate what life on the moon might be like.

The drive into Reykjavik from the airport seriously looks like Mars.

Also : glaciers, geysers, and ponies!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:30 PM on May 23, 2005

MLIS - that 100 wonders link is fun. I've only seen 12! Good thing I went to Turkey last year, or it would have been nine! I don't feel too deprived, however, since I actually live in one.
posted by rdc at 4:41 PM on May 23, 2005

Oh, never mind, the question specifically said Europe.
posted by kindall at 5:08 PM on May 23, 2005

Another vote for the Cliffs of Moher (and for much of Ireland's west coast in general, really) -- truly breathtaking.
posted by scody at 5:15 PM on May 23, 2005

Norway changed my life.
posted by a thousand writers drunk at the keyboard at 6:01 PM on May 23, 2005

I had a great time hiking in i Dolomiti in northeastern Italy. The rifugi system makes it easy for a traveller to hike for days (I went for 6) without having to bring any hard-core hiking equipment beyond a pack and a pair of boots. You hike from hut to hut, you get dinner, a bed, then breakfast the next morning. It's very affrordable and civilized. The mountains are spectacular and many, including the tallest, can be climbed without technical equipment. A big chunk of the area is parkland and the rest is minimally developed. I saw mountain goats, chamois, marmots, ptarmigans, an eagle, small herds of tiny cows, and alpine meadows teeming with wildflowers. Don't go if you're looking for Italian culture though; the area was Austrian until the 20th century and resists Italianization. You'll hear a lot more German than Italian spoken by residents and fellow hikers.
posted by TimeFactor at 6:11 PM on May 23, 2005

The Norwegian fjords (more pretty pictures here). Everyone pines for them.

(I second Iceland. If you go there, Norway is not far away, and well worth the trip; especially the north, places like Lofoten and Senja.)
posted by gentle at 8:10 PM on May 23, 2005

Yup, NW Scotland, SW Ireland, Iceland, the Fjords of Norway, The Alps, The Pyrenees... all very stunning...

...but if you're looking for something, maybe, less grand, but jaw droppingly beautiful in it's own way, allow me to suggest...

Asturias in N Spain, Andalucia in S Spain, Germany's Black Forest, France's Massif Central, The Dordogne, Brittany, Tuscany, England's Cornwall and Dorset coasts, Crete... there's just so much... can you be more specific about your tastes, perhaps?
posted by normy at 8:27 PM on May 23, 2005

Echo the endorsement of the Scottish Highlands, the island called Santorini (Thera) in Greece (the most awesome natural sight I've seen in Europe), and the Lake District in England.
posted by Goofyy at 9:47 PM on May 23, 2005

West coast of Ireland. Connemara is a tourist-map cliché, but leave the tour-bus roads and take the sweep from Galway City up to Sligo and Donegal, and the landscape will astonish you.
posted by holgate at 11:09 PM on May 23, 2005

Salzburg, and pretty much anywhere in the mountains of Austria, but mostly Salzburg.
posted by ebeeb at 11:49 PM on May 23, 2005

All of Slovenia. Alps only twenty minutes from the adriatic, the amazing blue Soca river, caves, and Northern Italian food as well.
posted by zaelic at 2:32 AM on May 24, 2005

Iceland: Gullfoss, Geysir to some extent, Mount Hekla, Thingvallavatn lake, Vatnajokull glacier (largest glacier in Europe)
Norway: Lots; the fjords all along the South/West side, the Lofoten islands are beautiful. Jostedalsbreen glacier. Going cross country into sweden is a pretty fascinating trip.
UK: Huge chunks of Scotland. In England, the Peak District, the Lake District, Cornwall.
Switzerland: Bernese Oberland, but pretty much the whole country.
Plenty of mountains across Europe: Alps are great. ebeeb's suggestion of Salzburg is good as it's right on the Northern side of the Alps so there are hills you can climb up and get a view of the alps to the south with just foot hills to the north and the city right in front of you.
You might also consider train journeys as a great way to see natural europe. Journeys I'd recommend: Pisa->Genoa, Oslo->Bergen, Berlin->Prague (especially after Czech border), pretty much all routes in Norway (trains are comfy too).
posted by biffa at 2:33 AM on May 24, 2005

La Gomera, it's a very small volcanic island about a two hour ferry ride north of Tenerife. I flew there from London, then took the ferry over.

UNESCO declared La Gomera a World Heritage site in 1986. As you drive up the mountain on small winding roads from the desert plains below, you alternately be wowed by the view and terrified by the sheer drop. Lot's of small crosses dot these roads.

La Gomera seems to have it all - deserts, cacti, small quaint villages, rain forests and swimming.

Many of the beaches are black, volcanic sand, and you can even Whale and Dolphin watch if that strikes your fancy.

Amazing, amazing place, especially the Rain Forests (yes!) at the top of the mountain.
posted by Mutant at 4:02 AM on May 24, 2005

The Grand Canyon / Gorges du Verdon in Provence are spectacular. There's a trail along the canyon bottom. Here's a Frommer's description.
posted by sagwalla at 5:29 AM on May 24, 2005

Everyone who has visited Sweden agrees that Sweden's archipelagoes (especially the West Coast archipelago) are gorgeous.
posted by Panfilo at 7:17 AM on May 24, 2005

Plitvice Lakes
posted by the cuban at 7:25 AM on May 24, 2005

another vote for iceland: the world's largest icecaps outside the poles, 50km lavafields, enormous waterfalls, fjords, lakes filled with bobbing ice floes, 200km views (little or no pollution so when it opens up, it really opens up). i just got back from 5 1/2 days there and was amazed. plus, the people are as friendly as can be, and in summer you get midnight sun, in winter the northern lights...
no disrespect meant to alpine wonders from france through switzerland to italy and austria, or the greek islands or northern spanish coast or south-west ireland or the lake district in the uk...
posted by io at 9:49 AM on May 24, 2005

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