Nature Holidays

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Nature Holidays: Top Destinations

Our Top Nature Holiday Destinations

From Italy to Spain and from Germany to the Balkans, the most fascinating nature holidays await through the continent’s length and breadth. Find solitude amidst mountains and by tranquil lakes. Go on an adventure – hike hilly wilderness trails, enjoy refreshing water sports and spot wildlife from close quarters. Or, simply relax soaking in dreamy highland vistas.

Top Lake & Mountain Holidays in Europe

Make the most of your nature holidays - ski on the Italian Dolomites, hike The Highlands and cruise England’s deepest and longest lakes.

  • Belluno

    Enjoy snow sports and mountain climbing on the spectacular Dolomite Mountains. Stay by scenic Lake Misurina and indulge in endless water sports.

  • The Highlands

    A paradise for hikers, the highlands beckon with wilderness trails of Isle of Skye and stunning peaks of Cairngorm National Park. Great Glen Way, Affric-Kintail Way, and the West Highland Way promise the most scenic hikes.

  • Lake District

    Witness some of the deepest and longest lakes in England’s largest national park. Scale up the country’s highest mountain, the Scafell Pike; visit the poet Wordsworth’s house in Grasmere and cruise the serene Lake Windermere.

  • La Palma

    Endless hiking trails crisscross through the pristine Canary Island of La Palma. Explore through rocky ravines, volcanic landscapes, lush greenery, and terraced hillside - more than 950km of marked footpaths. Scale up to reach El Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory to gaze at the starlit sky.

Europe's Best National Parks

Treat yourself to unspoilt wilderness – trek on forested hills, spot wildlife from close, witness waterfalls and cruise glacial lakes - experience nature at its best.

  • Plitvice

    Plitvice Lakes in Croatia is home to 90 waterfalls, 16 terraced lakes and a long stretch of scenic boardwalk. The Big Waterfall with a 78m drop is unmissable with marvelous views atop the canyon. Explore the mystical caves of Barac and Šupljara. And, don't forget to sail a boat on the beautiful Lake Kozjak.

  • Peak District

    Rediscover rustic English countryside in England’s first national park. Ascend to The Heights of Abraham in a cable car, ride the old-style tram at Crich Tramway Village, visit the National Tramway Museum and go wildlife spotting at Peak Wildlife Park.

  • Zabljak

    This highest Balkan town is the doorway to Durmitor National Park. Go white-water rafting along Tara River canyon or zipline over it. If you dare, swim in the glacial lakes of Crno Jezero and Vrazje Jezero and hike the peaks of Bobotov Kuk, Planinic or Savin Kuk.

  • Black Forest

    From the world’s fastest bird, the peregrine falcon, to the continent’s smallest, the pygmy owl, the park is home to boundless wildlife. On the other hand, the forest trails of Lothar and Lynx await adventure seekers with their intriguing natural wonders.

The Legends Behind Natural Wonders

Illustrated

These enchanting locations can fill us with inspiration and wonder, but what forces could have created such beauty? Science can reveal some of the secrets, but in times past, humans told stories of gods and mythical creatures that roamed the earth, carving and creating some our most spectacular wonders.

Here we look at the legends behind them.

1. The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia (Cappadocia, Turkey)

These rock formations have made Cappadocia one of the most popular destinations in Turkey. The surreal land wouldn’t look out of place in Star Wars or Game Of Thrones. The spiraling stone formations rise like mushrooms out of the earth and magically change color with every sunset.

Early inhabitants believed that the chimneys were built by fairies who lived underground.1

Poster of the legend behind the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia in Turkey

2. The Land of the Dragon’s Blood Tree (Socotra Archipelago, Yemen)

The other-wordly dragon’s blood trees are native to the Socotra Archipelago in Yemen. They stand around fifteen feet tall, with tangled networks of branches and spiky green leaves.

Legend has it that the first dragon’s blood tree was created from the blood of a wounded dragon after it battled a brave elephant. The tree bleeds the dragon’s blood, which locals used as medicine to heal their ills.2

Poster of the legend behind the Land of the Dragon's Blood Tree in Yemen

3. The Giant’s Causeway (County Antrim, Northern Ireland)

Arriving at The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim of Northern Ireland is like landing on another planet. 40,000 massive columns rise out of the sea like stone pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.

This lunar landscape was said to be caused by two fighting giants, Finn and Benandonner. When Benandonner threatened Ireland, an enraged Finn grabbed chunks of the coast and threw them into the sea. The rocks created the causeway across the North Channel, enabling the two giants to meet and sort out their problems.3

Poster of the legend behind the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

4. The Sleeping Ute (Colorado, USA)

Overlooking a tranquil, sage-covered plain on a small mountain range in Colorado, The Sleeping Ute lies peacefully on his back with his arms crossed across his chest.

The legend tells the story of the Great Warrior God wounded whilst battling evil. The battle left him wounded, and he fell into a deep recuperating sleep. His bleeding wounds became rivers, and rain clouds formed from his pockets.4

A poster of the legend behind the Sleeping Ute natural wonder in Colorado

5. The Shelter of the Gods (Asbyrgi Canyon, Iceland)

Sitting within 300-foot- tall cliffs, Asbyrgi Canyon is a spectacular horseshoe-shaped rock formation and one of the most magical locations in Iceland.

Legend says it was created by the horse of a Norse God. When the hoof of Sleipnir, Odin´s eight-legged horse touched down on the earth, it flattened this area, just over two miles long and more than a half mile wide.5

A poster of the legend behind the Shelter of the Gods natural wonder in Iceland

6. The Moeraki Boulders (North Otago coast, New Zealand)

The Moeraki Boulders lie on the North Otago coast in New Zealand. Often mistaken for dinosaur eggs or crashed alien ships, the mysterious stones weigh several tons and measure up to three meters in diameter.

The Maori legend goes that the Kähui Tipua people sailed out to find kumara sweet potato plants, but a storm engulfed them, leaving them shipwrecked. The baskets and gourds that transported the goods were washed ashore and forever preserved.6

The poster of the legend behind the Moeraki Boulders natural wonder in New Zealand

7. The Giant’s Tears of Salar de Uyuni (Potosi, Bolivia)

Salar de Uyuni in Potosi, Bolivia is one of the most remarkable sights in the world. This wonder covers more than 4,050 square miles and is the world’s largest salt flat.

Legend has it that the mountains surrounding the area, named Kusina, Kusku, and Tunupa, were once three giants stuck in a messy love triangle. When Kusku left his wife Tunupa for Kusina, Tunupa cried a lake’s worth of tears, which dried and created these moon-like salt flats.7

A poster of the legend behind the Giant's Tears of Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia

The legends may be mythical but the magic of these locations is very real. Now that you know the stories, why not explore the wonders for yourself and walk in the footsteps of giants, fairies and other legendary beings?

Sources

1 Heller, C. (2015). Turkey’s ‘fairy chimneys’ were millions of years in the making. smithsonianmag.com

2 Oberhoizer, O. and Cockburn, A. (2010). Socotra Island: Exploring the land of the dragon’s blood tree. cntraveler.com

3 Ireland. (2017). The giant story. ireland.com

4 Best Hotels Colorado. (1999). Legends and children's stories of the Ute tribe. besthotelscolorado.com

5 Visit Húsavík. (2017). Ásbyrgi Canyon. visithusavik.com

6 Lin, K. (2017). Moeraki boulders – Spheres of nature in Otago, New Zealand. historicmysteries.com

7 Weekday Wanderlust. (2017). Salar de Uyuni. weekdaywanderlustlooks.com

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