Though many of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders are to be found in far off lands such as India, America and Brazil, Europe too plays host to some amazing sights. From Norwegian Fjords and Spanish ravines to remarkable rock formations and gigantic cliffs, Europe has a stunning array of natural attractions to seduce any lover of the outdoors. Here is a look at some of the most fascinating, wonders with a real wow factor, as big and bold as the Grand Canyon or the Niagara Falls.
Photo by Paolo Bertinetto on Flickr.com. Used under Creative Commons Licence
The Matterhorn, Switzerland
Though the Matterhorn is not Europe’s tallest peak (that distinction belongs to nearby Mont Blanc) it is Europe’s most photogenic, and some say perilous, mountain. Jutting up high into the air near the picturesque resort town of Zermatt, the Matterhorn thrills with its mix of sheer rock face, angular proportions and hooked peak. And, ever since the birth of climbing as a past-time in the 19th century, dare devil climbers have attempted to scale this mountain, one of Europe’s most formidable ascents. Of course you do not have to be an expert rock climber to enjoy the views here, as the surrounding pastures and foothills offer some of the best walking holidays in Europe. In particular the Theodul Pass offers some of the most challenging, yet rewarding, hiking terrain on the continent.
Plitvice Lakes and Falls, Croatia
Any list of Europe’s most amazing natural wonders would be left incomplete without naming Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes and Falls, a cascading network of pools and cataracts that work their way through solid Karst mountains. Turquoise waters eddy and flow as they descend through this jagged and otherworldly landscape, and lakes of purest azure blue sit serenely alongside gushing torrents of foaming white. Surrounded by a national park of purest vegetation, and visited by wildlife such as wolves and bears, Plitvice is a snapshot into what Europe must have been like many thousands of years ago before mankind tamed the landscape.
Verdon Gorge, France
Unknown to the outside world until 1906, Verdon Gorge in the mountainous Provence region of France is often labelled as Europe’s very own Grand Canyon. And, while the gorge is not on the same scale as Colorado’s giant behemoth, it exudes a power and attraction of its own. At over 25 kilometres long and 700 metres deep at its peak, the canyon is now one of France’s most popular hiking routes, and its mix of hidden rivers, steep cliffs and winding trails is ideal for guided walking holidays in Europe.
Fingal’s Cave, Scotland
Britain has a range of natural sights to compete with the most stunning in the world, but one that you may not have heard of is Fingal’s Cave, a remarkable sea cove noted for its stunning acoustics. In fact romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn penned an orchestral movement dedicated to the magical qualities of this cave, comprised of impressive basalt columns that are much more impressive than the more famous basalt formations at the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.
Saxon Switzerland, Germany
Despite the name this range of odd looking sandstone mountains are not located in the Swiss Alps but in Germany, where centuries of artists have immortalised these jagged, soaring peaks on canvas. Stunning pillars, strange rock formations, amazing natural arches and bridges make up this incredible region. Walk over the Bastei Bridge for the single most spectacular views in Europe, and to follow in the footsteps of painters like Caspar David Friedrich who painted from this very spot.
John is an experienced author who specialises in articles about the finest walking holidays in Europe and the Americas.