A certain degree of competitiveness has always existed between Americans and Europeans when it comes to comparing the natural assets of the Old World and the New. What is indisputable, however, is that tens of thousands of tourists cross that Atlantic to get a taste of the natural wealth of foreign lands. For Americans coming to Europe, the new ETIAS visa waiver scheme offers a simplified route to obtaining visa permission. For Europeans traveling to the United States, the ESTA visa waiver program requires tourists to apply online for travel permission before setting off. Read on for a list of some of the best national parks to visit on your arrival on either side of the pond.
Yosemite National Park (United States)
Internationally renowned by rock climbers for its incredible rock formations, Yosemite offer visitors some of the most spectacular sights of anywhere in the world. The park also contains the world-famous John Muir Trail and remains open all-year-round for camping, hiking and climbing. Yosemite is packed with slow-moving rivers, pristine grassy meadows and sun-kissed cliffs that will leave you with a lasting impression of the majesty of the Golden State.
Yellowstone National Park (United States)
This enormous 2.2 million-acre park ranks among the most-visited national parks in the United States. Straddling the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, Yellowstone sits atop one of the most volcanically active fault lines in North America and, as a result, is full of thermal springs and geysers. Visitors can follow some of the park’s well-maintained hiking routes through lush meadows dotted with lakes and buffalo for an authentic taste of the Great American West.
Glacier National Park (United States)
Spanning two mountain ranges and containing over 700 lakes and countless rivers and waterfalls, Glacier National Park is the perfect place to organize a hike for those that want to experience the open skies and vast wilderness of Montana. In the winter months, the park is also a favorite haunt of skiers and snowboarders due to the quality of its powdered slopes. As its name suggests, the park is also home to some of America’s biggest remaining glaciers, many of which are observable on a drive along Many Glacier Road.
Plitvice Lakes National Park (Croatia)
As the oldest national parks in Croatia, Plitvice Lakes occupies an important place in the national imagination of many Croatians. The park consists of 16 interconnecting lakes, all connected by wooden boardwalks. Due to the varying mineral content of the water, the lakes range in color, from turquoise and emerald green to ocean blue. There are ample swimming opportunities throughout, and the world will have never looked so good from the within the temperate pools which are surrounded by lush vegetation at the foot of the towering waterfalls.
Saxon Switzerland National Park (Germany)
Located near the city of Dresden in the middle of the German part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, the Saxon Switzerland National Park and its idiosyncratically eroded sandstone rock formations are not to be missed when traveling through southern Germany. The rocks make the park a fantastic location for climbers of all ages and abilities. The park is also dotted with imposing castles and fortresses left over from centuries ago, some of which are perched impressively at the top of cliffs and offer unbeatable views over Saxon Switzerland.
Wild Taiga (Finland)
Wild Taiga is a protected area located on Finland’s eastern border. A trip here affords visitors an almost unparalleled chance to get up close and personal with the flora and fauna of this part of the Arctic Circle. It is possible to sign up to guided trips to see large forest animals, such as bears, wolves and wolverines, once a fixture in ecosystems all around Europe, but which are now sadly extinct in many places. Hiking opportunities abound through the pristine evergreen forests and wetlands. The indigenous cultures of the region are still alive and kicking, and there is a plethora of intriguing local events, exhibitions and festivities for the curious visitor to take in.
Whether you are an American citizen traveling to Europe or a European planning on visiting the United States, the diversity of the natural environments on both sides of the Atlantic holds something for everyone. Each place lays claim to a unique variety of animals and landscapes and a valuable chance to reconnect with the nature world so often lacking from our lives today. Did you know that things are about to become much easier for U.S. citizens coming to Europe? Check out this ETIAS guide for more information!