Europes Unmissable landscapes
While numerous foreign visitors throng Turkey’s golden Mediterranean beaches and ancient coastal towns, far fewer venture into the country’s vast interior – and they are missing something very special. The otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia are truly extraordinary, and Göreme National Park, at the heart of this region, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Solidified ash deposits, laid down by volcanic activity millions of years ago, have been eroded over millennia into a variety of bizarre rock formations, most famously, the ‘fairy chimneys’, slender pinnacles reaching up to 40 metres high. As well as these natural features, you’ll also find an extensive network of cave dwellings, originally carved from the rock-face by early Christian monastic communities.
At the very edge of the Arctic Circle, Iceland is a land of geological wonders, from mighty active volcanoes and thermal pools to geysers and glaciers. The ‘land of ice and fire’ is also home to hundreds of impressive waterfalls, including the mighty two-tiered Gullfoss or ‘Golden Falls’ on the Hvítá River, where, on a sunny day, a rainbow appears over the water. Not far from Reykjavik is Iceland’s highest waterfall, Glymur, which cascades 198 metres down the cliff-face, while Europe’s most powerful waterfall is in the north-west of Iceland – the 100-metre wide Dettifoss, in Vatnajökull National Park.
Croatia's Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice Lakes National Park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is Croatia’s most popular tourist attraction. Bears, wolves, deer and dozens of bird species live in the dense beech and spruce forests of the park, which encompasses a series of 16 picturesque lakes of varying hues of greens and blues, connected by tumbling waterfalls. Visitors can enjoy a scenic boat trip across the largest of the lakes, Kozjak and follow the pathways and bridges through the park towards the stunning 78-metre high Veliki Slap or ‘Great Waterfall’, with countless wonderful photo opportunities along the way.
Ireland's Giant’s Causeway
Legend tells us that there was once an Irish giant named Fionn MacCumhaill who built a bridge across the sea to the island of Staffa so he could battle with a rival giant, Benandonner, and the Giant’s Causeway on the coast of County Antrim is all that now remains after the rest was torn up by Fionn’s fleeing Scottish adversary. The array of polygonal basalt columns, which stand up to 12 metres high, certainly looks manmade, but this is a natural feature, created by volcanic activity some 60 million years ago. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway is also home to a variety of seabirds and rare coastal plants.
Norway is renowned for its breathtakingly beautiful coastline, with its numerous fjords snaking their way between the North Sea and the wild, mountainous interior. These narrow inlets, framed by soaring, rugged cliffs, were carved from the landscape by glaciers and flooded with seawater as the ice retreated. A scenic cruise along Norway’s spectacular fjords is an unforgettable experience, and there are plenty to choose from, each with their own character and scenery. Sognefjord is the longest and deepest in Norway, stretching 200km towards the foot of the Jotunheimen Mountains, while Hardangerfjord, south of Bergen, will take you past sheer cliffs and thundering waterfalls as you sail into Eidfjord, home to Norway’s most famous waterfall, Vøringfossen.
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Article published on: 21st December, 2015