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Where are the most popular national parks in Europe?

Europe is littered with different natural wonders and spaces of natural beauty, where thousands gather to admire the geology, wildlife and aesthetic on offer at the continent’s national parks. However, with the environment facing an ever-present threat of deterioration, it has never been more vital that these spaces are protected and enjoyed by the population.

This inspired energy switching site SaveOnEnergy to find out which European national parks attract the most attention, and are revealed to be the most popular amongst visitors. To do this, we created our very own index*, scoring each national park points out of 33.33 for the following variables, before being given an overall score out of 100:

  • Instagram hashtags

  • TripAdvisor ratings

  • Online searches

With an overall score of 95, it was Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in the United Kingdom which ranked as the most popular European national park overall. Pembrokeshire Coast not only boasted one of the highest average Tripadvisor ratings (9.73), but it also had 80,261 hashtags on Instagram and 4,900 Google searches on average each month. With these scores combined, this coastal escape in Wales is one of the UK’s smallest national parks but tallies the largest score overall out of 100.

Branded ‘a place for peace and tranquillity within a diverse, historic and vibrant landscape’ by National Parks, Snowdonia National Park placed as the second most popular national park in Europe, with the second highest score overall - 94 out of 100. The mountainous region of Snowdonia had a staggering 181,753 hashtags on Instagram and was searched for 21,000 times on average each month on Google, which was the highest number of search queries for any national park studied.

Italy’s Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona e Campigna was awarded the title of the third most popular European national park, with an overall score of 92 out of 100. One of Italy’s 25 national parks, the park, which covers around 368 kilometres with its forests and wild animals, has 36,468 hashtags on Instagram, 6,600 searches on average each month on Google, and an average TripAdvisor score of 9.59.

Cairngorms National Park in the heart of Scotland is one of the UK’s largest national parks, as well as being Europe’s fourth most popular, with a total score of 91 out of 100 in our study. Also coming in fourth place is Northumberland National Park, which also boasted a total score of 91 out of 100. Whilst Cairngorms National Park had 60,814 more hashtags than Northumberland National Park, as well as more Google searches on average each month, Northumberland’s park had a higher average TripAdvisor rating, causing them to share the same score.

The European national parks with the most Instagram hashtags

When it came down to the European national parks which were most frequently hashtagged on Instagram, the vast majority of the top 10 are situated in the UK. However, the exception being Teide National Park in Spain, which was the eighth most hashtagged with 106,203, but placed as the sixth most popular overall in Europe.

The European national park that was subject to the most Instagram hashtags was the Lake District National Park in the UK, which had 3,351,484 hashtags in total at the time of our research. This was shortly followed by the Peak District National Park, which had 1,863,961 hashtags - 1,487,523 less than the Lake District in pole position.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park, Brecon Beacons National Park and Snowdonia National Park were also among the five most hashtagged national parks in Europe, with 612,096, 409,555 and 181,753 hashtags, respectively.

The European national parks with the highest average TripAdvisor scores

As far as average TripAdvisor ratings were concerned, nine of the top 10 highest rated European national parks were awarded an average of 10 out of 10, with the exception of Gesause National Park in Austria, which was awarded 9.82 on average out of 10.

Additionally, five of Sweden’s 30 national parks sat amongst the top 10 highest rated in the continent, each awarded a perfect overall average TripAdvisor score of 10. These include Padjelanta National Park, Djuro National Park, Vadvetjakka National Park, Sonfjallet National Park and Tofsingdalen National Park.

Meanwhile, two of the top ten highest rated European national parks on Tripadvisor were situated in Romania - Buila-Vanturarita National Park and Semenic-Caras Gorge National Park - with both awarded an average TripAdvisor score of 10 out of 10.

The European National Parks with the most global searches

Since the number of searches made for a particular destination is also indicative of its popularity, we analysed the average monthly searches for each national park. With 7,000 more searches made on average each month than any other European National Park, Snowdonia National Park was revealed to be the most searched for online overall in our study, with average monthly global searches reaching 21,000.

Both the Peak District National Park and Dartmoor National Park, both based in the UK, had the second highest number of searches on average each month, with 14,000 each. Following closely behind is the Lake District National Park and Cairngorms National Park, with average monthly searches reaching 13,000 for both parks.

Interestingly, nine of the top 10 most searched for European national parks online can be found in the UK, aside from Italy’s Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona e Campigna which comes in eighth place, receiving 6,600 Google searches on average each month.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park | Photo credit: evandavies8 / Shutterstock

Despite only having 15 national parks, six of the UK’s national parks rank within the top 20 most popular in Europe. The UK is home to the two most popular European national parks overall - Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and Snowdonia National Park in first and second place - and four out of the top five most popular European national parks are located in the UK.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise when the UK is the European country most committed to wildlife conservation and among the top 10 countries for having the most protected land in Europe.

Sweden is home to the second highest number of European national parks, with 30 altogether. The country also has the second largest number of national parks in the top 20, with three parks in the rankings. These include Abisko National Park with a score of 85, Tyresta National Park with a score of 86, and Sarek National Park which ranked as the tenth most popular in Europe, with an overall score of 88 out of 100.

Italy has 25 national parks, making the country home to the third highest number of national parks in Europe. Of these 25 parks, two are situated in the top 10, with Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona, Campigna National Park taking third place (92 points), followed by Gran Paradiso National Park in eighth place (89 points).

By comparison, even though Russia is home to 31 of Europe’s national parks, not one ranks in the top 20 most popular national parks on the continent. According to our research, many of the parks have small average monthly searches on Google and very few Instagram hashtags, causing them to rank low in our rankings.

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*Methodology

  1. SaveOnEnergy.com/uk/ used https://www.worldometers.info/geography/how-many-countries-in-europe/ to compile a list of the top 20 most populated European countries.

  2. For each European country, the names of all the national parks were sourced using https://theworldsnationalparks.com/.

  3. Instagram was used to collect the number of hashtags and different variations for each national park.

  4. We analysed each National Park on TripAdvisor to collate the reviews.

  5. We used the Google search volume analytics tool Ahrefs to source the global average search volume for each national park.

  6. The different variables used have varying units of measurement. To resolve this, the data was normalized using the percentile rank. Each value was ranked from 0 to 33.33 based on its position within the sample. The final total score is out of 100, with all numbers rounded to the nearest whole number.

  7. All data was collected on 16/04/2021 and is correct as of then but subject to change.