Europe's spectacular natural heritage

UNESCO World Heritage Sites aren't all about man-made monuments: they include lakes, mountains, glaciers, forests, valleys and volcanoes, all of them magnificent in their own way. Here we invite you to take a photo tour of some of the most spectacular natural sights across Europe.

Dramatic mountains – the vast Durmitor massif in the eponymous national park in northwestern Montenegro, the volcanic mass of Mount Teide, and the dramatic Dolomites in the Italian Alps where green wooded valleys and meadows are set off agains the bare rocks of the mountains; ancient forests and woodlands – the laurisilva of Madeira, the beech woods of the Carpathians and the primal forest of Poland; fantastic rock formations and sculptures carved by the elements and the slow movement of the earth's crust; areas of rivers, lakes and waterfalls... All the vast range of geological and natural scenery and the enormous biodiversity of flora and fauna that it supports is reason to celebrate Europe's natural heritage. Here we have a selection of photos of some of the places classed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

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Ancient beech forest, Germany
The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany total an area of almost 30,000 hectares, over 4,000 of which are in Germany / German Tourist Board 

Plitvice, Croatia
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is the best known in Croatia, where a veritable paradise of green water flows between 16 interconnected lakes and around a hundred waterfalls. The thick forests of beech, fir and pine are home to bears, wolves and many rare bird species / Croatian Tourist Board 

Mount Teide, Tenerife
At 3,718 metres, the Teide volcano on the island of Tenerife is the world's third-tallest volcano, and those who have stood at the crater say the experience is like touching the sky / © Tenerife Tourist Board 

Meteora, Greece
Meteora – 'suspended in the air' – is the perfect name for these rock pinnacles of sandstone that rise over the Peneas valley and the Thessalian plain. The orthodox monasteries perched atop the natural columns date from the fourteenth century and transform a natural wonder into a unique artistic achievement / Greek Tourist Board 

Dolomites, Italian Alps
The vertical walls, sheer cliffs and narrow, deep, long valleys of the Dolomites in the northern Italian Alps present a diversity of exceptional landscapes where natural pinnacles, spires and towers sculpted from the pale rock rise in dramatic contrast above the forests and meadowland below 

Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Crossed by multiple rivers and underground streams, the Durmitor National Park in Montenegro boasts clear lakes and dense pine forests. With both Mediterranean and alpine microclimates, the area is home to an exceptional range of wildlife 

Western Fjords, Norway
A cruise on the West Norwegian Fjords Geirangerfjord and Naeroyfjord will show you snow-capped peaks, waterfalls and almost sheer crystalline rock walls with ancient farmsteads perched on the slopes / Norwegian Tourist Board 

Bialowieza Forest, Poland
Dating back to 8000 BC, Poland's Bialowieza Forest is the only remaining example of the original forests that once covered much of Europe. Many large mammals live here, including wolves and lynx, as well as some 300 European Bison which have been re-introduced into the protected area / Polish Tourist Board 

Laurel forests, Madeira, Portugal
The Laurisilva of Madeira – the laurel forest - is located on the main island. Its size and quality make it a valuable relict of this previously widespread forest type which is now virtually extinct / Portuguese Tourist Board 

On the western coast of Corsica, the translucent waters of the Gulf of Porto, along with the calanche of Piana, Gulf of Girolata and the Scandola Reserve, are home to a rich marine life, and gulls, cormorants and sea eagles nest here / French Tourist Board 

Swiss Alps
The dramatic mountains, valleys and glacial landscape of Jungfrau - Aletsch - Bietschhorn in the Swiss Alps includes the largest glacier in Eurasia / Swiss Tourist Board 

Giant's Causeway
The Giant's Causeway, on the coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, comprising some 40,000 polygonal basalt columns averaging 45 cm in diameter, has given rise to many tales and legends / British Tourist Board