Calabria is a region of rugged and wild nature, where lush mountain forests can be found a few kilometers from the sea. It’s wooded area is among the most extensive in Italy, with specific rare tree species of great interest such as the Pinus leucodermis and the Silane pine. Imposing rocky walls, splendid high-altitude grassy clearings, streams rich in vegetation, as well as nearly 800 km of pristine coastline. Over 13% of Calabria’s impressive natural territory is protected by a series of national parks. Check out some of Calabria’s best National parks to discover!
Pollino National Park
Pollino National Park, at 193,000 hectares, is the largest protected area in Italy. The Park is located between two regions and two seas, the park is home to five peaks over 2000 meters high and a wide variety of fauna and flora characteristic of the Apennine mountains. The park spans through three provinces of Calabria and Basilicata; Cosenza, Potenza and Matera as well as 56 municipalities and the villages of the “Arbëreshë” ethnic minority which are all integral parts of the territory. The National Park, established in 1993, today represents one of the most lively national territories for development and tourist offerings in Italy, so much so that in September 2015 the park was included to the European and Global network of UNESCO Geoparks.
To best way to get to know and experience the national park is a simple nature walk. A recommended place is the «Piano Novacco» in the Municipality of Saracena (CS),as well as the Valley of the Argentino river in the Municipality of Orsomarso (CS). The territory of the Park boasts a well-marked trail network with white and red international symbol which invite you to come back to discover other beautiful and enchanting places at the same time. These trails can take you on excursions for several days crossing the park from one side to another with a variety of landscapes that fascinate and inspire.
The Pollino has many rivers within its territory, some of these can be visited through river trekking. Another activity not to be missed is the Rafting in the Lao river, with a Rafting instructor and the basic equipment to safely descend along the river and observe the extraordinary natural scenery.
Sila National Park
The Sila National Park is located in the largest upland in Europe, in an area of significant environmental, historical and cultural interest, consisting of the Sila Grande, Sila Greca and Sila Piccola, which are all sub-regions of the Sila mountain ranges.
The Park extends over 73,695 hectares of the Calabrian territory and reaches an average altitude of 1100 meters above sea level, the highest peak being the Mount Botte Donato, near Lorica, at 2000 meters high, in the Sila Grande, and the Mount Gariglione (mt. 1764) in Sila Piccola. In 2014, the Sila became the tenth Italian Biosphere Reserve on the World Network of UNESCO sites of excellence.
Its geological characteristics of the park create a series of landscapes unique to this region of the world. The Sila in fact, covered with trees has been exploited for millennia (since the times of the Magna Grecia) for its timber used then in the construction of ships, houses, and churches.
Sila is rich in extraordinary panoramas and exceptional ecosystems, it is an environment that is unparalleled in any other part of Southern Italy, where the expanse of the woods is interrupted by three large lakes to discover: Cecita, Arvo and Ampollino.
Aspromonte National Park
The territory of the Aspromonte National Park is within the province of Reggio Calabria and takes its name from the Aspromonte Massif which means “white” and dates back to the Greek populations of the Ionian coast who admired the white mountain formations of the massif. Montalto is the highest peak at 1955 meters above sea level and offers a wonderful panorama of Calabria and the Sicilian coast. The territory of the park also has a great variety of plant and animal species and enjoys particular climatic conditions that favours an environment rich in biodiversity.
Within the park borders there are several villages of great historical and artistic interest. Absolutely not to be missed are Gerace and San Giorgio Morgeto.
San Giorgio Morgeto is the “Gate of the Aspromonte Park” and has a historical center of medieval origin with some examples of eighteenth-century houses and palaces. Gerace is considered one of the most beautiful towns in Italy and is known as the country of the 100 churches even though today, due to earthquakes, only 26 remain.