Italy’s very first national park was created to protect the Alpine ibex species that had dwindled to less than 500 at the time. Gran Paradiso National Park is located between the northwestern regions of Piedmont and Aosta and holds true to its name, a “great paradise”.
Gran Paradiso in the Graian Alps
Named after the 4,000-meter peak in the Graian Alps, the Gran Paradiso, the park was established in 1922. The area had been the favorite hunting grounds of King Vittorio Emanuele II and the once prolific population of Alpine ibex had been decimated.
It was his grandson, Vittorio Emanuele III who decided to donate the land that had been designated hunting territory and create a national park in an attempt to protect the species. Still, it wasn’t until the 1940s that the population was able to reach 4,000 where it has held steady.
Species Within the Park
Other species that are protected within the 700 square kilometer area are the alpine chamois, golden eagle, bearded vulture, as well as fox, and wolves.
Plant species are numerous since the park encompasses a variety of environments from rocky alpine slopes to vast grasslands and woods.
What You Can Do in the Park
The Paradisia Alpine Botanical Garden is a must when visiting the park in Valnontey at 1,700 meters elevation with a view of the Gran Paradiso mountain peak. You can choose either a guided tour or pick up a brochure and explore on your own. The park recommends visiting between mid-June and mid-July in order to witness the blooms at their peak.
Hiking and mountain bike trails, as well as climbs, are located throughout the entire park but some think that those in the Cogne Valley are the most scenic.
Summer is the ideal season for enjoying them because the conditions are dry and temperatures are ideal. Early fall can also be an option when the colors of the foliage are truly spectacular!
Wintertime activities include skiing and snowboarding, including 21 km of slopes on Gran Paradiso itself!
You have numerous options for staying within the park and most visitors choose the towns of Cogne, Aosta, Valsavarenche, or even Turin if you’re just planning a day trip. Camping is of course, also an option but must be reserved in advance in designated campsites.
The park’s official website in English is also a wealth of information and essential for planning your trip.