13 Best National Parks in the World
America may have sparked the national park movement with Yellowstone in 1872, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world doesn’t have its fair share of jaw-dropping landscapes. Read on for our favorites, from Thailand to Turkey.
Snowdonia National Park, Wales
Craggy peaks, foggy valleys, crystal-clear lakes. It’s not hard to see why Snowdonia is the stuff of myths and medieval folklore. (Legend has it that King Arthur’s magical sword, Excalibur, can be found at the bottom of one of the park’s lakes.) To take it all in, ride the tram to the top of Mount Snowdon.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
The 16 lakes that stretch across Plitvice aren’t your typical watering holes. These cascading pools come in a rainbow of azure blue, turquoise, and emerald green. Stroll along the boardwalk for spot-on views of the waterfalls, fir tree forests and hidden caves around the park. You can take as many insta-perfect photos as you want, just don’t dive in!
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Who hasn’t heard of the Serengeti? This legendary expanse on the Tanzania and Kenya border is home to the world’s oldest eco-system and the largest animal migration. And a trip to Africa would not be complete without checking it off the list. Keep an eye out for the Big Five—lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalo and elephants—that roam the grassy plains.
Guilin and Lijiang River National Park, China
Misty karst hills, sleepy fishing villages, and a winding river are just some of the sights at this national park in southeast China. Book a boat cruise between Guilin and Yangshuo, where you’ll float by Xingping Ancient Town and Nine Horse Fresco Hill among other natural wonders.
Galápagos National Park, Ecuador
When Darwin first landed on this archipelago, he was inspired to pursue his theory of evolution. Today, you can still see the animals that sparked Darwin’s discovery, including rare endemic species like giant tortoises, iguanas, penguins and sea lions. And although there’s only one major hotel on the island, the eco-luxe Pikaia Lodge, you can hop aboard its private yacht for a personal scuba diving excursion around the coral reefs.
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
You’ll never get bored of exploring Torres del Paine National Park. For one, there are hundreds of trails that wind around the jagged mountains, crystal-clear glacial lakes, and ice fields. But, the region is also known for its finicky weather; it’s said you can experience all four seasons within an hour.
Iguazú National Park, Brazil and Argentina
Surrounded by thick subtropical forests, Iguazú’s main highlight is its thundering falls that soar at 260 feet high and stretch 9,000 feet across. Explore the Argentine side for the most sweeping vistas of the rapids, and if you’re truly fearless, go near Devil’s Throat, a dramatic split in the river. Or take the safe route and hike along some of the park paths to spot 2,000 kinds of plants as well as exotic animals like tapirs, howler monkeys, and giant anteaters.
National Parks of Svalbard, Norway
Did you know: More than half of the Arctic is protected in Norway’s seven national parks. The Svalbard islands, between the North Pole and mainland Norway, is a haven for polar bears, walruses, and harbor seals. It’s also a nature photographer’s dream thanks to the midnight sun in the summer and polar nights in the winter.
Göreme National Park, Turkey
Dating back to the 4th century (yes, you read that right), Göreme is one of the world’s oldest remains of human civilization. A surreal landscape of troglodyte homes, subterranean cities and ancient Byzantine cave drawings make it a spectacular sight to behold. And there’s no better way to see it than via a hot air balloon at sunset, when the sculpted stone is awash in red and pink.
Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
As the largest national park in New Zealand, Fiordland features one of the most vast landscapes. Picture: craggy mountains, thundering waterfalls, mirror-like lakes and majestic fjords. It’s no wonder why the south island has served as the backdrop for epics like Lord of the Rings.
America is home to some of the best national parks, but Yellowstone truly takes the crown. Not only is it the first national park ever (opened in 1872), it’s also home to the continent’s largest super volcano and the world’s biggest herd of bison. Check out its famous geysers and hot springs, then camp underneath a blanket of stars.
Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
Only the most intrepid travelers make it to Khao Sok National Park in southern Thailand. This remote nature reserve is made up of dense jungle, with towering limestone formations that jut out of Cheow Lan Lake. Have a local guide give you a canoe tour of Sok River, so you can get up close and personal with the exotic landscape and wildlife. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a tiger.
Banff National Park, Canada
As the first and most famous national park in Canada, Banff is the country’s crown jewel. Come springtime, the 1,000 miles of hiking trails wind past mountain streams, towering glaciers and valleys blooming with wildflowers. Take it all in from a bird’s-eye view at the Glacier Skywalk, a vertigo-inducing glass path that just out from a cliff.
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