If you’ve already experienced the beauty of some of America’s national parks, you may be ready to explore some of the fabulous national parks worldwide. From the turquoise-colored waters in Canada’s Banff National Park to the incredible wildlife encounters in Africa’s Kruger National Park, these are our readers’ favorite national parks around the globe!
1. Banff National Park (Winner)
One of Canada’s most scenic national parks sits in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, surrounded by rugged mountain peaks, turquoise-colored lakes, and magnificent glaciers. Banff National Park is Canada’s first national park and the world’s third.
This popular park boasts hundreds of miles of hiking trails, incredibly scenic lakes, winter sports venues, world-famous hot springs, and various other recreational activities. The park also maintains museums in the town of Banff, over 750 archaeological sites, and a list of national historic sites. If you’re looking to experience nature firsthand, campgrounds and trailer sites can be found in and near the park. If you prefer more formal accommodations, there are hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals in the towns of Lake Louise and Banff.
Tips For Planning Your Trip To Banff National Park
Known for its iconic beauty, Banff National Park is a photographer’s dream landscape. Don’t miss these fantastic snow and ice photo opportunities recommended by Canadian writer Jill Browne.
If you’re looking for ways to make your trip more affordable, check out these budget-friendly tips for visiting Banff from writer Elaine Masters.
2. Galapagos National Park
The Galapagos Island chain is world-renowned for its incredible biodiversity and is the birthplace of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Located about 600 miles west of continental Ecuador, Galapagos National Park is Ecuador’s oldest national park. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for iconic wildlife such as the Galapagos land iguanas, the marine iguanas, and the giant Galapagos tortoise.
Visitors can enjoy this incredible national park by choosing to stay on one of the four inhabited islands: Santa Cruz, Isabella, San Cristobal, and Floreana — or by opting for a cruise that will allow them to check out a variety of islands.
Pro Tip: The Galapagos Islands are a dream destination for most. Writer Erika Ebsworth-Goold gives her tips for planning your bucket list vacation, and writer Louisa Rogers tells her story of regret about not visiting the Galapagos when she had the opportunity.
3. Jasper National Park
Of the four national parks in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Jasper National Park is both the largest and the farthest north. Its natural beauty has been described by writer Nadine Cresswell-Myatt as “heart-stopping, with white-carpeted glaciers, crystalline lakes, evergreen forests, and craggy mountaintops silhouetted against brooding skies.” The park is well known for its hiking trails, but there are also a wide variety of activities available that don’t include hiking.
How To Get To Jasper National Park
In her article detailing the best things to do in Jasper, Canadian writer Jill Browne explains, “The town of Jasper (located in Jasper National Park) is 257 miles from Calgary by car via the Trans-Canada Highway and the Icefields Parkway.” From Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, Jasper is 277 west on the Yellowhead Highway.
4. Torres Del Paine (Tie)
Located in Chile’s Patagonia region, Torres del Paine National Park is named after the three granite “Towers of Paine” that make up the centerpiece of the landscape. The park is truly an incredible destination full of icy blue glaciers, glistening turquoise lakes, and jagged snow-capped mountains. The park is also home to guanacos (a close relative of the llama), foxes, and pumas.
Writer Sarah Kingdom describes the park as a “fantastic destination for intrepid hikers, kayakers, mountain bikers, or any adventurous traveler.” While multi-day treks are quite popular, spectacular views and iconic landmarks can also be seen by driving around the park.
Pro Tip: Hiking circuits range from 4- to 10-day-long expeditions. Sarah recommends you “book your trekking with Cascada Expediciones if you are keen to get your legs moving.”
4. Manuel Antonio National Park (Tie)
Costa Rica’s beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park was established in 1972 and is named for a conquistador who is buried there. Even though it is a smaller park, it remains popular due to its lush greenery, gorgeous white sand beaches, and astonishing variety of wildlife.
How To Get To Manuel Antonio National Park
Writer Alison Browne explains, “Manuel Antonio National Park is near the town of Quepos, 105 miles southeast of San Jose. It is a 3-hour drive from San Jose and very accessible by direct public bus and shuttle.”
6. Serengeti National Park
Writer Sarah Kingdom explains, “Serengeti National Park, in northern Tanzania, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts the highest concentration of plains game in Africa.” The park is also Tanzania’s oldest and most popular park. Sarah goes on to explain, “These sprawling grasslands make for those classic safari panoramas, with lone acacia trees silhouetted on the horizon and herds of grazing zebra and antelope.”
The Serengeti is home to the awe-inspiring Great Migration, which occurs between November and July. During this time, millions of herds of wildebeest, zebra, and other antelope gather to graze, mate, and give birth.
7. Kruger National Park
Sarah writes about this popular park in Africa, “Kruger is home to 147 mammal species (the most of any African national park), including cheetah, hippo, zebra, giraffe, warthog, baboon, and numerous antelope species. The Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, and leopard) are so abundant here that even a first-time visitor can cross them off their list by lunchtime.”
The most popular time to visit Kruger National Park is during the dry winter season, which is from May to August. Sarah also explains that during this time, “the bush is sparse and animals gravitate to the water holes, making them easier to spot.”
Pro Tip: For more on Kruger National Park, also check out writer Heide Brandes’ article that details everything you need to know before visiting.
8. Berchtesgaden National Park
Berchtesgaden National Park in Germany is one of the oldest conservation areas in the Alps. Well known for its iconic mountain scenery, deep dark forests, and picturesque lakes, this park also boasts over 700 different kinds of butterflies, chamois, ibex, red deer, and golden eagles.
Berchtesgaden is a seasonal mountain town, and the best time to visit depends on the types of activities you are interested in. During winter months, expect skiing, snow hiking, sledding, ice skating, and ice curling. During the summer months, visitors can expect hiking, biking, water fun, and golf.
9. Fundy National Park (Tie)
Fundy National Park, located in New Brunswick, Canada, is home to the Bay of Fundy, and its highest tides on earth. According to Canada writer Vanessa Chiasson, the water level in the Bay of Fundy “can rise or fall anywhere from 11 feet to 53 feet, depending on location.”
Besides the incredible tides, Fundy National Park also offers beautiful forests, amazing waterfalls, unique accommodations, and even regular musical performances.
Vanessa further describes the park as being a place you can visit year-round. “With plenty of winter camping and accommodation options, you can visit Fundy National Park year-round. However, many programs and amenities are seasonal in nature. Visitors will notice a climate difference between different sections of the park. For instance, there is frequent fog along the coast. As such, you’ll want to bring along a sweater or light jacket for summer adventures.”
11. Komodo National Park (Tie)
Komodo National Park in Indonesia comprises three major Indonesian islands: Komodo, Rinca, and Padar as well as some other smaller volcanic land masses in the area. The park is located in the Lesser Sunda island group, which also includes the Indonesian province of Bali. The protected region is both a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve.
The park aims to protect one of its most well-known inhabitants, the komodo dragon. While incredible to look at, these stealthy hunters are equipped with a venomous bite. The lizards, which can reach up to 366 pounds and 10 feet in length(!), rely on the islands’ ecosystems to survive and reproduce.
The best time to visit is during the dry season, from April to December. You can’t reach the islands of Komodo National Park by road; it’s all small flights and ferries from Bali. On Komodo Island itself, there are no motor vehicles or roads and all exploration has to be done by walking.
12. Manu National Park
Manu National Park, located in southeastern Peru, is one of the largest parks in South America at 4.5 million acres. Over 221 different species of mammals, hundreds of bird species, and a variety of ecosystems can all be found in the park. Manu National Park is also home to indigenous populations who have retained their traditions and continue to live in complete isolation.
While the park can be accessed by road from Cusco, the only access to the lowlands is by boat up the Manu River. Visits to this park must be made with an authorized tour agency.
13. Iguaque Flora And Fauna Sanctuary
Visitors to this sanctuary can explore the Sacred Lagoon of Iguaque that, according to Muisca mythology, is the cradle of humanity. The story states that Bachué, the mother of the Muisca people, emerged from this lagoon and helped populate the earth. For this reason, it is believed that a pilgrimage here cleanses the soul and purifies the spirit.
The sanctuary has a total of seven glacial lagoons, is of vital importance for many ecosystems, and provides drinking water for local communities.
To get to Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, you must take a 3.5-hour road trip from the city of Bogotá to the town of Villa de Leyva. From there, it is another 30-minute road trip and a nearly 2-mile hike to access the sanctuary.
14. Arrábida Natural Park
About a 30-minute drive south from Lisbon, Arrábida Natural Park in Portugal is known for its steep hills, green shrubs, and incredible scenery. Visitors can enjoy gorgeous water views from the many hiking trails throughout the park. The bay below is famous for being home to a large pod of dolphins, and wild boars are common in the shrubs and sometimes even come down to the coastline.
The park also includes mountain ranges such as the Serra do Risco, which contains the highest peak along the Portuguese mainland coast. A visit to this area offers visitors an unforgettable panoramic view over the Atlantic Ocean.
15. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Uluru, The enormous red rock in the Central Australian desert, is one of the country’s most iconic attractions. A giant sandstone monolith, Uluru stands over 1,100 feet above the surrounding desert and is about a half a billion years old.
Australian writer Nadine Cresswell-Myatt explains, “You may know Uluru by its previous name — Ayers Rock. The name changed in 2002 due to the wishes of its traditional owners, the Anangu people (PDF). For them, it is a spiritual place, and all visitors sense this spiritualism in their own way.”
Uluru is also home to rare plants and animals, important spiritual sites, and caves covered in ancient rock art.
Pro Tip: Exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is best done early in the morning to avoid the intense heat of the Australian Outback. According to Nadine, if you rent a bike “some people also wear face netting. Swallowing a bush fly at high speed is not an Australian rite of passage every tourist wants to experience.”
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