The world’s most beautiful parks
National parks often make great places to visit on holiday. These natural havens are a great way to discover local culture and much more besides while taking in majestic landscapes. Here are the 30 most beautiful parks in the world, to be added to your wish list for your next holiday.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Included on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1979, this is Croatia’s oldest and largest national park. It is best known for its lakes, formed through thousands of years of limestone erosion and all interconnected via magnificent waterfalls. Visitors can hike through wooded areas to admire the lakes, although swimming is not permitted.
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Located in Patagonia, this magnificent park is part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme. It was declared the eighth wonder of the world in 2013. This park encompasses various environments, including steppes, glaciers and impressive mountains, giving visitors the impression of experiencing four seasons in one day. Visitors may also catch a glimpse of various species of animal in their natural habitat, making it a favourite destination for photographers and animal lovers alike.
Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Carved out by glaciers several millennia ago, this park in New Zealand forms part of Maori legend—the demi-god Tu-te-raki-whanoa is said to have carved out the majestic fiords himself. This park has a unique climate allowing tropical forest to give way to impressive mountains. The aquatic fauna is also particularly interesting for divers, who can admire the rare red and black corals.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
This park offers visitors a great variety of unique experiences. Firstly, history and archaeology aficionados will love exploring the park’s various historic sites, featuring rock paintings and artefacts that date back thousands of years. Secondly, the savannah is bursting with animal life, including the famous “Big Five” (lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards and rhinos) and many other unique species of animal and plant.
Jiuzhaigou Valley Natural Reserve, Chine
Located in the Aba Tibetan Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, in the southwest of China, this natural reserve is included on the UNESCO World Heritage list as well as in its Man and the Biosphere Programme. Autumn is the best time to visit the park, when the forest trees are clad in a full spectrum of colours, contrasting spectacularly with the turquoise lakes. The park is also home to giant pandas, an endangered species.
Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Wrangell–St. Elias is the largest national park in the U.S. It encompasses four mountain ranges, including several volcanoes (one of which, Mount Wrangell, is still active), as well as stunning glaciers. The breathtaking landscapes are perfect for all sorts of activities. The park borders two Canadian parks—the Kluane National Park in Yukon and the Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park in British Columbia. Together, these three parks are listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda
The semi-arid plains and valleys of this Ugandan park are a sanctuary for many species of animals, and a perfect playground for safari lovers. The dry season spanning July and August is the best time to visit, when animals gather around water holes. On expeditions or hikes through the park, visitors can see lions, gazelles, elephants, giraffes and dozens of other species.
Banff National Park, Canada
Banff is famous for its impressive landscapes in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, a majestic range that stretches along Canada’s west coast. Lake Louise is another major tourist attraction, with its breathtaking clear emerald hues. Visitors can ski, camp and pace hundreds of hiking routes, potentially spotting various wild animals en route such as wolves, grizzly bears and eagles, to name but a few.
Canaima National Park, Venezuela
With geology very similar to that found in Africa, Canaima is covered with flat-topped mountains known as tepui, as well as forests and a lagoon. The lagoon is a popular tourist attraction—tourists can navigate the crystal waters in a canoe. The tallest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls, falls from the summit of one of the tepui mountains called Auyantepui. The waterfall is 979 metres (3,212 feet) high and can be seen from walking routes through the tropical forest.
Göreme National Park, Turkey
Located in the Cappadocia region, this park is made up of a valley and a small town, both called Göreme. The most interesting section of the park to explore is the Open-Air Museum: tourists can visit byzantine churches and old troglodyte dwellings, where ancient rock paintings are still visible. Visitors can also see impressive rock formations called “fairy chimneys.” Tourists can even take to the air, admiring the park from above in a hot-air balloon.
Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
The clue is in the name: this park is famous for its majestic glaciers such as Perito Moreno that can be climbed on foot or explored by kayak. The park is also a perfect location for mountain hiking and camping, with routes that go up and down the various peaks, offering spectacular views of the glaciers, as well as two large lakes with crystal-clear waters and diverse wildlife. Home to over a hundred species of bird, this is a great destination for fans of ornithology.
Jim Corbett National Park, India
Named after the tiger hunter-turned-conservationist Jim Corbett, this park’s star attraction is its population of wild Bengal tigers that can be spotted on safari-style expeditions. Visitors may also catch sight of many other types of animals, such as elephants, pythons, cobras and even crocodiles. There are also various fascinating cultural attractions, such as a museum dedicated to Jim Corbett himself or the Garjiya Devi Hindu temple.
Galápagos National Park, Ecuador
Spanning across the Galápagos Islands, famous for being explored by Charles Darwin, this park is a true natural marvel. It was the first site named to the UNESCO World Heritage List and is home to unique species of flora and fauna, including the emblematic giant tortoise. The islands were formed by volcanoes, some of which remain active and influence the island formation to this very day.
Saxon Switzerland National Park, Germany
This park is a beloved destination for fans of hiking and rock climbing, due to the impressive rock formations that rise up from the Elbe valley. Free-climbing is said to have originated in this very region, which is full of castles and churches as well as a magnificent open-air theatre, making this park a cultural as well as sporting destination.
Guilin Lijiang National Park, China
This park’s star attraction is the Lijiang River, also known as the Pearl River Basin, which flows over 160 km (100 miles). The park is located between the cities of Yangshuo and Guilin. Visitors can take a cruise around the park and admire the imposing limestone towers along the riverbanks as well as many caves. It is also possible to hike in the mountains, following the river.
Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
Located on the Osa Peninsula, this park is isolated and difficult to access, making it a true sanctuary for nature and a real adventure for visitors. Mainly comprising dense rainforest, it can only be accessed on foot. Hikers may encounter a huge variety of animals, including sloths, various species of monkey, toucans, crocodiles and even wild pigs.
Yosemite National Park, USA
Yosemite is home to the Californian giant sequoia, a rare species of tree that grows to an impressive height. The park also features cliffs and rock formations that are perfect for hiking, as well as numerous waterfalls. The park is great for rock climbing, or during winter visitors can even explore the park on skis, skates or snowshoes. The landscapes in this park are vast—perfect for all kinds of adventures.
Naejangsan National Park, South Korea
Located around the Naejangsan mountain, this park is famous for its magnificent autumn colours, which is when the park is at its busiest. Spring is also a popular time to go, to see the cherry blossom as well as a large variety of flowers and trees. The best way to fully appreciate the park landscape is from the cable car. Visitors can stop off at temples along the hiking routes, where they can take part in tea ceremonies and other cultural activities.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia
The majestic red-rock formations in this park are particularly impressive at sunrise and sunset. They can be admired from various viewpoints at these times. This is a sacred site for the region’s Indigenous population, the Anangu, who manage the park in partnership with the state. Visitors can see rock art dating back tens of thousands of years, testament to Anangu ancestral education.
Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Vietnam
The largest cave in the world, Hang Son Doon, is located in this park, which is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This impressive cave, along with several others in the park, is open to tourists. It is also possible to hike through the tropical forest or explore the park by kayak or bike.
Snowdonia National Park, Wales
This park, which surrounds Mount Snowdon and several other mountains, is a perfect destination for fans of hiking. To provide an inclusive welcome, though, a train can take less active visitors right to the summit of Snowdon, giving everyone the opportunity to admire the mountainous landscape. Various extreme sports are on offer in the park, as well as some castle ruins.
Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Japan
Mount Fuji, an active volcano, is a recognizable symbol of Japan that is conveniently located close to the capital city, Tokyo. The park contains several other mountains that are perfect for hiking, as well as an archipelago of volcanic islands, called Izu. Visitors can go diving to admire the coral, or swim with dolphins. Culture vultures won’t be disappointed—there are dozens of temples and museums to visit in the area.
Connemara National Park, Ireland
Once rolling farmland, the plains and valleys of this park are perfect for hiking and exploring. There are ruins aplenty to visit, including 5,000-year-old megaliths and tombs that were built by the first farmers to work the land in this region. Another popular attraction is the herd of Connemara ponies that graze their way through the park.
Yellowstone National Park, USA
Located in the state of Wyoming, this park is famous for its impressive geysers and multicoloured thermal springs. Tourists can visit them but should take care, as they can be dangerous! Visitors can follow hiking trails to admire canyons, waterfalls and mountains. They may even encounter various species of wild animal, such as buffaloes, grizzly bears or even wolves.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
For safari lovers, this park is paradise. The best time to visit is around the month of March, when the great migration begins. Large numbers of gnus, zebras and gazelles can be seen starting their journey, not to mention the lions, hyenas and crocodiles for whom this abundance of prey means hunting season. On a hot-air balloon ride, tourists can appreciate the vast plains of the Serengeti in all their splendour.
Doi Inthanon National Park, Thailand
Nicknamed “the roof of Thailand,” this park cannot be accessed by foot alone—you’ll need a vehicle to take you from one attraction to the next, including to the eponymous summit. There are a few campsites and cabins for visitors who want to stay more than a day in the park. Waterfalls, temples and a giant garden are other star attractions. The park is home to over 500 species of birds—a birder’s paradise.
Mungo National Park, Australia
This unique park is located on the site of an old lake that has not contained any water for almost 20,000 years. The arid landscape is simply breathtaking. As well as being home to emus and hordes of other wild animals, the park is famous for being an important archaeological site. In fact, 40,000-year-old human remains have been discovered there—the oldest modern humans to have been found outside of Africa.
Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park, Spain
Located in the heart of the Pyrenees in the region of Huesca, this park is where the Atlantic and Mediterranean ecosystems meet. The park contains three mountains and four valleys, including the valley of Ordesa and the Monte Perdido mountain, from which the park gets its name. Hiking through the park in both winter and summer, visitors can take in a wide variety of grand landscapes, as well as abundant flora and fauna.
Grand Canyon National Park, USA
The gigantic layered rocks of the Grand Canyon, in Arizona, are world-famous, and of great interest to anyone keen on geology; the Colorado River caused the erosion of these rock formations over several million years. Visitors can go rafting in the river, or can hike and camp in the park. This site also has a rich Indigenous history, with various archaeological sites available to visit.
Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Italy
This mountainous Italian park is a perfect destination for those who love skiing or hiking, thanks to its breathtaking scenery and diverse flora and fauna. The park also has a rich history, with sites and artefacts dating back to prehistoric times, the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages that are best discovered on foot.
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