One of the best things about travel is being exposed to many different types of natural landscapes, from mountain ranges and jungles to beaches and waterfalls. Visiting national parks and nature preserves allows you to really get up close and personal with these stunning stretches of natural beauty. Here are our picks for ten top parks around the world – ideal places for seeing Mother Nature in her full glory.
Banff National Park, Alberta Canada
Canada’s first national park is one of its most breathtaking. Set amidst the Canadian Rockies, the 2,564 square-mile park attracts millions of visitors each year who come to admire the mountain scenery and all of the other natural beauty offered. Banff National Park is also home to mesmerizing, emerald-hued Lake Louise, hot springs, hundreds of miles of trails, glaciers and enough activities to keep you coming back year after year.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Croatia’s most popular tourist attractions – with very good reason. Simply put, the park is unforgettably gorgeous. The park houses a network of 16 lakes interconnected by a series of waterfalls. The best way to explore the park is to walk or hike one of the many trails. There’s also a shuttle bus that does one route around the park and, in the summer, a boat can take you from one end of the largest lake to the other. If you want to stay overnight, there are three hotels on site as well as a campground.
Yosemite National Park, California, United States
Yosemite National Parkis a year-round destination for nature lovers. Don’t miss a visit to Yosemite Valley, where you’ll find waterfalls, cliffs and unique rock formations, or the chance to see the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoiatrees, the largest strand of giant sequoias (also known as Sierra redwoods) in Yosemite. The park is the perfect place for hiking, snowshoeing, birdwatching, camping, backpacking, swimming and even boating.
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park is a world biosphere reserve that brims with amazing scenery. Glaciers, snow-capped mountains, lakes, forests and unique wildlife are just some of what makes this park so special and the ideal destination for avid trekkers. There are many hikes of varying lengths and difficulty as well as campground and lodges for overnight guests. Hotels can also be found in Torres del Paine for those interested in enjoying what the park has to offer without roughing it.
Canaima National Park, Venezuela
Located in southeastern Venezuela along the border between Guyana and Brazil, Canaima National Park is one of the largest national parks in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is known for its flat-topped mountain formations called “tepuis” as well as for Angel Falls, which is the highest waterfall in the world – more than 15 times higher than Niagara Falls. Canaima National Park is also home to several species of endangered mammals including jaguars and ocelots, and it contains many plant species that aren’t found anywhere else on earth.
Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park, China
This park, the premiere national park in China, is famous for its unique blue, green and turquoise-hued lakes that seem almost other worldly in their coloring. In addition to the sparkling lakes, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to nine Tibetan villages, waterfalls, more than 220 bird species and several endangered species including the giant panda and Sichuan golden monkey.
Komodo National Park, Indonesia
As the name would suggest, Komodo National Park in eastern Indonesia is home to the Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard. The giant reptiles can get to be six to 10 feet in length and this park is one of your best bets for spotting one. But lizards aren’t the only reason to visit. Komodo National Park is also known as an exceptional dive spot and is home to more than 1,000 species of tropical fish, more than 260 species of reef-building coral, seven species of sharks and some marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.
Tulum National Park, Mexico
Tulum National Park on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is an eco-archaeological site where you’ll find one of the area’s most impressive Mayan ruins. The archeological site sits on cliffs above the Caribbean Sea making it a pretty spectacular place to explore, whether you’re walking amongst the ruins or enjoying the white sand beach and turquoise water below.
Iguazu National Park, Argentina/Brazil
Canaima National Park in Venezuela might have the highest waterfall in the world, but Iguazu National Park lays claim to one of the world’s most spectacular. These falls are 262 feet high and have a 8,858-foot diameter spanning the border between Argentina and Brazil. What makes these falls so unique, in addition to their sheer size, is the fact they are made up of many powerful cascades.
Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal
Nepal’s Sagarmatha National Park is home to the mountain of the same name. You might recognize it by its other name: Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on earth. The park is also home to seven other peaks more than 23,000 feet high, glaciers, valleys, rare species like the snow leopard and 2,500 Sherpa people who live within the vast area.
Featured image: Esther Lee