The national parks of the world are home to some of the most incredible natural wonders-from canyons to waterfalls to underground caves, vast mountain ranges, teeming reefs, lush forests and abundant wildlife. Every national park has its own unique charm and beauty and deserves a spot on your must-visit list, but here are our picks for the parks you definitely can’t miss out on.
1. Freycinet National Park
Freycinet National Park is located off the coast of Tasmania and is an idyllic place to visit, featuring unique bird life, stunning pink quartz cliffs, and challenging hiking trails. It is home to the well-loved Hazards Beach, where you can enjoy sea life by snorkeling, kayaking, or swimming, and gorgeous scenery such as the famous Wineglass Bay and rocky Friendly Beaches. Freycinet also offers sweeping views of the coast and an array of wildlife, such as black swans and golden eagles-you may even encounter a friendly wallaby or two while hiking!
2. Yellowstone National Park
No list of must-visit national parks is complete without Yellowstone. Yellowstone was the first national park in the world to be established in 1872, and remains one of the most visited parks on Earth. Home to the famous geyser “Old Faithful,” Yellowstone also features over 45 beautiful waterfalls, scenic forests, stunning canyons, the famous and brilliantly colored Yellowstone Hot Springs, and an array of wildlife, including wolves, American bison, moose, and bears.
3. Serengeti National Park
Located in Tanzania, Serengeti National Park is a haven for African wildlife and is most well-known for the large numbers of wildebeest and zebra that flock to the park during migration season each year. If you miss the migration, you can still marvel at the copious amounts of quintessential African wildlife the park boasts while on safaris, such as elephants, giraffes, and lions. Also be sure to visit all three sections of the park; each boasts its own unique biome, from African plains to roaring rivers to thickly-forested areas.
4. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Best known for boasting a diverse selection of marine life, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system and offers an array of fun activities and beautiful scenery. View the reef and its populations of sea turtles and brightly colored fish either by seaplane, sailboat, skydiving, or hiking trails. Visit koalas on Magnetic Island, hand feed baby stingrays on Daydream Island, marvel at the clear, blue waters of the ocean and you’ll soon understand why this delicate and stunning ecosystem must be protected.
5. Fiordland National Park
Located in southwest New Zealand, Fiordland is renowned for its craggy fjords such as the famous Doubtful and Milford sounds. It is also known for its tranquil lakes, dramatic waterfalls, mossy forests, and snow-capped peaks such as the Earl Mountains. Home to dolphins, seals, and penguins, Fiordland is a naturalist’s paradise. Offering rewarding hikes, cave tours, New Zealand’s famous “Great Walks,” sweeping views of the famous “Mitre Peak” and glimpses of rare black coral, Fiordland is a must.
6. Swiss National Park
The largest of Switzerland’s parks, located among the Alps, Swiss National Park features dense, alpine forests and towering, craggy mountains, all among a backdrop of clear, blue skies. It is home to the famous Fuorn Pass, a mountain pass with hiking trails and ironworks ruins, as well as Lago de Livigno, a lake with activities such as windsurfing and kayaking. It also boasts animals such as the Golden Eagle and Brown Bear, making it no surprise that this park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
7. Mount Rainier National Park
Located in Washington state, Mount Rainier National Park is over 350 square miles. The park is most famous for Mount Rainier, a 14,000 foot tall active volcano, as well as Crystal Mountain, a popular skiing destination. The park is also home to over 350 towering waterfalls as well as over 25 impressive glaciers. Thousands of visitors flock to Mount Rainier in late July and August in order to catch a glimpse of its vast fields of brightly-colored wildflowers such as Pink Mountain Heather and Subalpine Daisies. While you’re there, be sure to pick some of Mount Rainier’s world-renowned sweet cherries!
8. Fundy National Park
A hidden gem located in New Brunswick, Canada, Fundy National Park is home to the Bay of Fundy and the highest tides in the world. Featuring over 25 breathtaking waterfalls, placid lakes, green forests, and impressive cliffs, Fundy is a hiker’s paradise with nearly 40 trails and is also a popular migration spot for both whales and puffins.Its high tides are perfect for kayaking and swimming in and its low tides offer a unique glimpse of the ocean floor. Accommodation is just as interesting as the park itself, with options such as Yurts and spacious cabins, and make sure to buy Dulse, a regional specialty, while you’re there!
9. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Known as a “cave explorer’s paradise,” this UNESCO World Heritage Site in northern Vietnam is home to over 300 caves, including the massive Phong Nha cave and Sơn Đoòng cave, which is considered to be the largest cave in the world. The park also boasts the longest underground river in the world, the Son River, and features many beautiful underground waterfalls and deep underground lakes. The park is also home to a diverse selection of wildlife, such as the White-Cheeked Crested Gibbon, Asian Black Bear, and Sunda Pangolins.
The national parks of the world are varied and immensely diverse, each with characteristics that make them unique and destinations that you can’t miss out on. Spreading across the continents, the world’s national parks offer a front row seat of the splendor and intricacy of the natural world. The only thing that is left to do is to take off work, purchase a plane ticket or two, pack a good pair of hiking shoes and a nice camera, and get to exploring!