Today: Top 10 most spectacular National Parks in the world.
The first national park was founded in 1872, when US President Ulysses S. Grant signed a pact, establishing Yellowstone National Park in Montana and Wyoming “as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people” and placed it “under the exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior”. The idea quickly spread, and today, there are more than 1,000 national parks in over 100 nations, protecting sites of dazzling natural beauty, geographic wonders, and unique flora and fauna, that is open to the public and not altered by man. Though beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I hereby present you with my selection of the world’s most magnificent national parks (those that impressed me the most during my extensive travels around the globe).
5. YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, USA
10. CANAIMA NATIONAL PARK, VENEZUALA
Canaima National Park is spread over 3 million ha in south-eastern Venezuela along the border between Guyana and Brazil. The majority of the park’s surface is covered by table mountains (tepui) which form a fabulous landscape of sheer cliffs and waterfalls. The tepuis are of great geological interest as they represent unique biogeological entities. Canaima is also home to Angels Falls, which is the world’s highest waterfall (979 m or 3211 ft). The falls are named after Jimmy Angel, an American bush pilot and gold-hunting adventurer, who discovered the in 1937. The height of the falls is so great that before getting anywhere near the ground, the water is atomized by the strong winds and turned into mist.
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9. KAKADU NATIONAL PARK, AUSTRALIA
Kakadu National Park is Australia’s largest national park, covering almost 20,000 square kilometres. That’s nearly half the size of Switzerland! This timeless place, located a 3hour drive from Darwin in the Northern Territory, is recognised as a global treasure, World Heritage-listed for both its environment and living Aboriginal culture. Aboriginal people have lived here for more than 50,000 years, representing the oldest living culture on earth. The park is famous for its 280 different types of birds (around a third of all the bird species in Australia) and its 10,000 crocodiles, which are abundantly present in Cahill’s Crossing and Yellow Water Wetlands.
8. CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK, COSTA RICA
The National Park of Corcovado, located on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica’s southwest corner, is one of the most intense biological places on earth, and the beauty of its old-growth wet forests, cloud forests, mangrove swamps, and wild beaches is beyond words. The heart of this national park, around the Serena Ranger Station, is teeming with tropical wildlife, such as Red Macaws, tapirs, quetzals, red-eyed tree frogs, boa constrictor boas, and various species of monkeys to name just a few. Call yourself extremely lucky when you spot a mountain lion or jaguar on the beach hunting for turtles, but be careful for herds of voracious peccaries in the dark jungle.
7 YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, USA
Yellowstone was established in 1872 as America’s first national park – an idea that spread worldwide – to protect the majority of the earth’s geysers, as well as other thermal wonders that make up an otherworldly landscape composed of steam, bubble, and boiling mud. Besides thermal features, Yellowstone’s vast wilderness includes mountain ranges, lakes, waterfalls and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Grand Teton National Park, located just south of Yellowstone, offers even more amazing scenery. The main reason most tourists for visiting Yellowstone is to observe the amazing wildlife: grizzly and black bears, bison, bighorn sheep, elk, and moose roam the plans and valleys.
6. FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK, NEW ZEALAND
Fiordland National Park on New Zealand’s Southern Island was established in 1952 and has international World Heritage status as part of Te Wāhipounamu, South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. This is the kind of landscape that gives hobbits wet dreams, with lush rainforests, pristine rivers, crystal clear lakes, mighty cliffs, snow-capped summits, and majestic ice-carved fiords. Even on the frequent rainy days, the scenery is spectacular, with entire valley walls turning into thundering waterfalls. The highlight is the stunning Milford Sound with Mitre Peak, rising 1692 m (5551 ft) above sea level and one of the most photographed peaks in the country.
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5. YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, USA
First protected in 1864 and one of the first parks in the National Park Service, California’s Yosemite is a World Heritage site. The park’s central feature is Yosemite Valley, which is surrounded by towering granite summits, densely forested with pines, and famous its spectacular waterfalls. But the Park is so much more than just a great valley with waterfalls; it’s a shrine to human foresight, the strength of granite, the power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra. Within Yosemite’s vast wilderness area, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, and more than 800 miles (1300 km) of spectacular hikes.
4. SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK, TANZANIA
Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park, also a world heritage site and recently proclaimed a 7th world-wide wonder, the Serengeti is famed for its annual Great Migration, a 1,200-mile odyssey of 1.5 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras, all of them chasing the rains in a race for life, while being purchased by an incredible amount of predators. Your chances of watching a kill are pretty high when you visit the area in the right season, when 40km (25 mile) long columns of animals plunge through crocodile-infested waters on the annual exodus north (June) or when they replenish their species in a brief population explosion that produces more than 8,000 calves daily (February).
3. GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, USA
The one million-acre Glacier National Park wilderness area is located in the state of Montana and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. The Park, not to be confused with Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park, was established in 1910 to preserve its pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, glacially carved valleys, and spectacular lakes. Its diverse habitats support healthy populations of grizzly & black bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, wolverines, wolves and mountain lions. With over 740 miles (1200 km) of trails, Glacier is a hiker’s paradise for adventurous visitors seeking wilderness and solitude.
2. NAMIB-NAUKLUFT NATIONAL PARK, NAMIBIA
One of the most scarcely populated countries in the world, Namibia is not the right place to get lost. But it is a top destination for those who enjoy unrivaled natural scenery and wildlife viewing. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, the largest game park in Africa, encompassing part of the Namib Desert (considered the world’s oldest desert) and the Naukluft mountain range. The most spectacular area of the park is Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, home to unearthy-looking landscapes with black tree skeletons and red coloured dunes, which rank among the highest in the world (the highest being the one nicknamed Big Daddy, about 380 m or 124 ft high).
1. TORRES DEL PAIN NATIONAL PARK, CHILE
Declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1978, the Torres del Paine national park (situated in the Magallanes 12th region in Chile) is internationally recognized as one of the planet’s most uncontaminated. Its spectacular, beauty includes vertical granite peaks, immense rivers of ice, wind-swept plains and a native beech forest that is home to guanacos, foxes, and pumas. While the most spectacular views will require a bit of effort, anyone can enjoy the park’s main landmarks by driving around, although multiday trekkings are the real thing here. Don’t miss the sunrise, when the horns of the Torres del Paine Massif turn purple and then red.