By Dana Perkiss
For nature lovers, adventurers, and those seeking to reconnect with the world, there's nothing better than National Park trips. These protected lands are sanctuaries of natural wonder, where the Earth's most beautiful features and diverse ecosystems are on full display.
From the snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies to the enchanting landscapes of Africa, let’s explore some of the best National Parks in the world to visit.
Renowned as one of the best National Parks in the world, Thingvellir is a unique mix of geological marvels, cultural history, and breathtaking landscapes. The park is situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the Earth's tectonic plates meet, creating deep fissures and imposing cliffs.
The Silfra Fissure, famous for its crystal-clear glacial water, allows daring snorkelers and divers to explore the gap between continents. The park also boasts Öxarárfoss waterfall and the expansive Thingvallavatn Lake – a haven for hikers, birdwatchers, and those who appreciate tranquil beauty.
Beyond its geological wonders, Thingvellir holds a deep historical significance. It was the site of Iceland's first parliament, the Althing, in 930 AD. The Law Rock, where laws were recited and disputes settled, is a sacred site for Icelanders.
Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park is celebrated as one of the best National Parks in Canada. With its majestic mountain landscapes, pristine lakes, and abundant wildlife, Banff offers an unparalleled connection to nature.
Banff is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. From hiking and mountain biking in summer to skiing and snowshoeing in winter, the park offers a diverse range of activities. The park's centerpiece is the dazzling turquoise waters of Lake Louise, framed by towering peaks and ancient glaciers. Moraine Lake, another gem, showcases emerald waters and the iconic Valley of the Ten Peaks.
The park's wildlife is equally captivating, with elk, bighorn sheep, and grizzly bears making it their home. The town of Banff itself is a charming mountain escape with cozy lodges, restaurants, and cultural experiences.
South Africa's Kruger National Park, one of the world's premier safari destinations, spans nearly two million hectares of untamed terrain and wildlife. The famed Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros – roam free among an eclectic array of species, making Kruger one of the best National Parks to see wildlife.
While the park's wildlife is undoubtedly its crowning glory, Kruger's landscapes are equally breathtaking. Rolling savannas, dense woodlands, winding rivers, and rocky outcrops create a stunning backdrop for safari adventures.
Moreover, Kruger National Park is a stronghold of conservation efforts. Its commitment to protecting endangered species, supporting local communities, and fostering responsible tourism ensures that this magnificent wilderness will endure for generations to come.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the Grand Canyon National Park is a natural wonder of tremendous proportions that make it one of the best National Parks in the US. It spans over a million acres in Arizona and illustrates an astonishing timeline of Earth’s history and the planet’s geological evolution.
Beyond its historical significance, the park beckons adventurers and nature-enthusiasts alike to explore its awe-inspiring beauty. From hiking and camping to rafting and wildlife watching, there are tons of things to do in Grand Canyon National Park.
Hike along the popular Rim-to-Rim Trail, enjoy a scenic drive on the Deserve View Drive, or even take a guided mule ride into the canyon! The park is also designated as a Dark Sky Park, making it an excellent spot for stargazing. Additionally, the park's rich Native American heritage adds a significant cultural depth to the experience.
Offering a pristine natural environment filled with diverse wildlife, stunning beaches, and well-maintained trails, it’s no wonder why Manuel Antonio is one of the best National Parks in Costa Rica. The park is home to 109 species of mammals, 184 species of birds, and a staggering 346 species of plants, which altogether also make it one of the best National Parks for wildlife.
As you explore the park's well-maintained trails, you'll encounter squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys, toucans, sloths, and a wide variety of reptiles, insects, and amphibians. Visitors can choose from different trails, such as the Cathedral Point trail or the Punta Catedral trail, both offering breathtaking panoramic views of the park and the Pacific Ocean.
Of course, one of the park's most captivating features is its four idyllic, white-sand beaches: Playa Manuel Antonio, Espadilla Sur, Playa Gemelas, and Playa Puerto Escondido. Their crystal-clear waters are ideal for swimming, and the lush rainforest backdrop provides a stunning contrast to the azure sea.
Nestled in the heart of County Kerry lies a sanctuary of natural beauty and cultural heritage – Killarney National Park. This remarkable expanse of pristine landscapes, diverse flora and fauna, and rich history is often celebrated as one of the best National Parks in Europe.
Renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, the park’s centerpiece is the three interconnected Lakes of Killarney – Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and Upper Lake. Surrounded by the majestic MacGillycuddy's Reeks mountain range, these tranquil lakes create a picturesque and serene environment that's perfect for hiking, boating, and photography.
Beyond its natural wonders, Killarney National Park is steeped in history and culture. The park is dotted with historical sites, including the iconic Muckross House and Ross Castle, both offering a glimpse into Ireland's past. The park is also a haven for biodiversity as it’s home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, including native red deer and the peregrine falcon.
One of the best National Parks in Africa, this park is famous for "The Smoke That Thunders" – otherwise known as Victoria Falls. Stretching over 1.7 kilometers and dropping more than 100 meters, these falls are one of the largest and most captivating waterfalls on Earth.
Walking along the park's network of trails, visitors are treated to unparalleled views of the falls from various angles. The park provides close encounters with diverse wildlife such as elephants, hippos, and a plethora of bird species.
As for things to do in Victoria Falls National Park – white-water rafting, bungee jumping, and helicopter rides offer exhilarating perspectives of the falls, while leisurely sunset cruises on the Zambezi River provide a serene contrast.
Nestled in the rugged terrains of Rajasthan, India, Ranthambore National Park is unquestionably one of the world's best National Parks, capturing the essence of India's rich heritage and biodiversity.
Ranthambore's most iconic residents are the Bengal tigers, and it's often hailed as one of the best places to spot these majestic creatures. The thrill of a tiger safari, where you might catch a glimpse of these predators in their natural habitat, is incomparable. Beyond Bengal tigers, a vast array of wildlife live here including leopards, sloth bears, and crocodiles.
Ranthambore is also graced with a history that dates back centuries, evident in the 10th-century Ranthambore Fort, which overlooks the park. The juxtaposition of ancient ruins and thriving wilderness makes for a truly unique experience.
Nestled at the junction of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, Iguazú Falls National Park offers a sensory journey through the heart of the jungle and the roar of cascading waterfalls.
The park’s top sight is the Iguazú Falls, a cascade of 275 individual falls spread over nearly two miles and nicknamed "The Devil's Throat." Walkways and viewing platforms provide enchanting close encounters with the falls, leaving visitors drenched in awe.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is not just about waterfalls. It is a haven for wildlife that shelters endangered species like jaguars, tapirs, and giant anteaters. Guided tours, hiking trails, and boat rides offer a variety of ways to explore.
With awe-inspiring waterfalls, vibrant colors, and rich biodiversity, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a treasure for nature enthusiasts and those in need of serene natural beauty. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park has earned its reputation as one of the best National Parks on Earth.
Witness a natural orchestra of waterfalls as 16 crystalline lakes cascade into each other, with Veliki Slap, one of the tallest waterfalls in Europe, being the most famous. Known for its diverse tapestry of colors, the lakes shimmer in shades of turquoise, azure, and emerald, while the surrounding forests transform into a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and golds during the autumn months.
Additionally, there is a network of wooden boardwalks and pathways that allow you to explore the park without disturbing its environment. These well-maintained trails guide you along the lakes, through canyons, and over waterfalls, providing incredible vantage points for taking in the park's natural beauty and rich biodiversity.
With its geothermal wonders, diverse wildlife, pristine landscapes, and an unmatched aura of wilderness, Yellowstone is without a doubt one of the best US National Parks. It’s often called the world's first National Park and is most famous for its incredible geothermal features.
The park features over 10,000 geothermal wonders including the iconic Old Faithful geyser, as well as a number of hot springs, fumaroles, and bubbling mud pots. Known as one of the last intact ecosystems in the temperate zone, Yellowstone provides refuge for numerous species including bison, elk, gray wolves, grizzly and black bears, bald eagles, and more.
As for the landscapes – vast meadows, dense forests, pristine lakes, and towering waterfalls all make the park a paradise for nature lovers and photographers. From the mesmerizingly clear waters of Yellowstone Lake to the fiery-colored walls of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the park's diverse landscapes invite you to explore hiking trails, go horseback riding, or simply relax and admire the unparalleled beauty.
Located in the northern reaches of Thailand in the Chiang Mai Province, Doi Inthanon National Park captivates visitors with its beautiful landscapes and culturally-rich heritage.
Undoubtedly, the park’s most popular attraction is Doi Inthanon, a mountain that rises over 2,500 meters above sea level. Trekking to its summit offers panoramic views of mist-shrouded valleys, terraced rice fields, and lush forests – creating an otherworldly landscape often compared to the Himalayas.
Beyond its striking natural beauty, Doi Inthanon National Park is a living museum of the region's rich cultural history. Visitors can explore ancient temples, traditional hill tribe villages, and royal chedis that honor the legacy of Thailand's beloved King Inthawichayanon.
Serengeti's vast plains, woodlands, and savannas stretch as far as the eye can see, offering the quintessential African landscape. It's here, amidst the golden grasses, that the world's most extraordinary wildlife spectacle happens – the Great Migration.
Witnessing millions of wildebeest and zebras embarking on their perilous journey across the vast plains in search of food is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The park's extraordinary concentration of wildlife extends beyond the migration, including the Big Five and countless other species.
Game drives and hot air balloon safaris offer unparalleled opportunities to view the park's diverse ecosystems and majestic inhabitants. Plus, efforts to protect endangered species and the delicate balance of nature exemplify the park's dedication to preserving this natural wilderness.