No matter where in the world one is located, national parks are a huge travel draw. Kruger National Park, for example, is a big contributor to South Africa’s booming tourism industry. The same can be said for Galapagos in Ecuador, the Masai Mara in Kenya, and Yellowstone in the United States. In fact, there are more than 1,000 national parks located in nearly 100 countries around the globe. To find the most impressive of these parks, we searched from Africa’s deserts to the glaciers of North America, and just about everywhere in between. Below are our findings: the 50 most amazing national parks in the world.
Arenal Volcano National Park
Arenal Volcano National Park is one of Costa Rica’s most popular attractions, and it’s easy to see why. Covering nearly 800 square miles, the park contains two volcanoes: Cerro Chato, which has been inactive for about 3,500 years, and the Arenal Volcano, for which the park is named. The national park is popular among visitors to Costa Rica, especially birders. More than 850 species of birds have been identified in the park, along with:
- capuchin monkeys
- myriad snakes.
Banff National Park
As Canada’s oldest national park, Banff has become absolutely iconic. A favorite destination in both winter and summer, Banff offers visitors a postcard-perfect setting featuring snow-capped Rocky Mountain peaks, mirror-like lakes, and nearly countless glaciers. Enjoy the scenery of the sweeping vistas. Take part in hiking, skiing, or any of the other outdoor adventures for which Banff is so well known.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon may be the name of this amazing national park, but it isn’t exactly a canyon. Rather, the park’s titular feature is a group of massive natural amphitheaters formed by a unique geological process of frost weathering and stream erosion. This same process can be credited for the stunning oranges, reds, and whites of Bryce’s rock formations. Named for the Mormon pioneer who homesteaded the area in 1874, Bryce Canyon is known for its distinctive rock patterns and great hiking trails.
Canaima National Park
Canaima National Park in Venezuela is massive. Roughly the size of Belgium, in fact. Forming part of Venezuela’s border with Guyana and Brazil, Canaima is a stunning geographical gem characterized by its mountains, cliffs, and waterfalls. In recognition of these features, the national park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
Chitwan National Park
Situated in south central Nepal, Chitwan National Park consistently ranks as one of the most amazing national parks in the world. The park attracts visitors who are keen to see unique animals like:
- Bengal foxes
- Royal Bengal tigers
- Indian one-horned rhinoceros
- sloth bears
- small Indian civets
- Indian elephants
That’s not to mention the myriad other birds, amphibians, and reptiles which also call the park home. Chitwan National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cinque Terra National Park
Established in 1999, Cinque Terra National Park was founded as Italy’s first ever national park. This amazing place attracts thousands of visitors each year, all of whom are eager to experience the five small, romantic towns which make up the national park. These towns — Riomaggiore, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, and Corniglia — are home to 5,000 permanent residents, plus a number of hiking trails, and some seriously stunning views. In recognition of its beautiful scenery and cultural significance, Cinque Terre was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Connemara National Park
Ask anyone familiar with the Emerald Isle which is Ireland’s most beautiful region, and they’re almost certain to say Connemara. Spanning nearly 5,000 acres, Connemara National Park consists of:
- lots of hiking and walking trails
Visitors should keep their eyes open for the famous Connemara ponies which also call this amazing national park home.
Etosha National Park
Namibia’s Etosha National Park has been a designated game reserve since 1907, and reached national park status in 1967. Spanning approximately 8,600 square miles, this massive park is home to hundreds of different types of mammals, birds, and reptiles. These include a number of endangered species like the black rhinoceros. Etosha has a few campsites where visitors can stay and drive the park on their own time. Otherwise, this amazing national park is a common stop on many safaris.
Everglades National Park
Florida is known for its many noteworthy beaches and theme parks, but we think its national parks are pretty notable, too. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that Florida’s Everglades National Park is one of the most amazing parks in the world. As of today, Everglades National Park protects the southernmost 20% of the state’s Everglades. The park was created to protect the region’s fragile ecosystem, and consists of a complicated network of forests and wetlands. Myriad flora and fauna call this amazing national park home, including 36 threatened species such as:
- the Florida panther
- American crocodile
- the West Indian manatee.
Fiordland National Park
The stunning country of New Zealand is well known for its national parks. Indeed, each year, the country welcomes thousands of visitors intent on RVing around New Zealand’s two islands in search of beautiful natural scenery. One such destination is Fiordland National Park. Located on the South Island, Fiordland is characterized by sharp, craggy mountainscapes like Mitre Peak, the aptly named Mirror Lakes, and dozens of powerful waterfalls.
Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park
Few of Earth’s sights are as iconic and as instantly recognizable as Mt. Fuji. The park which Mt. Fuji calls home is Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, one of the most amazing national parks in the world. Besides Mt. Fuji, the park includes Izu Islands and the Izu Peninsula, all three of which have greatly influenced Japanese art and culture. Fuji-Hakone-Izu is also home to a collection of hot springs that are popular among both Japanese citizens and visitors alike.
Galapagos National Park
The Galapagos Islands are easily Ecuador’s biggest tourist draw, and for good reason. Located just off the coast, and therefore somewhat isolated, this great national park is famous for its incredibly varied collection of wildlife, many species of which are only found here. In fact, it was an 1835 visit to the islands which greatly inspired Charles Darwin to complete his theory of evolution. Because the Galapagos are such an important wildlife area, Galapagos National Park has also been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Glacier National Park
Montana is a beautiful state full of beautiful things, but few of those things are as stunning as Glacier National Park. Encompassing a whopping one million acres, Glacier was formed by — you guessed it — the remains of glaciers from the most recent ice age. The park is a huge draw for visitors, as it consists of:
- the unique Going-to-the-Sun Road (a National Historic Landmark, by the way)
- the Continental Divide-following Highline Trail
- more than 700 lakes.
Göreme National Park
While most of the national parks on this list are amazing because of their natural wonders, Göreme National Park in Turkey is incredible because of its man-made features. Göreme is one of the oldest places of human civilization found anywhere on Earth. As it dates back to the 4th century, this amazing national park consists of subterranean cities, ancient Byzantine cave art, and surreal homes once belonging to troglodytes. Book a cave hotel to experience the coolness both literal and figurative, then catch a hot air balloon ride at either sunrise or sunset.
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is easily one of the most famous sites in the world. In fact, it welcomes more than 5 million visitors each year, all of whom are eager to take in the canyon’s incredible rock formations, eye-boggling depth, and shifting colors. While many are content simply looking over the edge, others choose to experience the Grand Canyon in other ways, such as rafting down the Colorado River or hiking one of the many trails.
Great Barrier Reef National Park
Most people know the Great Barrier Reef as one of Earth’s very best diving spots, but it’s actually a national park with a ton more to offer! The world’s largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef spans over 1,400 miles, more than 2,900 individual reefs, and approximately 900 islands. UNESCO gave the Reef the title of World Heritage Site in 1981. CNN has labeled it one of the seven natural wonders of the world. In addition to snorkeling and diving, this amazing national park is home to postcard-perfect beaches, various wildlife habitats, and a scenic railway.
Guilin and Lijiang River National Park
Located in southeast China, Guilin and Lijiang River National Park is characterized by its meandering river, misty hills, and the many sleepy fishing villages dotting the region. This amazing national park boasts a ton of picture-perfect natural wonders, including Nine Horse Fresco Hill and Xingping Ancient Town. To make the most of a visit to Guilin and Lijiang River National Park, visitors should consider booking a boat cruise between Guilin and Yangshuo.
Hawai’i Volcanos National Park
The island state of Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in America, and a highlight is Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. This amazing national park is made up of not one, but two active volcanoes: Mauna Loa, the biggest shield volcano on Earth, and Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Besides its status as a popular tourist attraction, Hawai’i Volcanos National Park is an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.
Iguazu National Park
Argentina and Brazil
Forming part of the border between Argentina and Brazil, Iguazu National Park is best known for its massive waterfall. Spanning 9,000 feet across and topping out at 260 feet high, Iguazu Falls is one of Earth’s largest waterfalls. The two-country park offers myriad paths and trails to help experience this natural wonder. More than 2,000 plants can be found within the park’s borders, as can a variety of exotic animals native to South America, including giant anteaters, tapirs, and howler monkeys.
Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park
Unique to our list of the most amazing national parks in the world is Isla Bastimentos, which is actually a marine park situated in Panama’s Bocas del Toro archipelago. Isla Bastimentos spans an incredible 32,682 acres, and hosts a bevy of interesting plants and animals. These include:
The national marine park is also an important nesting ground for four different species of endangered sea turtles.
Jasper National Park
Canada has some great national parks, but we think Jasper is easily the country’s most amazing. Located in the province of Alberta, Jasper National Park is the largest park of its kind in the Canadian Rockies. Jasper’s mountainous location and sheer beauty attract visitors in search of outdoor adventure. The park is well known for its seasonal activities, especially skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, and hiking and boating in the summer. Interestingly, Jasper National Park is also one of the best places in the world to stargaze, and is the second-largest dark sky preserve in the world.
Jim Corbett National Park
People from all over the world flock to Jim Corbett National Park hoping to see its main residents: tigers. This amazing national park is home to hundreds of Royal Bengal Tigers, all of whom can be seen roaming the foothills of the Almora ranges. A guided safari provides your best bet for seeing the tigers, along with 500 species of flora, 600 species of birds, and myriad other mammals.
Jostedalsbreen National Park
Norway is famous for its glaciers and fjords, and one of the best places to see both is Jostedalsbreen National Park. Speaking of glaciers, this national park, easily one of the most amazing in the world, is home to the largest on the European mainland. Interestingly, the park’s main glacier has been receding in recent years, but slowly uncovering the ruins of farms and other habitations that date back to as early as 1750.
Kilimanjaro National Park
Partly due to its location near the equator, Kilimanjaro National Park boasts all kinds of interesting things. The most notable is almost certainly Mount Kilimanjaro, a popular destination for serious hikers and climbers. The unique montane forest belt which surrounds the mountain is home to myriad animals, just a few of which are:
- blue monkeys
- black and white colobus
- cape buffaloes
- Kilimanjaro tree hyrax.
Komodo National Park
Indonesia is currently one of the world’s trendiest destinations, and part of its appeal is Komodo National Park. As one might expect, this amazing national park is best known for its prehistoric-like inhabitants: komodo dragons. These lizards — the largest in the world — wander through the Lesser Sunda Islands, which make up Komodo National Park. According to scientists, this must-visit park provides our best glimpse at what Earth likely looked like during the times in which dinosaurs existed.
Krka National Park
The first of two Croatian parks to make our list of the most amazing national parks in the world, Krka National Park encompasses the Krka River and the river’s resulting lakes and waterfalls. Founded in 1985 to protect the river for scientific and educational purposes, the park is also popular for recreation and tourism. Tourist attractions include boat rides along the river and across the lakes, plus a number of archeological remains of unpreserved fortresses dating back to Roman times.
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is easily one of the African continent’s most impressive — and popular — national parks. Here, visitors can stay at any number of camps and lodges located right inside the park. Kruger’s different landscapes, which vary from mountains to tropical forests to bush plains, mean the wildlife is extremely diverse. Kruger is an excellent place to see the “Big Five:”
- water buffalo.
Lake District National Park
England, United Kingdom
Despite its relatively small size, England has some beautiful uninhabited regions, one of which is the area known as the Lake District. This amazing national park consists of fells (mountains), forested areas, and mirror-like lakes, the latter of which include Wastwater and Windermere. England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, is also located within Lake District National Park. In addition, the park has had a cultural influence on England. It was the Lake District’s vast natural beauty that inspired poets like William Wordsworth to pen his most famous works.
Los Glaciares National Park
As you can likely tell by its name, Los Glaciares National Park is known for its many glaciers and icebergs. Despite the fact that its main glacier, Upsala, has been receding since approximately 1999, this national park remains as amazing as ever. Glacial lakes and rugged mountain peaks make up the other main sights of the park.
Masai Mara National Reserve
Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve is one of Africa’s most popular attractions. It’s the northern continuation of Serengeti National Park, which also makes our list of the world’s most amazing national parks. The Masai Mara plays host to the Great Migration of wildebeests, one of the greatest natural phenomenons found anywhere on Earth. Although those hoping to see the Great Migration should travel to the Masai from July to October, visiting this amazing national park at any other time of the year isn’t likely to disappoint. Lions, cheetahs, giraffes, elephants, and even leopards are common sightings.
Mount Rainier National Park
The first of two amazing national parks located in the state of Washington, Mount Rainier National Park is home to — you guessed it — Mount Rainier, the Cascade Range’s tallest peak. Located about 65 miles south of Seattle and encompassing 370 square miles, Mount Rainier National Park is home to:
- myriad valleys
- subalpine meadows
- old-growth forest
While most visitors come to see Mount Rainier itself, it’s possible to navigate the entire park via the 93-mile Wonderland Trail.
Naejangsan National Park
In Korean, “naejangsan” means “many secrets in the mountain.” While that may be true, this amazing national park’s best feature is quite obvious. Naejangsan is one of the best mountain destinations in the country to view the crimson leaves which turn during the autumn. Not to mention the awesome display of azaleas and cherry blossoms which bloom during the spring. Besides the arboreal gems, Naejangsan boasts stunning waterfalls, temples, and nearly 800 types of local, Korean plants.
Nahuel Huapi National Park
The second Argentinian locale to make our list of the most amazing national parks in the world, Nahuel Huapi National Park is actually the oldest of its kind in Argentina. Situated among the foothills of the Andes mountains, Nahuel Huapi always ranks amongst the Must-Dos of visiting Argentina, and often attracts those interested in hiking and camping.
Namib-Naukluft National Park
The southern African country of Namibia is known for its beautiful and varied terrain, including the extremely arid, yet lively, Namib Naukluft National Park. Made up of one of the world’s oldest and largest deserts, this amazing national park is typically pictured with its massive sand dunes formed by the winds that blow in from the Atlantic Ocean. While these dunes, some of which tower more than 1,000 feet, are certainly impressive, it’s the park’s teeming collection of life which makes it truly amazing. Aardwolf, African wild cats, jackals, leopards, baboons, udu, and bat-eared fox are just a handful of fauna found here.
Olympic National Park
Spanning an incredible one million acres and more than 70 miles of Pacific coastline, Olympic National Park is an amazing national park located in Washington state. To go from one major site to another can take hours, so visitors to Olympic National Park often plan multiple days for exploring all there is to see. After all, you wouldn’t want to go home without seeing the moss-covered Hoh Rain Forest, sweeping views of snow-capped mountains, or the majestic Hurricane Ridge.
Pantanal Matogrossense National Park
Located in central Brazil, Pantanal Matogrossense National Park protects this particular region’s remarkable natural beauty and rich ecosystem. Though scientific research and environmental education are the prime focus of this amazing national park, Pantanal also attracts a good number of tourists eager to see the park’s many animal inhabitants. These include:
- the giant anteater
- the giant armadillo
- the giant otter
- the ocelot,
- perhaps most notably, the jaguar.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is one of Vietnam’s most popular destinations, and it isn’t difficult to understand why. This amazing national park in Asia consists of 464 million-year-old karst formations, the oldest on the continent. More than 1,240 square miles of limestone can be explored via guided boat tour. This area includes a grotto and 44 miles’ worth of caves, including Hang Son Doong Cave, the largest in the world. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
The Eastern European country of Croatia is chock full of stunning geographical sites. However, few are as incredible as Plitvice Lakes National Park. Located inland near the center of the country, it’s often forgotten by many island-hopping tourists. Plitvice consists of 16 turquoise lakes connected by boardwalks. Many of the lakes include cascades and waterfalls, and are surrounded by lush firs and hidden caves. It’s the perfect place to wander and explore, though a boat ride will also get you right onto the water.
Saxon Switzerland National Park
Although its name includes “Switzerland,” Saxon Switzerland National Park is located in Germany. Founded in 1990, this amazing national park covers about 36 square miles. It’s known mostly for the Elbe sandstone formations which formed during the Cretaceous period. These formations make for excellent climbing opportunities. In fact, Saxon Switzerland National Park is credited as the birthplace of free climbing.
Serengeti National Park
East Africa’s Serengeti National Park has long been fulfilling visitors’ dreams of vast savannah and huge herds of wild animals. While Serengeti is worth visiting at any time of year, it’s especially impressive during the late summer, when the event known as the great migration occurs. During this momentous time, more than one million wildebeests and other animals traverse the park in search of better food and safer breeding grounds.
Snowdonia National Park
Wales, United Kingdom
With its foggy valleys, craggy mountain peaks, and mirror-like lakes, Snowdonia National Park in Wales feels a bit like something out of a fairy tale. Perhaps that’s why a local legend asserts that Excalibur, the magical sword belonging to King Arthur, rests somewhere on the bottom of a Snowdonia lake. The park offers lots to do, but visitors can get the best view of Snowdonia by taking the tram up to the top of Mount Snowdon, the centerpiece of this amazing national park.
Swiss National Park
Founded in 1914, Swiss National Park is one of Europe’s oldest national parks. It spans 65 square miles of verdant land beneath the Swiss Alps. It’s been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in recognition of its varied flora and fauna. Alpine ibexes, a type of wild goat, are especially common sightings. Visitors also enjoy visiting Switzerland’s only national park for its many trails, which cover about 50 miles and promise stunning views.
Tayrona National Natural Park
Located in the Caribbean region of Colombia, Tayrona National Natural Park is known for its unique biodiversity and extreme natural beauty. This national natural park spans 12 square miles of ocean and approximately 60 square miles of land. A lot of life is packed into this small park, including:
- 108 species of mammals
- 300 species of birds
- 350 algae types
- at least 770 species of plants
Interestingly, Tayrona is also home to some archaeological evidence of human settlement dating back to before the 16th century.
Tobago Cays Marine Park
St. Vincent & the Grenadines
Spanning 1,400 acres, the beautiful Tobago Cays Marine Park consists of five small islands and an extensive section of coral reefs. While the islands and cays are all uninhabited, they do collectively form a popular destination for tourists. Some 50,000 cruise ship excursioners find the marine park each year, as do 3,000 yachts and various day charters hauling visitors interested diving, snorkeling, and fishing this gorgeous area.
Torres Del Paine National Park
The South American country of Chile welcomes more and more visitors each year, making it one of the world’s trendiest travel destinations. A big reason for this is Torres Del Paine National Park. Situated in the country’s Patagonia region, this beautiful national park features wildlife-rich grasslands, towering mountainscapes, and glaciers that seem to calve on demand.
Tulum National Park
One of the few amazing national parks on our list to consist mainly of man-made features, Tulum National Park spans an area which was once inhabited by the Mayans. Located above a tropical beach, Tulum is one of the last remaining places where you can walk freely along ancient ruins.
Victoria Falls National Park
Zambia and Zimbabwe
Like Iguazu Falls National Park, which also makes our list, Victoria Falls National Park is home to one of the world’s largest waterfalls. Nicknamed the Smoke That Thunders, Victoria Falls spans a whopping 5,604 feet in length, and towers at a height of 354 feet. The waterfall forms part of the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and is one of Africa’s most popular destinations.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
When travelers consider a trip to Alaska, they almost certainly think of the state’s many natural wonders. One such place to see Alaska’s nature is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. This amazing park is actually America’s biggest of its kind. Indeed, Wrangell-St. Elias is larger than Switzerland — and just as beautiful. Totaling 13.2 million acres, the park is a great place to paddle, ski, and camp amongst some postcard-perfect geography.
Yellowstone National Park
Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, U.S.A.
Easily the United States’ most popular national park, Yellowstone is also America’s oldest national park. Founded in 1872, this gigantic wilderness spans parts of three different states. Rivers, canyons, forests, and volcanic hot spots — including the world-famous Old Faithful geyser — contribute to a fascinating and varied collection of flora and fauna. Yellowstone’s wildlife population has had its ups and downs over the years, but the park is currently home healthy populations of:
Yosemite National Park
No matter what interests you, you’re sure to find something to love at California’s Yosemite National Park. While the park is a haven for nature lovers during the summer, it also attracts skiers and snowshoers during the winter. Yosemite’s highlights are many. It has more than 20 waterfalls, including the world’s tallest, Yosemite Falls; Glacier Point; and lots of hiking trails ranging from leisurely to challenging.