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National Parks may have originated in the United States, but the concept quickly caught on as countries around the world rushed to preserve the natural beauty for generations to come. The world is full of amazing and beautiful national parks, each one unique in their natural beauty and wildlife, from the rugged mountains in Canada to the lush jungle in Belize and down to the mountains in Australia. These are the best national parks in the world chosen by top travel bloggers who share what makes each global national park special and worthy of your bucket list.
- 1 Oulanka National Park in Finland
- 2 Banff National Park, Canada
- 3 Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
- 4 Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
- 5 Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
- 6 Palenque National Park, Mexico
- 7 Bruce Peninsula National Park, Canada
- 8 Jasper National Park, Canada
- 9 St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park, Belize
- 10 Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy
- 11 Iguazu Falls National Park, Brazil/Argentina
- 12 Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka
- 13 Snowdonia National Park, Wales
- 14 Isalo National Park, Madagascar
- 15 Blue Mountains National Park, Australia
- 16 Share Your Favorite National Park in the World!
Oulanka National Park in Finland
Katalin Waga of Our Life Our Travel
Oulanka National Park is my favorite national park in Finland and one of the best national parks in the world. If you go hiking or to a road trip to Finland, make sure you add it to your itinerary.
It is located in Lapland and spreads along the Russian border. Bigger cities that you can approach the park from are Kuusamo and Rovaniemi, the latter is about 3 hours of drive away.
Oulanka National Park offers a spectacular day hike from Juuma village, and the more advanced hikers walk across the whole park on the 82 km long and Finland-wide famous Bear’s Trail. As the name suggests, you can spot bears in the area, but they are not a usual sight. Reindeer, moose, and other smaller carnivores are more likely to be seen especially if you spend more days. The shorter trail’s name is Little Bear’s Circuit. The 12 km long loop passes along an old watermill at Myllykoski, crosses hanging bridges, tiny lakes, wooden shelters, canyons, and the Jyrävä waterfall.
I’ve been to the park numerous times, and the best time of the year to visit it is during the fall or early spring. In September you’ll see the colorful foliage, while around February and March the snowy and frozen landscape offers unique charm, but it requires proper equipment as the snow can be really deep. The hike is easy to moderately demanding, depending on the season.
You can follow Katalin for Finnish adventures and more on her Instagram.
Banff National Park, Canada
Maura Elko of Cameras and Canvas
Banff National Park is one of the top national parks in the world and one of those places that should be on everyone’s bucket list if you love nature and scenic landscapes! It’s located about an hour and a half from the city of Calgary, and I do highly recommend driving your own car there to have more flexibility with visiting the surrounding areas and points of interest (there are buses to downtown Banff and Lake Louise if you don’t however).
It’s fun walking around in the towns of Banff and Canmore. They’re full of small shops, restaurants, and are the best places to stay at if you’re visiting for several days. I recommend at least 3 days in Banff National Park to enjoy yourself and see the main attractions! If you don’t want to worry about snow and using special tires on your vehicle, then going in the summer or early fall is ideal.
The best sites to see in Banff are Lake Louise & Moraine (both located near each other). They’re famous for their incredibly blue turquoise water, which gets its color from glacier silt that came down into the lake.
Lake Louise also has some amazing hiking up to Lake Agnes Tea House and the Beehives trail, or you can go even further to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. If you’re not into hiking, simply being there and relaxing by the lakeside is enjoyable. Lake Moraine is arguably even more beautiful, and there is a short trail to the top of a hill right near the lake! You’ll also not want to miss driving on the Icefield’s Parkway, especially stopping at Peyto Lake for an incredible view!
If you’ve got more than 3 days, don’t miss going to the other national parks in the area: Jasper to the north, Yoho, Kootenay, or even take a drive out to Glacier and Mount Revelstoke, all located in the Canadian Rockies around Banff!
You can follow Maura and her artistic adventures on Instagram.
Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
Jennifer Melroy of National Park Obsessed
Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park is the most popular national park in Iceland, making it one of the best in the world.
The park is located about 25 miles east of Reykjavík. The park has a rich geological and human history located in a rift valley between two tectonic plates. Each year the plates move another 2.5 cm apart. This movement has created visible crack and faults in the area. Some of these areas are full of clear water. One of these faults is Silfra. Silfra is a deep fissure and is a popular cold-water snorkeling and SCUBA diving spot.
On the human side, Thingvellir is the original site of Althing, the national parliament of Iceland. Althing is the oldest surviving parliament. The Parliament met at this site from 930 until 1798. The Lögberg or Law Rock provided a platform for speeches. There is a flag pole with the Iceland flag marking the spot of the law rock.
Thingvelir National Park is part of Iceland’s Golden Circle. Visitors come to take short walks thru the region and to explore faults and stand between two tectonic places. There are several waterfalls that are short walks from the visitor center. Scenic views abound. Brave visitors to the park put on a dry suit and enjoy a snorkeling or SCUBA diving trip into the cold water of Silfra. Divers are required to have a dry suit certification.
You can follow Jennifer’s national park adventures on Instagram.
Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Stella Jane of Around the World in 24 Hours
I’m from New York City, and I’m pretty strictly speaking an urban traveler. That’s why it surprised me when I fell immediately in love with Tongariro National Park in New Zealand. I went as part of a 2-week tour of New Zealand with Intrepid Travel. We spent two nights and one full day at the Skotel Alpine Resort in Tongariro National Park. I certainly don’t recommend spending any less time there. In fact, when I go back to New Zealand, I’d rather spend at least three days in Tongariro in order to fully see all the sights.
Tongariro is the oldest National Park in New Zealand. It is home to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is one of the most famous day hikes in the world. If you are passionate about getting to do the Alpine Crossing, you need to spend several nights in Tongariro National Park. Sometimes the weather can be so windy that it’s not possible to make the Alpine Crossing on certain days, and you can’t really predict when this will happen. It was too windy for us to make the Alpine Crossing during our trip, and the more avid hikers among us were disappointed.
However, even if the Alpine Crossing is not possible, there are plenty of gorgeous hikes in the area that will allow you to see Mt. Ruapehu where parts of The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. I also strongly suggest taking the walk to the sparkling Tama Lakes. Just make sure you have some hiking experience because the walk is quite steep coming down. I definitely spent a little bit of time deliberately sliding down on my butt, and I wasn’t the only one. I feel no shame about this whatsoever. Better a bruised ego than a broken leg!
You can follow Stella’s adventures on Facebook.
Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
Erin Mushaway of Sol Solute
Los Glaciares National Park is one of the most visited destinations in Argentina, so it’s no wonder that it was recently included in the official list of Argentina’s 7 Natural Wonders.
It’s popular due to its natural beauty and because it is home to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier. Perito Moreno is unique in its accessibility. It’s the most popular sight in Los Glaciares and there are options for all skill levels. Full day glacier treks are available for the active traveler and relaxed boat excursions are a viable option for a more laid-back experience. If you are on a tight budget, skip tours altogether and enjoy the views from the well-constructed catwalks and pathways offering panoramic views of the face of the glacier.
The best time of year to visit Los Glaciares is in from spring through fall. Being in the southern hemisphere it’s important to remember that the summer months are from December through March. Avoid January, which is the peak travel season for locals in Argentina which means large crowds and high prices.
El Calafate is the closest city and the base to use for a visit to Los Glaciares. There is a wide range of accommodation in here and something for every budget. While Los Glaciares Park can be seen in a day trip, it is worth spending a few days exploring the region from El Calafate or by taking a bus further south to some of Argentina’s most beautiful hiking trails!
You can follow Erin’s adventures on Instagram.
Palenque National Park, Mexico
Emese Fromm from Wanderer Writes
Designated a National Park in 1981, Palenque is one of the most important sites of the ancient Maya, showcasing the best examples of their art and architecture. At its height during the Classic Period of the Maya civilization, the ancient city sits in the middle of the lush jungle, in a strategic location, at the foot of the Chiapas Mountains, the first hills that rise above the flat land of the Yucatan Peninsula.
This setting, combined with the amazing architecture still visible at the site, makes Palenque a great destination, not only for those interested in the ancient Maya civilization but anyone who loves the outdoors. Crystal-clear streams, a waterfall, jungle paths through huge trees add to the experience when visiting this site. Walk away from the main plaza towards the Temple of the Jaguar to see wildlife, or sit on top of the Temple of the Cross to see toucans flying by. Follow the path towards the Queen’s bath, for a view of a beautiful waterfall. The most impressive building at the site is the Palenque Palace, a complex of many buildings on a common platform where you can spend hours exploring.
You can visit Palenque in a day; if you get there at opening time (a good idea to avoid the biggest crowds), you can leave by lunchtime. Don’t forget to stop at the museum on site, entrance is included in your ticket price, and it’s one of the best museums in Mexico.
You can follow Emese’s adventures on Facebook.
Bruce Peninsula National Park, Canada
Lindsay Davies, I’ve Been Bit! Travel Blog
Crystal clear water, beautiful hiking trails and the incredible rock formations of the Niagara Escarpment – could you ask for anything more picturesque? Say hello to Bruce Peninsula National Park in Ontario, Canada!
Known mainly for the “Tobermory Grotto” as it’s often referred to, Bruce Peninsula National Park (or BPNP for short) will win the hearts of nature lovers. Tackle beautiful trails like the Georgian Bay Trail as it winds you around the park’s shoreline. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can tackle part of Ontario’s famous Bruce Trail which runs just north of the park in Tobermory all the way down to Queenston by the USA-Canada border. One thing you can’t miss is the ever picturesque Indian Head Cove. It offers some of the best views within the park, with the stunning turquoise waters of Georgian Bay. I swear you’ll think you’re being transported to the Caribbean! Don’t forget to plan a day trip to Flowerpot Island in the neighboring Fathom Five National Marine Park while you’re at it!
This is a park for all seasons as you’ll get an entirely different experience depending on the time of year you visit. That’s one of the reasons it’s so amazing! However, as with many popular destinations, you’ll have crowds to contend with in the peak summer months. Plan your trip well in advance if you wish to visit during this time – or wait for the off-season. Anytime from Canadian Thanksgiving until the middle of May is the best time to plan your excursion in my opinion, especially in the autumn months! While it might not be as warm, you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage and a lot fewer people.
You can follow Lindsay’s adventures on Facebook.
Jasper National Park, Canada
Alyssa Watson, Like Where You’re Going
Situated on the northern tip of one of the most scenic roads in the world, the Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park is one of the most underrated national parks of the Rocky Mountains and one of the top national parks in the world. I love Jasper because it’s often overlooked compared to it’s a more popular cousin to the south (Banff), but it just as stunning. Edmonton, Alberta is located about 200 miles east of Jasper and is the closest major city with an international airport. As it’s a 4-hour drive from either Edmonton or Banff, Jasper National Park is best enjoyed as a multi-day trip.
Jasper is beautiful year round, but there are a couple notable times a year to visit. For summer travel, it’s best enjoyed in early June when the wildflower blooms are in full force but the crowds aren’t! The best hike to experience both the colorful blossoms and profound mountain landscapes is the Mount Edith Cavell hike. If you prefer something more advanced, the Sulphur Skyline Trail is just for you. After your hike, pamper yourself with a relaxing soak in the outdoor Miette Hot Springs. For autumn lovers, October is host to the Jasper Dark Sky Festival. As the second largest dark sky preserves in the world, the lack of light pollution here is a stargazer’s dream. And you know what that means: amazing northern lights viewing potential! Head to Jasper in October for guided night sky star walks and all things astronomy.
You can follow Alyssa’s adventures on Instagram.
St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park, Belize
Martha Lueders of Quirky Globetrotter
Nestled in the dense Belizean jungle, St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park is the ideal nature getaway for all travelers. This national park is relatively small but should be penciled in as a must-see on your Belizean itinerary. Located 15 miles south of Belmopan, The park has lush jungle hikes. The hikes offer beautiful views of the dense jungle foliage, but also the nearby citrus tree fields.
One of these hikes leads you to St. Herman’s Cave. This is one of the few caves in the country that you can explore independently without a guide. In January, the cave was filled with dense fog and a harsh headlight lamp was necessary to explore the cave system. Deep in the cave, there is a river that runs through. Nearby tour companies guide visitors on tubes through the cave systems offering a unique experience unlike any other.
Further down the road, visitors can make a pit stop at the park’s famous Blue Hole. This is not to be confused with Belize’s Great Blue Hole located off the coast of the country, both of these attractions are marine sinkholes. The Blue Hole is estimated to be roughly 25 feet deep. Take an adrenaline-filled swim in the small, jade-colored, natural pool. As you swim over the sinkhole, the bottom of the pool turns an indigo color. The rest of the natural pool is swallower and diverges into a trickling river nearby.
After your swim, spend the rest of your afternoon cruising the Hummingbird Highway and seeing all the natural beauty that Belize as to offer.
You can follow Martha’s adventures on Facebook.
Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy
Mansoureh Farahani from Travel with Mansoureh
Italy has 25 stunning national parks, most of them are very popular destinations, but my favorite one is Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy’s oldest national park. In Italian, “Gran Paradiso” means “Large Paradise”, and if you have the chance to visit it you will understand the reason behind its name. The park covers an area of 70.000 hectares.
Sport tourists visit the park during winters, especially during the ski season, but the park has a lot to offer and it is, indeed, a destination for all seasons. I have been there quite a few times and I usually prefer to be there in the spring or during the summer time since there are a bunch of activities to choose from.
There are various hiking paths and cycling routes for different skill levels. You can go for an easy walk and enjoy the alpine environment and larch forests or take a harder route to the highest Gran Paradiso peak at 4,061 meters (Italy’s 7th highest peak). If you are lucky, you might be able to spot wildlife like ibexes, deer, boars or rabbits. If you don’t fancy excursions or hiking you can drive to the lake of Ceresole and have a relaxing time.
The national park is located in the north-west of Italy in the Graian Alps. You can fly to Turin or Aosta and rent a car to get to it or take a local bus, although renting a car is highly recommended.
It’s possible to either go there for just a day trip or stay overnight. There are different types of accommodations in the park including hotels, B&Bs, and campsites. There are a few shops and restaurants where you can find delicious local dishes and wines.
You can follow Mansoureh’s adventures on Instagram.
Iguazu Falls National Park, Brazil/Argentina
Margarita Steinhardt from The Wildlife Diaries
Straddling the border between Argentina and Brazil and spreading over 2.7 kilometers, Iguazu Falls are the biggest system of waterfalls in the world. To get a sense of their scale, imagine a kilometer-wide river plunging 80 meters over the rim of the plateau in 275 separate waterfalls. About half the river flow passes through the narrow chasm of the Devil’s Throat that can be visited on both, the Brazilian and the Argentine sides of Iguazu Falls. Nowhere else can you feel such awesomely unyielding force of nature in such a stunningly beautiful setting.
To fully appreciate Iguazu Falls, it is best to visit them in Brazil and in Argentina. Brazil is home to about 20 percent of the falls, and Argentina claims the other 80 percent. Which means that you get a wider view of the falls from Brazilian, looking towards Argentina. But in Argentina, you get closer to the falls, and there are more walking trails for exploring the falls and the surrounding Atlantic Forest.
And if you are keen to get a really up-close and personal introduction to the falls, take a speed boat ride with Macuco safaris (in Brazil) and cruise underneath the veil of one of the falls. The force of the water crushing down is absolutely spectacular.
In terms of seasons, it is best to visit the falls between August and October or between February and April, avoiding the rainy season (December to February) and the dry season (June – August), when the water flow is the weakest.
You can follow Margarita’s adventures on Facebook.
Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka
Lora Pope from Explore With Lora
There is no better way to see wildlife than in its national habitat, and National Parks are a great place to spot wild animals. One of my favorite national parks in the world for viewing wildlife is Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka.
I love this park because of how many wild elephants you can see here. Sri Lanka has the highest density of wild Asian elephants in the world, and the country has done an amazing job of protecting its wildlife while still making it accessible to tourist through national parks.
During a safari at Udawalawe National Park, you will have the chance to spot elephants, water buffalo, crocodiles, lizards, monkeys, exotic birds, and If you’re really lucky, you may even spot a leopard. On top of all the incredible wildlife, the landscape of the park is beautiful. It was a completely different landscape then anywhere else I visited in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has a tropical climate, with monsoons affecting different parts of the island throughout the year. The best time to visit Udawalawe National Park is during the dry season on the Southern Coast, which runs from October to March.
There isn’t much else to do around the park, and a safari can easily be done in half a day, so I don’t recommend staying in Udawalawe for longer than one day. Udawalawe National Park can be done as a day tour from towns on the South coast such as Mirissa (about a three-hour drive). It’s also a great stop for a Sri Lanka Itinerary between the South Coast and the mountain town of Ella, as it’s mid-way.
You can follow Lora’s adventures on Instagram.
Snowdonia National Park, Wales
Joana Maria from My Small World by Jo
Snowdonia National Park is located in North Wales. The highest mountain in Wales and the second highest in the U.K., Mount Snowdon, is located in Snowdonia making it one of the best national parks in the world.
The nearest airport is Liverpool or Manchester. I would recommend that you drive to Snowdonia as you will be doing a bit of driving around the National Park, you can easily spend 5 days in the area as there are loads to see. From mountains to lakes, waterfalls, and beaches, this UK National park has got it all. The best time to visit is from May to September when the weather is warmer and you have less chance of rainfall. Llanberis is the main town and it’s a good place to stay with all the B&Bs and cute local shops around. From this town, you can either take the train or climb Mount Snowdon to get the best view from the summit. There are a few different paths, all with different levels of difficulty so make sure you take one that best suits your hiking experience. I didn’t have any experience climbing a mountain before this, I didn’t even know what to expect but the feeling of accomplishment when you finally get to the top is something to remember!
You can follow Joana’s adventures on Instagram.
Isalo National Park, Madagascar
Brianna Houston from Curious Travel Bug
Isalo National Park is located in southwest Madagascar and is a savannah and dry forest park with everything from deep canyons to oases. Isalo has a dry climate so you can visit year-round but for your best chance of seeing lemur babies, visit in September or October. While the closest cities are Toliara and Ihosy, most visitors will stay in the nearby town of Ranohira. From Ranohira you can hire a local guide as it is a requirement in all of Madagascar’s National Parks to have one. The guides here are excellent and will point out all of the amazing wildlife Isalo has to offer. Ring-tailed lemurs and brown lemurs are the wildlife highlight here and you will almost surely see them. If you are lucky you may get to see sifakas as well. For plant lovers, the Elephant foot is an interesting flowering plant resembling its namesake and unique to Madagascar.
The park is large and you can easily spend a day or more hiking here. The typical hiking route will take you past high cliffs that were used as a burial area for the local Bara people, through flat savannah, and to a hidden oasis or two. These oases are popular swimming areas both for locals and international visitors. The high cliffs of the park give way to an enormous canyon that you can then hike down into. While it’s a fairly easy hike, the challenging part is going to be the heat as there is little to no shade cover here. Isalo National Park is one of the most visited parks in the country and after your visit, you will see what draws so many visitors.
You can follow Briana’s adventures on Instagram.
Blue Mountains National Park, Australia
Susanna Kelly-Shankar from Wandering Chocobo
The Blue Mountains National Park, just outside of Sydney Australia is easily one of the best national parks in the world. The mountains get their name from a blue haze that hangs in the air caused by a sea of endless eucalyptus covered mountains that fade into the distance. You could easily lose track of time gazing in awe at the rolling lush region as cockatoos squawk in the distance.
The Blue Mountains National Park is most famous for the Three Sister Lookout and Scenic World, which is a tourist hot spot providing lots of accessible options such as cable cars and trains to see the gorgeous mountains. However, the nearby town of Katoomba is part of a Cittaslow movement, which promotes slow and sustainable travel. So, if you really want to experience the best of the Blue Mountains I suggest spending a few days to explore the local side of the national park. If you get off the beaten path, you’ll find wonderful hiking trails, including the Pulpit Rock Walking Track and The Overcliff/Undercliff, which are medium level hikes that almost everyone can do. You’ll also find plenty of lush waterfalls, such as the one near Govett’s Leap that drops off the edges of cliffs plummeting below. Tropical birds and lizards make the mountains come alive. The area also has plenty of botanical gardens, scenic viewpoints, apple picking, mountain biking, breweries, scenic drives into valleys like Megalong Valley and more.
The area is full of rich aboriginal history as well, and you should spend some time at the
The blue mountains are a popular day trip from Sydney, but I suggest spending at least 2-3 days in the area to get the full experience. You can hire a tour company to take you, hop on the BMT from Sydney Central, or rent a car – which is my preferred method.
You can follow Susanna’s adventures on Instagram.
What is your favorite global national park, let us know in the comments so our readers can add amazing national parks around the world to their bucket list.