Looking to head off on an outdoor adventure that will leave you in awe of nature’s mysteries? We can help, with our guide to the seven most beautiful national parks in the world.
Searching for nature, architectural ruins and natural memorable sights? From Brazil to Morocco, explore some of the best national parks around the world.
You can’t afford to miss our list of national parks
1. Arenal Volcano National Park in Costa Rica
In the middle of the Costa Rican rainforest you’ll find La Fortuna, a tiny town that provides a gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park. Here, you’ll see not one, but two volcanoes. ArenalChato is the better known of the two, and you can see sizzling lava pouring out of the top. ArenalChato’s hiking trails are great for those who love a walking holiday, offering picturesque views of the region.
The other volcano, Cerro Chato, isn’t as well known and is inactive. When you’re planning your trip to Costa Rica, you won’t want to miss seeing the emerald green crater lake that surrounds Cerro Chato. Opt in to the organised tour treks around the volcano, where you’ll have the chance to swim in thewarm springs, naturally heated by the volcano itself.
2. Iguazu National Park on the Argentinian-Brazilian Border
On the border of Argentina and Brazil is one of our favourite national parks to visit. Iguazu National Park sits not so quietly in the distance as you approach. There’s a semi-circular waterfall in the centre of the park, splashing from a peak of 80 metres high and over 2,500 metres in diameter. With over 270 falls in Iguazu National Park, you’ll see exactly why its name translates to ‘big water’.
You’ll be spoilt for choice when looking for things to do in Iguazu National Park. Try a spot of kayaking on the Iguazu River, or take an exhilarating bike ride into the rainforest. And don’t forget to take a pair of binoculars to spot exotic birds too.
3. Toubkal National Park in Morocco
Near Marrakech, Toubkal National Park is great to visit if you’re after a hiking adventure. Take advantage of the valleys of Asni and Tacheddirt. If you’re an experienced hiker, you’ll love the challenge of climbing Jebel Toubkal, North Africa’s highest mountain. It stands at a whopping 4,167 metres tall, so you’ll need to pack a cosy, thick fleece.
Trekking in Toubkalis extremely popular. You can choose to take the direct route, straight up and back down the mountain. Or, why not make an expedition of it over a few days? It’s recommended for the more experienced hikers, as the altitude does change dramatically on the climb. If you do, it’s worth it for the rewarding, scenic views of Morocco when you reach the peak. It’s best to plan your trip aroundspring time to make sure you see Morocco’s vegetation in full bloom, and it’s ideal weather for hiking.
4. Palenque National Park in South Mexico
Five miles away from Santa Domingo, discover Palenque National Park. What used to be an ancient town that flourished between AD300 and 900 is now the archaeological ruins of that town surrounded by acres of green trees and flowing streams.
If you enjoy exploring sites of ancient architecture, add the Palenque ruins to your bucket list. As you wander around this park, absorb Mexican history as you come across the ‘Temple of the Inscriptions’, a fascinating tomb structure, surrounded by the ‘Temples of the Cross Group’.
5. Shenandoah National Park in Virginia
Shenandoah, which translates to ‘river of high mountains’ is next on our list of national parks to visit. 74 miles from the centre of Washington D.C., you can cast your eyes on gushing waterfalls and breathe in the fresh air. Head over to Shenandoah’s main feature, Skyline Drive, a road stretching105 miles, paving its way through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s best to visit in the autumn to see the dramatic change of the colour of the leaves.
Among the mountains, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take to the many hiking trails. Why not take on the biggest challenge of Skyline Drive, at mile marker 45? Climb the steep incline to the peak of Old Rag Mountain. The panoramic views across the whole of Virginia won’t disappoint. Can you spot the Allegheny Mountains in the west?
6. Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
Did you know that Colorado has over 55 mountain peaks that exceed 3900 metres? That’s more than any other state in the USA. Hiking enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice as you decide which mountain to climb. Take on any of the 14 tallest mountains of those 55, which are aptly referred to by localsas ‘The Fourteeners’. Rise to the challenge of climbing Mt Elbert, the tallest of all 14, reaching 4,401 metres.
Climb one of the ‘Never Summer Mountains’, a range of 17 mountains in the National Park, named because they are always covered in snow. Just make sure you’ve packed a jacket to keep you warm! Walk along the winding paths of knee-high flowers for 19 miles and spot elk herds, moose and bighorn sheep.
7. Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona
Spanning over 273miles and just over a mile deep, the Grand Canyon National Park is a highly popular destination with tourists, and for good reason too. Make your way to the well-known South Rim, which is open all year round and is the ideal option for a family adventure, full of adrenaline-fuelled activities to do. But, do you know where the best gems can be found?
Visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, only open from May to October. It’s 300 metres higher and 10 degrees cooler than the South Rim. You can see clusters of colourful trees for miles that you can’t from the South Rim. Listen carefully for the call of the canyon wrens as it echoes through the Ponderosa Pines.
And those are our favourite National Parks to visit
Kayaking, volcanoes and fascinating architectural history, fall in love with some of the best national parks in the world. Don’t forget, when you’re heading out in the heat, pack your insect protection clothing before you embark on your adventure.