A Guide to the Most Beautiful National Parks in the World

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Written by
Lily Bunker

Published on: June 7th, 2024

Last modified: June 7th, 2024

National parks are one of the most effective ways to protect the world’s pristine landscapes, delicate ecosystems and natural wonders. There are more than 6,500 of them across the globe, many of which encompass UNESCO World Heritage Sites and habitats for endangered species.

Yellowstone was the first national park to be established in 1872, and the title of the largest national park in the world belongs to Northeast Greenland National Park. But when it comes to choosing the best parks to visit, things are a bit more subjective.

How can we compare the glaciers of Torres del Paine in Chile to the grassy plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania or the turquoise pools of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia? Each of these places has its own special allure. That said, we’ve done our best to select 16 of the most beautiful national parks in the world for you to visit.

Kruger National Park

1. Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park is unquestionably among the best national parks in the world, covering over 19,000 square kilometres (7,500 square miles) in the northeast corner of South Africa. It’s world-renowned for its conservation programmes and absolutely brimming with incredible wildlife, waterfalls, forests, mountains and more. 

Need to know: To maximise the positive impact of your trip, stay at the community-focused Tanda Tula Safari Camp, which relies on local suppliers and actively contributes to wildlife protection efforts.

Serengeti Great Migration

2. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Of the 22 national parks in Tanzania, Serengeti National Park has to be the most iconic. It’s home to the Big Five and countless other species, and it’s where most of the annual Great Migration takes place. The landscape is defined by baobab and umbrella trees scattered across seemingly infinite plains.

Need to know: The Serengeti is a fantastic place for walking safaris and is especially well suited to mobile camps like Wilderness Usawa, which follows the path of the Great Migration.

Namib-Naukluft National Park from Little Kulala

3. Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia

Nearly half of Namibia is part of protected areas like concessions, conservancies and national parks. Located on the country’s western coast, Namib-Naukluft National Park is one of the largest national parks in Africa, encompassing the ancient Namib Desert and the stunning red dunes of Sossusvlei.

Need to know: Wilderness Little Kulala is an excellent home base for exploring Namib-Naukluft. It’s located just outside the national park in a wilderness reserve that’s been carefully restored.

The Galapagos National Park

4. Galápagos National Park, Ecuador

The Galápagos Islands boast one of the top national parks in the world for wildlife: think giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies and friendly sea lions. Galápagos National Park is also breathtakingly beautiful, from volcanic peaks and lush forests to white sand beaches and deep blue waters.

Need to know: You can explore the Galápagos by land or by sea; stay at a sumptuous lodge on one of the islands or cruise the archipelago aboard a luxury vessel.

Torres del Paine

5. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

If you want to see one of the world’s most scenic national parks with your own eyes, head straight for Torres del Paine. Located close to the southernmost tip of South America, this national park is named for its three granite ‘towers’ – but it also has glacial lakes, fjords, forests and plenty of other spectacular scenery. 

Need to know: Stay at Awasi Patagonia for personalised excursions into the park, or at EcoCamp Patagonia for low-impact luxury.

Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

6. Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

Los Glaciares National Park covers more than half a million hectares of Patagonia, but its main attraction is undoubtedly the enormous Perito Moreno Glacier. Here you’ll find staggering ice formations, vast lakes and panoramic views of this gorgeous region of Argentina, which is perfect for hiking and kayaking expeditions.

Need to know: The best time to visit Patagonia, including Los Glaciares National Park and El Calafate, is during the warmer summer months from December to February.

Stags in Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

7. Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

The Scottish Highlands are home to the largest national park in the United Kingdom: Cairngorms National Park. This immense expanse of nature features rolling green hills, snowy mountains and abundant wildlife. Here you can tour a private estate, go on a guided safari or explore the park on quad bikes, mountain bikes or horseback.

Need to know: Apart from its natural beauty, Cairngorms is a great place to learn about history, folklore and responsible land use in Scotland.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

8. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Probably the most well-known of all the national parks in Croatia, Plitvice Lakes National Park is almost too picturesque to believe. Its jewel-toned pools and tumbling waterfalls are nothing short of mesmerising, and can be discovered on a variety of different tours and hiking trails.

Need to know: Plitvice Lakes National Park is located between Zadar and Zagreb, so it’s a great place to go for a day trip or a scenic stop on your journey through Croatia.

Beautiful landscape view with snowed up mountains in Triglav national park in Slovenia.

9. Triglav National Park, Slovenia

There’s only one national park in Slovenia, and it’s among the oldest in Europe. Triglav National Park, close to Lake Bled, is named after its highest peak, which even appears on the country’s coat of arms. Located near the Italian and Austrian borders, it’s a land of jagged snow-capped mountains and alpine forests, perfect for hiking, mountain biking, canyoning or kayaking. 

Need to know: Almost all of the park overlaps with the Julian Alps, which are a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Ice Cave in Breiðármerkurjökull outlet glacier, Vatnajökull National Park

10. Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland

Located in the polar paradise of southern Iceland, Vatnajökull National Park is replete with glacial landscapes and opportunities for adventure. You can ascend the Vatnajökull Glacier – the largest in Europe – and venture into its otherworldly ice caves, or go kayaking on the glassy Heinaberg Lagoon for unbelievable views of the icy surroundings.

Need to know: You can visit Vatnajökull year round, but the warmer months (May–September) are best for hiking and winter (November–March) is the ideal time to visit the ice caves.

Göreme Historical National Park, Turkey with hundreds of brightly colored balloons

11. Göreme Historical National Park, Turkey

Turkey’s Göreme Historical National Park must have some of the most distinctive terrain on earth, consisting of steep valleys, arid plateaus and surreal rock formations – including the famous fairy chimneys of Cappadocia. It’s also full of ancient and intricate underground cities, featuring everything from living areas and kitchens to churches and stables. 

Need to know: Don’t miss the Göreme Open-Air Museum, a complex of religious structures carved right into the rock faces of the Göreme Valley.

Wadi Rum Protected Area, Jordan

12. Wadi Rum Protected Area, Jordan

Sweeping sand dunes, prehistoric ruins, rocky cliffs and Bedouin camps: that’s just a taste of what you’ll find in the Wadi Rum Protected Area. Set in southern Jordan, this valley is a treasure trove of fascinating culture, ethereal beauty and truly exceptional stargazing.

Need to know: Set deep in the desert, Sun City Camp is wholly authentic and downright magical. Stay in a panoramic suite or a Bedouin tent and enjoy delicious heritage cuisine.

Ranthambore National Park, India

13. Ranthambore National Park, India

Above all, Ranthambore National Park is known for its tigers. The wildlife haven is located in Rajasthan, the largest state of India, and has a thriving population of endangered Bengal tigers. Visitors can spot the regal cats reclining on the 10th-century Ranthambore Fort and other ancient ruins, as well as deer, leopards, hyenas and sloth bears. 

Need to know: SUJÁN Sher Bagh is doing its part to protect Ranthambore’s tigers; the luxury camp supports conservation efforts while also promising an unforgettable experience for guests.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

14. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

The mystical monolith of Uluru is a site of immense spiritual and cultural significance. The nearby domed rock formations of Kata Tjuta also have immense importance for the Indigenous Anangu people. Both sites are protected as part of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park – a must-visit in the Australian Outback.

Need to know: We suggest taking a scenic tour to learn about the significance of the park’s landmarks, then settling into a luxury tent at Longitude 131º.

Fiordland National Park view on a Kepler track in New Zealand.

15. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

New Zealand’s South Island offers some of the country’s most impressive landscapes, and Fiordland National Park is the perfect example. Its centrepiece is Milford Sound (Piopiotahi in Māori), one of the beautiful fiords that lend the park its name. The best way to explore is by boat with stops for scenic hikes and maybe even a dazzling sunset. 

Need to know: Stay on the shores of Lake Te Anau at Fiordland Lodge, a family-owned retreat that’s entirely surrounded by magnificent wilderness.

Elephants in Sri Lanka

16. Gal Oya National Park, Sri Lanka

Hidden in a remote region of Sri Lanka, Gal Oya National Park may be the country’s best-kept secret. Its verdant forests and the islands of the Senanayake Samudra reservoir make it well worth the trip, with plenty of chances to spot elephants, leopards, langurs, crocodiles, water buffalo and several other species.

Need to know: The best – and virtually only – accommodation option is Gal Oya Lodge, which is deeply embedded in the local community and dedicated to environmental conservation.

Discover the World’s Most Breathtaking National Parks

 

Planning the perfect adventure to one of the world’s most beautiful national parks is an exciting prospect. Jacada’s expert travel designers have travelled the globe gaining firsthand experience and insight, so that they can help you plan a personalised adventure. Contact our team and learn about exciting and luxurious travel ideas that will immerse you in a world of glaciers, mountains, lakes, caves, vast plains and wildlife havens.

Whatever you want from your adventure to the world's most beautiful national parks, our travel designers are ready to help:

Trip Inspiration

Get inspired with our example trips to beautiful national parks, and then get in touch to plan your own adventure