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Untamed Beauty: World’s Top 20 National Parks

(Last Updated On: March 25, 2024)

In an era where the quest for sustainable travel and the preservation of natural beauty has become paramount, exploring national parks and protected areas offers a unique opportunity to connect with the planet in a meaningful way. These sanctuaries of biodiversity serve as a refuge for countless species and provide a canvas for adventurers, nature lovers, and those seeking solace from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

1. Yellowstone National Park, USA

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Image Credit: Pexels / Katie Doane

Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, is a vast natural wonderland. Renowned for its geothermal features, including the iconic Old Faithful geyser, the park spans over two million acres across Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. This geological hotspot boasts hundreds of geysers, hot springs, and mudpots, painting a surreal landscape. Beyond its thermal wonders, Yellowstone is home to some of the most diverse wildlife in North America, including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk.

2. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

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Image Credit: Pexels / Holger J. Bub

Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia is a spectacle of nature, known for its towering granite peaks, azure lakes, and expansive ice fields. Covering over 240,000 acres, the park is a haven for trekkers, offering some of the most breathtaking trails in the world, including the famous W Circuit. The landscape is a dramatic mix of rugged mountains, glaciers, and verdant valleys, home to a rich variety of wildlife such as guanacos, pumas, and Andean condors.

3. Banff National Park, Canada

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Maridav

Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park is a sanctuary of majestic peaks, emerald lakes, and glacier-fed rivers. Established in 1885, it’s Canada’s first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Banff’s landscape is dotted with iconic landmarks such as Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, whose turquoise waters reflect the surrounding mountainous panorama.

4. Kruger National Park, South Africa

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Simon Eeman

Kruger National Park is a cornerstone of South African wildlife conservation, offering an unparalleled safari experience. Spanning over 7,500 square miles, it is one of Africa’s largest game reserves, home to the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and buffalo) and hundreds of other mammal species.

5. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

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Image Credit: Pexels / Esther Grosscurt

Fiordland National Park, located in the southwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island, is a dramatic landscape of rugged fiords, towering peaks, and cascading waterfalls. Part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site, the park is renowned for its untouched wilderness and breathtaking scenery, including the famous Milford and Doubtful Sounds. Fiordland is a haven for hikers, with the Milford, Kepler, and Routeburn Tracks offering some of the country’s most iconic walks.

6. Galápagos National Park, Ecuador

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Jess Kraft

The Galápagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, are one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife viewing. Declared a national park in 1959 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, the islands are famed for their endemic species, which inspired Charles Darwin‘s theory of evolution. The unique ecosystem of the Galápagos includes a variety of species, such as giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies.

7. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Mike Mareen

Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Croatia, is celebrated for its 16 terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls that extend into a limestone canyon. The park’s waters display a dazzling array of colors, from azure to green, grey, or blue, depending on the minerals and organisms present and the angle of sunlight.

8. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Australia

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Laverne Nash

The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system, is a kaleidoscope of marine life and vibrant corals stretching over 2,300 kilometers along the Australian coast. The marine park is a haven for divers and snorkelers, offering close encounters with diverse species, including turtles, sharks, and a myriad of tropical fish.

9. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Marc Stephan

The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is synonymous with wildlife and wilderness. Its vast plains host the annual Great Migration, where millions of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles traverse the landscape in search of fresh grazing, followed by predators such as lions, cheetahs, and hyenas.

10. Yosemite National Park, USA

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Jorge Argazkiak

Yosemite National Park, located in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, is famed for its towering granite cliffs, ancient sequoia trees, and spectacular waterfalls cascading down into the valley. The park’s diverse ecosystems range from lush meadows to alpine wilderness, offering a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, rock climbing, and wildlife viewing.

11. Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park, China

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Efired

Jiuzhaigou Valley, located in Sichuan Province, China, is a fairy-tale landscape of multi-level waterfalls, colorful lakes, and snow-capped peaks. The park is named after the nine Tibetan villages scattered throughout its territory, adding a cultural element to its natural beauty. Jiuzhaigou’s unique geological formations and water systems, such as the crystal-clear Five Flower Lake and the cascading Pearl Shoal Waterfall, create stunning visuals.

12. Iguazu National Park, Argentina and Brazil

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Nido Huebl

Spanning the border between Argentina and Brazil, Iguazu National Park is home to the magnificent Iguazu Falls, a series of 275 waterfalls stretching over nearly 3 kilometers. A lush subtropical rainforest, home to diverse wildlife, including toucans, jaguars, and capuchin monkeys, surrounds the falls.

13. Komodo National Park, Indonesia

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Donnchans

Komodo National Park, located in the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its population of Komodo dragons, the largest living species of lizard. The park encompasses a variety of habitats, including savannahs, rainforests, white-sand beaches, and coral reefs, offering a diverse range of activities from hiking and wildlife viewing to snorkeling and diving in some of the world’s most biodiverse waters.

14. Svalbard, Norway

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / ginger_polina_bublik

Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, is a frontier of wild nature, offering stark landscapes of glaciers, fjords, and polar deserts. This remote destination is a haven for Arctic wildlife, including polar bears, walruses, and reindeer. Svalbard’s unique position within the Arctic Circle provides opportunities to experience the midnight sun in the summer and the northern lights in the winter.

15. Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Valentin Ayupov

The Amazon Rainforest, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, spans nine countries, with Brazil housing the largest portion. This biodiverse ecosystem is home to millions of species of flora and fauna, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The Amazon offers an unparalleled experience of nature’s complexity and interconnectivity, from river cruises to jungle lodges and guided treks.

16. Patagonia, Argentina and Chile

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / sharptoyou

Patagonia, a region shared by Argentina and Chile, is a land of dramatic landscapes, encompassing the southern section of the Andes mountains, deserts, grasslands, and coastlines. The region is renowned for its breathtaking natural wonders, including the Perito Moreno Glacier, the Fitz Roy range, and Torres del Paine National Park.

17. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / anthony heflin

Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited national park in the United States. The park is renowned for its biodiversity, ancient mountains, and a vast collection of historic buildings.

18. Raja Ampat, Indonesia

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Yantiiii

Raja Ampat, located off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula in West Papua, Indonesia, is an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals. It’s one of Earth’s most biodiverse marine habitats, making it a top destination for diving and snorkeling. The islands also offer stunning above-water scenery, with lush jungles, white-sand beaches, and hidden lagoons.

19. Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / evenfh

Namib-Naukluft National Park, one of the largest conservation areas in Africa, is a vast wilderness in the heart of the Namib Desert. The park is famous for its towering sand dunes, some of the highest in the world, particularly in the Sossusvlei area. The landscape is a dramatic blend of red dunes, granite mountains, and deep canyons, offering unique photographic opportunities and adventures, such as hot air balloon rides, 4×4 dune tours, and hiking.

20. Kakadu National Park, Australia

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Alexandra Martynova

Kakadu National Park, located in the Northern Territory of Australia, is a vast biodiverse nature reserve. It’s renowned for its rich Aboriginal cultural sites, diverse ecosystems, and unique wildlife. The park encompasses wetlands, rivers, sandstone escarpments, and waterfalls, offering a variety of activities such as bird watching, hiking, and boat tours to see saltwater crocodiles.

The Bottom Line

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Image credit: Shutterstock / Mumemories

Embarking on a journey to these national parks and protected areas offers more than just a getaway; it’s an invitation to forge a deeper connection with the natural world. As you plan your green getaway, remember that the privilege of experiencing these pristine environments comes with the responsibility of respecting their fragile ecosystems.

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The post Untamed Beauty: World’s Top 20 National Parks republished on Passing Thru with permission from The Green Voyage.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Rowan Sims Photography.

For transparency, this content was partly developed with AI assistance and carefully curated by an experienced editor to be informative and ensure accuracy.

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