Six Stunning National Parks Around the Globe

From New Zealand to Africa, Aus­tralia to Chi­na, near­ly a hun­dred coun­tries around the globe have nation­al parks that pre­serve some of the world’s most stun­ning ecosys­tems. Make sure to leave room on your buck­et list for these can’t‑miss gems.

Canaima National Park, Venezuela | ©istockphoto/alicenerrCanaima Nation­al Park, Venezuela
If you don’t rec­og­nize the park by name, per­haps you’ll rec­og­nize it by its most icon­ic feature—Angel Falls, the high­est water­fall in the world, cas­cad­ing unin­ter­rupt­ed for a majes­tic 2,648 feet. The sec­ond-largest park in the coun­try, Canaima’s amaz­ing­ly diverse land­scape is marked by dense jun­gle and tow­er­ing tepui, moun­tain­ous sand­stone for­ma­tions that cov­er near­ly two-thirds of the park, but vis­i­tors can also expect to find lagoons, pink sand beach­es, rivers, and creeks that form the water­shed of the Caroní Riv­er. The land here is flush with wildlife, from Jaguar and giant otters to fox­es and howler mon­keys, and can be a birdwatcher’s par­adise in the migra­to­ry seasons.

Valley of Flowers National Park, India | ©istockphoto/solopieroVal­ley of Flow­ers Nation­al Park, India
High in the Himalayas of the Uttaran­chal, 3,600 meters above sea lev­el and sur­round­ed by socked-in peaks lies a won­der­ful, secret gar­den: The Val­ley of Flow­ers. Orchids, pop­pies, prim­u­las, marigold, daisies, and near­ly five hun­dred oth­er vari­eties of flow­er­ing plants cre­ate a rich tapes­try of hue and tex­ture against alpine and sub-alpine forests of birch and rhodo­den­dron. In his descrip­tion of the val­ley, botanist Frank Smythe called it “a val­ley of peace and per­fect beau­ty where the human spir­it may find repose.” Look upon its mead­ows all bedecked in their riotous­ly col­or­ful splen­dor, wound through with glacial streams and expe­ri­ence that repose of spir­it for yourself.

Mljet National Park, Croatia | ©istockphoto/TPopovaMljet Nation­al Park, Croatia
Lore and leg­end shroud the Croa­t­ian island of Mljet. The west­ern half of the island is giv­en over to the nation­al park, where thick, lush forests sur­round a pair of sparkling inland salt­wa­ter lakes con­nect­ed to the Adri­at­ic Sea through a nar­row inlet. Both lakes fea­ture walk­ing and cycling paths, per­fect for those Mediter­ranean morn­ings, and a small island in Veliko Jeze­ro (Large Lake) called St. Mary’s Island boasts a mod­est Bene­dic­tine monastery, a rel­ic of the twelfth cen­tu­ry that now hous­es a small café for vis­i­tors who’ve come over by boat or kayak.

Guilin and Lijiang River National Park of China | ©istockphoto/shunjian123Guilin and Lijiang Riv­er Nation­al Park, China
With its broad, flat water that per­fect­ly mir­rors the con­i­cal karst moun­tains ris­ing ethe­re­al­ly from the mist all around it, the Li Riv­er is home to some of the world’s most scenic river­scapes. Cov­er­ing some fifty miles of riv­er between Guilin and Yang­shuo, the nation­al park is home to famous des­ti­na­tions includ­ing the Reed Flute Cave, a mar­vel of sta­lac­tites, pil­lars, and oth­er rock for­ma­tions, and Ele­phant Trunk Hill, a local land­mark that resem­bles an ele­phant drink­ing from the riv­er. It’s said that “Guil­in’s scenery is best among all under heav­en. How­ev­er, Yangshuo’s scenery is the best in Guilin,” so you know you’re get­ting the best of all worlds in this park.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Australia | ©istockphoto/hameleonseyeGreat Bar­ri­er Reef Marine Park, Australia
One of the sev­en won­ders of the nat­ur­al world, the Great Bar­ri­er Reef of Aus­tralia offers an abun­dance of diverse marine life: thou­sands of fish­es, man­groves, sea snakes, sharks, corals, starfish, urchins, tur­tles, sea and shore­birds, sea­grass­es, mol­lusks, and mam­mals includ­ing whales, dol­phins, and dugongs make their homes amongst the world’s largest coral reef ecosys­tem. While the reef is obvi­ous­ly a haven for snor­kel­ing and scu­ba div­ing, vis­i­tors can also opt for sail­boats to enjoy a slight­ly dri­er experience.

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile | ©istockphoto/ bluejayphotoTor­res del Paine Nation­al Park, Chile
The dra­mat­ic ridge­line of the Paine Mas­sif with its jagged gran­ite peaks like teeth thrust up from the Patag­on­ian steppes. The South­ern Patag­on­ian Ice Field, a hoary rel­ic of the last great ice age, the birth­place of great ultra­ma­rine glac­i­ers includ­ing the Dick­son, the Grey, and the Tyn­dall. The Val­ley of Silence. Lakes so vivid they seem unre­al. Names and places that’ll sear them­selves into your mem­o­ry, these 400,000 acres of oth­er­world­ly heav­en in Chilean Patag­o­nia are list­ed by Nation­al Geo­graph­ic as the fifth most beau­ti­ful place in the world for very good reason.