Best national parks outside the United States

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Mountains, waterfalls and various species of plants and animals are just a few of the things that make a national park worth visiting. Many of the best national parks in the world are also the largest and oldest in their respective countries. However, our neighbor to the north is home to Three of the best national parks outside the United States, according to our readers.

The journey awaits you readers voted in our 2021 Best of Travel Awards to help us determine everything from the best beaches to the friendliest small towns. Our readers have spoken. Here are the best national parks outside the United States

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Winner: Banff National Park

Banff, Alberta, Canada

Canada’s first national park is also the most famous. In addition to majestic mountain views, Banff National Park offers biking, hiking, skiing, and camping. This scenic UNESCO World Heritage Site is also home to Lake Peyto, home to some of the world’s bluest waters and abundant wildlife. Rocky Mountain Park offers great snow and ice photo opportunities, including the mesmerizing frozen bubbles of Lake Abraham and the Crystal Ice Castle that settles every winter on Lake Louise.

African sunset with silhouette of animals
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Kruger National Park

South Africa

Put this life-changing destination on your South Africa must-do list. The Kruger National Park is Africa’s oldest and most popular park. In addition to the Big Five (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffaloes), its 7,580 miles of world-famous wilderness is home to over 500 species of birds and 145 species of mammals, including giraffes, zebras, antelopes. and hippos. In fact, this is one of the best places to see giraffes and white rhinos. Over 1,500 miles of all-weather roads allow visitors to explore the wildlife preserve in their own vehicles, but safari guides are also available.

Northern lights over Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park
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Jasper National Park

Jasper, Alberta, Canada

Banff’s less touristy twin is just a famous scenic road trip on the Icefields Parkway in Jasper, Alta. Spanning 4,200 square miles, Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. Also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, this Rocky Mountain park is home to the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world. This makes it a prime location to observe nature’s most spectacular phenomenon, the Northern Lights. In addition to stargazing, the park offers hiking, camping, skiing, snowboarding, golfing, birding, boating, photography and more.

Lupine flower in Fiordland National Park.  New Zealand.
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Fiordland National Park

Te Anau, New Zealand

As you can imagine, Fiordland National Park is home to some spectacular fjords, but it is also home to magnificent waterfalls, beautiful lakes and stunning snow-capped peaks. Flights and cruises allow visitors to explore scenic Milford Sound. Bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and penguins inhabit Doubtful Sound, the country’s deepest fjord at 1,381 feet. Te Anau and Manapouri lakes are great for snorkeling and sea kayaking. The park also includes three of New Zealand’s great boardwalks. Inexperienced hikers can book a guided walk.

Morning on the waterfalls of Plitvice Park, Croatia
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Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Croatia’s largest and oldest national park is also its most popular tourist attraction. With just one glance at Plitvice Lakes National Park, it’s easy to see why. At 70,000 acres, the UNESCO World Heritage Site includes 16 wonderful blue lakes connected by a series of impressive waterfalls. At over 200 feet high, the tallest waterfall in the park is Veliki Slap.

Enclosed in a deep forest teeming with life, this exceptionally biologically and geologically diverse area is home to bears, wolves and several rare species of birds. Seven hiking trails provide ample opportunities for walking, hiking and lake viewing. In winter, skiing and sledding are popular.

Galapagos giant tortoise with a young woman (blurred in the background) sitting next to her on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos National Park, Ecuador.  It is the largest living species of turtle.
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Galapagos National Park

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Galapagos National Park was established in 1959 to commemorate the centenary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s book About the origin of species. The wide array of rare and exotic species found on the Ecuadorian Islands is, after all, what inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

With more than 3,000 square miles, the park occupies 97% of the 330 islands, islets and rocks of the archipelago. Endangered species include giant tortoises (which can weigh up to 800 pounds!) And blue-footed boobies.

Gerês, Portugal - August 30, 2020: View of the Cavado river and the Peneda-Geres national park, Gerês, Portugal
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Peneda-Gerês National Park

Portugal

Explore the rivers, lagoons, forests, mountains, valleys, woods and medieval villages of Peneda-Gerês National Park. This huge park in northern Portugal covers over 270 square miles of land. Follow the hiking trails or set off by car to see the stone houses of the village of Campo Geres and visit the castles of Castro Laboreiro and Lindoso.

Colorful clouds at sunset sky over Ayers Rock in Uluru-Kata Tjuta Uluru National Park, Northern Territory, Australia
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Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia

Located in the middle of the Australian Outback, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park owes its name to its rock formations. Also known as Ayers Rock, Uluru is taller than the Eiffel Tower and measures over 10 km at its base. This monolith is best seen at sunset / moonrise, while Kata Tjuta shines at sunrise.

Kata Tjuta, also known as Olga, is a group of over 30 sandstone domes that are beautiful to explore. Within a 45-minute drive of each other, both attractions have designated platforms that provide optimal vantage points.

Wildflowers (bells) closeup with lake and mountains as a backdrop, shot in Waterton National Park, Alberta, Canada
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Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton Park, Alberta, Canada

Waterton Lakes National Park is a wonderland of craggy cliffs, sapphire blue lakes and roaring waterfalls. Over 100 miles of trails crisscross Alberta’s scenic prairies and the Rocky Mountains, home to many species of flora and fauna.

Bordered to the south by Montana Glacier National Park, the two parks collectively form the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. You can’t miss the majestic gables and pointed roof of the Prince Of Wales Hotel in Waterton, Alberta. Stop for afternoon tea, which takes place in the grand lobby overlooking the blue waters of Waterton Lake.

Silfra Iceland
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Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir, Selfoss, Iceland

Thingvellir National Park is about an hour from Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital and largest city. From 930 to 1789, this unmissable place was the site of the country’s first parliament. Therefore, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered the cradle of Icelandic democracy. This natural and cultural wonder is also Iceland’s oldest national park.

Highlights include the impressive Öxarárfoss waterfall, views of the Northern Lights, and cracks such as Silfra. Dividing the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, the fissure is filled with water from Langjokull, Iceland’s second largest glacier. Pure, potable water offers over 300 feet of visibility, making it a favorite with divers. Plus, about 200 feet underwater, you can touch the Eurasian and North American continents at the same time!



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