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BlogTravel tipsA regional guide to the world’s top national parks
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Travel tips

A regional guide to the world’s top national parks

Apr 18, 2022 by Jamie Gallerani

Pop quiz: Which country do you need to visit to see the world’s most beautiful national park in person? Okay, okay, so that’s a trick question… there are stunning nature reserves on every continent, and it’s almost impossible to pick the best! Whether you have your eye on exploring national parks in the U.S.A., or whether the endless African plains are calling you, here are some of the best national parks to visit on tour.


If you’re in North America…

North America has resplendent nature escapes in spades, and you only have to go as far as your backyard to have an unforgettable adventure. What’s the best national park in the U.S. and Canada, you ask? Well, that depends. There are the geysers of Yellowstone and the red rocks of Zion, and we can’t forget the picturesque peaks of the Canadian Rockies. If it sounds like there’s a lot to marvel at on North America tours, you’re right. Here are just two of the best national parks in the U.S. and Canada to visit.

Visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona

  • Tour that takes you there: U.S. National Parks: The Grand Canyon to Yellowstone
  • Top site to see: The views from Mather Point on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim (which is a Tour Director favorite!).
  • Favorite travel memory: “Walking along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon was absolutely incredible,” said traveler Katie. “The views of the orange-hued rock formation were unbeatable. Or so I thought, until the next day. The Grand Canyon Helicopter Ride was the most thrilling half hour of my tour. We could see the Colorado River running through the steep walls of the canyon.”

Explore all Grand Canyon tours →

Visit Banff National Park in Canada

  • Tour that takes you there: The Canadian Rockies Walking Tour: Banff & Lake Louise
  • Top site to see: The park’s almost-too-blue-to-be-real lakes, including the iconic Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. These gem-like lakes alone make Banff one of the best national parks in Canada.
  • Favorite travel memory: “We were all expecting the beauty of Lake Louise, but none of us were prepared for the stop along the way: Moraine Lake,” says traveler Brandon in our virtual sightseeing tour of North America’s national parks. “Entirely surrounded by 10 peaks, Moraine Lake’s brilliant turquoise color reflect the mountains, displaying a view I would have thought was edited on a computer had I not seen it myself.”

Explore all Banff tours →


If you’re in Europe…

The best national parks in Europe all have one thing in common: They give those classic European city views a run for their money! While cobblestone streets and bustling cafes are always magical in Italy, Ireland, and beyond, sometimes stepping away from the city centers and into nature is just the ticket on your Europe tour. Here are two of the best national parks in Europe that will take your breath away, plain and simple.

Visit Belluno Dolomites National Park in Italy

  • Tour that takes you there: Northern Italy & Cinque Terre Walking Tour
  • Top site to see: The 360-degree views of mountain peaks and flower-dotted meadows from the scenic Bullaccia Ring Trail. This is a hike through the Dolomite Mountains that you’ll remember all your life. (Of course, the Alpe di Siusi, Europe’s largest alpine meadow, is also worth an honorable mention!)
  • Favorite travel memory: “Having previously traveled in central Italy, Rome, and Venice, I was delighted to find that Northern Italy offers a separate magical dimension of the country,” said traveler Jon. “The Dolomites at Alpe di Siusi were stunning, simply breathtaking, grander than the Grand Canyon, in my opinion, and comparable to scenery I've witnessed on the Antarctic Coast and the South Pole.”

Explore all Dolomites tours →

Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

  • Tour that takes you there: Croatia & Slovenia: The Old-World Adriatic
  • Top site to see: The crystal-clear, jewel-colored water that shifts from shades of blue and green to grey and aquamarine thanks to the way the sun reflects off the minerals in the water.
  • Favorite travel memory: “I had seen photos of this unbelievably beautiful place and wanted to experience it for myself,” said traveler Lynne. “While it was even more beautiful in person than the photos I had seen, that was not the only interesting thing about this park and its famous lakes. It has been a National Park since 1940 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1970. Because it is so protected, its 16 cascading lakes are pristine and there are over 75 endemic species in the park that can’t be found anywhere else. The water is an unbelievably blue-green aqua color due to the calcium carbonate found in the limestone of the surrounding mountains.”

Explore all Plitvice tours → 


If you’re in South or Central America…

Nature lovers will feel right at home in South and Central America, where rainforests, lush mountains, wildlife, and more are around every corner. We could fill this guide to the national parks in a snap by only highlighting the best national parks in South America. But, to get you dreaming, here are two of our favorites for you to explore on our Latin America tours.

Visit Arenal National Park in Costa Rica

  • Tour that takes you there: A Week in Costa Rica: San José, Arenal & Guanacaste
  • Top site to see: The mile-high Arenal Volcano, which has an almost perfect conical shape, and emerges from the Sierra de Tilarán mountain range.
  • Favorite travel memory: “Hiking up a volcano during the day in the Arenal Region and soaking in the thermal springs at night were highlights,” said traveler Danielle while sharing travel memories from Costa Rica. “Another highlight was getting to walk through the cloud forest on the Sky Walk excursion. It’s everything you imagine as a kid growing up reading about rain forests. There was gorgeous nature, and the sky bridges let you be along the treetops, which was magical.”

Explore all Costa Rica tours → 

Visit Torres del Paine National Park in Chile

  • Tour that takes you there: Chile to Argentina: Santiago, Patagonia & Buenos Aires
  • Top site to see: Los Cuernos del Paine. These three granite rock spires in the Paine Mountain range anchor the skyline above turquoise glacial lakes in Patagonia.
  • Favorite travel memory: “I didn’t expect to go from the beach to the rolling plains of Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park, where there was nothing but wildlife,” said traveler Mary, who shared her story about finding art, adventure, and amazing cuisine in Chile. “And then the glaciers… oh my. We did a cruise under the glaciers and you could hear as huge chunks of ice cracked and fell. I had never seen a glacier, so I thought it was amazing.”

Explore all Torres del Paine tours →


If you’re in Australia or New Zealand…

The South Pacific has a lot going for it, including ocean views almost everywhere you turn, and some of the most diverse landscapes on Earth. Those landscapes—from beaches to deserts to fjords—set the best national parks in Australia and New Zealand apart. Here are a couple to put on your bucket list during your Australia and New Zealand tour.

Visit the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia

  • Tour that takes you there: Australia & New Zealand
  • Top site to see: The colorful coral, of course! You’ll board a catamaran at Cairns Marina and sail to the Outer Barrier Reef on tour, where you can peek at the coral from an underwater observatory, glass-bottom boat, or semi-submarine—or hop in the water with a snorkel.
  • Favorite travel memory: “The day we spent at the Great Barrier Reef was one of the most memorable and best days of my life,” said traveler Donna. “Our guide was on top of everything and just excellent.”

Explore all Great Barrier Reef tours →

Visit Fiordland National Park in New Zealand

  • Tour that takes you there: New Zealand: Untamed Landscapes
  • Top site to see: Milford Sound, which is surrounded by 4,000-foot-high cliffs—talk about stunning photo ops!
  • Favorite travel memory: “Being in New Zealand just blew my mind—it’s an awe-inspiring country with extensive wilderness and animals at every turn,” said traveler Rick in his story about how meeting locals makes visiting New Zealand truly memorable. “We passed pastures full of deer, cows, and sheep while driving down the highway. While standing on a pier, I looked down at salmon swimming just 30 feet from the shore. And, the South Island was particularly stunning; Milford Sound and the Queenstown area were our favorite. Pictures pale compared to the reality of New Zealand’s awesome beauty.”

Explore all Fiordland National Park tours →


If you’re in Asia…

Asia tours may bring serene temples and bustling cities like Tokyo to mind, but no national parks guide it complete without a mention of the surreal natural areas that dot the continent. Here are two of the best national parks in Asia, which make for inspiring journeys indeed.

Visit Ranthambore National Park in India

  • Tour that takes you there: India: Delhi, Agra & Jaipur
  • Top site to see: The large population of Royal Bengal Tigers, which roam freely through the park’s dense forest. While the tigers are the main draw, you can also see historic palaces and temples in Ranthambore. Why temples and palaces you ask? Well, although Ranthambore is one of the best national parks in Asia today, it once served as the hunting ground for the kings of Jaipur.
  • Favorite travel memory: “My favorite part of the trip was our day in Ranthambore National Park,” said staffer Brittany while sharing photos and memories from India. “We went on a game drive and learned how the people at the wildlife park have worked hard to increase the number of Bengal tigers since poaching was a huge issue in this region. We even spotted the elusive Bengal tiger, which was always something I wanted to see but never thought I would have the chance to. To top it all off, we came together as a group and enjoyed drinks and dinner at sunset. It was the perfect ending to the day.”

Explore all Ranthambore tours →

Visit Phi Phi National Park in Thailand

  • Tour that takes you there: Grand Tour of Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang Mai & Phuket
  • Top site to see: Towering limestone rock formations, which rise out of crystal-clear water. For an even closer look on our Phi Phi Islands Cruise, Snorkeling & Lunch excursion, don a snorkel and jump in the water to admire one of the world’s most abundant coral reef systems.
  • Favorite travel memory: “Phi Phi (pronounced pee-pee), is literally paradise,” said staffer Kevin while chatting about 12 must-visit hidden gems in Thailand. “There are little to no cars on the island and everywhere you look offers an incredible view of the Andaman Sea. It feels like you are in a movie on this island—which makes sense, as it was the place where The Beach and The Man With the Golden Gun were filmed.”

Explore all Thailand tours →


If you’re in Africa…

Africa’s home to some of the world’s best national parks for animal sightings, so if seeing the Big Five is on your bucket list, this is the continent to visit! Wondering which African safari is right for you? Well, it all depends on what you’re hoping to see. To cap off our national parks travel guide, here are two of the best national parks in Africa to visit on our Africa tours.

Visit Tarangire National Park in Tanzania

  • Tour that takes you there: Tanzania Wildlife Safari
  • Top site to see: The largest baobab trees in the world, and Tanzania’s densest population of elephants. Check out more safari tips in our guide to Tanzania’s national parks →
  • Favorite travel memory: “From the very start of our trip we began having encounters with the Big Five,” said traveler Jessica. “Our first sighting was of elephants (including several babies) crossing the road just in front of us at Tarangire National Park, not even half an hour into the first safari day, and the luck and amazing sightings continued throughout the entire trip in all of the parks. We saw all of the Big Five, and so much more, including giraffes grazing by the side of the road, and even drinking (which is a rare sight indeed!), two cheetahs resting in the heat of the day, several trees loaded to the gills with resting lions, leopards with cubs, wildebeest everywhere, lions hunting in Serengeti, flamingos in such numbers that the lake at Ngorongoro Crater appeared completely pink, hyena, gazelles, eland, waterbuck, dik-dik, and thousands of zebras.”

Explore all Tarangire National Park tours →

Visit Serengeti National Park in Kenya

  • Tour that takes you there: Kenya Wildlife Safari: Mount Kenya, Maasai Mara & Amboseli
  • Top site to see: While you’re guaranteed to see big cats in this UNESCO-listed park, it’s also the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World: the annual wildebeest migration, which usually happens after the rainy season in July and August.
  • Favorite travel memory: “We were so blessed with the number of animals we saw,” said traveler Allison in her story of seeing Africa on safari. “Of course, there were all of the zebras and wildebeest of the great migration, but we saw the Big Five, too—elephants, buffalo, lions, rhinos, and leopards. … If I were to pick one favorite moment to share it would be when our vehicle was surrounded by hundreds of zebras. Our guide turned off the engine and our group stood up through the roof as zebras went about their lives around us. Some were eating, some were playing, and some were resting. There were zebras in every direction you turned and they were happy to let us be there, to watch them go about their ordinary day—but it was beyond ordinary to us.”

Explore all Serengeti National Park tours →

What’s the best national park you’ve ever visited? Which highlight in this national parks guide is your favorite? Tell us about it on our Facebook page!

National parksKnow before you go
About the author | Jamie Gallerani
It was Jamie’s homestay in Germany that made her fall in love with travel (and her studies in Florence that really sealed the deal). When she’s not writing and sharing the magic of seeing the world with others, she’s usually on the lookout for her new favorite memoir, testing out recipes at home, or visiting her family on Cape Cod.

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