Championed by the GOP’s own Teddy Roosevelt, the US National Park system has been hailed as America’s best idea. However, this idea seems even more brilliant when you consider those protected areas outside of the US and everything that they have to offer. Recent research has highlighted the importance and popularity of these parks and preserves, suggesting that protected areas around the world see eight billion visits every year and generate as much as $600 billion in tourism every year, even if only $10 billion is spent to preserve and safeguard these sites. I recently came across an article that mentioned five exceptional national parks around the world, and what they have to offer, listed below:
1. Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland: This massive protected area located in south-east Iceland has earned a name for itself through its varied landscapes and almost otherworldly natural formations, ranging from active volcanoes to stunning ice caves. As the second largest national park in Europe, it accounts for a staggering 13% of the country’s total land.
2. Kruger National Park, South Africa: Travelers have been coming to Africa to see wildlife since the 19th century, and while there are plenty of national parks across the continent where somebody can do that, Kruger stands out as one of the best, thanks to an astoundingly diverse range of wildlife (49 species of fish, 507 species of birds and 147 species of mammals).
3. Tijuca National Park, Brazil: Located in the center of Rio de Janeiro, this park offers 8,300 acres of preserved land to make it the largest “urban forest” in the world. It’s home to monkeys, scenic waterfalls and Brazil’s highest mountain, upon which is perched Brazil’s famous “Christ the Redeemer” statue. While admission to the park is free, many travelers will hire guides or join tours, since there isn’t any public transportation that reaches the park.
4. Mount Huangshan, China: Since the Tang Dynasty of the early Middle Ages, Mount Huangshan has been a staple of Chinese art and literature. While the Tang Dynasty has faded into the dust some 1,100 years ago, Mount Huangshan’s legacy lives on, attracting 1.3 million visitors every year. In addition to its distinct jagged granite peaks, it’s also home to many plants that are facing extinction.
5. Denali National Park and Preserve, United States: Only reached by a single road, this 6 million-acre park in Alaska is home to Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America. Yet this is just one feature of this park, which boasts a wide array of wildlife and one of the last true “wildernesses” in America. There are 39 documented species of mammals in the park, including moose, wolf and grizzly bear, in addition to 14 species of fish and 169 species of birds.