Written by Brian Johnston
National parks are a symbol of pride, showcasing the best of a nation’s landscapes and wildlife, and setting aside areas of outstanding natural beauty for the enjoyment of all. Here are five national parks with top-notch wonders.
Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Spreading across several Indonesian islands, this national park and World Heritage Site is best known for its compact, rust-red Komodo Island, which has a brief period of dazzling green during the wet season and is fringed by abundant coral. Trekking is excellent, though best accompanied by a guide thanks to the island’s infamous Komodo dragons, which grow larger than humans. Other wildlife includes buffalo, deer, macaques, and a spectacular variety of birds.
Distance: 6,930 km
Flight Time: 12 hours , 10 minutes
Frequency: Daily via Singapore
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Who doesn’t dream of staying in a luxury safari lodge perched right on the edge of Ngorongoro Crater, with views over towering cliffs, forests, wide grasslands, and soda lakes bright with flamingos? Yet this is only one awe-inspiring corner of Africa’s greatest wildlife reserve, where grasslands are home to some two million animals; the annual migration of zebra, gazelle, and wildebeest is one of the world’s great natural spectacles. Much of the park is characterised by huge skies, yellow savannah, and the occasional acacia tree, under which big predators such as lions and cheetahs lurk in the shade.
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
Distance: 3,790 km
Flight Time: 5 hours, 40 mins
Frequency: Twice Daily
Yellowstone National Park, USA
Characterised by beautiful valleys, red canyons, waterfalls, mountains, and most of all hot springs and boiling mud geysers, Yellowstone is the quintessential US national park. Expect to spot moose, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, and even the occasional bear from the roadside, though to really experience the wilderness it’s best to hike and camp away from the crowds among remote and magnificent scenery.
Los Angeles, USA
Distance: 13,366 km
Flight Time: 16 hours, 25 minutes
Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria
Austria’s largest national park (and the biggest nature reserve in the European Alps) is like a geography book come to life: it features glaciers, brilliant blue lakes, waterfalls, areas of forest and tundra, and soaring alpine peaks, including Austria’s highest, the Grossglockner, at 3,798m. The area is notable for mountain wildlife such as chamois, deer, golden eagles, griffon vultures, and marmots. Although some farming occurs on the fringes of the park, its core preserves untouched alpine scenery cut through only by hiking trails.
Distance: 4,305 km
Flight Time: 6 hours, 10 minutes
Frequency: 2 flights a day
Iguazú National Park, Argentina
This rainforest preserve has notable birdlife, brilliant butterflies, and virtually unexplored marshland, and is a great destination for the adventurous. But nothing in the national park compares to its more easily accessible waterfalls, which straddle the Argentina–Brazil–Paraguay border in a 23km string of plummeting, thundering water permanently shimmering with spray, and without doubt one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Distance: 13,319 km
Flight Time: 18 hours, 50 minutes
Frequency: Daily via São Paulo