Travelers Share Their Favorite National Parks : Part Two
Travelers Share Their Favorite National Parks : Part Two
National Parks are one of my favorite things to explore when traveling and since they can be found all over the world, it’s a great thing to check out wherever you may be traveling. A few weeks ago, I asked travelers to share their favorite National Parks as part of National Park Week and with their help I put together this amazing list of ten National Parks.
I loved seeing all these National Parks (some of which I never knew about) and so I decided to seek out even more opinions from other travelers on their favorite National Park and I was definitely not disappointed. Literally from all corners of the world, travelers share their favorite National Parks :
Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador – Along Dusty Roads
Cotopaxi National Park is one of the most beautiful spots in Ecuador. Its snow-capped volcano of the same name dominates the skyline. Serious climbers are able to conquer the snow and ice to reach the summit, whilst tourists will enjoy a hike to the glacier at 5,000m. But it’s not just about the volcano; there are stunning landscapes all around, waterfalls and lakes, nature hikes and lots of wild horses. There are a few hostels within the park, but if you can’t stay the night it’s still a ‘must-do’ day trip from Quito. And the best bit? You can cycle down the side of the volcano at high speed!
Zion National Park, Utah – Postcards and Passports
Kruger National Park, South Africa – Savored Journeys
There are some pretty spectacular national parks in the world, but for me the best is Kruger National Park in South Africa. Kruger is located in the northeast corner of South Africa, near the border of Mozambique, and is one of the largest wild game reserve in Africa. Established in 1898, the park is now home to over 140 species of animals on 2 million hectares of land, so seeing the Big 5 is almost a guarantee. I always thought you had to go on a guided safari to see the animals in Africa, but that’s the other incredible thing about Kruger. While they do offer guided tours, you are free to drive yourself around the park, stopping as often as you like to take photos of the animals, and you don’t have to be an experienced tracker to locate the animals – they are roaming around everywhere you look.
Due to its incredible size, Kruger has many options for accommodations inside the park, like restcamps, bush lodges and bush camps which are fenced and protected from the animals at night There are also a number of private game lodges in the park that range in price and luxury. One thing is always for sure, no matter how you choose to experience Kruger, you will be absolutely amazed by your surroundings.
Parque Nacional Viñales, Cuba – My Adventures Across the World
Viñales National Park, in Pinar del Rio, the most Western province of Cuba, has a unique environment of carsic mountains, known as “mogotes”, which are isolated steep-sided hills that have a rounded, tower-like shape and are surrounded by flat alluvial plains. The natural characteristics of the valley, together with the rich cultural heritage of the area, are such that it was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and National Park in 2001. The area is rich of cave systems, some of which can be visited. The valley can be visited in different ways – hiking, biking, and even on horses. A proper tour takes visitors to the world famous tobacco plantations and to the Mural de la Prehistoria, which portrays world history up until the age of humans.
El Cajas National Park, Ecuador – The Russian Abroad
I love nature. And I don’t know anybody who hates it, really – nature calms you down, brings you to peace, and it also fosters mindfulness, which is exactly what I look for in my travels. But when I moved to live in Guayaquil last year, the city of 3 million people on the coast of Ecuador, where everybody’s running, where everybody’s stressed, where there’s no moment to recapture your breath, and where your brain burns out in the broiling sunshine, I just couldn’t handle it. But thankfully, Ecuador is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, where four climate zones manage to beautifully co-exist on 280 000-something square km. So only few hours away from dried-out Guayaquil, there’s a gorgeous oasis of tranquilizing greenery that I was lucky enough to visit during my long-term stay in Guayaquil – El Cajas National Park.
El Cajas is a place of overall stunning beauty. It is located in the Andean mountains, between 3000 and 4500 metres above sea levels, so you can imagine how different it looks from the coast: instead of palms and bananas everywhere, there’s wild tundra, deep lagoons, lush-looking valleys, and glassy lakes. Nature is indeed breathtaking in El Cajas, and it is a popular destination not only among tourists, but also among the local Ecuadorians, who are looking for a break. People go hiking, camping, trout fishing, horse riding, mountain biking there, and more – the national park offers all kinds of stuff! So if you’re ever getting suffocated with the sun and heat somewhere in the coast of Ecuador, just remember that there’s a beautiful secret escape called El Cajas.
Haleakala National Park, Hawaii – SKJ Travel
Sure, I was expecting some nice views, but I was completely blown away by what I experienced at Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui, Hawaii. Well, not literally blown away, fortunately, since the Haleakala volcano is dormant. I would call this my favorite park on the basis of what a surprise it was and the incredible diversity. We began our drive to the top at sea level in about 75-degree F sunny weather, drove through a layer of thick, spooky fog and heavy mist where the temperature plummeted to 50, and emerged into a ravishing blue sky, 64 degrees and an other-worldly landscape. I was surprised by the rich colors inside the caldera – the cinder cones and lava rocks, and, call me dumb but I didn’t quite realize how enormous the caldera would be. We hiked down into it, into a dynamic microclimate … clouds raced up to us, utterly enveloped us, then ran off, leaving us to bake in the sun for a few moments before new clouds raced in. I discovered the fantastical silversword plants that bloom once after about 50 years then die. At the 10,000-foot summit, I felt like I was an airplane, so high above the clouds.
Royal National Park, Australia – The Trusted Traveller
I’m lucky enough to have one of the world’s most beautiful and oldest national parks right on my doorstep. The Royal National Park is located in South Sydney at the start of the popular Grand Pacific Drive and is made up of over 15,000 hectares of walking tracks ranging from simple 10 minute walks up to challenging overnight hikes. But what makes this my favourite national park is the beaches. Some of Sydney’s most beautiful (and untouched) beaches can be found within the park. A few of my favourites include the family friendly Wattamolla and Bundeena and the rugged and untamed Garie.
Great Falls National Park, United States – Fun in Fairfax VA
Taroko National Park, Taiwan – Foreign Sanctuary
Hara Mangrove Forest, Iran – Anekdotique
The national park that really surprised me the most on my recent travels is the Hara mangrove forest on the southern coast of Iran, or to be precise on Qeshm Island in the Persian Gulf. The island is a free trade zone and therefore a year-round destination especially for wealthier Iranians.
Besides impressive canyons and desert areas one can find the Hara mangrove forest on the north coast of Qeshm Island, that is especially worth visiting for outdoorsman and bird lovers alike, as it is full of migratory birds like flamingos, pelicans, herons and angler eagles. The “Hara Protected Area” on Quesm and the nearby mainland is an incredible biosphere reserve that is great for an excursion with a fishing boat.
Want to know more about Iran? Check out this complete Guide to Backpacking Iran.
Cap de Creus National Park, Spain – Intrepid Escape
After a stunning 4 day cycle trip across the Catalonian Pyranees, starting in St Joan de les Abadesses, we arrived at the beautiful peninsular of Cap de Creus. The 190 square kilometres of National Park was a welcoming end to a brilliant trip, and has astonishing panoramic views of the North-East Catalonian coastline. It’s easily one of the greatest viewpoints I’ve ever been to.
Near the top you can’t miss the striking structure of Sant Pere de Rodes, a majestic monastery constructed in the 10th century, it has views over the National Park and the gorgeous fishing town of Llançà. The cycling gave us a great appetite so we enjoyed the delicious food and more views at Restaurant del Monestir. But not quite as much as the long winding 500 metre decent down to the sea, just in time to watch the sunset over local fisherman delivering their fresh catch for the day. This really is a gem of Catalonia.
Which National Park is your favorite? Which National Parks do you want to visit the most?