Foreign Treks: Five of the World’s Best National Parks

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It’s an annual event. Visiting national parks. Americans hop into their camper vans every summer and hit the road, exploring parks from sea to shining sea. With 58 national parks in this country alone, there’s always something to see. But what if you’re overseas this summer and are tired of the cafe-museum-cafe itinerary? The United States doesn’t have a monopoly on gorgeous national parks (even if we established the first one in 1872). You can find them in virtually every country in the world. Here are our top-five foreign parks that offer a lovely detour from museum-heavy cities.

Iguazu National Park, Argentina

Argentina is the land of tango and European-style big cities. It’s also home to Iguazu National Park, famous for Iguazu Falls. This 166-acre park in Northeastern Argentina boasts UNESCO World Heritage status as well as more than 2,000 species of flora and more than 400 different types of birds. You might spy howler monkeys, jaguars or black-capped capuchin around the site. The falls are the showpiece, standing more than 263-feet high and featuring numerous cascades and rapids. Hike several trails around the falls—the ominously-named Devil’s Throat is the most challenging.

Hortobagy National Park, Hungary

While Budapest is worth visiting for its regal architecture and museums alone, a trip to Hungary wouldn’t be complete without a trek to Hortobagy National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hortobagy features 185 acres of wetlands, meadows, and steppes offering 342 species of birds. Livestock abounds as do the blue-robed shepherds who tend them. You can take a bike tour around lakes and admire the cranes, swans, and geese who migrate here. Or spend a day hiking around the region. You might come across jackals, Racka sheep and the famous Przewalski horse, an endangered wild horse indigenous to this land.

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

A land of majestic peaks and verdant hills, New Zealand has a plethora of beautiful parks and green spaces. If you only have time for one, don’t miss Tongariro National Park. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tongariro, on the country’s North Island, is volcanic in nature, boasting myriad peaks and valleys. Three volcanoes are the centerpiece of the park, with Crater Lake as the highlight of one of them. You can camp throughout the park and also hike a variety of trails, from invigorating alpine crossings to challenging treks to the summit of Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Ruapehu.

Kruger National Park, South Africa 

A safari is many a nature lover’s dream trip and you’d be hard pressed to find a better spot to savor it all than Kruger National Park in South Africa. One of the oldest national parks in the world, Kruger has been protecting the wildlife of the Lowveld since 1898. Across nearly five million acres, you’ll find a wealth of flora and fauna including 507 bird and 147 mammal species. The big five are here—lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo—and you can admire them from 4WD safaris. Or head on a wilderness hike if you’re more adventurous. But don’t forget your armed guard. This isn’t Central Park, after all.

Goreme National Park, Turkey

If you’re an archaeology buff, you probably already have Goreme National Park in Turkey on your radar. It’s here you’ll find Cappadocia, a honeycombed settlement from the Byzantine era that was a Christian monastery for many centuries. Homes and tunnels were built into the rock thousands of years ago and today, some of them have been converted into hotels. Take a hot air balloon ride above the ancient city or hike or mountain bike around the rock formations. It’s a can’t-miss destination.

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