The U.S. National Park system has been called America’s best idea—but the idea seems even more brilliant when you consider the rest of the world’s protected areas and all they have to offer.
From the ice caves in Vatnajökull National Park to the jagged granite peaks of Mount Huangshan—these natural habitats and incredible earthly features have inspired billions of artists, biologists and even your typical traveler.
Recent research highlights the importance and popularity of these parks and preserves—for the first time ever, there is world-wide data on national parks and preserves. The paper suggests that protected areas around the world see eight billion visits per year and generate as much as $600 billion in tourism annually, even though only $10 billion is spend to preserve and safeguard these sites.
If you have yet to visit one of these amazing parks and preserves, take a look at our list and visit one of the most spectacular natural sites in the world.
Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland
Set in south-east Iceland, Vatnajökull National Park is a massive protected area most famous for it’s varied landscapes and stunning natural formations. The park land accounts for 13 percent of the country’s total land, making it the second largest national park in all of Europe. Visitors come to see some of the best preserved ice caves in the world, active volcanos and breathtaking waterfalls like Selfoss (pictured here).
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger National Park is undoubtedly one of the best places to see wildlife in all of Africa. The park that spans two million hectares (or 7,523 square miles) is home to an astounding array of wildlife—49 species of fish, 507 species of birds and 147 species of mammals, and that’s just a snapshot. Kruger National Park also offers visitors a glimpse at the “Big Five”—elephants, rhinos, buffaloes, leopards and lions.