What do you imagine when you hear the word “wilderness?” Odds are your vision involves pristine rivers and lakes, untouched swaths of land and the possibility to go for weeks or months on end without seeing another living soul (but plenty of wildlife, of course).
While there are numerous incredible protected areas around the globe, size matters when it comes to getting away from it all. This is why we decided to take a look at the biggest, baddest national parks on the planet. These are the places where you can truly escape and travel for hundreds—or thousands—of miles through backcountry ranging from African savanna to alpine meadows.
Of course, when speaking of these huge protected areas, using the word "national park" is a bit misleading. While some—such as the only American destination to make the list—fall under this category, others are called “reserves” or “conservation areas,” among other titles. The diversity continues from there. While the entirety of some wilderness areas falls in one country, others span several to create massive, trans-boundary escapes. To further differentiate, some protected areas are marine parks, while others are some of the most arid regions of the world. Still, they all have one thing in common: They preserve the idea of wilderness better than any other spot on the planet simply based on their sheer size. Nowhere else on Earth can you wander so far without the sights or sound of civilization.
It’s also interesting to note that, in recent years, some protected areas have been expanding thanks to the work of International Peace Parks in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as efforts by Transfrontier Conservation Areas in southern Africa.
Expanding the wilderness across country borders has numerous positive impacts. For instance, large mammal herds can migrate over their historic territory regardless of political borders and governments can boost eco-tourism by allowing visitors to cross areas covering several countries without legal concerns.
While none of the Transfrontier Parks made this list, Peace Parks include the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area. Odds are, the world’s largest parks will shift over the next several decades as these organizations begin to play a greater role in conservation. For now, however, here’s the list of the biggest, baddest protected areas.