Central America

10 Best National Parks Around the World

Posted October 18, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com

580x382_COVER_Africa_Serengeti-National-Park_Zebras-at-Sunset

National parks are kind of an American thing. After all, we established the first one (Yellowstone) in 1872. But it didn't take long for the idea to catch on overseas, and these days the international community can give even our most impressive parks a run for their money. If you love exotic wildlife, ancient ruins, and otherworldly scenery, you might want to add these 10 foreign national parks to your bucket list.

580x382_Fiordland-National-Park_NZ

Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Where else can you enjoy mountains, lakes, fjords, and rainforests in one park? Fiordland National Park, located on New Zealand's South Island, encompasses a massive almost 3 million acres (roughly 4,687 square miles) formed by glacial flows. The most famous of the park's 14 fjords is Milford Sound, which visitors can explore from all angles: Take a helicopter ride above it, cruise on the water, or go below (without getting wet) at the Milford Discovery Center's underwater viewing chamber, which offers 360-degree views of the ecosystem and rare black coral some 30 feet underwater.

580x382_Tikal_Guatemala

Tikal National Park, Guatemala

You'll feel like you've traveled back in time at Guatemala's Tikal National Park, where ruins of an ancient Maya city-state (which housed approximately 100,000 people from the 6th century BCE to the 10th century CE) lie deep in the heart of the jungle. Remains of more than 3,000 separate buildings (including temples, palaces, and tombs) are preserved here. The massive archaeological site feels even more otherworldly as it is surrounded by 54,610 acres (roughly 85 square miles) of rainforest, now inhabited by a wide variety of wild animals such as monkeys, jaguars, snakes, sloths, and armadillos.

580x382_Kruger-National-Park_S-Africa

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Wildlife watchers, this is the park for you. Kruger National Park's almost 4.9 million acres (roughly 7,722 square miles) are home to an incredible variety of species: 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds, and 147 mammals—and of course that includes the "Big Five" of African game (elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo). There are numerous ways to traverse the park, from the wilderness walking trails (where you'll be accompanied by armed guards) to traditional safaris and 4WD trails.

580x382_Galapagos

Galapagos National Park, Ecuador

An astonishing 97 percent of the land area of the Galapagos Islands is part of this national park (the other 3 percent is the inhabited islands, on which tourists can find overnight accommodations, if they don't choose to do a cruise). To visit the park, you'll need to pay a $100 entry fee, and you'll have to be part of a tour that is accompanied by a Galapagos National Park certified guide—there's no doing this park solo. You'll be rewarded with one-of-a-kind wildlife spotting, including the giant tortoise, Galapagos Penguin, marine iguana, and blue-footed booby.

580x382_Kluane-National-Park_Canada

Kluane National Park and Reserve, Canada

Kluane National Park and Reserve is home to Canada's highest mountain (Mt. Logan), more than 100 species of birds (including golden and bald eagles), glaciers, and grizzly bears. Visit in the summer when this park, located in the southwestern corner of the Yukon, experiences up to 19 hours of continuous sunlight per day! Although more than 80 percent of the park's landscape is comprised of mountains and glaciers (more than 4,000 of them), the park still has plenty of greenery—there are meadows and forests that house wide ranges of wildlife, from mountain goats to Dall sheep.

580x382_Fuji-Hakone-Izu-National-Park_Japan

Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Japan

This national park consists of four different regions: The Mt. Fuji area (home to the highest mountain in Japan, fields formed by lava flows, and five volcanic lakes), the Hakone area (famous for its hot springs and botanical garden), the Izu Peninsula area (featuring the Mt. Amagi volcanic mountain range and Atagawa Tropical and Alligator Garden, which houses 29 reptile species), and the Izu Islands (a group of islands formed by submarine volcanoes).

580x382_Torres-del-Paine-National-Park_Chile

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Chile's Torres del Paine National Park is one of the world's most visually arresting places. Its glaciers, lakes, green forests, and rivers are framed by mountains and towered over by the Torres del Paine (granite pillars that rise more than 9,000 feet above the Patagonian steppe). Amid the beautiful scenery, you'll find more than 100 species of exotic birds (including parakeets and flamingos), guanacos (similar to llamas), pumas, and the endangered Chilean huemul (a species of deer).

580x382_Canaima-National-Park_Venezuela

Canaima National Park, Venezuela

The star attraction of Canaima National Park is Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall, which drops for more than half a mile before hitting the rapids. The park itself is roughly the size of Belgium (12,000 square miles) and about 65 percent of its terrain is tepuis—plateaus of rock that create the amazing cliffs and mountains that make this park so picturesque. This national park is actually inhabited—it's home to the indigenous Pemon Indians.

580x382_Serengeti-National-Park_Tanzania

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

If you want to experience some of Africa's best wildlife viewing, Serengeti National Park is the place to do it. Every year, more than a million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras, and 300,000 Thomson's gazelles make their annual migrations from the northern hills to the southern plains, making for some amazing safari photo ops. Even if you come when the migration is not happening, you'll still likely see the Big Five, plus cheetahs, Nile crocodiles, monkeys, giraffes, and much more.

580x382_Swiss-National-Park_Switzerland

Swiss National Park, Switzerland

Switzerland's only national park is one of Europe's best-protected natural environments—hunting, mowing, off-trail hiking, and tree cutting are all forbidden within the park's more than 42,000 acres. (You can't even bring your dog.) The park's landscape is classic Switzerland, with Alpine forests and meadows, The Sound of Music-esque scenery (including edelweiss flowers), and mountain lakes.

 

You Might Also Like:


Eagle Over Grand Canyon-SM

 

Seven Wild National Park Adventures You'll Never Forget

 

 

 

 

Cover_Lassen-Volcanic-National-Park_CA_SM

 

10 National Parks You Never Knew Existed

 

 

 

 

Cover_Angels_Landing_UT_SM

 

10 Thrilling National Park Trails

 

 

 

This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Best National Parks Around the World.

Follow Caroline Morse on Google+ or email her at at [email protected].

 

Find a Wealth of Culture in San Jose, Costa Rica

Posted July 16, 2010 by Kate Hamman

San Jose As Costa Rica's capital, San Jose serves as the cultural epicenter of the country. While many come to Costa Rica for adventure and outdoor activities, San Jose offers plenty to do indoors, such as seeing the country's riches in its Central Bank Museums. And though the city is fairly new, you can return to the 1930s by dining and staying in converted homes without busting your budget.

Play
Museos Banco Central: Come learn about the country's monetary history through the Central Bank Museums' exhibits displayed in its Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, the Numismatic Museum, and the Temporary Exhibition Galleries. Find a wealth of information about Costa Rica's Pre-Columbian past, including gold and ceramic pieces created by indigenous people, as well as coins and currency in circulation from colonial times to now.

Eat
Bakea Restaurante: Located in the neighborhood Amon, the first planned residential area in San Jose, Bakea turned a 1934 home into a thriving restaurant. As you dine, Chef Camille Ratton works her magic in the kitchen with New and Old World spices. Stop by for a quick panini or wrap for lunch, or enjoy a leisurely dinner in one of the many rooms or outside on the terrace.

Stay
Casa 69: Located less than a 10-minute walk from downtown in a 1938 house, Casa 69 offers an ideal home base while visiting San Jose. While here, you can enjoy the views from the rooftop deck, relax in the hot tub, or have afternoon coffee with other guests. And on top of all of these perks, rooms with a queen-sized bed start at only $45 per night, and include continental breakfast.

To search for flights and compare prices to San Jose, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Instituto Costarricense de Turismo)

Dive Under the Sea in Ambergris Caye, Belize

Posted June 3, 2009 by Kate Hamman

Belize-AmbergrisCaye-Dog-DEF As Belize's largest island, Ambergris Caye attracts visitors from all over the world who come to dive or snorkel along the Belize Barrier Reef. The tropical island feels thousands of miles away from the monotony of everyday living. Come stay along the beach, enjoy tropical cuisine, and swim with the fishes.

Play
Shark Ray Alley: Originally the stomping ground for fisherman cleaning their catch, this area now attracts Nurse Sharks and Southern Sting Rays. Divers interact with these sea creatures up close and personal in crystal-clear waters reaching depths of only about eight feet. Though you can find many popular sites for snorkeling or diving, don't miss swimming with the sharks.

Eat
Rojo Lounge: Easily reachable by water taxi, the Azul Resort features casual dining with an unbelievable view. Grab a seat under the palapa and choose from the tropically-inspired menu, with dishes such as pecan-crusted lobster, mango-coconut peanut noodles with shrimp, and ceviche. Tapas-style entrees  serve two people, but you'll need to order two or three dishes for a full meal.

Stay
Banana Beach Resort: With views of the Caribbean Sea, the Banana Beach Resort can't be beat as an affordable tropical getaway. Less than one mile from San Pedro, the island's only town, the resort offers comfortable accommodations along the beach. Choose rooms with a private balcony or veranda; or one-, two-, three-, or four-bedroom suites starting at $75 per night in the off-season and $100 per night in peak season, with breakfast.

To search for flights and compare prices to Belize City, which is home to Ambergris Caye’s nearest major airport, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Vivian Yu)

Find a Wealth of Culture in San Jose, Costa Rica

Posted March 24, 2009 by Kate Hamman

CostaRica-SanJose-NationalTheater-DEF As Costa Rica's capital, San Jose serves as the cultural epicenter of the country. While many come to Costa Rica for adventure and outdoor activities, San Jose offers plenty to do indoors, such as seeing the country's riches in its Central Bank Museums. And though the city is fairly new, you can return to the 1930's by dining and staying in converted homes without busting your budget.

Play
Museos Banco Central: Come learn about the country's monetary history through the Central Bank Museums' five exhibits displayed in its Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, the Numismatic Museum, and the Temporary Exhibition Galleries. Find a wealth of information about Costa Rica's Pre-Columbian past, including gold and ceramic pieces created by indigenous people, as well as coins and currency in circulation from colonial times to now.

Eat
Bakea Restaurante: Located in the neighborhood Amon, the first planned residential area in San Jose, Bakea turned a 1934 home into a thriving restaurant. As you dine, Chef Camille Ratton works her magic in the kitchen with New and Old World spices. Stop by for a quick panini or wrap for lunch, or enjoy a leisurely dinner in one of the many rooms or outside on the terrace.

Stay
Casa 69: Located less than a 10-minute walk from downtown in a 1938 house, Casa 69 offers an ideal home base while visiting San Jose. While here, you can enjoy the views from the rooftop deck, relax in the hot tub, or have afternoon coffee with other guests. And on top of all of these perks, rooms with a queen-sized bed start at only $40 per night, and include continental breakfast.

To search for flights and compare prices to San Jose, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Instituto Costarricense de Turismo)


  • From:
  • To:
  • Depart:
  • Return:
  • Travelers:

Hotels, Rental Cars, Cruises, and Vacations

www.bookingbuddy.com