National parks are created to protect the most diverse ecosystems, magical landscapes and incredible wildlife on the planet. And there are plenty of ways to explore these enchanting nature reserves, from the deepest valleys to the highest peaks and everything in between. Whether hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing or even kayaking, the choice is yours.
Rules and safety advice
Park management have set a number of rules/regulations to help protect the islands from tourism.
- Follow the trails set – do not go off the beaten track.
- Take care to not touch the animals.
- No smoking is permitted.
- Do not bring food with you.
- Littering is not permitted.
- Check the soles of your trainers prior to leaving one island for another – this is important to avoid plant seeds being transported from one island to another.
- Do not remove anything from the islands to take as a souvenir.
- Remain with your group at all times.
1. Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
- Address: Ruapehu District, New Zealand
- Area: 795.96 km2 (307.32 sq mi)
- Origin: October 1887
Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest national park, located in the center of the North Island. It has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site with mixed cultural and natural values. Tongariro National Park was the sixth national park established in the world. The active volcanic mountains Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro are located at the center of the park. There are a number of Maori religious sites in the park, and many of the peaks in the park, including Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, are tapu, or sacred. The park includes many towns around its boundary, including Ohakune, Waiouru, Horopito, Pokaka, Erua, National Park Village, Whakapapa skifield, and Turangi. Tongariro National Park is home to the famous Tongariro Alpine Pass, widely regarded as one of the best day hikes in the world.
2. Vatnajokull National Park
- Address: South, southeast, east and northeast Iceland
- Area: 14,141 km²
- Origin: 7 June 2008
This iconic volcanic region covers an area of over 1,400,000 ha, or nearly 14% of Icelandic territory. It has ten central volcanoes, eight of which are subglacial. Two of them are among the most active in Iceland. The interaction between volcanoes and the fissures that underlie the Vatnajökull ice cap takes many forms, the most spectacular of which is the jökulhlaup – a flash flood caused by the rupture of a glacier’s margin during an eruption. . This recurring phenomenon has led to the emergence of unique sand plains, rapidly changing river systems and canyons. The volcanic areas are home to endemic groundwater fauna that survived the Ice Age.
3. Yosemite National Park
- Address: California, United States
- Area: 3,027 km²
- Origin: 1 October 1890
- Entrance Fees: $30 per vehicle; $15 per individual
4. Galapagos National Park (Ecuador)
- Address: Ecuador
- Area: 7,995 km²
- Origin: 1959
- Best Time to Go: mid-June to early September
The Galapagos National Park covers approximately 7,970 square kilometers, which is only its land part. The natural beauty of the islands, the diversity and uniqueness of the species they harbor, their volcanic origin, their geological dynamics with permanent changes and the variety of formations are considered as a living laboratory of evolutionary processes still in progress. Besides the fact that they have been used for the development of a large number of animal and plant species that do not exist anywhere else in the world, make the Galapagos a unique site of global importance for the common heritage of the islands. Galapagos. In the Galapagos, only 5 islands are home to any type of human settlement, which are generally the largest in the archipelago and have natural resources to support the life and development of the communities they house. Species such as the giant tortoise, marine iguana and the Galapagos petrel are protected to ensure that they can be enjoyed by both current visitors and future generations. Park service officials are very serious about preventing non-native plants and animals gaining access to the park.
5. Great Barrier Reef National Park (Australia)
- Address: Great Barrier Reef, Townsville QLD 4810, Australia
- Area: 344,400 km²
- Origin: 1975
- Opening and closing time: Monday to Friday: 8.30a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef system in the world and as such it is included in CNN’s Seven Wonders of the Natural World. It is an eco-system like no other and this was recognised in 1975 by the creation of a marine park and in 1981 by being added to the World Heritage List. The reef stretches about 2,000 km (1,400 miles) along the northeast coast of Australia. It is 240 km (150) miles at its widest and incorporates some 900 islands. The park includes much of the barrier reef and begins at the tip of Cape York in Queensland and extends south past the Tropic of Capricorn, almost to Bundaberg. The park is one of the richest and most complex ecosystems in the world. The marine life on the reef is diverse with around 1,500 species of fish and 360 species of hard corals. It is also home to a third of the world’s soft coral species, 6 of the world’s 7 species of sea turtles and a large population of dugongs. the Great Barrier Reef is less than 10,000 years old. At the end of the last ice age, sea levels rose drarmatically, causing the coastline to continually recede inland at over 100m per year. When the sea level finally settled, coral polyp larvae migrated in on oceanic currents, and the reef began to take shape.
6. Kruger National Park (South Africa)
- Address: South Africa
- Area: 19,485 km²
- Origin: 31 May 1926
- Opening and closing time: Monday to Sunday: 6am–5:30pm
The Kruger National Park is one of the largest national parks in Africa. It is located at the northeastern tip of South Africa and spans the province of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. The park covers 19,633 km², with many surrounding private reserves having removed their fences, allowing wildlife to move freely between the reserves. This has created a wildlife reserve like no other, as its beauty permeates everyone who visits this diverse place. In May 1926 the Sabie and Shingwedzi Game Reserves were combined to create the Kruger National Park. There are nearly 254 cultural heritage sites in the Kruger including rock art sites. There is evidence that humans occupied the wilderness region over one-and-a-half million years ago. Archaeologists have unearthed tools and artefacts that date back to the Stone Age, including significant rock painting sites. Thulamela in the far north is a stone-walled site built over 500 years ago and dates back to the Iron Age. Each year, almost 1 million people visit Kruger Park and at least 80% are South African holidaymakers. Kruger Park is home to the famous Big 5 which includes elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion and leopard. But that’s not all! The national park is world-renowned for its outstanding biodiversity, prolific birdlife and vast array of wildlife.