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Window to the world: 5 amazing national parks31 Jan
If you are dreaming of trees, unspoilt tracks and wondrous mountains, these fantastic national parks might be just the ticket. With breath-taking views and exciting trails to explore, we explore five ideal adventure holiday locations for 2020…
For those travellers and jet setters who feel like they have seen it all, it might be time to embrace the wilderness with a visit to one of these amazing national parks. When Alice Walker wrote “In nature, nothing is perfect, and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” Walker perfectly described the profound peace and beauty that can only be discovered when spending time marvelling at the natural world.
This collection of wonderful national parks from around the world will undoubtedly inspire that feeling of wonderment and awe. These are the places where you can stand under the towering trees, listen to the exhilarating rush of nearby waterfalls and feel humbled by magnificent mountains. These are landscapes like no other, where you can lose yourself among their natural beauty and then, perhaps, find yourself again.
1. Swiss National Park, Switzerland
This is Switzerland’s only national park, and with over 42,000 acres of Alpine forests, mountain lakes and meadows, it is one of Europe’s best-protected natural environment. Here, you can find the rare Edelweiss flower growing among the grass. Authorities have banned activities such as hunting, mowing, dog walking, off-trail hiking and tree felling under strict conservation rules to preserve its wild beauty.
These efforts to keep the park unspoilt have gone a long way to encourage exciting wildlife to live here. During your visit, you are likely to see the Golden Eagle, which can often be seen gliding through the air and catching marmots. The Bearded Vulture was extinct in Switzerland but conservationists reintroduced them back to the park in 1991. Many locals get very excited when they spot one! There are several designated walking trails and routes to explore, and overnight accommodation is available in the historic Hotel Parc Naziunal Il Fuorn.
2. Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Japan
In the south-west outskirts of Tokyo, you can find the beautiful Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, which surrounds Mt. Fuji. Immortalised in countless paintings, crafts and poems by the Japanese for hundreds of years, this dormant volcano is the tallest of Japan’s mountains. It is instantly recognisable for its snow-capped peak, lifting up through a shroud of clouds. If you are travelling up the Hakone Ropeway cable cars to get a better glimpse of Mount Fuji, pick a clear day as it can become invisible in low cloud.
In the park, you will find many hot springs and Japanese-style guesthouses, making it one of the most exclusive resort areas in Japan. There is an easy walking trail in the Aokigahara-jukai Forest, which grows on a lava flow formed during an eruption 1,200 years ago. The forest has various natural sites to see, including the Fugaku Wind Cave and Narusawa Ice Cave.
3. Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile
This has to be one of the world’s most visually stunning places. You will discover glaciers, green forests, lakes and rivers. The Torres Del Paine are three incredible granite pillars that rise up more than 9.000 feet above the Patagonian steppe. The Southern Patagonian Ice Field feeds the Grey Glacier, and for an unforgettable experience, you can visit to enjoy the beautiful views, and listen out for the occasional thunderstorm (which is actually the sound of ice falling). Discover exotic animals like parakeets and flamingos, guanacos (similar to llamas), pumas and the endangered Chilean huemul (deer).
There is a premium 5* hotel named Las Torres, which is located relatively close to the Torres. The hike from the hotel to the Torres is about 4 hours, but your luggage can be carried with you by horseback. The weather in Patagonia is very unpredictable. One moment you will find yourself walking through warm, bright sunshine and the next you are battling through strong gusts of cold wind. The best season is from October to April, during the spring and summer seasons when the climate is more consistent.
4. Banff National Park, Canada
Banff National Park in the western province of Alberta in the Canadian Rocky Mountains was founded in 1885, making it the country’s oldest park. The fantastic landscape mainly consists of awe-inspiring mountains, along with fast-flowing rivers, glacier valleys and turquoise lakes.
Visit the Sulphur Mountain Gondola, which will take you up the mountain for spellbinding views – here you can hike your way further up the hill from the base, or stop for lunch. Make sure you visit Lake Minnewanka, a massive lake where you can take boat tours or enjoy a paddle on a canoe. The historic Banff Upper Hot Springs are great to visit after a day of walking, to soothe your aching legs. Stay at the Banff Springs Hotel, an impressive Canadian Rockies hotel that is full of history and charm. Built by the Canadian National Railway in 1898, this iconic structure looks just like a castle, with lovely views from the main terrace.
5. Iguazu National Park, Argentina
Situated in the Misiones Province, near the border to the Brazilian state of Parana, the Iguazu National Park is one of the greatest natural spectacles on earth with 275 huge, semi-circular waterfalls. Known as ‘The Land of the Waterfalls’ and looking like something out of an Atlantis storybook, water and Land blend together to create a truly magical and memorable landscape. The indigenous Guarani people call it the ‘Great Waters’.
Ideal for bird enthusiasts, it is the home of the elusive Harpy Eagle, along with 400 other exotic feathered species. Book yourself onto a thrilling boat safari to get up and close to the cascading waterfalls, or follow the boardwalk trail through the jungle to see them from viewing platforms. If you would rather stay dry, you can take a helicopter ride over the u-shaped series of falls to see how they create a chasm in the earth’s surface. A little further, out, you can find peace and tranquillity by exploring the sub-tropical rainforest, which has a diverse range of animal species.