Yellowstone National Park: Wyoming, Montana & Idaho, USA
Founded in 1872, this is the world’s first national park and home to the largest active geyser basin on Earth: more than 10,000 bubbling hot pools, rainbow coloured springs and half the world’s geysers, including Old Faithful herself.
DID YOU KNOW? Yellowstone is one of the best place in the world to see free-roaming wolves in the wild.
Yosemite National Park: California, USA
The great photographer Ansel Adams described Yosemite Valley as ‘a glitter of green and golden wonder’ – waterfalls pour down from the high country, granite peaks soar above and the sheer face of El Capitan rises from the valley floor like a stone totem. There is, perhaps, no more beautiful landscape on Earth.
DID YOU KNOW: At 2,425 feet Yosemite Falls is nearly twice the height of the Empire State Building.
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve: British Columbia, Canada
Known as the ‘Galapagos of the North’, these little-known islands 62-miles off the northern coast of British Columbia are one of the most ecologically rich places on the planet, home to humpback whales, Orcas, more than one million nesting sea-birds and the rare Haida Gwaii black bear.
DID YOU KNOW: Gwaii Haanas means ‘islands of wonder’ in the language of the indigenous Haida people.
Torres del Paine National Park: Patagonia, Chile
Rising 6,000 feet, like the spires of some great cathedral, the three towers of the Paine massif form one of the most stunning views in South America, surrounded on all sides by turquoise lakes, ice blue glaciers and the wild windswept plains of Patagonia itself.
DID YOU KNOW: The legendary travel writer Bruce Chatwin described Patagonia as: “the furthest place which man has walked from his place of origin”.
Madidi National Park: Bolivia
A recent scientific study suggests that this undiscovered corner of the Amazon rainforest may be, in fact, the most bio-diverse place on the planet. It’s also one of the most authentic, sustainable and affordable ways to see the Amazon first hand.
DID YOU KNOW: Madidi National Park is home to a staggering one in five species of birds worldwide.
The Galápagos Islands National Park: Ecuador
Centuries of isolation have created, perhaps, the only eco-system in the world where human beings are not seen as a threat: come and you will swim with sea-lions, play with penguins and walk through enormous colonies of sea-birds as invisible as the breeze.
DID YOU KNOW: When Darwin landed here in 1835 – a six week stop that inspired one of the greatest ideas of all time - he was just 22 years old.
Vatnajökull National Park: Iceland
Vatnojökull is home to the largest glacier in Europe, a 3,200 square miles river of ice; Dettifoss, Europe’s biggest waterfall by volume, vast ice caves, steaming volcanoes and beaches with icebergs washed up like diamonds. The crown jewel of one of the world’s most spectacular countries.
DID YOU KNOW: Snaefell, the volcano where Jules Verne began his fictional ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’, is located in the north of the park.
Serengeti National Park: Tanzania
The endless grasslands of the Serengeti are the stage for the Great Migration, one of the most awe-inspiring wildlife experiences on Earth, when over one million wildebeest, as well of hundreds of thousands of other ungulates, travel a 1,000-mile circular journey around the park, and its surrounding areas, in search of fresh grass to feed.
DID YOU KNOW: The name Serengeti is derived from the Maasai word, ‘siringutu’ – ‘the place where the land moves on forever’.
Sagamartha National Park: Nepal
Home to Mount Everest, the 29,035-foot tallest mountain in the world, and the gentle, near superhuman Sherpa people who climb it, this spectacular park is the gateway to the greatest mountain range on Earth.
DID YOU KNOW: On the summit of Everest climbers breathe one third of the oxygen as at sea level.
Fiordland National Park: South Island, New Zealand
The Maori believe this land of towering waterfalls and mountains rising straight from the sea was carved by gods, for how else could a place so beautiful exist? Fiordland has that effect on you, a place of mist and giants, too dramatic to be anything but divine.
DID YOU KNOW: Rudyard Kipling called Milford Sound, the most impressive of the park’s 14 fiords, the ‘eighth wonder of the world’.
Aaron Millar’s latest book, 50 Greatest National Parks of the World, is available on Amazon and other retailers.