The World's Most Breathtaking National Parks [Slideshow]

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Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal
©Daniel Prudek/Shutterstock
Nepal: Sagarmatha National Park

Sagarmatha, home to Mount Everest, is full of dramatic highs and lows, from the world's greatest peak to deep valleys carved out by glaciers. It's home to some of the world's rarest creatures like the snow leopard and red panda. 

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Ōnuma Quasi-National Park, Japan
©Japan National Tourism Organization
Japan: Ōnuma Quasi-National Park

The 18 bridges in Ōnuma Quasi-National Park offer a pleasurable day of sightseeing. The park is located at the foot of a dormant volcano—Mount Komagate—with 126 inlets that flow into three lakes. 

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Torres del Paine, Chile
©Turismo Chile
Chile: Torres del Paine

UNESCO declared Patagonian treasure Torres del Paine a Biosphere Reserve in 2013. Full of towering mountain peaks, brilliant blue icebergs and mile upon mile of pampas—grasslands—the park is frequented by llamas, pumas and ñandúes—a relation to the ostrich.

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Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia
©Ángel Hernansáez/Flickr, Creative Commons
Namibia: Namib-Naukluft National Park

Its brilliant orange dunes are like something out of "Lawrence of Arabia." Africa's largest conservation area is home to the fiery Sossusvlei pan surrounded by towering dunes, a sight that keeps the romance of the desert alive. 

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Krka National Park, Croatia
©Gaël POINAS/Flickr, Creative Commons
Croatia: Krka National Park

With 12 waterfalls within the quarter-mile Roski Slap alone, Krka is home to hundreds of species of plant life, amphibians and birds. The park is named for the river that runs through it and further along Croatia's coastline.

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Killarney National Park, Ireland
©Chris Hill
Ireland: Killarney National Park

The rugged beauty of Ireland was never on better display than at Killarney National Park. Among the abundant plant life there are two important points of interest: the Muckross House and Gardens, a preserved 19th-century mansion and farm; and Ross Castle, a stronghold from the Middle Ages.

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Saxon Switzerland National Park, Germany
©German National Tourist Board
Germany: Saxon Switzerland National Park

Saxon Switzerland is the only national rock park in Germany, with stones formed as early as 65 million years ago. More than 700 summits are available for climbing enthusiasts; hikers can meander through 250 square miles of trails.

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Banff National Park, Canada
©Ryan Bray/Parks Canada
Canada: Banff National Park

Canada's oldest national park, Banff, is a stunner. Visitors flock here to marvel at more than 4,100 square miles of snowcapped Canadian Rockies, its cache of hot springs and native creatures such as bears, wolves and caribou. 

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Bikin National Park, Russia
©Arseniy-Rossikhin/Shutterstock
Russia: Bikin National Park

Russia's newest national park, Bikin, was unveiled in 2015 to protect the dwindling Amur tiger numbers and preserve the heritage of its indigenous peoples. In all, more than 50 mammal and 194 bird species call this park in mountainous Primorskiy Krai home.

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Fiordland National Park: New Zealand
©Destination Taupo
New Zealand: Fiordland National Park

Glassy-surfaced lakes, beechwood forests and craggy mountaintops are on display in this south New Zealand park, named for its glacier-carved fiords. Fiordland's beauty has graced the big screen in "The Lord of the Rings," "Wolverine," "Jurassic Park" and most recently "Alien: Covenant."

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Triglav National Park, Slovenia
©Ádám Tomkó/Flickr, Creative Commons
Slovenia: Triglav National Park

Triglav is the only national park in Slovenia. It is one of Europe's first parks and is named after the highest peak in the park where the Slavic god Perun was said to have a throne. 

 

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Mount Olympus National Park: Greece
©Greek National Tourism Organisation
Greece: Mount Olympus National Park

The world's first national park is Mount Olympus. Declared in 1938, it covers 310 square miles and has 52 peaks that range from 2,500 to 9,500 feet tall. Olympus is also on the list of the "most important bird areas of the European community."

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Arches National Park in Utah
©U.S. National Parks Service
United States: Arches National Park

Arches National Park is one of the United States' most distinctive national parks. More than 2,000 natural sandstone arches stand out as brilliant beacons in the desert landscape.

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Iguazú National Park, Brazil
©Deni Williams/Flickr, Creative Commons
Brazil: Iguazú National Park

One of the world's most dramatic waterfalls, the 1.7-mile long Iguazú features 275 individual jaw-dropping plunges. Located on the border of Argentina and Brazil, the national park features multiple viewing areas from which to view this lush rainforest and inhabitants like ocelots, tapirs, howler monkeys and giant anteaters. 

By Jennifer McKee on 06/16/2017

When you think about a national park, what comes to mind: mountain peaks that dwarf the body and mind, brilliant blue lakes, a dense alpine forest? As a tour through these magnificent world parks shows, it's all that and more; our list also includes those with castles, waterfalls, desert dunes and glaciers.