This year marked the centennial of the U.S. National Park Service, an important (and staggeringly beautiful) slice of our nation’s cultural heritage. But the fun doesn’t stop there. From Lebanon to Costa Rica, Botswana to southern France, a rich network of national parks offers direct access to the world’s most stunning landscapes, many with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to view rare wildlife. Here, a list of our favorite national parks outside the U.S.
Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
Costa Rica—25% of which is protected by conservation areas—is one of the most biologically diverse spots on the planet, with rainforests, hidden beaches, and an extraordinary array of wildlife. On the country’s southern tip, the Corcovado National Park contains fewer crowds than any other park in the country, giving its scarlet macaws, giant anteaters, howler monkeys, and jaguars plenty of room. Though luxury cruiselines (like Windstar) can’t dock, passengers can ride ashore in inflatable boats and experience the park from 98 feet above the forest floor, on special zip-line-like “canopy tours.”
Gunung Mulu National Park, Malaysia
In Southeast Asia, travelers tend to fixate on Bali, northern Thailand, and Vietnam. But Malaysia, with its long peninsula and scattered islands, offers just as much in the way of mystical forests, idyllic beaches, and cloud-piercing mountains. A good starting point? Gunung Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that spans 358 square miles, and which contains the world’s largest underground cave chamber, known as Serawak Chamber. There’s plenty to look at here, like the striking rock towers—which shoot up from the forested hills like teeth—and at night, giant swarms of bats, which circle up into the sky and number in the millions.