Going Overseas? Go Where the Experts Go

National Park Service Retirees Pick Their Favorite International Parks
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National Park Service Retirees Pick Their Favorite International Parks

When vacation days kick in for many national park employees, they often choose to head to the International Departures terminal at the airport. So where do these national park experts go abroad?

Today, The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR), released a list of some of its 700 members favorite international parks. The list included destinations as diverse as Africa, the Middle East and Great Britain.

Check out the complete top-ten list, along with park highlights and links, below.

In a CNPSR press release, Rick Smith, coalition member and former superintendent of Carlsbad Caverns, commented on how Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, impacted the rise in global park growth.

“The idea of a national park was new with Yellowstone, but it was soon adopted by many countries, one of the best ideas [we] gave the world. Countries have expanded the original concept, [and] today marvelous parks can be found all over the world.”



Without further adieu, here are the top ten international parks, as recommended by CNSPR members:

1. TONGARIRO N.P., New Zealand

Highlights: Volcanic peaks (one is still active), and the chance to experience Maori culture (the indigenous people who donated the park to New Zealand in 1887).

2. KAKADU N.P., Northern Territory, Australia

Highlights: Aboriginal culture (they help maintain the land), ancient native wall art, stunning waterfalls, and a chance to see saltwater crocodiles.

3. SNOWDONIA N.P., Wales, Great Britain

Highlights: Mount Snowdon, a 3,560-foot slate mountain, and a “peaceful nature” that visitors say make the park spectacular.

4. KRUGER N.P., South Africa

Highlights: Wildlife viewing (lions, leopards, gazelles, giraffes) on millions of habitual acres. According to the CNPSR, “wildlife is in charge” here.

5. TIKAL N.P., Guatemala

Highlights: Massive Mayan ruins from around 250-900 A.D. rise from the jungle floor, giving travelers a chance to tour them with an actual Mayan guide.

6. IGUAZU N.P., Argentina

Highlights: A subtropical forest and the towering, 70-meter-high Iguazu Falls dropping to a massive river below. Boat rides are available to hundreds of other falls.

7. SAGARMANTHA N.P., Nepal

Highlights: Spectacular mountains (including Everest!), small Sherpa villages, and Buddhist monasteries called gumpas.

8. MADAIN SALEY NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK, Saudi Arabia 

Highlights: Vast desert terrain “interspersed with huge rocky outcrops and lush oases,” and well-preserved tombs and structures dating from around 500 B.C. and 100 A.D.

9. PLITVICE LAKES N.P., Croatia

Highlights: Small lakes, waterfalls, and streams of impeccably clear blue-green color, moderately easy hiking trails, and electric ferries to take you around.

10. HORTOBAGY N.P., Hungary

Highlights: The great Hungarian plains, a biosphere reserve, endangered bird and horse species, wetlands, and the chance to observe many traditional folkways, including nomadic herding.

--Matt Draper