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World’s Best National Parks

By: Esther Ro

August 24 2017

Do you dream of vast mountain ranges and verdant forests? Of spotting the mottled wing of a rare migratory bird? In other words, do you dream of national parks? Here are a few spots around the world where the wild things are. And thanks to luxury lodges placed just moments away, roughing it is not a requirement.

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

What lies at the end of the world? Find out in Chilean Patagonia, specifically Torres del Paine National Park. With four distinct ecosystems—everything from glaciers and granite mountains to turquoise lakes and lenga forests—the park has plenty of geo- and biodiversity to explore. Tierra Patagonia, located where the fertile pampas meet Lake Sarmiento, is perfect for the active adventurer who also appreciates steam baths and volcanic stone massages at the end of the day.

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Rotorua is New Zealand’s geothermal activity hotspot, with steaming geysers, hot mud pools, and three volcanoes—including Ngauruhoe, also known as Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings. Tucked away in the midst of all the native forest, Treetops Lodge & Estate has sleek villas, secluded lodges and an excellent spa (think of all that volcanic mud). The ideal day begins with a hike through challenging terrain and ends with a Manuka honey body scrub. 

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

No, it’s not too late. While warming ocean temperatures have bleached great swathes of the northern reef, most of the world’s greatest living wonder is still intact. At Qualia, a secluded slice of paradise on Hamilton Island, activities range from castaway beach picnics to scenic flights over the remote Whitsunday Islands and snorkeling with the tropical fish (and whales, and porpoises, and dugongs...). Underwater enthusiasts shouldn’t miss a night dive, when the colors of the coral are especially vibrant.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

The jewel of South Africa has plentiful game, intimate open-air safari vehicles, and an exemplary sustainability program. With its own private 33,000-acre concession within the park, Singita Lebombo Lodge has set up camp—a very luxurious one—on the teeming banks of the N’wanetsi River, a 15-suite affair seemingly dropped into untamed wilderness. Guided safari walks and intimate open-roof game drives by day plus wine tastings and stargazing by night, add up to an indulgent trip of a lifetime.

Khao Sok National Park, Thailand

Close encounters of the elephant kind attract visitors from all over to Khao Sok National Park, in southern Thailand. But the park’s native rainforests and giant limestone mountains are also home to the Malayan sun bear and clouded leopard. After a day spent jungle-trekking and canoeing over Cheow Larn Lake, retreat to Trisara, about two and a half hours away, in Phuket. The secluded retreat has villas and residences perched on terraced hills overlooking the Andaman Sea.

Virgin Islands National Park

Encompassing three-fifths of St. John, the Virgin Islands National Park occupies 5,000 acres of white sand beaches, tropical forests, and historical sites from the plantation era. (That’s just the aboveground part: there are seven species of sea turtles swimming below the surface.) Caneel Bay Resort, founded by Laurance Rockefeller in the 1950s as a low-key Caribbean eco-retreat, doesn’t try to compete with nature. The focus is on beaches, boating, and complete immersion in the landscape.