National Parks: favourites ranked by US National Park Service Retirees


  1. Tongariro, New Zealand. One of the North Island's three World Heritage Sites. It features volcanic peaks (one of which is active) and is still home to many Maoris, who donated the park to New Zealand in 1887, when it became the world's fourth national park. The Maoris are very outgoing in displaying their culture to visitors.


  2. Kakadu, Northern Territory, Australia. This World Heritage Site is jointly managed by the Aborigines and the Australian government. It has magnificent vistas, great waterfalls, stunning displays of Aboriginal rock art, and is habitat to an awesome predator, the estuarine (saltwater) crocodile.


  3. Snowdonia, Wales, Great Britain. Snowdonia is a lovely, peaceful mountain park, home to Mount Snowdon, which is comprised of slate, rising to 3560 feet.


  4. Kruger, South Africa. This is perhaps the most impressive wildlife viewing area in the world. Millions of acres of habitat and little development give visitors an opportunity to see many large African mammals and magnificent birds.


  5. Tlkal, Guatemala. This World Heritage Site contains the spectacular ruins of a Maya settlement from around 250-900 AD. The towering ruins of temples, rising from the jungle, are mute testimony to the architectural genius of the Maya. As many as 90,000 people lived in Tikal at its zenith, but strife with neighbouring towns and environmental stress caused its abandonment beginning in the 10th century. Of course, the Maya never left; they are there today, and it's thrilling to tour the site with a Maya guide.


  6. Iguazu, Argentina. This park protects one of the most spectacular natural landscapes in Argentina and Brazil, Iguazu Falls and the surrounding subtropical forest. The falls are 70 metres high, but even more impressive is their width: the river at the falls is 1500 metres wide. A thrilling experience is the short boat ride and walk along the catwalks to the most striking of the hundreds of falls, Garganta del Diablo, the Devil's Throat.


  7. Sagarmantha, Nepal. The park includes Mount Everest, among other prominent mountains. It has distinctive wildlife and small picturesque Sherpa villages with their gumpas (monasteries).


  8. Madain Saley National Historic Park, Saudi Arabia. This region, the Biblical Midian, is mostly undulating desert, interspersed with huge rocky outcrops and lush oases. Here, between 500 B.C. and 100 A.D., the Nabatean people created 125 monumental cut-rock tombs and facades, edifices up to 130 feet tall, that are standing today in a remarkable state of preservation.


  9. Putvice Lakes, Croatia. Plitvice Lakes National Park is located in inland Croatia, about half way between Zagreb and Split. In moderately-mountainous terrain, the park features water - smaIl lakes and streams and beautiful waterfalls - everywhere. Because of the geology of the area, travertine is evident in most of the features, giving them distinctive blue-green colours and exceptionally clear water. There are a number of excellent short and moderate hiking trails with quiet, non-polluting electric ferries connecting some of the trails by way of the lakes. Fall "colour season" is especially spectacular.


  10. Hortobagy, Hungary. This park is located on the puszta, or great Hungarian plains. It was the country's first national park. It also is a biosphere reserve and a World Heritage Site. The plains and wetlands reflect two millennia of human occupation and have supported agrarian life for centuries. It has several endangered bird species and is a refuge for the Przewalski horse and migratory waterfowl. Culturally, it preserves and interprets traditional Hungarian folkways, such as the nomadic herding culture of the puszta.
CNPSR is the Coalition of National Park Services Retirees. For more information, visit www.npsretirees.org

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