7 of the World's Most Beautiful National Parks

Get adventurous in these protected lands

Unleash your inner explorer on an action-packed journey through the world's most beautiful national parks. Whether you fancy an icy expedition in the United States or a hot-air balloon ride in Africa, there's a national park suited for every traveler. Here are seven of the best to start with.

Michaela Trimble is a nomadic travel writer and photographer previously based in New York. Follow her on the road on Instagram @michaelatrimble.

Torres del Paine National Park

Chile

Torres del Paine National Park, considered the crown jewel of Chilean Patagonia, is a breathtaking expanse of rugged wilderness composed of sparkling lakes, deserted pampas, aquamarine glaciers and staggering mountain peaks. Many of the 250,000 annual visitors go to trek along the famous W Circuit, vying for a chance to glimpse Grey Glacier, Frenchman's Valley and the Salto Grande waterfall.

Photo: padchas/Getty Images

Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park

Vietnam

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park attracts adventurers seeking to explore a land where towering tropical forests and 400-million-year-old karst mountains are the backdrop to a network of colossal caves and underground rivers. Spend the day spelunking through the Sơn Đoòng cave or mountain bike along the trails to spot elephants, black bears, tigers and hundreds of exotic bird species.

Photo: Geng Xu/Getty Images

Saxon Switzerland National Park

Germany

Don't let the name fool you: Saxon Switzerland National Park is actually located in eastern Germany. The birthplace of free climbing, the park offers more than 700 sandstone summits in an area spanning only 36 square miles. Be sure to soak in the panoramic vistas from Bastei Bridge, which overlooks the castles and fortresses, and Königstein Fortress, a hilltop fortress dating back to 1241.

Photo: javarman3/Getty Images

Nambung National Park

Australia

Famous for its towering limestone pillars reigning over the golden sands of the Pinnacles Desert, Nambung National Park makes for the perfect day trip from Perth. The park borders the Indian Ocean and is close to popular tourist spots, including Kangaroo Point and the idyllic beach at Hangover Bay. Visit between August and October to witness the flood of wildflowers that blanket the landscape, and make sure to keep your eyes peeled for kangaroos, dingoes and humpback whales.

Photo: Nora Carol Photography/Getty Images

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Alaska

As America's largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias contains nine of the 16 highest peaks in the country and covers nearly 13.2 million acres of wilderness—that's six times the size of Yellowstone. With a vast network of peaks and glaciers and minimal roads, the area is prime for hiking, rafting, glacier trekking and skiing. Another great way to tour the magnificent landscape is by plane, which will give you access to the most remote portions.

Photo: Noppowat Tom Charoensinphon/Getty Images

Kruger National Park

South Africa

Established as a game preserve in 1898, South Africa's Kruger National Park now encompasses more than 7,523 square miles and is known for harboring the Big Five: lions, rhinos, elephants, buffalo and leopards. You can spot these staggering creatures while on a safari, guided eco-tour or hot-air balloon ride. Accommodations range from bare-bones campgrounds to five-star lodges, where you can enjoy luxurious spa facilities and a ridiculously gracious standard of hospitality.

Photo: BirdImages/Getty Images

National Park of American Samoa

American Samoa

Hidden in the heart of the South Pacific, the National Park of American Samoa is split across three individual islands—Tutuila, Ofu, and Ta'ū—and harbors 9,000 acres of lush rain forests and 4,500 acres of coral reefs and ocean. Partake in some of the best snorkeling in the world, or enjoy a beach walk on Ofu, a rain forest hike through Tutuila and a journey into the mystical cloud forest of Ta'ū.

Photo: David Kirkland/Getty Images