Green spaces in our cities work wonders on our mental health by connecting us with nature. There’s nothing quite like a jaunt out of the bustle to forests that stretch as far as the eye can see, though. Enter National Parks. Culture Trip cherry-picks five across the globe for you to plan your next trip around.
If seeing the ‘Big Five’ – lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos – is on your wish list, Kruger National Park needs to be, too. At this South African park, which covers an area of almost 20,000 square kilometres (7,722 square miles) across the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, you can see all of these mammals in their natural habitat along with hundreds more as you pass through bush plains, mountains and tropical forests on a safari tour. To get there, your nearest international South African airport is in Johannesburg.
Yellowstone National Park stretches nearly 9,000sq km (3,500sq mi) across Wyoming, with sections in Montana and Idaho. In other words, there’s a lot of ground to cover. It’s most fabled for its natural wonders in the ground including its kaleidoscopic Grand Prismatic Spring and its Old Faithful Geyser; these are definitely worth a visit, but expect a lot of tourists to be around. The way to do it is to block out four or five days and get your hiking boots on. Don’t forget the bear spray.
The New Forest is less than two hours from London, but it’s a whole world away, with roaming ponies and cows as its inhabitants. The countryside in this National Park is no less than the stuff of classic poems. It’s one of the largest unenclosed pasture lands – stretching across Hampshire and Wiltshire – with numerous things you can do other than walking or cycling its tracks. Among them are riding a steam train at Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway, visiting the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, and snooping around Henry VIII’s former fortress, Hurst Castle.
As an Australian coastal town that’s known first and foremost for its surf culture, Byron Bay’s National Park of Arakwal is, naturally, inclusive of the beach as well as greenery. The coastline in question is Tallow Beach; the park begins at the Lighthouse reserve and follows the curves of the seashore some 2,000km (1,2443mi). Here, you can swim, fish, and maybe even spot a whale.
Chile’s Patagonia region is home to a remarkable park of approximately 181,414 hectares (448,284 acres) called Torres del Paine, meaning the Towers of Blue. It takes its name after the three distinctive rock towers that lie among the mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers. Its Torres del Paine W Trek is a classic route for which you should leave three or four days. Warm clothes are a must.