If you want your trip to be Instagram-ready, look no further than Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. Combine 16 dazzling lakes with dozens of connecting waterfalls, caves and oak forests, for the perfect FOMO-inducing pictures.
Swimming isn’t allowed in the mineral-rich lakes, so you’ll need to keep your feet on the wooden footbridges and pathways that wind their way around the area. But you’ll have plenty of fun spotting butterflies and choosing the best selfie backdrop.
While you’re in Croatia, you could also pop over to Krka National Park for thick forests, more waterfalls, and 15th century monasteries. And don’t forget to take a swim in the famous Skradinski Buk falls – it’s the best way to make up for not being able to dive into the lakes at Plitvice.
Make your holiday even more water-filled by staying at Valamar Isabella Island Resort – a lively but secluded island that’s a hop away from the mainland.
Thrill-seekers should head into the middle of the dense rainforest of Costa Rica, to Arenal Volcano National Park. You won’t find many other places where you can watch lava pouring down the sides of an active volcano – visit at night and the fiery red lava really stands out. If you listen closely, you might even hear the rumbling of magma below the surface.
The volcano may be the star of the show, but you’ll also be surrounded by hot springs, wildlife-filled forests, and lava fields from old eruptions. Search for monkeys, snakes and parrots as you explore the park’s trails, or head onto the Sky Tram for a spectacular view across the volcano’s southern face.
Park officials can shut down some of the trails if they think it might not be safe – so make sure you follow their instruction. Even if you’re a thrill-seeker, you don’t want to be caught off guard by a rolling boulder. And they crop up more often than you'd expect.
Relax after your adventures, with sweeping sea views and spacious swimming pools, at Tamarindo Diria.
When you want to dig into the past, a park like Tulum National Park – on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast – has definitely got to be on your wishlist. The park combines ancient Mayan ruins with a spectacular landscape of cliffs, dramatic coastlines, and ‘cenotes’ AKA sinkholes.
The cenotes were of great importance to the Mayans, which may be why they settled here. You can also take a closer look at the ancient civilization, thanks to the surprisingly well-preserved buildings. Get here early enough and you’ll be treated to the unforgettable sight of sunrise over El Castillo, the highest building in the park.
Below the imposing cliffs, don’t miss the chance to spot nesting turtles on the beach. And if you have some time left, make your way to the nearby Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve to explore the rich sea life and mangroves.
Party like the Mayans in the Riu Lupita, where you can soak up some sun before staying up until sunrise in Playa del Carmen.
National Parks aren’t just about nature and history – some can really capture the imagination, too. Göreme National Park in Turkey has one of the most unusual landscapes you'll find in the world. The whole place has been sculpted by millions of years of erosion, creating dreamlike spires and ‘fairy chimneys’. The natural landscape has been modified and lived in by people for thousands of years, leaving even more interesting paths to follow.
Below the surface, entire underground cities were carved into the soft rock. In the dramatic cave chapels and churches you’ll see Byzantine carvings and fresco paintings that have lasted since the monks of the 7th century created them. You can explore the living spaces, store rooms, and chapels that wind their way underneath the area. And once you’ve had your fill of the underground sights, climb up to Uchisar Castle, the highest point, for incredible panoramic views of the park.
Stay at the Pegasos Royal and you’re only a few minutes from Alanya’s 13th century fortress and more ancient treasures.
Around 25% of Costa Rica is protected national park land, so it’s no surprise that we have to feature it twice. Especially when Corcovado National Park is one of the most intense biological places on the planet, creating a habitat for more tropical wildlife than you can imagine. If nature’s your thing, you’ll be in your element spotting monkeys, red-eyed tree frogs, tapirs, butterflies, quetzals and even jaguar and mountain lions.
The park actually covers 13 different ecosystems, including rainforests, cloud forests, mangrove swamps, coastal marine habitats and wild beaches – 23 miles of beaches, in fact. The whole area’s home to more than 400 species of birds, including 16 different hummingbirds, over 500 different species of tree, and thousands of creatures you may need a magnifying glass to identify. The park requires all visitors to be accompanied by a guide but, when there’s so much to see, a guide’s invaluable for figuring out what you’re actually looking at.
Pick a hotel surrounded by jungle, to keep nature close at hand even when you’re not in the parks, at Hotel Westin Playa Conchal.
As one of the most famous National Parks, we couldn’t possibly miss the majestic Grand Canyon off our list. It’s one of the largest canyons – a total of 277 miles of natural wonder – and the second most visited national park in the world. Carved by the Colorado river, the canyon itself is only part of the National Park – the rest is rather rugged and remote, but there are some hiking trails for adventurous types.
Thanks to its sheer size and scale, the Grand Canyon is one of those places you really have to see to believe. But when you stand on its rim, hike down to the depths, or take part in a helicopter fly-over from Las Vegas, the colours of the rock and the drama of the landscape come alive. Whether you’ve got a few hours or a few days, you can experience one of the world’s seven natural wonders.
Combine the majesty of the Grand Canyon with the lights of Las Vegas. And if you’re exploring the hard rocks of the canyon by day, where better to stay at night than the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas?
Stay home. Keep dreaming. Keep discovering.
Just so you know, this was written before the COVID-19 outbreak.
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Author: Natalie Howells
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The TUI BLUE Kalamota Island ticks off good looks, impeccable service and easy access to Dubrovnik via boat.
The Riu Palace Riviera Maya is just five minutes' drive from Playa del Carmen's stylish 5th Avenue.
The grounds at the are filled with eco-friendly touches, like tables made out of recycled wood. Plus, you can join in with beach clean-ups and tree-plantings, organised by the hotel’s Green Team.
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