The Best National Parks You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of...

Tiger in the wild

National parks are famously known for their outstanding natural beauty and also for the preservation of wildlife. They attract millions of visitors year in and year out... but here we have found some not-so well known National parks for people to explore that you have probably not heard of... yet.

Garigal National Park
The unexpected wilderness
Where: Sydney, Australia

Bays, eucalypts, waterfalls, mangroves – and just 12km from downtown Sydney. Garigal is a little haven of Australian bush that’s somewhat outshone by the urban glitz to its south, but all the more astonishing for it. This varied park forms part of a key wildlife corridor that stretches to the Blue Mountains, and also protects Aboriginal rock art and colonial heritage. Follow the Bungaroo Track to walk in the footsteps of the first Governor of NSW, or spot native red bloodwood and scribbly gum trees along the Cascades Trail. An ideal escape from the city.

 

Akagera National Park
The resurgent refuge
Where: Northeast Rwanda

 

Akagera has been a national park since 1934 but fell on hard times after the Civil War of the 1990s – poaching and land reallocation depleted its size and wildlife. However, new management put this scenic swathe of forest, hills, savannah and papyrus swamps back on the map in 2015. Planned animal reintroductions mean Akagera will once more be home to the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, hippo, rhino). Plus, guides and rangers have been retrained, and new camps and lodges are opening up, to offer the full safari experience.

Mudumalai National Park
The handsomest hills
Where: Tamil Nadu, India

 

Lodged in the foothills of the Nilgiri Mountains, Mudumalai isn’t only a national park, it’s also a tiger reserve. You’d be lucky to spot a big cat, but the little-visited park is so pretty you won’t be bothered. This is picturebook India: a spread of grasslands, swamps and evergreen, deciduous and teak forests, rich in wildlife. While the tigers are elusive, look for leopards, elephants, macaques, gaur, chital deer and an array of birds – over 250 species have been recorded here.

 

Port-Cros National Park
The refreshing Riviera reserve
Where: Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France

Teeny Île de Port-Cros offers a rather different diversion on the glamorous Côte d’Azur. Protecting the 7 sq km island itself, plus a 13 sq km marine zone around it, Port-Cros is France’s smallest national park, a steep, rugged, forest-blanketed outcrop only explorable on foot. There are ruins of aqueducts and agricultural stone walls; restored 17th-century forts guard the clifftops; shipwrecks litter the seas below. Catch the boat over from Hyères, buy supplies at the tiny village and then hit the 35km of hiking trails. Alternatively, snorkel-up for the underwater Palud Trail, an exploration of the park’s protected seascape.

 

Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park
The unknown adventure
Where: Goiás, Brazil

Massive Brazil has no shortage of wild spaces, but few people make it to this one. Chapada dos Veadeiros sits in the centre of the country, around 250km north of capital Brasília. It encompasses a vast, biodiverse expanse of cerrado (tropical savannah), sliced by deep ravines and tinkled by waterfalls. There’s plenty of wildlife, though it can be difficult to spot; instead, come for the views and some high-adrenalin adventure – canyoning, abseiling and mountain biking can all be arranged.

 

Isle Royale National Park
The wild island escape
Where: Michigan, USA

One of the USA’s least-visited national parks, Isle Royale deserves better – though the resultant solitude is one of its joys. The main island, and its archipelago of islets, is tucked into the northwest corner of Lake Superior; visitors must arrive by boat or seaplane. Once there, you’re pretty much on your own: there is one lodge, a few stores, several campgrounds and a whole lot of wilderness. With the right kit, you can plunge into the interior on foot or by canoe. Find misty lakes, secretive forests, moose and wolves; lose the rest of the world.