Asia’s Top Five National Parks
With so many direct flights these days, there’s no reason to just think local when it comes to exploring national parks this summer. Instead of fighting crowds to see the Grand Canyon’s south rim, consider checking out the rim of an Indonesian volcano. From Sri Lanka to Thailand, Asia is home to hundreds of amazing, and usually uncrowded, national parks that can be experienced either on a solo adventure or with a small group. Here are five of ATJ’s favorites.
At ATJ we can’t get enough of Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. Many thousands of years ago, a volcano violently erupted here, scattering ash, sand and black rock over a huge swathe of mountainside. The resulting caldera is now evocatively named the Sea of Sand and in its center sits the still-active volcano of Mt. Bromo. The journey to the volcanic rim is not for the faint of heart, but an unforgettable experience for the adventuresome that requires transport by jeep, pony and finally foot to reach.
Though it’s just three hours north of Bangkok, a trip to Khao Yai National Park takes you to a completely different world. Thailand’s second largest nature preserve is a place of dense forests dotted with picturesque waterfalls host a plentiful supply of wildlife—elephants, tigers, gibbons, deer, wild pigs and more than 300 bird species. Many luxury Thailand tours include this park in the itinerary, although it is not difficult to access solo.
Get off the grid and look for leopards in Sri Lanka, where nearly 10 percent of the land is preserved in national parks. We love Wilpattu National Park, because it is so far removed from the mainstream tourist radar. It also hosts large concentrations of the country’s most famous wild resident: the elusive leopard; along with Asian elephants, sloth bears, blue whales, crocodile and wild boar. This park is best experienced on a small group Asia tour, as accommodation are very limited. At ATJ, we work with Leopard Trails Bespoke Safaris, which has a very intimate camp of three safari tents equipped with all the modern comforts on the edge of the park.
Cradled amidst central India’s picturesque hills, Bandhavgarh is one of the country’s most beautiful national parks and a renowned tiger reserve. India is home to two-thirds of the world’s wild tigers, and here you can spend a day looking for them amidst a dramatic, shifting landscape. This is also one of India’s few parks to offer luxury accommodations in the park itself, which allows for total immersion day and night.
From snowy peaks to primordial forests and glassy lakes, Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, is home to six national parks, including the country’s largest, Daisetsuzan. It occupies much of the mountainous interior of Hokkaido Island, including 16 rugged mountains. For the best views, ride the cable car to the highest station, near Sugatami Ponds, and then hike down.