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World's Best National Parks: Brijuni Islands

Where: Croatia
February 8, 2008 at 1:05 PM | by | Comments (0)

Best National Parks in the World Map

Hazardous chemicals came awfully close to spilling into Brijuni Islands National Park Thursday after a sinking freighter blew to within five miles of the stunning archipelago in the Adriatic Sea. The crisis was averted thanks to Croatian and Italian tugboats. Lucky thing, too, because Brijuni is a gorgeous destination with a bizarre and fascinating history.

Purchased by an Austrian steel industrialist named Paul Kupelwieser in 1893, the Brijuni Islands were at the time a cesspool for malaria. In an attempt to eradicate the disease, Kupelwieser, who sought to turn the islands into a kind of health resort, invited Nobel Prize-winning scientist Robert Koch to Brijuni. Koch discovered the cause of the disease was the anopheles mosquito while Kupelweiser built five hotels near the harbor of the main island.

After World War II Brijuni became a part of Yugoslavia and leader Josip Tito, living the communist dream, made the group of islands his personal summer home. Tito had a liking for exotic animals, and the many foreign dignitaries he invited to his estate would often bring gifts like zebras and elephants--animals which now populate the island's Safari Park. Several years after Tito's death in 1980, Brijuni became a National Park, and the islands became part of Croatia when the nation gained independence in 1991.

Brijuni offers a lot to travelers, including sailing excursions around the archipelago, wildlife tours and polo tournaments, but this is surely a luxury destination. If you're looking for a hostel, you'll have to search the mainland in nearby Pula.

Related Stories:
· Ecological Disaster Threatens Croatia Coast [IHT]
· Brijuni National Park [Official Site]
· National Parks coverage [Jaunted]
· Croatia Travel coverage [Jaunted]

[Photo:dfanton]

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World's Best National Parks: Bandhavgarh National Park

Where: Umaria, India
February 1, 2008 at 3:30 PM | by | Comments (2)

Best National Parks in the World Map

A visit to Bandhavgarh National Park practically guarantees at least a few wild tiger sightings, which is way cooler than spotting a big cat sprawled out on a rock at your typical American zoo. The sanctuary, located in a lush forest in central India, boasts the country's densest tiger population. And because this is a national park, all the animals, including the tigers, roam free.

A guided safari in a jeep or on top of an elephant offers views of langurs (fat grey monkeys), chitals (spotted deer with big antlers) and black bucks (with protruding spiral horns). Leopards live in Bandhavgarh, too, but due to their elusive nature, they're harder to, uh, spot.

Central India's weather ranges from hot to hotter most of the year. In February and March, though, high temperatures stay around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, making tiger-chasing much more comfortable.

Related Stories:
· India's National Parks [UK Times]
· Join Circus, Save Tigers [Brisbane Times]
· World's Best National Parks Map [Jaunted]

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World's Best National Parks: Crater Lake

September 4, 2007 at 3:30 PM | by | Comments (0)

Best National Parks in the World Map

Now that the school kids are back to pencils, books and teacher's looks, Oregon's Crater Lake National Park is ripe for a visit. And the lack of crowds is only one bonus: You'll find perfect, cooler weather in the Cascades in September.

Obviously, you'll want to see the namesake lake, nearly 2,000 feet deep and more than 7,000 years old. The best way is on a boat tour, but you'll have to act fast: The final tours of the season wrap up this month, just before the weather turns sour.

If a guided tour won't do it for you, independent hiking and camping are your best bets. Fishing is also a possibility. Just make sure to get there before the snow arrives in October: Crater Lake gets buried under about 44 feet of the stuff every year.

Related Stories:
· Crater Lake National Park [Official Site]
· World's Best National Parks coverage [Jaunted]

[Photo: LaserGuided]

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World's Best National Parks: Grenada's Grand Etang

Where: Grenada
August 31, 2007 at 1:45 PM | by | Comments (0)

Best National Parks in the World Map

There's more to the Caribbean than sand, rum and ducking airplanes while standing on the sand and drinking rum. There are steel drums, for instance, and national parks, including one in the interior of that gem of the Spice Islands, Grenada.

Yes, Grenada: It's so much more than dental schools and nutmeg, Grenada features a sprawling national park full of lush scenery. Grand Etang National Park encompasses several ecosystems, featuring volcanic mountains, secluded beaches and rainforest. Flora and fauna abound, giving tourists the chance to spot tree frogs, armadillos, monkeys and several species of birds unique to the island. For those who find critter watching in the rainforest too dry, snorkeling is available in several parts of the park.

Whether you're a fifteen minute or a four hour trekker, there's a route for you. Items on your checklist should include Concord Falls, rare wild orchids, the park's namesake volcanic crater lake.

Related Links:
· World's Best National Parks coverage [Jaunted]

[Photo: Kugelfish]

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World's Best National Parks: Zion National Park

August 15, 2007 at 11:45 AM | by | Comments (0)

Best National Parks in the World Map

With nearly a month of summer left there's still plenty of time for cyclists to take to the open road. Our recommendation? Zion National Park.

The Narrows attract canyoneers from around the world, and opportunities for hiking are endless. But with miles of trails designated just for bikers, Utah's oldest park has also become known as the state's most biker-friendly one, too. Its most popular path, the Pa'rus Trail, offers scenic views of Zion's cutters, the lower Zion Canyon and several of the highest mountains. For those who'd rather not venture out on their own, Zion Cycles will show you the way.

Sure, you can ride a burro through all of mother nature's splendor, but this way is faster. And a whole lot more fun.

Related Stories:
· National Parks coverage [Jaunted]
· Zion National Park [Official Site]

[Photo: Peter Fagerlin]

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World's Best National Parks: Galapagos Islands

Where: Ecuador
August 14, 2007 at 9:37 AM | by | Comments (0)

Best National Parks in the World Map

Despite a few dissenters, most people now agree that Chuck Darwin was on to something when he first noticed variations in the mockingbirds and tortoises from different islands of the Galapagos archipelago.

Today, the Ecuadorian government, which controls Galapagos, has set aside 90 percent of the land for Galapagos National Park. More than 1.7 million acres comprise the natural reserve. Bizarre and beautiful indigenous animals run through the islands' lush fauna. The park service works with the Charles Darwin Research Station to conserve and protect the unique wildlife. This means strict restrictions on ships and a watchful eye on tourism.

Unfortunately, more ships than Darwin's Beagle sailed to the islands over the past several hundred years. As always, white sailors and settlers came bearing gifts: VD and feral animals. Today, the groups work to eradicate these animals, like fire ants, pigeons, and black rats. If they can come up to New York and clean up the East Village next, that would be great.

Related Stories:
·World's Best National Parks [Jaunted]
·Galapagos National Park [Official Site]

[Photo: Copland]

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World's Best National Parks: Iceland's Skaftafell

Where: Iceland
July 25, 2007 at 9:37 AM | by | Comments (0)

Best National Parks in the World Map

If you think the national parks in Iceland are cold and barren, well, think again. Or head to Skaftafell National Park in the southern part of the country. Founded in 1967, its already been enlarged twice and is Iceland's second largest national park offering a landscape similar to the Alps, with grassy slopes framed by picturesque peaks.

There are no real roads in the park, but a network of rough trails is perfect for extended hikes - stop at the Visitor's Center and talk to a guide first for the best route. There are camping grounds too, but apparently the gravely ground's a bit tough to nail your spikes into, so beware! The park consists of three distinct areas: Skaftafell and Skeiðarársandur (volcanos and plains) and Lakagigar (a crater area and glacial cap) and all three seem to be favorites.

[Photo: arnitr]

Related Stories:
·   Skaftafell National Park Site [Official Site]
·   Iceland Travel [Jaunted]
·   Skaftafell National Park Travel guide [Nordic Adventure Travel]

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World's Best National Parks: Swiss National Park

July 16, 2007 at 9:26 AM | by | Comment (1)

Best National Parks in the World Map

While you're hitting the road this summer and checking national parks off your list, take a bit of a detour to check out one of the world's most stunning -- the Swiss National Park, or Der Schweizerischer Nationalpark, as the locals call it.

Nestled in the easternmost part of the country, the park is closed in the winter. Sorry, no extreme skiing allowed here. It was founded in 1914 by members of the Swiss Academy of Natural Science, and has all the alpine meadows, sunny wildflowers, and frolicking red deer you can imagine. Accepting just under 150,000 visitors a year, it's also uncrowded and pristine -- hey, these are the Swiss we're talking about here. It's the largest protected area in Hotel il Fuorn, with cozy guest rooms built of rustic wood and a restaurant stocked with fondue and game specialties, so you can eat what you see.

To get to the Swiss National Park you, take the Rhaetian Railway trains or local bus routes from most cities within the country.

Related Stories:
· Swiss National Park [Official Site]
· Swiss Hotels [HotelChatter]

[Photo: Isabelle]

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World's Best National Parks: Sleeping Bear Dunes

July 10, 2007 at 4:39 PM | by | Comments (0)

Best National Parks in the World Map

You don't have to travel to Pyla to visit the dunes. Residents of Michigan have been telling their friends about the 35-mile stretch of sandy hills of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park along Lake Michigan's eastern coast since the park opened.

With more than 100 miles of designated hiking trails, Sleeping Bear Dunes is a woodman's wonderland, while world-famous sand lots make it a beachcomber's dream. There are 13 marked paths on the mainland alone (two islands, North Manitou and South Manitou, are also included in the park property) that wind through forests, shoreline, marsh and dunes.

Park passes are required to get out on the trails, but visitors can enjoy the scenic views of Great Lake coastline and Michigan wildlife year round, since most areas are open for winter snow-shoeing too.

For those who prefer wheels to walking, the park offers self-guided bike tours and local clubs encourage tourists to hitch on with local cyclists on weekly rides. Two rivers provide ample opportunities for kayaking, tubing, and family-friendly canoeing. And for East (and West) Coast skeptics who claim no body of water could ever be as great as the ocean, the Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve tells a different story. Lake Michigan diving expeditions come complete with two centuries of dock ruins and shipwrecks, too.

Related Stories:
· Sleeping Bear Dunes [Official Site]

[Photo: ourtreasures.org]

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World's Best National Parks: Fire Island National Seashore

June 20, 2007 at 11:18 AM | by | Comments (0)

Best National Parks in the World Map

This is the kind of national park we like best: a beach. Yup, that's right. Fire Island National Seashore counts in our book (and in the Parks Services' too) and it's just the national park to head to in the summertime.

The absence of cars lends the island a slowed-down pace, and the strictly-patrolled (no drinking, eating, music, dogs) areas of the beach are actually somehow the best. You can avoid the crowds and actually feel like you're on vacation. Each Fire Island hamlet feels like its own distinct personality - and you can pick and choose for what suits you best.

The drawback? Prices. You'll pay double for everything, from ATM fees to groceries to drinks, but watching the sunset on the beach or bay side makes it all worth it.

Related Stories:
· Fire Island National Seashore [Official Site]

[Photo: smojo]

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World's Best National Parks: Crocs Interrupt Tourist Plans in Oz

June 4, 2007 at 11:37 AM | by | Comments (0)

The best laid plans can be disrupted by all kinds of natural disasters: or in the case of northern Australia, just a few saltwater crocodiles who feel like hanging out where the tourists are. Right now there are a couple of danger spots where the grinning salties seem to be hanging round for a tasty snack.

In the tourist mecca of Broome in the northern part of Western Australia, one croc is in danger himself, with authorities planning to kill it after observing its movements for a few days, hanging around a popular tourist beach. Better the croc than a person, they reckon. A bit further east in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, the Twin Falls have been closed to tourists since not one, but two smiling crocs are enjoying the scenic plunge pool there. Authorities are trying to trap them for relocation. So watch where you swim.

Related Stories:
· World's Best National Parks Map [Jaunted]
· Twin Crocodiles Keep Falls Closed [news.com.au]
· Aussie Crocodile Hotel [HotelChatter]
· Kakadu National Park [Official Site]

[Photo: pandiyan]

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WiFi Wednesday: Yellowstone Park Vacation Edition

May 30, 2007 at 11:19 AM | by | Comments (0)

Yellowstone National Park may be the iconic summer vacation spot for families. (Probably because of views like that one, above.) We don't have to tell you about what's happening at the park, but we do have to tell you that you'll only have to be isolated in nature if that's your thing.

That's because Yellowstone Regional Airport--about 50 miles from the park in Cody, WY--has free WiFi for your Internet-obsessed family. Now you certainly won't be getting stuck on a rough layover at YRA with hours to kill. (The airport has only a handful of flights.) But we have to applaud free 'net service anywhere we find it.

If you need to look up some last-minute geocaches or park info, this is the place. Once you're in the park, you won't even be getting online with your BlackBerry as cell service, let alone wireless, is hard to come by.

[Photo: Marc Shandro]

Related Stories:
· Yellowstone National Park [Official Site]
· WiFi Wednesday: Take That, MKE Edition
· Airport WiFi coverage [Jaunted]
· World's Best National Parks Map [Jaunted]