7 best national parks in Asia

Where to begin with planning your next trip to Asia? From the scattererd islands of Ang Thong to tiger conservation in Ranthambore, we've toured the continent to track down the best national parks to visit
Ang Thong National Marine Park, Thailand
Angthong National Marine Park, Thailand. Photo: Shutterstock

All right, lovers of the great outdoors. We've rounded up some of the best national parks in Asia. How many have you crossed off your list?

1. Gunung Mulu National Park, Malaysia

Hiding in Sarawak is one of Asia's most treasured natural wonders. Gunung Mulu National Park is perhaps best known for its spectacular cave networks. Set against the backdrop of the jungle, these intricate ecosystems are brimming with wildlife, including millions of bats and some of the most diverse limestone exteriors in all of Southeast Asia. For a real thrill, put the Sarawak Chamber on your list; it's said to be the largest underground chamber on the planet. Venture further into the park on Insight Guides' Hidden UNESCO sites of Malaysia tour and you'll stumble upon plenty of other species, like the endangered pangolin, among others.

2. Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, China

There are mountains — and then there's Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the world's most mesmerising natural jewels, boasting jagged peaks and crumbling hills that you simply can't find anywhere else. Here, a unique combination of sandstone and minerals has been doing a delicate dance for millions of years. The result? Colourful peaks dipped in rare hues of copper and rust. From there, it's almost as if someone took a giant paintbrush and added stripes of gold, deep yellow, and even blue to the canvas. The vibrant splashes of color are all at once disorienting and dazzling. China has no shortage of natural wonder. Take it all in with Insight Guides' Best of China trip.

Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, China

Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, China. Photo: Shutterstock

3. Ang Thong National Marine Park, Thailand

This marine park is actually made up of over 40 islands, each one more breathtaking than the next. According to Tourism Thailand, the name Ang Thong literally translates to "the golden basin." The title couldn't be more fitting for these sun-drenched bits of paradise, which are located about 20 miles northeast of Ko Samui. You can also expect to spot a fair amount of local wildlife in these parts. Ang Thong plays host to everything from long-tailed monkeys to sea turtles to reef egrets. You can reach the marine park by way of speed boat from nearby Ko Samui, and is included as a day trip on Insight Guides' Samui Paradise holiday.

4. Bach Ma National Park, Vietnam

Located about an hour from Hoi An is Bach Ma National Park. As Traveldudes notes, it makes for an epic, off-the-beaten-track adventure on your Vietnam trip itinerary. The park itself is loaded with rare birds, stunning plants, and indigenous wildlife, which you can take in on a roughly 10-mile hike to the park's mountainous peak. Perhaps what makes it one of the best national parks in Asia is that it's a bit of a hidden gem, but one that's definitely worth visiting. 

Want to include this on your trip to Vietnam with Insight Guides? Submit a trip request online now.

5. Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Japan

The crowning jewel of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is hidden in the name: Mt Fuji. This majestic natural formation reaches over 12,000 feet into the sky, and is snowcapped even during the summer months. In spring, the base is a vibrant explosion of gorgeous pink moss that looks more like a Monet landscape than a real place. Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is home to more than just one mountain, though, with attractions including the Five Lakes, which set the stage for an epic hike or picnic site on your Completely Japan tour with Insight Guides. There are also sweeping, gorgeous gardens at every turn. Take a page out of SilverSpoon London's book and opt for a traditional Japanese Ryokan in Hakone.

Mountain Fuji and Lake Ashi with Hakone temple and sightseeing boat in autumn. Photo: Shutterstock

Mountain Fuji and Lake Ashi with Hakone temple and sightseeing boat in autumn. Photo: Shutterstock

6. Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

With 22 parks on the roster (and our top 5 favourites listed here), Sri Lanka is a nature lover's dream. Topping the list of best national parks in Asia is definitely Yala National Park, which is located on the southeast part of the island. A visit often translates to rare sightings of elephants, leopards, birds and more. Since Sri Lanka is regarded as relatively undeveloped, the natural landscapes are simply spectacular, making it a top spot for ecotourism too. Much of Yala is closed to the public, but the area that is open will knock your socks off.

Ready to experience Yala National Park for yourself? We've got you covered with this Insight Guides' Unforgettable Sri Lanka holiday.

Yala leopard in Sri Lanka. Photo: Shutterstock

7. Ranthambore National Park, India

Ranthambore is easily one of the most beautiful national parks in all of India. The biggest thrill for travellers is certainly the game drives, which feature more than you might expect from your typical safari. In addition to wildlife, you're sure to spot ancient temples and forts, for a real experience in old-world Rajput culture and history. The park itself also provides the opportunity to glimpse tigers in their natural environment. And as the Savvy Explorer points out, keep your eyes peeled for deer, hyenas, mongoose and more. Let us take you there on Insight Guides' India's Monuments and Tigers tour


Looking for an alternative destination? Exploring the USA's spectacular national parks

Trip ideas for spotting species: 6 best vacations for wildlife watching

Get inspired: 20 most Instagrammable places in the world

A few more places to add to your list: 25 little-known travel destinations that should be on your radar

Get a jump on your fall getaway: Where to go in Septemeber, October, November