Around the world, nature reserves and National Parks receive more than 8 billion visits each year. That’s on average, one visit or more per person per year. Of course, a lot of the global population is unable to visit protected natural areas – so that number might be even higher.
National Park and protected area visits were highest in the US and the UK, with seven out of the top ten coming from these two countries. They were lowest in Africa, with some of the world’s most gorgeous and pristine natural environments seeing less than 100,000 visitors a year.
Mount Gede Pangrango National Park, Indonesia (Estimates: 20-30 million in 2018)
At only 150km2 Gede Pangrango is a baby park by international standards. However, its proximity to the 30 million inhabitants of the Greater Jakarta Metropolitan area mean it always attracts a lot of visitors. An estimated 20-30 million tourists flocked to the dual volcano site in 2018. Visitors may observe endangered bird species such as the Javan Hawk Eagle, Javan Leopards and Malayan Porcupines. There are inordinate number of unique species here, that only exist within its boundaries. This means much of the park is protected from any visitation.
The Peak District National Park, UK (13.4 Million in 2018)
The second most popular National Park in the world in 2018, this diverse parkland covers hilly and mountainous regions across the English counties of Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire. Spanning 555 square miles, the area is known for its outstanding natural beauty, historic market town and, of course, its craggy hills. It was also the first National Park to be founded in England, way back in 1951.
Despite its name, there aren’t too many massive peaks here – the highest point is 2087 feet above sea level atop Kinder Scout. Other, highlights for visitors in the Peak District include caving and rock climbing, paragliding and over 1500 miles of cycle routes and hiking paths. But it’s not just the natural attractions here. The Peak District also spans several dozen market towns and historic villages. Visitors can enjoy some of the scenic pubs and restaurants in the country, as well as tours of country manor houses where you can dine on locally produced farm shop produce.
Great Smoky Mountains (11.42 million in 2018)
Even older than the Peak District, is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, USA. Attractions include the Appalachian Trail, winding through the park on its 2,200 mile journey from Maine, to Georgia, The Chimney Tops, many impressive waterfalls and wild rivers that offer great fishing opportunities. The Chimney Tops are distinctive set of caved in peaks that many have surmised look like chimneys. They have been popular with hikers since the park opened in 1931, and probably long before that. People flock here to enjoy the fantastic views of the surrounding peaks, but the route has unfortunately been closed to hikers since the major forest fires of 2016.