Top 10 Largest National Parks in the World

The concept of national parks is now well over a hundred years old. The world’s first national park was Yellowstone National Park which was established in 1872 by then U.S. President Ulysses Grant. Now, there are more than 6,000 national parks in around 100 countries across the globe. National parks are defined as designated areas set aside by national governments for the preservation of the natural environment of that area. These nature sanctuaries have become even more crucial with the advent of conservation and environmental awareness. They serve not only as bastions for wildlife and natural habitats but also as havens where people can admire Earth in its raw beauty.

National parks are typically the largest type of land park in any given country that has national parks, spanning thousands of square kilometers or square miles. But national parks are not just significant due to their size but also because of the distinctive ecosystems and cultural heritage they usually preserve. When it comes to size, national parks can also quite vary, both in nominal and relative terms. On average, national parks usually occupy around one percent of a country’s total size. The world’s largest national parks oftentimes exceed that rate, however.

The following ranking lists the largest national parks in the world by total park size. For the ranking, only actual national parks are being looked at. Similar concepts such as natural reserves, marine reserves, city parks, urban parks, etc. are not counted as national parks.

Note: Click the following for the Ranking of the ten largest city parks in the world.

Top 10 Largest National Parks in the World

largest national parks in the world

1. Northeast Greenland National Park

Mountains in Northeast Greenland National Park, the world’s largest national park

Size of National Park: ~ 972,000 km²

Location of National Park:
Greenland, Denmark
Established in: 1974

Northeast Greenland National Park is the largest national park in the world. The national park is located in the Northeastern portion of Greenland, an autonomous overseas territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. The park represents the epitome of wilderness with no permanent human residents inhabiting the giant area on the world’s largest island. Established in 1974, this park spans 972,000 square kilometers, which is almost half of the entire area of Greenland. The vastness of the national park is in fact larger than all countries on Earth except for the 29 largest ones. Northeast Greenland National Park therefore is home to some of the most remote and untouched environments on the planet.

The park’s environment is characterized by many mountains and its polar climate, including many colossal ice formations, and ice lakes. The park’s fauna includes well-known Arctic species such as polar bears, walruses, musk oxen, and the arctic fox.. Northeast Greenland National Park is also a breeding ground for millions of seabirds, making it a critical area for avian biodiversity. Despite its harsh conditions, the park sustains a delicate and rich ecosystem that is even vital to global biodiversity.

Access to Northeast Greenland National Park is heavily restricted to preserve its pristine condition. The park is managed with a focus on scientific research, particularly studying the effects of climate change on the Arctic. Qualified scientists and research teams are usually the only humans who have the privilege to, albeit temporarily, inhabit the national park area.

2. Ahaggar National Park

Ahaggar National Park with the Ahaggar mountain range in the Sahara desert

Size of National Park: ~ 450,000 km²

Location of National Park: Tamanrasset Province, Algeria
Established in: 1987

Ahaggar National Park is the second-largest national park in the world. The park is located in southern Algeria in the province of Tamanrasset and makes up almost one-fifth of the country’s entire area. The park spans around 450,000 square kilometers and is situated right in the middle of the world’s largest desert, the Sahara. The park is named after the Ahaggar Mountains, also known as the Hoggar, the mountain range that dominates this portion of the Sahara. Algeria’s tallest mountain, Mount Tahat, is located right in the park. The national park was established in 1987 and has since been declared a ‘World Heritage of Humanity’. It is the largest national park in Africa and the world’s largest continental national park.

The topography of Ahaggar National Park is marked by towering volcanic peaks, vast dunes, and deep canyons. Despite the desert’s arid conditions, the park supports a diversity of life. Species such as the Saharan cheetah and the fennec fox can be found here, along with a variety of reptiles and birds adapted to the extreme environment.

Aside from its natural significance, Ahaggar National Park also holds cultural value as it is home to the Tuareg people, known for their distinctive traditional attire and nomadic lifestyle. The rich cultural heritage of these indigenous communities is well maintained within the park, including ancient rock art and archaeological sites that trace back thousands of years.

3. Sanjiangyuan National Park

Sanjiangyuan National Park with the Tongtiang River flowing through / ©ChinaDaily

Size of national park: ~ 123,100 km²

Location of National Park:
Qinghai Province, China
Established in: 2020

Sanjiangyuan National Park comes third among the largest national parks in the world. The park is located in central China the Chinese province of Qinghai, encompassing an area of over 123,100 square kilometers on the Tibetan Plateau. Sanjiangyuan translated means “Three Rivers Source”. The park is named for its essential role as the source of China’s three great rivers: the Yangtze River, the Yellow River, and the Mekong River (also known as the Lancang River). The rivers belong to the world’s longest. Many other tributary rivers also flow through the park. The park was established in 2020 and is thus the youngest among the largest national parks in the world.

The importance of Sanjiangyuan National Park therefore extends way beyond the park’s borders, as the rivers that originate here are vital for millions of people downstream. Aside from the park’s many rivers, the park’s high-altitude environment also features rolling grasslands, snow-capped peaks, and many mountain lakes, overall creating a very diverse landscape home to a wealth of wildlife, including the rare snow leopard and the even rarer Tibetan antelope.

Aside from its natural significance as the source for China’s three great rivers, the national park also holds a great cultural value stemming from being the “three rivers source”, as large parts of China’s thousands of years of culture and history are centered around the rivers. Sanjiangyuan’s role as a natural water tower for China and East Asia therefore underscores the importance of Sanjiangyuan National Park, both in natural and cultural terms.

4. Tassili n’Ajjer National Park

A typical dune in Tassili n’Ajjer National Park

Size of National Park: ~ 72,000 km²

Location of National Park: Tamanrasset Province, Algeria
Established in: 1986

Tassili n’Ajjer National Park ranks fourth in the ranking of the largest national parks in the world. The national park is adjacent to Ahaggar National Park, located in the southeastern Algerian province of Tamanrasset right at the border with Libya and Niger. Covering about 72,000 square kilometers, Tassili n’Ajjer is also located in the Sahara desert, at a vast plateau. The name of the park translates to “Plateau of Rivers”, named for the many rivers that flew through the area, though most of these rivers dried out over the years and no longer exist. The park was established in 1986 and is therefore a year older than Ahaggar National Park, its larger “sibling” park.

The park is renowned for its dunes and sandstone rock formations as well as an extensive collection of prehistoric rock art. The park’s geology boasts a plateau of eroded sandstone that has given rise to an array of natural rock arches, towers, and a forest of stone pillars. This geological landscape has been sculpted over millennia by wind and water erosion, creating a natural desert labyrinth that has fascinated and has been studied by many scientists and researchers over the years.

Tassili n’Ajjer National Park also holds great historical significance. Over 15,000 engravings and paintings have been cataloged in the area, depicting ancient life that dates back to 6000 BC. The prehistoric artworks found in the park provide invaluable insight into the lives of the early people who inhabited the area thousands of years ago. The combination of its natural and historical treasures has earned Tassili n’Ajjer National Park a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

5. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park with Mount Sanford, part of the Wrangell Mountains, in the background

Size of National Park: ~ 53,300 km²

Location of National Park: Alaska, USA
Established in: 1980

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park ranks fifth in the ranking of the world’s largest national parks. It is also the largest national park in the United States and North America. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is located in the U.S. state of Alaska and spans an area of over 53,300 square kilometers, bordering Canada and the Pacific Ocean. The park was established in 1980 as both a national park and a reserve. It is named after the Wrangell Mountains and the St. Elias Mountains, the world’s highest coastal mountain range. Both those mountain ranges are located within the national park area.

The park’s landscape consists of a wide array of mountains, glaciers, and rivers. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is home to nine of the 16 highest peaks in the United States, including Mount St. Elias, the USA’s second-tallest mountain after Mount Denali. The national park also features two of the three highest volcanoes, Mount Blackburn and Mount Sanford, in the United States within its park limits. The vast glaciers within the park are furthermore some of the world’s largest outside of the polar regions.

The diversity of ecosystems in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park allows for rich wildlife. Habitats range from oceanic shores to alpine tundra, supporting species such as the caribou, brown bears, moose, mountain goats, and bald eagles. The park also holds historic value as archaeological evidence of human activity stemming 3,000 years ago can be found within the park area.

6. Namib-Naukluft National Park

A dirt road going through Namib-Naukluft National Park

Size of National Park: ~ 49,700 km²

Location of National Park: Erongo Region, Namibia
Established in: 1907

Namib-Naukluft National Park also belongs to the world’s largest national parks, placing sixth in the ranking. The national park is located in western Namibia in the country’s Erongo Region and is therefore the largest national park in sub-Saharan Africa. The park covers approximately 49,700 square kilometers. The park is named after the Namib Desert, which is considered the oldest desert on planet Earth and is located within the park area, and the Naukluft Mountains, a mountain range also located within the national park. The park was established in 1907 when Namibia was still a German colony. This makes Namib-Nakulft National Park also the oldest national park in Africa.

The national park is famed for its towering dunes at Sossusvlei, which are among the highest in the world. The reddish sand dunes, sculpted by the winds coming from the nearby Atlantic Ocean, create a landscape of ever-changing contours with parched white pans, such as Deadvlei, which contrast with the dark, dead camel thorn trees. This natural phenomenon observed in the park makes it a popular tourist attraction.

Despite the seemingly inhospitable desert environment, Namib-Naukluft National Park is alive with specially adapted flora and fauna. Unique plants like the welwitschia mirabilis, which can live for over a thousand years, and animals such as the oryx and springbok, have made their homes in the arid park area.

7. Gilf Kebir National Park

Gilf Kebir National Park from the Gilf Kebir ridge looking southwards / ©ClemensSchillen

Size of National Park: ~ 48,500 km²

Location of National Park: New Valley Governorate, Egypt
Established in: 2007

Gilf Kebir National Park comes seventh among the world’s largest national parks. The park is located in the New Valley Governorate, which represents the southwesternmost corner of Egypt. The park stretches to the country’s border with Libya and Sudan. Covering an area of around 48,500 square kilometers in the Egyptian portion of the Sahara desert, the park encompasses the Glif Kebir plateau known for its sheer cliffs and unique geological formations. The park is named for this very Glif Kebir plateau, which translates to “The Great Barrier”. The national park was established in 2007.

The park’s landscape is primarily characterized by its massive sandstone formations, which rise from the desert floor to create a large natural fortress. The region is dotted with numerous valleys, caves, and wadis, providing a diverse canvas of desert landscape. The park is completely depopulated by humans nowadays and therefore offers complete natural desert wilderness.

Gilf Kebir is not only known for its nature but also holds historical and archaeological significance. The area is home to several important prehistoric sites, including the famous ‘Cave of Swimmers’. These ancient rock paintings and carvings give evidence to the early humans who once inhabited the area at a time when the local climate was wetter and the area more hospitable to human life.

8. Mavinga National Park

Lake Capua in Mavinga National Park / ©UnchartedAngola

Size of National Park: ~ 46,100 km²

Location of National Park: Cuando Cubango Province, Angola
Established in: 2011

Mavinga National Park is the eighth-largest national park with a total area size of around 46,100 km². The park is located in southeastern Angola in the Angolan province of Cuando Cubango, bordering the neighboring country of Zambia. The park is named after the small Angolan town of Mavinga, which is situated north of the park and essentially represents the entrance to the national park. The national park was established in 2011 in order to protect the remaining wildlife inside the park area, which unfortunately was heavily decimated during the Angolan Civil War which lasted 27 years from 1975 to 2002.

The park’s landscape features a diverse mix of savannas, wetlands, and woodlands, which provide habitats for a wide array of species. It is a critical sanctuary for many of southern Africa’s rarest animals, including elephants, lions, and African wild dogs. The park’s rivers and floodplains are also vital for the migratory bird species that stop here to reenergize on their long journeys.

Overall, Mavinga National Park functions mostly as a preservative area of crucial wildlife corridors that allow species to migrate and wildlife to remain healthy. The park is also increasingly being developed for eco-tourism which is supposed to improve the local economy, leading to a dual benefit for both the environment and local human communities.

9. Wood Buffalo National Park

A bison/buffalo standing in Buffalo Wood National Park

Size of National Park: ~ 44,700 km²

Location of National Park: Alberta, Canada & Northwest Territories, Canada
Established in: 1922

Wood Buffalo National Park ranks ninth among the largest national parks in the world. The park straddles the border between the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Northwest Territories. The Canadian government established the park in 1922 specifically to protect the wood bison or wood buffalo, as the area includes the world’s largest herd of free-roaming wood bison and bison in general. The park is named after the animal to underline its (main) purpose. The park encompasses around 44,700 square kilometers, making it Canada’s largest national park and the second-largest one in North America.

The park’s landscape is a complex tapestry of forests, wetlands, and grasslands. It is home to the Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the world’s largest inland deltas, a key habitat for migratory birds, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park also contains the only natural nesting site of the whooping crane, making it an area of significant conservation priority, even outside of bison.

Wood Buffalo National Park generally represents a vast space of wilderness at its most raw and unspoiled. Its diverse ecosystems support not only wood bison but also other species such as black bears, wolves, and lynxes. The park’s vastness and relative inaccessibility have allowed the area to remain largely undisturbed and kept in its natural state.

10. Chiribiquete National Park

Chiribiquete National Park with the Chiribiquete Mountains in the background / ©Steve Winter

Size of National Park: ~ 43,000 km²

Location of National Park: Caqueta Department, Colombia
Established in: 1989

Chiribiquete National Park concludes the ranking of the ten largest national parks in the world. The park is situated in the Southern Colombian Caqueta Department, right in the heart of the Colombian Amazon. The park is named after the Chiribiquete Mountains, the mountain range that is located within the park area. The national park was established in 1989 and expanded in 2013 and again in 2018, making it now one of the largest national parks in the world, covering around 43,000 square kilometers. This also makes the park the largest national park in South America and the world’s largest tropical rainforest national park.

The park’s landscape is characterized by its tepuis, meaning table-top mountains that rise sharply from the Amazon rainforest, creating isolated ecological niches with unique species. The dense jungle and challenging terrain have kept Chiribiquete relatively unexplored, preserving its rich natural biodiversity and diverse wildlife which includes jaguars, macaws, and several species of primates. Multiple small human settlements of mostly indigenous populations also exist within the park area.

The cultural heritage of Chiribiquete National Park is also as rich as its natural significance. The park is often referred to as “The Sistine Chapel of the Ancients” due to its remarkable collection of prehistoric rock art. Over 70,000 rock paintings adorn the walls of the tepuis, some believed to be over 20,000 years old. These ancient images provide a window into the spiritual lives of early Amazonian peoples and are considered sacred by the indigenous communities that still live within the park’s area. Chiribiquete’s dual significance as both a natural and cultural haven has earned it recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The 10 Largest National Parks in the World:

Location of national park:Size of national park:
1. NORTHEAST GREENLAND NATIONAL PARKGreenland, Denmark~ 972,000 km²
2. AHAGGAR NATIONAL PARKTamanrasset Province, Algeria~ 450,000 km²
3. SANJIANGYUAN NATIONAL PARKQinghai, China~ 123,100 km²
4. TASSILI N’AJJER NATIONAL PARKTamanrasset Province, Algeria~ 72,000 km²
6. NAMIB-NAUKLUFT NATIONAL PARKErongo Region, Namibia~ 49,700 km²
7. GILF KEBIR NATIONAL PARKNew Valley Governorate, Egypt~ 48,500 km²
8. MAVINGA NATIONAL PARKCuando Cubango Province, Angola~ 46,100 km²
9. WOOD BUFFALO NATIONAL PARKAlberta / Northwest Territories, Canada~ 44,700 km²
10. CHIRIBIQUETE NATIONAL PARKCaqueta Department, Colombia~ 43,000 km²
Updated as of March 2024.

The ten largest national parks in the world by total park area size. Only individual national parks are counted in the ranking. Natural reserves, marine reserves, city parks, urban parks, regional parks, etc. are not eligible for the ranking.

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