Clients visiting Ranthambore National Park may see tigers roam throughout the day. // © 2017 iStock
Feature image (above): Komodo National Park is home to about 2,500 komodo dragons. // © 2017 iStock
Many people associate Asia with its bounty of delicious cuisine and variety of unique cultures, but what’s less known about the continent is that it also boasts some of the world’s best natural scenery and wildlife. As much as travelers yearn to visit nightly food markets and historical landmarks, they should also make room in their itineraries to explore some of Asia’s many remarkable national parks. Here are five — each with a distinguishing feature — to recommend that clients add to their must-see list.
Gunung Mulu National Park
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002, Malaysia’s Gunung Mulu National Park is a 130,630-acre rainforest that features a variety of wildlife and fantastical-looking jagged limestone formations, as well as many waterfalls and caves. One of the most famous caves in the park is the Sarawak Chamber, which measures nearly 2,000 feet long, 1,362 feet wide and 262 feet high, making it the largest known cave chamber in the world. The park offers day and overnight excursions for different ability levels, from an easy night walk to an overnight camping trip in the Sarawak Chamber for more physically fit travelers.
Komodo National Park
At least 2,500 komodo dragons call this Indonesian park home. Komodo National Park consists of three major islands: Komodo, Rinca and Padar. Those wanting to catch a glimpse of the dinosaur-esque lizards — which are typically around 9 feet long — will have to trek to the nearby hills on each island where the dragons hunt, or visitors might be able to spot them dozing in front of a park ranger’s home. The park also boasts some of the world’s best diving spots; the mostly untouched underwater scenery is filled with 385 species of coral and sea life including stingrays, turtles and dolphins.
Nikko National Park
A two-hour drive from Tokyo is all it takes to get to Nikko National Park, which sits at the base of Mount Nyoho. Here, travelers will find Toshogu, one of Japan’s most lavish shrines, which is made up of about a dozen wood-carved and gold-leaf decorated buildings. The older Futarasan Shrine is located next door, while the Rinnoji Temple — the most important Buddhist temple in the city — is just a short walk away. Although these holy sites make the park worth visiting year-round, the best time to travel to Nikko is during the fall. It is then that the leaves of the trees in the forest turn from green to bright reds and oranges, making for beautiful scenery and great pictures.
Ranthambore National Park
At Ranthambore National Park, a former hunting ground for the "maharajahs" (Indian princes) of Jaipur, it’s not uncommon to spot a tiger roaming around. The large felines are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day — so guests on the park’s safari tours shouldn’t be surprised if they run into a tiger hunting for its next meal. Ranthambore is also home to other animals, such as hyenas and deer, and visitors may even spot a crocodile lurking in many of the park’s marshes. Traces of the area’s rich history can still be seen throughout the park, with ancient structures such as the Ranthambore Fort and Raj Bagh ruins still mostly intact.
Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park
Located in the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu, Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park is also commonly known as “the eye candy of Zhangye” thanks to its colorful hillsides. These hills, most of which are several hundred to more than 1,000 feet high, get their rainbow hues through the layering of red sandstone and oceanic crust. Erosion has transformed these hills into many unique shapes over time, as well as added features such as caves and varying patterns. There are four viewing platforms throughout the park, and guests can easily visit all of them within two hours by car.