Great Escapes: Spring Travel

World's most popular natural wonders

Katia Hetter, CNNUpdated 3rd March 2015
(CNN) — Want to visit the most popular national parks and nature preserves around the world?
You'll have a lot of company.
More than 8 billion people visit national parks and nature reserves every year, and visitors to those protected areas generate more than an estimated $600 billion in tourism dollars annually, according to a new study on the impact of global visits to protected areas.
That number is much more than the estimated $10 billion spent yearly to safeguard these natural wonders, according to "Walk on the Wilde Side: Estimating the Global Magnitude of Visits to Protected Areas," which was published in PLOS Biology, an open access, peer-reviewed journal. The study did not include Antarctica.
Robin Naidoo, the World Wildlife Fund's lead wildlife scientist and a contributor to the study, said the study's authors analyzed data from 556 parks worldwide to estimate the economic value of visits to the world's most popular protected areas.
"Even with the multibillion dollar value, this is a vast underestimate of the total economic value of these parks, as it does not account for the myriad ecosystem services that they collectively provide," Naidoo said.
Here are the most popular national parks and preserves on the six most populous continents. Click on the gallery to see why.
Africa
• Table Mountain National Park (formerly Cape Peninsula National Park), South Africa: 1.4 million visits/year.
• Kruger National Park, South Africa: 1 million visits/year.
Asia
• Seoraksan National Park, South Korea: 3.1 million visits/year.
• Mount Huangshan, China: 1.3 million visits/year.
Australia
• Gondwana Rainforests of Australia: 510,000 visits/year.
• Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park: 380,000 visits/year.
Europe
• Lake District, United Kingdom 10.5 million visits/year.
• Peak District, United Kingdom 10.1 million visits/year.
North America
• Golden Gate National Recreation Area, United States: 14.4 million visits/year.
• Lake Mead National Recreational Area, United States: 7.8 million visits/year.
South America and Caribbean
• Tijuca National Park, Brazil: 737,000 visits/year.
• Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, Peru: 691,000 visits/year.
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