When that cabin fever starts gnawing away, there’s one sure-fire prescription. It’s time to pay a visit to good ol’ Mother Nature. Hiking in the great outdoors is the perfect antidote to the strain and stress of the last year. And while many of us can’t escape to exotic climes, we can still enjoy our natural surroundings. It doesn’t take a genius to appreciate nature’s effects on body and soul. Still, here’s Albert Einstein’s take; ‘look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better’. So, take a leaf – ahem – from his book.  Here are eight reasons why exploring those national parks is a no-brainer in 2021.

It’s great for your health – and the health of the economy

Don’t take our word for it — researchers have put a statistical value on our visits to nature. Academics at Griffith University in Australia estimated the economic impact of protected areas on people’s mental health. Their conclusion? Exposure to nature saves a whopping $6 trillion per year in health bills worldwide. So, whether you’re kayaking on Fraser Island or hiking the volcanos of Iceland, you’re doing yourself a good turn.

It keeps your bank balance healthy as well

While you’re busy stretching those legs, your budget won’t need to be stretched that much. Most national parks in the U.S cost no more than a few bucks to enter. Take weeklong individual passes to Yellowstone, for instance. At a mere $20 per person, they’re hardly going to break the bank. And seeing Old Faithful Geyser spurting its geothermal gases sky high? That’s priceless. 

The scenery has a magical effect

Whether it’s the alpine trails of Slovenia or the forest lakes of Finland, national parks weave a particular magic. Let’s face it, no number of nature documentaries can replace the sensation of actually being in the wild. The sight of snow-capped mountains, the joy of wild swimming in crystal waters — when nature works its mystical charms, there are few greater feelings.

You can get away from people – and technology

In 2021, finding space to breathe is like mining for gold. And in a national park, chances are you’ll hit the jackpot. Just take Canada, for example — its 38 national parks cover a mammoth 127000 square miles. That’s a fair bit of oxygen on offer. But it’s not only nice to escape the crowds, it’s an opportunity to ignore technology for a day. After all, gazing at a crackling log fire beats looking at a buzzing smartphone any day.

It’s the best way to teach kids about the natural world

Kinaesthetic learning — learning by doing — can be a pretty effective educational tool. And what better classroom could there be to learn about natural processes than a national park? Be it observing ecosystems in the Everglades, or learning about conservation in Hawaii, let the wildlife do the teaching. Or a professional guide, if you would rather learn from an expert! 

They’re a thrill-seeker’s paradise

To get that adrenaline pumping, few places can match the national parks of New Zealand. When Kiwis are not busy bungee jumping off bridges, they’re white-water rafting through cavernous ravines. Yet wherever you are in the world, national parks offer plentiful opportunities to get your thrills. From mountain biking in the jungles of Thailand to paragliding in Georgia, incredible landscapes are best absorbed at speed.

National Parks are laden with history

When you set foot through Yellowstone National Park, you’re not just walking on a dormant volcano. You’re also exploring somewhere Native Americans have called home for 11000 years. Yep, national parks have more history than you could shake your hiking pole at. Just look at those ancient drawings in the cave dwellings of Mesa Verde — that ain’t no fresh graffiti.

We have some incredible nature on our doorsteps

Okay, so these experiences all sound fantastic. Just one minor detail — how can I get there? Never fear. Truly great days out in nature aren’t isolated to a few special places. National parks are everywhere. In the U.S alone, there are 62 protected areas. In Europe, there are over 400. With so many, a better question might be: where to start? Well, how about the Yorkshire Dale? Recently awarded the honor of best national park in Europe, they’re worth adding to your list.

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