National parks are beautiful and affordable places for active seniors to spend time in retirement. Yellowstone was the world's first national park, but the concept of preserving nature and culture for future generations to enjoy has now been expanded upon by many countries on almost every continent. All parks are not created equal, however. The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees recently released a list of their picks for the 10 best foreign national parks. The areas were selected based on a survey of their 700 members who are former career employees of the National Park Service, including park managers, rangers, and other employees. The retiree’s favorite international parks include:
1. Tongariro National Park, New Zealand. This World Heritage sites features volcanic peaks, one of which is active, and is still home to the Maoris people, who donated the park to New Zealand in 1887.
2. Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. Check out the vistas, waterfalls, and Aboriginal rock art at this World Heritage Site jointly managed by the Aborigines and the Australian government. But keep your distance from the saltwater crocodile.
3. Snowdonia National Park, Wales, Great Britain. The 3,560-foot Mount Snowdon is the focal point of this mountain park.
4. Kruger National Park, South Africa. Many large African mammals including elephants and cheetahs wander freely over millions of acres of habitat with little development .
5. Tikal National Park, Guatemala. The towering ruins of Maya temples rise above the jungle that surrounds them. A Maya guide can elaborate on the history of the 90,000 person Maya settlement in this area from 250 to 900 AD.
6. Iguazu National Park, Argentina. Iguazu Falls, which is 70 meters high, roars as it falls into a river 1500 meters wide surrounded by subtropical forest.
7. Sagarmanthan National Park, Nepal. Mount Everest is just one of the prominent mountains towering over this national park. Also visit a monastery in a Sherpa village.
8. Madain Saley National Historic Park, Saudi Arabia. The Nabatean people created 125 cut-rock tombs and facades here between 500 B.C. and 100 A.D.
9. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia. Small lakes, streams, and waterfalls populate this inland Croatian park. Hint: Go there in the fall to see some spectacular foliage.
10. Hortobagy National Park, Hungary. Observe the nomadic herding culture of the Puszta, several endangered bird species, the Przewalski horse, and migratory waterfowl at this biosphere reserve and World Heritage Site that has been occupied by humans for two millennia.
The National Park retirees also named 8 great American national parks in 2006. “The selection process was like picking from among the loveliest flowers in the field,” says Don Goldman, a former park planner for the National Park Service. Their favorite American parks include: Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho), Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin), Mount Rainier National Park (Washington state), Dry Tortugas National Park ( Florida), Big Bend National Park (Texas), Yosemite National Park ( California), Cabrillo National Monument (California), and Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Monuments (New York and New Jersey).
American national parks are incredibly affordable for retirees. U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or older can buy a lifetime pass to national parks and federal recreation areas for $10. Pass holders and up to 3 adults in the same vehicle can avoid park entrance fees and get a 50 percent discount on some services, such as swimming, camping, and boat launch.