National Parks: UK – Europe – The World

UK National Parks in world context

National Park or Protected Landscape?

International National Parks - Examples

Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa © Brian Snelson
Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa © Brian Snelson

National Parks in the UK, Europe and the world

The 15 national parks in the UK are represented by National Parks UK, which is headed by the parks' 15 chairmen.

Protected areas across Europe are represented by Europarc, which represents 500 protected areas in 39 countries.

Protected areas around the world are represented by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), which represents more than 100,000 protected areas.

The IUCN was the world’s first global environmental organisation and was founded in 1948.

The IUCN's mission is:
"to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable"

In other words: To help and encourage people all over the world to look after nature and not destroy it, and make sure we share what we take from nature fairly, and that we take only what we can reproduce again, so that all wildlife has a home to live in and there is enough left for our future generations.

A protected landscape is an area of land where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant aesthetic, ecological and cultural values.

UK National Parks in world context

The IUCN represents many different types of protected areas around the world. It divides protected areas into six categories.

The IUCN category II is called 'National Parks'. But the UK's national parks are not in this category, because they are places where people live and work.

The UK's national parks are in category V, called 'Protected Landscapes'. The landscape in our national parks has been shaped by nature and by people over thousands of years, and they have been protected to help preserve both natural and cultural heritage.

See all 6 IUCN cateogries with descriptions and examples

There are lots of other protected areas around the world that are also in category V. Here are what a few other 'Protected Landscapes' are called:

  • China: Scenic Areas and Country Parks
  • Spain: Nature Parks
  • Cuba: Touristic Natural Areas
  • UK: National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and National Scenic Areas
People have shaped the land in UK's National Parks

National Park or Protected Landscape?

National Parks internationally (IUCN Category II)UK National Parks - Protected Landscapes (IUCN Cateory V)
large natural areas mostly untouched by humans, hardly no-one lives therelived in and working landscapes shaped by the interaction between people and nature
mostly publicly ownedmost land belongs to private landowners
educational and recreational visitor opportunitiesaccessible to everyone to enjoy and learn about their special qualities
protecting large ecosystems and speciesprotecting landscapes with special character and our cultural and natural heritage
Adapted from Discover your National Parks pack © Council for National Parks 1994

International National Parks - Examples

The table below gives you facts and figures of some national parks around the world. See how they compare with the facts and figures of the three UK national parks that are also part of this list.

Yellowstone National Park, USA  © Caroline Talavera

The World's First National Park, Yellowstone National Park, USA © Caroline Talavera
National Park NameCountryIUCN
Year of DesignationArea
(sq kilometers
Highest Point
Hohe TauernAustria, EuropeII2006 (as category II)1812Grossglockner
YellowstoneUSA, Wyoming/
II01st March 1872 (World's 1st NP)8992Eagle Peak
Denali National Park
and Preserve
USA AlaskaIb1980 (as caetgory 1b)24584Mount McKinley
SerengetiTanzania, AfricaII195114763n/a
KomodoIndonesiaII19801815Gunung Satalibo
CairngormsScotland, UKV20033800Ben Macdui
Lake DistrictEngland, UKV19512292Scafell Pike
Pembrokeshire CoastWales, UKV1952621Foel Cwmcerwyn