In the early 19th century, a fur trapper and wilderness guide named Jim Bridger became one of the first European-Americans to experience the natural offerings of what would later become Yellowstone National Park. Bridger was a born storyteller, though one who was decidedly prone to exaggeration, so his tales of greater Yellowstone included descriptions of a petrified forest that was home to “petrified birds” and a “mountain of clear glass” that acted almost as a telescope. He even described the region’s legendary geysers and other geothermal features as indicative of the “place where Hell bubbled up.” However, Bridger’s embellishments weren’t far off the mark. In many ways, Yellowstone is otherworldly. It’s unlike anywhere else on the planet—just one of the reasons that CNN Travel has included the park on its annual list of Best Destinations to Visit in 2022.
“…Exploring the world is a privilege, not a right,” writes CNN Travel’s editor. “This year’s crop of dream places to visit reflect that mindset—from national parks to remote islands to lesser-visited spots, mindfulness and respect for the Earth are part of the journey.”
Alongside Yellowstone, CNN Travel’s other 2022 selections range from the far-reaches of Jordan, a Middle Eastern country consisting of ancient rock-carved cities and vast desert, to the harsh environs of Australia’s massive Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert National Park, not to mention regions of countries that Nat Hab pays regular visits—such as Greenland and Peru. There’s also a trio of featured destinations that Nat Hab can take you right into the heart of, so get ready to start checking off your travel wishlist!
A thin slice of continent that stretches the length of South America’s southwest coast, CNN Travel describes Chile as an “outdoor adventurer’s paradise” where ecotourism opportunities abound—a depiction that couldn’t be more accurate. While much of the country’s north is taken over by the Atacama Desert, one of the driest spots on the planet and a place that’s more akin with Mars than perhaps anywhere on Earth, it’s the sheer beauty and magnitude of Patagonia’s vast wilderness that continues to attract the boldest and most intrepid souls from around the globe. This is a world where enormous glaciers descend down mountain-sides to reach turquoise-colored lake waters teeming with icebergs, and snow-capped peaks paint the sky. Medium-sized Magellanic penguins cozy up along the coastlines, while humpback whales feed in the local waters and large groups of southern elephant seals sun themselves endlessly on rock ledges. Here in this sparsely populated region, nature undoubtedly rules.
Among Patagonia’s most prominent national parks is Torres del Paine, a UNESCO Biosphere that’s home to roaming pumas, fur-covered guanacos and Andean condors that nest among its mountains and iconic rock spires. Nat Hab’s 10-day Patagonia Wilderness & Wildlife Explorer unwraps the unbeatable offerings of this spectacular place, along with spots like Tierra del Fuego, a rugged archipelago brimming with glaciers and fjords that occupies Patagonia’s southernmost tip, and Los Glaciares National Park, home to the legendary Perito Moreno Glacier—one of the very few advancing glaciers on the planet. There is also an opportunity to marvel at the antics of the world’s second-largest penguin species at King Penguin Park, and see pink flamingos congregating in the waters along with white- and black-neck swans at Laguna de los Cisnes Natural Monument.
From its sky-scraping Drakensberg mountains in KwaZulu-Natal to Cape Town’s most prominent landmark, Table Mountain, South Africa is home to an incredible array of natural wonders. However, visitors flock here just as often (if not more so) for the country’s wonderfully accessible wildlife. After the Covid-19 omicron variant delivered what CNN Travel calls a “pointless blow” to South Africa’s struggling tourism industry, 2022—more than ever—is the year to return to this amazing place, and oh, how we’re ready!
Nat Hab’s 10-day Secluded South Africa goes right into the heart of the country’s wildlife action with a visit to its famed Kruger region and visits to a trio of private reserves: Madikwe, Marataba and Sabi Sands.
Madikwe Reserve is one of the country’s lesser-known parks—a 185,000-acre mix of rocky hills and seasonal wetlands where everything from Africa’s “Big Five” animals—rhinos, leopards, lions, elephants and African buffalos—to cheetahs, hippos and African wild dogs roam. Untamed and remote, it’s the perfect place for safari drives and guided nature walks, as well as a sundowner (a.k.a “happy hour) or three in the bush.
Although smaller in size, Marataba Private Reserve packs a lot into its 57,000 acres within Marakele National Park—including more than 400 bird species. Keep an eye out for yellow-billed hornbill and lilac-breasted rollers fluttering among the reserve’s red rock mountains and grassy hillsides, as well as black and white rhinos that, in the company of a safari guide, you can even track on foot. Night game drives and the occasional water safari along the reserve’s Matlabas River are also the norm.
For “Big Five” viewing, it’s hard to beat MalaMala. This 33,000-acre game reserve shares an unfenced border with Kruger National Park and sits in the heart of South Africa’s Sabi Sand region. The reserve is known for its dense leopard population, which are often spotted by the dozen here each month.
In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the creation of Yellowstone National Park. One-hundred-and-fifty years later, this 2.2-million-acre wilderness recreation area just celebrated its busiest year (2021) on record, with 4,860, 537 visits. It’s more popular than ever, making the park an absolute must on CNN Travel’s 2022 list.
Stretching across the upper corner of northwest Wyoming and into Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone is known for its thousands of hydrothermal features—we’re talking erupting geysers, bubbling hot springs and steamy fumaroles—not to mention its stellar wildlife. In fact, the park is home to its own “Big Five” of fauna: moose, elk, wolves, bison and bears. Nat Hab’s seven-day Hidden Yellowstone & Grand Teton Safari highlights it all, from the park’s central Hayden Valley, where you might spot a grizzly sow and her cubs meandering through its vast meadows and grasslands, to the remote Lamar Valley, tucked away in Yellowstone’s northeast corner. Here, you’ll often find large herds of grazing elk and bison. It’s the easiest place in the park to see wolves as well, which the park’s wildlife officials reintroduced in 1995.