From the United States to Australia, from Chile to China, national parks are precious environmental and cultural landmarks. Protected by their governments for their immense beauty, invaluable natural resources, and scenic or historical significance, they’re considered vital not only to the wildlife whose habitats they preserve, but also to visitors, whose enjoyment and stewardship are the reason they exist to begin with.
National parks are so beautiful and beloved that they make ideal destinations for incentive travel. Along with bucket-list activities, sights and tours within their borders, the areas around many of these protected treasures have exceptional hotels and resorts that are perfectly suited to incentive groups. Here are five of them.
Gran Meliá Iguazu (Iguazu National Park, Argentina)
Argentina’s Iguazu National Park (pictured) -- located along the Iguazu River, on the border between Argentina and Brazil -- is a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s best known for Iguazu Falls, a semicircular formation of nearly 300 cascading waterfalls that fall from as high as 262 feet. Surrounding them is a subtropical rainforest that’s home to more than 2,000 species of vascular plants, not to mention classic South American wildlife such as tapirs, giant anteaters, howler monkeys, ocelots and jaguars.
New to the region is the Gran Meliá Iguazu, which opened on Dec. 13 and is the only hotel on the Argentine side of the park. Previously the Sheraton Iguazu Resort & Spa, the property has been operating for the past year as the Meliá Iguazu. Having completed a $20 million renovation, however, it has now graduated to the premium Gran Meliá brand, which has integrated ecological elements into the redesigned hotel, such as vertical gardens in the building’s facade. Along with 183 guest rooms, half of which have views of the falls, the hotel offers a spa, a 164-foot infinity pool, a gym, four restaurants and bars, tennis courts and seven meeting rooms for groups of up to 600 people.
Taj Corbett Resort & Spa, Uttarakhand (Jim Corbett National Park, India)
Established in 1936, Jim Corbett National Park in the Himalayan Mountains is India’s first and oldest national park. Set in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, it’s known for its endangered Bengal tigers and was established as a habitat to protect them. This isn’t just tiger territory, though. There also are hundreds of bird species, not to mention wild elephants, crocodiles and leopards. And speaking of elephants: Nature watching and wildlife viewing in the park is done either on the back of an elephant or in an open four-wheeler Jeep.
For incentive groups that want to experience the park, Taj Corbett Resort & Spa is a good home base. Just two hours from Delhi, its design was inspired by Himalayan forests and marked by stone floors and garden views. The resort offers 61 cottage-style rooms and suites, two restaurants, a bar, a fitness center, a pool, a spa and approximately 3,600 square feet of meeting space.
Amangani (Grand Teton National Park, Wyo.)
The United States has its share of gorgeous national parks, too. One of the best is Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, which encompasses 310,000 acres of Rocky Mountain wilderness in the heart of the Teton Mountains. Along with 200 miles of trails for hiking, there’s backpacking, camping and fishing in the summer, and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling in the winter.
Although the area has many luxe accommodations for incentive groups, one of the most popular is Amangani, which means “peaceful home.” Located in Jackson, Wyo., in the middle of an elk and moose habitat, the property has 40 guest rooms and 1,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as three dining venues, a heated outdoor pool, a fitness center and a spa.
The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (Yosemite National Park, Calif.)
Established in 1864, Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains is best known for its towering, ancient sequoia trees, its dramatic granite cliffs and its pristine waterfalls. Totaling 1,200 square miles, the park hosts millions of people every year for hiking, camping, wildlife viewing and just about anything else one’s outdoorsy heart might desire.
The park’s AAA four-diamond hotel is the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. A National Historic Landmark that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel was established in 1927 as the Ahwahnee Hotel and has since hosted a parade prestigious guests including Queen Elizabeth II; presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama; Walt Disney; Steve Jobs; Lucille Ball; Charlie Chaplin; Judy Garland, and writer Gertrude Stein, among may others. Newly renovated in spring 2018, the property has 123 accommodations -- 99 guest rooms and suites and 24 private cottages -- as well as a bar, a restaurant, a heated outdoor pool and six meeting rooms for group of 25 to 150 people.
Hotel Continental (Cinque Terre National Park, Italy)
Italy’s Cinque Terre National Park is in a class by itself. The natural scenery is breathtaking, to be sure, but this attraction wasn’t established only to preserve nature; equally, it was created to preserve human culture and history. Designated in 1999, the park -- a UNESCO World Heritage site -- is Italy’s first and smallest national park. Encompassing five historic fishing villages on the country’s northwest coast, it’s known for its iconic colorful houses that hang over the sea atop dramatic coastal cliffs.
Although the towns that comprise Cinque Terre National Park are light on hotels, the region around them is full of promising options, such as Hotel Continental in Santa Margherita Ligure. On the Italian Riviera, just a short drive from the Cinque Terre, this seafront property has 69 rooms and suites, a waterside park, a restaurant, a spa and a new meeting room for groups of up to 130 people. Like the nearby Cinque Terre, the views and scenery are among Italy’s best.