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Earth’s Greenest Escapes

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Check out these verdant spots — from Costa Rica to Croatia — that offer tranquil natural beauty with a slice of adventure, be it going on a jungle hike, taking a dip under a waterfall, or enjoying sightings of wildlife!

There are few things more soothing than being surrounded by greenery, be it a park or a jungle. The reason for this, according to colour psychology, is that this hue is associated with balance and harmony, and helps restore a sense of calm and focus. That’s as good a reason as any to plan your next holiday in locations that boast a rainforest, lake or national park.

CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK, COSTA RICA

Rainforest-dense Costa Rica has to top any list of the greenest destinations on earth, and Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula is one place you can experience nature in all its splendour. Considered one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, the park houses some of Central America’s only remaining primary rainforests. It boasts a range of ecosystems, from lowland rainforest to mangrove swamps. As these support a spectacular variety of wildlife, visitors can look forward to an encounter with a tapir, watch a herd of peccaries, and try spotting endangered creatures such as jaguars, scarlet macaws, and red-backed squirrel monkeys.

KILLARNEY NATIONAL PARK, IRELAND

Native oakwoods, yew trees, and evergreen trees and shrubs populate Killarney National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The Emerald Isle’s tallest mountain range, the MacGillicuddy’s Reeks, which rise to a height of over 1,000m, is also located in this area. Visitors can explore the scenic park on horseback or on a bike, or book a hiking tour to scale Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain. You could also experience the park and its lakes by taking a boat trip.

PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK, CROATIACroatia’s most popular tourist destination, Plitvice Lakes National Park was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979. The park’s beauty lies in its 16 lakes, which turn into different shades of emerald, depending on the light, and are interconnected by a series of cascades and waterfalls. They are set in deep luxuriant woodland populated by deer, bears, wolves, boars and rare birds. Visitors can enjoy the park by walking or hiking through it, using one of eight well-marked routes that take anywhere from two-and-a half hours to eight hours.

MAYA MOUNTAINS, BELIZENamed for the Maya people who settled in the region, the Maya Mountains stretch 115km across southern Belize into Guatemala, and boast unspoilt green landscapes. The dense jungles covering the mountains are abundant with wildlife like jaguars and tapirs. Apart trying to spot them, you may also want to swim beneath waterfalls or try climbing Victoria Peak, the country’s second-highest mountain. Tours of the area include horseback riding, bird watching, canoeing, and visits to ancient Mayan sites.

SAPA VALLEY, VIETNAM

Closer to home, Sapa, located in Vietnam’s northern mountains, shimmers with emerald rice terraces built onto the slopes of undulating green hills. It’s the destination travellers head for to escape the hustle and bustle, whether they do it by going on an overnight trek from village to village or taking the 15-minute funicular up the country’s tallest mountain, Mount Fansipan. Mountain biking is another popular way to explore the less-visited corners of Sapa.