10 Amazing Ancient Forests Around the World

A visit to one of these long-lived woodlands is a restorative experience. Here’s how to see some of the oldest forests on Earth.

Rural road lined with baobab trees in Madagascar, with a few people walking in distance

Centuries-old trees line Madagascar’s Avenue of the Baobabs.

Photo by Dennis van de Water/Shutterstock

Getting back to nature can be like going back in time—especially in the world’s most ancient wooded areas, some of which are home to the oldest life forms on Earth. These forests are often in far-flung corners of the globe, but travelers can easily plan an entire trip of one or two weeks around visiting these natural wonders.

With many of us looking more toward destinations filled with nature, now is as good a time as any to daydream about exploring these incredible landscapes. So get your hiking boots ready, and consider a visit to one of these ancient forests.

Large fallen tree covered in green moss in Tarkine temperate rainforest in Tasmania

The Tarkine temperate rainforest in Tasmania feels prehistoric.

Photo by Kazuki Yamakawa/Shutterstock

1. The Takayna/Tarkine Forest


Tasmania’s Takayna/Tarkine woodlands give a glimpse of what life on Earth looked like 300 million years ago. This temperate rainforest in Australia is home to the second-oldest living tree species on the planet, Huon pine, which can live 3,000 years.

How to visit

To explore this ethereal area of trees, waterfalls, rivers, caves, hills, and moorlands, book a tour with Tarkine Trails. Hike just over a half-mile into Tasmania’s wilderness and make its hike-in Tiger Ridge glamping getaway your home base as you explore the surrounding trails. From the isolated camp, the outfitter leads four-day excursions through the most beautiful parts of the Tarkine. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a Tasmanian devil.

One tall and one short Araucaria pine, otherwise known as “monkey-puzzle tree,” with lake and snow-topped mountain in background

Chile’s national Araucaria pine, otherwise known as the “monkey-puzzle tree,” grows throughout Conguillío National Park.

Photo by Julia Kokhanova/Shutterstock

2. The Araucaria Forest


The Chilean pine tree that spans the country’s Lake District is thought to have evolved its peculiar paintbrush shape to ward off herbivorous dinosaurs during the Jurassic period. The Araucaria tree, also known as the Pehuén in the aboriginal Mapuche language and a “monkey-puzzle tree,” more colloquially, can live for approximately 1,000 years and grows in many parts of the Chilean Andes. However, the forest is most spectacular set against the backdrop of piercingly blue lakes and snowcapped volcanoes in Conguillío National Park.

Head to Chile’s Araucanía region in November and you’ll catch the coning season, when the trees yield pineapple-shaped conifers that produce seeds the Indigenous Penuenche and Mapuche people use in local dishes.

How to visit

Conguillío National Park is 70 miles from the city of Temuco and best accessed with your own vehicle. The nearest airport is La Araucanía, 15 miles south of Temuco, which services direct flights from Santiago. For those who want to take their time, campsites and cabins are available within the park.

Stream falling over low, moss-covered rocks in dense forest

The enchanted forests of Yakushima, Japan, are worthy of a hike (or three).

Photo by Alick To/Shutterstock

3. Yakushima Forest


The moss-covered roots of Yakusugi trees, also known as Japanese cedars, have been steeping in the woods of Yakushima Island for an estimated 7,000 years. This subtropical forest was considered so beautiful by Japan’s 17th-century royalty that the lush landscape was recreated in a garden on the mainland, and in 1993, the Yakushima Forest was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Today, stepping into these fairy-tale-like woodlands is fairly straightforward: The Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine offers low-intensity trails and the most easily accessible spots in the forest, including the landscape that inspired surreal anime classics like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.

How to visit

To get to Yakushima Island, take a ferry or high-speed boat from Kagoshima, where the nearest airport is located. There are three boat options: the Toppy/Rocket (2.5 hours), the Yaku car ferry (4 hours), and the overnight Hibiscus ferry (13 hours). Once on the island, there is a range of accommodation options, including the luxurious Sankara Hotel & Spa (from $744), whose hillside location overlooks the ocean and subtropical forests, immersing guests in the property’s own natural beauty.

An ancient bristlecone pine stands among a few evergreens on slope

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is a protected area in Inyo County, California.

Photo by Felix Lipov/Shutterstock

4. Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest


Located at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level in the California highlands in the Inyo National Forest, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is home to some of the oldest living trees on Earth. The most ancient among the protected forest’s bristlecone pines—which are characterized by their unusual-looking twisted forms—is Methuselah, a tree estimated to be more than 4,840 years old.

How to visit

Inyo National Forest is a 3.5-hour drive from Los Angeles. Grandview Campground ($10 per night, first come first served) is the closest to the Bristlecone Pine Forest. However, those looking for a little more comfort should consider a hotel or Airbnb in Bishop, an hour drive from Bristlecone.

A few capybara silhouetted alongside of the Amazon River, with tall trees in background

Capybaras gather on the banks of the Amazon River in Peru’s Manu National Park.

Photo by RPBaiao/Shutterstock

5. The Amazon Rainforest

Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia

For 55 million years, the Amazon has been home to an astonishing array of wildlife—at least 10 percent of the world’s known biodiversity. The region represents the largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world and spans Brazil and Peru, plus portions of Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia.

How to visit

In Peru, the easiest gateways to the rainforest are through Pulcallpa, Puerto Maldonado, and Iquitos on the country’s eastern border. In Brazil, the quickest Amazon entry point is through Manaus, which has an international airport. The depths of Amazonia are still largely inaccessible, but you can arrange rainforest tours in many regions along the jungle’s perimeters or join a five-day cruise down the Amazon River with Delfin Amazon Cruises.

Cassowary Falls at Daintree Rainforest in Queensland, viewed through branches of green trees

If you pay this Australian forest a visit, don’t miss Cassowary Falls in the Daintree Rainforest.

Photo by Shutterstock

6. Daintree Rainforest


This ancient rainforest in northern Australia is an estimated 180 million years old (which makes it more than twice the age of the Amazon). The Daintree region stretches approximately 460 square miles and is the largest continuous tropical rainforest in Australia. It’s also recognized as part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Wet Tropics of Queensland—one of the most significant regional ecosystems on the planet.

In Daintree National Park, the Mount Sorrow ridge trail is a roughly 4.5-mile long out-and-back hike that takes between six and seven hours to do round trip—but the rewards are well worth it. The route leads you through the rainforest to a scenic viewpoint overlooking the Great Barrier Reef.

How to visit

Fly into Cairns, then rent a car to get you the rest of the way. It’s a 2.5-hour drive from Cairns to the Daintree Rainforest, but you can break up the drive with a pit stop at Mossman Gorge or a seafood lunch at either Port Douglas or Palm Cove (we love NuNu for its fresh Australian fare). Book a stay in a tree house just outside the park at Daintree Ecolodge, where guests can literally sleep in the canopy. This guide will also help you make the most of your visit.

Trunks of about a dozen coniferous trees in Bialowieza Forest, with mossy ground

The Białowieża Forest in Poland is known for its coniferous trees.

Photo by Aleksander Bolbo/Shutterstock

7. Białowieża Forest

Poland and Belarus

Białowieża Forest is one of Europe’s last remaining stretches of old-growth forests. In the Middle Ages, the lowland forest served as hunting grounds for kings and tsars. In the early 20th century, Poland and Belarus declared the area—on the border of both countries—a national park, and in 1979 the forest became a UNESCO World Heritage site.

At 580 square miles, Białowieża Forest isn’t difficult to explore. While hiking, keep an eye out for herds of European bison. After being liberated from zoos and brought to the forest by the government, roughly 900 of the endangered bison now roam freely and serve as a symbol of the woods.

How to visit

You can start in the village of Białowieża, Poland, or begin from Belarus in Brest or Kamyanyets. All three villages have low-key guesthouse and hotel options for hikers.

White-gray trunk of large Kauri tree surrounded by greenery in Waipoua Forest

Kauri trees grow in Waipoua Forest, Northland, New Zealand.

Photo by Shutterstock

8. Waipoua Forest

New Zealand

New Zealand is no stranger to incredible nature, and the Waipoua Forest on the north island is a fine example of it. The oldest tree in this forest, known as Tāne Mahuta—or “Lord of the Forest”—is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old and stands at 150 feet tall. This coniferous tree was one of many in Waipoua Forest that was almost wiped out when European settlers arrived in the 19th century and started cutting down kauri trees for wood.

Luckily, the ancient forest in New Zealand was designated a sanctuary in 1952 and has since been left largely undamaged.

How to visit

To wander among these towering trees, rent a car in Auckland and drive three hours along the North Island’s coast. Stay in Dargaville and make the forest (an hour away) a day trip, or find a lodge close by to linger longer.

About a dozen baobabs alongside dirt road

Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar

Photo by Monika Hrdinova/Shutterstock

9. Avenue of the Baobabs


Hundreds of years ago, the ancient trees that line the Avenue of the Baobabs were part of a tropical forest dense with Adansonia grandidieri, a strikingly beautiful tree endemic to Madagascar. After years of deforestation, only around 20 of the species—commonly known as baobabs—still stand tall along the famous dirt road. In their peculiar shape and unique “upside-down” stature, these majestic trees are particularly imposing at dawn and dusk.

How to visit

The Avenue of the Baobabs is a short taxi ride from Morondava, a low-slung, easy-paced city on the west coast of Madagascar. The easiest way to get here is with a quick flight from the capital, Antananarivo (Tana, for short).
For a more involved journey, book a five-day adventure with Madagascar Travel and Tours. The itinerary highlights include a visit to the Kirindy Reserve (home to eight species of lemurs!), sunset at the Avenue of the Baobabs, and a stop in Antsirabe, a town known for its delicious cheeses.

Aerial view of Misty Fjords National Monument in Tongass National Forest, with two small peninsulas full of evergreens surrounded by flat water

The USA also has some ancient forests, including the Tongass National Forest, Alaska.

Photo by Lee Prince/Shutterstock

10. Tongass National Forest


This temperate rainforest in Alaska is the largest national forest in the United States. At 16.7 million acres, Tongass National Forest takes up a vast stretch of southeast Alaska. The Tongass is home to some of the most well-preserved old-growth in North America—many of the trees are estimated to be over 800 years old.

Deer Mountain trail, a difficult but popular hike, traverses lush sections of this U.S. national forest. But don’t go trekking alone: Even the shorter routes are steep and challenging, and the area is filled with diverse wildlife, including wolves and grizzly bears.

How to visit

To find a local trekking guide, head to nearby Ketchikan. Nicknamed the “Salmon Capital of the World,” this town offers fishing as its main draw for visitors. However, you’d be remiss to skip out on opportunities to hike and learn more about the Native Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes who call this area home. To absorb everything the area has to offer, book a room at Waterfall Resort (call 800-544-5125 for reservation and prices) or Cape Fox Lodge (from $160) and stay a few days.

This article originally appeared online in 2015; it was updated on March 26, 2024, to include current information.

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