IT'S famous for its spectacular scenery and picture perfect villages, plus the thousands of free-roaming animals that mingle with residents and visitors alike.

Now the New Forest has been named the best national park in Europe and the tenth best in the world - outshining global "big-hitters" such as the Grand Canyon.

The Forest has excelled in the "outdoor enthusiasts" category in the Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice Awards for 2022.

Its success could give the Forest's tourism industry a major boost, helping hotels and other traders recover from the crippling economic impact of the pandemic.

A Tripadvisor spokesman said: "2022 is shaping up to be the year we return to travel in a big way.

"Despite new variant surges, data shows that the desire to travel remains stronger than ever. In fact, 78% of Brits in a recent Tripadvisor-sponsored survey said they were likely to travel for leisure in 2022, compared to 72% in 2019.

“As the world returns to travel, priorities are changing and people want more memorable experiences on their trips.

"Two of the UK’s national parks receive global acclaim this year - the New Forest and Snowdonia. They are one and two in Europe respectively and 10 and 11 in the world, ranking above the likes of global big-hitters including the Grand Canyon."

Anthony Climpson, chief executive of Go New Forest, described it as a shot in the arm for tourism businesses.

He added: "It’s pleasing the world’s travellers are finally catching up with what we’ve known for years and falling in love with the magical wonder of our fabulous destination.

"But we’ll not be resting on our laurels.

"Shortly, Go New Forest is launching the New Forest Green Leaf Tourism Business Scheme to help businesses turn over a green leaf as they reduce carbon and improve their environmental and social outputs.

"We also recognise it is critical that local tourism supports the Forest itself and its unique way of life."

David Harrison is a district councillor and a member of the Lymington-based National Park Authority.

He said: "The New Forest is truly an exceptional national park, not least because it's so varied, with wonderful woodlands, heathland, marsh and coastal areas.

"Living in the area, there's a danger we can take it for granted.

"It makes it all the more important that organisations work together to tackle the pressures from tourism, recreation, climate change and inappropriate development."