Best National Parks in India
15+ National Parks in India That You Should Definitely Visit
I know that these times are tough, with the deadly Coronavirus or COVID – 19, spreading its wrath everywhere ! We have no idea when we will be able to travel ! But that doesn’t mean, you can’t put travel destinations on your future travel bucket list. Having said that, here’s bringing to your screens, a curated list of 15+ National Parks of India, that you should definitely be having on your domestic travel bucket list in the near future.
Update | November 2020 – Safaris in most of these National Parks in India have resumed, and the permits needs to be booked online in advance. The gypsy’s are sanitised regularly, the drivers and guides have masks on, and there is a thick transparent barrier between the guests and the driver in every gypsy.
As a guest, you need to be responsible and follow all precautions, and get tested before taking a trip into the wilderness.
Hemis National Park
By Arnav Mathur | High On Himalayas
Established in 1981 Hemis National Park (or Hemis High Altitude National Park) is a high altitude national park in the eastern Ladakh Union Territory of the Republic of India, and is named after the famous monastery of Ladakh, Hemis Gompa – One of the main monastery and tourist attraction in Leh Ladakh, covered in this 7 Day Leh Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary. Located on the west bank of the Indus River, it comprises the catchments of Markha, Rumbak and Sumdah nalas, and is flanked by five villages namely Shingo, Chillinga, Yurutse, Rumbak and Sku-Kaya
Globally famous for its snow leopards, Hemis National Park is believed to have the highest density of them in any protected area in the world, and home to almost 11 species of fauna and 30 species of avifauna, including leopards, Tibetan Wolf, Eurasian Brown Bear and Red fox, amongst others.
Did you know that Hemis National Park is the only park in the country, which is located in the northern region of Himalayas and it is the largest National Park in India.
There are no motorable roads inside Hemis National Park, which makes trekking the only way to explorience the mesmerising beauty of Hemis National Park. There are plenty of treks one can do in Hemis National Park, including the Markha Valley Trek, which becomes the ideal alternative for travellers, who encounter the cancellation of the Chadar Trek, due to the weather changes, leading to the breaking of the Chadar.
If you plan on visiting Hemis National Park, plan your visit, either during the Hemis Festival, which takes place in the summer months, or plan your trip to Leh Ladakh in Winters, when you can go on a Snow Leopard Trekking Expedition.
Great Himalayan National Park
Established in 1984, the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP), spread over an area of 1171 sq km is located in the western part of the Himalayan Mountains in the northern Indian State of Himachal Pradesh, and was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in June 2014.
Did you know that the Great Himalayan National Park is one of only two national parks in the world to house a significant population of the endangered Western Tragopan (with the other in Pakistan) and is an absolutely pristine area.
GHNP forms a part of the protected area that also includes Rupi Bhaba Sanctuary and Pin Valley National Park, and a major part of this national park of India is permanently under glaciers and ice. Comprising of four valleys, namely Tirthan valley, Sainj valley, Jiwa Nal valley and Parvati valley, GHNP is a hikers and trekkers paradise, in Himachal Pradesh, India, as trekking is the only way to enjoy and explore the Great Himalayan National Park.
One of the best treks you can do in GHNP is the Pin Parvati Pass Trek, a 7-8 day trek, which includes the famed Kheerganga trek as well.
Jim Corbett National Park
By Anjali Chawla | Travel Melodies
Established in 1936, then Hailey National Park, now Jim Corbett National Park is one of the oldest national parks in India. The park was renamed in 1955 as a tribute to India born British-Irish naturalist – Edward James Corbett (Jim Corbett).
Jim Corbett National Park is located in Ramnagar in Uttarakhand and can be easily reached by road or rail from Delhi.
It is one of the best places to visit in India for wildlife enthusiasts, photographers, and nature lovers. Corbett Tiger Reserve comes under the Project Tiger initiative and houses the highest number of Royal Bengal Tigers. So, there are higher chances of tiger sightings.
Apart from tigers, you can catch sight of the animals like leopard, spotted deer, sambar, otter, Himalayan black bear, Indian gazelle, and others. The park also has many varieties of reptiles, amphibians, migratory and local birds.
Corbett National Park has 5 different zones – Dhikala, Bijrani, Jhirna, Dhela, and Durgadevi for tourists to enjoy the adventurous safari. Dhikala, Dhela, and Bijrani zones are known to be the best zones for safari as they offer better chances of tiger sighting.
If you have got a car, a 45 minutes drive to Kaladhungi will take you to the Corbett Museum. Once home to the legendary hunter, Jim Corbett, it now houses his personal belongings as well as enthralling information about flora and fauna in Jim Corbett National Park.
You can choose to stay in and around the national park. Each zone of the national park has boarding and lodging facilities. If you plan to stay in one of the forest lodges or rest houses inside the park, make sure to book well in advance. The recommended time frames are 46 days for Indians and SAARC visitors and 91 days for foreigners.
There are some amazing resorts around the national park for people who seek luxury and comfort. Jim’s Jungle Retreat, Aahana Resort, and Rangers Reserve are the best of the lot. Whatever accommodation you book, consider the location to minimize your travel time.
If your sole focus is wildlife, better stay inside the park. It allows you to get an ample amount of time in the forest. Travelers interested in taking a jeep safari of the Dhikala zone, please be aware that it’s only possible if you’re staying in the Dhikala zone.
Keoladeo National Park
By Avantika Chaturvedi | Wayward Wayfarer
Keoladeo National Park- previously known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary- is a national park located in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. Located some 180 kilometres from Jaipur and 60 kilometres from Agra, it is one of the best short weekend getaways from Delhi. This park is a haven for migratory birds that fly from colder regions of North America, Europe and Asia during winters and come breed at the subtropical climates of the plains of northern India. This National Park in India is home to over 315 species of birds- of which over 200 are migratory, 100 are local migratory and around 15 are local species. In fact, Peter Scott, a renowned British ornithologist has called Keoldeo one of the best birding places in the world.
Keoladeo National Park also has a very interesting history. The wetland area was previously used as a hunting ground for the maharajas of Bharatpur and officials of the British East India Company. After independence, it was Dr Salim Ali- fondly known as the “Birdman of India”- who worked for the protected status of the Park. There is now a Dr Salim Ali Museum and conservation centre inside the Park premises.
Some of the Park’s most interesting birds include the Bar-headed Geese which are said to be able to fly over Mt Everest; Saras Cranes which mate for life; Greater Coucal which steals other bird’s eggs for food; and the Indian Grey Hornbill, Dr Salim Ali’s favourite bird. Apart from the many birds found here, one can also spot mammals like the blue bull or nilgai, Indian rock python, sambar deer, chital, jungle cat, Indian porcupine, Indian grey mongoose, fishing cat, small Indian civet etc.
The entry fee to the Park is quite minimal with INR 20 for students and INR 75 for other Indians. Taking a guide along is a good idea as it would be very difficult to spot the birds and other animals without their help. I found hiring a rickshaw to be the most cost-efficient as it was easy to move around the park and the rickshaw drivers double as certified guides too. One can also choose to book a stay in the forest lodge inside the Park, or in one of the many hotels in Bharatpur town. I found winters (November to February) to be the best time to visit the park as it is abundant with migratory birds during this time.
Ranthambore National Park
One of the biggest National Parks in India – Ranthambore National Park, is located in the district of Sawai Madhopur, 130km away from Jaipur, in the state of Rajasthan, and is a hot favourite with the wildlife enthusiasts.
Home to tigers, marsh crocodiles, sambhar, sloth bear, chinkara, wild boar, and leopard, Ranthambore National Park, was a former royal hunting ground, and declared a game sanctuary in 1955, and subsequently a tiger reserve in 1973, after the launch of Project Tiger.
Ranthambore National Park, which derives its name from the Ranthambore Fort that overlooks the tiger reserve, was declared a National Park in 1980.
Apart from the major wild animals like Tiger, Leopard, Sambar, Hyena etc, it is also home to a wide variety of trees, plants, birds and reptiles. The reserve also has a thriving bird population of more than 270 different species of birds.
As of today, Ranthambore National Park is divided into 10 safari zones, out of which, zones 1-5 are best for tiger sightings.
Sariska National Park
By Anjali Chawla | Travel Melodies
Sariska National Park or Sariska Tiger Reserve is easily one of the most famous tiger reserves in Rajasthan, India. Snuggled by Aravali hills, Sariska spans about 800 square kilometer area that comprises dry deciduous forests, rocky landscape, cliffs, and grasslands, and makes for a great weekend destination from Delhi (200km) and Jaipur (122 km) because of its sheer proximity. Alwar, about 35 km away, is the nearest railway station from Sariska.
Apart from the Indian tiger, a variety of other animals like sambar, blue bull, hyena, wild boar, four-horned antelope, jackal, spotted deer, leopard, jungle cats, and rhesus macaque call Sariska their home.
Did you know Sariska is home to the largest population of peafowl? It’s a haven for the bird-watchers with 220 species of beautiful birds including harbor quails, tree pie, crested serpent eagles, grey partridge, sand grouse, and golden-backed woodpeckers.
The national park is not only a delight for nature and wildlife lovers but also attracts history enthusiasts for its medieval ruins including Neelkanth temple dating back to the 6th century, Jain temple, Pandupol Hanuman temple, ancient Shyamsa caves, the 17th-century Kankwari fort, and Sariska Palace.
Located on the edge of the national park are the beautiful Siliserh Lake and the haunted Bhangarh Fort. Sariska translates to enthralling wildlife teamed with mind-boggling natural and architectural beauty. With so many experiences to take in, Sariska needs at least 2-3 days of exploration.
You can choose to stay inside the park. Sariska Palace perfectly defines luxury in nature. We stayed at the heritage hotel in Alwar, Dadhikar Fort and loved it to the core.
Though the park is open all round the year, October to March remains the best time to visit it. The safari timings vary with season. We recommend you book the safari in advance to avoid the long queues.
Sariska National Park, is one of the only National Parks in India, that allows private vehicles to enter and enjoy the safari from the comfort of your car for a nominal charge. Based on our experience, we highly recommended taking a jeep safari with a local guide, to increase your chances of tiger spotting and know more about the region’s flora and fauna. Canter safaris are also available.
Panna National Park
Panna National Park, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, in India, is spread over 543 sq km, and was carved out of the hunting reserves of the erstwhile Panna, Chattarpur and Bijawar states. Panna was accorded sanctuary status in 1975 and upgraded to a national park in 1981, and in 1994, it became India’s 22nd Tiger Reserve.
Panna has been one of the few National Parks in India, home to a highly successful Tiger relocation project. Tigers from different national parks of India, were relocated and introduced in the jungles of Panna National Park, between 2000 – 2010, and in a matter of a few years, the tiger population has thrived and grown to a good 50 odd tigers in the entire reserve.
Unlike Corbett National Park, Panna doesn’t have any zones as such. Out of the total area, only 20% is accessible to tourists, via the Madla gate and the Hinauta gates. It is always better to book an entry ticket in advance through (www.mponline.gov.in), as the maximum number of vehicles allowed to enter the park per-day is limited.
It was in Panna National Park, at 0735 in the morning on 14 December 2019, that I had my first sighting of a graceful and powerful big cat! Read all about my first Wildlife Encounter and how I spent a Weekend in Panna National park here.
Bandhavgarh National Park
Once the hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Rewa, Bandhavgarh National Park in the heart of India, is now one of the most popular National Parks of India. Declared as a National Park in 1968 and as a Tiger Reserve in 1993, Bandhavgarh National Park is spread over an area of 1536 sq.km, out of which 716 sq.km lies in the core zone – divided into three zones – Tala, Khitauli and Magdhi; and the remaining in the buffer zone.
Fun Fact – It is said that at 8 tigers per sq.km, the density of the tiger population is supposedly the highest known in India.
Other than tigers and leopards, the mixed vegetation of towering Sal trees and the grasslands, are home to 22 species of mammals, including the spotted deer, chital deer, gaur, wild boar; and over 220 species of birds.
Satpura National Park
By Abhinav Singh | A Soul Window
Satpura National Park is surely one of the most underrated National Parks of India. It’s abundant beauty does not justify its lack of popularity. I had heard a lot about this National Park and wanted to check it out myself. Arriving in the dead of night, I didn’t even have the faintest of idea about how it will look like in the morning. When I saw the view of Betwa river from the balcony of my first floor room, I was speechless. The early morning sun rays were lyrically casting its spell on the water.
We took a ferry from right outside our hotel and crossed to arrive at the Satpura National Park. As soon as our safari started, we saw a black bear foraging nonchalantly amidst the dense foliage. Little ahead, we saw a large herd of Gaur. Well built and gentle, I was awed by their characters. It was the first time I had seen a gaur. The fact that the herd was very close to our jeep compensated for failing to spot a tiger or leopard which my friends had seen on an earlier safari.
We also saw many birds, unique trees, lots of spotted deers, monkeys and crocodiles camouflaged in a nearby pond. Do make it a point to visit the park before the secret is spilled to everyone!
Pench National Park
Did you know that Rudyard Kipling, based parts of The Jungle Book in Pench National Park?
If you are not aware, Pench National Park is located in the southern reaches of the Satpura Ranges, spanning over 1180 sq km, out of which 412 sq km is the core area. The National park can be accessed through both the states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh in India, and has been part of Project Tiger since 1992 !
Pench National Park is home to the famous Collarwali and her cubs, and over 285 resident and migratory birds; major carnivores like Tiger, Leopard, Wild Dog, Hyena, Fox and the herbivores like Gaur, Sambar, Chital Deer, Nilgai, Chinkara etc, and owes its name to the river Pench which cuts a path through the forests.
The main access gates for Pench National Park are – Turiya, Khursapar, Karmazhiri and Sillari, out of which only Sillari is open throughout the year . The morning safari starts at Sunrise and goes on for 4-4.5 hours, until 11 – 1130 AM. The afternoon safari starts at 2 – 2:30 PM and goes on until Sunset.
Bandipur National Park
By Raksha Rao | The Roving Heart
Here’s something you probably didn’t know about — After Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka hosts the 2nd maximum tiger population in the country. If you are looking for a tiger reserve in Karnataka which is budget-friendly, and has good chances of sighting a tiger, then Bandipur National Park is a fantastic idea.
While on the way, you might notice plenty of deers or even bison as the main road just cuts across the national park. Bandipur National Park is located in Karnataka – Tamil Nadu border, and shares its boundary with 3 other National Parks of India namely Nagarahole National Park, Wayanad National Park and Mudumalai National Park. So, along with a Bandipur National Park safari, you can hop into Masinagudi, a range of Madumalai National Park, located just across the border for another safari.
Spread across an area of 874 square kilometers, protecting several species of India’s endangered wildlife, and together with the adjoining Nagarhole National Park (643 km2), Mudumalai National Park (320 km2) and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (344 km2), form the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve totaling 2,183 km2 making it the largest protected area in southern India and largest habitat of wild elephants in south Asia.
Tadoba National Park
By Pradeep Chamria | Exa Traveller
Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), “the jewel of Vidharva” – is Maharashtra’s oldest Tiger reserve. Tadoba was established in 1935 and was declared a National Park in 1955. Andhari Wildlife sanctuary was notified in 1986 and the Park and the sanctuary were unified in 1995 to declare it as Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve.
TATR is one of the larger tiger reserves that still maintain the pristine ecosystem of the rich biodiversity of the forest. Another specialty about this place is that it is one of the few tiger reserves that is open all year round. The monsoon sightings here are considered phenomenal.
TATR is situated in the Moharli hills of West Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. The name Tadoba comes from ‘Taru’, the local God and Andhari gets its name from Andhari river which flows through it. A shrine dedicated to Taru exists near the Tadoba lake. Local villagers are mainly Gond tribals – they speak Marathi and Gondi.
Tadoba National Park has three zones — Moharli, Tadoba, and Kolara. Moharli and Kolara are part of the Sanctuary. Moharli gate, in Mohali village, provides entry to the Moharli zone. Most of the villages have been relocated ensuring that the only population in the park is that of animals.
Tadoba is close to Nagpur and has plenty of stay options. We stayed at the MTDC resort and were welcomed by birds, Mottled Wood owl, White eyed Buzzard and a few langurs.
During our stint, we found that Tadoba was sparkling clean. Not a piece of plastic or any garbage could be seen anywhere. In fact, we used to notice jeep drivers and guides picking up plastic from the jeep tracks and putting them in their vehicles.
All in all I would say TATR is a good place for people who have loads of patience and want to enjoy the jungle in its entirety. The tiger is not just the only attraction. If one is willing to accept this fact then TATR is an excellent virgin destination for serious wildlife enthusiasts.
Periyar National Park
Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (PNP) is a protected area located in the districts of Idukki and Pathanamthitta in Kerala, India. It is notable as an elephant reserve and a tiger reserve. The protected area encompasses 925 sq. km of which 305 sq. km of the core zone was declared as the Periyar National Park in 1982.
The Periyar forests of Thekkady is one of the finest Wildlife Reserves / National Parks in India, making it one of the main destinations in this 7 Day Kerala Road Trip Itinerary. Spread across the entire district are the picturesque plantations and hill towns that nestle beautiful trails for treks and mountain walks. It is also one of the oldest tiger reserves in India.
The history of the Periyar WildLife Sanctuary and National Park is closely related to the construction of Mullaperiyar Dam. The construction of the dam across the Periyar River led to the formation of Periyar Lake in the year 1895. In 1899, the forest surrounding the lake was declared as Periyar Lake Reserve Forest. Later in 1950, the forest was expanded to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.
While there are a lot of options of exploring Periyar National Park / Periyar Tiger Reserve such as Jungle Patrol, Bamboo Rafting, Border Hiking, Boating and Trekking, however I feel that the best way to get the best experience, the rawness of nature in Periyar National Park is to opt for Bamboo Rafting, which basically involves, a one-and-a-half-hour hike through the jungle – an hour-long boat ride – and a hike back to the starting point. And walking through the forests of Periyar Tiger Reserve, is an experience next to none. As PTR controls the number of visitors entering the reserve on a daily basis, the chances of spotting different animals in their natural habitat is way too high.
The best season to visit Thekkady – The Gateway to Periyar National Park is between September and May.
Manas National Park
By Pamela Mukherjee | Every Corner of World
Manas National Park in the state of Assam, in North East India, previously known as North Kamrup Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over a territory of 519.77 sq. km and was proclaimed a sanctuary on December 01, 1928. It was declared a Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger in 1973, in 1985 – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 1989 as a Biosphere Reserve under Man & Biosphere Programme of UNESCO, and was upgraded to a National Park in September 1990.
Manas National Park / Manas Wildlife Sanctuary has exceptional importance within the Indian subcontinent’s protected areas, as one of the most significant remaining natural areas in the region, where sizable populations of a large number of threatened species continue to survive.
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is flanked on the north by the Royal Manas National Park of Bhutan and on the east and west, by the Manas Tiger Reserve, and is home to a number of species such as the Hispid Hare, Golden Langur, Indian Rhinoceros, Asiatic Buffalo Pygmy Hog, among others like Tiger, Elephant, Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Himalayan Bear, Swamp Deer, Hog Deer Wild Boar, Samber, and others.
Manas National Park is one of the two National parks in India, that shares its boundary with another country, ie. Bhutan, and is well connected through all major cities in India, via Guwahati, which is the nearest city, 176 KM away, with both an Airport and a Railway Station. The best time to visit Manas National Park is from November to April.
Namdapha National Park
By Kiki Mathawan | Travel The Himalayas
One of the most exotic Bio-Diversity Hotspots in the Eastern Himalayas the Namdapha National Park offers a wide Range of Habitats ranging from Tropical Rain Forests to Coniferous Forests to Alpine Grasslands to Snow Covered Peaks. It is the only National Park in the World which is home to 4 Species of Big Cats i.e. the Tiger, The Leopard, The Clouded Leopard and the elusive Snow Leopard.
Namdapha National Park was originally declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1972, then a National Park in 1983 and became a Tiger Reserve under the Project Tiger scheme in the same year, and covering an area of 1807 sq. km, is the fourth largest national park in India in terms of area. It is located in the Eastern Himalayan sub-region and is recognized as one of the richest areas in biodiversity in India. The park harbours the northernmost lowland evergreen rainforests in the world at 27°N latitude.
Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the Golaghat and Nagaon district of Assam, houses two-third of the total world population of greater one-horned rhinoceros, and is spread over 430 square kilometer area sprinkled with elephant-grass meadows, swampy lagoons, and dense forests.
While Kaziranga National Park is popular for the one horned rhinoceros, it is also home to the Royal Bengal Tigers, swamp deer and Asian elephants, which along with wild water buffaloes form the Big Five of Kaziranga National Park. Over the time, the tiger population has also increased in Kaziranga, and that’s the reason why Kaziranga was declared as Tiger Reserve in 2006.
The history of Kaziranga takes us back to the year 1904 when the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon along with his wife, Mary Curzon went on an excursion to this region, where to their surprise they found no signs of the rhinos. Seeing this, Mary Curzon persuaded her husband to take measures to protect the one-horned rhinoceros whose population was decreasing at an alarming rate. As A Result, in 1905 an area of 232 sq km of Kaziranga was declared a Proposed Reserve Forest. Later in 1908, with an addition of 152 sq km more, Kaziranga was declared a reserve forest.
Six years later, in 1916, it was redesignated as Kaziranga Game Sanctuary and in 1950, as Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary. It was not until 1968, that Kaziranga was designated as a national park when the area was expanded to 430 sq km. Kaziranga National Park was recognized by UNESCO as the World Heritage Site in the year 1985.
This national park of India is also recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) making it not only an ideal wildlife sighting destination in India but a birdwatcher’s paradise as well.
The best time to visit is between November to April, as Kaziranga closes earlier due to the monsoons, as compared to other national parks of India.
Sundarbans National Park
Spanning over 10,000 sq. km of area, the Sundarbans forest is shared between the two countries, India and Bangladesh. The Indian part of the Sundarbans forest, comprising 4,262 sq. km of the total forest area constitutes the Sundarbans National Park, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Did you know that Sundarbans National Park is part of the World’s Largest Delta – Sundarbans Delta which is known to be the home of the biggest mangrove forest in the world, and also believed to host the largest population of the Bengal Tigers !
The Sunderbans National Park is many things at once, a biosphere reserve, national park and tiger reserve, such is the richness of this mangrove ecosystem. Since 1966, the Sundarbans have been a wildlife sanctuary, and it is estimated that there are over 400 Royal Bengal Tigers and about 30, 000 spotted deer in the area.
Similar to the other National Parks of India in North East India, the best time to visit Sunderbans National Park is between November to March.
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