India is home to natural beauty — a lot of which remains undiscovered — and breath-taking landscapes from some of the most pristine waterfalls to the picturesque beauty of Leh Ladakh and Kashmir. India’s biodiversity is exemplary, with national parks in the Himalayan region, the central plains, the Western Ghats and mangrove forests in the east. To protect the endemic and endangered, wildlife reserves have been created and these double up as national parks that make for extravagant vacation destinations. Operated by the government and forest authorities, here are the best national parks in India to visit if you’re a wildlife enthusiast, depending on the season!
Jawai National Park, Rajasthan
Rajasthan has some of the most coveted wildlife reserves, one of the lesser-known of them is Jawai near Udaipur. Known as the leopard expanse of India, it is on the mounts of Aravalli in the Pali district of Rajasthan. An upcoming luxury destination, the jungle safari is one of the biggest attractions in the region.
The leopard safari in the region of Jawai Bandh draws the attention of wildlife enthusiasts. The beauty is how leopards and humans co-exist in the Jawai region. Wild leopards are easily spotted near the areas of the Jawai dam along with many residential and migratory birds. The best part about a stay at Jawai is the luxury camps nestled in the midst of the national park in the backdrop of the dramatic wilderness. Travel here to spend unforgettable days in the wilderness tracking leopards and other wildlife. Blending sophistication and ecology, there is no better place to discover one of India’s most enchanting and breathtakingly beautiful landscapes.
Best time to visit: October to early April
How to get there: Udaipur is the closest airport and is a 3-hour drive.
Ranthambore is one of the most sought-after national parks in India. Spread over 1334 sq km of deciduous forests and grasslands, the park was formerly a royal hunting lodge for the Jaipur Maharaja. Today the area is synonymous with unmatched luxury and the former hunting grounds of the Jaipur Maharaja, who built Sawai Madhopur, the park’s main entrance town. The royal hunting lodge is now a premium hotel.
Best time to visit: April to June
How to get there: Jaipur’s Sanganer Airport is the nearest airport and is a 3.5-hour drive.
Located in the heart of Madhya Pradesh, Pench National Park is named after the pristine River Pence which flows through the park. The park also has a mention in the iconic story The Jungle Book, making it a popular tourist attraction in India. Sprawling over a massive area of 758 sq km, Pench National Park allows visitors to explore majestic trails, and beautiful paths of Pench National Park, and get one of the finest wildlife experiences in India. Serving as the cosy nest of numerous wild creatures including the Royal Bengal tiger, jackal, peafowl, wild dog, wild boar, sloth bear, Indian leopard, fox, striped hyena, monkey, gaur, barking deer, four-horned antelope, Indian wolf, and more make it a must-visit national park in India. And when it comes to luxury stays, the options are plentiful.
Best time to visit: October to February
How to get there: Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport in Nagpur is the closest airport and is located 130 km from the park.
Touted as the ultimate tiger reserve in India, the Sundarban National Park is one of the lushest and most breath-taking spots in the country. While it may not be the first choice for many given its remote location, it’s definitely worth a visit in your lifetime. Wet and damp given the typography of the region, the silence is interrupted by the melodious singing of birds and the roar of tigers. Known as one of the world’s largest mangrove forests, with tributaries that form an intricate system of networks, taking a boat ride in the Sunerbans and encountering crocodiles are some of the most coveted experiences. Spread across 40,000 sq. km its name means beautiful forests in the local language. Another reasons are the Sundari trees, which are dominant in this mangrove area. Their uniqueness lies in their roots which shoot upwards for respiration, particularly during waterlogging during monsoons.
Best time to visit: September to March
How to get there: Sundarbans National Park can only be accessed by boat and is located about 100 km southeast from Kolkata’s International Airport.
When it comes to national parks in India, Sariska cannot be missed. Yet another tiger reserve in India, Sariska National Park is located in Alwar district, Rajasthan, India, a short drive away from Delhi. Rocky hills, grasslands, sharp cliffs of hills and narrow valleys of the Aravallis dominate the landscape of Sariska. It was declared a sanctuary in 1955 and became a National Park in 1979. The Sariska National Park is home to India’s largest population of peafowl and harbours quail, sand grouse, golden-backed woodpeckers, crested serpent and more. Temples inside Sariska help you dive deeper into the cultural history of the region. The main attraction is the Jeep safari, that offers opportunities to spot one of the big jungle cats found in the region, including leopards and tigers, but also other attractions including the Sambar deer and peacocks.The reserve is famous for bird watching, with more than 220 species of birds including migratory birds from Europe, Central Asia, and other regions calling it their home.
Best time to visit: October to February
How to get there: Jaipur Airport is the closest airport which is 7 km from the national park.
Covered in snow and ice, Hemis National Park is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful national parks in the country. Surrounded by the high-altitude mountains of Ladakh, the haunt of the elusive snow leopard makes this one of the most sought-after national parks. Covering 4,400 sq kms of alpine forests across the Karakoram–West Tibetan Plateau this park boasts the highest density of snow leopards in the world. You can also spot blue sheep, the Great Tibetan Sheep, and Asiatic ibexes and look up to catch a glimpse of the Golden Eagle, the Himalayan griffon vulture, and several other birds of prey.
Best time to visit: May to October
How to get there: Leh is the closest airport to Hemis
Jump into the wild side as you visit the lion’s den, Sariska National Park. Spread across 1412 sq km it was once the private hunting lodge of the Nawab of Junagadh, where lions were hunted here by royalty during the British colonial era. However, the most thrilling is an early morning safari in the area. To add to the cultural arena, the park was once home to indigenous Maldharis and Siddhis tribes, and you can even book trips to see their villages, temples, and dances. This is one of the national parks that is closed from mid-June to mid-October due to the monsoon season.
Best time to visit: October to May
How to get there: The closest airport is Keshod airport which is located around 70 km from the park.
A lesser-visited park by many, if a rare sight of a rhinoceros is what you are after, Kaziranga Wildlife Park has more than two-thirds of the world’s population of rhinos. A UNESCO world heritage site of India, it is known for the Great Indian one-horned Rhinoceros. Spread 430 sq km along the plains of the Brahmaputra River, it is one of the lushest areas you can find. In 2006, Kaziranga has also been declared a Tiger Reserve given the increase in tiger population. But along with that, you can expect to spot elephants, wild water buffalos, and swamp deers. The vast expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests make the park look beautiful, but it’s the presence of the Brahmaputra river, which makes it look enigmatic. You can opt for a jeep or elephant safari basis your preference to explore the park.
Best time to visit: November to February
How to get there: The closest airport to Kaziranga is Guwahati, which is 295 km from the national park.