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7 Most Diverse National Parks of India That You Must Visit


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India is not just about monuments, history, culture and food. There is an alternate way to experience India, for which you need to travel beyond the cities and get into the wild! The country houses more than 500 wildlife sanctuaries. These sanctuaries are home to some of the most endangered, exotic and elusive animals. From the highlands to the mangroves and from desert to evergreen forests, the experience of visiting these parks is as visually stunning as the wild animals in them. This list brings you the most diverse national parks that take you through disparate landforms and wildlife.

1. Hemis National Park

In the valley of Ladakh, little vegetation, rugged Himalayan peaks, clear blue skies and white snow dominates the landscape of the Hemis park. The largest national park in India houses around 200 snow leopards that prowl around the area. The ability of these ghost cats to camouflage in their surroundings makes it very difficult to spot them. But Hemis National Park still offers some chance to find one of these elusive cats.

This park is recommended for people who are physically fit and can sustain in subzero temperatures. It does not have roads to drive through, and the only option to explore the park is through various treks. But no matter which direction you will head for, the views of this region are ethereal, something you will never forget.

The Markha Valley route is very popular. They are sold everywhere in the city of Leh, but do not underestimate its difficulty. This trek requires a minimum of 8 days of moderate to strenuous walking for 6-7 hours every day. You must research well for the kind of trek you can do. For information on trekking routes, visit the website lehladakhindia.com/hemis-national-park

Getting there

The nearest airport to the park is at Leh. Once you reach the town of Leh, you can hire a taxi to reach the entrance of the park from where all your treks will originate.

Best Time to Visit

The months of May to October are best to travel to Hemis National Park. The park is inaccessible in the winter season due to heavy snowfall. Make sure to keep a few days in hand to acclimatize to the altitude before you start the trek.

Where to stay

There are no hotels in the vicinity of the park. You will have to either camp or opt for a homestay in the tribal villages. These accommodations are pretty basic without much comfort but enough to rest you through the night. See places to stay in Leh you can search here.

Wildlife in Hemis National Park
Photo © Ondřej Prosický | Dreamstime.com

2. Ranthambore National park

Located in the desert state of Rajasthan, this park was a former hunting ground of the maharajas. The terrain of the park is a combination of seasonal lakes, grasslands, marshes and small hills. Ranthambore is the most coveted tiger sanctuary in the country for having a healthy population of tigers. These big cats have grown here to be tourist-friendly, and the jungle is not too dense, which accounts for a better probability of sighting. Even if you are unable to find a tiger, you can easily see many other animals such as sloth bears, sambar deer and Indian fox wandering through the forest. Do not miss climbing the 10th-century Ranthambore fort for adding some history and awesome views to your trip.

The park is divided into ten zones. Zones 1-5 are the core of the forest, and 6-10 are buffer areas. Try to get a safari in the core area. You should pre-book your safari to avoid paying too much or getting disappointed if the safari is unavailable

Getting there

The nearest airport is at Jaipur. Hire a taxi or take a train for another 2.5 to 3 hours journey to Ranthambore.

Best time to visit

It is recommended to visit the park between October to March. Avoid May and June as the temperatures in the desert region soar high.

Where to stay

From glamping to luxury hotels, there are all sorts of accommodation around the forest reserve. You have ample options to choose from what fits your budget.

Wildlife in Ranthambore National Park
Photo © Ondřej Prosický | Dreamstime.com
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3. Sundarbans National Park

Situated in eastern India, this forest divides the countries of India and Bangladesh with the largest mangroves of the world. The UNESCO world heritage site is one of the most biologically productive ecosystems. Sunderbans is the only mangrove that is inhabited by tigers. Evolved to their surroundings, the tigers of the marshes are notoriously famous for being skilled swimmers and maneaters. These swamps are home to many other wild species and rare aquatic animals such as yellow lobsters, irrawaddy dolphins and bull sharks.

To have an up-close encounter with the wildlife, a boat safari is the only option to visit the park. You can go with an organized tour on a predefined itinerary or book an exclusive guided tour in a safari-style boat. The private trips are a bit expensive but give you a lot of flexibility to navigate narrow waterways, stop at watchtowers and visit villages. Sunderbans also have houseboat accommodations. Staying in a boat overnight is an altogether unique experience.

Getting there

Kolkata is the nearest airport and the origin city of most cruises. You can choose between basic and luxury cruises.

Best time to visit

October to March is the ideal time to visit Sundarbans. The summer months are uncomfortably hot and humid, and the months of July to September brings heavy rains to the area, which makes cruising dangerous.

Where to stay

There are few lodges and resorts near the villages and islands of Sundarbans. The resorts can also arrange a boat tour for you.

Sundarbans boat rides
Photo © David Evison | Dreamstime.com

4. Jim Corbett National Park

Set amidst the foothills of the Himalayas, the Jim Corbett National Park is the oldest forest reserve in the country. The park’s landscape is straight out of a typical wilderness story. With thick green forests, mountains in the backdrop, meandering rivers, tall grasslands dotted with leopards, hyenas, elephants, and tigers, Jim Corbett is a treat for any wildlife enthusiast. The Park is divided into five zones, and each has its separate entrance. There are canters and private jeep safaris to help you explore the forest.

Getting there

The nearest airport is at Pantnagar. However, it does not have much flight connectivity. The park is a six-hour drive from New Delhi. Since most people travel to India via New Delhi it is best to hire a taxi from the city itself.

Best time to visit

December to March is an excellent time to visit Jim Corbett. The chances to spot a tiger and other animals become higher when they come out of the dense forest to bask in the winter sun.

Where to stay

Right outside the entrance, there are many good resorts. Few basic accommodations are available to stay even inside the park. Though they are less luxurious but highly recommended for a real jungle feel. Please check the website corbettonline.uk.gov.in for more information on safari and accommodations of different regions within the forest.

Elephants in Jim Corbett National Park
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5. Kaziranga National Park

The gigantic one-horned rhino was on the verge of extinction until the 20th century. Its conservation is the greatest success story of the continent, and the Kaziranga National Park plays a pivoted role in it. This park hosts 2/3 of the entire population of Indian horned rhinos and the highest density of the Royal Bengal tigers.

Located in the eastern end of the nation, within the state of Assam, Kaziranga park is the last unmodified belt of this part of the country. The vast expanse of the flatlands park is covered with tall elephant grass. The longest river of the country that flows through Kaziranga forms flood lakes and sandbars. You can plan a safari on a jeep, boat or elephant to visit the park.

Getting there

The park is in one corner of the country, therefore, you will have to work out from the few available options to reach there. Jorhat and Tezpur are the nearest airports but have a limited frequency of flights. However, you can fly to Guwahati, take a train to Silghat, and then hire a cab for the forward journey.

Best time to visit

November to February are the best months to visit Kaziranga.

Where to stay

There are several resorts and lodges in the villages surrounding the Kaziranga National Park. Most of them are very close to the park and equipped with modern amenities.

Rhino in Kaziranga National Park
Photo © Shuvrangshu Suklabaidya | Dreamstime.com

6. The Gir National Forest

Is the only home to the endangered Asiatic lions. There are only around 600 Asiatic lions in the world, and all of them live in Gir. The forest is a mix of dry deciduous and evergreens, grasslands, rocky hills, plateaus and marshes. Apart from the lions, the sanctuary also houses more wildlife such as black bucks, chital, and leopard. Jeep safari is the only option to explore the forest of Gir. There are government-approved jeeps and guides to take you to inside the park.

Getting there

The closest major airport to Gir is Ahmedabad, which is still far from the forest. You might have to take a seven-hour taxi drive to reach the forest. Many trains ply between Ahmedabad and Junagadh, the nearest railhead, two hours away from Gir.

Best time to visit

Between October to March is a pleasant season in Gir because summers are extremely hot and humid.

Where to stay

You cannot stay inside the park, but there are plenty of options within 15-20 km radii to stay on the park periphery.

Wildlife in Gir National Forest
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7. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

If you are travelling to South India, make sure to visit the Periyar wildlife sanctuary. The park is noted for its large herds of Asian elephants. Besides the elephants, the park shelters many species, including the Royal Bengal tiger Nilgiri langurs and lion-tailed macaque.

Nestled between the mountains within the thickly wooded park of Periyar, even sunlight is difficult to penetrate. Only certain areas are open to tourists for safari.

periyartigerreserve.org will give you all the options to explore the park. You can opt for a boat cruise or a nature walk. The forest trail winds through a variety of trees such as teak, rosewood and sandalwood. Prebook your tour because they are popular and might get sold out.

Getting there

Cochin and Madurai are two big airports close to the sanctuary. Both these cities have private and state buses that connect the sanctuary. Make sure to include the hill station of Munnar in your itinerary, known for its tea estates and scenic beauty.

Best time to visit

Periyar is one of the few parks of India that are open all year round, but the months of September to April are better seasons to visit the park.

Where to stay

Thekaddy is the base town to visit the sanctuary. There are many options to stay in Thekaddy. Book yourself an eco-friendly property that aims at sustainable tourism for more character to the trip.

Landscape of Periyar National Park
Photo © Parin Parmar | Dreamstime.com

Summary

The parks mentioned in the article are not the only parks that are worth visiting in India. The country has some of the largest green covers in the world, with more than 20% of its land reserved for forests. While you are amid your typical Indian tourist itinerary, you might forget that there is also a forest on a slight detour. Full of exotic flora and fauna, these hinterlands are the places where you will experience the real cultural and geographical diversity of the country. Make sure you include one of these forest experiences while you are visiting cities of India.


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Written by

Shalbha Sarda

For Shalbha travelling and writing about travel experiences is something that feeds her heart and soul. A mother of two, working for an IT company, writing is her passion and now turned into a profession. In the four years of her travel writing journey, she documented her experiences on websites, newspapers, inflight magazines and conducted live sessions.

Follow her on tripoto.com/profile/shalbhasarda and Instagram at @shalbhasarda to see more. [Read full bio]

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