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India's top 10 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks

India's top 10 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks

By Aquib Nawab

17 Jun, 2024

India is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and wildlife. From the mighty Himalayas in the north to the steamy jungles of the south, India harbors some of the most ecologically diverse habitats on earth. This richness in fauna and flora has led to the establishment of hundreds of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks throughout the country.

For any wildlife enthusiast visiting India, its national parks and wildlife sanctuaries offer an unparalleled opportunity to experience nature and exotic wildlife first-hand. The sheer diversity of landscapes, from thick tropical forests and wetlands to dry grasslands and towering mountains, means you can spot everything from majestic Bengal tigers to lumbering Indian one-horned rhinos and tiny exotic birds.

To experience the very best of India's wildlife and natural heritage, here are the top 10 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries that should be on every nature lover's itinerary:

1. Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand

The oldest national park in India, Jim Corbett is famed for its healthy population of tigers and elephant safaris. Situated in the Himalayan foothills, it is blessed with a varied landscape of hills, marshy lowlands, rivers and grasslands.

Jeep safaris in the park offer a chance to spot the magnificent Bengal tiger as well as leopards, sloth bears, wild elephants and over 600 species of birds.

Jim Corbett National Park(Credits: Canva)

2. Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan

The tiger capital of India, Ranthambore is your best bet for glimpsing these majestic big cats in the wild. Set in the vivid landscape of the Aravallis and Vindhyas ranges, the park is dotted with lakes, rivers and forests.

Early morning and late afternoon safaris reveal tigers hunting and relaxing, along with leopards, nilgai, sloth bears, wild boar and hyenas. The 10th century Ranthambore Fort within the park is an added bonus for history buffs.

Ranthambore National Park(Credits: Canva)

3. Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, Kanha offers one of India’s most memorable jungle experiences. Sal and bamboo forests, grassy meadows and ravines provide the perfect setting to spot tigers, leopards, barasinghas, swamp deer, sloth bears and more.

Keep your eyes peeled for the rare hardground Barasingha, only found in Kanha.

Kanha National Park(Credits: Canva)

4. Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh

One of the best managed national parks in India, Bandhavgarh boasts of the highest density of tigers in the country. Set among the Vindhya Hills, its landscape varies from dense sal forests to open grasslands.

Along with tigers, regular sightings include leopards, gaur, chital, nilgai and chausingha as well as over 250 species of birds. Jeep safaris and elephant rides are available to spot the wildlife.

Bandhavgarh National Park(Credits: Canva)

5. Kaziranga National Park, Assam

A World Heritage Site, Kaziranga lies in the floodplains of the Brahmaputra River. Its lush forests, tall elephant grass and marshland are home to the world’s largest population of the Great Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros.

Jeep and elephant safaris reveal these armor-plated giants along with tigers, swamp deer, wild water buffalo and over 500 species of birds. The park is also well-known for its conservation success story.

Kaziranga National Park(Credits: Canva)

6. Periyar National Park, Kerala

Famous for its elephant and tiger reserve, Periyar is located in the Cardamom Hills of Kerala. The park encompasses a 26 sq km artificial lake along with evergreen tropical forests.

Enjoy boating on the lake as you watch elephants come down to bathe and drink. Other wildlife includes tigers, leopards, lion-tailed macaques, sambar deer and Nilgiri langurs along with many bird species.

Periyar National Park(Credits: Canva)

7. Gir National Park, Gujarat

The only place on earth where you can see Asiatic lions in the wild, Gir is home to over 500 of these regal big cats. Dry deciduous forests interspersed with grasslands and rocky hills make up the landscape.

Along with lions, the park has thriving populations of leopards, nilgai, chital, chousingha, crocodiles and more. Go on a jeep safari and you may just spot a lion lounging under a tree or feasting on a fresh kill.

Periyar National Park(Credits: Canva)

8. Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary, Wayanad

Muthunga Wildlife Sanctuary, nestled in Wayanad, Kerala, is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, it spans verdant forests and open grasslands, providing a habitat for elephants, tigers, leopards, deer, and numerous bird species.

The sanctuary is renowned for its biodiversity, offering safari tours and nature trails for visitors to experience its pristine environment. Muthunga's rich flora and fauna make it a significant conservation area and a popular destination for nature lovers.

Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary(Credits: Canva)

9. Corbett Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand

Not to be confused it's more famous namesake Jim Corbett National Park, this lesser known gem is situated in the Himalayan foothills near Nainital. Sal forests and grassy meadows harbor tigers, elephants, leopards, crocodiles and over 600 species of birds.

Tour the area by jeep or car, taking in the exquisite backdrop for spotting wildlife in their natural environs.

Corbett Tiger Reserve(Credits: Canva)

10. Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal

For an utterly unique wildlife adventure, visit the Sundarbans mangrove forests. Home to the majestic Royal Bengal tiger, this World Heritage Site spans thousands of islands set in the delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers.

Cruise along the river channels and estuaries to spot tigers, saltwater crocodiles, chital deer, fishing cats and water monitors. With any luck, you may get a glimpse of the elusive tiger swimming through a channel or lounging on the river banks.

Sundarbans National Park(Credits: Canva)

rom the dry forests of Ranthambore to the steamy jungles of Sundarbans, India’s wildlife havens open up a world of nature that has to be seen to be believed. To truly experience India’s incredible biodiversity and see its exotic wildlife up-close, make sure to include one or more of these top national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in your itinerary. They promise memories to last a lifetime.

Stay at The Hosteller while traveling to these destinations! As India's largest backpacking chain, The Hosteller has centers all over the country. Click here to explore our locations.

After a rewarding day of spotting exotic wildlife, unwind in true backpacker style at one of The Hosteller's convenient, sociable and affordable hostels. It's the perfect way to meet like-minded travelers and share your amazing Indian experiences.

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