Where to go on India wildlife vacations

Map & highlights

Wildlife may like to roar, but sometimes it’s the quiet ones you need to watch. The great national parks such as Ranthambhore or Bandhavgarh are extraordinary places, with wildlife roaming around ancient jungle strewn ruins. Or check out Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam, home to two thirds of the world’s one-horned rhinos. You can also to travel to less frenzied fauna hangouts, such as Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary or Thattekdad Bird Sanctuary in Kerala or the Gir National Park in Gujarat where Asiatic lions rule the roost. India is one big roost for many different types of birds as well, with Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan a whole other world of natural and cultural heritage.
Bandhavgarh National Park Gujarat Kanha National Park Keoladeo National Park Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary Snow leopards in Ladakh Pench National Park Periyar National Park Rathambhore National Park Sariska National Park Tadoba National Park Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary

Bandhavgarh National Park

For many this is the best of bestial beauties in India and often included on the Delhi-Taj-tigers circuit. But it is worthy of much more than a day trip. With dramatic arid landscapes combined with dense forest trails, its gamut of gorgeous wildlife includes white and Bengal tigers, leopard, sambar, nilgai, and gaur. Many of which find refuge in the rocks and ruins around the centuries old Bandhavgarh Fort.


Well known as a natural nirvana by experts for years, it is only slowly coming onto the wildlife tourists’ wishlist. Not a minute too late, with highlights like the Little Rann of Kutch saline desert, where wild asses, chinkara, desert fox and striped hyenas mooch around mirage shimmering saline desert. Or Velavadar National Park with its blackbuck beauties and Gir National Park where the Asiatic lion reigns.

Kanha National Park

If you look at a map of India’s tiger habitats, it’s as if they laid out a red carpet for them to elegantly stroll along the length of the country. Bang in the middle is Kanha National Park where tigers and leopard elegantly stroll through grassy plateaus, misty plains and bamboo forests. Like paparazzi, you can camp out here to await these and other beautiful stars, such as sambar, chital, monkeys and mongoose.

Keoladeo National Park

Another of those Indian dichotomies, this is a vast wetland in the middle of a desert state, flooded purely for fun of the Maharajas and Viceroys who liked to shoot the blasted birds out of the sky. Thankfully over 360 species still thrive here from kingfishers to coots, storks to birds of prey. As well as sambar and nilgai wandering aimlessly, as if to say, ‘I’m liking this water thing’.

Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary

The place to see leopard, the word ‘sanctuary’ always makes somewhere seem small and exclusive somehow. But this beauty stretches for nearly 600km2 across Rajasthan’s Aravelli hills and takes its name from the magnificent fortress that dominates it. As well we leopard, look out for hyena, wolves, nilgai, the elegant golden chinkara and the chausingha, a four-horned antelope.

Snow leopards in Ladakh

This is up there with one of the finest wildlife experiences in the world, although you do need to be patient and optimistic to get a glimpse. Meanwhile, you won’t get bored trekking through these magnificent landscapes and valleys of Hemis National Park in late winter when the snow leopards come down from the frozen elevations in search of food. As do ibex, wolf, blue sheep and lynx.

Pench National Park

Said to be the park that inspired Kipling to write The Jungle Book, far from fiction this is now a land of leopard that enjoy the habitats around the Satpuda Hills or Pench River valleys. Although it is also called the Pench Tiger Reserve, the striped beauties are very elusive here, but you will see herds of gaur (Indian bison), chital, sambar and Fnilgai as well as sloth bear and civets.

Periyar National Park

A feast for your eyes, in Kerala’s Western Ghat Mountains, this is not only a tiger reserve but also habitat for elephants, monkeys, wild pigs and hundreds of species of bird. As well as the Indian bison, or gaur, which gather with their fellow fauna at Periyar Lake. But be warned, it can get packed especially on cruise boats. Take a guided walking safari or bamboo raft trip to avoid the party boat vibe.

Ranthambore National Park

It may be the most famous home to Bengal tigers but there is a whole jungle book story going on here. There are jungle covered ruins where leopard and jungle cats hide, or the River Chambal and tributaries where sloth bears and black bucks gather. And vast open plains, claimed by the likes of chital, nilgai and chinkara. Ranthambore is definitely one of the bare necessities of wildlife watching in India.

Sariska National Park

Given that it is famous for being the desert state, Rajasthan is rich in other habitats and Sariska encompasses many of these. As well as being a tiger reserve, although there aren’t many here, the arid forests and rocky cliffs of the Aravelli Hills are also home to leopard, jungle cats, hyena, chausingha and sambar. All sauntering around an ancient temple complex and 16th century Kankwadi fort.

Tadoba National Park

A Central India hotspot for tigers but more off the tourist trail than many. Also known as Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, named after the god Tadoba, worshipped by tribal people living in surrounding forests, many of whom are now trained as naturalist guides. This is, for them, sacred ground, and no wonder, with heavenly creatures such as panthers, hyenas, sloth bears, bison and deer.

Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary

A divine spot for hiking, Kerala’s colossal birdlife flits from tree to tree in forested foothills of the Western Ghat Mountains, rich in teak, mahogany and rosewood. Between these fecund forests and tributaries of the River Periyar there’s a Kerala cornucopia of Malabar parakeets, Wayanad laughing thrush, Malabar grey hornbill and white bellied blue flycatchers to Tweet about.

India wildlife itineraries

12 day wildlife vacation in Central India
New Delhi ► Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve ► Kanha Tiger Reserve ► Pench Tiger Reserve ► Satpura Tiger Reserve ► Bhimbetka cave paintings

9 day tiger watching vacation
Delhi ► Kanha National Park ► Bandhavgarh National Park ► Sleeper train journey from Delhi ► Jabalpur

11 day Kerala wildlife vacation
Periyar NP ► Lake Vembanad ► Idukki wildlife sanctuary ► Alleppey
Photo credits: [Map intro: Lip Kee Yap ] [Bandhavgarh National Park: Srikaanth Sekar ] [Gujarat: nevil zaveri] [Kanha National Park: Davidvraju] [Keoladeo National Park: Nikhilchandra81 ] [Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary: Ashvij Narayanan ] [Snow leopards in Ladakh : Kashif Pathan] [Pench National Park: Soham Banerjee] [Periyar National Park: Jean-Pierre Dalbera] [Rathambhore National Park: N. A. Naseer ] [Sariska National Park: Rigelus ] [Tadoba National Park: Saumitra Newalkar ] [Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary: shrikant rao] [Helpdesk: Wildnest Travel & Photography]
Written by Catherine Mack
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Aditya "Dicky" Singh]
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