One question that gets asked around a lot is what are the Best Places to visit in India? Well the answer to this is very difficult and to understand this one has to first understand the fact that India has a lot to offer,
It is referred to as a Sub-Continent. So there is no one single list of Best Places to visit in India. There are multiple lists for Best Places to visit in India.
First and foremost, it totally depends on what part of India do you wish to visit. You may want to refer to these 2 Blogs to understand what the best places to visit in India would be if you are a first timer. Introduction here and Rajasthan here.
Apart from this list one has to really align themselves with what the objective of the trip is, lets say you want to visit Wildlife then the list would be different, If you want to take a deep dive into Hinduism and Indian culture your Best Places to visit in India would be totally different.
Based on my experience I would try and create a few lists of what the best places to visit in India are based on your Objective.
Best Places to visit in India for a First timer is covered in these 2 articles linked above.
In this section lets start with what the best Places to visit in India would be for a Wildlife enthusiast.
India like Africa has been naturally blessed with abundant wildlife. As a matter of fact what you see in India is way more than what you would see anywhere in the world.
But viewing Wildlife in India is different, unlike Africa where you go to lets say a Kenya or Tanzania and drive into the Masai Mara or the Serengeti and on a Single drive you see the Big 5 and wildlife is just lazing around, In India you need to go in the search for the Wildlife.
In the 1972, India enacted the Wildlife protection act to save guard the animals. Hunting was always a big thing for the Indian Royalty and the British and there was also a growing Interest in getting Tiger and leopard Skins and Ivory from Elephants.
To ensure that we are acle to save guard the animals Wildlife reserves, Sanctuaries and wildlife parks were defined and these became protected belts where today you can go and view the Wildlife.
So where does one Start if one wishes to visit the Best Places in India for the Wildlife, first one needs to Identify what Wildlife is of interest. India offers you the Big 7
3. One Horned Rhino
6. Indian Wild Buffalo
7. Indian Bison
But all of these cannot be seen in a single place, As a matter of fact there is a lot of Travel involved, which makes it all the more exciting as it allows you combine culture along with your Wildlife experience.
Let me give you a brief itinerary here if you wish to visit the Big 7 and this in turn can be used as a Reference guide by you to give you direction to what places could be better and if you want someone with in-depth knowledge to guide you, I can then help you build the optimum Itinerary for your Travel. (Click here to get in touch)
I recommend starting this Itinerary in the State of Karnataka in Southern India, you should be arriving in Bangalore or as it is now called Bengaluru. Known as the Software capital of India today, not so long-ago Bengaluru was a quiet town surrounded by lots of Greenery and people actually came to Bengaluru to retire.
Bengaluru today is a different story altogether, There is limited sightseeing to do here and I recommend using the city as an entry point on your Journey and spend only about 1 night before you head out to Mysore or Mysuru.
Located around 3.30 hours away from Bengaluru, Mysuru is one of South India’s most enchanting cities, famed for its glittering royal heritage and magnificent monuments and buildings. The World Heritage–listed palace is what brings most travellers to this city, but Mysuru is also rich in History and tradition, the city served as the Capital of the State of Mysore between 1399 and 1956.
I recommend spending 2 nights here, the first day post arrival from Bengaluru should be used to relax and maybe visit the Chamundeshwari Temple atop the Chamundi Hills. The view from the temple is stunning, as you can see many significant structures of the city including the Lalitha Mahal Palace.
The second day start with a visit to the Chennakesava temple in the town of Somanathapura. Built in the year 1258 it is the finest and most exemplary monument of Hoysala architecture. This Hindu Temple is dedicated to might and beauty of Lord Krishna (Chenna means Beautiful and Kesava is one of many names of Krishna).
Next visit the Mysore Palace, which happens to be the 2nd most visited tourist attraction in India, the first being the Taj Mahal. The former residence of the royal family of Mysore, the Mysore Palace is an extremely breath-taking example of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. The Mysore Palace has a rich history to it.
It was used by the royal Wadiyar family of Mysore from 1350 to 1950, for almost 600 years as their residence. During its lifetime, the palace had been built and rebuilt many times. In 1897, the then ruler of Mysore, Krishna Rajendra Wadiyar IV, ordered the restoration and reconstruction of the palace after a wooden palace was destroyed by fire at a wedding ceremony.
Lord Henry Irwin, the British architect, was commissioned to replace the older palace which had gotten burnt during a fire in 1897.
This evening can be best used to explore the local bazaars and markets and settle into your India journey. From here we shall be heading out the next day to Bandhipur Tiger Reserve and National Park.
Though called a Tiger Reserve the main draw for us is not the Tigers here but the Indian Elephants and the Indian Bison. The park covers an area of 868.63 km2 and is home to Indian elephant, gaur, Bengal tiger, sloth bear, mugger crocodile, Indian rock python, four-horned antelope, golden jackal and dhole (Wild Dog).
In all over 2500 Elephants, 173 Tigers, 300 plus Leopards and around 2000 Bisons can be found in the national park which makes the chances of spotting Elephants and Bisons very high and one could get lucky and spot the Tigers and/or leopards as well.
All national parks in India follow a similar pattern for Safaris, park is open once for the morning Safari and once for the afternoon Safari. Entry is allowed only during the allocated time and only on the approved circuits where applicable.
To get the best out of Bandhipur Safari, I recommend that you book 3 safaris here, 1st one on the day you arrive, since its only 90 minutes from Mysuru, you would arrive with plenty of time to spare for the afternoon Safari and 2 Safaris the next day. The more safaris you do the higher the chance of your seeing the 4 out of Big 7.
This helps you maximise your chances seeing more wildlife.
From Bandhipur I recommend driving to Bengaluru for the next leg of the Journey. Upon arrival in Bengaluru since you have the time, do a brief orientation of the city and get a pulse of this metropolis. Bengaluru enjoys amazing weather around the year drive around the the Vidhan Sabha (Parliement) building and then spend some quality time at the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens.
Also since Bengaluru is a multicultural city today, you will have an opportunity of experiencing the modern India and one cant help but compare this with the last 4 days you would have spent in Mysuru and bandhipur. There are always 2 Indias which exist simultaneously and this contrast would make its presence felt in Bengaluru. You should be staying a night here.
The next day you will be taking a flight to Nagpur in central India. From Nagpur Airport you should drive directly to Kanha National Park. If you are familiar with Rudyard Kiplings jungle Book and the character Mowgli, Kanha National Park was the inspiration behind it.
This would be a different terrain to what you experienced in Bandhipur. You are now in Central India and the way people look, talk and topography are all completely different.
You halt for the next 2-3 nights is Kanha National park, covering an area of 940 km2 and home to around 200 tigers and 100 leopards, the main objective when visiting Kanha National Park is to enjoy the National reserve and look for both the Tigers and the Leopards.
One could get Lucky and see the big cats in the first safari or sometimes not see them at all. However the more Safaris one ends up doing the higher are the chances.
I remember during one such trip, we were in the National park for 5 nights and had 9 Safaris booked, as luck would have it we saw tigers in the very first Safari, it was a tigress with her 2 cubs, now we still had 8 more safaris to go and we had already achieved the objective. But what happened over the next 8 Safaris is something I have in my 3 decades plus never experienced. We saw at least 1 tiger in each Safari, in some we saw more, we saw 2 leopards, Bisons, Barasingha (Antelope) and my favorite the Sloth bear.
There have also been instances where I have done 6 Safaris in 3 days in National parks and not seen a single tiger or Leopards. In India there would be no guarantees, you are in the national park, Tigers and leopards are there, but whether we cross the paths at the same time is a matter of patience and chance.
So my recommendation is to spend a minimum of 2 but recommend 3 nights here and pack in at least 4 Safaris.
We stay in Central India and drive from Kanha to the next national park called Bandhavgarh National park which covers an area of only 105 km2 has 22 tigers here which gives it a density of 1 tiger every 4.77 km2 that is why the chances of seeing tigers here is considered to be very high.
Ideally you should be staying here between 2-3 Nights since the first day is lost in the drive itself and one misses the Safari of this day.
The first white tiger ever spotted was in Bandhavgarh and all the white tigers of the world trace their roots to Bandhavgarh National Park. If you have so far not seen the Tiger this would be the last chance to give it a try here at Bandhavgarh, Large bio diversity rich flora and Fauna make this an exceptional National park and a place which always leaves a mark on the visitors.
From here there are 2 options available to you. Once would be to go to the scenic route and immerse yourself in the culture by visiting Khajuraho, Orchha and then onto Agra to visit the famous Taj Mahal this trip would in turn need 3-4 nights to be built in or if you are short on time then you drive from Bandhavgarh to Jabalpur Airport and take your flight to Delhi.
Delhi would just be acting as a Stop over since there are no flight connections between Jabalpur and Guwahati the gateway to Assam.
If you want to visit Agra from Delhi (Day trip) then stay in Delhi for 2 nights else just 1 night at a Delhi Airport Hotel and fly next day to Guwahati.
Assam though known best for the Assam Tea, is also home to the one horned Rhinoceros, two thirds of Global population of the One horned Rhinocerous can be found in the Kaziranga National Park which is also a World Heritage site.
Your Flight from Delhi would bring you into Guwahati the state capital. From here it’s a 5 hour drive to Kaziranga National park, at the time of writing this there were no flights to Tezpur but this can change. If the flights to Tezpur are reintroduced then it is better to fly to Tezpur.
You need a minimum of 2 nights here to truly appreciate the Kaziranga National Park and really enjoy all that it has to offer. Having spent a lot of time here, I can promise you one thing, the Sighting of the one horned Rhinoceros at Kaziranga National park is spectacular and one really needs to just take their own time.
As with most national parks there is a good population of Tigers here as well, however I have never spotted one. What I have spotted are elephants and Indian Bison apart from the One horned Rhinocerous.
With this now you should have ticked off 6 of the Big 7 in India the only one remaining would be the Lions and for this you need to actually head off to the extreme western part of India all the way to the State of Gujarat.
Gir National Park, is where we have the Asiatic Lions. Once again since there are no direct flights we would need to plan this in via another major city which in this case is Mumbai.
You will need to spend 1 Night in Mumbai and it may be worthwhile to choose Mumbai as your Final exit point from India as well. In which case you should travel only with your handbags from Mumbai to Gir National Park as you would be returning here after visit to Gir National Park.
Your flight will take you to Rajkot from where it’s a 4 hours drive to Gir National Park. You should plan for 2 nights here, Gir allows for 3 safari timings, 2 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon.
The sightings are very good and one should like with other safaris plan one for the morning and one for the afternoon.
Once you are done with Gir you would be flying back to Mumbai, In all if we review it, it is a long Itinerary to view the Big 7 In India and does involve a cross country travel.
You start in Bangalore (1 Night) from there to Mysuru (2 Nights) Bandhipur (2 Nights), Bengaluru (1 Night) Kanha National Park (2 Nights) Bandhavgarh National Park (2 Nights) Delhi (1 Night or 2 Nights) Kaziranga (2 Nights), Mumbai (1 Night), Gir (2 Nights) and finally last night in Mumbai if needed.
Though long it is very enriching as the memories you will take back would have no parallel.
On the Big 7 Itinerary you get a deep Insight into India but what if you have already done the Big 5 and only Tigers are what you are looking for.
Well in that case these are the national parks you should have on your list and build them into your Itinerary.
Between Jaipur and Agra can be combined with Delhi, Agra and Jaipur trip. To play safe stay for 3 nights here. You have a high chance of a Tiger Sighting. Refer to this Article for the perfect Itinerary.
We have already covered this national park above. If your Objective was to only come to India for an opportunity to see a Tiger then it would have to be either Ranthambore or Bandhavgarh that you should choose. Best way to visit Bandhavgarh is to fly to Jabalpur and then drive to Bandhavgarh. .
We covered this National park as well above. Kanha also has a high tiger sighting but if you were to choose one between Bandhavgarh and Kanha then I would stay with Bandhavgarh.
Located in Central India Pench national park forms a central Indian Wildlife circuit along with Bandhavgarh, Satpura and Kanha.
Located 2 hours north of Nagpur (Airport and entry point) Pench National Park covers a massive area of 758 sq km, including the core area. Pench would best be visited as a combined circuit, either as a Satpura and Pench combination or Kanha and Pench combination.
If your Travels bring you to Bhopal the capital of Central India state of Madhya Pradesh then Satpura National Park is just a 3 hour drive away.
Covering an area of 524 km2 (202 sq mi). Satpura National Park, along with the adjoining Bori and Pachmarhi wildlife sanctuaries, provides 2,200 km2 (850 sq mi) of unique central Indian highland ecosystem.
There are 50 species of mammals, 254 species of birds, 30 species of reptiles, and 50 species of butterflies that are found in the park.
Apart from Tigers, Spotted Deer, Indian Bison (Gaur), Leopards, Wild boar, Wild dog (locally called Dholes), Sloth bear, Black buck (unique attraction), Porcupine, Sambhar, Barasingha,four Horned antelopes (Chowsingha), Pangolin, Marsh crocodile, Languars can also be seen.
With 215 tigers Jim Corbett national park, located in the Himalayan state of Uttrakhand has the most number of tigers. It also has the distinction of being the first national park in India, and was established in 1936 during the British Raj.
Bengal tigers, although plentiful, are not easily spotted due to the abundance of foliage – camouflage – in the reserve. Thick jungle, the Ramganga river and plentiful prey make this reserve an ideal habitat for tigers who are opportunistic feeders and prey upon a range of animals.
In my years of visiting Jim Corbett National park, I have only seen a Tiger here. If your Travels take you to the Himalayan State of Uttrakhand then it may be worthwhile spending a couple of nights here and trying your luck. Even if you don’t see the Tigers it would make for an great safari due to its Topography.
We covered this in our Big 7 and recommend this as a great place for Elephants and Bisons. However one should not forget that Bandhipur also has a sizeable Tiger Population and if you are doing a South Indian circuit then this would be an ideal place to visit for Tigers as well.
Nagarahole Tiger Reserve is a national park located in Kodagu district and Mysore district in Karnataka, India and is on the opposite side of Bandhipur National park separated by the Kabini river.
Declared the 37th Tiger Reserve of India in 1999, It is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The Western Ghats Nilgiri Sub-Cluster of 6,000 km2 (2,300 sq mi), including all of Nagarhole National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.
The park has rich forest cover, small streams, hills, valleys and waterfalls, and populations of Bengal tiger, Gaur (Indian Bison), Indian elephant, Indian leopard, Chital and Sambar deer.
Since it is on the opposite side of Bandhipur it has more similarities than differences and one could either visit Bandhipur or Nagarhole.
What happens if your Travels are taking you to the Eastern part of India, well then Sunderbans are the perfect answer for you. Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of the Padma, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers in the Bay of Bengal.
Due to its location in the delta, Sundarbans features two ecoregions — “Sundarbans freshwater swamp forests” and “Sundarbans mangroves”. The Sundarbans have about 180 tigers (106 in Bangladesh and 74 in India) its more of a fleeting population since part of Sunderbans is in India and part of it in Bangladesh.
Located around 5 hours drive from Kolkatta, Sunderbans is probably one of the least visited Tiger Parks by the visitors from abroad. A vast majority of Tourism in Sunderbans is Local.
This should give you a fair idea of what you would want to visit and where you can see what Wildlife. If you are however stuck and need expert guidance on Planning and execution of a Picture Perfect itinerary then get in touch with me and let me walk you through the Best Places to visit in India for the Wildlife.
Leverage my 3 decades plus of expeience as a Traveller and let me help you craft the perfect Itinerary for your Trip. This would be made in Consultation with you and would help you maximise your time in India.
If after that you wish to have it booked, I would get it booked for you locally which would
A) give you a Huge price advantage 15-20% cheaper than what you would pay in your Country.
B) You will benefit from last minute upgrade deals that are made available locally.
If you are searching for best Places to visit in India and have zeroed in on North India and the area of Interest is Culture