One of the biggest national parks in North India, Ranthambore National Park is particularly popular with travelers hoping to spot an elusive tiger in the wild. Although tigers are the main draw here, the reserve is home to other critters—including sambar deer, wild boars, sloth bears, striped hyenas, and hundreds of bird species—and a 10th-century fort.
This 150-square-mile (392-square-kilometer) park is best known for its wild tiger population— around three dozen of the big cats live here—and nearly everyone who visits takes part in a 3.5-hour tiger-spotting safari, managed by the government. Both jeep and cantar (open-air 20-seat minibus) safaris are available. If you want to up your chances of seeing a wild tiger, go on a couple of safaris; some multi-day park tours offer the opportunity to partake in both a morning and an afternoon tiger-spotting adventure.
Ranthambore is a popular stop on many Rajasthan itineraries, amongst independent travelers and private and small-group tours alike. Independent travelers can prebook safaris through the Rajasthan Forest Department, though it's much easier to go through a travel agent.
Things to Know Before You Go
Ranthambore National Park is a must for nature lovers, wildlife-watchers, and families with kids.
Safaris are available every morning and afternoon.
The government limits safari seats to protect the area, so it’s wise to prebook or join an organized tour. Jeep safaris tend to sell out faster than cantar trips.
Make sure to bring your passport; all safari participants must carry ID.
How to Get There
Ranthambore National Park is just outside of Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan. If driving, it’s about eight hours from Delhi (245 miles/395 kilometers), five hours from Agra (158 miles/255 kilometers), or four hours from Jaipur (96 miles/155 kilometers). All three major cities are connected to Sawai Madhopur, by train; most trains from Agra or Delhi take about 4.5 hours, while those from Jaipur do the trip in as few as two hours.
When to Get There
Until 2017, Ranthambore National Park closed annually from July to September (the monsoon season). Now it is open year-round, though the best months for spotting tigers tend to be March and April. Note that May and June can be particularly hot here, though the forest shade and abundance of trees help make temperatures feel less intense.
Tiger Conservation in India
The Bengal tiger is India’s national animal, and tiger conservation is taken very seriously here. At the forefront of the movement is Project Tiger, which launched in 1973 to protect Bengal tigers from extinction. Tiger censuses are carried out every four years, and it’s currently estimated that there are around 3,000 of the animals in the wild.