Sprawling over 392 sq km of wild jungle terrain in Rajasthan, Ranthambore National Park is one of the biggest and most renowned national parks in Northern India. It is located in the Sawai Madhopur district of southeastern Rajasthan, around 130 km from Jaipur. Ranthambore was established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1955 and later declared a national park in 1980. Today, it is known across the world as one of the best places to spot majestic Royal Bengal tigers in their natural habitat.
With its rich biodiversity, stunning landscape, and abundant wildlife sightings, Ranthambore National Park is a must-visit destination for any nature and wildlife enthusiast visiting Rajasthan.
The biggest draw of Ranthambore National Park is its thriving population of Bengal tigers. As of 2022, there are an estimated 65 tigers inhabiting the park, one of the highest concentrations of tigers in India. Ranthambore is divided into 10 different zones, out of which zone 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 are renowned as the best for tiger sightings. Safaris on early morning and late afternoons provide the best opportunity for spotting these striped predators majestically walking or resting in the wilderness. While luck plays a big role, those with patience and persistence are often rewarded with unforgettable sightings of Ranthambore's iconic tigers.
While tigers may hog the limelight, Ranthambore National Park is also home to a wide variety of wildlife species. Other predators like leopards, sloth bears, hyenas, jackals and jungle cats can also be spotted here along with deer, antelopes, gazelles, nilgai and more. Safaris through the semi-deciduous forests and open grasslands offer sightings of animals big and small including the five-striped palm squirrel, Indian porcupine, Indian hare, and different snake species.
For bird watchers, Ranthambore is heaven with over 300 recorded bird species. Winter migratory birds like the Common cranes, Eurasian sparrowhawk and more can be spotted along with resident birds like the Indian peafowl, grey partridge, parakeets, owls and others. The ancient banyan trees, lakes and ruins offer the perfect habitat for thriving birdlife.
The best way to explore Ranthambore National Park is through organized safaris. The park offers two types of safaris – jeep safaris and canter safaris. Jeep safaris are open-top 4WD vehicles that can seat up to 6 people and are ideal for off-road jungle rides. For budget travelers, shared Canter safaris with 20 seated passengers provide similar experience at a lower cost.
Safaris need to be booked well in advance either online through the park's website or through local tour operators. Safari duration is around 3-4 hours and there are two time slots - early mornings and afternoons. There is a limit to the number of vehicles permitted in each zone so bookings, especially for popular zones, fill up fast. Entry fees, guide charges and vehicle rates apply.
October to May is the best time to visit Ranthambore National Park when the weather is pleasant and safaris can easily cover the park trails. Summers can get extremely hot making jungle safaris difficult while the monsoons bring heavy rainfall that hinders access and visibility.
During peak season around November-February, the park sees maximum tourist influx making hotel bookings expensive and safari slots harder to get. Avoiding Diwali, Christmas and New Year period allows you to enjoy the pleasant winter weather without excessive crowds. Post monsoon months of July-September offer lush green scenery and moderate crowds along with the chance to see tigers around watering holes.
Ranthambore National Park is conveniently accessible from major Indian cities. It is located around 130 km from Jaipur which takes 3-4 hours to reach by road. From Delhi, the park is around 400 km away and takes around 7 hours to reach by road. Ranthambore railway station is well connected to cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, Lucknow, Varanasi via trains. Alternatively, state-run buses also operate from a number of cities in Rajasthan and neighbouring states.
Once at Sawai Madhopur, the entry gates to the national park are just 11 km away. Local buses, autos, taxis and private vehicles easily shuttle visitors to the park gates from the railway station or town.
The best places to stay when visiting Ranthambore National Park are near its entry gates around Sawai Madhopur. A number of heritage hotels, luxury resorts, budget guesthouses and forest lodges are available within 5-10 km distance from the park gates. Staying near the gates allows reaching the safari departure points conveniently early in the morning.
Some of the best options for stay include places like Ranthambore Regency, Nahargarh Ranthambhore, Dev Vilas, Tiger Den Resort, Ankur Resort, Ranthambhore Forest Resort, etc. Amenities, tariffs and booking ease vary across budget segments from deluxe 5-star resorts to simple guest rooms. Booking early is recommended during peak season. Avoiding weekends and holidays also usually results in better deals.
Along with its incredible wildlife, there are some splendid places to see around Ranthambore National Park:
With its incredible tiger sightings, abundant wildlife and rich history, Ranthambore National Park is undeniably one of the top national parks in India. It is a paradise for nature lovers, photographers, adventure seekers and anyone wanting to get a glimpse of India’s national animal - the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger.