A complete guide to one of the most popular wildlife parks in central India
Bandhavgarh, in Madhya Pradesh, is one of the most popular national parks in the country. Once the hunting preserve of Rewa state, it was converted to a national park in 1968. The terrain covers 1,161sqkm (the core is spread over 105sqkm) and is divided into three main zones — Tala, Magadhi and Khitauli. Tourists are allowed to visit these routes in the buffer zones as well: Pachpedi, Dhamokhar and Manpur. The area is classified under northern India's moist deciduous forests and consists of peninsular sal, dry bamboo brakes and dry tropical riverine vegetation.
Bandhavgarh is also famous for the capture of Mohan (the white tiger) by Maharaja Martand Singh of Rewa, and its eponymous fort. Tourists are, however, not permitted to visit the fort anymore.
Plan Your Trip
Jabalpur Airport (190km, 4 hours away) is the nearest airport. The dhabas en route serve hot food and buttermilk (or chaas, as it locally called). You can also snack on poha-jalebi and wash it down with chai.
Katni (100km, 1.5 hours away) is better connected to major cities ; however, Umaria (37km, 1/2 hour away) is the closest railway station.
You can drive to Bandhavgarh from Umaria (37km, 1/2 hour away), Katni (100km, 1.5 hours away), Jabalpur (190km, 4 hours away), or Khajuraho (250km, 5.5 hours away).
best time to visit
The temperatures range from 30°C to 45°C in summer and 2°C to 20°C in winter. The park is closed from July to mid-October. The best time to visit is from March to early May, and from November to December, as the weather is temperate and you don’t have to deal with the scorching heat or the freezing cold.
Most resorts are conveniently situated near the Tala entrance to the Bandhavgarh National Park.
Mahua Kothi (Taj Safaris) (₹50,500 onwards per person per night; inclusive of meals, refreshments, two daily safaris, laundry, forest guide fees, emergency medical evacuation insurance, and applicable taxes)
Syna Tiger Resorts (₹10,900 to ₹17,900 per room per night; inclusive of meals, depending on American Plan/ Continental Plan)
Bandhav Vilas (₹8,000 to ₹10,000 per room per night; inclusive of all meals)
Aranyak Resort (₹6,000 to ₹7,000 per room per night; inclusive of all meals)
Nature Heritage Resort (₹6,500 to ₹8,000 per room per night; inclusive of all meals)
Tiger Trails Resort (₹5,200 to ₹8,500 per room per night; inclusive of all meals)
Whispering Grass (₹1,200 to ₹3,000 per room per night)
The Wildflower Resort (₹2,700 to ₹4,000 per room per night)
Wild Haven (₹3,500 to ₹5,000 per room per night; inclusive of all meals)
An Indian Roller soaks in the sun. Photograph: Rohit Varma
Tiger sightings are fairly common in Bandhavgarh and the best time is before 7.30am or after 5pm. Photograph: Rohit Varma
A White-eyed Buzzard regulates its body temperature by keeping its beak open during the peak summer of May. Photograph: Rohit Varma
Man-made caves that were used by soldiers as stables and resting places. Photograph: Chandrashekar Kalyanasundaram
Water bodies are a great place to spot tigers in the area. Photograph: Rohit Varma
A Tickell's Blue Flycatcher beats the heat by ruffling its feathers in one of the many artificial water bodies in Bandhavgarh. Photograph: Chandrashekar Kalyanasundaram
Archive image of an idol inside the Bandhavgarh Fort premises. Photograph: Chandrashekar Kalyanasundaram
Visitors to the Bandhavgarh National Park enjoying a safari. Photograph: Chandrashekar Kalyanasundaram
Aranyak Resorts' suites are designed to reflect the rustic feel of a village. Photo courtesy Aranyak Resort
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See | Do | Shop
The caves and meadows of Bandhavgarh are a treat for the eyes: Siddha Baba - the holy meadow (there’s a small temple located on the side of the meadow dedicated to Siddha Baba, where people often offer coconuts to the deity for good luck to spot tigers); Chakradhara - the sprawling meadow; Gopalpur pond - a bird-watching paradise, Bhitari Bah - the tranquil meadow.
You can opt for a morning or an evening safari; full-day safaris are available as well. The summer timings are from 6am to 10:30am and from 3pm to 6pm. In winters, the morning safaris begin half an hour later and the evening safaris begin half an hour earlier.
Don’t miss the gulab jamuns and rabri sold opposite the Tala gate; a little shop on the main road is very popular (all the drivers know this place). Another great option is Hotel Lucky in Pataur (10 minutes from Bandhavgarh National Park).
Good to know
Most networks provide good connectivity at the resorts - BSNL and IDEA work best in this region. Connectivity is very poor or nil inside the forest.
An SBI ATM is available, but is not very reliable. It is better to pay in advance for both, stay and safaris.
Inside the park, there is a designated area where you can alight from your vehicle for some refreshment. The toilets are temporary shelters and are not very clean.
What to pack
In summers, pack very light-coloured cotton clothes (forest friendly colours like green and brown are preferable). Make sure you carry a cap/ hat/ protection for your head and don’t forget to apply sunscreen liberally.
- In winters, layers of warm clothing are recommended, along with closed footwear and socks.
- Plenty of water.
- Mosquito repellant.
- A torch.
- Emergency and/ or prescription medication.
A tele-zoom lens is the most ideal for Bandhavgarh. The primes are handy too, but if you are there for the stripes mainly (we hope not, though), the tigers in the tourism zones are used to vehicles so the tele-lens scores over the primes. For habitat shots, you can carry 70mm-200mm and a 24mm-105mm lenses.
in Between Safaris
- Visit the interpretation center within the Forest Rest House campus for insights into the Bandhavgarh forest.
- Ask your resort to arrange for village walks. It helps to connect with the residents and take in the local flavour.
There are a number of man-made caves in Bandhavgarh with inscriptions and carvings that date back to 129-168 AD. The Badi Gufa is the biggest man-made cave in the area and is home to a number of Horseshoe Bats.
Budget per person
The mid-range cost for a three-day visit to Bandhavgarh including stay, safaris and travel within the area will cost upwards of ₹30,000. Tips, personal expenses, and air/ rail/ road travel to and from Bandhavgarh will cost extra. You can book safari tickets online through www.mponline.gov.in, or a travel agent or through the hotel. Book safaris 90 days in advance. The cost of each safari is approximately ₹5,500 to ₹6,500 (including the Jeep rent). Each Jeep can accommodate up to six people, depending on the equipment you choose to carry. The government has the right to modify rates and safari timings, so make sure to check before booking.