Ranthambore

Come for the tiger, stay for the forest

Raji Sunderkrishnan

Ranthambore

Ranthambore National Park is a part of the larger Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, the only forest reserve in Rajasthan that is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger. This erstwhile hunting-ground of royal families was one of the first nine tiger reserves to be set up under ‘Project Tiger’ in 1973.
   
Tucked between the Aravalli and Vindhya ranges, Ranthambore’s dry, deciduous forests boast an impressive biodiversity of flora and fauna. The terrain is largely hilly, characterised by plateaus, vertical cliffs, seasonal and perennial streams cutting through the rock, and water-bodies. 

Ranthambore National Park is unique, thanks to the presence of its fort, built in the 10th century, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. The fort and its surroundings also house temples, monuments and ruins, making it one of the few national parks where some of these areas can be accessed by foot.

Plan Your Trip

Getting there

Air

Jaipur International Airport (160km to 170km, 3.5 hours away) is the nearest airport. However, Delhi’s IGI Airport (370km to 380km, 7 to 7.5 hours away) offers more flight options.

Rail

Sawai Madhopur (3km to 12km, 5 to 20 minutes away from hotels) is well-connected by trains from Delhi, Mumbai and other cities in Rajasthan.

Road

Ranthambore is at a comfortable driving distance from popular tourist destinations like Jaipur, Ajmer and Agra (ranging from 3.5 to 5 hours). It is also possible to drive to Ranthambore from Delhi/ NCR (up to 8 hours).

best time to visit

Both summer and winter are equally good times to visit Ranthambore. The best time for you depends on your tolerance to heat or cold.

Summer: April to June are the hottest months, with day temperatures soaring over 40 degrees Celsius. During this season, big cats and other mammals are often spotted at water-bodies.

Winter: November to February are the coolest months, with temperatures ranging from 15 to 20 degrees Celsius during the day. Morning safaris can feel much colder, so bundle up. This season is also the best for bird-watching enthusiasts.

March and October are pleasant, transitional months with fewer crowds

The park is shut from  July 1 to September 30.

Stay

Most hotels are situated near Sawai Madhopur, to the west of Ranthambore National Park, along the arterial Ranthambore Road. Another cluster of hotels (mostly high-end, though) is located along the same road, in villages to the north of the national park. Most visitors prefer hotels in close proximity to Sawai Madhopur, as that offers easy access to tourist facilities.

High-end: The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Khem Villas, Vivanta by Taj (₹23,000 to ₹50,000 for a double room + complimentary breakfast)

The Kipling Lodge (₹9,000 to ₹14,000 for a double room + complimentary breakfast)

Mid-range: The Ranthambore Bagh (₹2,850 to ₹4,200 for a double room + complimentary breakfast)

Budget: Tiger Home Ranthambhore, Hotel Green View Ranthambhore, Hotel Green Valley (₹1,200 to ₹2,500 for a double room + complimentary breakfast)

See | Do | Shop

  • After the morning safari, feast on piping hot kachoris (onion or dal), served with chutneys or a gravy, and masala chai. These roadside stalls are located at the main intersection of Ranthambore Road and the road that turns towards the national park.
  • Sawai Madhopur Railway Station has been beautifully painted, with murals on its walls and ceilings depicting nature and wildlife. It is open to the public. Purchase a platform ticket to view the murals inside the station.
  • Shop at Dastkar Kendra, run by an NGO working with local women to promote local arts, crafts and clothing. It is located just off Ranthambore Road, closer to the northern cluster of hotels at Sherpur-Khilchipur. You could also shop at local markets in Sawai Madhopur.
  • Rajasthani folk music and dance performances are arranged on some evenings by mid-range and high-end hotels.
  • Visits to nearby villages for a flavour of rural Rajasthan can be arranged by most hotels.

Good to know

  • Sawai Madhopur is the nearest town with tourist facilities (ATMs, petrol bunks, pharmacies and convenience stores) and a hospital.
  • Most mid-range and high-end hotels also arrange for a doctor on call.
  • All major mobile phone networks provide good coverage in the region, including basic data connectivity.
  • There are no functional bathrooms within the national park (only designated ‘stop/ rest areas’). Use bathrooms in hotels.

What to pack

  • During summer, carry loose cotton clothes, a hat/ cap, sunglasses and sunscreen lotion.
  • During winter, carry layered warm clothing, a jacket, woollen cap, muffler, and gloves. Wear closed footwear with socks to stay warm.
  • Camera gear.
  • Binoculars, especially if you are an avid bird-watcher.
  • Bird-watching field guide.
  • Mosquito repellent.
  • A torch for emergencies.
  • Emergency medication and prescription medicines.

For photographers

  • Ranthambore National Park has 10 zones, some more popular than others. Book safaris at least three or four months in advance (they fill up quickly). Try having safaris allocated across different zones for varying topography.
  • Since each zone of Ranthambore has a different landscape, some that even include ruins of monuments, carry a wide-angle lens (between 10mm and 24mm), that allows you to capture panoramas as well as shots of an animal in its habitat.
  • You could also carry your kit lens (between 18mm and 70mm) to capture interesting photographs of pilgrims walking through the forest to access the many temples within.
  • A telephoto lens of at least 300mm focal length is essential.
  • For heavy lenses, carry a bean-bag to rest your camera on.
  • Tripods are quite useless on safaris, as Gypsies don’t accommodate them.

in Between Safaris

  • Visit the Ranthambore Fort after the morning safari (carry a packed breakfast from your hotel), or after breakfast at your hotel. It can be accessed only via a mid-level climb, but the panoramic views of Ranthambore National Park make up for it. Set aside at least two or three hours for the entire trip.
  • There is a Ganesh Temple near the fort’s main gate, which is especially lively on Wednesdays.
  • The region around Ranthambore National Park has a few lakes and areas for bird-watching, and sightings are particularly excellent from November to February. These need to be visited in lieu of safaris though, as early mornings and late afternoons are the best times.

Budget per person

  • Jeep safari prices range from approx. ₹7,000 to ₹10,000 per Gypsy, per safari (if booked through your hotel, including their service charge). Gypsies can seat two to four photographers (comfortably, depending on amount of gear) and six non-photographers. A Gypsy can also be booked for private use, or for lesser than its full capacity of six passengers, by paying its full rate.
  • Canter safaris are more economical, costing anywhere from ₹800 to ₹1,200 per person (if booked through your hotel, including their service charge). A Canter accommodates up to 20 people.
  • Theoretically, it is possible to book safaris online at official government prices that are lower than the rates charged by hotels. The site is unfortunately not always operational.
Raji Sunderkrishnan - Architect and Photographer

Raji Sunderkrishnan

Architect and Photographer

Raji Sunderkrishnan is an architect who ironically dreams about moving out of the concrete jungle someday. Her idea of bliss is being surrounded by mountains, water, or forests, and she especially enjoys traipsing through rainforests in the monsoons. She tweets as @raji1110 and posts as @rajisunderkrishnan on Instagram.