There are certain pockets of India in which you can truly get a feel for what the country might have been like 100, or even 500 years ago. Of course, many of these areas are the more remote places, or the designated national parks. Ranthambore is both – a sprawling, protected park just over 100 km from Jaipur, in the south of Rajasthan. According to the park’s website, the area was once a favorite hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur. But today, it’s arguably India’s best tourist attraction for lovers of nature and wildlife.
The main draw of the park is undoubtedly its tiger population, which is unlike anything most visitors have imagined. Various pieces of fiction have somewhat twisted the popular image of tigers in the wild over the years. In The Jungle Book we think of tigers prowling through the jungle, for example. And similarly, a slot reel titled Jungle Spirit: Call Of The Wild has made its way onto an online gaming platform, and showcases a fearsome tiger as its main image. Like many of its fellow slot reels, the game reaches a wide audience, and further perpetuates the image of tigers as jungle-dwellers (not to mention villainous ones).
At the Ranthambore National Park, however, you get the opportunity to view tigers in a natural and realistic habitat that’s quite different from what we commonly see in fiction. Certainly tigers can lurk among the trees, in this park and elsewhere. But Ranthambore is largely composed of wide open spaces, where these majestic beasts will amble along and sometimes do their hunting. The chance to find a tiger in the jungle is one most people don’t really want. But to be on a safe safari excursion and see one prowling along in open space is the sort of experience you’ll never forget.
The tigers are not the only attraction, however. Ranthambore is home to all manner of fascinating creatures, including leopards, hyenas, wild boar, macaques, porcupines, and various types of deer, rodents, and exotic birds. If you happen to have a lucky safari in the area – which is to say one on which you encounter a good variety of wildlife – it can seem as if all of the world’s most interesting animals have simply decided to gather in this one national park.
Unlike most national parks, Ranthambore also has a man-made attraction that’s worth the trip in and of itself. That attraction is Ranthambore Fort, a towering hilltop structure built in the 10th century and said to have been a major barrier for invaders. Gazing upon it, you gain a new appreciation for the popular refrain that India has been, throughout it entire history, more or less impenetrable to land-based conquerors. Of course, the fort wasn’t around when Alexander the Great famously ended his worldwide rampage at the Indian border – but it exists in the same spirit of resolute defense.
All things considered this park is simply wonderful to visit. The tigers are unforgettable, the additional wildlife is fascinating, the area itself is beautiful, and the fort represents a fascinating piece of Indian history. And as an added benefit, if you’re visiting from far away, you’re not too far from Agra, a wonderful tourist destination we’ve previously highlighted as the city of architectural wonders.