From dense jungles to palm-fringed backwaters, snow-covered mountains and glaciers to lush valleys and lakes, India boasts an abundance of locations for nature lovers. Here’s our pick of the best.
Parvati Valley, Himachal Pradesh
The confluence of River Beas and Parvati River makes up the picturesque Parvati Valley that stretches up to the hot springs at Manikaran and beyond into the 6,400-meter altitude of the Great Himalayan region. The valley is famed for its picture-perfect villages replete with hippie vibe, unspoilt natural beauty and a plethora of untouched trekking trails. Some of the must-visit places in the valley include Kasol, spiritual town of Manikaran, quaint and peaceful villages of Tosh, Chalal and Malana. These quintessential Himachal villages are ideal for those who want to relax and delve into nature’s pure beauty.
The backwaters of Kerala are a network of brackish lagoons, lakes, canals and rivers; and the best way to enjoy these is by renting a houseboat cruise. Alappuzha, or the ‘Venice of the East’ is the most popular location where you can enjoy a cruise along the palm-fringed shores of the scenic backwaters. The houseboats are kitted out with all the comforts, including well-furnished bedrooms, living rooms, a kitchen, modern toilets, and a balcony to soak in the beautiful vistas of the surroundings, watch the natives going about their daily chores, or indulging in angling. Other locations in Kerala where houseboats are available include Kasaragod, Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Kottayam, Thrissur and Kollam.
Tyda, Andhra Pradesh
Hidden away in the wooded hills of the Eastern Ghats, Tyda is a nature lover’s delight. Spectacular landscape, untouched natural beauty and fresh, clean air make Tyda an eco-tourism getaway. It is the place where you can spend some ‘me-time’ amid nature in solitude. Those seeking adventure can go trekking or hiking in the Eastern Ghats that is teeming with exotic flora and fauna, besides stunning vistas of the mountains. Nature lovers can spot numerous endemic animals and birds, including wild dog, panther, sambhar, gaur, sloth bear, chital, nilgai, herons, red-chested pod chards, migratory ducks, pelicans, egrets and several water birds. For a stay option, there is an eco-tourism resort set up by the Department of Forests and AP Tourism Department, called the Jungle Bells Nature Camp.
Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve, Ladakh
Situated at 4,522 meters, and part of Changthang Plateau’s Ladakhi region, the Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve, also known as Mountain Lake or Lake Moriri is a picturesque and serene high-altitude lake that will wow nature enthusiasts with its multi-hues of blue. The snow-covered mountains in the backdrop enhance the picture-perfect landscape. The lake is teeming with wildlife, including 34 species of birds; carnivores like Tibetan wolf and the snow leopard, and several endemic alpine bird and animal species. Also, due to its ecological diversity, it comes under Ramsar Convention. This blue pallet lake is easily accessible to Indian visitors, while foreign visitors need to obtain the permit. For staying, visitors can pitch a tent near the lake and soak in its beauty. The best time to visit is May to September.
PRO Tip: As it is a high-altitude lake, it is necessary to properly acclimatise to avoid putting yourself at risk!
In the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya lies Asia’s cleanest village, Mawlynnong. It is a quaint and picturesque village where pristine natural beauty and serenity reigns. The residents are dedicated to eco-friendly living. You’ll see the houses and dustbins made of bamboo, small gardens in every house with flowering plants and fruit-bearing trees, clean roads, and abundant green spaces. Besides this, the village offers a lush forest retreat, with plenty of flora and fauna to spot, natural caves and waterfalls to explore, and walking or camping under the Living Root Bridges that are a beautiful creation of nature, man and time.
Chilika Lake, Odisha
Sprawling more than 1,100 square km., the Chilika Lake is Asia’s largest coastal lagoon and the world’s second largest. Populated by wildlife, it is a paradise for migratory birds that rest on its shores during winter (December- February). It has more than 160 bird species in the migratory season, including migratory waterfowl, white-bellied sea eagles, jacana and more. Migrants from Central and Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, Mongolia and Russia can be spotted here. However, one of the most important residents of the lake are beautiful flamingos that use it to breed. Furthermore, Chilika Lake is the only location in India with the highest number of rare and endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. About 152 Irrawaddy dolphins can be spotted, and the best way to catch a glimpse is by taking a boat ride from Satpada that takes you for a close-up view. There are a few picturesque islands on the lake, boasting abundant natural beauty and diverse flora and fauna. This lake is a haven for nature lovers, birders and wildlife photographers.
Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Uttarakhand
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve is where you will find nature in its pristine form with abundant flora and fauna. The reserve consists of the Nanda Devi National Park that is rich in biodiversity, and the Valley of Flowers National Park that sits at an altitude of 3,658 meters. The Valley of Flowers is especially famed for its endemic alpine flowers and diversity of flora. It is dotted with 520 rare and exotic species of blooming wildflower, including Jacquemont’s Cobra Lily, Himalayan Marsh Orchid, Brahma Kamal, rhododendron, and more. The most striking feature of the biosphere reserve is its diversified landscape encompassing snow-covered mountain peaks of Nanda Devi (the second highest mountain in India), Rishi Kot and Devistan I and II; alpine meadows, glaciers, lush valleys, scenic waterfalls and vast expanse of forests. Needless to say, it is a perfect spot for naturalists, wildlife enthusiasts and mountaineers alike.
Nanda Devi National Park, Joshimath, Uttarakhand, India, +91 1389 222 179
Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh
Nestled in the Kullu region of Himachal Pradesh, at an elevation between 1,500 and 6,000 meters, the Great Himalayan National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site under ‘Outstanding Significance for Biodiversity Conservation’ criteria. This high-altitude expanse is a paradise for nature lovers, as it is a natural habitat for over 375 fauna species and a diversity of flora. It boasts snow-capped peaks, glaciers, lakes, streams, thick forests of Oak and Deodar, and alpine pastures, which make it perfect for camping and trekking. The cooler temperature, rich ecosystem and fresh mountain air make it a popular retreat among the visitors looking to escape city life and reconnect with nature.
Great Himalayan National Park, SaiRopa, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, India, +91 01902 265 320
Neora Valley National Park, West Bengal
Covering some 88 square kilometers, the Neora Valley National Park in Kalimpong district is one of the richest biological reserves in East India. The forests of this national park and valley are so dense that a major portion of it remains largely undiscovered. Diverse flora and fauna, rugged hill terrains, snow-capped mountains, meandering streams and rivers, lush green valley, and red panda in its pristine natural habitat are all par for the course in this nature and wildlife lover’s wonderland.
Neora Valley National Park, Bangal, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India, +91 094346 90919
The archipelagos of Andaman in the Bay of Bengal are an ideal location for travellers who want to get away from it all. Located in the midst of thickly-covered tropical forests, these isles are popular for abundant wildlife, including rare species of birds. The serene beaches and pristine reefs, however, are the major crowd pullers. Brimming with colourful corals, fishes and other marine life, the turquoise blue waters of the Andaman Sea are home to some untouched and pristine marine reserves that are perfect for scuba diving and snorkelling.