Renowned for being a reserve for the rare Asian elephants and Royal Bengal tigers, the Periyar National Park has brought in nature lovers from across the globe since 1982. It is one of the most unique nature reserves in India as it is home to many elusive and endemic species of flora and fauna, notable peaks of the Cardamom Hills and is the birthplace of the Periyar and Pamba Rivers.
The Periyar National Park is spread across 925 sq km and is carpeted with tropical evergreen shrubs, trees and riverine plants. Here, you will discover hundreds of species of flowers, which are in full bloom during the winters, attracting a plethora of beautiful insects including the highly endangered Travancore Evening Brown butterfly. You’ll find the native lion-tailed macaque and Nilgiri langur atop the mango and jamun trees dotted across the park.
The park is typically known for being an important reserve for Asian elephants and Royal Bengal tigers. While on your safari, you will cross paths with the gentle giants, lazing by the waters as they enjoy the cool waters. If you’re lucky, Periyar tiger reserve will also give you a chance to spot the fabled white tigers, their ghostly white coats contrasting the dark shadows of the thick forests. Other creatures that roam the grounds include the endangered gaur, sloth bear, sambar, the rare Nilgiri marten and many more.
Birdwatching in this park is a true delight as it welcomes hundreds of migrant bird species in the winters and has an abundance of endemic species as well. Keep an eye out for Malabar grey hornbills, blue-winged parakeets, black-necked storks, spot-bellied eagle-owls amongst many others
The Periyar Sanctuary offers one of the most unique safaris in India – a boat cruise on the Periyar Lake. On these 60-120-minute boat rides, you’ll spot families of Asian elephants by the lake, sambar deer grazing the nearby vegetation and wild boars splashing about by the shore. This is also the best way to spot flocks of migrant and native birds perched atop the trees half-submerged in the lake. However, this safari is closed for the monsoons.
Elephant safaris are tremendously popular here. You will ride down paths that would be inaccessible by boats and jeeps for approximately 30 minutes and have encounters with the varied wildlife up close.
Jeep safaris are perfect for photographers and those who wish to explore the jungles for a longer period of time. This is the best option for those who want to spot the infamous striped beasts.
Guided treks are an adventurous way to get to know the park. It’s your chance to get up close and personal with the prolific flora and fauna and spot various birds, mammals, insects and reptiles as you spend hours in the forests. The sanctuary offers different types of hikes, one of which also includes bamboo rafting on the lake!
There are many options to choose from when it comes to spending multiple days at the Periyar tiger reserve. You can choose to stay at the many hotels, resorts and guesthouses in Thekkady, or opt for a boathouse for an unforgettable experience on Kerala’s backwaters! If you’re up for it, you can even camp out or stay in a bamboo lodge in the forest, albeit you’ll need prior permissions from the concerned authorities.
Day 1: Check-in and safari
Arrive at the national park.
Head out for a 4-hour safari.
Enjoy a 1.5 hour peddle boating session.
Overnight in tents.
Lunch and dinner included.
Day 2: Check-out
Enjoy a scrumptious breakfast.
Bid farewell to the beautiful wilderness.
Day 1: Check-in and safari
As you enter the home of the wild, you’ll embark on a thrilling 4-hour safari where you’ll meet various mammals and birds. Wind down with a peddle boating ride at a nearby lake surrounded by the serene nature. You’ll spend your night in tents in the national park and fall asleep to the cacophony of nocturnal birds. Lunch and dinner will be provided.
Day 2: Check-out
In the morning, you will wake up in the lap of nature and say your goodbyes to the wilderness around. You will enjoy a delicious breakfast and depart home.
One 4-hour safari
One 1.5-hour peddle boating session
Accommodation in tents
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
The Periyar tiger reserve is one of the few national parks in India that remains open to tourists even during the monsoons. So, you can visit the park during any month of the year, depending on what experience you’re looking for since each season has its own charm.
Winter is the most popular season at Periyar, bringing in throngs of nature enthusiasts between October and February. These months also see mild showers from the northeast monsoon winds, creating a gorgeous climate and a misty scenery of lush green forests and hills. The park is teeming with fresh flowers blooming across the landscape, attracting various species of butterflies and critters. This is when you’re most likely to spot adult mammals frolicking around with their little ones. This season is also the favourite of birdwatchers as the cool weather brings in flocks of migratory birds. Boat safaris are ideal during this time as it isn’t too hot and the rivers are in full spate.
Between the months of March and May, the summer sun thins out the foliage, making it easy to spot the diverse wildlife as they make their way to the Periyar Lake and Pamba and Periyar Rivers in search of water. Irrespective of the hot weather, safaris in this season are popular as you can spot Asian elephants lounging by the water bodies to stay cool. The sight of a tiger is also common as they prowl across the scanty forest floor. The best choice would be to opt for an evening or night safari during the summers.
In the monsoon months of June to September, some areas of the park remain closed and none of the water activities or boat safaris are functional. However, a guided trek through the dense jungles is truly a one-of-a-kind experience and an enthralling way to explore the park up close. Jeep safaris are also functional, taking you into the deep corners of the forest where tigers and other beasts lurk.
Each season at the Periyar National Park is one-of-a-kind. In the summer months of March to May, the dried terrain and scorching heat make it easy to spot the wildlife travelling across the landscapes toward the rivers and Periyar Lake. Winters between October and February are particularly pleasant with mild showers and lush foliage. It’s the best time to spot migrant birds and witness the endemic flora in full bloom. Safaris in monsoon months July to September are restricted to only a few areas.
The Periyar National Park has been a popular elephant and tiger reserve for years, so, travelling to the park is fairly easy. It is well connected to nearby cities via basic modes of transportation.
The park is situated in Thekkady, which is well connected to Kottayam, Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kothamangalam, Trivandrum, Munnar, Trichy and many more. You can travel via government or private buses or hire a private taxi from these cities.
The closest railway station in Kottayam, which is 114 kms away. All trains headed to Trivandrum will stop at Kottayam and run seven days a week. You can then hire a cab from Kottayam to reach Thekkady.
The nearest airports are in Madurai and Kochi, at a distance of 136 kms and 190 kms respectively. Kochi is well frequented by international flights from around the world. You can hire a cab from these airports to reach Thekkady.
While on safari at the Periyar sanctuary, you must stick to wearing neutral hues like tan, khaki, brown and olive. These colours, as opposed to bright ones, make sure that you don’t startle any animals and stay blended among the earthy tones of nature. Whether you opt for the boat, jeep or elephant safari, opt for clothing that covers your arms and legs to shield yourself from the sun, dust particles and insects. If you’re trekking in the sanctuary, additionally wear a pair of leech-proof socks, especially during the monsoons. Always apply an insect repellent and SPF 50+ sunscreen. Wear comfortable shoes or sneakers cover your feet.
During summers, wear light cotton or linen clothing. Carry a sun cap and sunglasses in addition to your sunscreen for further sun protection. A bandana can be extremely useful when the sun gets too harsh - you can soak it in water and drape it over your neck to stay cool.
During winters, layer your clothes and wear caps that cover your ears. It’s also recommended to carry a windcheater or raincoat in case you witness light showers.
During monsoons, wear full-length tracks and cotton t-shirts that dry quickly. Carry a good raincoat and do not forget your leech-proof socks.
Irrespective of the season at Periyar National Park, you must carry an SPF 50+ sunscreen, sunglasses and a cap to protect yourself from the sun. Carry a refillable water bottle as the safari is long, without any facilities to purchase water. An insect repellent is a must-have to keep pesky insects away. Jackets, caps and raincoats are needed during winters. Finally, carry a camera with a charged battery and sufficient memory and a pair of binoculars so you don’t miss out on a single thing!
If you choose the boat, jeep or elephant safari in the Periyar national park, you are not required to meet any fitness criteria. This makes it the best option for those travelling with children or elderly people. However, if you opt for a guided trek, a moderate level of fitness is required as the tour may last for long hours.
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