Located near the foothills of Himalayas and a short distance from the major tourist cities of Rishikesh and Haridwar, Rajaji National Park is one of the hidden treasure amongst the Indian Wildlife Sanctuaries. Best known for its 600-something elephants, Rajaji National Park is also a proposed tiger reserve. Once approved, it will be the second tiger reserve in the state of Uttarakhand, first being the most famous Jim Corbett National Park and Tiger Reserve which is approx. 99.8 km from Rajaji National Park.
Rajaji National Park expanses over an area of 820 square kilometres and covers the districts of Haridwar, Pauri Garhwal, and Dehradun – three important districts in the state of Uttarakhand.
Three sanctuaries namely Chilla, Rajaji, and Motichur were merged into one in 1983 and now form the Rajaji National Park. It is named after one of the most celebrated freedom fighters of India, C. Rajagopalachari also known as Rajaji. He was the last Governor-General of India under British Rule and also amongst the first recipients of the much revered Bharat Ratna awards in 1954.
Rajaji National Park is located between the Shivalik ranges on one side and the Indo-Gangetic plains on the other. The park is home to many varieties of flora which include pine trees, grasslands, riverine vegetation and broadleaved deciduous forests. Species such as but not limited to Rohini, Shisham, Sal, Baans, Semul, Sandar, Ber, Chilla, and Bel scatter around the national park. Sal trees dominate the park.
The park also is famous for housing the largest collection of elephants in Uttarakhand. Other residents of the park include tigers, leopards, spotted deer, sambar, jungle cats, wild boars, Rhesus macaques, Indian porcupine, Indian langurs, Himalayan Black Bear, and jackals. The park is also the dwelling for over 400 species of birds. Some of the most popular ones are Crescent Serpent Eagle, the Great Pied Hornbill, and Himalayan Pied Kingfisher. Reptiles such as pythons, King cobra, monitor lizards, and chameleons also inhabit the park. You may spot a lot of butterfly species and insects too.
It is important to take permits from the Forest Department office before entering the park. Near the Chilla Guesthouse, you will find the Forest Ranger’s office. It is here where you can see a brochure, decide on your plans to visit the national park, and also book a jeep for a safari into the national park. It is also a good idea to visit the GMVN tourist office in Haridwar before planning to visit the park as they can arrange for jeep safaris even when the park is closed to tourists. For approx. INR1950 per person, they can arrange for a 5-hour safari with a visit to a Van Gujjar forest camp (maybe). There are other options available too such as take one of the normal jeep safaris (INR800-1000 per person approx.) which last for three hours and are offered twice from sunrise to sunset every day on a jeep carrying 8 people approx.
You can also opt for a birdwatching experience at the ranges of Chilla and Gohari for INR300 per hour.
For more information, visit the official website of Rajaji National Park.
The nearest airport to Rajaji National Park is Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun (approx. 35 km). There are regular flights to Jolly Grant from Delhi.
The nearest railheads to the park are Rishikesh (approx. 18 km), Haridwar (approx. 24 km.), and Dehradun (approx. 56 km.).
The park can also be accessed via road from nearby cities such as Haridwar, Rishikesh, Delhi, and Dehradun. Chilla is considered the nearest proper village and the gateway to Rajaji National Park