5 Best National Parks in Karnataka

Sambar Deer in One of The National Parks in Karnataka

The largest state in South India, Karnataka is home to 5 national parks. According to the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2019, it generated the maximum forest cover (1,025 sq km) in the country between 2017 and 2019. And, the total forest cover in the state stands at 38,575 sq km. The national parks in Karnataka are well-known for their verdure and incredible wildlife experiences.

Trekking and camping activities are also offered by the Forest Department in some of the parks. Follow the trail to get a rundown of all five national parks.

List of National Parks in Karnataka

S.No.NameEstablishment YearDistrict
1Bandipur National Park1974Chamarajanagar
2Bannerghatta National Park1974Bangalore (Bengaluru) Urban
3Nagarhole National Park1988Mysore, Kodagu
4Anshi National Park1987Uttara Kannada
5Kudremukh National Park1987Chikmagalur, Udupi, Dakshina Kannada

1. Bandipur National Park

Bengal Tiger

Covering an expanse of 874 sq km in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, Bandipur National Park is known as Karnataka’s largest national park. It is located near Gundlupet town in Chamarajanagar district.

The park is flanked by Nagarhole National Park in the north, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in the west and Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in the south.

Bandipur National Park and Tiger Reserve was established under Project Tiger in 1974. Along with the adjoining reserve forests, it is considered a major habitat for wild elephants in India.

Also Read: Best Wildlife Destinations For sighting Elephants in India.

The park is blessed with abundant wildlife including a wide range of mammals, birds, butterflies and reptiles. Gaur (Indian bison), spotted deer, gray langur, sambar deer and elephant are some of the commonly sighted animals here.

As per the ‘Status of Tigers, Co-predators, and Prey in India’ report, Bandipur Tiger Reserve is home to 126 adult tigers. In terms of tiger density, it boasts 7.70 tigers per 100 sq km area. With over 200 bird species, Bandipur offers amazing opportunities for birdwatching.

You may spot Indian roller, peafowl, grey junglefowl, black drongo and many types of bee-eater birds. Bandipur is undoubtedly one of the best national parks in Karnataka for seeing plentiful wildlife.

The national highway connecting Mysore to Ooty passes through the Bandipur reserve forest area. If you are driving through this stretch, you can see a lot of animals crossing the road.

However, vehicular movement is banned at night from 9 pm to 6 pm. So, plan your road trip accordingly.

For jungle safari, there are forest department buses and gypsies. The morning safari begins at 6:15 am and the evening safari at 2:30 pm. It lasts roughly 1.5 hours.

Getting To Bandipur National Park

Mandakalli airport in Mysore is the nearest domestic airport, approximately 73 km from Bandipur. Two of the nearest international airports are located in Coimbatore (135 km) and Bangalore (260 km).

Mysore Junction railway station serves as the closest railhead to the reserve. From Mysore city (80 km), it is nearly 2 hours drive.

2. Bannerghatta National Park

Bannerghatta National Park - One of the Top Five National Parks in Karnataka

Established in 1974, Bannerghatta National Park is spread over an area of 260.5 sq km. In 2002, a portion of the national park was carved out to create Bannerghatta Biological Park.

It is situated on the outskirts of Bangalore, approximately 22 km away from the city. Lion safari, Tiger safari and Butterfly Park are major attractions here. The park also houses a zoo and a museum.

The safari takes you through the different areas of the park where you can see tigers, lions, elephants, gaur and several other wild animals.

Butterfly Park comprises a butterfly garden, butterfly conservatory and a museum with an audio-visual room. The conservatory is covered by a huge dome-shaped enclosure. Take a stroll and enjoy seeing the fluttering butterflies all around.

It is one of the best national parks in Karnataka for a day trip from Bangalore city. The park remains open on all days from 9:30 am to 5 pm, except Tuesday. You can book Bannerghatta National Park’s safari tickets online.

If you are interested to know about the places to visit near Bangalore on a 2-day trip, check this post.

Getting To Bannerghatta National Park

The nearest airport and railway station are located in Bangalore. It is about an hour drive from Bangalore city to the park. Buses also ply from many parts of the city to Bannerghatta National Park.

3. Nagarhole National Park

Nagarhole National Park

Nagarhole National Park, also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park, is contiguous to Bandipur National Park. The Kabini river marks the common boundary between Nagarhole and Bandipur.

Extending 643 sq km, the park is spread across two districts of Karnataka – Mysore and Kodagu. Once a game reserve for the Wodeyar rulers of the Mysore Kingdom, it became a wildlife sanctuary in 1955.

It was subsequently upgraded to a national park in 1988 and then to a tiger reserve in 1999. The park is teeming with wildlife including over 270 bird species, several species of carnivores and herbivores.

Bengal tiger, leopard, dhole and striped hyena are some of the major predators in this forest. Gaur, elephant, barking deer and gray langur are commonly seen animals in this forest.

Gray Langur in Nagarhole National Park
Mother Gray Langur With Her Baby

Amongst all the national parks in Karnataka, Nagarhole has recorded the highest tiger density at 11.82 tigers per 100 sq km. It is one of the celebrated wildlife destinations for sighting Bengal tigers in India.

There are two gates for tiger safari – Nanchi gate near Kutta and Veeranahosahalli near Hunsur. The Nanchi gate is relatively crowded owing to the availability of hotels and resorts in and around Kutta town.

The bus safari run by Forest Department is offered at both gates. The first trip in the morning starts at 6 am and the next trip at 7: 30 am.

In the afternoon shift as well, they offer two safari trips starting from 3 pm. You need to buy the safari tickets at the national park gate.

Getting To Nagarhole National Park

The nearest airport and railway station, both are located in Mysore. It is almost 3 hours drive from Mysore city. Nagarhole national park enjoys excellent road connectivity with nearby cities like Mysore, Ooty and Coimbatore.

4. Anshi National Park

Anshi National Park - One of The Amazing National Parks in Karnataka
Deer Herd in Anshi National Park

Anshi National Park came into existence after a portion of Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary was carved out in 1987. It was brought under Project Tiger in 2007 along with the adjoining Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary.

Situated in Uttara Kannada district, the combined area of Anshi Dandeli Tiger Reserve measures 1300 sq km. It was renamed Kali Tiger Reserve in 2015. The river Kali, known as the lifeline of the tiger reserve, cuts across the forestland.

The park is bestowed with plentiful wildlife. Aside from tigers, the main predators in the park are leopard, sloth bear and dhole. Black panthers are also found here, albeit seen rarely.

It is also counted amongst the best national parks in Karnataka for birdwatching. Approximately 200 bird species are found here.

You may see birds, like crested serpent eagle, Malabar pied hornbill, broad-billed roller and black-crested bulbul.

Also Read: 15 Most Beautiful Birds in India.

There are several trekking trails inside the park. The Forest Department organizes trekking trips for adventure enthusiasts. Jungle safari in Kali Tiger reserve is offered twice a day – 6 am to 8 am and 4 pm to 6 pm.

Ulavi caves, located outside the park boundary, is another popular tourist attraction. It houses a group of caves and a temple, known as Channabasaveshwara temple.

Getting To Anshi National Park

Hubli Airport is the nearest airport, around 128 km from the park. The nearest railhead is in Karwar which is 56 km away. Regular buses also run from nearby cities including Bangalore, Dharwad, Karwar and Belgaum.

5. Kudremukh National Park

Kudremukh National Park - One of The Best National Parks in Karnataka
Picturesque Landscape of Kudremukh (Source)

Tucked in the hills of Western Ghats, Kudremukh National Park spans across three districts of Karnataka – Chikmagalur, Udupi and Dakshina Kannada. It is named after the Kudremukh peak, located at an altitude of 6,214 ft (1894 m).

Kudremukh in the local language (Kannada) means horse’s head. A portion of the hill appears to be in the shape of a horse’s head if you view from a specific angle.

The park offers stunning vistas of the rolling meadows and verdant Shola forests. With a number of nature trails, it is one of the best national parks in Karnataka for trekking.

It is roughly a 10 km-long trek from the forest checkpoint to the peak. The track passes through diverse terrains comprising lush plains, steep slopes, fresh streams and waterfalls.

The Tunga river and the Bhadra river streams traverse the park. Kadambi waterfalls is a major attraction on the way to the peak.

Kudremukh boasts of immensely rich floral and faunal diversity. The lion-tailed macaque is the flagship species of the park.

The forest is home to animals like gaur, deer, wild dog and common langur. However, animal sightings are not frequent. You might spot langur and lion-tailed macaque during the trek.

Jungle safari is not offered here. Trekking is the only way to explore this national park.

Getting To Kudremukh National Park

Kudremukh is accessible by road from Mangalore (100 km). It is approximately 2.5 hours drive from the city.

Buses also run from nearby cities, including Mangalore and Bangalore. The nearest airport and railway station are in Mangalore.

Further Reading

For more national parks travel inspiration, you might also want to read these posts:

Over To You Now…

Have you been to any of the national parks in Karnataka? Which ones did you enjoy exploring the most? Let us know in the comment section below.

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