How to reach: By road you can cover the 375 km distance between Delhi and Ranthambhore in about 8-10 hours. The roads are good and the road trip in itself is a pleasure. You can plan your route through Sariska Tiger Reserve as well. Alternatively, you can fly till Jaipur the nearest airport and drive the remaining 160 Kms though the time taken to reach the destination is almost the same for both alternatives.
Best time to visit: November to February
Ranthambhore National Park is situated in the Sawai-Madhopur District of Rajasthan- It is a sufficiently developed area with hotels catering to the preferences of all sorts of tourists. The local people, blessed with the famous hospitality unique to the Rajasthani culture, make you feel right at home and feeling like a royal.
Here, the two main attractions are the Ranthambhore National Park and the Ranthambhore Fort.
While you are driving around the serene roads of Sawai Madhopur you will spot ruins on the sides of the roads - ruins of no significance but alluring nevertheless. The roads will also be lined by locals selling guavas which are deservingly famous.
Ranthambhore National Park: This serene piece of land is one of the largest national park of northern India and is home to the majestic Royal Bengal Tigers. Sighting rate of these tigers are quite high and you will have the bonus of your guide recognising the big cat by its name as each predator in this park is well identified with names like Jumru, Sundari, Machali, etc.
The park covers a total of 392 sq km and is divided in various zones. You can cover a portion of the specified zones by a canter or a gypsy. If you unlucky enough to not encounter a member of India’s largest tiger project you have the chances of running into other wild life such as leopard, nilgai, wild boar, sambar, hyena, sloth bear, chital, etc. A wide variety of birds will keep you occupied on your ride as well.
If you have the option, do pre-book your gypsy or seat in the canter through Rajasthan Tourism (pre-booking starts about two-three months beforehand for the main seasons). Personally, I prefer a canter where you get to share your experience and excitement over pugmarks with 15 other people. But, for a more personal experience you should book a gypsy for yourself- that way you get to stop anywhere you wish to take photographs of the scenic beauty of the park. Also, make sure you are adequately protected against the cold – caps, scarves, gloves – basically the whole deal with minimum amount of exposed skin. Most of our pictures turned out blurred due to the frozen fingers and uncontrollable shaking and teeth chattering. So don’t commit the mistake of underestimating the pre-dawn wind in an open-topped moving vehicle – the wind bites.
Ranthambhore Fort: It is a formidable fort sprawling over a huge area situated within the park and affording a breathtaking panoramic view of the park. This area is named by conjoining the hindi words ‘Rann’ (the dense forest surrounding the area), ‘Tham’ (the fort) and ‘Bhore’ (the water body adjacent to the fort). Hence Ranthambhore Fort, which is well disguised within deep foliage and cannot be seen from a distance.
Apart from the residential area and their accompanying grandeur, there are several religious structures of which a 5th century Ganesha Mandir and a mosque remnant with burial ground attracts most tourist.
Whatever you chose to do, the weekend over in Ranthambhore will surely transport you to another place and another era. One of the best stress-buster weekend trips if you are a nature lover.
The fort itself is a treasure trove for memories with its obscure winding paths - we had a heart-warming experience in an obscure under-repair Jain mandir inside the fort where we were very cordially offered food which was being cooked for the residents of the mandir there. At one spot, under a beautiful broken arch there is a custom of building tiny stone columns – you gather the scattered stones around and place them one above the other to build as high a stable column as you can and make a wish that might come true as long as the column stands. The most unique custom however is at the very entrance of the fort where visitors till date are asked to stone a statute of an erstwhile general who had betrayed the fort to its enemies. Besides, many varieties of birds have nested in the ruins over the years and you can try to distinguish them. However, don’t get too lost in the beauty of the fort – the monkeys inside are a menace and their size and the ferocity of their infighting is plain scary.