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Sanjay Gandhi National Park/India

Introducing Sanjay Gandhi National Park

It’s hard to believe that within 90 minutes of the teeming metropolis you can be surrounded by this 104-sq-km protected tropical forest. Here, bright flora, birds, butterflies and elusive wild leopards replace pollution and crowds, all surrounded by forested hills on the city’s northern edge. Urban development tries to muscle in on the fringes of this wild region, but its national park status has allowed it to stay green and calm.

At research time, a trekking ban had been introduced to protect wildlife, but you can get inside the woods if you go with BNHS. On your own, you can take the shuttle to the Shilonda waterfall, Vihar and Tulsi lakes (where there’s boating), the zoolike lion and tiger safari and – the most intriguing option – the Kanheri Caves, a set of 109 dwellings and monastic structures for Buddhist monks 6km inside the park. The caves, not all of which are accessible, were developed over 1000 years, beginning in the 1st century BC, as part of a sprawling monastic university complex. They’re no Ajanta, but worth a visit.

Inside the park’s main northern entrance is an information centre with a small exhibition on the park’s wildlife. The best time to see birds is October to April and butterflies August to November.