Sightseeing cruise passing dead tree on lake at Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in early morning.

Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Periyar Tiger Reserve

Top choice in Periyar Tiger Reserve

Bison, sambar, wild boar, langur, around 2000 elephants and 35 to 40 tigers wander the lushly green hills of South India’s most popular wildlife reserve, which takes in 777 sq km of glorious Western Ghats country, including a 26-sq-km artificial lake created by the British in 1895. Established as a sanctuary in 1934, Periyar was declared Kerala's first tiger reserve in 1978. All reserve access is through Kumily's Ecotourism Centre. The best months for wildlife-spotting are December to April.

While the much-loved lake cruise here doesn't scream 'wildlife experience', other activities, such as treks led by tribal villagers, give you a real feel of the reserve's raw natural beauty and make for a rewarding visit. Bring warm, waterproof clothing.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions