Sanjay Gandhi National Park

National Park in Mumbai (Bombay)
Image by Tanuki Photography / Getty Images
Image by Tanuki Photography / Getty Images

It’s hard to believe that within 1½ hours 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 concrete, all surrounded by forested hills on the city’s northern edge. Urban development has muscled in on the fringes of the park, but its heart is very peaceful.

There is no trekking ban per se but accessing areas within the core protected area requires prior permission, so the easiest way to take a walk in the woods is by going with Bombay Natural History Society. You might see Shilonda waterfall, Vihar lake (Tulsi requires pre-authorisation, which is usually limited to researchers etc) or even the park's highest point, Jambol Mal. The park's most intriguing option, the Kanheri Caves, is 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. Avoid the zoo-like lion and tiger ‘safari’ as the animals are in cages and enclosures.

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 from August to November. Activities can now also be booked online.

An information centre with a small exhibition on the park’s wildlife is inside the park’s main northern entrance. The nearest station is Borivali, served by trains on the Western Railway line from Churchgate station (₹15 to ₹165, 30 minutes, frequent).