Lonely Planet Writer

This Indian state is aiming to be the butterfly capital of the world

With more than 500 different types of butterfly, this Indian state is hoping to become one of the globe’s capitals for travellers in search of the world’s most beautiful winged insects. Uttarakhand – in the north of India – is almost two thirds covered with forest and is home to 710 of India’s 1263 bird species as well as 500 of the country’s approximately 1400 types of butterflies.

Glassy Bluebottle Graphium cloanthus. Image by Sanjay Sondhi

To attract visitors, two butterfly parks have already been opened and a new field guide to the state’s vast array of lepidopterans has just been publishedAs part of researching the book, dozens of butterflies not recorded in Uttarakhand for decades were also rediscovered. Sanjay Sondhi of the Titli Trust told Lonely Planet: “last year, India’s first moth and butterfly meet was held at Devalsari [a village in the region] with visitors from all across the country.

Dark Blue Royal Pratapa icetas icetas male. Image by Sanjay Sondhi

“More than 100 butterfly species and 300 moth species were sighted in just four days. There are increased queries for trained nature guides who know about butterflies, and [in many] … areas, nature guides already exist.” He said butterfly tourism was one of the ideal ways for visitors to see what India has to offer.

Common Jezebel Delais eucharis. Image by Sanjay Sondhi

“What better way to enjoy nature than on foot; watching birds, butterflies, and other lesser-known fauna,” he said. “Uttarakhand has a terrific opportunity to present itself as a haven for nature tourism.” Butterfly tourism is growing in India with one particularly popular website providing tips on how to identify almost 1000 different types. There are a huge variety of moths as well in the country, with at least 744 species of the butterfly’s somewhat less-beloved cousin identified across the sub-continent.

Shikhar Falls Pale Green Sailer Neptis zaida. Image by Sanjay Sondhi

Uttarakhand, which borders Nepal, has some of the most spectacular Himalayan scenery in India and is home to both the country’s second highest mountain – Nanda Devi – and the second largest tiger population.