Ours is a country rich in its endowments of natural resources and biodiversity. Since time immemorial, Indian geography and natural beauty have baffled many.
From the snow-capped Himalayas to the sandy shores of the peninsula, from the dense Ghat forests to the arid deserts – the extremities through which nature has chosen to manifest itself are wondrous.
Wouldn’t you, then, love to experience this beautiful diversity of the Indian flora and fauna, given a chance? Certainly, each one of us can’t pack our bags and set out for the wild terrains beyond.
Yet, it is possible to relish these glimpses of India’s rich biodiversity in the form of zoological parks, commonly called zoos.
Almost every big city in India has a zoo today and sees crowds of people flock to them even on weekdays to relish in the arms of nature. We bring to you a list of Top Ten Zoos in India and their best attractions.
Be it for a small family picnic, a fun day out with friends or simply a day you choose to put your photography skills to use, you will know where to go.
Here is the List of 10 Most Popular Zoological Parks In India:
National Zoological Park, Delhi
- Location: Delhi, near Old Fort (Purana Qila)
- Timings: 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM
- Entry Fee: INR 20-40 (Indians), INR 100-200 (Foreign Nationals)
People say you can find anything and everything in Delhi; so, when it comes to a grand and beautiful zoological park, how can Delhi lag? The National Zoological Park of Delhi dates back to 1959 when it was known as the Delhi Zoo. Over time, the zoo has become home to some of the rarest species of flora and fauna you will come across.
The zoo is dotted with multiple birds, reptiles and mammals, along with rich plant diversity. It can take you a whole day or even more if you wish to visit and learn about every plant and animal type housed here.
What is interesting to note is that the zoological park promotes several conservation breeding programmes as well.
The Asiatic Lion, Royal Bengal Tiger, Indian Rhinoceros, Brown-Antlered Deer and the Red Jungle Fowl are some of the endangered or risk-bearing species that are bred in captivity for biodiversity conservation here.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling
- Location: Darjeeling, West Bengal
- Timings: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM (closed on Thursdays)
- Entry Fee: INR 20 (Indian nationals), INR 50 (Foreign nationals), INR 10 (camera)
People say you can either be a hill or a beach person. If you find yourself being more inclined towards the lofty mountains, this is one zoo that must feature on your bucket list. The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, after all, rests in the quaint hill town of Darjeeling in West Bengal.
The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park happens to be the largest high-altitude zoo in our country. Established in 1958, the park aims to strike a harmonious ecological balance in the Eastern Himalayan Region. It is primarily known for housing the endangered species of Red Pandas among many others.
The zoo sees, among other visitors, a special bunch of birdwatchers every year, who frequent the spot for capturing some of nature’s rarest creatures. Ring parakeets and hill mynas are a common sight. There are also other endangered animals on the list, from Siberian tigers to rare mountain goats.
- Location: Mysore, Karnataka
- Timings: 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM (closed on Tuesdays)
- Entry Fee: INR 20-50 (only the Zoo), INR 50-100 (Zoo and Karanji Lake)
The Mysore Zoo is also known as the Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens and is located in the scenic heritage city of Mysore. The zoo is one of the oldest as well as largest in the country.
The speciality of the zoo happens to be the cleanliness and spaciousness of the enclaves in which the animals are homed. The Mysore Zoo happens to be situated by the scenic Karanji lake which spans w whooping 77 acres and has the picturesque Chamundi hills for a backdrop.
It serves as a fascinating spot for families and friends alike to spend winter morning and summer evenings in fun and frolic. Another special feature happens to be a large walk-through aviary where one can spot the rarest of birds in enclosures and read about them.
The zoo is home to a large variety of animals, including exotic species like green anacondas and baboons. Greenery spans in all directions where the eye meets the horizon and there can be no better way to relish nature at its prime if you are at Mysore than spending a day at the Mysore Zoo.
Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park, Pune
- Location: Pune, Maharashtra
- Timings: 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM (closed on Wednesdays)
- Entry Fee: INR 05-15 (Indian nationals), INR 100 (Foreigners)
The Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park in Pune is commonly known as the Rajiv Gandhi Zoo. The zoo has been centred around a water body by the name of Katraj Lake, which had been developed as a reptile haven. The Rajiv Gandhi Zoo was started merely as a reptile park back in 1999.
Over the years, the Zoo has gained in size, animal and plant diversity as well as the number of visitors. Today, the zoo is home to some of the most vulnerable as well as some of the most delightful animal and plant varieties of the country and beyond. The zoo is home to the Royal Bengal tiger, the white tiger, the Asiatic lion, the blackbuck, the cobra and the peafowl, to name a few.
The Rajiv Gandhi Zoo is also looked upon by many as an educational attraction. People who are interested in learning about biodiversity often find themselves roaming around the zoo, grasping information about plants and animals. Its design centred around a lake makes it a favourite picnic spot for many.
Indira Gandhi Zoological Park, Vizag
- Location: Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
- Timings: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (closed on Mondays)
- Entry fee: INR 10-40 (varies on weekdays/weekends), INR 20-100 (for a camera)
The Indira Gandhi Zoological Park in Vishakhapatnam (commonly called Vizag) is situated in the eastern coastal state of Andhra Pradesh. The zoological park is set in the Kambalakonda Reserve Forest itself, which is a must-see attraction lying in the Eastern Ghats of India.
The Indira Gandhi Zoological Park is the third largest zoo in the country.The zoo dates back to 1977 when it was first opened for public visits. The kind of plant and animal variety in this zoological park is mesmerizing.
The park is also home to a handful of great restaurants, restrooms and other facilities for tourists to relish in comfort. The scenic beauty of the zoological park could perhaps be measured to some extent if we tell you that it is surrounded on three sides by the hills of the Eastern Ghats, with the Bay of Bengal on the fourth side.
The zoo is home to more than eighty different animal species, which includes the Royal Bengal tiger, the Cheetah, the Mandrill, the Eld’s deer and the Himalayan Black Bear.
The zoo is also home to a huge variety of birds – pelicans, peafowls, eagles, ostriches, macaws and emus – to name a few. It is a must-have on your travel list if you happen to visit the beach city.
Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad
- Location: Hyderabad, Telangana
- Timings: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (closed on Mondays)
- Entry fee: INR 30-60 (varies on weekdays/weekends), INR 100-500 (for a camera)
The Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad is popularly called the Hyderabad Zoo and is one of the most popular attractions the city has to its name. Spread over an area of 380 acres, the zoo has a 600-acre Mir Alam Tank adjacent to it, adding to its scenic beauty and public attraction. Besides, it serves as the spot where migratory birds flock to seasonally.
One of the zoo’s special attractions happens to be the nocturnal house, where the daytimes have been reversed artificially for the animals. This way the visitors can catch a glimpse of them in action even in the daytime.
The exhibits in this section comprise several types of bats, owls, loris, leopards and hedgehogs.
The Hyderabad Zoo is also famous for its safari rides, where people can watch closely the Royal Bengal tiger, the Asiatic lion and the sloth bear. The campus itself is also home to a history museum.
There are also train rides for people to witness the rich diversity of flora in the campus. Several people flock to this mega attraction even on weekdays and relish spending time in the laps of nature.
Nandankanan Zoological Park, Bhubaneswar
- Location: Bhubaneswar, Orissa
- Timings: 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM (closed on Mondays)
- Entry fee: INR 20 (above 12 years of age), INR 100-500 (for a camera)
Perhaps one of the largest campuses you will come across in India, the Nandankanan Zoo is spread across 437 hectares – a whopping 1080 acres! Nandankanan houses both a zoological as well as a botanical park, which makes it one of the most interesting places for a nature lover.
The literal meaning of Nandankanan itself happens to be “The Garden of Heaven”, and it lives up to its name without a doubt.The zoo is home to some of the endangered species of the subcontinent, like the Sangal lion-tailed macaque and the Indian pangolin.
Apart from these exotic varieties, one also comes across rare crocodiles, lions, deer and birds. The special reptile park of the Nandankanan zoo has an entrance shaped like a dinosaur’s mouth. Visitors can also go for a safari ride – not a very common sight in many zoological parks – and see tigers, lions and bears up close.
The variety of flora in Nandankanan is mesmerizing as well. It is soon to have the largest Orchid House of the state. Besides, the park is also famous for conducting numerous programmes for adopting animals and breeding them in captivity.
With more than 3.3 million visitors every year, Nandankanan is a place you do not want to miss if you are in Bhubaneswar even for a couple of days.
Alipore Zoo, Kolkata
- Location: Kolkata, West Bengal
- Timings: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (closed on Thursdays)
- Entry fee: INR 10-30 (visitors), INR 250 (camera)
If you have been wondering all this while which is the oldest zoological park in the country, you will be pleased to know that it happens to be the Alipore Zoo of Kolkata.
Dating back to 1876 when it was first opened, the Alipore Zoo happens to be one of the most favourite picnic spots of Calcuttans, with an annual footfall of millions and peak visits crossing 1 lakh visitors on New Year’s Day.
The Alipore Zoo will always be remembered for housing Adwaita, the Aldabra giant tortoise was, reportedly 250 years old. The rich variety of flora and fauna found here is worth a mention.
The zoo houses the Royal Bengal tiger, the African and Asian lions, the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros and reticulated giraffe, to name a few. The Alipore Zoo also happens to be a bird-watchers delight, with Lady Amherst’s pheasant, touracos, hornbills and rare species like the ostrich, emu and macaw.
Spanning about 45 acres of land, the Alipore Zoo also has ample facilities for visitors within its campus. There is also a separate children’s zoo within, a Reptile House, a Primate house and glass-walled tiger houses – the first of their kind in the country.
Best visited on a cool winter morning, the Alipore Zoo is a delight in the scenic city of Kolkata.
Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Chennai
- Location: Chennai, Tamil Nadu
- Timings: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (closed on Tuesdays)
- Entry fee: INR 35-75 (Indian nationals), INR 250-500 (Foreign nationals), INR 250-500 (for camera)
Located in Vandalur in south-western Chennai, the Arignar Anna Zoological Park dates back to 1985, though it was first operational as Madras Zoo since as early as 1855.
The uniqueness of the zoo lies in its 228.4 acres rescue and rehabilitation centre for animals, making it one of the most active centres of animal welfare in the country.The zoo houses a commendable variety of flora and fauna variety and is part of the Vandalur Reserve Forest area.
With a gently undulating terrain, the park’s design has retained nature’s growth in the best way possible. A lot of thought has been given to any construction activity within, be it roads, buildings or even enclosures. This makes a trip to the park campus particularly interesting.
What is also fascinating is the layout – most exhibits are placed along a 2.5-kilometre circular road. The rest of the area can be called a free-movement zone for the animals like deer, jackals and several birds.
To the north-west of the campus is present the Otteri lake, which sees flocks of migratory birds come every season, making the place a delight for anyone who has a keen interest in nature’s ways.
Amirthi Zoological Park, Vellore
- Location: Vellore, Tamil Nadu
- Timings: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
- Entry fee: INR 02 only
Another zoological park from Tamil Nadu, the Amirthi Zoo is situated in the Tiruvannamalai district of the state. It rests at a distance of about 25 kilometres from the city of Vellore.
Dotted with beautiful waterfalls and rich flora, the Amirthi Zoological Park is part of a large forest, half of which has been dedicated to the development of a wildlife sanctuary, the zoo occupying the other half.
The location is appropriate for spending holidays with loved ones while also being a great spot for animal lovers. From red-headed parrots to dangerous wild cats, from spotted deer to pythons, the Amirthi Zoo houses them all. The Amirthi forest, a part of which is the zoo, happens to be the biggest in the state of Tamil Nadu.
There are also proposals to allow some portion of the forest area to the development of elephant camps. Tamil Nadu being home to many temples, a rejuvenation spot for the temple elephants in the Amirthi forest seems a warm idea.
There is also a soon-to-be upgrade in terms of visitor amenities at the zoo, making it an ideal choice for spending some time with nature all around.
We are all aware of the fact that the Indian subcontinent happens to be blessed with a handsome variety of flora and fauna. The Indian skies are home to more than 1300 species of birds, the lands are blessed with more than 15,000 species of plants and country’s varied geography is home to about 8% of the world’s mammalian species.
One of the interesting ways in which you could yourself experience wildlife and nature up close is through zoological parks. So, the next time you are planning a holiday, why not spend a few hours in the city zoo and delve into nature’s surprises?