Eco tourism in India

Rich in cultural, historical, and natural sites, India’s tourism industry offers abundant potential. A lot of it is untapped, but with rising awareness and the government’s proactive steps, India is fast witnessing an increase in tourism.

While a thriving tourism industry is a welcome sign and a good news for everyone associated, including travel agents, hotels, restaurants, and tourist sites, it must also be a good news for our environment, for our planet as a whole, and that is where eco-tourism comes in.

So, let’s start by answering the question most travellers have.

What is eco-tourism?

Eco-tourism is a type of tourism involving travelling to natural areas that conserve the environment, support local communities, and educate visitors.

Compared to regular tourism, eco-tourism is a sustainable travel approach, prioritising conservation and community development over tourist inflow at any cost.

In India, eco-tourism is growing rapidly, and India is one of the few countries offering diverse natural landscapes, including dense forests, snow-capped mountains, and a vast expanse of deserts, islands and coastlines.

Now that you know what is eco-tourism, let's answer the next important question.

Which states in India are good for eco-tourism?

5. West Bengal

Eco tourism in West Bengal - Panoramic view of tea estates in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India

Panoramic view of tea estates in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India

West Bengal Population - 9,12,76,115

West Bengal Area - 88,752 sq. km.

Neighbouring States - Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Sikkim

Neighbouring Countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal

Famous for its sweet delicacies like the Roshogulla, Shondesh, and Mishti Doi, West Bengal has varying landscapes that delight eco-tourists.

The northern part of the state is blessed with hill stations like Darjeeling, Rimbik, and Kalimpong, while down south, there is the world-famous Sunderbans.

For those who love the waves, West Bengal also has some amazing beaches like Digha beach, Mandarmani beach, and Shankarpur beach.

Why is West Bengal good for eco-tourism?

  1. The only state in India with access to 3 stunning natural landscapes, the mighty Himalayas, Sunderbans which are home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, and the vast expanse of the Bay of Bengal.
  2. The government encourages and promotes eco-tourism, and its tourism department conducts tours to the Doars and Sunderbans regions.
  3. West Bengal State Forest Development Agency (WBSFDA) has developed around 7 centres for eco-tourism purposes. The infrastructure includes several key facilities like accommodation, boating, and nature trails in select locations. By spending time in these eco centres, one can unwind from the city's chaotic life and experience nature real close.

Some facts about West Bengal:

  • Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Botanical Garden, located near Kolkata, is home to The Great Banyan Tree, which covers an area of 3.5 acres! Yes, that's just one tree!
  • West Bengal accounts for a staggering 80%+ of India's raw jute production. Jute is extremely important in reducing dependency on plastic and helps us combat climate change.

4. Madhya Pradesh

Eco tourism in Madhya Pradesh - Spotted deers in Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Spotted deers in Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Madhya Pradesh Population - 7,26,26,809

Madhya Pradesh - 3,08,245 sq. km.

Neighbouring States - Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Rajasthan

Neighbouring Countries - None

Located in the central part of India, the state of Madhya Pradesh is aptly nicknamed 'The Heart of India'. Being a landlocked state, the state doesn't offer a panoramic view of seas and oceans, but nonetheless, it has other natural treasures that are second to none.

Madhya Pradesh's natural treasures, like Panna National Park, Kanha Tiger Reserve and Bhimbetka Rock Shelters, mesmerise tourists with their sheer beauty.

Being a state of hills, forests, rivers, caves, and numerous waterfalls, Madhya Pradesh offers abundant eco-tourism opportunities.

Why is Madhya Pradesh good for eco-tourism?

  1. The state is taking eco-tourism seriously; in fact, it has set up Madhya Pradesh Eco-tourism Development Board, an autonomous organisation within the forest department. Initiatives like these from the government are a step in the right direction.
  2. Several eco-tourism hotspots in Madhya Pradesh offer activities like heritage walks, tribal village tours, nature trails, boating, archaeological expedition, wildlife sighting, etc. A wide variety of activities ensure there is something for all age groups.
  3. Its eco-tourism department has a dedicated website that lets you explore eco-tour packages by destination or the activities you wish to do.
  4. The state has divided its eco-tourism hotspots into:
    1. Notified Recreation Areas
    2. Notified Wildlife Areas
    3. Buffer Areas
    4. Protected Sanctuary Areas
  5. A division like this ensures maximum learning and recreation for eco-tourists and simultaneously ensures the region's flora and fauna are well protected.

Some facts about Madhya Pradesh:

  • Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover area in India. It has 77,482 sq. km. of forests, which in area terms is larger than several states, including states like Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab!
  • The Bhimbetka Rock Shelter houses one of the oldest-known rock art globally. It is estimated the cave paintings here are more than 30,000 years old!

3. Kerala

Eco tourism in Kerala - Canoeing in backwaters, Kerala, India

Canoeing in backwaters, Kerala, India

Kerala Population - 3,34,06,061

Kerala - 38,863 sq. km.

Neighbouring States - Karnataka and Tamil Nadu

Neighbouring Countries - None

Kerala is often called 'God's Own Country' and 'Spice Garden of India'. When you think of Kerala, all you can imagine is its beautiful backwaters, decorated boathouses, lush greenery, and yes, lots of coconut trees on both sides of the roads!

This state is blessed with abundant natural beauty, including beaches, seas, rivers, hills, and numerous forests. You'd be surprised to know that Kerala has a few islands too! These many varieties in one state make it a heaven for eco-tourists from world over.

Why is Kerala good for eco-tourism?

  1. Each of Kerala's 14 districts offers you the convenience of eco-tourism. Be it Kasargod in the northern part of Kerala to Thiruvananthapuram, the state's southernmost district.
  2. As an eco-tourist, in addition to learning about Kerala's flora and fauna, you can also participate in activities like bird watching, trekking, rafting, and wildlife safari. Additionally, you can also book camping or cottage packages and stay closer to nature.
  3. The state offers numerous eco-tourism programmes that are a complete package, and many of them include guided trekking, camping, and food facility. Some famous eco-tourism programmes of Kerala include:
    1. Eravikulam National Park
    2. Parambikulam Tiger Reserve
    3. Silent Valley National Park
    4. Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary
    5. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

Some facts about Kerala:

  • The state is home to 3rd highest population of elephants in India — one more reason to head to Kerala and watch these gigantic mammals from close.
  • Kerala is also 3rd largest producer of coconuts in India!

2. Karnataka

Eco tourism in Karnataka - Jog falls in Shimoga, Karnataka, India

Jog falls in Shimoga, Karnataka, India

Karnataka Population - 6,10,95,297

Karnataka - 1,91,792 sq. km.

Neighbouring States - Goa, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala

Neighbouring Countries - None

Karnataka is a state of abundance. There's something spectacular for everyone, be it natural locations or historical sites. Rightfully so, the state's tourism department goes with the tagline 'One state. Many worlds.'

Mysore Palace, UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Hampi, Murdeshwar or Coorg, these places are well known and visited by tourists in large numbers. But you'll be glad to know that Karnataka is blessed with abundant flora and fauna and offers eco-tourism opportunities that are matched by very few locations.

Why is Karnataka good for eco-tourism?

  1. They are amongst the early adopters of eco-tourism, and way back in 2013, the state government established the Karnataka Eco-tourism Development Board with multiple objectives. Some important ones are conserving nature and developing infrastructure suitable for eco-tourism, empowering and encouraging the local community to be involved in eco-tourism-related opportunities, and spreading awareness about eco-tourism.
  2. The state has developed several infrastructure ambient for eco-tourism. This includes trek routes, a facility for jungle safari, and numerous jungle lodges and resorts across Karnataka.
  3. Whether you wish to witness the wonders of the Western Ghats or gaze at the vast expanse of coffee plantations, Karnataka won't disappoint the eco-tourist in you.
  4. Some of the famous eco-tourism hotspots in Karnataka are:
    1. BR Hills
    2. Chikmagaluru
    3. Kemmanagundi
    4. Kote Betta
    5. Nandi Hills
    6. Sakleshpur
    7. Savanadurga

Some facts about Karnataka:

  • The state is home to 100+ species of animals and 600+ species of birds!
  • Karnataka has its own 'Big Banyan Tree' called 'Dodda Aalada Mara'. It is located near Bengaluru, and this single tree spreads over 3 acres!

1. Arunachal Pradesh

Eco tourism in Arunachal Pradesh - Panoramic view of hills, Arunachal Pradesh, India

Panoramic view of hills, Arunachal Pradesh, India

Arunachal Pradesh Population - 13,83,727

Arunachal Pradesh Area - 83,743 sq. km.

Neighbouring States - Assam and Nagaland

Neighbouring Countries - Bhutan, China, and Myanmar

Located in northeastern India, Arunachal Pradesh is also called the 'Land of the Rising Sun'. The state is blessed with pristine scenic beauty that captivates travellers and continues to attract tourists.

You may be familiar with Arunachal Pradesh's most visited tourist attractions like Sela Pass, Tawang Monastery, Tawang War Memorial, Sungester Lake, etc.

But you will be surprised to know that Arunachal Pradesh is extremely rich in eco-tourism and offers abundant opportunities to be an eco-tourism hotspot in India and globally!

Why is Arunachal Pradesh good for eco-tourism?

  1. The state has taken several measures to protect its biodiversity, including setting up protected areas, parks, reserve forests, and sanctuaries.
  2. It offers a variety of landscapes for eco-tourists. It includes hills, mountains, and forests. Additionally, Arunachal Pradesh is also blessed with numerous lakes that are both pristine and picture-perfect.
  3. Arunachal Pradesh hosts 'Pakke Paga Hornbill Festival (PPHF)', one of the few festivals dedicated to conservation. The state government has even declared it a 'state festival'! Need we say more about what makes Arunachal Pradesh great for eco-tourism?
  4. The state is home to over 500 types of birds and 500 types of orchids. Looks like they have quite a lot of natural treasures for both flora and fauna lovers!

Some facts about Arunachal Pradesh:

  • Arunachal Pradesh is amongst the Top 200 most important ecoregions globally!
  • It is also amongst the 18 most significant 'biodiversity hotspots' globally!