Delhi's richness doesn't just end with its history and beautiful monuments. The Capital is also blessed with a natural heritage that very few cities around the world can match.
Its vast and varying splendour includes lakes, water bodies, gardens, biodiversity parks and the Ridge forest - a wilderness in the midst of a bustling metropolis. And now nature lovers from across the world come to explore this urban biodiversity.
"There is a whole new level of curiosity among the people to explore the city's green spaces. We regularly organise bus trips to take people to lesser-known sites of ecological significance. The idea is to expose Delhi's heritage of green spaces and highlight the need to preserve it. There is a huge potential for eco-tourism in the city," says Vidya Subramanian of Delhi Greens, an organisation that promotes eco-tourism in the city.
Birding tours or bird watching and nature walks are becoming popular and several individuals, organisations and travel companies are taking tourists on myriad nature trails in Delhi and NCR that include visits to gardens, bird sanctuaries, tree walks, village, farm tours and village safaris.
"There is a renewed interest among both Delhiites and tourists to explore Delhi's green spaces. Our tree walks have Delhiites, tourists and expats, many of whom come with their families to explore the city's greenery. This is their way of connecting with nature," says a coordinator for India Habitat Centre's nature walks.
"We take about 1,000 foreign tourists to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary every year. The number of foreigners coming to watch birds have increased two fold in the last couple of years," says Vivek Awasthi, managing director of Hamara Holiday Private Limited, a Delhi-based travel company that specialises in bird watching tours.
The Capital's gardens and parks also figure high on tourists' itinerary.
The Garden of Five Senses, 20-acre park in the undulating rocky terrains in Saidul Ajaib village near Saket, is one of the most popular gardens that attract tourists from across the country. The garden has about over 300 species of plants and tress and is a nature lover's delight.
"The garden attracts about 1,200 people on an average every day and 5,000 people every day when it hosts the annual Garden Tourism Festival. It also attracts lots of tourists from both India and abroad," says OP Mishra, general manager, Delhi Tourism, which is also soon going to open a new adventure and eco-park at Kaganheri in southwest Delhi.
Another famous attraction in the city is the Mughal Gardens in Rashtrapati Bhavan and Nature Trail' at the President's Estate that attracts many nature lovers and tourists.
"About 4 lakh people visited the Mughal Gardens last year. Besides, the Nature Trail at the President's Estate, started two years back as an initiative to create awareness on nature conservation and eco-friendly practices, is quite popular with tourists," says Archana Datta, OSD (PR) to the President.
The Nature Trail, spread over 75 acres, boasts of pond ecosystem, butterfly corner, mango orchard, peacock point, bird point, orangery, composting pit, vermicompost pits, vineyard, temperate fruit orchard, etc.
Around 136 wild and cultivated plant species and 84 animal species are found along the Nature Trail.
So, history, heritage - and nature at its best, that's Destination Delhi for you.