The gateway to the Chitwan National Park, Sauraha is located on Nepal’s jungle-filled plains (called the Terai). It’s not the small, local village it used to be—it’s now filled with tourist-oriented businesses, hotels, and restaurants. But it’s a convenient place to stay if you’re looking to explore the park on a safari or a boat ride.
Sauraha is an easy place to stay to access the Chitwan National Park, home to Bengal tigers, rhinoceros, leopards, freshwater crocodiles, and an abundance of birds. Jungle used to cover the entire Terai region of Nepal, but now it’s restricted to pockets of national park and wildlife reserve. The area is also home to the Tharu people, and travelers can visit Tharu villages, see cultural performances, and learn about this ethnic group.
Travelers normally spend a two or three nights in Sauraha, and there are accommodations for every budget. Safari and other nature and wildlife-spotting packages can be pre-booked or arranged after arrival.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Some tour operators still offer elephant-back safaris. These are not recommended because of the cruel way that elephants are trained. Jeep or ox-cart safaris are preferable.
- Hundreds of one-horned rhinoceros live in Chitwan because of a successful breeding program. Visitors are almost guaranteed a sighting.
- There’s an entry fee for the park, with different prices for Nepalis, citizens of SAARC countries, and other visitors. Tickets are valid for one day.
How to Get There
Sauraha is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Kathmandu, and 93 miles (150 kilometers) from Pokhara. Buses leave from both cities early in the morning and take five to seven hours. Buses drop visitors off just outside Sauraha, where transfers can be arranged with tour operators and hotels. The nearest airport is Bharatpur, which is about 6 miles (10 kilometers) away. Take a taxi from outside the airport to Sauraha.
When to Get There
Sauraha is very hot and humid for much of the year, with a short, cold, and foggy winter. The best time to visit the park is in the cooler months, between October and March. Late January through to March is especially good as the tall elephant grass that grows in the jungle is cut back, making it easier to spot wildlife.
While Sauraha can get quite busy during peak season, for a more peaceful, less tourist-filled base for the Chitwan National Park, stay at Barauli. While Sauraha is to the east of the park, on the Rapti River, Barauli is to the west, on the Narayani River. There are a few homestays and higher-end accommodation options in Barauli, but few other businesses targeting travelers.