Many travelers think of snow-capped mountains when they think of Nepal, but the Chitwan National Park couldn’t be further from that image. Located on the Terai—the once jungle-filled plains of southern Nepal bordering India—Chitwan is famed for its jungle activities, and sightings of the 1-horned rhinoceros are almost guaranteed.
The forests, grasslands, and rivers of the Chitwan National Park shelter a lot of wildlife, including 1-horned rhinoceros, Royal Bengal tigers, gharial crocodiles, elephants, and many bird species. Rhino sightings are especially common due to a successful conservation project that has seen numbers of the animals increase. The culture of the local Tharu people who live in the area combines elements of North Indian and Nepali culture, and visitors to the area can enjoy a Tharu cultural performance.
Jungle safaris (by jeep or ox cart, or on foot) as well as boat rides and cycling between villages are popular activities here. Visit on a multi-day small-group safari with a guide who can help you spot wildlife on land and from a canoe on the Rapti River.
Things to Know Before You Go:
- While visitors will see elephant-back safaris on offer, these should be avoided for ethical and animal-welfare reasons.
- Visitors must pay a daily fee to enter the park.
- Bring insect repellent, although there’s no need to worry about malaria in this part of the Terai.
How to Get There
The Chitwan National Park is a 5-hour drive from Kathmandu or Pokhara. Tourist and local buses can be taken from either city, with tourist buses being more expensive but much safer and more comfortable. Alternatively, you can fly from Kathmandu or Pokhara to Bharatpur Airport, which is a short drive from the park.
When to Get There
The climate of Chitwan is more like that of North India than it is like the hills of Nepal. The area experiences short foggy winters and blisteringly hot summers. The best time to visit Chitwan is between October and March, when the temperatures are most comfortable.
Visit the Bardia National Park
Chitwan National Park is very popular with travelers to Nepal, partly because it’s so easily accessible from Kathmandu and Pokhara. For a more rugged jungle experience, visit the less visited Bardia National Park in the far west of the country; it gives an idea of what Chitwan was like before the development of tourism. There are good chances to spot tigers there, too. Reach Bardia by flying to Nepalgunj on the western Terai.