While Nepal’s premiere tourist destinations are the gorgeous hiking trails that wind through the Himalayas in the north, the attractions along the country’s southern border shouldn’t be dismissed so easily. Home to countless rare species of birds, not to mention elephants, rhinos, and tigers, Chitwan National Park is a dream destination for any animal lover.
What To Know
Any travelers looking to go to Chitwan should consider starting their trip in Kathmandu. The Nepali capital boasts an international airport and offers tourist buses that run directly to Chitwan. Travel time runs somewhere between five to seven hours, so be prepared. While the climate in Kathmandu can be temperate, the southern Terai region can be sweltering, and is best visited outside of the summer months. Like most of southern Asia, Nepal is a relatively cheap destination, and hotels and food should prove fairly inexpensive. Rooms are generally clean and wi-fi and other facilities can be found easily, but don’t expect five-star accommodation. Look to stay in Sauraha, the village that serves as gateway to the park. English is the lingua franca here, and you should be able to navigate without much trouble. Most hotels and restaurants serve Nepali dishes or larger buffets, both delicious options, and vegetarian options are readily available as well.
What To Do
The park is the obvious draw here – as it should be. Still, there are several different ways to experience it, each with their own merits. By far the most exotic and exciting way to see the park is from atop an elephant. Tours are offered this way as an eco-management tool and due to the relative silence of the animals’ footsteps, theoretically allowing for more wildlife encounters. While no sighing is guaranteed, deer, monkeys, and endangered Indian rhinoceros can be frequently spotted in the park, as can the more elusive Bengal tiger. The park can also be toured through jeep, canoe, or jungle walk, each allowing their own unique park experiences. Canoe trips are highly recommended for those wishing to see birds and crocodiles in their natural habitat. Day tickets for the park run just under twenty U.S. dollars, and tours may cost an additional fee.
Outside the park, there are several local attractions worth exploring. For those interested in getting a taste of the local culture, consider visiting the Tharu Cultural Museum, a slice-of-life style museum that recounts the history of the local people. Afterwards, step outside and take a motorbike or bicycle tour through the surrounding villages to see how the Tharu people have thrived. On your tour, you can also purchase delicious locally made honey or stop by the riverbanks to see locals bathing their elephants. With so much to do and see around Chitwan, it’s recommended that you spend a few days here so as not to miss anything. This time can be combined into a larger Nepali circuit or with a trip to nearby Lumbini – birthplace of the Buddha.
Header photo by Kedar Bhusal on Unsplash