Guide to the Chitwan National Park
Chitwan is home to Nepal’s first national park, the Chitwan National Park. Surrounded by the Mahabharat Range and the Churia Hills, the dense jungles of Chitwan is home to endangered wildlife like the one-horned rhino, Royal Bengal tiger, and innumerable birds and plants.
Spread over the banks of the Narayani, Rapti, and Reu rivers, Chitwan is Nepal’s second-largest city. The original inhabitants of Chitwan are the Tharus, a jungle-dwelling ethnic community. The Tharus have their own unique custom and traditions, which are quite different from those followed by the larger Hindu populace.
Many tourists visit Chitwan to enjoy a wildlife experience. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Chitwan National Park protects 75 species of mammals, 643 species of birds, 206 kinds of butterflies, 55 species of reptiles, 422 species of plants, etc.
- Explore the Chitwan National Park in Sauraha and enjoy fun-filled activities.
- Take a jeep safari inside the park and discover the habitats of the one-horned rhino, Royal Bengal tiger, deer, sloth bear, etc. While elephant rides are available most tourists nowadays tend to avoid them due to the unethical treatment of elephants.
- Pay a visit to the Elephant Breeding Centre and interact with baby and mama elephants.
- Take a canoe ride on the Rapti River that flows inside the park. On the river bank, you can spy the gharials or marsh muggers basking in the sun. If you are lucky you can get a glimpse of the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger resting among the tall elephant grass.
- A guided walking tour inside the park will bring you up close to some of the jungle’s wild inhabitants. You can also take a bird-watching tour to learn more about the park’s avian population.
- Head to the river and help the mahouts bathe their elephants. This is an enjoyable activity both for the elephants and tourists as the elephants play around spraying water on the humans while bathing.
- Stroll around a Tharu traditional village and interact with the villagers.
- Enjoy an entertaining cultural program at the Tharu Cultural Centre. Tharu boys and girls will present their traditional songs and dances.
- Visit the sacred Hindu sites in and around the national park.
How to get there?
There are direct buses from Kathmandu and Pokhara to Chitwan. Most tourist buses leave at 7 am. There are also local buses that depart every hour or two from the local bus park.
You can also hire a private taxi if you want a more comfortable ride. It takes around 6-7 hours to reach Chitwan via road. If you want to ditch the road journey, you can always opt for an air transfer. The flight to Bharatpur (the nearest airport to the wildlife park) from Kathmandu takes around 25 minutes.
The best months to travel to Chitwan are October, November, December, January, February, and March.
Since it lies in the Terai area, the rest of the year tends to be hot and humid. Irrespective of the time of your travel, always carry with you a bug spray or insect repellent and sunscreen lotion. Wear clothes that are light and comfortable. If you are planning to take a jungle hike, you should have a pair of sturdy closed shoes and clothes that cover your legs and arms to protect you from the sun and insects.
Accommodation and Food
Chitwan offers a vast range of luxury, mid-range, and budget accommodations. Most of the hotels are located near the national park. Some of the old jungle resorts operate from inside the park. You can choose a good hotel as per your budget.
There are restaurants, cafes, and bars lining the streets of the Hatti Chowk, the bustling commercial area around the park. Since this is a tourist area you can find a variety of food on the menu – Nepalese, Indian, Italian, Continental, etc.
Chitwan is also renowned for its Hindu pilgrimage sites.
Valmiki Ashram – Valmiki Asham is said to be the place where Sage Valmiki, the author of the Hindu epic Ramayana, resided. It’s also regarded as the place where Sita, Lord Rama’s wife, gave birth to the twins Luv and Kush after she was banished from Ayodhya,
Located inside the Chitwan National Park, the ashram lies in a tranquil area on the banks of the Tamasa River. Surrounded by forests, this is a peaceful place to visit. There are temples, ponds, and sites mentioned in the Ramayana inside the ashram. Valmiki Ashram is one of the most visited Hindu pilgrimage sites in Chitwan.
Devghat – Another religious site close to Chitwan is Devghat, Located at the confluence of Seti Gandaki and Krishna Gandaki rivers, this sacred site has been mentioned in the holy texts of Skanda Purana and Baraha Purana. According to these sacred texts, Devghat is the place where gods come occasionally to bathe. People believe that if one dies a natural death at Devghat he or she will directly reach heaven.
There are old age homes, temples, and sacred shrines around the ghat. People come here to meditate and take a ritual dip in the river. Some old people following Hinduism choose to spend the last days of their lives at this place.
Chitwan is a great place to chill out after a long trek or if you are on a short trip to Nepal. The tour to Chitwan National Park is ideal for families traveling with kids and people who enjoy wildlife. Chitwan’s dense tropical forest is a safe haven for endangered animals and birds. You will get to enjoy a wildlife experience which is considered to be one of the best in South Asia at Chitwan National Park.
There are also many places of religious importance around Chitwan. Surrounded by pristine forests and Himalayan rivers, the jungles of Chitwan were a favorite place to meditate for Hindu rishi munis (sages) and ascetics in the bygone days. Now it is an important pilgrimage site for Hindu pilgrims from both Nepal and India.