Asia > South Asia > Nepal > Western Tarai > Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park is in south-central Nepal.
Chitwan National Park was established in 1973, and today covers an area of 932 km2 (360 sq mi). It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The protected area consists of Sal forest, and riverine grasslands in the flood plains of the Rapti, Reu and Narayani Rivers. The Churia hills rise towards the south from 150 m to more than 800 m. The western portion of the park is comprised of the lower but more rugged, Someshwor hill. The park shares its eastern boundary with the Parsa Wildlife Reserve.
More than 540 bird species have been recorded in the protected area. Reptile species include gharial and mugger crocodiles, monitor lizard, rock python and king cobra. Mammal species include rhinoceros, sloth bear, tiger, leopard, langur and rhesus monkeys, sambar deer and chital. Most elephants are domesticated and used for taking tourists on sightseeing excursions.
It is quite hot and humid most of the year.
Bharatpur is the nearest airport, about 10 km away.
Take the tourist bus from Kathmandu or Pokhara. Stop in at one of the many tour agencies (in either city) at least 1-2 days before your journey. From Kathmandu, Chitwan is about 4 hours (cost is approx Rs350 for standard tourist bus, no A/C). From Pokhara, it is maybe 6 hours. When you arrive in Chitwan (the village), you will need to take a horse cart or bicycle rickshaw (what the locals call a "taxi") the 7 km into the tiny village that Sauraha. A bicycle rickshaw can take about 45 minutes and costs Rs120. When you arrive, you can easily walk down the main road that is lined with lodges and guest houses.
Rainbow Safari tours operates a bus that goes directly from the tourist bus park outside Thamel in Kathmandu to the bus park just outside Sauraha (as of Dec 2010). When you get off the bus, you will be swarmed by touts waving pamphlets and offering to drive you into town. Ignore them or say you have a reservation and they will be respectful. It is a 15-minute walk into town. Backtrack on the dirt road the bus drove in on, take your first right, then follow the lodge signs into Sauraha.
Fees and permits
For all activities inside and outside (yes, really), visitors must pay Rs500 for a park permit.
- Pony & trap Pony rickshaws for 2 people
- Ox cart Bigger groups can be pulled by 2 oxen
- Elephant safari
- Gharial Breeding Centernear Kasara, 1 km.
- Lake Lamital
- Lake Devital
- Bikram Baba', a religious site.
- Chitwan Hatisar Elephant Breeding Center A museum about elephants in Nepal and stalls for about 10 female elephants with their young ones, which are chained and don't look too happy, although breeding elephants for the national park is supposedly helpful.
- Bishajari Tal (20,000 Lakes). This lake chain is made up of many small lakes spreading and covering huge area of national park. The name however, doesn't derive from the number of lakes, but from the fact that the lakes are about 20,000 ft (6,100 m) from the highway - a slight disappointment. You can do a bicycle tour to the lakes, which is quite nice as you see the nature and observe many birds, crocodiles and quite often see a rhino.
- World Elephant Polo Competition
- Local native dances - quite interesting and usually included in your "hotel package". Stick dancing is very loud as they hit sticks together to form a rhythm.
- Valmiki Ashram. A small temple and ashram or hermitage just inside Chitwan National Park. Valmiki is named after the sage Valmiki, who is said to have written his epic Ramayan in a retreat that is located in these rolling hills many thousands of years ago. Walk around the large ghat area in the morning and evening to see locals performing their religious as well hygienic duties. In around the 15 February is Surya Puja a celebration of the solar god Surya on the 1st of Magh, of the Nepali calendar. Years past there was a huge mela or fair with over 100,000 people with circus rides, zoos, dramas, and other cultural programs. Devotees from both India and Nepal attended but due to the Nepal conflict is has been reduced to only a few thousand. With the New Nepal it may grow again.
- Jungle safari, Elephant ride
- Boat ride in Rapti
- Motorcycle safari Explore traditional Tharu villages per motorcycle. Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Club organises tours out of Pokhara, and brings a local nature guide along for the ride. Just amazing.
- Stuff for Bikram Baba if you are religious
- Jungle Pub The original bar on the beach, and the ideal place to watch the sun go down over the jungle. It's also the hang-out of the custom motorcycle riders from Kathmandu and Pokhara when they're in town, so you might see some interesting Royal Enfield bikes.
- 1 Chilax House, Sauraha, Bachhauli VDC, Ward Number 2 (Two minute walk from park ticket counter and Two minute walk from rhino statue chowk), ☎ , , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 7AM to 8PM, check-out: 7AM to noon. Special package for Chitwan National Park, 15-minute walk from Sauraha bus park. Provide free wi-fi and has 4 common rooms and 5 toilet attached rooms (hot water supplied. Encompasses a organic vegetable and fruit garden, a self cooking facility restaurant cum kitchen. Provides all jungle activities including nature walks, elephant jungle safari, Jeep jungle safari, tharu cultural dance programmes, village tours, jungle excursions, canoe ride, and other wildlife related and cultural activities. US$3-$10.
- Jungle Sunset Camp, sauraha, ☎ , . On the banks of Rapti River, facing Chitwan National Park.
- Jungle Wildlife Camp, Sauraha Chitwan, on the Rapti riverbank, opposite the National Park (turn right at elephant statue,after 50 m left and follow the signs for about 100 m.), ☎ , . Check-in: noon, check-out: 10AM. Dutch/Nepali management. Colourful, clean and peaceful. Rs1000-2000.
- Chitwan Gaida lodge, attach with chitwan National Park, sauraha, chitwan, Nepal (in front of park entrance & park office as well as wildlife display museum), ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 11AM, check-out: 10AM. Run by leading ornithologist of Asia. The lodge is in peaceful environment, naturally gardened, homely atmosphere & beautifully located- it is a perfect place to spend your holiday in Chitwan National Park, lodge is in its heart. All rooms are clean and spacious with balcony, cool garden view and access to cozy garden. Rs600-2500.
- Rhino Lodge & Hotel, Gaida Chowk - Sauraha, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Located on the banks of the Rapti river. Each room has its own balcony with views across the river, to the jungle and over the hills beyond.
- Sapana Village Lodge, Chitwan (Sauraha), ☎ .
- Chitwan Jungle Lodge (In the heart of the Chitwan National Park), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Old-fashioned lodge provides its customers various activities such as bird watching, canoeing, nature walk, elephant briefing, swimming and elephant bathing, an observation tower, jungle drives, slide shows, etc.
- Gaida Wildlife Camp, ☎ , , , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge, ☎ . Pioneers of environmentally responsible and sustainable conservation tourism, set the standards for the finest wildlife experience in Chitwan. All are located either in the deep jungle or the buffer zone of the park and have the best-trained elephants and wildlife naturalists to take you on superb safaris.
- Hotel River Side, Sauraha, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Several activities are possible from there like elephant safaris, bird watching, cultural tours. Rs 2500 for one night and two days.
Camping is possible near the park, along with a chance to see wild animals.
If you want to see more of Nepal, visit any of the tour offices or ask your hotel manager to buy a bus ticket onward. Nearly everyone supplies these so shop around and sometimes you can save a maybe 50-100 rupees on your ticket. The tickets will most likely be for the local bus and not the standard tourist bus like you may have arrived in.
If you want to go to India from Chitwan, you can buy a bus ticket the same way to the border (tell them you want to go to Sonauli). Sonauli is the border town and is about 4 hours from Chitwan. When you arrive, you should be let off at the last stop (after Lumbini, which is only a few minutes apart). Your bus will be swamped with touts wanting to take you the 2km to the border in their bicycle rickshaws. It should only cost NPR30-50 so bargain accordingly (and remember to be clear that you are both talking about Nepalise rupees and not Indian rupees!). Note that some drivers will take you to a money change office just in front of the Nepal immigration office and then demand extra payment for the unscheduled (read: commissioned) stop. Just pay the formerly agreed upon amount and walk away. The immigration office is on the left side of the road. After getting your exit stamp (don't let them try to charge you a fake exit fee), walk through the large "Welcome to India" arch and proceed straight ahead past the first grouping of police guards on the left and on to a small "office" that is a long table with 3-4 men sitting with entrance forms. The sign is small and so a bit difficult to see and is also on the left side of the road. After filling out your entry form and getting stamped you can either get a taxi to take you onward to your intended city or you can walk approx another 200 m ahead to the bus lot (on right side of road) and ask around for your intended destination.