Chitwan National Park travel guide

Nepal may be home to most of the Himalayan range – a whopping 800km stretch – but it’s not content to stop there when it comes to breathtaking highlights. Chitwan National Park is another wonderous attraction, the lush, subtropical lowland yin to Nepal’s mountainous yang. It’s one of the few remaining undisturbed pockets of the Terai region, which once spread over the foothills of India and Nepal, and home to one of the last populations of Indian one-horned rhinos as well as a refuge of the Bengal tiger.
Wedged between two river valleys, covered with lush vegetation and with the mighty Himalayas as a backdrop, Chitwan National Park is a glorious eyeful.
The fact that you can explore Chitwan in a variety of ways makes it unique, and uniquely enjoyable. Elephant safaris run here, but we do not agree with riding elephants anywhere, full stop. Instead, jump in a jeep, hop in a canoe or, even better, walk – Chitwan is one of the only places in the world where you can spot a tiger on foot. If that doesn’t get your blood pumping, we recommend you see a doctor.
Find out more in our Chitwan National Park travel guide…

Chitwan National Park is…

a biodiverse jewel, that shelters and protects numerous endangered wildlife species.

Chitwan National Park isn’t…

the place to try an elephant safari. Yes, they do run here, but no they’re never responsible or ethical. Explore by jeep, canoe or on foot instead.

Chitwan National Park
map & highlights

Chitwan lies near the border with India, in the south of Nepal, and although it’s possible to fly from the capital Kathmandu (which takes just 20 minutes), we recommend the lower carbon and more scenic option which is to drive. Both tailor made and small group tours visit the park. Some head here from the capital, a five-hour drive, others from Pokhara, the gateway to the Annapurnas, a six-hour drive, or from the ancient village of Bandipur, two hours away. Once here, you can explore the park on foot on a walking safari, take a dugout canoe ride or boat cruise, or join a jeep safari.

1. Birds

There are more than 450 bird species upping the avian appeal in Chitwan National Park, with resident and also migratory birds here, who stop as they head south from Siberia and north from India. Spot peacocks strutting through the sal forest, or hop into a canoe to see iridescent kingfishers and bee-eaters, storks poking through the shallows and hundreds of sand martins and barn swallows.
Core zone

2. Core zone

Specialist wildlife watching tours to Chitwan include a few nights in the park’s core zone, not just the buffer zone surrounding it. A half hour drive, a boat crossing and short jeep ride take you deep into the park, to spot wildlife on foot, by jeep and by boat on the Narayani River. It’s not uncommon to see 10 different rhinos on a three-hour safari here.
Other wildlife

3. Other wildlife

Tigers may be the headline act, but there’s a huge supporting cast of wildlife in pristine, biodiverse Chitwan, including 68 mammal species. One of the last populations of Indian one-horned rhinos lives here (there are around 600), alongside elephants, leopards, jungle cats, sloth bears, monkeys and, in the rivers, gharials, mugger crocodiles and rare Gangetic dolphins. Sambar, chital and Indian muntjac keep the big cats fed.

4. Rivers

Rivers are a beautiful highlight of Chitwan, providing diverse habitat in their waters and floodplains. The Narayani River (aka the Gandaki) originates in the Himalayas. Take a boat safari to look out for gharials and the rare Gangetic river dolphin, plus rhinos, elephants, gaur and even tigers drinking on its banks. Cruise the Rapti River in a dugout, enjoying the birdlife and blissful quiet.

5. Sauraha

Sauraha is the eastern gateway to Chitwan National Park and often the base for travelers. It started life as a small Tharu village of mud and daub huts, with one or two hotels, but has grown into a town, with restaurants and shops. There’s still a nice mix of tourists and local Tharu people walking its streets, though, and it retains a laid-back feel.

6. Tigers

Between 102 and 152 Bengal tigers live in Chitwan and neighbouring Parsa National Park. Seeing them isn’t easy, but knowing they’re there certainly gives a walking safari a certain frisson. For the best chance of spotting one, spend more than the standard few days in the park. A tailor made wildlife vacation of 10 days or so offers a 75 percent chance of a sighting.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Chitwan or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: natalia_maroz] [Rhinos: tcy3282] [Black-hooded Oriole : Lip Kee] [Jeep: USAID Biodiversity & Forestry] [Rhino: Jan Hazevot] [Rivers: USAID Biodiversity & Forestry] [Sauraha: USAID Biodiversity & Forestry] [Tigers: Derrick Brutel]