Nepal’s Chitwan National Park tops many a traveler’s wish list, and for good reason. If you’ve ever dreamed of stepping foot in this UNESCO World Heritage Site, now’s your chance: our 21-day Nepal & Bhutan tour (departing October 29, 2019) includes ample time to explore the park. Here are a few of our favorite things to do there:
Live (For a Few Days at Least) Like Royals
Originally a big game reserve for Nepal’s royal families, Chitwan became Nepal’s first national park in 1973. (The park was first called Royal Chitwan National Park, though “Royal” was dropped from its name after the people’s revolution in 2006.)
Go Completely Wild
Hindi for “heart of the jungle,” Chitwan comprises both tropical and subtropical forests in the inner Terai lowlands of south-central Nepal. Three rivers—the Narayani, Rapti, and Reu—form much of its borders. The Parsa Wildlife Reserve edges Chitwan to the east.
Trek Through Towering Elephant Grass
Home to a diversity of habitats, including Sal forests, floodplains, and oxbow lakes, Chitwan also sports stunning savannahs and more than 50 types of grasses, including elephant grass, which can grow over 20-feet tall.
Spy the “Big Five” ...or Four... in Asia
True, you won’t find lions here, but Chitwan harbors a profusion of fauna, including elephants, rhinos, and leopards. In sum, the park provides sanctuary to 68 species of mammals, 56 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 126 species of fish. (Bird lovers, read on.)
See Other Animals With Strange Names That Your Friends Have Never Seen
Be on the lookout for the gaur (Indian bison), striped hyena, pangolin (scaly anteater), barking deer, ratel (honey badger), and langur (a type of monkey).
Get Prime Bird’s Eye Views
More than 500 species call Chitwan National park home, including the endangered Bengal florican, giant hornbill, and black stork. In October, migratory birds from as far as Siberia mingle with resident species, adding additional splashes of color and sound.
Be a Part of History
One of Asia’s best-preserved conservation parks, Chitwan claims a successful history of caring for endangered species such as gharial crocodiles, royal Bengal tigers, and one-horned rhinos. This May, in welcomed news for Nepal following its devastating April earthquake, the country announced that rhino populations in the park had risen to 605—an increase from 503 in 2011. Though rhino populations continue to decline worldwide, Chitwan, largely free of poaching thanks to the vigilance of park officials and military patrols, has helped set the standard on how the animal can be saved.
Do What Comes Naturally
You won’t long for room to roam in Chitwan. At 360 square miles, the park offers plenty of space for quiet contemplation, or to escape on Jeep tours, canoe trips, and guided nature walks. Be sure to visit the park’s breeding centers for elephants, vultures, and gharial crocodiles, too.
Keep On the Sunny Side
Not to boast, but we timed this trip perfectly—October and November kick off the park’s mild winter season, which sees average temps of 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sleep Soundly in Thatched-Roof Cottages
Our visit to the park includes a three-night stay at the jungle-luxe Temple Tiger Lodge, which was built entirely from sustainable materials.