Chitwan is one of the most famous districts in Nepal that boasts fantastic wildlife, adventure, and warm weather. It is a district welcoming more than a million tourists (both local and foreigners) each year.
The valley is located in the Terai region.
Chitwan means “Heart of the Jingle” in Sanskrit. It was derived from two Tharu words, “Chitra” and “Ban,” which together became “Chitra ban” then “Chitwan.”
According to history, Chitwan was once a dense forest ruled by the Tharu king, Chitrasen Baba, who was also regarded as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Tharu people still worship him during HariBodhini Ekadashi.
Chitwan can be explored in 2 nights, making it the best place to go for a short vacation. However, if you have all the time in the world, you can stay in Chitwan for four nights.
Most tourists stay at Sauraha of Chitwan and some at Meghauli, but all come here for one purpose, to see the Chitwan National Park. Founded in 1973, this is Nepal’s first national park. In 1984, UNESCO recognized it as a World Heritage Site.
The Chitwan National Park is the most diverse and best-preserved of all of Nepal. It is home to a wide variety of animals, from forestry to predators.
Chitwan National Park is the best destination for spotting the endangered one-horned rhinoceros, royal Bengal tiger, monkeys, and over 544 bird species.
The best time to visit the Chitwan National Park is from October to early March. It is when the temperature is moderate and bearable. You can easily see animals while going on safari during these months.
If you think you can stand the heat, April and May are a good time to spot wild animals gathering at riversides.
January is the coldest month in Chitwan. Therefore, it is best to avoid traveling to Chitwan during this month.
Traveling to Chitwan
There are four ways to reach Chitwan.
i. Tourist Bus
Tourist Bus is the most common and cost-effective way to get to Chitwan. Tourist buses leave directly from Kathmandu. Or you can also take a bus from Pokhara to Chitwan.
It takes about 6 hours to reach Chitwan from Kathmandu and about 7 hours from Pokhara. It usually costs only NPR 500 ($4.21) – NPR 800 ($6.73) depending on the ticketing center or travel agency located in Thamel, Kathmandu.
Most of the tourist bus offers lunch in the middle of the tour. Besides, you also get to enjoy the beautiful sceneries of the country.
ii. Local bus
Local buses are the cheapest means to travel to Chitwan. However, they are crowded and less safe.
It costs around $250 to travel from Kathmandu to Chitwan, but it takes a lot of time as the bus often makes stops to pick and drop the passengers.
You can also hire a taxi to Chitwan. Make sure to bargain with the drivers as they will always quote a higher price in the beginning.
Hiring a taxi costs around NPR 700 ($5.89) – NPR 800 ($6.73), but it will be faster. Plus, you will get to make as many stops as you want, be it for washroom breaks or a little photography session.
Taking a flight to Bharatpur (located 10kms from Chitwan) is the fastest yet costliest means to get to Chitwan. Airlines such as Yeti Air and Buddha Air offer daily flights to the Bharatpur Airport, from where you can take a taxi to Chitwan or Sauraha.
Elephant Jungle Safari
Elephant jungle safari is a great way to enter the jungle and observe the wild animals and birds up-close. It is a 1 to 1.5 hours of adventure through the quiet forest where you can hear only the sounds of birds chirping and the wild animals creaking in the grassland nearby.
You can do the tour in the early mornings, mid-mornings, or afternoons. The safari usually costs between NPR 1500 – NPR 2500 ($13 – $22). The elephants are well trained and can carry four people at once.
Elephant bath is an exciting activity that every tourist needs to try in their lifetime. You can play and dive in the river on the back of an elephant while the elephant takes a bath and splashes water on you through its trunk.
If you do not want to soak in the water, then you can sit back on the Rapti river shores and watch the elephant taking a bath.
The elephant bath costs NPR 200 – USD 500 (USD 1.72 – USD 4.32).
Canoeing along the Rapti River is another excellent way to see wild animals and reptiles in Chitwan National Park.
You can see the crocodiles resting beside the shores. It is a perfect place to carry out wildlife photography as you can see many exotic bird species and other wild animals. Make sure you stay quiet so the animals are not disturbed.
The guide will give you information on the animals, birds, and reptiles, which is a great way to learn about Chitwan National Park’s wildlife.
Elephant Safari is undoubtedly a favorite activity in Chitwan. However, those opposed to animal cruelty can also walk through the national park.
A safari walk for half a day or a two-day trek are both options you can choose from. You need to hire a guide to explore the national park compulsorily.
It costs NPR 2000 ($16.83) for foreigners, NPR 1000 ($8.41) for SAARC citizens, and NPR 50 ($0.42) for Nepalese citizens.
Make sure to wear sunscreen and carry a water bottle as you walk under the scorching sun.
4WD Jeep Safari
4WD Jeep Safari is a safer yet exciting way to go into Chitwan National Park’s dense forest. It will be easier to take photos of the animals from a Jeep.
Nowadays, the animals are accustomed to seeing the jeeps carrying tourists and thus, do not run away when the jeep approaches them.
Prices for Jeep Safaris usually costs $40 per person. However, a full day Jeep Safari may cost higher.
You can book a Jeep Safari through your hotel or agents located in Chitwan since there are lots of hotels offering safari/hotel deals so that you may get a better deal.
After exploring the jungle, it is best to visit the Crocodile Breeding Center.
Cycling is very much popular in Chitwan. You can also go to the national park by cycling; however, we recommend hiring a guide.
Cycling lets you get out of the touristy places of Sauraha and into the traditional villages of the district. You can cycle around the agricultural fields and watch the locals carrying out their daily chores.
I suggest you also cycle your way to the 20,000 lakes for a picnic. It is a 40-minute ride that lets you enjoy the morning scenery of the Terai.
You can hire cycles at cycle shops that charge on an hourly basis or a full-day basis.
When touring Chitwan, it is a must to attend a Tharu Cultural Program in Sauraha or Meghauli. The Tharu people will entertain you with various Tharu dance performances like Stick dance, Fire dance, and Peacock dance.
Some cultural dances are also hosted near a bonfire in the evenings at Sauraha’s hotels.
If you want to learn more about the Tharu community and culture, go on a Tharu village tour.
Accommodation in Chitwan
This district has lots of options in terms of accommodations. You will get everything from hostels, budget hotels, homestays to luxurious villas.
I suggest you stay in an aircon room as the weather in Chitwan is extremely warm.
Food in Chitwan
Chitwan has lots of restaurants that provide excellent food. Most of the restaurants have a fair price.
Some of the tourist-favorite eateries in this destination are Friends Cafe, Greasy Spoon Restaurant, Jalapeno Restaurant, and Kc’s Restaurant and Bar.
Besides, traveling to Chitwan also means exploring the culture and food of the place. Therefore, I highly suggest you try some of the typical Tharu dishes while you are in Chitwan.
You can find most of the following dishes in Tharu restaurants:
- Nagar Roti
- Larkaiya and Chiti
- Boar’s Meat
Things to Remember
- Make sure to withdraw money in Kathmandu itself as there are only a few ATMs in Chitwan which charges extra.
- Always wear sunscreen to protect yourself from the heat.
- Wear long-sleeved clothes and deets to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Also, carry a mosquito repellent.
- Try to avoid alcohol as much as possible. You can drink cider instead. If you want a drink, wait for a happy hour.
- Beer and local wine are cheaper alcoholic drinks in Chitwan. There aren’t many options for imported drinks.
- Carry medications for malaria and an itch cream for insect bites.
- Always carry a water bottle to stay hydrated.
I hope this guide helped you plan a wonderful trip to Chitwan. If you have any questions about traveling in Chitwan or think we should anything to the list, feel free to comment below.