The abundant wildlife of Chitwan National Park (CNP) makes it one of the best tourist destinations in Nepal. Once a hunting ground for Nepal’s Royal Family, it was transformed into a conservation park in 1973 and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. The national park comprises 93,000 hectares and spans over Chitwan, Nawalparasi, Parsa, and Makwanpur districts.
Chitwan National Park is reckoned as one of the best wildlife viewing national parks in South Asia and is a remarkable example of biological evolution with a unique collection of natural flora and animals with limited human influences from people. This oldest national park is ideal for those who want to learn about the country's vibrant natural ecosystem, which is home to some of the world's rarest wild creatures and birds. Endangered animals such as the one-horned Asiatic rhinoceros and Royal Bengal tiger can be seen deep inside the forest prying for food and taking their daily walk.
Moreover, it is an avid magnet for the bird watchers as more than 600 species of both migratory and local are recorded in the park. Most endangered Bengal florican, great pied hornbill, and many reptiles, amphibians, and fish inhabit this wetland. The Tharu people, who have lived in the area for centuries and are recognized for their unique cultural practices, touch up your Chitwan visit.
With scenery and culture that is vastly different from those seen in the Himalayas, Chitwan offers jungle activities, water activities, and cultural variations to experience these differences from many scales. A visit to Chitwan is always a good opportunity to observe nature and its’ beauty up close and personal. So, if you're planning a trip to Chitwan, take a look at the best things to do in Chitwan National Park listed below.
Must-do activities in Chitwan National Park
1. Jungle/Nature Walk
Jungle Walk or nature walk is one of the adventurous activities to do when you are in Chitwan National Park. The walk provides you with the ideal situation of viewing the wild animals very close but also at the same time gives you the sense of thrill as you roam around in the wilderness that is home to many ferocious wild animals.
While you are on your excursion in the jungle, you may encounter some of the rare wildlife species such as one-horned rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger, different species of leopard, wild boar, forest deer, and many more. The encounter often happens with the wild elephants and rhinos.
The risk of sudden confrontations with wild animals is often present during the jungle walk. So, it is always a wise decision to take the aid of experienced guides. They take you for a 5 to 10 kilometers walk depending upon the situation at a time. Also, neither the guides nor the visitors are permitted to carry weapons on the walks, but the guides do provide safety instructions at the outset. Along with wildlife experience, the walk also focuses on the vegetation, birds, and butterflies spotting.
2. Jeep Safari
Jeep Safari is another best way to explore the first national park of Nepal and observe its wilds closely with safety. It is an exciting ride on an open jeep into the deep forests where many wilds are seen roaming, grazing, and running. When an animal is spotted during the riding journey, your jeep driver will stop the jeep to let you have a nice observation and click photos. The guide will also be present with you to give information about the animals and vegetation along the way. Basically, every jeep safaris take the visitors to Kasara, the park headquarter to get you at the Kasara Durbar and the Crocodile Breeding Center, where you can see the endangered Gharial and Mugger crocodiles along with the breeding and hatching pounds.
3. Bird watching
Chitwan National Park is known to be the bird watchers’ paradise with over 600 species of birds. Black-chinned yuhina, blossom-headed parakeet, swamp francolin, Grey-crowned Prinia, spotted eagle, peafowl, jungle fowl, and slender-billed babblers are some of the birdlife here with few globally threatened species and critically endangered varieties such as Bengal Florican, Slender-billed Vulture, White-rumped Vulture, Red-headed Vulture, Kashmir Flycatcher, etc. Bird Watching Tour can be done by jungle safari on jeep but it can be best if done with a nature walk. The specialists assist you into the deep jungle, riverbanks, and the plain grasslands to spot and identify the different varieties of birds, both local and migratory, that are found in Chitwan. So, don’t forget your long-range lens and binoculars.
4. Wooden canoe riding
A meandering ride in a hand-carved wooden canoe brings you much closer to observing crocodiles, possibly the rare fish-eating gharial crocodile and its dangerous marsh-mugger, and different species of birds. A short trip is also the best way to see other aquatic wildlife and well as the riverbank landscape. You can take a ride in one of the gorgeous forest rivers: Budi Rapti River or the Narayani River.
5. Tharu Village Walk
The Tharus, a distinct indigenous tribe of Nepal, their traditional and authentic way of life is one of the major attractions of Chitwan. Tharus can be found anywhere in the Terai plain, but you can experience their culture more than anywhere else around the Chitwan National Park. For decades, they’ve lived on the outskirts of the park, clinging to their centuries-old traditions and customs. Mud and clay-built ochre-colored cottages with thatched roofs, one-room dwellings with no chimney and no windows make up their traditional home. The Tharu culture includes hunting, fishing, gathering, and cultivation as a way of life, as well as their ethnic language and cuisine. You may explore Chitwan National Park’s Tharu village by walking or riding on an oxcart. You will be accompanied by a trained guide as you explore the area and gain insight into the Tharu way of life.
6. Enjoy Tharu Cultural Program
A Tharu Culture Event awaits you in Sauraha and Meghauli. An hour to two hours long program entertain the tourists and introduce the Tharu Culture and tradition with their different and unique dances, and music. Danda, Ago, and Mayur Dances meaning Stick, Fire, and Peacock dances respectively are some of the popular highlights of the culture show. The program is performed by the locals who come dressed in vibrant traditional garments and cultural dress that stands out from the norm throughout Nepal. These things are likely to enchant any outsiders.
You can visit Tharu Culture Museum & research center that houses daily used household and farm objects, paintings, and explanations exhibited along with photos to find more about the Tharu community's history and culture.
Other Things to do in Chitwan National Park
1. Elephant Safari
Elephant Safari has to be the most popular activity to do in Chitwan National Park. There is even a slogan as ‘Visit Chitwan, Ride Elephants’. It is a daring method to encounter scores of wild animals, including rare one-horned rhinos and elusive Royal Bengal Tigers, as well as hundreds of species of birds and a variety of reptiles while being protected by the giant elephants who are controlled by the knowledgeable Mahouts. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get up and personal with elephants and learn about how they move through the jungle, what they eat, and how they react to and interact with other animals.
2. Visit Elephant Breeding Center
The Chitwan National Park is home to one of the world's large elephant breeding centers being one of the major attractions here. The center was established in the year 1985 in order to protect these endangered mammals. The stunning sight of female Asian elephants bonding with their young will make you want to stay here forever. You will get to learn about the efforts made to keep the world's second-largest land animal from extinction. Also, you can learn about the nature, habits, daily lifestyle, and training periods of the elephants.
3. Visit Crocodile Breeding Center
Crocodile Breeding Center is another attraction of Chitwan National Park that lies in Kasara preserving the endangered Gharial species that was built in 1978. The breeding center protects the natural eggs laying sites where eggs are hatched in artificial conditions and the young are reared until they are ready to be free into the rivers. These endangered reptiles are seen basking in the river bank or hunting for the fish in the river. Mugger crocodile and rare Gharial crocodiles are the major highlights of the visit to Crocodile Breeding Center.
4. Visit Lamo Jharana (Jalbire Waterfall)
If you have a spare day in Chitwan, consider a visit to the Jalbire Waterfall. Also known as Lamo Jharana, Jalbire in Chitwan is a popular and stunning waterfall that has recently gained a lot of attention. The 100-meter-long waterfall is surrounded by flat meadows and dense hills and is about a 20-minute walk from Jalbire Temple in Narayangarh to Muglin Highway. The cascading water meets the rock directly, creating a stunning sight to behold. Similarly, three tiny ponds there present us with the option to refresh ourselves in freshwater. Adventure seekers can pump their adrenaline here doing the thrilling Canyoning, as it is one of the best sites for this adventure. In addition, visitors can explore Gurung communities and culture on the approach to this wonderfully given place.
5. 20 Thousand Lake Tour
20 Thousand Lake or Bis Hajari Taal in the local language, is a hotspot for observing migrating birds and a few mammals. Located on the southern outskirts of Chitwan, Twenty Thousand Lake is home to many reptiles. This wetland is one of the best bird paradises in Chitwan as many local and migratory bird species inhabit here. The name was given 20 Thousand to the lake because there are uncountable lakes (more than 1000) and it looks like 20000 from the sky. A visit to the Twenty Thousand Lake offers an alternative to a jeep safari while the national park is closed during the monsoon. Or, if you want something fun then, you can rent a bike and ride to the lake. Cycling to the 20,000 Lake with lunch is a nice pastime.
6. Experiencing Rapti - Narayani Sunset
Watching a picturesque sight of sunset over the shimmering junction of Rapti and Narayani Rivers is a wonderful thing to end your day. The orange-red sight there can make an aesthetic Instagramable or travel blog post. Relaxing at the bank of the river with a bottle of beer or a cup of hot tea with your cameras ready to capture a picture worth a thousand words will be a great thing to do in Chitwan National Park.
7. Kayaking/Paddling Trip
After a laid-back jungle wildlife excursion, you might be wanting some adventure and fun. If so, head to the Rapti or Narayani Rivers for some fun for Kayak Trip or a Paddling Tour because it allows you to not only explore the beautiful Rapti River and Narayani River but also to observe aquatic wildlife up close. The trip allows the travelers to discreetly study the unusual variety of birds, and animals that come to drink at the river's edge, and the popular Marsha Mugger and rare Gharial Crocodiles can be seen in their native habitat.
Apart from the mentioned on the list, there are a variety of other activities available in Chitwan and its vicinity. However, the list will cater to your needs for wildlife exploration and adventure.