The best places to visit in Chitwan National Park are among some of the best places to visit in all of Nepal. This incredible jungle is home to some of Nepal’s most amazing wildlife and breathtaking scenery. It may not be the hilltop villages and snow capped mountains that imagine when you think of a holiday to Nepal, but it’s diversity is what makes Nepal such a special place to visit.
Chitwan National Park is one of Nepal’s most famous backpacker destinations, and has been for many years. Tourists are drawn here in their thousands for the beautiful views, the elephant breeding centre, the lazy flowing Narayani river and, of course, the chance to spot a Bengal tiger. You really won’t want to leave before you have seen some of the best places to visit in Chitwan.
The Best Places To Visit In Chitwan
#1. A Walk Through The Jungle
The Chitwan National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site, and rightly so. It contains sixty eight species of mammals, 56 species of herpetofauna, 126 species of fish and 544 species of birds. The reason most tourists visit Chitwan is to try and get a glimpse of the elephants, rhinos, bears and tigers that make this jungle their home.
There are several different ways to see this magical jungle area. You can take an elephant ride, taking you to the village side of the jungle that is less dense. We wouldn’t recommend this option, though you will find it readily available if it’s something you want to do. There are many arguments for and against the use of elephants for tourism, and we have read recently that Nepal are now making efforts to be more mindful of animal cruelty. But there is still a way to go here. We would recommend reading up on the issue extensively before you decide either way, then at least you are armed with all the facts before you go and you can make an informed decision.
We opted for the second option, a walking trek through Chitwan National Park, and it was definitely one of the best things to do in Chitwan. It was an all day trek, starting at sunrise and ending at close to sunset, and it was one of the best things we have ever done. Being on foot gives you a real sense of scale, and vulnerability. We were lucky enough to see a crocodile, a herd of elephants, a rhino and a bear only meters away from us. We also feel extremely fortunate to have seen a tiger on the bank of the river as we were floating down in a canoe. You can read all about our trek through Chitwan National Park, including which tour operators we recommend and information about prices.
#2. Learn the local culture at Tharu Village, one of the best places to visit in Chitwan
The Tharu people are the indigenous inhabitants of the Terai region of Nepal and have been the caretakers of the tropical forests of Nepal for centuries. One of the best places to visit in Chitwan is the local village of Tharu. It is a little touristy of course, but it’s a way to support a local community. Here you can learn about the unique traditions and daily life of the indigenous Tharu people. There is a cultural museum for you to visit, featuring cultural exhibits from the Tharu community. and you can see the old traditional houses. It is one of the best places to visit in Chitwan if you like to immerse yourself in the local culture.
#3. Float down Narayani River in a canoe
Taking an early morning canoe ride on the Narayani River is one of the most beautiful things to do in Chitwan National Park. As the sun is just rising you will climb into a traditional wooden canoe (that feels like it might just capsize at any moment!) and be rowed down the river, spotting wildlife along the way. There is tonnes of birdlife here, and you may well spot crocodiles. We were extremely lucky and saw Bengal tiger, who walked along the stretch of the river beside us as we floated along before he disappeared into the jungle. Don’t go just for the tigers though, as sightings only happen a few times a year.
#4. Bird watching
On a bird-watching trip you will be guided by a native naturalist through the grassland of Chitwan National Park. It’s here that you will find most of the incredibly diverse and beautiful bird life in Chitwan. There are hundreds of migratory and native birds here to spot. Just don’t forget your long range lens and binoculars!
#5. Buy some local artwork
Sauraha art gallery is run by a local artist Ram Krishna Bhatta. You can visit the gallery to view his unique artwork, and even make a purchase if you fall in love with a painting or two! If art work isn’t your thing then there are several different shops along the main street here. Why not spend a quite afternoon shopping (and sampling the local cafes!)
#6. See a show
Sauraha Tharu Culture House puts on a show for the tourists and locals alike at 7pm every night (check when you arrive to be sure of opening times and ticket prices) The dancing on show is traditional Nepalese dancing and it well worth a watch. The peacock dance is a particular favourite! You can usually book tickets through your accommodation so ask when you arrive if you’re keen.
#7. Cycle To Bishazari Tal, One Of The Best Places To Visit In Chitwan
Rent a bike to get to local nature hot spot, Bis Hajari. You can go on your own, or book with a tour.
There is a big sign on the main East West Highway heading toward Bharatpur. As you enter there is a sign for Twenty Thousand Lake Farm Resort off to the right. Just after the sign next to the canal you can stop and buy a ticket. This is important since you need to show the ticket to the army stations at two points along the canal.
The area is full of wonderful birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and the occasional deer and rhino. It’s a great place for a picnic lunch, and don’t forget to pack lots of water!
#8. Lamo Falls
Lamo Jharana is a spectacular waterfall about an hours drive from Chitwan. It is sixty meters talls and surrounded by beautiful green vegetation, making it feel almost surreal. It’s worth a little half day trip there if you have the time
Should You Visit The Elephant Breeding Centre?
A little controversial so it hasn’t made our list of the best things to do in Chitwan. When you arrive in Chitwan you will almost certainly be told all about the elephant breeding centre, so it’s good to know it exists before you go so you can decide whether or not to pay it a visit. We were bundled off there on a tour before we’d even seen our hotel room, and didn’t have time to give it a research.
We were lucky, and didn’t see any examples of bad practice. There were no chained elephants or cruel treatment that we could see. However, we have since read reports that state otherwise, so give it some thought before you go. The temptation of seeing lots of cute baby elephants may just be too much if you haven’t read up on it in advance!
Hopefully that’s given you lots of inspiration for all the things you can do in Chitwan National Park – it really isn’t all about the safari! If you’re wondering about where to stay or eat then check out our ultimate guide to Chitwan which should give you all the information you need!