Chitwan is one of the 75 districts in Nepal and its name comes from the Chitwan Valley, one of the well-known Inner Terai Valleys between the Siwalik and Mahabharat ranges, at the foothills of the Himalayas. Other than this, Chitwan is also known to provide a different picture of Nepal. It is usually depicted to be all about the altitude of the highlands - snowcapped mountains, temples, and tea treks. However, Chitwan embodies the lifestyle of the flatland and the culture of its people.
That said, the Chitwan district is different in the sense that it is quite agricultural in nature. You’ll find a lot of millet, wheat, barley, soybeans, and potatoes in the typical diet, unlike the usual meat and dairy based diet of the rest of the Nepalese. There are a lot of shopping districts and restaurants in the area, so if you’re visiting, be sure to check out some of the food items they have to offer.
If you’ve been wondering what it feels like to live in the foothills of the Himalayas, be sure to check out the Inner Terai, part of which is Chitwan. Here are some of the main places of interest in this area:
1. Immerse yourself in the Tharu way of life at the Chitwan Tharu Village
The Terai, also known as the flatlands or lowlands of Nepal, is home to the indigenous Tharu tribe. The Tharus have been known to live in the forested regions close to the river. What is so impressive about them is that, despite modern infiltration, the Tharus have managed to preserve and maximize their way of life.
The village now has a homestay, where many visitors can come and stay. Throughout your stay with the locals, you can participate in typical village activities, such as foraging for wild vegetables, riding an oxcart, and traversing the river in a dugout canoe, made of a single trunk of Champ tree.
You will also be able to join a Tharu family in cooking some traditional dishes. Lastly, there’s a community night, where you can join the Tharus in singing and dancing in a festival called a faguwa, where male members of the tribe use drums and sticks for a dance number. In true communal spirit, the proceeds from the homestay are shared with the entire village.
Chitwan Tharu Village Tour
Address: Chitwan, Nepal
Website: Chitwan Tharu Village Tour
2. Interact with elephants at the Elephant Breeding Centre
The Elephant Breeding Centre is about 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) west of Sauraha. The centre provides most of the elephants for the safaris in Chitwan. There are also mother and baby elephants here. The best time to see the herd before 10:30 AM or after 3:30 PM, so you’ll be able to see most of the elephants, including the mothers interacting with their babies.
During the earlier time period, there are fewer tourists and you’ll also get to see the elephant carers, known as mahouts, interact with the elephants by preparing their kuchiis - sweets made from rice, grass, salt, and molasses. The rest of the time the elephants are chained up, to ensure the safety of the guests.
There is also a question if whether the centre practices ethical interaction with the animals. This is the only area apart from the Chitwan National Park that can assure that. Other private elephant safari tours have been known to treat the elephants unkindly.
Elephant Breeding Centre
Address: Chitwan, Nepal
Website: Elephant Breeding Centre
3. Bird Education Society in Chitwan National Park
The Bird Education Society is just across from the Elephant Breeding Centre. If you need a guide to accompany you on a birdwatching excursion, you can go to their office every Saturday. They don’t have a fixed fee but work on a donation basis. Any donation sustains their library and preservation efforts.
Bird Education Society
Address: Chitwan, Nepal
Website: Bird Education Society
Chitwan National Park is a former Nepalese hunting ground that was turned into a protected area and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most safaris will include a mix of travel by foot, boat, and four-wheel drive, as you search the jungle for wildlife, the most important and elusive of which is the Bengal tiger. The ideal timeframe for a jungle safari is three days and four nights. Remember, there are over 400 species to see in the national park, including crocodiles, the one-horned rhino, and sloths.
You can also go river wildlife watching and bird watching. The jungle also has a wide range of ecosystems to explore, such as wetlands and grasslands and a tour can include a cruise down the Budhi Rapti River. If you go on a tour, everything is included, such as accommodation, meals, the boat cruises, jeep safari, and bus transport.
3-Night Chitwan National Park Safari from Kathmandu
Duration: 4 days
Best of both worlds
A lot of tourists don’t bother to go past Kathmandu, Thamel, Pokhara, or Everest Base Camp. While these are the more iconic areas to see in Nepal, you will also benefit a lot from seeing the best of both worlds, the highlands and the lowlands. As you can see from this list, the Inner Terai and Chitwan itself is blessed with a lot of flora and fauna.
It also happens to have both the first and newest national parks in the area. If you picnic in any of the areas, you’ll be one of the few who have literally had a picnic in the foothills of the Himalayas. So be sure to make Chitwan part of your itinerary. There are domestic flights from Kathmandu that’ll take you here, eleven times a week. If you have a bit of time, you can also go by bus to see the beautiful countryside.
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