Unknown to many, Nepal actually has two sides. There are the icy mountains like the mighty Himalayas where you can find sherpas, mountainside religious sites and challenging passes. There are also the friendlier lowlands of the Terai in Southern Nepal. Both are equally beautiful, but the mountains are visited often. What makes Terai so different is really its wildlife. Two of the biggest National Parks are found here, Chitwan and Bardia.
Apart from these, Nepal is also home to many quiet villages and religious sites. You can spot them in the many friendlier hiking trails, compared to the higher altitude trails. If it’s your first time in the lesser known but equally majestic jungles of southern Nepal, here are a couple of areas not to miss.
1. Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park is one of Nepal’s most famous destinations, especially after the 2015 earthquake when tourism companies had to find other draws while the tourist areas in Kathmandu were recovering. Chitwan National Park is over 932 square kilometers, encompassing all sorts of land from marsh to grassland to dense forestry. Other than plant life, it is also home to some of of Nepal’s most famous wildlife, including the one-horned rhino, deers, monkeys and hundreds of bird species. Now you’ll have to stay a little longer for you to see these. Stay even longer if you want to spot wild elephants, leopards and sloth bears. The most prized sight is perhaps the royal Bengal tiger. Chitwan means the “heart of the jungle,” and while you may think this is all about roughing it, you’ll be surprised to know that they now have so many resort accommodation options. There are also plenty of luxury lodges that give you the best of both worlds, the chance to commune with nature in the comforts of your modern lodge away from the crowds in Sauraha.
Chitwan National Park
Address: Subarnapur 44200, Nepal
Website: Chitwan National Park
2. Bardiya National Park
Bardiya or Bardia National Park is the largest national park in a lesser known area called Terai. Like the more well known Chitwan, Bardia is also excellent for wildlife spotting and watching. It is not as developed as Chitwan but if you’re looking to escape the droves of people from Kathmandu or Pokhara, you might like to check out this park instead. A lot of people would describe it as what Chitwan was 30 years ago. It is also part of the largest stretches of tiger habitat in Asia. They also have wild elephant and one-horned rhino sightings. There have been 31 rhinos sighted since 2014. If you’re looking to take advantage of the marsh, you can check if you can spot some of the resident marsh mugger crocodiles and Gangetic dolphins during some of the scheduled rafting and canoe trips in Geruwa River.
Bardia National Park
Address: Bardia,Bheri,21800, Nepal
Website: Bardia National Park
The elephant safari is one of the most popular activities in Southern Nepal. You can ride an Indian elephant to be guided by their mahouts at the Sunali side of Chitwan National Park. Those in Chitwan are run by the government and you can get a tucjet at the national park ticket office. It is best to go with government run elephant safaris rather than privately run tour operators. Reports say that some of the private companies are cruel to the elephants, since they cannot be closely regulated by proper caretakers and scientists. Elephant safaris are best done early in the morning or late afternoon when it isn’t too hot. Remember, you’ll be riding on an elephant’s back with no cover from the heat of the sun. The tour runs for about an hour or an hour and a half.
Elephant Safari at Chitwan National Park
Address: Subarnapur 44200, Nepal
4. Jeep Tour
If riding on an elephant’s back isn’t your thing, the jeep safari is one of the best ways to go deeper into the forest. The whole safari tour takes about three to four hours and explores a variety of habitats. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot some wild animals like boars, deers and rhinos. You’ll get a chance to stretch your legs and walk part of the way. Part of the trip will also include a visit to the crocodile breeding center. If you like sharing a ride with your friends or you want to make friends with other guests, the jeep can accommodate up to seven people.
Jeep Tour in Southern Nepal
Address: Southern Nepal
Website: Jeep Tour in Southern Nepal
5. Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is found on the eastern side of the Terai. It was primarily founded in order to protect the remaining population of the Nepalese wild buffalo or arna. The Nepalese wild buffalo has much bigger horns than the typical domestic buffalo. It is also famous for bird watching. The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is a relatively easy trek and you can tour the place around with a company. In these parts, this is called teahouse trekking because you get to stay in comfortable accommodations like hotels, resorts, and lodges.
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
Address: Bairawa 56713, Nepal
Website: Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
Visit southern Nepal
The jungle of southern Nepal is perhaps one of the least visited areas in Nepal. In this sense, a good part of it, while protected, remains undiscovered to the commercial world. If you’re the type of traveler who wants to go off the beaten path, then southern Nepal provides you with the right opportunity to do just that.
The forests and the flatland are quite different from what you’ll typically see in Kathmandu or Pokhara, mostly the icy terrain of the Himalayas. This environment is more conducive to living and home to the Tahrus, a local ethnic group in Nepal. You can learn more about their lifestyle, which has been challenged by modernity. Nevertheless, they are prolific farmers and in southern Nepal, you’ll see how they have lived off the land in every sense of the word. So go ahead and enjoy what southern Nepal has to offer. You’ll find that you have a more holistic view of what Nepal truly is.
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