The Royal Chitwan National Park is a major tourist area in the southern lowlands (called the Terai) 90 mi/150 km southwest of Kathmandu. It's a world apart from the mountainous region—hot, humid and often quite lush—and home to tigers, leopards, rhinos, crocodiles, deer, boar, monkeys and more than 400 species of birds.
Most visitors to the park stay at one of the jungle lodges (in either the village setup or the tent camp). The lodges aren't cheap, but they are usually comfortable and staffed with excellent naturalists. Elephant rides are offered, but your chances of a tiger sighting now rely chiefly on luck and the experience of your guide. (The practice of baiting parts of the park to attract tigers and leopards has been abolished.)
White-water raft trips are also offered (ending in the area). A few similar, locally operated lodges at the other end of the park are slightly less expensive (and less sophisticated). They can be booked through a Kathmandu-based tour operator. (A good midrange lodge is Machan, which offers jungle tours on elephant or by Jeep. There is a Machan office on Durbar Marg in Kathmandu.)
The village of Sauraha is the nearest populated area to Chitwan and is used by more adventurous travelers as a jumping-off point for self-planned tours of the wildlife park. The village can be reached from Kathmandu via a combination of public buses or by one of the private bus companies operating out of Kathmandu. (We prefer the Green Line.) Several small hotels are in the village.
Those taking the public elephant rides into the jungle from there often see rhinos, but tiger sightings are rare—you may have better luck at Tiger Tops. In Sauraha, beware of unauthorized guides offering to take you for jungle walks (on foot)—they are not always as knowledgeable as they claim to be, and not a few tourists have accidentally encountered angry rhinos (a very scary and sometimes deadly experience) by trusting the wrong people. We recommend that you go to Chitwan with an established tour company.
Also in the Terai region is Lumbini, where Buddha was born, mainly of interest to pilgrims. Kapilavastu, where Sakyamuni Buddha grew up, is also nearby.
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