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Chitwan is located in West Nepal and it’s well known for it’s warm weather (we are talking about 30 degrees!), it’s safaris and it’s cool atmosphere. For a typical Nepal backpacking itinerary, Chitwan is always included in the route. So if you find yourself visiting, then keep reading to find out the top things to do in Chitwan in this little Chitwan travel guide.
The best time to visit Chitwan is October to March. This is because the skies are clear, the temperatures are warm and comfortable and prices are good. The best time to see animals on a safari in Chitwan national park would be around January to March.
But you’ve still got a chance to see animals at other months too!
You can get to Chitwan in three main ways.
Tourist Bus: This is the most common way to get to Chitwan and you can get the bus straight from Kathmandu, or you can head from Pokhara to Chitwan.
I recommend the bus company Mountain Overlander who are cheap, comfortable and safe. The journey is around 7 hours from Pokhara via bus, and around 6 hours from Kathmandu.
There are lots of buses that go from Kathmandu, and these leave from Thamel end of Kantipath and cost around Rs 500-700.
You can book with an agent when there, or you could turn up and buy on the day. The buses aren’t normally full to Chitwan!
If you are going from Pokhara, I only knew of two tourist buses that went to Chitwan and one of them was Mountain overlander. You can book via your hotel or a tourist agency in town.
Local bus: I don’t recommend local buses as they are over crowded, less safe and manic. But, they are even cheaper. Probably around $2 for a journey.
Ask the locals where the bus goes from etc.
Taxi: You can also get a taxi to Chitwan if you wish. I would bargain with drivers and actually it's always cheaper to speak with the taxi men on the street to get a price, rather than letting your hotel organise it.
It will probably be around $70-80 dollars and will be around 1-2 hours quicker than the bus, because you can drive a little quicker and you won’t have stop breaks for as long (or at all if you wish!)
The buses leave from the Pokhara bus station.
Chitwan is a quaint area with a few things to do, but there isn’t enough to do here for a weeks worth. I’d say the perfect amount of time is about 3 nights.
You could stretch to 4 nights if you wanted to relax, and you could do everything in 2 nights if you are in a rush.
Okay, now that the technical aspects are sorted, let’s get into what to do in Chitwan. Below I take you through my top 5 things to do in Chitwan Nepal.
The main attraction in Chitwan and the reason everyone goes is for Chitwan National Safari Park. It’s very large and provides opportunities for seeing animals including leopards, elephants etc.
One of the activities you can undertake in the park are walks. These walks can be as short as half a day, to a couple of days “trekking”.
In order to do these walks you need to take a guide with you. There is no way around this.
There are walks outside the national park which are possible, but if you want to go into the park, a guide is essential.
There are numerous shops selling tours, so I think it’s a good idea to head to a few and bargain down.
Current park entrance prices, which need to be factored into your overall cost are
If you want to do your safari walk with a group of people, then ask your hotel/hostel to organise one for everyone.
Be aware that you are walking in sheer heat, so you will need to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water.
If you don’t fancy walking in the heat, then you can opt for a traditional jeep safari.
These are available in half day and full day options.
Prices range from around $40 per person, including fees and rise depending on whether you do a full day safari, or you opt for a “private car” safari, which basically means you have the keep to yourself.
Again, book a safari through your hotel or hostel, or one of the many agents around the town.
A lot of the hotels you book into will have safari/hotel deals. So you may find that’s a better deal.
I recommend booking.com for the best prices and availability in hotels.
Elephant bathing is a popular activity in Chitwan and lots of people do it. You just head to the river between 9 and 11 am on a Wednesday and there will be elephants getting washed.
I headed to watch, not wash. I would have washed if I thought the elephants were cared for.
If you want to wash them too, you pay the guys in the river and wash.
What pissed me off is the people riding the elephants. I don’t care what the justification is, there is no excuse to be riding elephants. The annoying thing was it was all adults who should know bloody better.
I think this takes away from the whole washing experience as the elephants still have to be ridden on, in the god damn water.
DON’T RIDE ELEPHANTS.
I'd avoid it altogether and go to the "Friends Cafe" where they hold a elephant day that is ethical and you can meet elephants without hurting them.
Another fun activity to do is rent a kayak or canoe and head down the river. These are also organised tours and it’s quite cheap for an hour on the river.
The best thing to do in organise a trip with some friends with your hotel, or one of the various places in the town.
Bike hire is also super cheap in Chitwan and a fun activity is to pack a picnic and cycle to the 20,000 lake. It’s probably about 30-40 minute ride and I would head off early morning to beat the afternoon heat.
This is definitely one of the best things to do in Chitwan, and it’s quite romantic if you wish!
There is one or two restaurants in the form of a hotel up in that direction, so you could stop for lunch if you wish!
You might even come across some temples in Chitwan to discover too.
Chitwan has lots of great little restaurants. If you’re a digital nomad like Brad and I and need wifi and plug sockets, then I recommend the “Friends Cafe”. It’s super cheap, the coffee is AMAZING and the food is delicious. Plus the staff are so friendly.
It’s also a good place to head in the evening for cheap drinks and a nice sunset view.
Other good places to eat include the Greasy Spoon which serves up both local and nonlocal dishes for a reasonable price.
It’s very modern and I recommend the burger!
There are a variety of accommodation options in Chitwan. Some are basic, no aircon rooms, and some are 5 star resorts.
We went something in the middle. I highly recommend you get aircon, it’s REALLY warm!
Also, power cuts are quite common, so don’t be alarmed if the power goes for a couple of hours. Most places have backup generators to help.
We stayed in Wild Horizons Guest House.
This is a wonderful place and they offer free pick up from the bus station (although every hotel does). When you arrive you get a little welcome drink and they have a very cheap on-site restaurant.
The staff are friendly, the breakfast is brilliant, and the owner will help you organise any tours and give you lots of information.
I fell down a single step in Chitwan after working and I couldn’t walk. Long story short I had to get a taxi to Kathmandu to go to hospital etc, and the owners of this place were beyond helpful.
They managed to get me a super cheap taxi, and didn’t take any commission, they helped in any way they could and they were extremely hospital. I can’t thank them enough.
This is also a brilliant place to meet other travellers. We met lots of solo travellers and in the evening everyone enjoyed drinks and dinner together.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on the top things to do in Chitwan. You could spend a whole day doing safari things, and another day seeing the lake and doing a river trip. So that’s why I suggest more than 2 nights in Chitwan.
You will definitely need longer if you decide to do a 2-3 days walking trek in the safari.
Don’t forget your camera to catch shots of awesome animals!
If you think I should add anything to this list of the top things to do in Chitwan, then please comment below.