For me, Chitwan was like Christmas morning. Every day at sunrise, without fail, I’d wake up to wildlife roaming free in the beautiful Chitwan national park.
Wild rhinos, elephants, deers, crocodiles and supposedly there’s even a tiger (which no one ever sees). It was like my dream destination.
It ended up being my favourite place in Nepal, even over Pokhara. This was due to its laid back lifestyle and the friendly locals who reside here.
Plus, it’s not every day you can stay opposite a National Wildlife Park and have a guarantee of seeing animals.
I would highly recommend you spend at least 3/4 days here to get the very best out of Chitwan.
Because the longer you stay, the more wildlife you’ll get to see! So let’s start the ultimate Chitwan National Park travel guide.
How to get to Chitwan National Park
Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan are all part of the ‘tourist triangle’ in Nepal and it doesn’t really matter what order you visit them in!
They are all around 6/7hours distance of each other (depending on traffic) via the tourist buses which run daily.
Most travel offices in Kathmandu or Pokhara will have buses that run to Chitwan and it should cost no more than $8-$15 USD (800-1500 Nepalese rupees) depending on what bus company you choose and if it includes lunch.
Blue Sky Travels, Mountain Overland and Greenline were the popular choices and recommended in Lonely Planet.
But, there are many companies which go the same route, you’re really just paying for the bus quality.
For some reason, all buses seemed to leave at the same time of 7 am to the popular tourist destinations in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan.
If you wanted to avoid commission fees you could just turn up at the bus stand and pay on the bus. But, you’re not guaranteed to find a bus with a seat available. Obviously, it’s good to check when and where the buses go from.
Chitwan National Park hotels in Sauraha
Although the buses all say Chitwan and it’s called Chitwan National Park all the tourists stay in the town which is slap bang opposite Sauraha.
This is also where you’ll stay if you’ve booked a tour.
I didn’t personally book a tour as I felt it was too rushed and expensive, so I booked and arranged transport/hotels/safaris myself.
You cannot stay inside Chitwan National Park and so Sauraha is the closest you’ll get to it apart from the overnight stay in the Jungle Tower. Which technically isn’t in the park either.
This tower stay is great if you want to spot animals. But, you need to trek to get to it and I heard it’s pretty grotty. So I didn’t opt-in for the stay.
The best hotels in Chitwan National Park are located on the banks of the Rapti river.
This river splits Sauraha from Chitwan National park and you may see wildlife crossing the river into the town every day.
My tour guide told me it used to happen a lot more but since it’s so busy with tourists in the town the animals get distressed and so don’t come as often.
Luckily, after my horrendous bus journey from Pokhara, I had a free transfer from my hotel and I was so surprised and happy to see my name on a sign!
Jungle Wildlife Camp
I stayed at Jungle Wildlife Camp while I was here.
This is not to be confused with Wildlife camp or Jungle camp or any other hotel which has a variety of the same words haha.
So, be careful when finding your hotel and show the taxi driver the EXACT name before you head off.
I booked a deluxe room that had the perfect view of the Rapti river from my balcony.
This was $35 USD (£26) a night, had air conditioning (much needed), a comfy double bed and a yummy buffet breakfast each morning.
For a two-star hotel, I feared the worst but it was a beautiful surprise.
Spotlessly clean, quiet, comfortable and the best service from the owners. I can’t recommend it enough.
The dining area was very close to the river too and you could watch the animals and canoes which were heading off for their safaris.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the animals come right up to the hotel while you’re eating breakfast – how wonderful!