Widely recognized as one of the best national parks in Asia, Chitwan National Park, with an area of 967 square kilometers, lies 90 kilometers southwest of Kathmandu in the Terai region. Previously a royal hunting reserve, Chitwan was the first forest area of Nepal to be designated a national park in 1973, and was later also declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. Literally, Chitwan means “Heart of the Jungle”.
Chitwan is a very popular wildlife safari destination on account of its thriving wildlife population and easy accessibility from Kathmandu and Pokhara. The sub-tropical forests of Chitwan are host to a very diverse ecosystem. The predominant vegetation of Sal (Shorea Robusta) covers around 70% of the forest, 20% is grassland, with as many as 50 species of grass plants.
Visitors have the opportunity of close encounters with wild three-ton rhinos on an elephant’s back; a thrilling and frightening experience but not really dangerous as both the elephants and their handlers are well experienced in their work. The park is home to an immense variety of wildlife so there are a lot more creatures to see besides the rhinos, such as deer and monkeys and more than 500 varieties of birds, and if you are lucky enough, a glimpse of the Royal Bengal Tigers, the majestic creature of the jungle. That, including good facilities for accommodation just outside the boundary of the park and jungle activities makes the Chitwan National Park well worth a visit. Chitwan ranks third, after Kathmandu and Pokhara as the place most preferred by visitors.