Chitwan evinces itself as an indispensable destination for anyone who pays a visit to Nepal. Situated at the south-western part of Province no. 3 (formerly in the Central Development Region), it is the fourth largest city of Nepal with an area of 2238.39 sq. km. The region lies in the Terai belt of Nepal at an elevation of 415 metres and is at the distance of around 150 km (approx. 175 km if you choose to commute to inside Chitwan park lodges) from Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city if you choose surface transport.
Bharatpur, the district headquarter of Chitwan, is also the commercial hub for the district. One hypothesis behind ‘Chitwan’ etymon is that the word derives from two Sanskrit words ‘Chitta’ meaning ‘heart’ and ‘wan’ meaning ‘Jungle’. So, the literal translation for the district would be ‘the heart of the jungle’. It is also said that the land was previously a dense forest and a sacred place where the sages at the ancient period meditated. Though farming is still the dominant profession here in the district, as you move to the commercial hub, business and offices are thriving too.
Chitwan occurs mostly populates by Brahmin, Chhetris, Tharu, Newar, Gurung, Magar, Darai, Majhi and Chepang ethnicities. The major languages spoken here are Nepalese, Tharu, Gurung, Tamang. Though urbanisation can be seen in the centralised part of this area such as Bharatpur, the majority parts are still rural.
FOOD OF CHITWAN
If you are a gourmand, Chitwan is the place you would love to visit. The hot sizzled, spicy goat meat dish, also known as ‘taas’ with beaten rice as a side dish is one of the most popular cuisine here. Dal-Bhat (rice, lentils, pickle, curry), is a staple diet here. In addition, Tharu cuisine, the typical dishes from the local Tharu community is something you might want to give it a try. On the contrary, Thai, Indian, Chinese and continental cuisines are flourishing too.
BEST TIME TO VISIT CHITWAN
The most favourable season to make your visit to Chitwan count would be from October to March since the sky clearer and climate is relatively mild during the period. The average daily temperature during these seasons would range 23℃-25℃. However, if you are looking for jungle safari, it is late January till early May, that will serve you the best weather condition to see the wildlife. During other times, however, the grass could grow 6-8 metres making it difficult to see animals.
Monsoon season commences from June till September where you might be hard-pressed to go for safari rides as roads become sloppy and the water level rises during the seasons. Ergo, it is recommended to keep this visiting option as a last resort.
PLACES TO VISIT AT CHITWAN
Chitwan can be considered as a perfect blend of nature, culture and religion. The region has something for everyone to enjoy, the major reason for escalated visits every year. Mentioned are the top popular destinations to opt for if you are in Chitwan.
Visit Chitwan National Park
One of the most visited places, if you are visiting Nepal, would be Chitwan National Park. Established in 1973 as Nepal’s first ever national park, the park encircles the area of 93200 hectares and is the sanctuary for the last population of single-horned Asiatic rhinoceros. The site was enlisted in the UNESCO world heritage site in 1984. Chitwan National Park is the home for various flora and fauna. The region boasts Bengal tiger, crocodiles, deer, leopards, wild elephant and so forth. The national park is an epitome of the natural ecosystem. If you are fortunate, on clear weather, you might come across some of the wild animals in the park. However, encountering a Bengal tiger might make you the luckiest. You have various alternatives to go on a trip to Chitwan National Park. You may choose an elephant ride or do a jungle safari trip in a private vehicle.
Tharu Cultural Museum
If your interests are in the realm of people and cultures, the Tharu Cultural Museum could deliver you a great deal of satiation. The Tharus are the indigenous ethnic inhabitants of Terai region. They possess a distinct language and cultures from other ethnicities. The Tharu Museum is located at Bachhauli in Chitwan where you may get to acquaint with various ornaments, accessories, victuals, tools, costumes and lifestyle of Tharu people.
Devghat has a religious significance and is a sacred place for Hinduism. The site lies at the confluence of Seti Gandaki and Krishna Gandaki rivers. The site is considered as an abode of various temples, shrines and caves for Hindu deities and sages. The attractions of the regions are goddess Sita’s cave, Sita Ram Temple, Laxmi Narayan temple, Bageshwori temple and many more. Every year in the months of February (Magh in Nepali month), Makkar Sankranti (Maghe Sankranti), a major festival of Nepal, can be witnessed where a number of pilgrims conduct various religious activities and prayers. Many Hindus can be observed taking a dip in the river.
Elephant Breeding Centre
If you love nature and wildlife, this could be another site you would definitely opt for. Elephant Breeding Centre is located in the heart of Sauraha, Chitwan. This centre furnishes you with opportunities to take a closer looks at the calves, the baby elephants and their mother. In addition, the breeding centre also has a museum where you get to see the bones of dead elephants, facts about elephants and elephant riding equipment. You can interact with the mahouts (the person who takes care and controls of the elephants) too. And if you are lucky you may take a selfie with an elephant and feed them a little.
Bishazari Taal (Twenty Thousand Lake)
It is yet another mesmerising lake located in the buffer zone of Chitwan National Park. The wetland encompasses the area of 7900 acres and is the habitat of many wildlife in the national park. The location offers a perfect spot for bird watching, this region being the winter home for the birds migrated from Siberia.
Jalbire Waterfall (Lamo Jharana)
The waterfall resides at Chandi Bhajan VDC-9 at Narayanghat-Mugling road section, near Jalbire temple. You can enjoy the 100 metres waterfall and if you have time you may also enjoy swimming. The place nearby is populated with the Gurung community. Hence, if you have time you might want to visit the local people and interact with them.
THINGS TO DO IN CHITWAN
There are numerous things that you could do to make you trip a memorable in Chitwan, some of which could be:
Watch elephant polo
One of the rarest and adventurous gaming sport that you would not give a miss is elephant polo. The sport is conducted by the World Elephant Polo Association (WEPA) annually in the airfield of Megauli, Chitwan. With its inception in 1982 by Tiger Tops, today, it hosts a World Elephant Polo Championship. The sport is observed is similar to horse polo expect that you ride on an elephant and carry a longer cane to hit the ball. The game is normally conducted between last week of November and the first week of December.
If adventure is what you are seeking and have not encountered wildlife before, you should definitely give Jungle Safari a whirl. You have two alternatives to try Jungle Safari, in a jeep and on an elephant. You can carry out either long (full day) or short (3.5-4 hours) jeep safari. The elephant safari, however, lasts for 1-1.5 hours.
Elephant bathing could be one of your lifetime experiences. You can either partake in elephant bathing or view someone doing it from a platform. The event usually takes in Rapti river’s bank. You can experience the elephants splashing the water at you and at the back of his body. You will assist by the mahouts.
Canoeing in Rapti River
Another enthralling experience you could accumulate in Chitwan. During the canoeing, you could enjoy the various species of crocodiles basking in their natural habitat. In addition, bird watching could be another thing you could do during the trip.
Tharu Cultural Show
Tharu cultural show is yet another attraction to get insight into Tharu culture. A maximum of 2 hours program includes stick dance performances in their own ethnic language and musical instruments. During the show, you will also disseminate information on Tharu history and cultures. You might also be offered an opportunity to join the Tharu performances at the end of the show.
This trip usually accompanies by canoeing at Rapti river. As you disembark the canoe, you will guiding by the tour guide to nature walk where you walk in the jungle. If you are lucky, you might encounter some deer during the trip.