While Nepal is known as a country of hills and mountains, many visitors are pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the Terai, the lowlands bordering India. The Chitwan National Park is a jewel on the Terai. It has run a very successful one-horned rhinoceros breeding program, and visitors on safari are almost guaranteed to spot one of the spectacular animals, as well as other wildlife. This tour gives you time to fully explore the highlights of Chitwan, while staying in some luxurious--as well as unique--accommodation.

Overview

Nepal’s plains are just 100m above sea level; this tour takes you down to the tropical, flat lowlands for a real contrast to the hills and mountains that are usually associated with Nepal. You’ll stay river-side in an air-conditioned bungalow opposite the jungle, spend time on safari, almost definitely see a rhino, various types of monkeys and deer, and perhaps even a tiger. And, perhaps the most memorable and unique aspect of this trip is spending a night at the elephant camp, where elephants live chain-free.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Fly Kathmandu to Chitwan (Bharatpur)

The banks of the Rapti River

After breakfast, drive to Kathmandu's domestic airport for a short flight to Bharatpur, gateway to Chitwan National Park.

The landscape and culture here is totally different from what you may have experienced so far in Kathmandu and around. Nepal's plains are called the Terai, which refers to the extensive plains in the southern part of Nepal, which are the most northern extension of the great Gangetic plains of India. The people here share aspects of both Nepali and North Indian culture, and their language is also a mix between Nepali and North Indian dialects.

From the airport it is an hour's drive to the amazing Barahi Jungle Lodge, where you will spend the next couple of days. Spread over 12 hectares, the lodge offers 35 deluxe boutique guest rooms, individual villas each with a private balcony with gorgeous views of the jungle and the Rapti River. Each spacious room has been decorated by local Tharu artisans. The resort is also right on the river, so you may see animals come right to the river's edge to drink and bathe.

Accommodation: Barahi Jungle Lodge

Day 2: Jeep and foot safari

Tigers can sometimes be spotted in the Chitwan National Park

Today is sure to be memorable, as it's a full day of safari activities in the Chitwan National Park, and you're guaranteed to see some spectacular wildlife. All wildlife activities are escorted by an experienced naturalist who will tell you everything you want to know about the park and its flora and fauna. Wildlife that you can see includes the greater one-horned rhinoceros, spotted deer, hog deer, sambar deer, barking deer, gharial crocodiles and a wide variety of birdlife. With a bit of luck, you may even glimpse a leopard, sloth bear, or Royal Bengal tiger.

Accommodation: Barahi Jungle Lodge

Day 3: Boat safari down the river to the Tiger Tops Tharu Lodge

One-horned rhinoceros

After breakfast, an amazing experience awaits. Take a long boat from the river's edge for your transfer to the Tiger Tops Tharu Lodge, your next night's accommodation. The boats are low to the water and quiet, making this boat ride an good chance to spot some more wildlife, such as birds, gharial crocodiles, and sometimes even tigers and rhinoceros at the water's edge.

Arrive at Tiger Tops a bit before lunch and drive to the lodge. Situated beside lush forest and overlooking idyllic wetlands and farmland on the edge of the park, the Tharu Lodge is a beautiful place to unwind. Dine in the shade of a mango tree, take a refreshing dip in the pool, play a spot of tennis, or simply sway gently in a hammock with a book. If you fancy a bit more activity, in the afternoon go for a bullock cart ride into the Tharu village nearby. At night, enjoy the sounds of the forest, just meters from your window.

Accommodation: Tiger Tops Tharu Lodge

Day 4: A day with the elephants

Preparing the elephants' meals

Get up early this morning and follow the elephants into the grasslands beside the river, where the mahouts cut and collect the grass for the elephants to eat during the day. While watching the beautiful sight of the elephants grazing in the morning mist, enjoy a steaming cup of traditional Nepali tea. You can even have a go at cutting and binding the grass yourself--it's harder than the mahouts make it look!

Return to the Elephant Camp after breakfast, where you will sleep tonight. Spend the rest of the morning with the mahouts, learning how to take care of the elephants. Lunch will be ready around noon, and you might wish to relax and be lazy (just like the elephants) during the hot midday hours.

In the late afternoon, when the temperature is pleasant, go for a walk in the jungle with the elephants and their mahouts. You will be walking alongside the elephants, watching how they move, what they eat, and listening to their communication, which consists of rumbling and trumpeting. The naturalist will explain everything you want to know about the surrounding eco-system as you move through jungle, grassland, and wetlands with the elephants. You will most likely encounter tiger tracks, deer, various species of birds, and maybe a rhino or two, depending on the route you take.

As an overnight guest at the Elephant Camp, you will be surrounded by elephants living in a spacious, chain-free environment. You'll be immersed in the elephants’ daily life all day; even after dark you will feel the elephants' presence through their verbal and infrasonic communications.

Accommodation: Tiger Tops Elephant Camp

Day 5: Last morning in the Chitwan, then fly back to Kathmandu

Tiger Tops Elephant Camp

This morning, you may have a chance to fit in one last jungle or village activity before your transfer to Bharatpur airport for your flight back to Kathmandu. The flight takes just 20 minutes, and there's also the option to drive overland, which takes 5-6 hours, depending on road conditions. The drive takes longer, but it is scenic, and it is interesting to see the landscape progress from flat plains to high hills and terraced farmland.