This unique wildlife experience takes you all the way across the Southern Terai region of Nepal. Starting from Chitwan National Park, for a special elephant encounter and safaris to see the endangered one-horned rhinoceros, you'll move west to explore the remote Bardia National Park in search of the elusive Bengal Tiger. En route, you'll also spend some time in spiritual Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha.

Highlights

  • Get an almost guaranteed sighting of incredible one-horned rhinoceros
  • Stay in close proximity to elephants at Chitwan's Elephant Camp
  • Look for tigers at the quiet Bardia National Park
  • Experience the spiritual atmosphere of Buddha's birthplace, Lumbini

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Kathmandu! Kathmandu
Day 2 Fly from Kathmandu to Chitwan Chitwan National Park
Day 3 Explore Chitwan: A Day With Elephants Chitwan National Park
Day 4 Explore Chitwan: Safari by Jeep or on foot Chitwan National Park
Day 5 Drive from Chitwan to Lumbini Lumbini
Day 6 Drive from Lumbini to Bardia National Park Bardia National Park
Day 7 Explore Bardia: Jungle & River Safari Bardia National Park
Day 8 Explore Bardia: In Search of the Royal Bengal Tiger Bardia National Park
Day 9 Fly from Bardia to Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 10 Depart Kathmandu  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Kathmandu!

Kathesimbhu Stupa in Kathmandu
Kathesimbhu Stupa in Kathmandu

Flying into Kathmandu, you'll have views over the valley, the Himalaya, and the terraced fields below. After completing customs, a representative will be waiting to greet you outside the airport and to guide you through the initial culture shock of Kathmandu’s narrow, winding streets to your hotel.

Once you've settled in, head out and explore the city. Kathmandu Durbar Square is a great place to start your exploration, where you'll walk through narrow alleyways teeming with small shops, ancient temples, and local restaurants. If you want to stretch your legs, Swayambhunath, the white stupa rising above the valley, is the perfect spot to catch the sunset over the valley.

In the evening, the tourist hub of Thamel is a good place to grab your first meal, with a variety of restaurants to chose from offering both Western and local Nepali dishes.

Day 2: Fly from Kathmandu to Chitwan

Looking out over the river in Chitwan
Looking out over the river in Chitwan

This morning, you'll get up early for your flight to the famous Terai region of Nepal, Chitwan National Park. You'll find that the landscape and culture are totally different from Kathmandu or the Himalaya. The name 'Terai' refers to the extensive plains in the southern part of Nepal; this area is the most northern extension of the great Gangetic plains of India, land that was won and lost in decades of struggle, and shares both Indian and Nepali characteristics and culture.

Upon arrival at the airport in Chitwan, you will be picked up by a representative from your lodge and get to the lodge in time for lunch (unless you choose an afternoon flight) and a briefing about the activities available in the time you have left this afternoon and what’s on tomorrow.

Day 3: Explore Chitwan: A Day With Elephants

The elephants at Tiger Tops
The elephants at Tiger Tops

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 the 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.

Day 4: Explore Chitwan: Safari by Jeep or on Foot

Wild endangered one-horn rhinoceros grazing in Chitwan
Wild endangered one-horn rhinoceros grazing in Chitwan

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.

Day 5: Drive from Chitwan to Lumbini

Monks dressed in traditional costume pray
Monks dressed in traditional costume pray

After breakfast in Chitwan, you have a 3-4 hour drive to Lumbini. Lumbini is a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the Kapilavastu district of Nepal near the Indian border, where Queen Mayadevi is said to have given birth to Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. The Buddha lived between roughly 563 and 483 BCE.

Lumbini is one of four magnets for pilgrimage that sprang up in places pivotal to the life of the Buddha, the others being at Bodhgaya, Sarnath, and Kushinagar. Since 1997, Lumbini has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The holy site at Lumbini has ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi tree, an ancient bathing pond, the Asokan pillar and the Mayadevi temple, where the precise place of birth of Buddha is located. From early morning to early evening, pilgrims from various countries perform chanting and meditation at the site.

Lumbini is also home to the Crane Sanctuary, a place abundant in culture and birdlife. Be sure to take binoculars to catch a glimpse of the Eurasian Wigeons, Eurasian Marsh Harriers, and the Booted Eagles.

Day 6: Drive from Lumbini to Bardia National Park

Karnali Lodge

Today you drive across the southern flood plains of Nepal through Tharu villages and border towns. The trip takes approximately 7-8 hours. En route, get a feel for life in the Terai passing through towns, fields and forests. 

Close to the Karnali Lodge, where you'll be staying,  you will cross the Babai River, where Marsh Mugger Crocodiles may be warming in the midday sun. Once at Karnali Lodge you will be met by the staff with a cool welcome drink. Settle into your room and relax with a book, or explore the compound before dinner. The evening will be spent with cocktails a round an outdoor fireplace before moving into the Ghol Ghar (Nepali dining room) for dinner. A good setting for late-night chats, the stocked bar remains open until the last person goes to bed.

Day 7: Explore Bardia: Jungle & River Safari

Royal Bengal Tiger crossing the Karnali river in Bardia National Park
Royal Bengal Tiger crossing the Karnali river in Bardia National Park

Today, you'll have time to relax or to choose from a variety of activities to explore the jungle of Bardia. 

Elephant or Jeep Wildlife Safari

Explore the jungle by elephant ride or jeep safari, where it's best to go early when the morning mist rises over the river and grasslands and the wildlife goes to the water to drink. Monkeys chatter and birds call from the trees. If you're lucky, you'll spot an elusive Royal Bengal Tiger. After lunch, you can take a jungle walk for another opportunity to see wild animals and take some great photos.

Chisapani Bridge & Karnali River Safari

Embark on a one-hour drive to the Chisapani Bridge (the largest in Nepal) and the starting point of your river safari. You'll float down the Karnali River, spotting an abundance of aquatic birdlife, crocodiles and, if you are lucky, the extremely rare Gangetic dolphin. Drift slowly past small islands as the river splits, watching the deer and monkeys foraging on the river bank. Following your safari, you will be picked up and driven to the lodge for a late lunch.

Explore the Local Villages

In the afternoon, it's a good time to go for a gentle stroll through the neighboring villages and paddy fields, meeting the local farmers and learn about the Tharu way of life. 

Day 8: Explore Bardia: In Search of the Royal Bengal Tiger

Keep an eye out for Bengal tigers
Keep an eye out for Bengal tigers

Wake up early to the sounds of the abundant birdlife. Grab an early breakfast before embarking on a full-day jeep safari in the jungle in search of tigers. An experienced naturalist will guide you to various hides, lookouts, and areas of amazing vistas whilst showing you a plethora of wildlife found in Bardia National Park. Enjoy a packed lunch, while you wait for a glimpse of the elusive orange and black stripes.

Return via the National Park Headquarters, where you can visit both the elephant and Gharial (the world's rarest crocodile) breeding centers.

Return to the lodge in the early evening to a well earned cold beer or hot shower, followed by delicious dinner.

Day 9: Fly from Bardia to Kathmandu

Dawn in Bardia National Park
Dawn in Bardia National Park

After a leisurely breakfast, you'll drive back to Nepalgunj (2 hours) for your return journey to Kathmandu. In the afternoon, there will be some free time to visit other points of interest in the capital or do some last minute shopping.

Day 10: Depart Kathmandu

The all-seeing eyes of Buddha at Swayambhunath
The all-seeing eyes of Buddha at Swayambhunath

It's time to say farewell to Nepal. Enjoy your last moments in Kathmandu with breakfast in a café, a final stroll through the narrow alleys and temples, and some souvenir shopping. A driver will be waiting for you at your hotel to take you to the airport for your return flight home. It's best to be at the airport at least two hours prior to departure.