Chitwan is a wildlife watcher's dream. If you always wanted to step off the beaten path and see the native turf of elephants, and other creatures great and small, you'll delight in a visit to this amazing place in Southern Nepal.

Before the land opened at Royal Chitwan National Park, it was only open to the prime ministers and their guests for use as a hunting reserve. By the early 1960s, the land transitioned into a rhinoceros sanctuary before it was declared a national park in 1970 by the king at the time. The land quickly grew into a model of conservation, protecting a wide array of landscapes and ecosystems. Because of the importance of the site, UNESCO declared Chitwan Park as one of its World Heritage Sites. This arm of the United Nations recognizes world treasures, such as castles in Europe, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the Statue of Liberty, and the Amazon. Other sites in Nepal, including Kathmandu Durbar Square, share this designation.

On tours of Royal Chitwan National Park, visitors will have a chance to see for themselves why this site is such a treasure. Encompassing nearly 600 miles of land in the foothills of the Himalayas, Chitwan still is home to a heard of rhinos, and its one of the last natural habitats of the Bengal tiger. The boundaries of Chitwan are created by several rivers, while the eastern border is shared with the Parsa Wildlife Reserve.

At Chitwan Park, wildlife watchers and birders may have the chance to see animals they've only seen in zoos or seen pictured in a schoolbook. Colorful monitor lizards favor this land, as do antelopes and hyenas. Leopards and Rhesus monkeys are more shy, which makes spotting these types of Chitwan wildlife even more special.

Visitors don't have to worry about wandering around the acres and acres of Chitwan National Park on their own. Plenty of local guides are available to lead tours, while seasoned tour operators include the park in their Nepal holidays. Guided Jeep safaris and jungle walks provide insight into different aspects of the park and are filled with beautiful scenery and interesting information. Canoe tours are yet another way to explore the vast Chitwan Park. You'll also find a visitor center, where you poke in to learn more about the park and its natural wonders.

When you make reservations at a lodge at Chitwan, you not only have access to overnight accommodations, but also travel plans. These hotels offer all-inclusive packages that pull together many of the best things to do in and around the Chitwan National Park, all organized by local professionals.

Many park visitors and lodge guests save time for an elephant ride, something you can't usually do at home. An elephant breeding center, located on site at Chitwan Park, helps ensure the fragile species will continue to flourish in Nepal. The park's scientific staff also work with Gharial crocodiles, nurturing new hatchlings, when the reptiles are at their most vulnerable.

If you're wondering when to go, the weather may affect your decision. While the park is open all year, the rivers and roads tend to flood during the monsoon season, June through September. When the rains are far off the park can be reached by a bus ride or highway, about six hours from Kathmandu. Air service also links the capital city with the nearby town of Meghauli.

Chitwan is also the name of the region, where you'll find shopping and dining. Most of the visitor amenities outside of the park are concentrated in the town of Sauraha.

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