National Parks, Conservation Areas and Wildlife Reserves of Nepal
The geography of Nepal can be divided into high mountains, mid hills and low lands. A wide range of ecosystem from sub-tropical jungles of the Terai to the arctic conditions of Himalayan highlands are found within an area of 147,181 square kilometers.
There are a total of 9 National parks, 3 wildlife Reserves, 3 Conservation Areas, 1 Hunting Reserve including 9 Buffer zones around national parks, covering a total of 28,585.67 km2 (19.42%) of the country’s total land. Nepal’s rich bio-diversity renders it ideal as an eco-tourism destination.
Khapad National Park (225 sq km)
Khaptad National Park in West Nepal is the home of Khaptad Swami, the renowned scholar and a hermit. The park with rolling hills of grasslands and forests of subtropical, temperate and sub alpine vegetation is also a rich natural habitat. The park boasts of 224 species of medicinal herbs and offers excellent bird watching opportunities, with 270 species of birds, the common ones being different varieties of Impheyan Pheasant, partridges, plycatchers, bulbuls, cuckoos and eagles. Animals in the park are barking deer, wild boar, ghoral, Himalayan black bear, yellow-throated marten, rhesus monkey and langur monkey. The Park also offers religious sightseeing at Tribeni on the way to its headquarters. There are several historical temples surrounding this area and an annual celebration of Ganga Dashhara is held here every Jestha Purnima. Another religious site is Sahara Linga at 3,200 meters, the highest point of the park. Other religious areas in the park include Ganesh Temple, Nagdhunga, and Kedardhunga. These areas are ideal places for meditation. Towards the northeast of the park is Khaptad Lake where a festival is held every august and September.
Access: Fly to Dipayal from Nepalgung and then a three-day walk.
The park extends over parts of Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Sindhupalchowk districts in the mountainous terrain of Nepal-China (Tibet) border.
Ther chief attraction of this park is the Langtang range in the north and several lakes in the south. High altitude jungles with diverse vegetation and wildlife, scenic lakes, glaciers and Himalayan peaks combine to make Langtang an attractive destination for visitors. Twenty five percent of the park’s total area is covered by forest, starting at sub-tropical forests below 1,000 meters giving way to alpine scrubs and grasslands toward higher altitude. Animals seen here are wild dog, red panda, pika, muntjac, musk deer, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan Thar, Ghoral, serow rhesus monkey, common langur, snow leopard among others. Common birds seen here are tragopan impeyan and pheasants (kalij). The Langtang Valley is also renowned for its holy Lake Gosainkunda. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit the lake area every year, especially during the Janai Purnima festival every August.
Activities: Trekking, mountaineering
Accommodation: Lodges, camping
Access: From Dhunche which is 117 km by road from Kathmandu
Best Season: Oct-Nov & Mar-May (Cold at higher elevation); Jun-Sep (monsoon), Dec-feb (Snow)
Park Headquarter: Dhunche
Makalu- Barun National park (2,330 sq km)
The park spreads over the districts of Sankhuwasabha and Solukhumbu in northeast Nepal. One of the prime attractions for visitors to the park is experience the unique Himalayan bio diversity. The vegetation range from sub tropical forests to sub alpine and alpine as the altitude increases. The park boasts of 47 species of orchids, 67 species of medicinal herbs, 25 of Nepal’s 30 varieties of rhododendron, 19 bamboo species, 15 oak species, 48 species of primrose and 86 species of fodder trees. The park also offers bird-watching opportunities with its 400 species of birds, including the rare spotted wren babbler and the olive ground warbler. Wildlife include the endangered red panda, snow leopard, Himalayan black bear, clouded leopard tops, ghoral, tahr, wild boar, barking deer, Himalayan marmot, weasel, langur monkey and serow. River Arun that flows through the park has 84 varieties of fish including salmon.
Activities: Trekking, mountaineering
Access: Fly to Tumlingtar from Kathmandu (1 hr) and then a six-day walk
Best Season: Oct-Nov and Mar-Apr; Apr-May (hot at lower elevations), Jun-Sep (monsoon) Park headquarter: Seduwa, Tel: 029-560136
Rara National Park (106 sq km)
Rara National Park in the far northwestern part of the country offers a representative sample of the region’s flora and fauna. Sprawled over Mugu and Jumla districts the heart of the park is the country’s biggest lake, Lake Rara, from where the park gets its name.
The lake is as deep as 167 meters at some places, and drains into the river Mugu Karnali via Naijar khola. The park is mainly covered with coniferous forest while the area around the lake is dominated by blue pine, rhododendron, juniper, spruce, oak and cypress and found around 3,000 meters while at higher altitude pine, spruce and fir are more common.
The rich vegetation of the park is a home to the endangered red panda, musk deer, Himalayan black beer, leopard, jackal, Himalayan Thar, wild yellow-throated martin, wild dog, wild boar, common langur, rhesus macaque and common otter. During winter the park abounds in bird varieties like coots, great-crested grebe, black-necked grebe, red crested pochard, mallard, common teal, merganser and gulls. Migrant water fowl and gallinaceous birds can also be seen during certain seasons.
As for water life in the lake, the snow trout is the only fish recorded so far.
Access: Fly to Jumla from KTM via Nepalgunj and then 3 day walk, or by bus from Nepalgunj to surkhet(114km) and then a week’s walk
Best Season: Feb-Apr and Oct-Nov
Park headquarter: Hutu
Chitwan National Park (932 sq km)
Owing to its rich adornment of nature, Chitwan National Park was declared UNESCO Nature Heritage Site in 1979. The park that includes in its area a part of the Shivalik Hills, is covered with deciduous forests overlooking the floodplains of Narayani, Rapti and Reu rivers and offering a wilderness of rich ecosystem that includes mammals, birds, reptiles and water animals of several kinds.
There are around 600 plants, 50 mammals, 526 birds and 49 amphibians reptiles spices found in the park The highlights, of course, are the 500 Asian one-horned rhinoceros and some 100nocturnal Royal Bengal tigers that live in the dense forests of the park. Sharing home with these are other animals like rhesus monkey, grey langur, deer, leopards, white stockinged gaur, wild boar, wild dogs and wild cats. Among reptiles are different kinds of snakes including the python, while the river areas breed amphibians like the endangered snouted gharial popularly known as Gangetic Crocodile and Marsh Crocodiles.
The forest is alive during summer with the arrival of migrant birds’ paradise flycatcher, Indian pitta and parakeets, while winter birds include waterfowl, Brahminy ducks, pintails, bar-headed gees, cormorants and migratory birds form Siberia. Other bird varieties are woodpeckers, hornbills, peacocks, peahens, floricans and redheaded trogons. A rare attraction of the park is the world’s fresh water dolphin variety sometimes seen in River Narayani.
Another factor adding a distinct touch to the Chitwan experience is the colorful Tharu culture. There are also sites of religious and historical importance at Devghat, Pandavnagar, Balmiki Ashram and Kabilaspur.
Access: The park headquarters at Kasara is a 21 km from Bharatpur which is 20 minutes by air or 146 km by road from Kathmandu
Best Season: Oct-Feb(average temperature 25 degrees Celsius); Mar-Jun(hot, up to 43 degrees Celsius), Jul-Sep (rainy)
Park headquarter: Kasara, Tel: 056-529405
Sagarmatha National park (1,148 sq km)
The prime attraction in the Sagarmatha National Park is Mt. Everest, the highest peak of the world. The park was added to the list of World Heritage Site in 1979. The park, a part of the Himalayan ecological zone, has several other prominent peaks most of which are above 6,000 meters.
With most of the park above 3,000 meters, Sagarmatha is full of rugged terrain with deep gorges glaciers and huge rocks. With its Himalayan terrain and its unique culture, the park offers a blend of natural and cultural tourist products here.
The vegetation at lower elevation is dominated by pine and hemlock forests, while above 3,500 meters the forest is dominated with silver fir, birch, rhododendron, and juniper trees. During spring and monsoon the varieties of rhododendron flowers are seen.
The common wildlife in the park are Himalayan Tahr, Ghoral Musk Deer, Pikka (mouse hare), weasel, jackal etc. Other rarely seen animals are Himalayan black bear, wolf lynx, and snow leopard. Beirs inhabiting the park are of over 118 species.Common ones among them are impeyan pheasant (Danphe), blood pheasant, red billed cough, yellow-billed cough, snow cock, snow pigeon, Himalayan griffon, and lammergeryer.
The national park also showcases the cultural trophies with the warm Sherpa hospitality and its many monasteries and cultural landmarks.
Activities: Trekking, Mountaineering
Accommodation: Resort hotels, lodges, camping
Access: Two-day walk form Lukla which is 30 minutes by air from Kathmandu
Best Season: Oct-Nov and Mar-May; Dec-Feb (snow, daytime temperature 5 degree Celsius), Jun-Sep (rainy)
Park Headquarter: Mandalphu, Namche Bazaar, Tel: 038-626043
Bardia National Park (968 sq km)
The Bardia National park is the largest and most undisturbed protected area in the Terai and is home to the endangered Royal Bengal tiger and Nepal’s famous one-horned rhinoceros. The national park located in the far western district of Bardiya, is borded by the river Karnali in the west, the Churia range in the north, while the River Babai flows right through the park.
The varied geographical factors together with the thick cover of Sal, savannah forests and grasslands render this region ideal as wild animal habitat. The park hosts 30 different mammals, more than 250 species of birds, and several varieties of reptiles and water animals.
Some of the other animals found where are elephant, swamp deer, blackbuck, gharial crocodile and marsh mugger crocodile. The exotic Gangetic Dolphin is also sometimesseen in river Karnali. Birds include endangered varieties of Bangel florican, lesser florican, silver-eared mesia and sarus crane.
The park offers the rare opportunity of fishing at River Karnali and River Babai.
Activities: Jungle safari on elephant-back, jungle walk, jeep drive
Accommodation: Jungle lodges
Access: Three hours by jeep (95km) form Nepalgunj which is 1hour 10 minute by air or 531 by road from Kathmandu
Best Season: Oct-Mar; Apr-Jun (hot, 45 degrees Celsius), Jul-Sep (rainy)
Park headquarters: Thakurdwara, Tel: 084-429719
Shey-Phoksundo National Park (3,555 sq km)
Shey-Phoksundo National Park is situated in the Trans-Himalayan region of north west of Nepal. It is Nepal’s largest national park.
With diverse terrain and altitude variation, the park spreads over Dolpa and Mugu districts and supports a broad range of wildlife and vegetation. Geographical landmarks of the park are the Himalayn peaks in the north and Lake Phoksundo, in the southern region.
Vegetation include pine, walnut, willow, oak and cypress and the lower altitude & pine, spruce, juniper & birch at higher regions. Berberis, wild rosea and caragana are seen in alpine areas while the regions higher up are mostly arid with grass alpine meadows with barely any trees.
The park contains 286 florea species of botanical importance. Animals found in the region are sheep, ghoral, musk deer, leopard, wild dog, marmot, weasel, mouse hare, rhusus & langur monkeys, Himalayan thar, Himalayan black bear and Jackals.
In the upper reaches is seen the rare snow leopard. Over 200 species of birds including yellow-throated marten, Tibetan partridge, wood snip, white-throated tit, wood accentor, & crimson-eared rose finch are found in the park. Other species of birds found here are Impeyan, cheer pheasant, chough, ravens, Tibetan show cock, Tibetan twit, brown dipper, Himalayan griffon & lammergeyer. Apart from these the park is home to 6 species of reptiles & 29 species of Butterfly.
Activities: Trekking, Mountaineering
Access: Fly to Dolpa’s Jufal airport from Nepalgunj or Pokhara and then a three-day walk
Best Season: Mar-May (high passes may still covered with snow) and Jun-Sep (clear weather)
Park Headquarter: Sumduwa, Tel: 087-550104
Shivapuri National Park (144 sq km)
The Shivapuri National Park (144 sq km) is the major watershed supplying drinking water to the capital city of Kathmandu. Lying in the transition zone between the subtropical and temperate climatic zones, its diverse vegetation is composed of pine, oak, rhododendron and others. The park is rich in wild mushrooms (129 species).
The wildlife found in the national park includes Himalayan black bear, leopard, jungle cat, and rhesus monkeys. The park is home to over 177 species of birds including 9 threatened species, over 100 species of butterflies including rare and threatened. The park has several rain-red rivers that are the major source of drinking water for the capital city. The park produces 227 million liters water per day of which 30 million liters per day are collected for consumption.
Towering over the Kathmandu valley, the Shivapuri National Park is a fog-free zone. During winter while Kathmandu and the other towns and settlements of the valley are still dark under the thick cold fog, the park get sparkling sunlight. It receives regular westerly winds blowing from the Trishuli river valley.
Situated only 12 km to the north of Kathmandu, the park is the main entrance of the trekking routes to Gosainkunda, Helambu, Kagarkot and the Langtang National Park. The major routes include Pani Muhan to Shivapuri peak (2,732 meter above mean sea level), Nagi gumba to the peak, Nagi gumba to Baghdwar, Sundarijal to Chisapani. The breathtaking views of the high Himalayan peaks can be seen from the top of the Shivapuri Mountain.
The park is a spiritually significant for the popular shrines and meditation centers in the natural surroundings. The park consists of several religious and cultural heritage sites for the Hindus as well as Buddhists. They include the peaks of Shivapuri, Manichur, Tarkeswor and the source of the Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers. The other famous shrines that are worth visiting are Budhanilkantha, Sundarimai and the Nagi monastery attract thousands of pilgrims during festive seasons.
Activities: Hiking, rock climbing, bird watching
Access: 11 km to the north of Kathmandu, taxi or bus
Best Season: Sep-Jun; Jul-Aug (rainy)
Park Headquarter: Shivapuri, Tel: 01-4371644
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (176 sq km)
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve has carved a place for itself as a birdwatcher’s paradise. The reserve spreads over Saptari and Sunsari districts in East Nepal over the embankments of River Koshi. The reserve has been recognized as Wetland site from 1987. The vegetation of the reserve is mainly grassland with patches of scrub and deciduous reverine forests. The reserve has recorded around 439 species of bird variety, some of which fly all the way from Siberia during winter. A wide variety of ducks, herons, storks, egrets, ibis etc. are seen on the riverbanks. Koshi Tappu Reserve also has one of the few elephant stables of Asia. Other animals found here are wild buffalo, wild boar, hog deer, spotted deer, blue bell and jackal. Gharial Crocodile and Gangetic Dolphin are other attractions.
Activities: Game viewing, bird watching
Accommodation: Resorts & Tented camps
Access: 90- minute drive (40km) from Biratnagar which is 50 minute by air or 541 km by road from Kathmandu.
Best Season: Oct-Mar; Apr-Jun (hot), Jul-sep (rainy)
Reserve Headquarter: Kusaha, Tel: 025-530897
Parsa Wildlife Reserve (499 sq km)
The Parsa Wildlife Reserve spreads over parts of Chitwan, Makawanpur, Parsa and Bara districts. The vegetation is tropical and sub tropical mostly covered with Sal forests, while the hills are covered with chir pine. Khair, sissoo and silk cotton are found along water areas.
The reserve provides good habitat for animals like wild elephant, tiger, leopard, sloth bear, gaur, blue bull and wild dog. Other common animals in the reserve are sambar, chital, hog deer, barking deer, langur monkey, rhesus macaques, striped hyena, rat, palm civet and jungle cat. There are 527 species of birds found in the reserve, one being the endangered great hornbill found in certain parts of the forest.
Other bird species include peafowl, red jungle fowl, flycatchers and woodpeckers. Birds and animals apart the reserve also habitats snakes like king cobra, common cobra, krait, rat snake and python.
Activities: Jungle safari on elephant-back, jungle walk, jeep drive
Access: Fly to Simara from Katmandu (15min.) and then by road to the reserve headquarters (7km), or overland all the way from Kathmandu (150 km via Hetauda)
Best Season: Oct-Mar; Apr-Jun (hot, 30-35 degrees Celsius), Jul-Sep (monsoon)
Shuklaphanta wildlife Reserve is located in the far-eastern lowland Terai of Nepal. The pristine sub-tropical jungle makes Shuklaphanta Nepal’s second largest wildlife Reserve in Terai.
The open grasslands and numerous waterholes of the park is a vast expanse of plain grasslands and Sal forests, while marsh vegetation is found along rivers and lakes. The park that was originally reserved as a hunting area was later converted to wildlife reserve to protect swamp deer.
The reserve now shelters almost 2,000 swamp deer, around 50 wild elephants and 30 tigers. Other animals found here are spotted deer, blue bulls, barking deer, hog deer, wild boars, leopards, jackals, langurs and rhesus monkeys. Among birds the reserve provides habitat to Sarus Crane Swamp Francolin, Gross Owl, Warblers, Flycatchers and the endangered Bengal Florican. Reptile species include marsh mugger, crocodile, cobra and python.
Activities: Wildlife viewing on elephant-back
Accommodation: Jungle lodges
Access: Fly or Drive to Mahendranagar 695 km from Kathmandu)
Dhorpatan Hunting reserve is the only area in Nepal whee licened hunting is allowded. The reserve adjoins Myagdi district and Baglung district, just below the dhaulagiri range in West Nepal. The reserve begins at 3,000 meters reaches as high as 7000 meters. Trees like fir, pine, rhododendron, hemlock, oak, juniper and spruce are available in the reserve.
One of the prime attractions for hunters is the blue sheep, which is abundant in the area. Hunters also get pheasants and partridges in viable populations for hunting. Other animals found here are leopard, ghoral, serow, himalayanm tahr, Himalayan black bear, barking deer, wild boar, rhesus macaque langur and mouse hare. Endangered animals in the reserve are musk deer, wolf, red panda, cheer pheasant and danphe.
Activities: Trophy Hunting, Game, Viewing
Access:Four days’ walk from Baglung which is 72 km from Pokhara by road
Best season: March-April; Oct-Nov; Jul-sept (Monsoon), Dec-Feb (cold, windy, snow)
Reserve Headquarters: Dhorpatan, Tel: 068-5211121
ANNAPURNA CONSERVATION AREA PROJECT – ACAP (7,629 sq km)
The Annapurna Conservation Area is one of the best trekking trails in the world. The area spreads around Kaski, Mustang, Manang and Lamjung districts of Central Nepal. Starting with an altitude of 790 meters, the area reaches as high as 8,091 meters of Mt. Annapurna. Ghandruk is the fist experience and further down is Ghorepani that provides fantastic panoramic view of the Annapurna ranges. Equally eye catching are hills of rhododendron that blossom every spring.
The turning point of the Annapurna Circuit is Jomsom. The trek southeast from Jomsom leads to the scenic Tilicho Lake area at an altitude of 4,919 meters. In the circuit route, is the famous Himdu religious sites Muktinath Temple.
The vegetation in this region includes various species of orchids and rhododendron. Wildlife includes around 100 different kinds of mammals including rare snow leopards and blue sheep. The region also boasts of around 478 species of birds including multi-colored Impheyan, Koklas and blood pheasants. In addition the region is also home to 39 species of reptiles and 22 species of amphibians.
Activities: Trakking, Mountaineering
Accommodation: resort hotels, lodges, camping
Access: From Pokhara which is 202 km by road or 30 minutes by air from Kathmandu
The area has alpine grasslands, low river valleys with temperate and sub-tropical forests. Ten species among Nepal’s 20 indigenous gymnosperms and 15 among Nepal’s 28 endemic flowering plants are found in this region. In addition, almost 30 varieties of rhododendron species and 69 varieties of orchids are found here. Wildlife includes endangered snow leopard, Himalayan black bear musk deer red panda, blue sheep and rhesus macaw. About 202 species of different birds including Impheyan pheasant, red-billed blue magpie, shy drongo are found in the area.
Activities: Trekking, mountaineering.
Accommodation: Tea houses, camping.
Access: From Taplejung which can be reached by air from Kathmandu
Best Season: March- May; Sep- Nov
Park headquarter: Lelep, Tel: 024-460081
Manaslu Conservation Area (1,663 sq km)
The Manaslu area in Gorkha district is a classic setting to experience pristine mountain nature and culture. The conservation area starts at 600 meters and is crowned by the eithth highest peak in the workd Mt. Manasly at 8,163 meters. The region is home to 29 species of mammals including snow leopard, musk deer and Himalayan Tahr. There are over 20 species of birds and three species of reptiles and over 200 species of pants.
Activities: Trekking, mountaineering
Accommodation: Camping, lodges
Access: By bus to Dhading (87 km from Kathmandu) or to Besi Sahar (106 km from Pokhara) and then Trekking.