Nepal is truly unrivaled in its beauty. Yet unbeknown to most, there is so much more to this small Asian country than the rugged Himalayan mountain range. In the lowlands lay lush jungles, incredible wildlife viewing opportunities, and rich flora and fauna. Conservation efforts in the last few decades have ensured that the Nepalese landscape has remained largely untouched by the human hand, and that wildlife populations continue to grow. As a result, the Royal Bengal tiger population has increased by over 60% in the last decade, and Nepal has carved itself in the history books by becoming home to some of the last remaining populations of the one-horned rhino.
For the local people, most mountain ranges and lakes are linked to fables since the landscape plays a central role in their spiritually. Many tribes, and villages lay within the boundaries of the parks and often the local people are more than happy to share their collective history with visitors.
Map of National Parks in Nepal
There is nowhere else in the world that quite quenches thirst for nature and culture like Nepal. The beautiful national parks of Nepal set a worldwide precedence for local coordination, animal and plant preservation and truly staggering natural beauty.
This amazing pint-size national park was inducted to national parks system to protect endangered species in the area. Thanks to their conservation efforts, tiger populations have doubled within its boundaries. The endangered Asiatic elephant, and four-horned antelope also roam freely alongside over 300 species of birds and countless reptile and fish species. For ages locals have dubbed the area that the Banke National Park rests upon as the “gift of the earth” and many of them live traditional lifestyles within it. The landscape is beautifully made up of eight distinct ecosystems including forests, grasslands and mountain ranges. It is connected to several wildlife sanctuaries. To the west is the Bardia National Park which is linked to the Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in India, as well as the Suhelwa Wildlife Sanctuary. This is Nepal’s newest national park and a true testament to Nepal’s continued conservation efforts.
Shuklaphanta was initially hunting grounds for the ruling class in Nepal, but turned wildlife reserve in the 90’s. In 2017, it was upgraded to national park status on World Wildlife Day. Swamp deer are a huge attraction to the park, as are the large herds of elephants present. Sometimes lucky visitors can also spot tigers and rhinos. According to a tiger census conducted last year approximately 17 tigers are living within in the park limits. Grasslands, forests, riverbeds, and tropical wetlands accommodate this large biodiversity, and boast impressive flora and fauna. To top it off, Shuklaphanta has become known as a birdwatcher’s paradise. Over 400 bird species are known within the park. The largest population of Bengal Floricans in Negal live here, as well as various types of eagles, owls, woodpeckers, vultures, and the impressive painted stork.
Khaptad is a terrific example of Nepal’s impressive Far-West. It delights the senses and nurtures the body and mind. As the park was named after Khaptad Baba who moved to the area to mediate in the 1940’s. His ashram is a place of pilgrimage for hundreds each year and is of high spiritual importance. Everyone is welcome to visit but drinking alcohol, smoking, and butchering animals is strictly prohibited. Other spiritual destinations within the confines of the park include Saileswari which is a historical town housing a number of Hindu temples, Ramaroshan which is connected to scriptures of Goddess Parvati. Badimalika, and Surma Sarovar are both connected to historical towns and important Hindu scripture as well. The landscape is a natural wonder comprised of green rolling hills, and views of the Himalayan mountain range. Meanwhile the summer climate is extremely comfortable as it rarely dips below 0, or above 20 degrees Celsius.
This stunning, and remote national park is a true national marvel. Visitors are dwarfed by the mountainous skyline which is home to some of the world’s largest mountains. Mount Makalu (8,463 meters or 27,838 feet), the parks namesake, is the fifth highest mountain in the world while many of its neighboring mountains impressively reach over 7,000 meters above sea level. Makalu Barun National Park is the only protected region in the world to have an elevation gain of 8000 meters above sea level, and also boasts incredible biodiversity. An astonishing number of flora and fauna reside here including over 40 types of orchids and other rare plant life. It is home to rare animals including the elusive snow leopard, the endangered red panda, deer species, and Himalayan black bear.
The stunning Shey Phoksundo National Park is the country’s largest national park. It holds Phoksundo Lake, which is unsurpassed in beauty. This blue-green lake is the deepest in Nepal and situated at over 3,000 meter. Around the lake blue sheep, snow leopards, Tibetan yaks, musk deer and other impressive wildlife live. The park is popular for trekking, like most other national parks in Nepal, but stands apart for its vistas of Phoksundo Lake. Over 9,000 people live in villages within the park boundaries and most of them practice Bon Buddhism, an ancient religion closely associated with Buddhism and Animism. Therefore, several religious sites are scattered around the park. Lucky visitors may even get a glimpse of the highest flying butterfly in the world, Paralasa Nepalaica, in which the park provides a perfect climate for.
This park is situated close enough to Katmandu that it has become a favorite getaway for locals and visitors who wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. This park is truly spectacular. Visitors can really get back in touch with nature here. There are a number of well-established hiking trails that run by springs of fresh clean water, green hills, mountain views, and lush forests. The name of the park is associated with religious scripture and Lord Shiva. Equally important to locals, are the many medical plants that prosper here. Meanwhile, other flora include well over a hundred varieties of mushrooms, more than 2,000 floral species, and 16 epidemic plants. Animals living here include leopards, monkeys, and black bears.
This dynamic park is one of the most unspoiled in Nepal. The majority of it is covered with dense forest, grasslands, and riverine forest. A number of rivers run through the park, which are dotted with specular displays of waterlilies, and lotus flowers. It is home to the one horned rhino, elephants, tigers, deer, and the elusive gigantic dolphin. Well over 400 bird species fly freely around the park and visitors are often treated to the sight of brightly colored peacocks. Although the majority of this lush area is unpopulated it still remains home to some of Nepal’s indigenous people, the Tharu tribe.
Located among the Himalayan mountain range, Langtang is staggeringly beautiful. It is rich in biodiversity, cultural heritage, and climatic zones. Many even visit for the starry night skies, that are put on display each night. The landscape is high in altitude, and thus features alpine mountain ranges and crystal clear lakes. Unfortunately, in 2015 Langtang village was completely wiped out from a huge avalanche and more than 100 bodies were never recovered. There are several spiritual sites scattered among the park. Otherwise Yeti sightings are frequent but verified animal life includes black bears, monkeys, and the red panda.
The surreal backdrop of this park is almost as big a draw as the animal viewing opportunities. This huge park features high mountain passes that give way to expansive savannah plains, dense jungle settings, and free flowing rivers and lakes. Here one of the world’s last remaining populations of one-horned rhinos roam freely, and viewing opportunities are alive and well for royal Bengal tigers, Gharial crocodiles, sloth bears, and the odd leopard. Bird species and unique flora and fauna thrive here as well. Thanks to the past three decades of intense anti-poaching and conservation efforts by activist groups and government intervention animal populations are on the rise. This park is often dubbed second-best to the Serengeti for wildlife viewing. It truly does not disappoint.
Sagarmatha is nothing short of exceptional. This protected area is home to world’s legendary tallest peak, Mount Everest. Alongside this behemoth the rugged Himalayan mountain terrain is home to famed animals such as the snow leopard, lynx, bears, hares, and the Himalayan thar. The region surrounding the park has no roads which only adds to its remoteness and untouched beauty. It is famed for its spiritual significance. Many Sherpas live here, while others pilgrimage to sites within the park. Mount Everest itself is very important to the local people. They call the mountain Chomolungma, meaning the Mother Goddess of the World and believe that spirits live within the mountain. Regardless of the reason for visiting the park this strong featured park is really incredible.