A lot of people visit Nepal for the attraction of the wilderness, namely Chitwan National Park. Bharatpur is the city that falls right in the gateway of the forested area. Located in central-south of Nepal, Bharatpur is the headquarters of the Chitwan district as well as a separate metropolitan administration - one of the four metro cities of Nepal. In essence, the main Bharatpur is mostly about urbanisation. All the government offices, colleges, hospitals are here, while most of the shopping and dining places are in its neighbouring town Narayangarh.
Although there are not many places of interest or attraction sites in or around Bharatpur, the proximity of the town to Chitwan forest on the one hand and the important transportation artery of Mahendra Highway on the other side. Moreover, it also has its own airport, which runs regular flights to Kathmandu and Pokhara.
The central attraction near Bharatpur is Chitwan National Park. Flanking the Narayani River, the vast expanse of green wilderness offers hours of expedition for the tourists. The national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains a Ramsar Site that caters to all the different species of mammals, birds, reptiles and aquatic creatures. Among the rarer species, there are Royal Bengal Tiger, one-horned rhino and Gharial crocodile. The place can be explored either by a jeep safari or take the much exciting elephant-back ride.
A once-in-a-lifetime experience will be to bathe the elephants in the Rapti River. The loving proximity with an animal so big and wild, and often considered dangerous will change the way you see them. Visiting the elephant breeding centre and the crocodile breeding centre inside the jungle is also quite informative yet entertaining a trip.
For those who love to see the wilderness from up close, in its most natural form without any façade in between, there are hiking and bird-watching trips arranged from the lodges and resorts of Bharatpur. A perfect place for bird-watching would be Bish Hajar Taal, or the 20 Thousand Lakes located right where the forest begins.
Tharus are a native ethnic community of the area close to the forest. Many of their livelihoods depend on the forest itself while many others earn their bread from employment in Bharatpur and Narayangarh. A trip through the Tharu village on foot or a tonga or ox-cart ride will open up their daily livelihoods to you.
The village scenery is just like a painting with old traditional houses and lush greenery. For a better understanding of the culture, you can visit the Tharu Museum, where many weapons, machinery and other lifestyle items of the Tharus over the years are displayed. There are pictures and models as well. As a bonus, the jungle safari rides from Bharatpur include a cultural dance performance programme by the Tharu people. It is very entertaining, and you will fall in love with the beat of the folk music.
Scattered in and around Bharatpur are numerous places of religion and spirituality. Most shrines are of Hindu gods and goddesses. Devghat, near to Bharatpur, is famous for being the abode of various caves, temples and shrines of Hindu deities. The place is considered holy because of the confluence of Narayani and Kali Gandaki rivers. Many devotees gather here to take a bath in the river water and wash away their sins before offering pujas in the temples.
Although Devghat is around 7 km away from the city centre of Bharatpur, it is a frequently visited place by tourists. Within Bharatpur itself, there are many shrines as well, and not only of Hinduism. The Tinkhole Monastery stands as an important remembrance of communal harmony between Hindus and Buddhists - something Nepal can boast of. The Monastery is a place of worship as well as a Lamasery.
Another significant establishment is the Ganeshthan Temple in Baseni ward. This temple has a long-drawn history. The original one is said to be built by Muni Mukunda Sen, the king of the kingdom of Palpa in the 15th century. The modern temple, with its new features and embellishments, was constructed by King Mahendra in 1952. The temple is small in size but gets a heavy crown on Tuesdays. If you want to see the devotion the locals have in their deity, Tuesdays are the best to visit. Otherwise, if visiting and offering prayers in solitude is what you want, choose any other weekday for the glimpse.
Bageshwari Temple is another shrine initially built by Muni Mukunda Sen. That area is now used by Bharatpur Medical College. Durga temple in Basani, Mahakaleshwar temple, Harihar temple, Kalika temple and Jakhadi Mai temple are all located at different parts of Bharatpur. With so many shrines right there, one can make a day's trip just out of visiting all of them, be it for devotion or for exploring. The gatherings in these temples can pose for great photo shoot opportunities as well.
If none of these is your cup of tea, no worries either. Many people visit Bharatpur from Kathmandu to take a weekend off. You can do the same with your time. Taking a walk around the streets of Bharatpur, finding out new places to shop and dine in Narayangadh or enjoy an evening with your friends or loved ones by the river Narayani.
The small islands on Narayani River that can be reached by launches, like Nagarban, are lovely spots for a picnic. A trip to Bharatpur is a perfect weekend getaway or short holiday retreat because while there are many opportunities to enjoy and see different places of interest, it also offers a scope for complete relaxation.
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