The Most Beautiful National Parks and Wildlife Reserves in Nepal

With such a wide diversity of landscapes and wildlife, Nepal's natures reserves are a wonder to behold
With such a wide diversity of landscapes and wildlife, Nepal's natures reserves are a wonder to behold | © Oliver Förstner / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Elen Turner
Contributor26 October 2021

If you’re looking for beautiful national parks and wildlife reserves, few countries offer as much diversity as Nepal. Photo-worthy landscapes here run from the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas to the hot, steamy plains bordering India – meaning there’s plenty of stunning destinations to visit. To help you find your personal paradise, here’s a rundown of the most beautiful landscapes and wildlife reserves in Nepal.

Annapurna Conservation Area

Natural Feature, Park
The Marsyangdi River Valley in the Annapurna Conservation Area of Nepal, Himalayas
© Jochen Schlenker / Alamy Stock Photo

The Annapurna Conservation Area is the largest protected area in Nepal and encompasses parts of the Manang, Mustang, Kaski, Myagdi and Lamjung districts. It’s a wild area of mountains, forests, hills and rivers that are popular for trekking. As well as the best-known Annapurna Circuit – which begins a short drive from Pokhara and ends in Lower Mustang – there are numerous shorter treks to enjoy in the area.

Chitwan National Park

Natural Feature, Park
Early morning canoeing on the Narayani Rapti River in Chitwan National Park, Nepal
© John Dambik / Alamy Stock Photo

The Chitwan National Park is the most popular jungle national park in Nepal, as it’s easily accessible from both Kathmandu and Pokhara. Here, you can see all manner of birdlife, gharial crocodiles, elephants and the one-horned rhinoceros, of which there are more than 600. Chitwan has run a successful rhino breeding and conservation program so you’re almost guaranteed to spot at least one when on a Jeep, bullock cart or foot safari. And if you’re truly lucky, you may even encounter a Royal Bengal Tiger – the ultimate prize on any safari.

A Jeep safari of Chitwan National Park is included in Culture Trip’s thrilling Nepalese adventure, on which you’ll also boat across Phewa Lake, make momo dumplings at a Tibetan refugee camp, and go wild camping and white-water rafting along the Seti River.

Makalu Barun National Park

Natural Feature, Park

The Makalu Barun National Park is an eastern extension of the Sagarmatha National Park, where Mount Everest is located. It’s also connected to the Qomolangma National Nature Preserve in Tibet. It’s the only protected area in the world that has an elevation gain of 8,000m (26,247ft) within it. Mount Makalu – which sits within the park – is the fifth-highest peak in the world, at 8,463m (27,766ft). The Arun River runs through it and there’s an extraordinarily diverse variety of flora and fauna in the tropical jungle, forested hill and snowy mountain landscapes.

Shey Phoksundo National Park

Natural Feature, Park

The Shey Phoksundo National Park is in the far western districts of Dolpo and Mugu and many of the more popular off-the-beaten-path treks in this region pass through it. The aquamarine Phoksundo Lake is the main attraction. Much of the park lies in the rain-shadow of the Himalayas – a dry and barren area on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau that has stunning mountain sceneries that markedly contrast with that of the green lush areas elsewhere in Nepal.

Bardia National Park

Natural Feature, Park
A wild river landscape in Bardia National Park, Nepal
© Correia Patrice / Alamy Stock Photo

The Bardia National Park (also spelt Bardiya) is less frequently visited than Chitwan, as it’s located in the more remote far-western Nepal. But, it gives you an idea of what Chitwan would have once been like, before its heightened popularity. This means fewer tourists, quieter lodges and little getting in between you and the royal Bengal tiger. Yes, this is the best place in Nepal to visit for a glimpse of the elusive big cat and though sightings are certainly not guaranteed, your chances are good. To reach Bardia, fly from Kathmandu or Pokhara to Bharatpur, then transfer to your accommodation outside the park. There are also buses from other Nepali cities if you’re fond of self-punishment. If you’re looking for greater adventures, combine a visit to Bardia with a Karnali River rafting/kayaking trip, as these end near the national park.

Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve

Natural Feature, Park

Dhorpatan is the only hunting reserve in Nepal, though you don’t need to be a hunter to enjoy visiting. The rare and difficult-to-spot snow leopard can be found here, as can musk deer, blue sheep, red pandas, numerous types of pheasant and other birds. Dhorpatan is to the west of the Dhaulagiri Range of the Himalayas – it’s uniformly high-altitude, ranging from around 2,800m to 5,500m (9,186ft to 18,045ft).

Sagarmatha National Park

Natural Feature, Park, Hiking Trail
A trekker crosses a bridge on Pheriche Pass in the Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal
© Peter Barritt / Alamy Stock Photo

The Sagarmatha National Park is where Mount Everest is located. Sagarmatha is the Nepali name for Everest – although the local Sherpa name is Chomolungma. But, the mother of all mountains is not the only attraction in this national park by a long way. Others include fascinating Sherpa culture in towns such as Namche Bazaar and at remote monasteries, rare wildlife such as the danphe – the national bird of Nepal – along with the ever-popular Everest Base Camp trek and several other peaks above 6,000m (19,685ft) such as Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Thamserku, Nuptse, Amadablam and Pumori.

Langtang National Park

Natural Feature, Park
A dog investigates the frozen shores of the Langtang National Park in Nepal
© Jochen Schlenker / Alamy Stock Photo

The Langtang National Park is northeast of Kathmandu and a great place for trekking and enjoying the mountains and nature. It was one of the worst-affected regions during the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal, but the infrastructure is being repaired and travellers are returning. Attractions include views of the Langtang Range, as well as mountains just over the border in Tibet, blooming rhododendron forests in the spring, Tamang culture and the high-altitude Gosainkunda Lake, which is a pilgrimage site.

Rara National Park

Natural Feature, Park

This national park is in western Nepal, where the main attraction is the beautiful Rara Lake – a high-altitude lake at 2,990m (9,810ft) and the largest lake in Nepal. It’s surrounded by beautiful mountains and is a great place to go trekking – although the west of the country, in general, doesn’t get very many visitors due to accessibility.

Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve

Natural Feature, Park

This wildlife reserve in southeast Nepal is in the floodplain of the Sapta Koshi River. It’s rich in birdlife; the 485 species found here live in and around the mudflats, reed beds and freshwater marshes. The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is close to the border with India, so it has a North Indian-type climate – that is, very hot for much of the year.

These recommendations were updated on October 26, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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