I’ve been told many times that Bardia (also Bardiya) National Park is Chitwan National Park 30 years ago.
Slightly off the beaten track, Bardia National Park is a little hidden gem amongst travelers in Nepal.
Even if travelers have heard about it and become interested in it, as soon as they see the only way of getting there (on a backpacker budget) is a 16 hour bus ride from Pokhara, it gets crossed off the list of must-see’s. For the record, there’s also a $190 USD plane ride and two hour taxi way of getting there (not backpacker budget friendly).
I’ll admit, I was intimidated by the bus ride and planning on going to touristy Chitwan, but over the course of one day and very little persuading, I had a bus ticket in my hand to Ambassa, the village closest to Bardia.
My friend Emma and I hopped on the bus, which left at 1:30pm. This is a TOUGH bus ride, guys. I’ve done overnight rides before, but boy, this one isn’t for the faint hearted. There aren’t bathroom breaks unless there happens to be a toilet at the one stop that you make (for dinner, although there wasn’t any food except boiled eggs and ramen noodles).
There were also some roadside stops when the local men asked the driver to stop. LADIES, wear a long skirt or you’ll be flashing your bum to the entirety of the bus. I ended up doing exactly that, by the way.
It also goes from very hot during the day to very cold at night, so bring a sweater!
After a very long, sleepless night, we arrived at 8am, where our jeep was waiting for us.
Pre-book your accommodation, as it’s quite difficult to find a place from Ambassa, which is a bit far from the guesthouses.
We stayed at the Bardia Homestay, an absolutely amazing place run by Sonja and Budhi, even more wonderful people. They helped us organise the perfect trip to Bardia, factoring in our budget and interests.
We decided to do a cycling tour of the countryside and a 2 day/1 night safari camping trip.
The cycling tour was absolutely fantastic. If you go to Bardia, don’t just explore the park, also see the villages in the surrounding area. They’re mainly Tharu, which is full of beautiful culture that you get to bike past.
Bardia feels entirely different than other parts of Nepal, so this was really special to see.
Sonja was our guide; she took us through the village and community forrest, taking stops to explain what the local men and women were doing, to show us lentils from the field, and to explain the political climate of the area.
The next day, we were off in a jeep to the depths of Bardia’s jungle.
We spent the most wonderful two days looking for animals, and we got to see four rhinos (one of which was a baby!).
Seeing these animals, completely wild, was wonderful. The entire experience felt very natural and unforced, and it was really wonderful to be out in the park without seeing other humans for hours at a time.
Bardia is a peaceful, relaxing, beautiful area of Nepal that many often skip over. If you’re into animals, nature, and sheer beauty, this is a wonderful place to consider going to (if you can handle the bus ride/afford the plane ticket).