Mountainous Nepal is home to some of the most rewarding scenery in the world, largely due to the Himalayan Mountain range running through its spine. Visit peaceful lakeside towns, ancient religious sites and search for iconic wildlife in the lowlands. Kathmandu Valley - Visit the well preserved medieval city of Bhaktapur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site Nagarkot - Stunning ridge top mountain views of the Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world Chitwan National Park - Jungle walk and jeep safari in search of the one-horned rhinos, sloth bears and leopards.
Arrive in Kathmandu; the busy, colourful and chaotic capital city of Nepal. Centuries of history are revealed in shrines, hidden temples and narrow backstreets, and the Himalaya provide a spectacular backdrop to this intoxicating city. Our hotel in Kathmandu is about 30 minutes' drive from the airport. For those arriving on time our leader will meet you in the hotel reception at 5pm for the initial tour briefing. After this, for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. Should you miss the meeting, your leader will leave you information giving the meeting time for the next day in the hotel reception and will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Kathmandu at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM). If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you might choose to walk in to the centre of town which is around 15 minutes from the hotel. This evening you might like to have your first taste of Nepalese cuisine. The local dumplings are a good bet. Called momos, they consist of a flour-based dough filled with meat or steamed vegetables. Also worth trying is dal bhat, a lentil based soup usually served with rice and vegetable curry. Whatever you try you'll find the cuisine varied, a mixture of influences from around the region, and a riot of colours and flavours.
This morning we have arranged a walking tour visiting the bazaar and the Durbar Square area, the centre of old Kathmandu. Much of the day to day life of Kathmandu takes place in the bazaar: a fascinating mixture of people selling fruit, vegetables and spices; potters spinning their wheels to produce small household bowls and containers for temple offerings; devotees visiting their favourite gods at temples and small shrines dotted along the sides of alleyways; rickshaw wallahs honking their horns and the ever present sacred cow wandering amongst it all. In the afternoon we plan to visit the Temple of Pashupatinath on the banks of the Bagmati River, the holiest Hindu shrine in Nepal and also Bodnath, the largest stupa in the country and a destination for Buddhist pilgrims from all over Nepal.
In the morning we visit the almost perfectly preserved city of Bhaktapur, also known as Bhadgaun or City of the Devotees. Bhaktapur feels more like a huge medieval village with its potters wheels and its many intricate stone and wooden carvings. We then continue to our lodge at Nagarkot on the Kathmandu Valley rim. Sunset views from Nagarkot back across the valley to Kathmandu are very impressive.
Thirty five kilometres east of Kathmandu and at an altitude of 2,174 m, Nagarkot stands on a ridge between the Kathmandu valley in the west and the Indrawati valley in the east. We'll get up early to catch the sunrise from the roof of the lodge and after breakfast take a walk to a nearby hilltop along the ridge for spectacular views over the Himalayas. There are many other possibilities for short walks during the rest of the day, including visits to neighbouring farms growing crops of fruit, vegetables and grain, under the spectacular backdrop of the snow capped Himalayan peaks.
We make a morning departure to drive out of the high Kathmandu valley and descend to the foothills where we overnight at the much lower altitude of about 262m. As we leave the valley, on clear days we will have views of the Ganesh, Manaslu and Annapurna ranges of the Himalaya. En route we have the option of a half-day's whitewater rafting on the Trisuli River (Grade III-III+). No previous experience required. Includes all permits, services of experienced river guides, helmet, life jacket and lunch. We recommend that you are confident swimming for at least 25 metres unaided if participating in the rafting. As the rafting finishes at the beach just below our accommodation, those who do not wish to raft may relax by the hotel pool.
Next day we make our way to the small hill bazaar of Gorkha (1 1/2 hour's drive) where the surfaced road ends. The town which gave the feared Gurkha soldiers their name was also the place from which King Prithvi Narayan Shah set out to unify Nepal in the 18th century. A walk up to the ridge on which stands his old palace fort is well worth the climb. The view over the surrounding Annapurna and Manaslu ranges is spectacular.
In the morning there is an option to visit the nearby Manakamana Temple (1302m), the sacred place of the Hindu Goddess Bhagwati, taking a cable car up to the temple. Local people call the goddess the wish fulfilling deity and the temple is a popular pilgrimage site. Afterwards, we continue our journey on to Pokhara situated beside Lake Phewa Tal beneath the Annapurna range.
On our first morning in Pokhara, we take a walk through some small Gurung and Chettri settlements to the World Peace Pagoda, situated on a ridge above Pokhara. From here there are spectacular views of the mountains making up the Annapurna range which at this point are only 48km away - from Dhaulagiri in the west to Annapurna II in the east. The rest of the day is left free to explore the tranquil town of Pokhara, perhaps taking a boat trip on the lake, or simply sitting back and admiring the breathtaking beauty all around.
Today we'll visit the Mountain Museum housing expedition memorabilia and information on ethnic groups, flora and fauna. We'll also visit Tashiling, a long established settlement of Tibetan refugees. We spend some time here watching wool being sorted, dyed and eventually made into Tibetan carpets which are exported all over the world and then visit the village's Buddhist monastery.
Leaving Pokhara we take a short drive to the hilltop town of Bandipur. After a short walking tour of the town and the bazaar there is free time to explore this traditional Nepali town. Bandipur is a small, quiet town that doesn't attract as many tourists as nearby Pokhara. There are several small temples to visit and stunning views back across the Himalaya.
Today we drive from Bandipur to Chitwan National Park. Once a private hunting ground, Chitwan is now a National Park, with thick tree cover and tall elephant grass sheltering a wealth of animals, most famously the one-horned Rhino. Throughout your stay you will be kept busy during the day (except for a couple of hours around lunch time) with many activities available, including jeep safaris searching out the one-horned rhino, bird watching, jungle walks and drives and dugout canoe trips along the Rapti River. Canoeing will be dependent on the water level, floating silently down the river in a traditional dugout canoe gives us the opportunity to spot many varieties of water birds. On a nature walk in the company of trained native naturalists you can walk along trails in the less densely forested parts of the park. An early morning bird watching walk near the river will reveal many of the 450 bird species that can be found in the park, especially kingfisher. A trained naturalist will help you get the best enjoyment and interest from these excursions.
Today we continue our exploration of Chitwan National Park on foot, by canoe and with an afternoon jeep safari.
Today we depart for Kathmandu (approximately 5-6 hours drive).
Today is left free to explore Kathmandu. You may like to visit Swayambunath stupa, perched on a hilltop and also known as the 'monkey temple' because of its resident group of very inquisitive primates. Or perhaps Patan, the 'city of beauty', whose Durbar Square has the finest collection of temples and palaces in the entire country.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Kathmandu. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Kathmandu at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM).
14 Break Fast(s) 5 Lunch(es) 7 Dinner(s)
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