Get your Himalayan fill in super-zen Pokhara, where you can paddle around Phewa Lake surrounded by views of gargantuan mountains.. Fall asleep to the calls of the jungle in Chitwan National Park, then embark on a jeep safari in search of rhino, deer, monkeys and the elusive Bengal Tiger.. Visit Madi Valley and enjoy a relaxing evening at a community homestay project working alleviate human impact on the surrounding nature and wildlife.. Lumbini is no ordinary town. Visit the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and tour its temples and the legendary Ashoka Pillars.
Embrace your inner hippy in Kathmandu, watch the sunset over the Himalayas in Pokhara, search for the one-horned rhino in Chitwan, check out Buddha’s hometown of Lumbini, sail along the sacred Ganges in Varanasi, be mesmerised by the Taj Mahal, hang out in a palace at Tordi Garh, go bazaar mad in Jaipur and finish up in big and busy Delhi. The road from Kathmandu to Delhi is long and winding, but oh so worth it.
Breakfast Included: Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 2
Namaste! Welcome to Nepal. This Himalayan adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your tour guide and new travel pals. Look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place.If you arrive early, there's plenty to do in this vibrant city. Kathmandu’s most important Buddhist shrine, Swayambhunath Stupa and the nearby ‘City of Devotees’ Bhaktapur are well worth a visit. For some more structure, there are a number of Urban Adventures day tours that can help you delve deeper into Kathmandu's ancient architecture and rich cultural heritage.
Leave Kathmandu behind this morning and hop on your private vehicle to the peaceful town of Pokhara, known as the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit – a popular trekking trail in the Himalayas that attracts travellers and hiking enthusiasts from around the world. The journey takes almost 7 hours so make sure you’ve downloaded your favourite music or packed a good book as you journey through Nepal’s picturesque landscape. On arrival, join your leader on an orientation walk around Pokhara before enjoying an evening at leisure. The lakeside area has great shopping opportunities, bars, and restaurants or perhaps you might fancy another massage – you’re on holiday after all!
Wake up among the spectacular scenery of Pokhara and enjoy a boat ride across the lake (Phewa Tal), which is the second largest in Nepal. The rest of the day is yours to explore at your own pace, with plenty of optional activities to choose from, you can spend your time however you please! Why not start with a visit the International Mountain Museum to learn some amazing tales of past climbing expeditions. You might like to take a break by the water’s edge and indulge in the ultimate Nepalese dish for lunch – dal bhat – a hearty vegetarian meal consisting of rice and lentils. Pokhara has an interesting old area well worth exploring, as well as an elaborate Hindu temple and a Buddhist monastery. As the day closes, perhaps visit the Peace Pagoda – with spectacular views of the Annapurna mountains – and watch the sunset over the famous fishtail peak – Machhapuchhare.
Chitwan National Park
Pop on your safari hat as you drive to Chitwan National Park by private vehicle (approximately 6 hours). UNESCO (who know a thing or two about this kind of stuff) declared it a World Heritage site in 1984, and it offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Asia. Think the Jungle Book come to life with rhinos, deer, monkeys and a wide array of birds, all found here. If luck is on your side, you may even spot a wild elephant, sloth bear or leopard so keep your eyes peeled.
Chitwan National Park/Madi Valley
This morning you’ll hop aboard a jeep, meet your local guide and take a safari drive through Chitwan National Park. Chances are high you'll see a great one-horned rhinoceros and you might even catch a glimpse of one of the 100-or-so Bengal Tigers that call the park home. This evening, stay overnight at the Intrepid Foundation’s project, the Madi Valley Homestay. This project provides sustainable incomes and encourages the communities living on the fringes of Chitwan National Park to conserve the wilderness and wildlife around them. On arrival, the local men and women, dressed proudly in their traditional Magar attire, will be there to greet you and welcome you into their homes. In the evening enjoy a cultural performance by the locals where they demonstrate one of the oldest dance forms of the Magar community – the Maruni Naach.
Today travel by private vehicle to Nepal’s border town of Lumbini (about 5 hours). No ordinary border town, Lumbini is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and one of his four holy places of pilgrimage. Check out the beautiful Ashoka Pillars and hop on cycle rickshaws to the Maya Devi Temple, the actual site where Lord Buddha is thought to have been born.
Nepal / India border crossing - Varanasi
This is a long travelling day as you make your way into India, crossing the border at Sunauli and continuing on to Varanasi (approximately 9 hours including stops). One of holiest cities around, Varanasi is the ultimate destination for Hindu pilgrims who travel from far and wide to experience this spiritual city. Overflowing with temples, shrines and devotees, it might not be one of the world's cleanest cities but there’s no doubt it’s one of the most amazing. After your arrival, enjoy an evening at leisure and perhaps head out for your first taste of Indian cuisine – chicken tikka anyone?
Today’s an early start, but it’s completely worth it – a sunrise boat ride along the sacred Ganges is a revelation and even if you're not the spiritual sort, you can't help but get goose bumps. Pass the many ghats (stairs leading to the water) and temples along the river, and watch thousands of Hindu pilgrims cleanse their sins in the holy water as the sun rays bathe the surrounds in glorious shades of amber and orange. Afterwards, set off by auto rickshaw to the oldest part of the city, to explore its maze of narrow alleyways packed full of small shops, stalls and lumbering cows. See pilgrims performing rituals unchanged for hundreds of years and pass chiming temples as wafts of incense fill the air.
Varanasi - Overnight Train
Enjoy lots of free time to explore more of Varanasi before you get a unique slice of Indian life aboard an overnight sleeper train bound for Agra (approximately 10 hours). You could take a trip to nearby Sarnath, one of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage destinations. The site is where Buddha preached his message of the path to enlightenment and features several stupas and museums to explore. There’s also the crumbling 17th-century fort and palace on the eastern bank of the Ganges, Ram Nagar Fort. Otherwise, take the chance to perfect your yoga in the ultimate chakra-balancing place.
Agra might not be the prettiest city in the world, but the minute you check out its top-notch site that won’t matter one bit (of course, we're talking about the glorious Taj Mahal). You’ll arrive on a Friday, so the Taj is closed to visitors, but there are outstanding views from almost every hotel rooftop in the area. Enjoy a free day to explore Agra's alternative highlights. An optional trip on a motorised rickshaw takes you to some of the city’s best monuments. If you’ve got the energy, head out to Agra Fort and stroll the palatial gardens of this red sandstone stronghold (with cheeky monkeys in tow) or check out Akbar's Mausoleum, a beautiful sandstone and marble tomb built for the greatest of the Mughal emperors.
Agra - Tordi
It doesn’t matter who you are, the Taj Mahal will explode all your expectations with the morning light shimmering off its white marble surface. After your visit, jump into private transport and head off to the village of Tordi. This remote and rarely visited township offers a fantastic glimpse of the real Rajasthan, the locals will feed you and you'll sleep in a 16th-century palace with its owner as your host (and there's a ruined temple and fortress nearby). Settle in, then savour delicious local flavours in tonight’s included dinner.
Kick on in a private vehicle to Jaipur (about 3 hours), India's oh-so-pretty Pink City. You'll have plenty of free time here to haggle to your heart's content at the bazaars and backstreets where vendors sell a variety of textiles, precious and semi-precious gems and stunning blue pottery. Drop by one of India’s finest palaces, the Royal City Palace, where the guards’ moustaches are almost as impressive as the building itself. Food lovers will want to hit the streets for raj kachori chaat, a big fluffy chaat served with chutney, yoghurt, chilli and potato. Then cool off with a lassi from Lassiwala on MI road, Jaipur's oldest and most famous lassi shop. Cinema buffs won't want to miss the chance to take in a Bollywood blockbuster at the spectacular Raj Mandir Cinema.