Journey to India & the Himalaya - Overland Trip
2 ½ weeks: to (IMT-PIIH)
IntroA comprehensive journey that takes in Mughal India, majestic Nepal and mystical Bhutan
The rolling plains of northern India rise steeply up towards the highest mountains in the world - the Himalaya. Here we find lands with rich histories, colourful traditions and cultural diversity. Here too is also the cradle of some of the world\'s great religions - Buddhism and Hinduism. The magnificence of northern India can be found in the wonderful palaces and mausoleums that are legacies of Mughal emperors and once-powerful maharajas, as epitomised by the exquisite Taj Mahal. The spiritual side of India is seen all over the holy city of Varanasi. Nepal is a former kingdom with medieval cities, majestic mountains and an abundance of unique and endangered wildlife. Standing by the lake in Pokhara and looking out to the Annapurnas and the famous \'fish-tailed\' Machhapuchhare is an inspiring experience, but to get closer to the mountains is even better still. Bhutan has long hidden in self-imposed isolationism and its re-emergence into the modern world is being undertaken one small step at a time. Therein lays its mystique. Lush valley, holy mountains and seemingly impenetrable await those who venture into this beautiful land that has up till now seen few visitors.
IncludedLocal tour leaders, local guides, airport transfers, transport including train, sightseeing and entrance fees, medical kit.
ItinerariesDay 1 - Delhi
Upon arrival we are met at the airport and transferred to our hotel. Our airport representative will be waiting for us in the arrival hall, located after passing out of the customs area and beyond the travel desks and exchange counters. Look out for the note on the hotel signboard. The drive from the airport to the hotel is around 45 minutes. Most flights arrive in Delhi in the late evening, so there is nothing arranged for this day. If you have arrived early, you will be briefed with sightseeing options.Day 2-3 - Jaipur
(Train journey: approx 5 hours)
After breakfast we catch an early morning train to Jaipur, where we arrive just before lunch. Sometime this morning or just after lunch, there is a briefing to outline the holiday itinerary and also cover many aspects of travelling in India. Please bring your passport and travel insurance documents to this meeting. The colourful capital of the state of Rajasthan, Jaipur is a vibrant and exciting town. Here, traditionally dressed Rajput men wearing colourful turbans and sporting magnificent moustaches make their way through crowded streets packed with cars, camel carts, rickshaws, trucks and bicycles. On our second day in Jaipur we travel 11 kilometres out to the stunning medieval Amber Fort. This fort was built in 1592 by Maharajah Man Singh and is a superb example of Rajput architecture. Several hours are needed to explore this huge fortification. Our guide will also take us to the Old Bazaar and Hawa Mahal, better known as The Palace of the Wind. This five-storey façade with its pink, honeycombed sandstone windows is one of Jaipur's best-known landmarks. In the evening we can dine at one of the many fine restaurants in the city (optional).
(Driving time: approx 6 hours)
From Jaipur we make our way to the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri. This magnificent ghost town was capital of the Mughal Empire between 1571 and 1585. Built during the reign of Emperor Akbhar it was abandoned shortly after his death due to a lack of available water. We then continue to probably the most celebrated of the Mughal cities - Agra. We arrive in Agra in the late afternoon, so there are no planned activities for the rest of the day. However, our tour leader can offer suggestions regarding optional sightseeing excursions and of course there is always the option of an evening visit to the Taj Mahal.
(Train journey: approx 13 hours)
After breakfast we make a morning visit to India’s most famous site - the majestic Taj Mahal. This amazing 17th century marble mausoleum was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his second wife, who died giving birth. Started in 1631 the project was completed in 1648 and employed a workforce of over 20,000 people. Construction materials were brought from all over India with the marble from Rajasthan transported by over 1000 elephants. We also visit the nearby Agra Fort - a huge complex built of red sandstone by Akbar in 1565 and partially converted into a palace during the time of Shah Jahan. In the late evening we are transferred to the railway station in Agra and catch the overnight sleeper train bound for Varanasi.
As the sacred Ganges River flows from the snow-clad Himalaya into the vast plains, half way between Delhi and Calcutta it curves into a gentle crescent and therein lies Varanasi. Also known as Benares, this spiritual place is the oldest and the holiest of all pilgrim places of India and undoubtedly the venerated city of Hinduism. We arrive in Varanasi in the afternoon, where we check into our hotel and freshen up. We then we visit the ruined monasteries of Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon. This is a holy spot and a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists from all around the world. A bodhi tree is present and represents the fact that Buddha did some of his preaching from beneath this particular type of tree. Spotted deer are kept in an enclosure, reflecting the presence of this animal in the story of the original Lord Buddha - Siddhârtha Gautama.Day 7 - Varanasi
We get up before dawn and make our way down to the river. We then partake in a boat ride at sunrise on the Ganges and watch Hindu rituals being enacted along the banks of the river as people pray, wash and cremate their dead. Our tour leader also takes us through the back lanes of the Old City where we experience the peculiar lifestyle that this ancient city is famous for. The rest of the day is free for us to further explore this spiritual place.Day 8 - Kathmandu (1360m)
(Flight time: approx 1 hour)
Today we say goodbye to our Indian tour leader and catch a flight from Varanasi to Kathmandu (please note that you will be unescorted on this flight). On arrival, we are met by our Nepalese tour leader and transferred to our hotel located not far from the main shopping and cafe area of Thamel. You may also wish to take a walk down to Durbar Square, which is the historical and spiritual heart of the city.
In the morning we explore Kathmandu on an organised sightseeing tour. We visit Bodhnath Stupa, one of the biggest Buddhist shrines in the world, where we observe Buddhist monks in prayer in the monasteries surrounding the stupa. We also visit Pashupatinath, the most famous Hindu temple in the country, located on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. Here we see Hindu holy men (sadhus) meditating, pilgrims bathing and occasionally funeral pyres burning on the ghats. The rest of our time in Kathmandu is free for further sightseeing and exploration. In the late afternoon you will be issued with your trek pack and departure information for the next morning.InDay 10 - Pokhara (850m)
(Flight time: approx 1 hour)
An early departure from the hotel this morning as we are transferred to the domestic terminal at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport. From here we fly to Pokhara, with a flight time of about 30 minutes and often spectacular views of the main Himalayan chain to the north. On arrival we take a boat ride across the lake to the Peace Pagoda, where we enjoy excellent views of the mountains and across Pokhara. It is certainly worthwhile taking a boat for a row out on the lake (Phewa Tal), which is the second largest in Nepal. The remainder of the day has been allocated for further exploration in the peaceful surroundings of Pokhara. Your leader can advise you of sightseeing opportunities. The lakeside area has good shopping opportunities and internet cafés. Pokhara has an interesting old area as well as an elaborate Hindu temple and a Buddhist monastery. There are various small museums scattered around town including the International Mountain Museum, which is well worth a visit.
(Walking: approx 1 hour; driving time: approx 1 hour)
We leave the hotel after breakfast for the short drive to Lumle. Here we leave the road and walk for just over an hour on a well defined trail that contours around the hillside, so there are no ups and downs! Sensible walking footwear is required. We walk through the villages of Lumle and Chandrakot and pass by terraced hillsides and forest tothe way to our lodge at Chainabatthi. We arrive in the late morning and it is then time to relax and explore around this magnificent rural location, situated high above Modi Khola Valley. From the lodge there are super views of the fishtail peak, Machhapuchhare, and Annapurna South. After lunch our tour leader will organise a village walk and a visit to the nearby Gurung Village Museum at Tanchok. In the evening we get to relax to the sound of the river below and enjoy a drink as the sun sets over the Himalayan peaks.
(Walking time: approx 1 hour; driving time: approx 4 hours)
After an early breakfast we walk back to the pick-up point and are driven to Chitwan National Park. After arriving and settling in, we are introduced to the camp staff and resident naturalists who will discuss our program at Royal Park Wildlife Resort. There is some flexibility and activities may vary with the time of the year and known wildlife movements and locations. We may visit the elephant camp to see how their handlers, known as phanits, care for these beautiful animals. A late afternoon safari riding on elephants takes us into the forest and grasslands to observe the varied and exciting wildlife in the park. In the early evening the local Tharu dance troupe may perform a cultural program. We then enjoy dinner and afterwards we are free to relax in the bar and discuss the day’s sightings or listen to the exotic sounds of the jungle at night.
An early morning excursion could include either another elephant safari to different parts of the park in search of the great Indian rhino, deer and exotic bird life or joining one of several other activities including a visit to the elephant breeding centre. Tiger sightings are rare these days, but these magnificent animals do inhabit the park. After breakfast we leave the lodge for a trip by dugout canoe on the Rapti River. This is an exciting trip with chances to view marsh mugger crocodiles and various birds that inhabit the riverbanks. A program is organised for us for the rest of the day that may include further excursions by jeep or a visit to one of the nearby villages.Day 14 - Kathmandu (1360m)
(Driving time: approx 5 hours)
There is an early morning safari and a final chance to catch a glimpse of more of the exotic wildlife of the area. This is also our last chance to spot some of the animals that we may not have previously seen. After breakfast we drive on to the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu. The evening is free but usually our group leader will organise an evening meal (optional) at one of Kathmandu’s fine Nepali restaurants.
(Driving time: approx 2 hours)
We leave the hotel mid-morning and transfer to the airport for the flight to Paro, in Bhutan. The plane flies parallel to the main Himalayan range and those on the left of the aircraft should be fortunate enough, in clear weather, to enjoy good views of some of the Himalayan giants, including Everest, Kanchenjunga, and then Chomolhari, Bhutan’s highest peak. Flight time is approximately one hour. On landing at Paro we are met by our local representatives who will help with formalities before we take the two-hour drive to the capital, Thimphu. After checking into our hotel the rest of the day is free to explore the town and the local villages.
After breakfast we view Tashicho Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion), the administrative and religious centre of Bhutan located on the right bank of Thimphu Chu. The original building dates back to 1216, whilst the present dzong was built by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal in 1641. We then drive to the Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 in memory of King Jigmi Dorjee Wangchuk. Other sights in the capital include the Painting School, an institution where children receive formal education in the art of traditional painting, sculpture and woodcarving. We may also visit Drubthob Gompa Nunnery, which houses about 40 nuns and also provides shelter for aging women and orphaned girls. Thimphu has an excellent range of handicrafts, most notably woven cloth, wooden masks, thangkas, silverware, jewellery and bamboo craft that come from all parts of Bhutan.Day 17-18 - Paro (2280m)
(Driving time: approx 2 hours)
We begin with an early morning drive from Thimphu for an excursion to the legendary Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) - a small monastery, clinging on a rock cliff 900 metres above the valley floor. A few years ago the monastery was seriously damaged by fire but has since been rebuilt, although tourists are not permitted to enter the interior of the monastery. Legend has it that the great guru, Padmasambhawa, flew here from Tibet on the back of a tigress to subdue the demons of Paro Valley. During our stay in Paro we also visit Drukgyal Dzong, a famous 17th Century fortress that repelled many Tibetan invasions. Time permitting, we may also visit Ta Dzong, a circular fortress built in the mid 17th century and now converted into the National Museum that houses an excellent collection of Bhutanese antiquities. We spend our night in Paro and the following day, we enjoy further sightseeing options and there is also have free time to wander around the town on your own.
After breakfast we are transferred to the airport for our flight out, bringing to an end to this exciting journey exploring the highlights of the Himalaya Region. (Please note that your departure flight is not included as part of the trip and must be booked separately.)