India & Nepal Explorer - Overland Trip
2 weeks: to (IMT-PINI)
IntroA fantastic adventure that combines marvelling at magnificent Mughal mausoleums and enjoying the best of northern India with experiencing majestic mountains and searching for endangered wildlife in Nepal
This wonderful adventure encompasses the best of India and Nepal. Delhi showcases both the modern and the historic faces of India, often side by side. Rajasthan is India’s most colourful state and its capital, Jaipur, is home to the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) and whilst not far away sits the extraordinary and imposing Amber Fort. The immaculate and beautiful Taj Mahal is next and we have plenty of time to marvel at this grand testament to love. By stark contrast, perched on the banks of the Ganges River lies Varanasi - the most holy of Hindu cities. Nepal\'s capital, Kathmandu, is a city that pays homage to both Buddhism and Hinduism. At Pokhara we enjoy a short and easy walk to a lodge set amidst the spectacular Annapurna Range, which offers perhaps the most spectacular and accessible mountain views in Nepal. A safari in Chitwan National Park enables us to seek out some of the sub-continent\'s unique wildlife before our exploration ends with a return to evocative Kathmandu.
IncludedLocal tour leaders, local guides, arrival transfer, transport including train, sightseeing and entrance fees.
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.Day 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.
Our trip ends today after breakfast. Your leader will be on hand to advise and assist with your onward travel arrangements. A departure transfer to the airport is not included and Kathmandu has so much to offer, so we recommend that you consider booking pre-tour or post-tour accommodation and a departure transfer before you commence your travels.