Day 1 UK - Kathmandu
Today you'll fly overnight to Kathmandu. Nepal's capital lies in the Himalayan Mountains between India and Tibet and offers some of the most striking scenery there is.
Day 2 Kathmandu
Arrive in Kathmandu's Tribhuwan Airport where you will be met by your Tour Manager for transfer to the hotel. Once at the hotel, meet your travelling companions over a welocme dinner and drinks.
Day 3 Kathmandu
Enjoy a full day sightseeing today as we head to Pashupatinath, Boudhanath and Swayambhunath.
Our first stop is Pashupatinath, the most important Hindi shrine in Nepal. Pashupatinath (Lord of the Animals) is the protecting deity of the country, and here there is a fascinating complex of shrines and Arya-Ghats (cremation sites) on the banks of the Bagmati River.
We'll then visit Boudhanath Stupa (once known as Boudha), essentially a kingdom within a kingdom, before moving onto Swayambhunath Stupa, one of the oldest and most revered shrines in the country. Perched atop a conical hill, its lofty white dome and glittering golden spire with the all-seeing-eyes is a not only a major landmark of the valley, but equally, a symbol of Nepal. The stupa has been an important Buddhist pilgrimage site since the 5th century. You can reach the shrine by climbing 365 steps up the hill, or by a winding road on the other side. You will see numerous chaityas and temples in the complex, but watch out especially for the mysterious Shantipur Temple, inside of which is said to live the 8th century Tantric Shantikar Acharya whose meditation has kept him alive for many centuries!
This evening we'll walk through one of the oldest lively market of Kathmandu. Itumbahal is an old Newari settlement set in a large courtyard and famous for its traders in herbal spices and medicines. From here we continue to Indrachowk, one of Kathmandu's most colorful and ancient local markets. Crossing the busiest path of Ason you'll reach one of the UNESCO-listed world heritage sites - a cluster of ancient temples, palaces, courtyards and streets that date back to the 12th and 18th centuries. The square is known to be the social, religious and urban focal point of the capital city. Our visit to Durbar Square includes many temples like Kumari Chowk, the Courtyard of the living Goddess 'Kumari', Aakash Bhairav Temple, Temple of Lord Machhendranath, and Itumbahal courtyard. We finish our tour with a walk to Ason chowk; another market dedicated to spices and local vegetables, and Annapurna temple, which is dedicated to the goddess of grains.
We'll end the day with a visit to the SASANE Sisterhood of Survivors project. Every year, thousands of Nepalese women and girls become victims of human trafficking. SASANE is a non-profit organisation set up to support survivors, providing them with training and skills to get their lives back on track and to help others in similar situations. During our visit, we'll meet some of the women and learn from them how to prepare momos, traditional Nepali dumplings.
Day 4 Kathmandu - Bandipur
There's a long drive ahead of us today as we journey by road to Bandipur but once out of the city, the sights are impressive. We'll pass through ancient stone villages backed by steep rice terraces and mountains, and look out for the Trishuli River and the enormous Marshyangdi hydroelectric power plant.
Bandipur sits high on a ridge and offers amazing views of the Himalayas. Time has seemingly stood still here and this hilltop town is a living museum of Newari culture, where ancient architecture, temples, shrines and traditional ways of life can be experienced.
Day 5 Bandipur - Pokhara
On a tour of Bandipur today we'll discover traditional homes and the former fort of Purano Kot. We'll also head to a temple where the locals pray for rain during droughts. A two-hour hike, with included picnic, then takes us to Ramkot, a typical Magar village untouched by modern developments. Another couple of hours along an easy trail is the pilgrimage site of Chabdi Barahi.
Next, there's time to relax as we transfer by road to Pokhara, so sit back and enjoy views of the Madi River, deep rocky gorges crossed by suspension bridges and the Seti Valley. The city once sat on a busy trade route between India and Tibet, and even today mule trains, which bring in goods from remote regions, can still be seen camped on its outskirts. This is also the homeland of the Magar and Gurung people, who have earned worldwide fame as Gurkha soldiers. The area is also famed for its natural beauty, surrounded by serene lakes and towering Himalayan peaks.
This evening we'll head to the Tashi Palkhiel handicraft centre to find out about the traditional arts and crafts of the Tibetan Plateau. We'll discover how local people make Tibetan carpets and learn about the importance of symbols and images in daily life. We'll also attend the Pema Tsal Sakya Buddhist School and Monastery, where we'll take part in a pooja – a prayer ceremony performed by the monks. Our evening comes to an end as we join a local family for a meal of Tibetan specialities, including Tsampa – roasted barley flour – butter tea and traditional bread.
Day 6 Pokhara
Our day begins early as we make our way to Sarangkot to take in sweeping views of Himalayan peaks at sunrise – a truly unforgettable experience.
After time to enjoy breakfast and relax back the hotel, we'll set off on a sightseeing tour of Pokhara. Highlights include David's Falls, the Bindabasisni Temple and the Seti Gorge, a deep chasm carved by the Seti River. We'll also visit a Tibetan refugee camp, where you can barter for handmade jewellery, wood carvings, rugs and other unique souvenirs.
Day 7 Pokhara - Chitwan
We'll spend today travelling along the Prithvi Highway into the central hills, where you'll see deep gorges and fast-flowing rivers. We'll continue on to Chitwan, home of Chitwan National Park, which is located in the foothills of the Churia Mountain Ranges and famed for its variety of wildlife.
Day 8 Chitwan
Chitwan is home to the Tharu people, and we'll begin our full day of outdoor activities with a walk around a traditional village to get an insight into their unique lifestyle. We'll then head off on a thrilling jungle safari in an open-top vehicle which takes us into dense forest. Keep your cameras at the ready and your eyes peeled for sightings of wild boar, elephant, striped hyena and langur, among other species. If you're really lucky you might spot the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros and the elusive royal Bengal tiger.
Our next exciting adventure is a guided tour by canoe to look for crocodiles on the riverbank and many species of exotic birds.
This evening we'll be treated to a performance of Tharu cultural dance.
Day 9 Chitwan - Kathmandu
An early morning flight takes us back to Kathmandu today, where we'll visit Bhaktapur – or the City of Devotees. Here there are three squares filled with ornate temples and architecture dating back to the 12th century, which shows us how the entire Kathmandu Valley would have looked in the medieval period. You can also watch as traditional crafts, from pottery to woodwork, are created.
Day 10 Patan
Patan is our destination today, a city filled with wood and stone carvings, ornate architecture including dozens of Buddhist and Hindu temples and more than 1,200 monuments. Also known as a centre for arts and crafts, we're going to get crafty here ourselves!
Our first stop is Patan Community Homestay, where you'll be welcomed as a special guest. You'll then attend an art or ceramics class where, with the help of a local artist, you can create your own unique souvenir to take home with you. Lunch is taken back at the homestay, and will be a Nepali speciality 'dal bhat', which is a dish of steamed rice, vegetables and lentil soup.
Patan boasts a long and colourful history, and for many years its importance eclipsed that of Kathmandu. By the 7th century, it was one of Asia's main Buddhist centres, attracting pilgrims, scholars and monks from India, Tibet and China. You'll see its highlights on an included tour this afternoon.
This evening, we will gather to enjoy a Newari feast – a fitting way to bid Nepal farewell. Up to 15 dishes will be served and we will eat the traditional way, using our hands rather than utensils, and sat on a handmade carpet.
Day 11 Kathmandu - UK
Today we'll transfer you to the airport for you return flight to the UK.
Day 12 UK
You'll arrive back in the UK today.
Please note: Due to the nature of these holidays, other travellers will join or leave the tour at different times depending on the tour or combination of tours they have selected.
This tour requires a good degree of physical fitness and is not suitable for anyone with limited mobility. Most walks take place on paths and tracks, but some will be slightly more strenuous and may involve moderate slopes, tracks, hills and foot bridges, which may be rough underfoot at times. There will be plenty of rest stops and sturdy walking shoes are essential.