This Himalaya adventure kicks things off in Delhi. Before your Welcome Meeting this evening at 6pm today, wander the streets, sip on your first chai and try to decipher that famous Indian head wobble. Does it mean yes? Does it mean no? And why aren’t they saying anything? Mull it over with your new travel mates at an optional group meal in the evening.
Keep this one quiet. Your next destination takes a bit of work to get to, but that’s because it’s our little secret! You will journey through picturesque countryside by train, first to Jaipur and then onwards by private vehicle to Tordi. (approximately 7 hours) Tordi is a remote, rarely visited village. The real Rajasthan. We stumbled across this tiny village years ago, and everyone loved it so much we put it on the itinerary. The locals will feed you and you'll sleep in a 16th century palace with its owner as your host. As you take a walk around the village you might think it's polite to let the local kids beat you at cricket. Don't bother. They're ruthless, bloodthirsty and out to win. Lick your wounds on a walk to the ruined temple and fortress. Enjoy an included dinner tonight.
Head off for Jaipur (approximately 2.5 hours). Your free time here in the friendly, busy ‘Pink City’ is perfect for haggling to your heart's content, the bazaars and backstreets filled with textiles, precious and semi-precious gems, and blue pottery. You can also drop by one of India’s finest palaces – the Royal City Palace – where the guards’ moustaches are almost as impressive as the building itself. You can also 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.
For anyone that wants to see the Pink City a bit differently this morning there’s the option to drift high over Jaipur in a hot air balloon, a highlight for many visitors. For more information please see the important notes section of your trip notes. Later in the morning you’ll drop by Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), the impressive five-storey façade with pink, honeycombed windows making it the most photographed building in the country after Taj Mahal. Then it’s out to the old capital of Amber and an exploration of the hilltop fort complex known as the Amber Fort. The rest of the day is free for you to use as you like.
Say hi to the locals as you join them on a public bus to Agra today (approximately 5 hours). Agra might not be the prettiest city in the world, but the minute you check out its top-notch sites that won’t matter one bit.
This is a bucket-list day. For some reason local families find it more interesting to take photos of you than the actual Taj Mahal. But none of it matters, you'll be too busy standing there with your mouth gaping open to notice. If you’ve got the energy there’s the option to head out to Agra Fort and stroll the palatial gardens of this red sandstone stronghold with cheeky monkeys in tow. Next stop Varanasi! Tonight it’s time for a unique slice of Indian life aboard an overnight sleeper train (approximately 12 hours).
Alight in one of holiest cities around, the ultimate destination for Hindu pilgrims who travel from far and wide to experience this spiritual city. Overflowing with temples, shrines and devotees, Varanasi might not be one of the world's cleanest cities but there’s no doubt it’s one of the most amazing. Maybe take the chance the chance to perfect your yoga in this most chakra-balancing of places.
Today’s an early start, but it’s totally worth it as you take a boat ride on the Ganges at sunrise. Even if you're not the spiritual sort, you can't help but get goosebumps. You’ll 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. Then you’ll set off by auto rickshaw to visit the oldest part of the city, with its maze of narrow alleyways packed full of small shops, stalls and huge, lumbering cows. See pilgrims performing rituals and ceremonies unchanged for hundreds of years and pass temples full of bell chimes and the smell of incense.
Today it’s wave goodbye and say Namaste, as you leave India and travel to the border (cross at Sunauli border crossing) and then into Nepal and the town of Lumbini. That means it’s time to charge up your music and fish out your book as there’s a long day of travelling ahead (approximately 8-10 hours including stops). This is no ordinary border town, but the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and one of his four holy places of pilgrimage. You’ll 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. Today you'll bunk down in a jungle camp for the night.
Take off you religious hat and pop on your safari one as you drive to Chitwan National Park by private vehicle (approximately 5 hours). UNESCO (who know at 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. Kind of the Jungle Book come to life, there's rhino, deer, monkeys and a wide array of birdlife including Nepalese wild chickens all here.
This morning you’ll hop aboard a jeep and take a safari drive through Chitwan National Park. If you’re a very lucky person then you might catch a glimpse of one of the 100-or-so Bengal Tigers that call the park home. There are also a number of optional activities available through your accommodation, including biking, bird watching, cultural performances, canoe rides and village tours.
On to your final destination of the Nepalese patchouli–scented capital, Kathmandu (approximately 7 hours). Maybe book in for a massage or a yoga session when you get there to ease those body kinks. With the rest of your free time, perhaps visit the giant Buddhist Stupa at Bodnath, head out into the narrow streets – home to holy men, monks, bicycles, and sacred cows – and buy last-minute souvenirs or chill out with cool drink. Why not goodbye to your new travelling pals over one last dinner.
Enjoy an Urban Adventure or two today There will be a meeting tonight at 6pm to meet your new trek leader and gear up for the Annapurna's tomorrow
Enjoy a morning drive over the rim of the Kathmandu Valley and, weather permitting, views of the Ganesh and Lantang ranges. Arrive in Baireni/Galaudi for an exciting white water raft on the Trisuli River. Hit the water and enjoy the thrill of the rapids aptly named Ladies Delight, Rock Garden and Snell's Nose. Camp on the beach and enjoy dinner by the river.
Have more fun on the river including negotiating the Monsoon and Upset. Late morning we end rafting at Kurintar and enjoy a light lunch and drive to Pokhara (4hrs). Arrive Pokhara in the afternoon. Chill out at the lakeside cafes.
Hope you broke in your boots before the trip, cos this is where the trekking bit starts. There’s a dirt track leading to Birethanti and Shyauli villages. There’s a stone staircase up to Kimche, where you’ll stop for lunch. Then a bunch of stone flags lead you through fields of wheat to Ghandruk. That’s some diverse terrain right there. Stay in our first Nepalese Tea House tonight.
Look east. That’s Landruk, the next village on the route. Look down. That’s the Modi Kola River 600 metres below. Look around the corner. That’s Tolkha, your base for the night. What, you can’t look around corners? Ok, you’ll just have to trek there instead.
Rhododendron is a tricky word to spell, but super pretty to look at. You’ll see a bunch of these bright pink and purple plants today. Do you know what you won’t see much of? Other people. We’ve picked a pretty remote trail from Dhampus to Hyenjakot, and tonight you get to stay with a local family. Pack your best smile and get an even bigger and better one in return.
A short descent to Phedi today before we catch the public bus to Pokhara in time for lunch. Free time to do all the things you didn’t do the first time round. We can highly recommend taking a rowboat (doonga) out on Phewa Lake. If there’s blue skies you’ll have mountain views for miles. If it’s cloudy just use your imagination.
It’s a long bus back to Kathmandu so bring snacks. Once you’ve arrived back into Kathmandu (approx 3pm) there’s time to sip on banana lassis and wish you didn’t have to go home. No accommodation is included tonight and you are free to depart any time after our arrival back in Kathmandu.