Nepal is a tiny nation rich with treasures of the natural environment and human culture. This tour selects the highlights of nature and culture and packages them into the perfect itinerary for visitors wanting to explore Nepal but without the effort of trekking Himalaya Mountain trails. This is a relaxed and comfortable escorted tour that takes you from ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples and sacred sites to the jungles of southern Nepal with their elephant and tiger and then to the spectacular mountain scenery of the snow-capped Annapurna mountain peaks. Your tour bus takes you comfortably from highlight to highlight with expert commentary from a professional guide that speaks your language. All accommodation is excellent two-star quality and meals are included in the package. This tour makes exploring the wonderful treasures of Nepal simple and hugely enjoyable.
You will be met at Tribhuvan International Airport by your guide and welcomed to Nepal. Your luggage will be transferred to your hotel and your guide will outline the cultural tour highlights planned for today's first stage of your tour. Your guide and driver will then take you to see two of the most important religious and architectural treasures of Nepal.
You will first visit the Swayambhunath temple complex that sits atop a high hill overlooking Kathmandu and the entire Kathmandu Valley. Swayambhunath is perhaps the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site in Nepal. It consists of a very large white stupa with the all-seeing-eye of Lord Buddha plus many small stupa and beautifully carved stone shrines. This is a wonderful place to catch your breath and start to understand and appreciate the deep importance of Buddhist belief to the people of Nepal and the Himalaya region. Make sure you ring the many bells to awaken the gods and let them know you are in Nepal. Take the time to enjoy the view over Kathmandu and have your guide point the many other highlights of the city. In the far distance to the east you may also be able to see the hills of Nagarkot where your hotel for tonight is located. If you feel energetic you might also like to try some or all of the 350 steps that lead all the way from Kathmandu city up to your Swayambhunath temple vantage point.
The next stop today is the beautiful Kathmandu Durbar Square, or the royal palace square of the ancient Malla kings of the Kathmandu Valley. This square and all its architectural treasures are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While some damage to buildings occurred in the 2015 earthquake the site still contains many stunning architectural gems. The original royal palace courtyards are open to visitors and you will marvel at the intricate timber carving and beautifully crafted brickwork of the palace. The open square outside the palace has many beautiful multi-storey pagodas and temples with ornate carving and carpentry artwork that tells some of the story of the ancient kings and their mystical time and beliefs. The square also contains many important Hindu temples and statues such as to Vishnu and Lord Shiva.
Durbar Square also contains the unique and intriguing Kumari Chok. This is an ancient and ornate house where resides the Raj Kumari - the Living Goddess. She is a young girl chosen through an ancient and mystical selection process to become the human incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess, Durga. If you are in the courtyard of the home at the right time in the afternoon you may see a brief glimpse of the Goddess at her window.
After your flight to Nepal and these initial tour highlights it is now time to head for your hotel and relax. Your driver and guide will now take you around southern Kathmandu and head east into the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains. You hotel, the Hotel Viewpoint in the village of Nagakot, is located at 2,200m or 7,200 feet altitude high on a ridge offering spectacular views to the north and the many stunning snow-capped mountain peaks of the Himalayas. You should make sure to view this mountain scenery at sundown and again at dawn as the sun gradually rises and highlights each summit along the Himalaya range. You may see some of the highest mountain peaks on Earth - such as Manaslu (8,162m), Sisa Pangam (8,013m), Langtang (7,246m), Gaurishankar (7,145) and you even see the summit of Mount Everest itself (8,848 m).
The hospitality package today includes lunch and dinner and hotel accommodation in Nagakot
This morning, after watching the sun rise along the Himalayan peaks, we descend to the Kathmandu Valley and visit what is believed to be the oldest temple in Nepal. The Changu Narayan Temple is dedicated to Lord Visnu and is especially sacred to Hindu belief. The temple sits atop a hill with commanding views across the valley and to the mountains summits to the north. The pagoda style temple has several masterpieces of 5th and 12th century stone statuary. According to legends Changu Narayan Temple existed as early as 325 A.D. The temple is surrounded by sculptures and arts related to Lord Vishnu. The complex also has a series of smaller temples of Lord Shiva, Ashta Matrika, Chhinnamasta, Kileshwor and Krishna inside the main courtyard. The temple is just a few kilometers north of the ancient city of Bhaktapur, so this will be our next stop.
The Kathmandu Valley was once ruled by three neighbouring kingdoms - those of Kathmandu, Patan just to the south and Bhaktapur just to the east. Each kingdom had its own royal palace complex or Durbar Square. Yesterday we visited the Kathmandu Durbar Square, and today we visit the impressive Bhaktapur Durbar Square. While some earthquake damage was suffered by structures in the square the vast majority of palace and religious pagodas and temples survived and are on display to visitors.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a wonder of traditional and religious architecture. Your guide will escort you to the main palace building with its balcony of 55 windows and its precious Golden Gate entrance. You will also see the beautiful Nyatapola Temple with its five levels of pagoda roof symbolising the five basic elements of all creation. This is the tallest pagoda in Nepal and built with beautiful architectural artistry. Your tour will also take you to the Pottery Square where pots are made and fired using traditional methods. This part of the complex is like a living museum of the potter's trade. You may also have the opportunity visit a thangka painting school and watch highly skilled and patient artists paint complex traditional Buddhist designs or mandala.
Your guide and driver will then take you the short distance, only about 13 kilometres to Kathmandu and your hotel for tonight, the Kathmandu Eco Hotel in busy tourist hub of Thamel.
The hospitality package today includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and hotel accommodation in Thamel, Kathmandu.
This morning we will depart Kathmandu early for the 3.5 hour dive to Royal Chitwan National Park south-west of Kathmandu in the Nepal central lowlands. This sub-tropical jungle and riverine region of Nepal and the adjacent wilderness area across the border in India was once the exclusive hunting grounds for Nepali kings and Indian maharaja. It is now a World Heritage listed site and home to stunning wildlife including elephant, tiger, leopard, sloth bear, one-horned rhinoceros, deer, monkeys, an abundance of bird species and the mighty mugger crocodile.
There are a number of ways to explore the jungle and spot wildlife so you may choose to take an elephant ride in the afternoon and seek rhino and tiger. You could then relax as the sun sets at one of the main watering points and watch as rare animals make their way from the jungle cover to take their evening drink.
You may also choose to quietly raft down the Gandaki River and watch for crocodiles and birds feeding on mudflats or roosting in the trees. There are many ways to explore this wonderful wildlife hot spot and your afternoon will be filled with the trill of seeking and finding rare animals that few people get to see in their wild habitat.
The hospitality package today includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and hotel accommodation in Sauraha, Chitwan.
This morning you should rise early and take the opportunity for a morning safari in the national park. Sunrise and sunset are often the best times to find elusive wild animals and your experienced safari guides know exactly where to go whether by 4WD or elephant ride. There will be plenty of time this morning to explore even more of the park than you saw yesterday. So set the alarm early and have your camera fully charged and ready for your morning safari.
The second phase of today's tour entails a 2.5 hour drive westward to Lumbini the birthplace of Gautama Buddha the founder of Buddhism. This is yet another of Nepal's UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is revered as perhaps the most sacred place in Buddhism. Recent archaeology has found evidence of sacred structures here dating from over 550 years ago and the birth of the Buddha.
Because Hindus regard the Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu thousands of Hindus also pilgrimage here during the full moon of the Nepali month of Baisakh (April-May) to worship Queen Mayadevi as Rupa Devi, the mother goddess of Lumbini. So Lumbini is considered sacred to both Buddhist and Hindu beliefs
Your expert guide will show you through the Maya Devi Temple and the 245 year old stone pillar of emperor Ashoka , the Bhodi tree and pond, the great Drigung Kagyud lotus stupa and the Eternal Peace Flame. There are also many monasteries surrounding the Lumbini complex and you may have an opportunity to visit one of these special enclaves of peace and enlightenment.
The hospitality package today includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and hotel accommodation nearby the Lumbini complex.
Today we drive north from the sun-tropical plains of Nepal towards the Himalaya Mountains at Pokhara. The drive takes about three hours as we wind along river valleys and pass over many hills offer wonderful views of terraced farmlands. Just as we reach Pokhara we will pay a visit to the Tashi Ling Tibetan Village.
During the period from 1959 to 1962 many Tibetan people fled their homelands and crossed into Nepal and India. Indeed, while the volume of refugees is now greatly diminished people still flee Tibet to this day. Today we will visit one of the resettlement sites established over 50 years ago, Tashi Ling. While the community is only small it still welcomes new arrivals and others move through the settlement and on to new lives in other countries and cities. You will have the opportunity to explore a little of this settlements, speak with its residents and visit its small gompa, or Buddhist monastery, and chorten. Your guide knows the history of this settlement well and many of its most prominent residents, this visit will add to your cultural and historical knowledge of this part of Nepal.
We then take a very short drive to see an amazing natural feature, the Davis Falls. The Nepali language name for this waterfall is Patale Chango, or "underworld waterfall". The waterfall gives a glimpse into the underworld. The falls plunge over 100 feet downs a vertical cave to reach a hidden riverbed tunnel that then flows underground for over 500 feet. People have abseiled to the bottom of the falls and made their way through the dark and narrow river tunnel, however it is extremely dangerous. Indeed, the English name of Davis Falls arises from the name of a Swiss lady, Davi, who died attempting the feat in 1961.
We then complete the short drive in to the city of Pokhara itself. Pokhara is the second largest city in Nepal and has something of a holiday atmosphere to it. The beautiful Phewa Lake wrapped along its western edge and the stunning snow-capped Annapurna Mountain summits to its north make this a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the natural environment of th3e region. You might like to spend part of your afternoon on a small boat gently gliding around Phewa Lake. This is a wonderful way to spend an hour or two after today's travels.
The hospitality package today includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and hotel accommodation in, Pokhara.
Depending upon the weather today we may arrange a morning or afternoon drive to take in the amazing view of the Annapurna Mountains from the 1,600m altitude vantage point of Sarangkot Village just west of Pokhara. The drive will wind its way up the hillside from the Pokhara plain and every metre higher you go delivers a more and more spectacular view of the mountains. Whether viewed at dawn, midday or sunset the view from Sarangkot is always breathtaking. It is almost as if you can reach out and touch the famous peaks of Dhaulagiri (8,167m and 7th highest mountain in the world), Annapurna I (8,091m), Annapurna South (7,219m), Manaslu (8,163m) and countless other beautiful ice and snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Make sure your camera is all charged up and ready for this excursion. You may also get to see paragliders soaring over the foothills as they ride the winds and thermals of the foothills. Perhaps will be brave enough to try a tandem paraglide experience yourself.
We will return to Pokhara and you may use any spare time for some local shopping and city sightseeing. Pokhara is a wonderfully colourful and relaxed city just to explore on foot. Or you may choose to relax on the lake shore.
The hospitality package today includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and hotel accommodation in Pokhara.
This morning we take the tourist bus from Pokhara for the 220km scenic journey to Kathmandu. The highway takes you over hills and along valleys and offers a glimpse of farm and village life as you travel eastward to Kathmandu. When you arrive in Kathmandu there is still plenty of time for more sightseeing. Your guide will escort you in a private car to see two more cultural and religious highlights of Kathmandu - Boudhanath and Pashupatinath temples.
Boudhanath is a Buddhist religious complex with a history dating back over 500 years. Located on the eastern edge of Kathmandu it is now a site of great pilgrimage for Buddhist followers who circle its massive stupa, spin its many prayer wheels and visit its beautiful monastery. The main feature of Boudhanath is its huge hemispherical white stupa with central golden tower and the all-seeing eyes of the Buddha. Visitors should circle the stupa in a clockwise direction and spin prayer wheels for good fortune and a good life. Visitors may also enjoy visiting the Thangka painting school within the complex to see highly skilled artists at work on religious mandala paintings.
Pashupatinath Hindu Temple is a very large and complex and focal point for the Hindu religion. This old and very revered complex of buildings and shrines is dedicated to the Lord Shiva, one of the main deities of Hinduism. While Lord Shiva has multiple forms he is often seen as the destroyer. This has great significance for the Pashupatinath temple as it is the site of many Hindi ritual cremations each day. Pashupatinath is considered by Hindus to be an auspicious site for passing from one stage of life to the next through the purifying and destroying flames of cremation. However, on a happier note, visitors may also get to see the temple in a buoyant festival mode with one of the many Hindu festivals celebrated here through the year.
The hospitality package today includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and hotel accommodation in Thamel, Kathmandu.
Now that you have personally visted and experienced the major cultural wonders and treasures of Nepal it is time to return home and tell your family and friends about all you have seen during your journey through Nepal. You guide and transport vehicle will collect you from your hotel in good time to take you to the Tribhuvan International Airport. You might like to chat with your guide about your next tour destination in the Himalaya region - Langtang Ri is certain to have a tour package available for any location you can imagine. We hope to see you again very soon.
Footwear : Well broken-in walking shoes - these must be suitable for snow, thick socks, light socks, camp shoes.
Clothing : Down or fiber filled waterproof jacket and trousers, sweater or fleece jacket, underwear, warm and cotton trousers or jeans, shirts and T-shirts, shorts, long underwear, wool hat, sun hat, gloves, bathing suit, track suit.
Other equipment: Sleeping bag (5 seasons), lock, day pack, water bottle, sun cream, sunglasses, flashlight with spare bulbs and batteries, lip salve, gaiters.
Other items: Insect repellent, toilet articles, diary, toilet roll, laundry soap, wet ones, pocket knife, towel, sewing kit, plasters, binoculars, camera, film, cards and personal medical