Days 1 & 2 Kathmandu
Make your own way to Kathmandu, where we'll transfer you to your hotel. Get to know your fellow travellers over a welcome dinner and drinks. Meals included: D
Day 3 Kathmandu
We're going to head out and explore Kathmandu on foot this morning. We'll begin in the tranquil courtyard of Itumbahal and then head to Indrachowk, one of Kathmandu's most colourful and ancient local markets. Next, we'll discover the temples and courtyards of UNESCO-listed Durbar Square, where most of the buildings date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Our walk comes to an end at Ason Chowk, a bustling spice and vegetable market.
Next, we'll visit the SASANE Sisterhood of Survivors project, a non-profit organisation set up to support female survivors of human trafficking. During our visit, we'll meet some of the women and learn from them how to prepare 'momos', traditional Nepali dumplings.
We'll end the day with a visit to the Pashupatinath Temple, the most important Hindi shrine in Nepal. Located on the banks of the holy Bagmati River, this fascinating complex of shrines and cremation sites is dedicated to Pashupatinath, an incarnation of Lord Shiva.
Day 4 Kathmandu - Bandipur
There's a long, but scenic drive ahead of us today as we travel by road to Bandipur.
As we leave Kathmandu, we'll make a stop at Swayambhunath Stupa, one of the oldest and most revered shrines in the country. Perched on top of hill, it is believed to have been an important Buddhist pilgrimage site since the 5th century and boasts a glittering golden spire decorated with the all-seeing eyes of Buddha.
Our journey then continues through ancient stone villages backed by rice terraces and mountains. 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 can be seen and traditional ways of life experienced. We'll discover its charms on a walking tour this afternoon.
Day 5 Bandipur - Pokhara
Our sightseeing today takes us to Ramkot, a typical Magar village untouched by modern developments.
If you're feeling energetic, you can don your walking shoes and hike to the village, taking in wonderful views of the landscape as you trek through the Nepalese hills. This undulating walk takes around two hours and is strenuous in parts, so if you prefer, there is an option to take the local bus to Ramkot instead. This will give you a little more time in Bandipur this morning. Whichever option you choose, we'll meet up in Ramkot and enjoy a packed lunch together, then after some free time to explore, 4x4 vehicles will take us to our coach for the onward journey to Pokhara.
The city of Pokhara 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 famed for its natural beauty, surrounded by serene lakes and towering Himalayan peaks, and you've time to relax at leisure this evening.
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 at 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 resettlement camp, which was established around 50 years ago. Here you will have the opportunity to watch craftsmen make carpet, jewellery and other unique handicrafts that can be purchased as souvenirs if you wish. It may also be possible to visit the settlement's home for the elderly and the monastery, a residence for young monks. You will also be invited into a home for a simple meal of local dishes and will have the chance to participate in a Tibetan cultural dance before bidding your hosts farewell.
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, and on arrival we'll visit Boudhanath Stupa, the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet.
Later this afternoon, we'll discover Bhaktapur – or the City of Devotees –where three squares are filled with ornate temples and architecture dating back to the 12th century.
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 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 Delhi
We'll transfer to the airport and fly to Delhi this morning. The rest of the day has been left free for you to explore your new destination before dinner this evening.
Day 12 Delhi
Today we'll discover New Delhi. Our drive takes us through elegant boulevards and lush green parks where the iconic India Gate and imposing Parliament House are both reminders of a colonial past. We'll also visit the ancient Qutub Minar - a UNESCO-listed site.
We'll then visit the 17th century walled city of Old Delhi. Temples and mosques fill every available space and tempting food stalls flood the narrow streets with colour and heady aromas. As we explore we'll pass by the spectacular Red Fort, the impressive marble domes of Jama Masjid Mosque and Raj Ghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.
We will also visit Gali Paranthe Wali, the 'lane of parantha-makers', which is located in Chandni Chowk. Once known for its silverware shops before the parantha makers moved in during the 1970s, the lane is now world famous and some shops are being run by the sixth generation of the same family. Parantha can be enjoyed plain or served with sweet tamarind chutney, mint chutney, mixed vegetable pickle, and are often made with other ingredients cooked into the dough such as kaju (cashews), badam (almonds), matar (Green chic peas) and gobhi (cauliflower). They can also be enjoyed with a filling of paneer and potato curry, potato and fenugreek curry or a sauteed mash of sweet pumpkin .
This afternoon has been left free for you to explore at your own pace, in the company of your fellow travellers. If you wish, you could join our optional excursion which will introduce you to India's array of different religions. We'll visit Birla Mandir, the Hindu temple inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi, and the Catholic Sacred Heart Cathedral before arriving at the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara. Hundreds of devotees are fed every day at this Sikh place of worship, and we'll have a chance to volunteer in the kitchens before our tour continues to Nizamuddin Dargah, the shrine to Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya.
Day 13 Agra
Today we'll travel south to Agra, where we'll stay overnight. After checking in to our hotel we'll visit the UNESCO-listed Agra Fort. Once the imperial city of the Mogul rulers, this mighty red-sandstone fortress is where the Emperor Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son. Meals included: B,D
Day 14 Jaipur
We have an early start this morning for what is sure to be a memorable excursion – a dawn visit to the spectacular Taj Mahal. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a symbol of his love for his wife, nothing will prepare you for the breathtaking sight of this magnificent mausoleum, whose white marble walls are inlaid with semiprecious stones.
Close by is Mehtab Bagh, a centuries-old garden complex, which sits on the other side of the river. You'll get to see the Taj Mahal from here too, for equally wonderful views.
Later, we'll travel to Jaipur, affectionately known as the 'Pink City' because all of the buildings here are painted in a distinctive shade of pink.
Enjoy an evening at leisure or perhaps join an optional cookery demonstration in a family home, with dinner included.
Day 15 Jaipur
This morning we'll drive to the marvellous Amber Fort, a 17th century stronghold set on top of a hill. It's a wonderful blend of Hindu and Muslim elements and we'll step inside to explore the palace, courtyards and gardens. Back in Jaipur, we'll learn how to carefully drape a colourful saree and to put on a turban. Our expert guides will share the secrets of these traditional items of clothing with us to help give us even more insight into the Indian culture. You can pose for pictures with your hosts in your beautiful saree or majestic turban, and you'll be gifted the clothing you wear so you can take a piece of India back home as a souvenir. Then we'll head to the Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observatory built in the early 18th century, and then take a stroll through Chaandpol Bazaar, where pungent aromas emanate from the shops which grind and sell all manner of brightly coloured spices.
Whilst in Jaipur you will also be served a glass of Lassi, a blend of water, yoghurt, spices and sometimes fruit. The drink, traditionally served in earthern pots to add an unique aroma, is topped with a thick layer of malai leaving you refreshed and surprisingly full!
This evening we'll visit the City Palace and see rare personal items of the Maharajas of Jaipur. During our visit we'll watch a state-of-the-art light show narrated by a Bollywood star, and enjoy dinner at a restaurant in the palace.
Day 16 Delhi
We have left this morning free for you to explore Jaipur at your own pace. Alternatively, you could join our optional walking tour, which is one of the best ways to appreciate the rich heritage of this walled city. As we wander around the houses and workshops, the locals will be delighted to tell you more about life in the bustling capital of Rajasthan.
Later we will drive to Delhi.
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.