Delhi to Kathmandu
|Resort:||Delhi to Kathmandu|
|Destination:||Asia, India, Nepal|
See North India and Nepal’s highlights as you journey from one capital to another. In India, see classic Moghul architecture and sail along the mighty Ganges. Crossing into Nepal, visit Chitwan National Park, discover picturesque Pokhara and explore the temples and bazaars of Kathmandu.
North India – Witness the sunrise over the exquisite Taj Mahal and see the pink city of Jaipur
Day 1 Join tour in Delhi; city tour of New Delhi
Arrive in New Delhi, India’s bustling capital which successfully combines the ancient with the modern. Amidst the tall and modern skyscrapers, there are still the remnants of a bygone time with numerous monuments and temples.
Day 2 Explore Old Delhi’s spice market. Take a train to Jaipur
Compared to New Delhi, the Old City is much closer to the image conjured up by Rudyard Kipling. This morning, a local guide will show us around Old Delhi by metro and on foot, culminating with a jamboree of deafening barter at Chandni Chowk Bazaar. A short cycle rickshaw ride then takes us to the Jama Masjid mosque. Later in the afternoon we transfer to New Delhi station for the train journey to Jaipur, arriving in the evening. Sometimes called the ‘Pink City’, Jaipur was first painted terracotta pink by Maharajah Sawai Ram Singh to celebrate the visit of Prince Albert in 1853.
Day 3 Visit Jaipur’s Amber Fort and City Palace Museum
This morning we will visit the once mighty Rajput capital of Amber (traditionally known as Amber Fort) and its magnificent fortress. Lying at the mouth of a rocky mountain gorge, overlooking Maotha Lake, the fort is a stunning creation of white marble and red sandstone that contains a dazzling mix of Hindu and Muslim ornamentation, including the breathtaking mirrored halls of the Sheesh Mahal. It was from these towering walls that the Kachchawahas ruled over their kingdom for some 7 centuries, until its importance was eclipsed by nearby Jaipur. We will also take in the unique Hawa Mahal, the famous Palace of the Winds, whose extraordinary faade of red and pink sandstone towers some 5 storeys above the city streets. Built at the end of the 18th century its 935 windows were designed to allow the women of the harem to gaze out on the city scene below without themselves being seen, the openings also creating a refreshing breeze (hawa), which kept the palace cool even in the hot summer months. We will spend some time exploring the lavish and well-preserved City Palace. Here, we will find a fine collection of textiles, costumes and armoury. Later this afternoon, we will visit the extraordinary Jantar Mantar – a star-gazing observatory built by Jai Singh, the great Maharajah-astronomer.
Day 4 Take a jeep safari in Ranthambore National Park
Leaving Jaipur we take the train to Sawai Modhopur, the gateway to Ranthambore National Park. One of the best of India’s ‘Project Tiger’ conservation projects, Ranthambore was once the private reserve of the Maharajahs of Jaipur and encompasses nearly 400 square kilometres of lush jungle, turquoise lakes and ancient temples that provide a rich haven for crocodiles, leopards, tigers and some 300 species of birds. This is probably one of the best parks in the country for spotting tigers and during the dry season from September to May, when water is scarce, the animals stay close to the lakes and rivers, affording some ideal opportunities to search out these most elusive and magnificent of animals. We take a game drive in to the park this afternoon.
Day 5 Visit Fatehpur Sikri; Drive to Agra
After an early morning game drive in the hope of spotting a tiger we head east,taking the train to Bharatpur and then driving onwards reaching the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri late morning. Founded in 1569 and abandoned scarcely 16 years later, it is a perfectly intact example of Akbar’s imperial court. Among the many noteworthy buildings is the 5-storied Panch Mahal, probably a pleasure pavilion for the ladies of the harem. In the centre of the courtyard is the Pachisi Board where the emperor played a chess like game with dancing slave girls as pieces. Perhaps the finest structure of all is the lotus shaped carved central pillar of the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience), its extraordinary capital supporting a vaulted roof. Later we drive on to Agra arriving in the afternoon.
Day 6 Visit the Taj Mahal; Overnight train to Allahabad
We visit the Taj Mahal, the world’s most perfect and poetic building, at sunrise. Over 300 years have elapsed since its construction, yet it stands today, largely unscarred by age, its beauty and symmetry seemingly beyond man, time and space. Created by Shah Jahan as a funerary monument to his favourite wife Mumtaz, it took 22 years to build (1630-52). The Great Moghul lies beside his beloved under the white marble dome. We’ll visit the Agra Fort this afternoon; built by Akbar the Great, the fort stands in an imposing position on a bend in the Yamuna River with wonderful views of the Taj Mahal further along its banks. The fort contains some stunning and very intricate designs. There may be time before sunset to revisit the Taj Mahal, or the exquisite Itimad-ud-Daulah (baby Taj) after which we drive to Agra train station to catch our overnight train to Allahabad.
Day 7 Arrive Allahabad; sail to beaches downstream
After arriving in Allahabad early this morning we will head to a local hotel to freshen up and have breakfast, before continuing our journey by road for approximately 3-4 hours to the sacred River Ganges for the start of our boat trip downstream. The next two days will give a unique glimpse at rural life in India and a welcome chance to relax and unwind. We will float peacefully through the fertile Gangetic plain to Varanasi, passing villages and ornate temples, fields of wheat and rice paddies, and stunning sunsets. The traditional wooden boats take up to four passengers plus two crew, who have all grown up living and working on or around the river, who expertly row and sail the boat downstream. Every need will be catered for over the next two days; drinks will be available to purchase on the boats, we’ll make regular comfort breaks by the side of the river and there will be a ‘support boat’ which doubles as the kitchen following closely behind, with a chef on board preparing your lunch and dinner.
Day 8 Arrive Varanasi (Benares)
Today we continue our journey down river to the holy city of Varanasi where we disembark at Asi Ghat and transfer to our hotel. Varanasi (Benares) has been the centre of Hinduism since the dawn of history, its age is contemporary with Babylon and Thebes. Often known as ‘Kashi’ (City of Light) by Hindus it attracts over a million pilgrims each year – many of whom come to spend their last years here in the holy city. This evening you can return to the ghats to witness the evening aarti ceremony when the Ganga is venerated with a display of light and sound.
Day 9 In Varanasi; excursion to Sarnath
This morning we take an early morning boat trip along the Ganges to see the Hindu devout bathing in its sacred waters, before we visit nearby Sarnath. Having gained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya Buddha came to Sarnath to preach his first sermon. The city was at its peak in the 5th century, when it was a respected centre of religious activity, learning and art. Muslim invaders destroyed much of the city and today remains of several monasteries and stupas can be seen. The afternoon is left free in Varanasi to enable you to explore the labyrinth of streets, bazaars and temples that line the banks of the river or perhaps this evening, it may be possible to attend an optional classical musical performance.
Day 10 Train and drive to Lumbini (cross Nepalese border at Sonauli)
We have a long yet interesting journey today (approximately 8 hours), as we head north across the Gangetic Plains, through remote towns and villages to the Nepalese border at Sonauli. We first take a train from Varanasi to the town of Gorphpur. This is the furthest we can travel by train so we switch to a bus and drive the remaining distance to Sonauli. We walk through customs and immigration into Nepal and meet our Nepalese bus which will transfer us to Lumbini where we spend the night.
Day 11 Explore Buddha’s birthplace of Lumbini then drive to Chitwan National Park
We start our day with rickshaw sightseeing tour of Lumbini accompanied by a local guide. We will have the opportunity to visit the birth place of the Buddha, the Peace lamp and the monastery of peace pagoda. From here we drive (approximately 5 hours) through the Terai, the narrow forested lowland strip that stretches the full width of the southern border of Nepal. We will stop in Butwal en route so we can pick up some lunch and then aim to arrive at Chitwan in the late afternoon. The oldest and best known of the national parks in Nepal, Chtiwan consists of swamp, tall elephant grass and dense forest, and is a natural habitat for tiger, the rare one-horned Indian rhino, leopard and sloth bear to name but a few. Once we arrive at the park we’ll take a short afternoon village walk close to the park to orientate ourselves.
Day 12 Search for wild rhino in Chitwan National Park
Once a private hunting ground, Chitwan is now a National Park, with thick tree cover and tall elephant grass sheltering a wealth of animals, most famously the one-horned rhino. Today you will be kept busy with many activities available, including jeep safaris searching out the rhino, bird watching, jungle walks and canoe trips along the Rapti River. The river trip will be dependent on the water level, floating silently down the Rapti River gives us the opportunity to spot many varieties of water birds and other wildlife. On a nature walk in the company of trained native naturalists you can walk along trails in the less densely forested parts of the park. An early morning bird watching walk near the river will reveal many of the 450 bird species that can be found in the park, especially kingfisher. A trained naturalist will help you get the best enjoyment and interest from these excursions.
Day 13 Early morning birdwatching walk before driving to Pokhara
After a final early morning walk through the park we’ll leave for Pokhara. The drive will take around 6 hours depending on the traffic and we will take a packed lunch to have along the way. We pass through the bustling town of Naryanghat Bazaar, then head north beside the River Trisuli to the ‘wild west’ town of Mugling at the confluence of the Marsyandi and Trisuli rivers, before reaching our final destination for today. Pokhara is a relaxed town situated on the banks of Lake Phewa Tal and set beneath the Annapurna Range. The afternoon is left free to wander through the town, to pick up some souvenirs at the many Tibetan handicraft stalls or just relax by the lakeside after the journey.
Day 14 Walk to the Peace Pagoda for views of the Himalaya
After breakfast this morning we stretch our legs by walking up through small villages to the Japanese Peace Pagoda. This beautful lookout point offers wonderful views across to the Annapurna Range and back down to the town of Pokhara. After enjoying the views we walk back following a different path and stop to visit the Tibetan Tashiling Monastery. The afternoon is again free to relax in Pokhara, where it is possible to take short walks around the lake. There is also the option to visit the Mountain Museum, an interesting museum dedicated to the history of Himalayan Mountaineering.
Day 15 Drive to Kathmandu
This morning we drive to Kathmandu (approximately 6 hours). We retrace our route back to Mugling, then continue heading east. Once we reach Naubise the road starts to climb and reaches a pass on the Kathmandu valley rim via a series of breathtaking zig-zags before descending to the city. We may have the chance today to take an optional trip to the Manakamana temple near Kurintar, time permitting.
Day 16 Take a walking tour in Kathmandu
This morning, we have arranged a walking tour of this fascinating historic city, visiting the bazaar and temples of old Kathmandu, accompanied by a local Nepali guide. Much of the day to day life of Kathmandu takes place in the local bazaar: a fascinating mixture of people selling spices; potters spinning their wheels; rickshaw wallahs honking their horns and the ever present sacred cow wandering amongst it all. We end up in Durbar Square at the heart of the city. In the afternoon we plan to visit the temple of Pashupatinath on the banks of the Bagmati River, the holiest Hindu shrine in Nepal, and also to visit Bodnath, the largest stupa in the country and a destination for Buddhist pilgrims from all over Nepal.
Day 17 Trip ends Kathmandu
The tour ends this morning after breakfast.