Delhi to Kathmandu Yolo Adventure
Day 1 Delhi
Arrive in Delhi by midday. Opt to book an arrival transfer with G Adventures and be picked up by Women on Wheels, a Planeterra-supported project. This program provides safe and reliable transport for women travellers, while providing a dignified livelihood for local women from resource-poor communities. There are no planned activities till the late afternoon, so check into to the hotel (check-in time is 12.00 midday) and enjoy the city. At 14:00pm we will have a group meeting where you will meet your fellow group members (Check the notice board in hotel lobby to confirm time) to go over the details of your trip. This will be followed by a short orientation to Connaught Place by metro and a walk to India Gate. Check the notice board to see where the group meeting will be held. New Delhi, the capital of India is one of the most historic capitals in the world and three of its monuments- the Qutab Minar, Red Fort and Humayun's Tomb - have been declared World Heritage Sites. It offers a multitude of interesting places and attractions to the visitor, so much so that it becomes difficult to decide from where to begin exploring the city. In Old Delhi, there are attractions like mosques, forts, markets and other monuments depicting India's Muslim history. New Delhi, on the other hand, is a modern city designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker. Tree covered wide streets with many roundabouts are notable in New Delhi. Home to many government buildings and embassies, as well as Rashtrapati Bhawan, the one-time imperial residence of the British viceroys; India Gate, a memorial raised in honor of the Indian soldiers martyred during the Afghan war. Further out in the southern suburbs you will discover more history including Humayun's Tomb, said to be the forerunner of the Taj Mahal at Agra; the Purana Quila, built by Humayun, with later-day modifications by Sher Shah Suri; Qutab Minar, built by Qutb-ud-din Aybak of the Slave Dynasty; and the incredible lotus-shaped Bahá'í House of Worship. There are a number of outstanding museums worth visiting including the Craft Museum, National Gallery and Birla House (Ghandi Smirti) and Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum. (Note many museums are closed on Monday). There are so many options for dining, from age-old eateries in the by lanes of the Old Walled City to glitzy, specialty restaurants in five-star hotels, Delhi is a movable feast. Restaurants and bars cater to all tastes and budgets. The best of Mughlai cuisine can be enjoyed at Karims, (both in Jama Masjid and Nizamuddin) where recipes, dating from the times o the Mughals have been the closely guarded secret of generations of chefs. The finest Frontier cuisine is available at the Bukhara, recently voted as the best Indian restaurant in the world!! And at the other end of the scale there are the many popular roadside eateries where kebabs, naan and rotis (Indian breads) and dosa (South Indian pancakes) are the order of the day. A delightful outlet offering a range of Indian cuisines are the food stalls at Dilli Haat. Here, the cuisine of different states is made available. Set in the midst of a spacious crafts bazaar these cafes are a very pleasant place to enjoy food.
Day 2 Pushkar
Site of the world’s only temple to the Hindu god of creation Brahma, Pushkar is often called "Tirth Raj," the Raj (king) of pilgrim centres. No pilgrimage of Hindu places is considered complete until the pilgrim bathes in sacred waters of Pushkar Lake; indeed, the city is so sacred that no meat, alcohol or eggs are allowed within the city. However, most travellers know Pushkar for a different reason: the annual Pushkar Fair, it is the world's largest camel fair, complete with both livestock and craft markets, camel races, concerts and exhibitions. It is celebrated on the day of Kartik Purnima (night of the full moon - sometime in October or November). This is the day, according to legend, which the Hindu god Brahma sprung up the lake. The fair and livestock market now actually go for 8 days with the final day the night of the full moon. After settling into our accommodation, we will have an orientation walk around Pushkar, including the Lake and ghats and also the the 14th century Brahama temple. Rajasthan is rightfully famous for its textiles, jewellery and handicrafts, and few places in the country are better for shopping than the bazaars of Pushkar. Wander around the markets of this sacred city - you won't be disappointed. Before dawn on Day 3 we climb to the hilltop Savitri temple to watch the sunrise over this holy place. Opt to jump on a camel and head out for a sunset camel ride in the desert.
Day 3-4 Jaipur
There are so many things to do in Jaipur you will enjoy some free time. You may want to head out to the nearby village of Sanganer to see blue pottery, hand made paper or hand block printing. Or you may want to discover more of the wisdom and history of the Mughals by wandering around the Jantar Mantar, an observatory built in the 1700's. Or you may just want to sip a cocktail in any of the luxuriously converted palaces, now operating as 5 star hotels. And of course a visit to a Bollywood film is a must and there is no better place than the spectacular Art deco film house - the Raj Mandir. Jaipur is one of the most important centers in the world for gems and jewelery and cutting of small diamonds and also a great place to buy block printed textiles, blue pottery and hand made paper. There are many shops selling these items and some wonderful markets in the Old City selling more traditional items such as mojari, Rajasthani slippers. If buying gems or jewelery please take caution as there have been several instances of scams where fake jewellery has been passed off as real. In Jaipur your CEO takes you on a included tour of the Amber Fort, clinging to the surrounding hills, the amazing City Palace with its fine collection of textiles and costumes or the Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds. This famous building is in fact only an elaborately carved facade built to enable the purdah ladies in the zenana to watch the goings-on in the street below without being seen.
Day 5-6 Agra
Travel by early morning train (approx 5 hrs) to the Muslim city of Agra, site of India’s most famous landmark, the Taj Mahal. Enjoy a guided visit to this icon of Mughal architecture either early in the morning or late afternoon for the best light. In your free time, opt to ride a cycle rickshaw to visit the Baby Taj and Agra Fort. The Taj Mahal was constructed between 1631 and 1654 by a workforce of 22 000, the Taj Mahal was built by the Muslim Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favourite wife, Arjumand Bano Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz had already borne the emperor fourteen children when she died in childbirth, and it is the romantic origin of the Taj as much as its architectural splendour that has led to its fame worldwide. Actually an integrated complex of many structures, the Taj Mahal is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, itself a combination of Islamic, Hindu, Persian and Turkish elements. The walled palatial city of the Agra Fort, was first taken over by the Moghuls, at that time led by Akbar the Great, in the late 16th century. Akbar liked to build from red sandstone, often inlaid with white marble and intricate decorations, and it was during his reign that the fort began changing into more of a royal estate. However, it was only during the reign of Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan (who would eventually build the Taj Mahal) that the site finally took on its current state. Unlike his grandfather, Shah Jahan preferred buildings made from white marble, often inlaid with gold or semi-precious gems, and he destroyed some earlier buildings inside the fort in order to build others in his own style. At the end of his life Shah Jahan was imprisoned in the fort by his son, Aurangzeb. It is said that Shah Jahan died in Muasamman Burj, a tower with a marble balcony with an excellent view of the Taj Mahal. The fort was also a site of one of the most important battles of the Indian rebellion of 1857, which caused the end of the British East India Company's rule in India, leading to a century of direct rule of India by Britain. Time permitting, visit I’timad-ud-Daulah, also known as the ‘Baby Taj’ - it was built before the Taj Mahal by Nur Jahan, queen of Jehangir, for her parents and was the first Mughal building to be faced with white marble and where ‘pietra dura’, (precious stones inlaid into marble) was first used. Board an overnight sleeper train on the night of Day 6.
Day 7-8 Varanasi
We arrive in the morning into Varanasi, the quintessential Indian holy city where millions of Hindu travel, for pilgrimage, to worship, to mourn or to die. Walk the narrow twisting alleys, poke around some of the literally hundreds of temples and shrines, and experience the energy of the dawn rituals of bathing and burnings as you float past the numerous ghats of the River Ganges. The legends, myths and aura surrounding Varanasi led Mark Twain to famously remark. "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together". Sitting on the banks of the River Ganges, you can contemplate what it means to be in Varanasi, the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, dating back thousands of years. The culture of Varanasi is deeply associated with the river Ganges, its reigning deity Lord Shiva and its religious importance; the city has been a cultural and religious center in northern India for thousands of years. Or wander through the Old City with its maze of narrow alleyways full of small shops and stalls. Perhaps you could visit the monasteries and ruins of nearby Sarnath, the site of Buddha's first sermon. During our stay, you'll have the opportunity to take a boat out onto the sacred Ganges River. Witness a candle flower ceremony.if you opt for an evening boat ride.
Day 9 Lumbini
In the morning we take the train to Gorakhpur where we hire a local taxis to the border, we arrive by late afternoon. Crossing at the border town of Bhairawa we then continue on to the great Buddhist pilgrimage center and birthplace of the Buddha, Lumbini. This will be a longer travel day, it may take up to 12 hrs total to reach Lumbini. Lumbini (Sanskrit for "the lovely") is the historical birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, who lived between approximately 563 and 483 BCE. Lumbini, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located 25kms east of the municipality of Kapilavastu, the place where the Buddha grew up and lived up to the age of 29. It is possible to get a Nepalese visa at the border; you will need at least one passport size photograph and $25 USD, Nepal is 15 minutes ahead of India.
Day 10 Chitwan
Leaving Lumbini we travel to the UNESCO World Heritage Chitwan National Park (approx 4-5 hrs). Known as the Terai Tarai ("moist land"), the landscape you travel through today is a belt of marshy grasslands, savannas, and forests at the base of the Himalayas. The Terai zone is composed of alternate layers of clay and sand, with a high water table that creates many springs and wetlands; the zone is inundated yearly by the monsoon-swollen rivers of the Himalaya. The Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands form an eco-region that stretches across the middle of the Terai belt. They are a mosaic of tall grasslands, savannas and evergreen and deciduous forests; the grasslands are among the tallest in the world, fed by silt deposited by the yearly monsoon floods. It is this eco-region that is home to the endangered Indian Rhinoceros, as well as elephants, Bengal tigers, bears, leopards and other wild animals. Much of the region has been converted to farmland, although both Royal Chitwan National Park and Royal Bardia National Park preserve significant sections of habitat, and are home to some of the greatest concentrations of rhinoceros and tiger remaining in South Asia. Arrive to Royal Chitwan National Park (RCNP), the oldest national park in Nepal. Established in 1973, it became a World Heritage Site in 1984. Within its area of 932km², the Royal Chitwan National Park is home to at least 43 species of mammals, 450 species of birds, and 45 species of amphibians and reptiles including sambars, chitals, rhesus monkeys, and langurs. Upon arrival, enjoy an orientation walk of Chitwan town to get your bearings. Until 1950 the Chitwan Valley was a hunting reserve for big game. Happily, today tourists come only to spot wildlife, rather than shoot it, and the park offers some great wildlife viewing opportunities. You will have the option of exploring the national park by jeep safari. Overnight in a local homestay.
Day 11-12 Pokhara
Travel from the plains to the mountains by bus (approx 5 hrs). Nestled in a tranquil valley at an altitude of 827m, Pokhara is a place of natural beauty. The serenity of Phewa Lake and the magnificence of the fish-tailed summit of Machhapuchhre (6977m) rising behind it create an ambiance of peace and tranquility. Pokhara lies on a once vibrant trade route extending between India and Tibet. To this day, mule trains can be seen camped on the outskirts of the town, bringing goods to trade from remote regions of the Himalaya. The enchanting city has several beautiful lakes and offers stunning panoramic views of Himalayan peaks - creating the ambience that has made it such a popular place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. Relax in a café, hire a boat and float around the lake, or shop for Nepali and Tibetan souvenirs in the endless stalls and shops. Clearly the most stunning of Pokhara's sights is the spectacular panorama of the Annapurna range. Opt to travel out to Sarangkot (1592m) only 5 kms north east of Pokhara for a spectacular sunrise of the surrounding mountains. The walk back down through farms and forest to Pokhara is wonderful and takes between 2-2 1/2 hours. Paragliding is another option during your stay here.
Day 13-14 Kathmandu (1L)
Travelling the last leg of the trip through the wild, rugged Himalayan landscape to Nepal’s magical capital and largest city, Kathmandu. For many, simply the name alone is sufficient to conjure up images of temple pagodas, long-haired saddhus in clouds of hashish smoke and the ever-present Himalayas. Kathmandu is all this and more. Sitting in a bowl-like valley surrounded on all sides by some of the highest mountains on earth, Kathmandu has been a crossroads of cultures since hundreds of years before Christ, a tradition very much alive today. Arrive by bus, and we will have a short orientation walk. Visit the Sisterhood of Survivors Project, a grassroots organization that trains survivors of human-trafficking to become certified paralegals. Meet some beneficiaries of the program and learn about traditional Nepali food. Learn how to make Nepalese momos (dumplings) with some of the women before enjoying an authentic local lunch. Highlights in Kathmandu include world-famous Durbar Square, the King’s Palace, the burning ghats at Pashupatinath and Boudhanath Stupa. But more than almost any city in the world, Kathmandu is fascinating at every turn, and some travellers prefer to just wander, seeing where chance, fate or the city may lead them. MOUNTAIN FLIGHTS Regular flights are conducted daily from Kathmandu towards the Himalayan Range in the North and East of Kathmandu. The flight generally takes off in the morning and lasts for one full hour. This is the quickest way to get a close look at Mt. Everest, the highest mountains in the world. Other mountains that can be viewed at close range are Nuptse (7879 M), Lhotse (8501 M), Cho Oyu (8000M), Makalu (8475 M) and Kanchenjunga (8584 M).
Day 15 Kathmandu
Depart any time today, though your accomodation is only till noon. You CEO can help you arrange your onward travel.