Welcome to the highlights of two remarkable nations, with ten days of culture and history in India, then ten days of Nepalese nature and spirituality. Cultural adventure is followed by the ease and relaxation of a four-day trek and the jungle. Along the way you will experience boutique hotels, colorful markets, palaces, forts, trains, temples, desert, wonderful food and local encounters.
Delhi – Absorbing the Indian Energy
Bustling streets, crowded markets, the splutter of tuk-tuk exhausts...Delhi might not seem the most relaxing place to start but the capital city has had a facelift in recent years. It’s now far more inviting than most people realize. Touch down at the redeveloped airport and travel into a new part of the city, where your hotel stands high above the streets. Check-in and check out the views from the rooftop terrace, while discussing the next few days with your guide. Nothing specific is planned for today, but the guide will take you to a neighborhood or restaurant, something that will suit the mood and help you make easy first impressions of India.
Delhi – Colorful Markets, Ancient Monuments, and Indian Fine Dining
A late start today before you ease into the experience at Jama Masjid, where calligraphic patterns create visual beauty at India’s most important mosque. Travel into the colonial era at the Red Fort, where stories of empire whisper from crumbling walls. Then delve into the heart of Delhi, taking a rickshaw through Chandni Chowk. It’s intense and crowded here, packed with strange smells, street food stalls, roaming cows and painted faces. From a rickshaw, you can look out unobtrusively and take most of it in, without being completely overwhelmed. Switch back into modern India this evening with some fine dining at a contemporary restaurant.
Agra – Relaxed Start and Taj Mahal at Sunset
Another relaxed start today and there is time for some more Delhi sightseeing. You’re driven 2 ½ hours to Agra, where the domes of the Taj Mahal are visible from your hotel balcony. Explore this ode to love in the late afternoon. Domes reflect in the still water, sunlight bounces off the harmonious towers, then the color changes lead you into the sunset, the marble a subtly changing hue that can keep you at the Taj Mahal for hours. From the outside, you head inside, into the mausoleum and the monument’s lesser-celebrated beauty. Then go local with dinner, an excellent little restaurant that provides a contrast to yesterday.
Agra – The Ode to Love and a Mughal Ghost Town
Back to the Taj at sunrise, a short boat over the river and then the golden colors of the domes, so different from what you experienced in the same place yesterday. Then out onto the streets and a healthy cup of chai, the sweet tea that energizes a nation. Most of the rest of the day is spent in the other two World Heritage Sites around Agra, with Fatehpur Sikri a remarkable story for both the mind and the camera. Built by a Mughal ruler as a new capital it was abandoned barely ten years later. Now it stands as a ghost town, a sun-faded ode to a single ruler’s tastes, an expression of the grandeur to be found in the 16th century.
Jaipur – An Indian Train Experience to the Pink City
Visit India and you have to experience the trains. Agra to Jaipur is just over five hours and the journey is as memorable as the destination. So much life revolves around the tracks such as small villages, where colorful saris shine amid the dust. Then small towns, where cows and camels roam, and the every day of Indian life is a beauty to behold. A train is your window onto authentic India as well as convenient transport, so sit back and watch the show unfold. The afternoon and evening are free, and Jaipur is a lovely place to take a stroll on your own.
Jaipur – Monkeys, Forts, and Fascinating History
Now into the history of Jaipur, a city painted pink a century ago. There’s the Amber Fort, a sprawling complex of 14th-century grandeur; Hanuman’s Temple, where dozens of monkeys rush around a sanctified space (Hanuman being the Hindu monkey god); a royal palace then a palace of mirrors, where the intricacy of design is beyond comprehension. And of course the Jaipur markets, where flowers and tapestries juxtapose beneath the traders’ shouts. Along the way, you continue all the authentic Indian impressions, such as elephants with painted faces, cycle rickshaws, moments of stillness and moments of chaos outside temples.
Day 7 - 8
Udaipur – A Delightful City on the Lake
Jaipur is an in-your-face style of city, presenting a thousand experiences on every street corner. Udaipur is calm. Royal palaces stand on islands in the lake. Mughal memoirs are draped along the water. Rooftop terraces provide time for contemplation. This is slow old-world India, a great place to catch your breath after the last few days. Grab a chai, sit by the water, and go exploring your hotel. It’s one of the island palaces, refurbished into one of India’s finest boutique hotels. You’re sleeping in the history, and over these two days, you’ll go on private boat tours to different temples and Mughal monuments.
Jodphur – Immersed in Another Ancient City
Jodhpur is the final point of the classic Rajasthani jigsaw. Jaipur is classic sights, Udaipur is regal tranquility, then your new destination is atmospheric history. The old town is narrow and winding, a maze of streets that feel unchanged for centuries. Traders call, cafes open, cows block the way and doorways lead to rooftop terraces. It’s easy to lose your bearings and that’s the beauty here, wandering around corners to find so much Indian tradition. An old fort is a place for sunset while Jaswant Thanda is a great place to chat spirituality and religion with the locals.
Delhi – A Morning of Exploring; A Night in the Capital
Spend the day relaxing. Take a walk through the old city and follow a different set of doorways and corners. Check out the views from the fort one more time. Visit a couple of temples and feel the energy of their incense-filled rooms. Sip chai on a terrace and watch the Rajasthan desert change color. After lunch, you fly back to Delhi and spend the night on the airport side of the city. A guide can take you anywhere in Delhi for dinner but you could choose this to be a quiet night on your own, resting up before the second half of the adventure.
Kathmandu – Cultural Discovery in the Ancient City
Staying near the airport means you can catch an early flight and have most of the day in Kathmandu. Three ancient kingdoms flourished here, just a few miles apart. While their remains were damaged by the earthquake, the history has been destroyed. Contrast the styles of different centuries on Kathmandu Durbar Square, where old men sit chatting in the shadows and incense burns outside reconstructed temples. Immerse yourself in the 16th-century style of Patan, such harmony to the courtyards and temples, so much of it standing in defiance of the earthquake. Then relax at Swayambhunath, the towering Buddhist stupas that glisten gold on the city’s edge.
Kathmandu – Everest Views and Spa Relaxation
Escape the city, and within an hour you’re high in the Himalayas, looking across towards the dominant triangle that is Everest. Start walking, a gentle hike along narrow trails, the route both an introduction to Himalayan trekking and a grand look at the Everest region. Morning is the best time to be walking, snowbound slopes free of cloud and a crisp feel to the mountain air. Trek to a Buddhist monastery and get invited inside, the atmosphere very different to what you experienced in Indian temples. Then descend towards an afternoon in a mountain spa, rubbing energy into your legs as Everest and its neighbors become shrouded by cloud.
Pokhara – A Charming Town on the Lake
Fly to Pokhara and sit on the right-hand side for the best views, the plane skirting the Himalayan change before touching down through a gap in the peaks. Pokhara sits lazily along a lake, a town of quiet streets and supreme mountain views. It’s the gateway to Annapurna, the most accessible of Nepal’s mountain trekking regions. Touch down and the guide will meet you for lunch to discuss the trek and ensure you are ready for what’s to come. In the afternoon, you can explore the World Peace Pagoda, Devi’s Falls or you could take a quiet boat ride on the lake and watch how the mountains slowly turn to shadow.
Day 14 - 17
Pokhara – Four-Day Annapurna Region Trek
You walk slowly through the Himalayas, taking your time and taking it easy in the Annapurna region. The sooner you settle into the slow rhythm the better. The four-day route is suitable for most fitness levels, certainly a more accessible trek than in the Everest region or the longer routes in Annapurna. You will walk for four to six hours every day, which is why it’s important to go slow. Settle into the rhythm and there’s a real tranquility to the experience. It’s nothing but you and the mountains, time to be alone while surrounded by the raw wonder of the landscapes.
Pass through small Buddhist hamlets in the Modi Khola Valley then ascend a stone staircase towards Ghandruk, a vibrant Gurung village with views onto Annapurna, Hiunchuli, and Machhapucchre. Descend through thick forest and trek along a remote river to Jhinu Danda, where hot springs provide a rest for the legs. Explore waterfalls as you ascend along the mountain trail to Landruk and Deurali, where the high mountains start to dominate the panorama once more. Then descend back towards Pokhara and a leisurely afternoon along the lake. The route doesn’t take you into high altitude but it does provide clear views of Annapurna and other majestic peaks, so you get a real sense of their grandeur without any threat of altitude sickness.
Stay in small lodges along the way, the accommodation comfortable but not luxurious. After a day of trekking, it’s rare you need more than a warm fire, a hearty meal, and a comfortable bed. Trekking is your time, the experience as escapist as any beach you could visit. And while four days may seem like a long time, as you end the trek you may be wishing that it would continue. Because once you’re settled into the trekking rhythm you feel energized to do absolutely anything.
Chitwan National Park – Sarangkot Sunrise and the Rhinos
It’s worth an early start for a final mountain experience: Himalayan peaks shimmering orange as they come out of their morning shadow. Sarangkot hill is where you watch the sunrise show, also the place to go paragliding should you wish. Later this morning, you drive to Chitwan. Enter the jungle canopy and use your ears to detect movement. Perhaps a monkey chirping, maybe the distant hoot of an elephant. Smells also guide you, so exotic and fragrant when you travel deeper into the jungle. Use these senses on an afternoon boat safari. Prepare yourself for the show-stopping moment when you glimpse a wild rhino for the first time.
Chitwan National Park – Intimate Jungle Safari
Chitwan is a jungle country, a refuge for the critically endangered rhinos. Their numbers are increasing, and you are almost guaranteed an encounter here. Wild elephants also roam the trees, beneath the antics of various primates. Spend today customizing the safari to your interests. Walks are intimate and get you closer to the animals, while drives can cover larger areas so you see more. Your lodge is on the river and wildlife regularly walks by, so keep your camera ready when you’re dining, because it’s not unusual for a four-legged giant to pass by the dining terrace.
Kathmandu – More Safari and Back to the Capital
Wake up in the jungle and soak your senses into the atmosphere. Listen out for calls, watch shadows flicker over the river, smell the morning dew before the humidity arrives. Take your choice of safari activity this morning before an early-afternoon flight back to Kathmandu. This time you stay in the heart of the city – you were at a mountain lodge on the outskirts before – the best place to be for exploring the shops and some final experiences with the local culture. There’s nothing planned for the rest of today, but the pedestrianized area of Thamel is very close to your hotel.
Kathmandu – Departure
Depart from Kathmandu, three weeks in India and Nepal coming to an end.
- Escape into the brilliance of the Himalayas with a relaxed four-day trek through Nepal’s Annapurna region
- Connect with the vibrancy of Indian culture, an omnipresent highlight during the first ten days
- Explore the spiritual history of Kathmandu, where three ancient kingdoms refuse to buckle under earthquake damage
- Discover the wonder of Mughal history, from the Taj Mahal to the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri and the Pink City (Jaipur)
- Feast your eyes on wild rhinos and elephants, the wildlife highlights of a two-night safari in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park
- Relax on the lake, in both the charming Rajasthani city of Udaipur and the quiet Himalayan town of Pokhara
- Travel through the best of India’s old-world cities, spending two days each in Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur
- Gaze upon Mount Everest and watch sunrise over the Himalayas
- Visit temples covered in monkeys, meet with monks in monasteries, travel to remote Gurung villages, and tour enigmatic local markets
- Some of the journeys are superb, like an Indian train experience, trekking in Nepal, and driving through the Rajasthani desert
You can’t see all of India and Nepal in three weeks. But you can delve into most of the experiences that make these countries so unique. Colorful marketplaces of smells and sounds. Cities painted in a single harmonious color. The Himalayas and the tranquility of a mountain trek. Meeting locals in temples, traveling on a train, discovering Mughal wonders, and finding rhinos in the jungle. There’s Buddhist spirituality, Hindu energy, and dusty old-world towns reminiscing of a time of empire. It would take three years to see everything in these two countries, but three weeks offers a truly in-depth tour, while traveling at a comfortable pace.
Your ten nights in India are spread across five iconic destinations. Start in Delhi, the convenient entry point and a city that mixes the old and new of local culture. Drive to Agra and find that there is more than the Taj Mahal, like the fabulous remains of Fatehpur Sikri. Take the train to Jaipur and immerse yourself in the famous pink city. Then drive through rural Rajasthan to Udaipur, perhaps India’s loveliest city, where palaces stand on islands in a lake. Old Jodphur is small and very old, completing the classic triangle of distinctive Rajasthani cities. With local guides you explore more than monuments though, like markets, temples, monkeys, and a wonderful variety of food.
Fly to Kathmandu and spend two nights in a city undergoing great change. One day involves cultural discovery – three ancient kingdoms are located here – the other gives you views onto Everest. Fly to Pokhara and a relaxed day on the lake, then escape into the mountains with an easy four-day Himalayan trek. Stay in Gurung villages, savor the serenity, and appreciate the beauty of the Annapurna range. The trekking rhythm is a wonderful antidote to modern life and the trek can be adjusted to most levels of fitness. Stay in nature with the following two days in Chitwan, the legendary home of rhinos and elephants. After all the cultural discovery, Annapurna and Chitwan provide the kind of getaway that helps you reset and reenergize for home.
$3,145 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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