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Delhi to Kathmandu
Transport - Rickshaw, metro, train, 4WD, private charter vehicle, local bus, canoe
Accommodation - Hotel (7 nts), Lodge (2 nts), Deluxe permanent tent (2 nts), Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt), Guesthouse (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Meals - 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 2 Dinners
This itinerary applies to all departures from 01 January 2012 onwards.
On arrival you'll make your way to your hotel. Your adventure will truely begin with a welcome meeting at 1pm today (details of where this will take place will have been left with the hotel's reception). We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
India's capital is an exciting, busy, and often chaotic city but it's also one of the most interesting in the world with historical sites from different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars!
If you arrive early there are plenty of things to see and do. Visit the World Heritage-listed Mughal masterpiece of Humayun's Tomb. This was the first garden tomb in India, built way back in 1570. Wonder at the tall brick minaret of Qutub Minar, which was started back in the 1100s. Explore the mighty Red Fort of Delhi. Part palace and part fort, it plays an integral part in the history of the city with former residents ranging from royal families to British soldiers (all additional charge).
Join your group leader on an excursion into the sights and sounds of Old Delhi! Set off on the city's modern metro system, then get a taste of India's famed public transport with a cycle rickshaw ride through chaotic streets, such as the famous Chandni Chowk. Make a visit to the Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest mosque and one of its most impressive buildings, then visit the Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) to learn about the Sikh religion. Hotel – 1 night
Today you'll take one of India's fastest air-conditioned trains to the Mughal city of Agra (approx 3 hrs), home to one of the world's most recognisable monuments, the Taj Mahal. Hop on to your cycle rickshaw for a tour of the city - a truly fun way to see the monuments of Agra. Note that during summer and winter months on days when the weather is particularly hot or subject to dense fog, the cycle rickshaw tour will be replaced with battery powered rickshaws.
You can't come to Agra and not visit the Taj Mahal - a masterpiece of shimmering white marble set amid beautiful formal gardens. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz, this 'teardrop on the face of eternity' (as it was described by Rabindranath Tagore) lives up to all expectations.
You'll also visit Agra Fort on the banks of the Yamuna River. Built in 1565 by Emperor Akbar, the fort was originally designed to be a military structure. It was converted to a palace in Emperor Shah Jahan's time and eventually became his prison after he lost power in 1658.
You'll also have the opportunity to visit Akbar's Mausoleum (additional charge), if you wish - a beautiful sandstone and marble tomb built for the greatest of the Mughal emperors. Hotel - 1 night
Crossing a classical rural Indian landscape, today you'll travel by air-conditioned train from Agra to Jhansi (approx 3 hrs). From here you hop aboard a public bus and then auto rickshaw to the picturesque town of Orchha to experience a very different side of India (approx 5 hrs).
Situated on the banks of the Betwa River, Orchha has changed little over the centuries. Originally a hunting area, it became the capital of the Bundela rajas and, as a result, Orchha has more temples and palaces than any town of this size deserves. There are plenty palaces and temples scattered across the peaceful countryside to explore and you can walk in rural areas untouched by modern life and meet the very friendly locals. If you fancy a bracing dip, the river water is cold but clean enough to swim in. In the evening you'll experience a puja ceremony at the Ram Raja Temple.
The next day you'll set out to see the stunning Orchha Palace, built by Bir Sing Deo for his friend Jehangir, the great Mughal ruler and visit Taragram, a Responsible Tourism project. This unique papermaking plant was set up to give tribal women from the area a chance to work outside the traditional areas normally offered to them. All the paper is made from recycled clothing and wood pulp. From paper-making to cooking, you'll get to experience the local flavours in a more interesting and unique way than simply eating them, as you join in with a cooking demonstration and learn how to make truly authentic Indian dishes.
Saying goodbye to Orcha, you return to Jhansi and take an overnight train to Allahabad (approx 9 hrs). Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned (sometimes fan-cooled), a great way to travel long distances and still get maximum time in each place. Beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided but some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Please note you may be sharing with locals in a same gender/mixed gender situation. Deluxe permanent tent - 2 nights, Overnight sleeper train - 1 night
Ganges Boat Trip
This morning your train will arrive in Allahabad and you'll pay a visit to Anand Bhavan - the ancestral home of the Nehru family - which witnessed several history-making events during the Indian freedom struggle.
You then transfer to the River Ganges and the small riverboats for two days of sailing. A full support crew will be on hand as you sail downriver, passing village communities and viewing river life as it goes on around you. The crew will cook delicious meals and you'll spend one night camping on the river bank in basic twin-share tents with common tented toilets. Life on the river is much slower than in the chaotic cities, so lie back, relax and literally go with the flow. The Ganges is a holy river, so you'll be served vegetarian food and there will be no alcohol. Camping (basic facilities) - 1 night
Please note that due to high water levels on the River Ganges and the associated safety concerns the boat trip won't operate during the monsoon or other times of heavy rainfall. Departures affected by such safety concerns will be told during the trip by your leader - it's difficult to know well in advance how much rain there's likely to be at any point in time. In these cases, an extra night will be spent in Varanasi including a visit to the temple complex of Sarnath, the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon.
Leaving the boats at Chunar, you transfer by private vehicle to Varanasi (approx 2 hrs). The ultimate destination for all Hindu pilgrims, Varanasi is full of temples, shrines and devotees. It may not be one of the world's cleanest cities but it could well be the most intriguing and Spend the evening soaking up the magical atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony, serenaded by traditional musicians on a Ganges river cruise as the sun sets. You'll then take cycle rickshaws to visit the oldest part of the city, bustling with tourists and priests and see different rituals being performed. Wander through the Old City with its maze of narrow alleyways packed full of small shops and stalls. You'll see pilgrims bathing and performing rituals and ceremonies unchanged for hundreds of years; temples full of bell chimes and the smell of incense; the dhobi wallahs and the burning ghats.
Start early the next day with a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges, passing the many ghats and temples along the river. The rest of the day is then free for you to continue your explorations discovery of the city. You might like to visit the Ram Nagar Fort (additional charge), which lies about 14 km from Varanasi on the opposite bank of River Ganga. Built by Maharaja Balwant Singh in the 18th century, it's the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras. Alternatively you can take an auto rickshaw out to Sarnath (additional charge). Located just 12 km from Varanasi, it's the site where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma after his enlightenment. Hotel - 2 nights
You say goodbye to India today and travel by 4WD from Varanasi to the Nepalese border, via Gorakhpur (approx 10 hrs). On entering Nepal, you'll take a private bus to our hotel in Lumbini (approx 1hr).
The birthplace of Gautama Buddha, Lumbini is the Mecca of Buddhism, being one of its four holy places. It's said in the Parinibbana Sutta that Buddha himself identified four places of future pilgrimage: the sites of his birth, enlightenment, first discourse and death. You'll travel on cycle rickshaws to the Maya Devi Temple, the site where Lord Buddha is believed to have been born. Hotel – 1 night
Continue your journey through the Terai to Chitwan National Park by private vehicle (approx 5 hours). Declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1984, Chitwan National Park offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Asia with rhinos, deer, monkeys and a wide array of birdlife including the infamous Nepalese wild chickens.
Set off with local guides for a full-day jungle excursion. Begin by canoeing on the Rapti River into the park (approx 90 mins), before jumping out and embarking on a trek to Ghatgai, a village in another section of the park (approx 12 km, 7-8 hrs). The trekking pace will be slow and quiet to try to maximise our chances of seeing some wildlife and you can soak up the atmosphere with a couple of breaks and a lunch stop along the way. You'll need to carry your own day pack, including your picnic lunch.
The next day, trek back into the park for about 90 minutes and visit the crocodile breeding centre, then take jeeps back to the hotel at the edge of the park. Your accommodation in Ghatgai is simple with basic facilities and food, but plenty of jungle ambience. Toilet and bathrooms are shared. Lodge - 2 nights, Guesthouse - 1 night
Journey by bus from Chitwan to Nepal's capital, Kathmandu (approx 6 hrs). This is a ride that takes in all the sights that define Nepal: iridescent rice terraces, deep gorges, fast-flowing rivers and looming mountains. Kathmandu is the largest (and pretty much only) city in the country. It can feel like another developing-world city rushing into a modern era of concrete and traffic pollution, but take a walk in the back streets and the capital's amazing cultural and artistic heritage reveals itself in hidden temples overflowing with marigolds, courtyards full of drying chillies and rice, and tiny hobbit-sized workshops largely unchanged since the Middle Ages.
Head to the ancient Swayambhunath Stupa (known to tourists as the Monkey Temple) - Kathmandu's most important Buddhist shrine. The sleepy, all-seeing Buddha eyes that stare out from the top have become the quintessential symbol of Nepal. You'll then join the pilgrims at Bodhnath Stupa - the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It's the centre of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu and rich in Buddhist symbolism. Next is a visit to Pashupatinath - a Hindu temple on the banks of the Bagmati River in Deopatan, a village 3 km north-west of Kathmandu. It's dedicated to a manifestation of Shiva called Pashupati (Lord of Animals).
During your free time you might like to explore Patan's Durbar Square (additional charge). The square and its surroundings - including the Royal Palace of Patan and a series of temples - are good specimens of ancient Newari architecture. You could also take a trip to Bhaktapur (additional charge), located about 20 km east of Kathmandu. Known as the 'City of Devotees' and Nepal's cultural gem, Bhaktapur is filled with monuments, palaces and temples with elaborate carvings, gilded roofs and open courtyards. For those who want to get a birds eye view, you can take-off on a flight from Kathmandu airport to see some spectacular mountain scenery (additional charge). Those who don't have the opportunity to go trekking can get panoramic views of the Himalayas in just an hour. Hotel - 2 nights
The trip ends here for Land Only clients.