Discover the intoxicating highlights of China, Nepal and India

Satisfy your sense of adventure and spiritual curiosity on this true overland odyssey. From the great capital of China, travel across the vast Tibetan Plateau, through remote villages and the mountain kingdom of Nepal, and into the heady chaos of India. Ride the world's highest railway all the way to Lhasa and witness the intense spirituality of the Tibetan people in their remote monasteries, traditional homes and colourful marketplaces. Spot exotic creatures, explore temples and palaces, and view icons such as Mt Everest, the Great Wall and the Taj Mahal on this epic travel experience rich in history, spirituality, culture and local interaction.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2016:
As a result of the Nepal earthquake that occurred in April 2015, the Kathmandu-Tibet highway near Lamosanghu remains closed. Unfortunately word from our local suppliers and authorities is that this road will remain closed for the majority of the 2016 season. This means that no overland travel between these two countries is possible in 2016. All CBSXC trips will be re-routed to fly between Lhasa to Kathmandu resulting in an increase in cost. Trip Notes have been updated to reflect the new itinerary.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:
From 1st January 2017 this trip will be dropped due to the China/Nepal border remaining closed for the foreseeable future preventing overland travel between the two countries. If you are interested in travelling this region please check our website in coming months for some new itineraries. If you are currently booked on this tour for 2017 we will be in contact with you to discuss your options once 2017 itineraries are confirmed.

Start
Beijing, China
Finish
New Delhi, India
Countries
China,
India,
Nepal
Themes
Explorer
Code
CBSXC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
1 303kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Travel on the highest railway in the world, traversing some incredibly mountainous and remote terrain.
  • Visit the incredible Great Wall of China, enjoy a couple of hours here exploring this mighty wall.
  • Explore Lhasa and the former home of the Dalai Lama.
  • See monks, temples and cliff side Monastery's where the scenery will quite literally leave you breathless.

Itinerary

Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel 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.
The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture.
We suggest arriving a few days early to enjoy more of what Beijing has to offer such as:
Marvel at Tiananmen Square - apparently the largest down town square in the world. Framed by the Gate of Heavenly Peace with its Mao portrait, Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum it's a place of pilgrimage for Chinese tourists who consider it the heart of their nation.
Enter the imposing Forbidden City, former home to China's imperial rulers and filled with palaces, gardens and seemingly never-ending grand courtyards.
The Temple of Heaven Park is one of the most popular in Beijing and at any time of the day is full of people of all ages taking part in traditional pastimes such as tai chi, fan dancing, diablo, kite flying, water calligraphy and more.
A trip to the 798 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour will give you a taste of where art is heading in today's China as you wander the multitude of galleries housed in this old factory complex.
A metro ride can take you to the Summer Palace, once an imperial residence and the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China.
The fantastic "The Legend of Kung Fu" is said to be a must-see production in Beijing for Kung Fu lovers.
Visit beautiful Yonghegong, or Lama Temple, which was built in 1694 and is the largest and best-preserved Tibetan style monastery building in Beijing.
Today we take an early morning trip to the Mutianyu Great Wall (approx 2 hrs drive from Beijing). An incredible piece of engineering, it stretches 6,000 km westwards from the mountain ridges north of Beijing. It was originally constructed to protect Chinese empires from the 'barbarians' of the north and even though it failed in this purpose, it is still without a doubt one of the country's most remarkable achievements, and an iconic destination. It's a 30 minute climb up some steep steps to the wall itself but well worth the effort! There is also the option of taking a chair lift or cable car to the top and back if you are after a more leisurely experience and great views. We'll have a few hours to explore the winding wall before heading back to the city for the afternoon. Please note that the wall is quite steep in places so make sure you have some appropriate footwear for this activity.
This evening we take taxis to the Beijing West railway station, one of the biggest and busiest in the world, to board our train to Lhasa (approx 45 hrs).
The train to Lhasa is truly one of China's greatest engineering feats in recent years. It's the highest railway in the world, traversing some incredibly mountainous and remote terrain. Our journey takes us through the major cities of Xi'an, Lanzhou and Xining, and across the Qinghai Plateau before arriving in Lhasa.
WARNING:
This trip includes one or more overnight stays over 3500 metres/11500ft, where there is a genuine risk of being affected by Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). If left untreated AMS can be life-threatening. We would expect the majority of a group to notice the effects of being at high altitude, and while most will only feel discomfort, it is not uncommon for a small number of people to need extra care which will be provided by our leaders and local staff. All our trips that spend time at High Altitude follow our standard altitude safety measures.

A number of medical conditions or medications can also reduce your body's ability to acclimatise, and thus will affect your performance at altitude and make you more susceptible to AMS. If you are worried about any pre-existing condition (e.g. heart problems), or unsure of your physical ability, you must seek medical advice prior to booking. You may also wish to discuss medication such as Diamox that may help aid acclimatisation.

Please note that while we endeavour to assist all our clients in achieving their goals, there may be times your leader makes the decision to either delay or stop your ascent based on your medical conditions and AMS symptoms.

Much of the train journey takes place at high altitude, including the Tanggula Pass (5072m), Fenghuahan tunnel (4095m). Altogether over 80% of the section between Golmud to Lhasa is at elevations of over 4000m.

Compartments have oxygen supply for each passenger and there is a doctor on board each train in case medical assistance is required.

Train travel in China/Tibet may not be entirely luxurious but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face to face with the country and its people as it's a major form of transport for locals. The Beijing - Lhasa train is one of the newest and best in China. We use hard sleeper class trains for our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound - compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet as the quality/cleanliness of sheets may not be what you are used to. Safe hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. We recommend bringing a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins) The train has a dining car although meals are of better quality on the first day as by the second day we are travelling at altitude which makes cooking difficult! You may wish to purchase extra snacks of your choice before the journey to supplement food available on the train.

Basic bathroom facilities are situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins. As toilet paper isn't always available it's advised to carry some of your own, keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. While we always try to have our groups staying together, there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages, and possibly sharing with passengers who are not part of the group.

On rare occasions it may be possible to upgrade to a different carriage class once on the train itself for an additional cost paid to the train conductor but this can not be guaranteed and and should not be relied on as an option.
Elevation: 3940m
Colourful and historic, the holy city of Lhasa is situated in a small valley. For many years it was a mysterious place, virtually unknown to the outside world with even the most adventurous and hardy of explorers rarely reaching the city without being turned away, either by the treacherous terrain or the fierce warrior monks that protected Tibetan territory from intruders. While now welcoming tourists and much modernized, Lhasa remains an intriguing city with deeply fascinating culture, sights and stories.
Due to Chinese government regulations, all foreign tour groups in Tibet must be accompanied by an official licensed Tibetan guide. Depending on the departure, you will either have a Tibetan Intrepid leader from Beijing to the Chinese border and a Nepalese Intrepid leader after making the crossing (as Tibetans are not permitted to travel outside of China) or a Chinese Intrepid leader for the duration of the trip and be accompanied by a local Tibetan guide during your time in Tibet. In this case, while we try to request experienced guides with a good level of English, please note that we often have no control over which guides are assigned to our groups and some may be very new to guiding or have limited English communication skills.
We've allowed five days here to allow for appropriate acclimatisation.
Today we will explore Jokhang Temple, which is often regarded as the spiritual heart of Tibet and one of the region's most active religious sites. Before this we will take part in a Tibetan lesson to learn some basic greetings, numbers and phrases from our Tibetan guide.
Please note that inside many of Tibet's monasteries and temples, including the Potala Palace, photography is not permitted. In buildings where it is permitted, often this requires the purchase of a photo permit. Your guide can obtain this photo permit for you for an additional fee.
In your free time you may like to:
Shuffle along with the throngs of pilgrims around the Barkhor pilgrim circuit, stopping to shop for souvenirs at some of the many market stalls.
Explore Lhasa's quaint backstreet craft workshops, bakeries, tea shops and tiny alley ways as you wander the Old Town.
Relax with a traditional Tibetan massage.
Today we will visit the Sera Monastery where the monks hold dramatic daily debating sessions. The monastery was named Sera which means wild rose in the Tibetan language, because the hill behind it was covered with wild roses in bloom when it was built.
After Sera Monastery as a group we will learn how to make momos (steamed dumplings), one of the staples of Tibetan cuisine, in a cooking demonstration/lesson.
Today we tour the incredible Potala Palace, former home of the Dalai Lama. Although we're not free to explore the Potala Palace on our own and must stick to a strict schedule of viewing the exhibits and buildings with our guide, this in no way lessens the impact of seeing what is truly a wonder of the architectural world. Please note this is the most popular attraction in Lhasa, especially among Chinese tour groups, so it can be very crowded and tickets are for a limited time period only.
Deepen your perspective of Lhasa's holy sites with a trip to Ganden or Drepung Monasteries. Alternatively, perhaps visit the Norbulingka, the Summer Palace of Dalai Lamas.
As the majority of the cultural and historical sites in Tibet are temples and monasteries we advise choosing carefully which activities you do in your free time and pacing yourself in order to enjoy the sites we visit as a group as much as possible. Tibetan Buddhism is certainly a fascinating part of the region's culture, however some travellers find that they get 'templed out' quickly as there's just so much information to take in. Take your time, ask our local guide about what interests you most and if you would rather have time on your own instead of joining the group to explore a monastery or temple please let your leader know.
Today we visit the Drak Yerpa Monastery, situated around 30 kilometers to the north east of Lhasa. What's unique about the Drak Yerpa Monastery is the large number of meditation caves in the surrounding hills. Some of the caves even date back to ancient times. Located in the Yerpa valley, overlooking the Kyichu River, the limestone ridges have formed caves that housed sacred mountain retreats, some even possibly predating Buddhism. Monks have begun to return to Yerpa but numbers are strictly controlled by the government, which carries out regular patriotic study sessions. Pack your camera as the views looking out from the Monastery are simply spectacular.
Elevation: 3700m
Today we begin our overland journey which will take us all the way from Lhasa to Kathmandu. For the Tibetan part of the tour we must be accompanied by a local guide according to the local laws. As foreigners are not permitted to travel by public transport in this region, we will have a private van and driver for the journey.

Driving times will vary and any times listed here are approximate only. While much of the infrastructure in Tibet has been improved in recent years it still lacks regular maintenance and travel time will rely heavily on weather and road conditions. The distances that we travel are immense, police speed checks have been implemented to ensure safety of tourist vehicles and most days are long travel days. As we have our own vehicle it may be possible to make some stops along the way for photos, meals or to chat with locals however we need to aim to complete our drives before nightfall for safety reasons.
Our journey to Samye will take at least 5 hours.
Samye sits at over 3600m and is home to the oldest and one of the most enchanting monasteries in Tibet. This is where Buddhism was established and the monastery has withstood centuries of invasion and other threats to remain standing, imposing and immense beside the river.
Explore the magical structures that make up the Samye Monastery with our local guide giving some explanations about the complicated religious symbolism and rituals. Go through the assembly hall with its statues and the Jowo Khang inner chapel. Some of the murals here are amazingly vivid and detailed, although you'll need to purchase a permit to take photos. The entire Samye complex is huge so we'll have some time to explore here on our own or you can continue to walk with our guide. In the afternoon we can make the 30 minute climb to the top of Hepo Ri Hill with prayer flags and a spectacular view.
Stay in the Samye Hotel with private bathroom facilities, please note that hot water is available, but only at certain times.

Accommodation in Tibet outside of Lhasa can be of a very basic standard and with limited options. The region is still hurting from the riots in 2008 which lead to tourism practically being halted for over a year and many hotels and other businesses are still struggling with the financial loss and unable to pay for regular maintenance or sufficient staff to keep things in good condition. Hot water, when available, can be sporadic and in some destinations hot water and showers are not available at all. Many hotels have shared bathroom facilities and unreliable plumbing. Most places we stay will have twin-share rooms although on occasion we'll stay in multishare rooms on a same gender basis.
Elevation: 3980m
The long drive to Gyantse today is spectacular, with unforgettable views of the turquoise coloured Yamdrok Tso Lake from the top of the soaring Kambala Pass (4794m). The road takes us along the lake shore, stopping at the town of Nangartse for lunch before climbing again for more views of glaciers and peaks, including crossing the Karola Pass (4960m). We aim to arrive in Gyantse by late afternoon.
Gyantse is a small agricultural town set at 3950m above sea level, famed for its wool carpets. It has a very traditional feel to it and everyday Tibetan rural life continues here much as it has done for centuries. There are a number of interesting buildings in the town, including the Pelkhor Chode Temple complex, a unique structure built in 1414, with five stories representing the five steps to enlightenment.
As well as many religious sites, Gyantse is a great place to see contemporary Tibetan life in the backstreets where pilgrims, pop music, cows, "cowboys" on motorbikes, kids and monks all mingle in a lively mix of cultures.
Elevation: 3850m
Spend time in the unique Gyantse Kumbum, a layered stupa designed as a kind of 3 dimensional mandala and model of the Buddhist universe, each storey representing a step to enlightenment. If you have a head for heights you can wind your way up the pilgrim circuit, the passages steadily getting narrower as you get higher and the air becoming more and more intoxicating with incense and smoke from yak butter lamps.
Drive to Tibet's second-largest city, Shigatse (90 km, at least 2 hrs).
Shigatse is a busy, buzzing and dusty city that's rapidly modernising.
Travel to Sakya today, (approximately 3-4 hours 150km, elevation: 4280m)
Sakya's monastery and town buildings are quite unique. The monastery is built in medieval 'Mongolian' style and rather than whitewashed, the secular buildings are painted in red and while stripes. With its high imposing walls, the monastery is sometimes nicknamed the "Great Wall of Tibet".
Explore inside the Sakya monastery. At first the halls may seem similar to other monasteries we've visited, but spend some time here and soak in the atmosphere and you'll soon realise that Sakya has a subtle ancient beauty that is unlike any other.
After the monastery tour you can choose to climb the hill through the Tibetan Village to see what's left of the original monastery complex. Make sure you pick your way through the ruins and remaining buildings in a clockwise direction as this is a kora route. You can also hike a little further to visit the friendly nuns at the Nunnery high on the hill overlooking the town.
Tonight for dinner, why not try some spicy food at one of the little restaurants run by Sichuanese immigrants.
With an early start today we travel to Everest National Park, (approximately 5-6 hours, 210km, elevation: 5150m)
Our journey brings us to Rongphu Monastery.
We'll cross the spectacular 5050m Pangla Pass on the way from where on a clear day we have giddy views of the Everest range.
Rongphu Monastery is the highest in the world. On a clear day you may even get a photo of the monastery's chorten against the backdrop of mighty Everest, or Qomolangma as it is called in Tibetan.
A relatively modern monastery by Tibetan standards, Rongphu was built in the early 1900s and originally housed more than 500 monks. Today around 50 monks and nuns remain. Unusually, they share the same prayer hall although they have separate residences. We are received very warmly by the monks and nuns here and it's often possible to join them for their evening prayers.
Stretch our legs and our lungs on the gentle two hour return hike up to Everest Base Camp. Follow the prayer flags up the slope, hope for a clear sunny sky for amazing photos and even text a friend back home when you reach the camp. Yes, there's mobile reception even here!
In the summer months we stay nearby Rongphu in the Tent City that is sent up along the road that leads to Everest Base Camp. Accommodation here is in nomad-style tents. Tents sleep up to seven people with basic mattresses and bedding provided but we recommend using a sleep sheet and preparing some warm clothes as it can get quite cool in the evenings. There are basic pit toilets nearby. For heating there is a yak dung stove in the central open area of each tent. At such close proximity to the tallest mountains in the world the surroundings more than make up for the basic sleeping conditions.
In colder months when the Tent City is not operational we stay in the monastery guesthouse or in a nearby town. Rooms here are quad-share with very simple, shared facilities.
Please note Everest Base Camp can close without any prior notice because of Political issues and/or bad weather. We will always try and give our passengers prior notice where possible, but please prepare yourself that this can happen without any notice. In these cases passengers will stay in Old Tingri where passengers will still get a view of Everest on a clear day.
Today we travel to Old Tingri (Approximately 3.5 hours, 150km, elevation 4,300m).
Old Tingri is often used as a base by mountain climbers preparing to ascend Mount Everest. We will have free time here once we arrive. The town is known for its spectacular views of Mount Everest, Mount Lhotse, Mount Makalu, and Cho Oyu, which comprise four of the six highest mountains in the world. Get your cameras ready and hope for a clear day!
Today we return to bustling Shigatse, approximately 7-8 hours drive, 260km, elevation: 3850m.
Today will be a long traveling day but the scenery will make the journey worthwhile. Plenty of stops along the way for photo opportunities.
Today will be another driving day as we journey back to Lhasa. Driving time will be approximately 6-7 hours, 260km.
Enjoy the spectacular scenery on this drive, with stops along the way for Lunch and to get those last photos of the mountains.
Fly from Lhasa to Kathmandu today. Enjoy an orientation walking tour of this amazing city with your Leader.
Kathmandu is a mixture of ancient architecture and modern development and, with its rich artistic and cultural heritage, it remains the legendary destination it has been for decades. Crowded markets and bazaars are the centre of Nepali life and the narrow streets are home to holy men, monks, bicycles, incense, goats and sacred cows.
As there's not much free time in Kathmandu on this trip we highly recommend you stay a few extra days to explore. Some great ways to spend your time here include:
Check out Durbar Square, the vast plaza opposite the old Royal Palaces chock full of Newari architecture.
See 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.
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.
Head 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).
As this is a combination trip, the composition of your group as well as you leader may change on Day 18.
Today enjoy a free day to further explore Kathmandu. For the travellers joining the trip in Kathmandu there will be a group meeting at 6pm to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Today you’ll head out to the ancient Swayambhunath stupa, known to tourists as the Monkey Temple and 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 also 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. Continue on 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). There are also a number of optional activities to take advantage of if you have the time. Perhaps explore Patan's Durbar Square. The square and its surroundings – including the Royal Palace of Patan and a series of temples – are good specimens of ancient Newari architecture. There's also Bhaktapur, located about 20 km east of Kathmandu, known as the 'City of Devotees' and Nepal's cultural gem. It’s filled with monuments, palaces and temples of elaborate carvings, gilded roofs and open courtyards. Maybe take-off on a flight from Kathmandu airport to see some spectacular mountain scenery. Those who don't have the opportunity to go trekking can get panoramic views of the Himalayas in just an hour.
This morning you’ll take a local bus across to Chitwan National Park (approximately 6 hours), which sits at the base of the Himalayas. UNESCO declared the area a World Heritage site in 1984, and it offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Asia, with rhino, deer, monkeys and a wide array of birdlife including the infamous Nepalese wild chickens all here. Arrive and settle in to your accommodation before jumping on a bike to explore a local village. In the evening, prepare for tomorrow’s exploration of the park with a presentation on the park's history, flora and fauna.

Notes: Please be aware that due to safety concerns we have suspended all wildlife jungle walks within Chitwan National Park.
Today after breakfast, take a walk to the Rapti river from where you’ll be taken by boat to Ghagtai village (approximately 3.5 hours). On foot, enjoy exploring the village full of friendly locals and them some brilliantly coloured bird watching along the Rapti river, which shelters about a quarter of the world's remaining gharial population. This fish-eating crocodile has long been hunted for the supposed aphrodisiac qualities of its snout. Spend the night in a lodge with a view of the river in Ghagtai tonight.

Notes: From October (to June) when jeep safaris resume you will boat part of the way before meeting drivers and touring the national park by vehicle (approximately 3-4 hours), finishing in Ghatgai in the late afternoon. Your accommodation in Ghatgai is simple with basic facilities and food, but plenty of jungle ambience. Toilet and bathroom facilities are shared.
Today you’ll return to your base in Chitwan National Park via Twenty Thousand Lakes (Bis Hajaar Tal). Nepal’s second largest natural wetland, this beautiful reserve area is a maze of small lakes that teems with wildlife. Home to numerous crocodiles, this is one of the park’s best areas for birdwatching, with hundreds of species using it as a migratory route stop. If you’re lucky you might catch some more sights of the Indian Rhino. You’ll return to your accommodation in the afternoon, dropping by the crocodile breeding centre on the way. Then there’ll be time to relax, or to take part in a number of optional activities – including biking, bird watching, cultural performances, canoe rides, or village tours.

Notes: Elephant Performances & Elephant Riding. While we respect each individual’s decisions while travelling, Intrepid does not include elephant rides or unnatural performance activities on any itinerary, and we recommend you bypass these activities should they be offered to you during your stay. Professional wildlife conservation and animal welfare organisations, including the World Animal Protection (formerly the World Society for protection of Animals) advise that contrary to common belief, captive elephants remain wild animals and despite good intentions, unfortunately many venues are unable to provide the appropriate living conditions elephants require and this ultimately impacts their well-being. While there is some merit in the argument that the money that you pay for the activity goes towards keeping the elephants and their mahouts employed, we know that it also fuels demand for elephants to be captured in the wild or captive bred. We thank you for your support in improving the welfare of these majestic creatures.
Leave Chitwan this morning for your final stop in Nepal. Travel by private vehicle to the Nepalese border town of Lumbini (approximately 5 hours). This is no ordinary border town, but the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and one of his four holy places of pilgrimage. It's said in the Parinibbana Sutta that Buddha identified the sites as those of his birth, enlightenment, first discourse and death. You’ll visit the beautiful Ashoka Pillars and hop on cycle rickshaws to the Maya Devi Temple, the actual site where Lord Buddha is thought to have been born.
Today it’s wave goodbye and say Namaste, as you leave Nepal and cross the border into India. Though there’s always something to look at out the windows, it’s a good idea to have some other entertainment on hand for the long day of travelling ahead (approximately 8-10 hours including stops). You will cross at Sunauli and head for Varanasi. The change of scenery from Nepal to India is immediate. Enter Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, and be greeted by holy cows ambling along the highway. This is one of holiest cities around, the ultimate destination for Hindu pilgrims who travel from far and wide to experience this spiritual city. Overflowing with temples, shrines and devotees, Varanasi might not be one of the world's cleanest cities but there’s no doubt it’s one of the most amazing.
Today you’ll experience the sacred River Ganges, lifeblood of millions of Indian people, with a boat cruise through the heart of rural India. Transfer to the Ganges (approximately 2 hours) by small riverboats for the sailing trip. A support crew will be on hand as you sail down this iconic waterway, passing village communities and viewing river life as it goes on around you. The boats are equipped with life jackets, the deck has mattresses and cushions to relax on, and it’s all covered with a cloth roof for sun protection. Arrive at your campsite and relax riverside, read a book or play some cricket. Watch the sun go down and eat a delicious vegetarian meal prepared by the boatmen.

Notes: Tents are twin share with mattresses and blankets provided. It gets cold in winter, so a sleeping bag is recommended if travelling at this time. There is a squat toilet tent, and no showers available. Lunch, dinner and breakfast are provided during you time camping. Water and soft drinks are available to purchase, but no alcohol is allowed here, as the Ganges is a sacred place. 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 communicated 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.
After your Ganges camping adventures, sail back in to Varanasi. Set off by cycle rickshaw 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, and lumbering cows. 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. There’s an option to take a trip to nearby Sarnath, one of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage destinations. The site is where Buddha preached his message of the path to enlightenment and features a number of stupas and museums to explore. Or perhaps visit Ram Nagar Fort, a crumbling 17th century fort and palace on the eastern bank of the Ganges, that’s the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras. This evening soak up the unique magical atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony as the sun sets.
Today starts early with a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges, where you can watch the light gradually illuminate the many ghats and temples along the river as you pass. The rest of the day is free for you to use as you like. You can explore the laneways and alleys behind the ghats, picking up some examples of the excellent local silk industry, or perfecting yoga in this most chakra-balancing of places. This evening you’ll board an overnight train for Jhansi, the nearest junction to Orchha (approximately 15 hours).

Notes: Sleeper trains are usually comfortable and air-conditioned (sometimes fan-cooled), and are a great way to travel long distances and still get maximum time in each place. Most of the time sheets, pillow and blanket are provided but some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Please note you may be sharing with locals in a same/mixed gender situation.
Upon arrival in Jhansi, travel by auto rickshaw through traditional rural Indian landscapes to reach the beautiful town of Orchha on the banks of the Betwa River (approximately 45 minutes). Here you’ll have the opportunity to uncover a very different side of India. Initially a hunting area, Orchha has changed very little over the centuries. Despite its small size it is filled with many beautiful temples and palaces, built here in the 16th century by the ruling Bundelas clan. Here you'll explore the palaces and temples scattered across the peaceful countryside, starting with an orientation walk in rural areas untouched by modern life and meet the very friendly locals. This evening witness the Ram Raja Temple puja (prayer) ceremony at the shrine at the heart of the city.
After breakfast you will visit the stunning Orchha Palace, built by Bir Sing Deo for his friend Jehangir, the great Mughal ruler. Take note of the grand Iwans (domes) that were built large enough to allow the movement of war elephants. Later today you’ll get a closer experience of local flavours at a cooking demonstration by our local friends. You’ll also make a stop at Taragram, one of our Responsible Tourism projects. Taragram is a paper making factory that enables local tribal women to work outside the realm usually afforded to them. The paper is crafted from wood pulp and recycled clothing.
Agra might not be the prettiest city in the world, but the minute you see its iconic sites that won’t matter one bit. After arriving early into the city this morning by train (approximately 5 hours) you’ll head straight to the most recognisable sight in India. It doesn’t matter who you are, the Taj Mahal will exceed all your expectations with the morning light shimmering off its white marble surface. Best known as a monument to love and loss, the 17th century Taj is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture, surrounded by trimmed English gardens. The highlights keep coming as you take a motorised rickshaw tour, a truly fun and Intrepid way to see the monuments of Agra. The city is also home to one of the finest looking forts in India. you’ll enter the dark red sandstone stronghold of Agra Fort - part fortress, part palace and part prison - and search through throne rooms and tiny but incredibly decorated mosques. Later, if you’ve got the energy, you can also visit Akbar's Mausoleum – a beautiful sandstone and marble tomb built for the greatest of the Mughal emperors.
It’s back on the rails today as you take a day train to India’s capital (approximately 4 hours), sharing the journey with locals as the chai wallahs make their way down the carriages. In Delhi, watch one of the world's greatest shows unfold as people, traffic, cows and kids all work together in a kind of organised chaos around historical sites from different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars. This is the place to grab a chai, put your feet up and let it all soak in. Please note that due to train arrival times there may not be any free time in Delhi at the end of this tour.

Notes: We advise booking additional accommodation to extend your stay. If you stay a couple of extra days there are plenty of things to see and do. Make a visit to the Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest mosque and one of its most impressive buildings, or to the World Heritage-listed Mughal masterpiece of Humayun's Tomb, the first garden tomb in India, built in 1570. You could wonder at the tall brick minaret of Qutub Minar, which was started all back in the 12th century, or explore the mighty Red Fort of Delhi. Part palace and part fort, it played an integral part in the history of the city with former residents ranging from royal families to British soldiers.
Your adventure through India and Nepal ends after breakfast this morning and you're free to leave the accommodation at any time. If you'd prefer to stay on in Delhi a little bit longer, then additional accommodation can be booked prior to travel (subject to availability). An Urban Adventure is a perfect way to finish your time here.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners
Transport
Private Bus, Public bus, Overnight sleeper train, Metro, Taxi, Train, 4x4 Safari Vehicle, Auto rickshaw, Cycle rickshaw
Accommodation
Guesthouse (4 nights), Hotel (18 nights), Overnight sleeper train (3 nights), Permanent Tented Camp (3 nights), Lodge (2 nights), Basic Camping (1 night)
Included activities
  • Informal Chinese language lesson
  • Great Wall - Mutianyu Section
  • Lhasa - Tibetan language lesson
  • Lhasa - Jokhang Temple
  • Lhasa - Potala Palace
  • Lhasa - Sera Monastery
  • Lhasa - Momo (Tibetan dumplings) Cooking Class
  • Lhasa - Drak Yerpa Monastery
  • Samye - Samye Monastery
  • Shigatse - Tashilhunpo Monastery
  • Sakya - Sakya Monastery
  • Everest NP - Rongphu Monastery
  • Everest NP - Base Camp visit
  • Welcome Meeting
  • Kathmandu - Swayambhunath Temple
  • Kathmandu - Bodhnath Stupa
  • Kathmandu - Pashupatinath Temple
  • Chitwan - Canoe safari, Bird Watching walk or Jeep safari
  • Lumbini - Ashoka Pillars, Maya Devi Temple & Heritage Park
  • River Ganges - Overnight Boat Trip
  • Varanasi - Old City Walking Tour
  • Varanasi - Sunset Candle Flower Ceremony
  • Varanasi - Sunrise Boat Ride
  • Orchha - Ram Raja Temple puja (prayer) ceremony
  • Orchha - Orchha Palace
  • Orchha - Cooking demonstration
  • Orchha - Taragram visit
  • Agra - Taj Mahal
  • Agra - Agra Fort

Dates

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For information about altitude sickness click here


Important notes

1. In order for us to apply for your Tibet entry permit and purchase your train ticket to Lhasa you must provide a scanned, colour copy of the personal details page of your passport and Chinese visa to your booking agent no later than 30 days prior to the start date of your trip.
2. Please be aware that in recent years there have been times when restrictions on nationalities being able to travel on specific departures have been implemented or Tibet has been closed to foreign tourists without any prior warning.
3. Due to the demands of travelling at high altitudes a Passenger Self Assessment Form is required for this trip.
4. Please make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
5. Overnight train accommodation on this tour is in 6-berth ‘hard-sleeper’ class. Bedding is provided and wash basins and toilet facilities (usually one with a toilet seat and one squat-style in each compartment) are available on all trains, but there are no showers or baths.
6. Please note while traveling through mainland China you will not be able to access some popular internet websites.
It’s important to let your family and friends know that you might not be able to stay in touch over your usual methods, be it – social media or email. Or let them know if you have set up a new email address in which you can access in mainland China.
The Chinese Government control and restrict certain websites. Websites on the blocked list could change at any time, any site could be restricted at any moment. Here are some of the most popular websites around the world that are blocked in China: Google, Dropbox, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, WordPress, LinkedIn,Yahoo Hong Kong, Yahoo Taiwan, Wikipedia and many more.
7. NEPAL STRIKES:
Kathmandu Valley-wide transport bandhs (strikes) can be called at very short notice. When these bandhs are in place the Nepal Tourism Board and the Nepal Tourist Police run Shuttle Bus Services between various hotels in Kathmandu and the domestic and international airports; this service costs approx. 300 rupees person.
8. ** IMPORTANT ITINERARY CHANGE FOR 2016 TRIPS **
As a result of the Nepal earthquake that occurred in April 2015, the Kathmandu-Tibet highway near Lamosanghu remains closed. Unfortunately word from our local suppliers and authorities is that this road will remain closed for the majority of the 2016 season. This means that no overland travel between these two countries is possible in 2016. All CBSXC trips will be re-routed to fly between Lhasa to Kathmandu resulting in an increase in cost. Trip Notes have been updated to reflect the new itinerary.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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