Tour India and Nepal from the Ganges to the Himalayas

From the sacred River Ganges to the summits of the Himalayas, tour India and Nepal on a trip where adventure and discovery await. From the most exciting places to visit in Delhi to the towering peaks surrounding Kathmandu, discover the spirit, culture and nature of this fascinating region. Visit the Taj Mahal of Agra, experience the chaos and colour of India's villages and marvel at the daily pilgrimage to the ghats of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges. Delve into the history and religion of these two fascinating countries as you enjoy the highlights of India and Nepal.

Start
New Delhi, India
Finish
Kathmandu, Nepal
Countries
India,
Nepal
Themes
Explorer
Code
HHSEC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
283kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Float among the clouds over Jaipur and watch an Indian sunrise from the basket of a hot air balloon
  • The Taj Mahal is not only an sumptuous masterpiece of Indian architecture, but also a truly meaningful stop on any traveller’s journey
  • Overlooking the picturesque scene of Moata Lake, the monumental Amber Fort is one sight that will forever be under India’s protection
  • Experience authentic Rajasthani luxury with a heritage stay at the lavish Bhanwar Vilas in Karauli
  • Old and New Delhi fuse to create a city that pays homage to past empires, while wrestling with its modern identity
  • For those with limited time, long travel days are kept to a minimum, which is perfect for visiting several icons of northern India

Itinerary

Namaste. Welcome to India. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. Perhaps visit the World Heritage-listed Humayun's Tomb, Qutub Minar or Red Fort of Delhi if you have any spare time.



Notes: 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).
Join your group leader on an excursion through Old Delhi. Ride the city’s metro system, and then hop in a rickshaw to the once water-filled square of Chandni Chowk. Discover the Jama Masjid, Delhi’s oldest mosque, before learning about the history of the Sikh religion at the Sheeshganj Gurudwara.
Travel by express train into Rajasthan and on to its capital, Jaipur (approximately five hours). A friendly, busy town crammed with palaces and bazaars full of jewellery, textiles and folk-based arts, Jaipur is a favourite for many travellers. Visit the Jai Mahal and the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), then head over to Jaipur's Royal City Palace and explore its extravagant rooms and apartments. Later, discover one of the five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur.
Choose to take an early morning hot air balloon experience, often a highlight of visiting Jaipur. Ballooning can be done over Jaipur on the morning of day four between September and June. For additional information, please see the Important Notes section of the Essential Trip Information. In the afternoon around 2.30 pm, visit the Amber Fort. Set on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake, the fort is an authentic example of Rajput architecture and the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) is one of its more spectacular buildings.
Leave the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur behind and drive to Karauli (approximately 3.5 hours). This delightful town was founded in 1348 and is packed with rural ambience and traditional temples. Take a guided walk around the Old Quarter, interacting with friendly locals and learning about rural Indian life off the tourist trail. Be sure to visit the eclectic market stalls along the way and sample some seasonal local sweets made from Indian ingredients, including petha (pumpkin), jiggery (organic sugar), peanut brittle and gazak (sesame seeds).
Travelling on to Agra, we stop en route at the deserted Mughal kingdom of Fatehpur Sikri (approx 4 hrs).
The magnificent deserted Mughal city of Fatehpur Sikri was built by Emperor Akbar in 1569, but was abandoned after 15 years due to the scarcity of water. A highlight of the settlement is Jama Masjid, a striking mosque featuring elements of both Persian and Hindu design. The main entrance of the mosque is the impressive 54-metre high Buland Darwaza, the Gate of Victory, constructed to commemorate Akbar's military victory in Gujarat.
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 writer Rabindranath Tagore) lives up to all expectations.
See Akbar's Mausoleum - a beautiful sandstone and marble tomb built for the greatest of the Mughal emperors.
Agra is also home to one of the finest looking forts in India. This morning 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, travel by air-conditioned train from Agra to Jhansi (approximately 3 hrs). 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, build here in the 16th century by the ruling Bundelas clan. When you arrive, take 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.
Today you'll 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. 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.
Today you'll get to soak up the unique atmosphere of Orchha, and excitingly you'll get to soak up the local flavours too. Learn about the local cuisine, it's ingredients and how it's prepared, in a cooking demonstration with our local friends. Taste the unforgettable results. This evening you’ll return to Jhansi and board an overnight train to Allahabad (approximately 9 hours), the starting point for your Ganges boat trip.

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.
Arrive in Allahabad and visit Anand Bhavan - the ancestral home of the Nehru family - which witnessed several history-making events during the Indian freedom struggle.
Transfer to the River Ganges (approx. 2 hours) and our small riverboats for the sailing trip. A full support crew will be on hand as we sail downriver, passing village communities and viewing river life as it goes on around us. Our crew will cook us delicious meals and we spend the 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 sacred river, so we'll be served vegetarian food and alcohol is not permitted.

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.
Leaving our boats at Chunar, 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 there is no doubt it is one of the world's most amazing.
Spend the evening soaking up the magical atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony, on a Ganges river cruise as the sun sets.
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. 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 with a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges, passing the many ghats and temples along the river.
Visit the Ram Nagar Fort 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.
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. 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. Alternatively the day can be spent exploring 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.
Travel from Varanasi to the Nepalese border, via Gorakhpur (approx 10 hrs). For groups of less than 5 we travel by car and for bigger groups by bus.
On entering Nepal, 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.
Travel on cycle rickshaws to the Maya Devi Temple, the site where Lord Buddha is believed to have been born.
Continue your journey by private vehicle through the Terai to Chitwan National Park (approx 5 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 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. Learn more about them when you drop by the crocodile breeding centre. 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, when 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Take a trip to Bhaktapur, 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.
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).
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.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
4 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 4 dinners
Transport
Auto rickshaw, Canoe, Car, Cycle rickshaw, Jeep, Metro, Overnight sleeper train, Private vehicle, Shuttle Bus, Train
Accommodation
Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night), Guesthouse (1 night), Heritage Property (3 nights), Hotel (10 nights), Lodge (2 nights), Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Included activities
  • Delhi - Old Delhi Walking Tour
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort
  • Karauli - Village Walk
  • Fatehpur Sikri
  • Agra - Taj Mahal
  • Orchha - Orientation walk
  • Orchha - Ram Raja Temple puja (prayer) ceremony
  • Orchha - Orchha Palace
  • Orchha - Taragram visit
  • Orchha - Cooking demonstration
  • River Ganges - Overnight Boat Trip
  • Varanasi - Sunset Candle Flower Ceremony
  • Varanasi - Old City Walking Tour
  • Varanasi - Sunrise Boat Ride
  • Lumbini - Ashoka Pillars, Maya Devi Temple & Heritage Park
  • Chitwan - Village Bike Tour
  • Chitwan - Canoe safari, Bird Watching walk or Jeep safari
  • Kathmandu - Swayambhunath Temple
  • Kathmandu - Bodhnath Stupa
  • Kathmandu - Pashupatinath Temple

Dates

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip. See under the Single Traveller section of your Trip Notes for more information.
2. This trip crosses from India to Nepal on day 13
3. This is a combination trip, the make up of your group and your tour leader may change.

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.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Highlights of India and Nepal trips score an average of 4.71 out of 5 based on 7 reviews in the last year.

Highlights of India and Nepal , April 2016

Highlights of India and Nepal , February 2016