Following in sacred steps on a journey from India to Nepal  

written by Allira Potter December 22, 2023
a boat on the water at night in Varanasi

Discovering holy sites, temples and venerated traditions while travelling from Delhi to Kathmandu marked the experience of a lifetime for Allira Potter.

Varanasi was one of the stops planned for the India component of our group adventure with Intrepid. This city is among the world’s oldest and holiest and calls out to pilgrims from every corner. It felt like we were all making our way to this place to experience some form of spiritual enlightenment.

I had a really meaningful moment there with the sunset flower ceremony. It was really special to me because it’s a way to honour loved ones who have passed. We placed flowers in the revered waters of the Ganges River and sent blessings to honour their spirit. This experience felt quite overwhelming as I sent nothing but blessings to my mum, who sadly passed away when I was 17.

I would like to think that this trip to India and Nepal was my Eat, Pray, Love moment for 2023. A lot of travellers like myself love that movie. Having hit a few mental health roadblocks during this year and as a spiritual person focused on wellness, I wanted to utilise my trip in a way to heal. 

Arriving in Delhi was an experience that threw me into the deep end of sights, smells and sounds. After a while, I got accustomed to the honking rickshaws, cars and taxis, the street food cooking on the side of the road and the stream of colours flowing through the streets.

Agra really stole my heart. It served as a gateway to learn more about the history of India’s emperors, princes and princesses. Speaking of princesses, I remember seeing that famous picture of Princess Dianna when I was younger and thinking, I really want to go to the Taj Mahal someday. Sitting in the same spot as that image was a very surreal experience.

After this, we headed south towards Orchha. From there, we would board an overnight train to the River Ganges, where we would be camping before heading to Varanasi. 

I knew that being on the River Ganges would be a profound experience, given the history of this hallowed place and the ceremonies that take place on the river beds. Locals took us down the river and cooked yummy food, making us feel welcome. It was such a highlight of the trip and a beautiful moment before we headed to Varanasi.

Varanasi feels like a maze. The narrow alleyways are crammed with yummy food and shops selling silk scarves, wooden toys and sweets, among other goodies. 

It’s also home to 3000 temples and shrines, and we saw people embracing the atmosphere by taking part in ancient rituals and traditions. As someone spiritual, I found it grounding to be surrounded by thousands of devotees flocking to the area for whatever personal reasons. Although the number of people varies based on the season and events, in 2022, Varanasi had more than 72 million local and tourist visitors.

This city was the last stop in India before we made an epic bus trip across the border to Nepal. We arrived in Lumbini, the birthplace of Siddharta Gautama, better known as Buddha.

The first thing I noticed was the energy was much calmer. The smells were different. It felt like I was in a rainforest and the houses and buildings were covered in prayer flags. I only knew a little about Lumbini, but after exploring the town to learn more about its sacred history, I fell in love. 

On our first night in Nepal, we were lucky enough to have a homestay with the local indigenous community. Our host family welcomed us into their home, and then we ate homemade bread, rice, curry and cooked vegetables. I had no idea the universe had sunset views and learning about village life lined up for me in 2023. 

As the days rolled on in Nepal, we visited Chitwan National Park – a World-Heritage-listed reserve renowned for its nature and wildlife. Our beautiful lodge accommodation made me feel like I was on a yoga retreat. During the days spent here, we went on a village bike tour, a riverboat ride and a safari at sunset searching for rhinos. We were lucky enough to see seven rhinos that day.

Our final stop on this epic trip was a visit to Kathmandu, which was my favourite spot. I was unexpectedly surprised by the bustling cafes, colourful buildings and friendly faces. 

I couldn’t have hoped for a better way to end the trip of a lifetime filled with positive, eye-opening experiences that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I walked away feeling so humbled, grateful and rooted.

Allira was a guest of Intrepid on the Delhi to Kathmandu trip. You can follow more of Allira’s adventures on Instagram.

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