Charming chaos and perfect quiet from Ganges to 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
Delhi, India
Finish
Kathmandu, Nepal
Destinations
India, Nepal
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
HHSEC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Rise in the cool half-light of dawn and watch the sunrise while you glide over the River Ganges on a small riverboat.

  • Stay in a riverside jungle lodge in Chitwan National Park, then embark on a safari in search of rhinos, Bengal tigers, monkeys and more.

  • Join pilgrims during a visit to the birthplace of Gautama Buddha in Lumbini, where evidence of a shrine dated before 550 BC was uncovered in 2013.

  • Enjoy a relaxing evening at a community homestay in the Madi Valley, a lush Nepalese valley bordered by forest and river.

  • Immerse yourself in the holy city of Varanasi, exploring the Old City by day and soaking up the atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony as the sun sets.

Is this trip right for you?

  • Old Delhi is an exciting place encounter local life, but be aware is will be busy, and during the walking tour you’ll need to navigate people, tight spaces and crowded walkways.

  • Rajasthan can reach extremely high temperatures in the summer. While we aim to do our walking tours early in the morning when it’s cooler, remember to keep hydrated and to bring a hat, sunscreen, a long-sleeved shirt and anything else that will protect you from the sun.

  • Part of travelling with Intrepid means respecting local cultures and sensibilities. That way you get the most out of your interactions with local people and environments. We visit a number of temples on this trip and you will need to have clothes that cover the arms and pants/skirts that go past the knees in order to enter them.

  • In order to see as much as possible in the time allotted, this trip involves some long journeys by both private vehicle and public train. Please read the itinerary carefully for estimates.

  • From December to February, delays are more common, especially in the north of the country due to fog. It’s not uncommon for trains to be delayed for up to 12 hours. On occasion your trip will may to be rerouted to allow for these delays. Please see the ‘Transport’ section of the Essential Trip Information for more information on train travel in India.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2019 to 31 Dec 2019.
View the 2020 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. Perhaps visit the World Heritage-listed Humayun's Tomb, Qutub Minar or Red Fort of Delhi if you arrive early today. After the meeting, head out for an optional meal with your group at a local restaurant nearby.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Delhi - Humayun's Tomb - INR500
  • Delhi - Red Fort - INR500
  • Delhi - Gandhi's Delhi Urban Adventure - INR2700
  • Delhi - City Food Crawl Urban Adventure - INR3500
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
To book an Urban Adventure before you meet your tour leader, go to https://www.urbanadventures.com/
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Delhi - Old Delhi walking & rickshaw tour
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel by private vehicle into Rajasthan and on to its capital, Jaipur (approximately 5 - 6 hours). A friendly, busy city crammed with palaces and bazaars full of jewellery, textiles and folk arts, Jaipur is a favourite for many travellers. Our suggestions are to stop by 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jaipur - Walking & market tour
Optional Activities
  • Jaipur - Bollywood Movie at Raj Mandir Cinema - INR400
  • Jaipur - Jantar Mantar Observatory - INR200
  • Jaipur - City Palace - INR600
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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. Mid afternoon 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort
Optional Activities
  • Jaipur - Balloon Safari - USD260
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Leave the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur behind and drive to Karauli (approximately 5-6 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), jaggery (organic sugar), peanut brittle and gazak (sesame seeds). Stay in a restored heritage property tonight where dinner is included.
Accommodation
  • Heritage Property (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Karauli - Village walk
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Special Information
Due to the popularity of this trip we have added extra departures: February 8th, 2019 and March 15th, 2019. Please note that these departures will not be visiting Karauli. Instead they will stay in the ancient walled town of Suroth and stay in the Suroth Mahal, a stunning 800 year old Rajput palace.
After arriving into the Agra today by one of India's express air-conditioned trains (approximately 3 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. Later, you'll also visit Akbar's Mausoleum – a beautiful sandstone and marble tomb built for the greatest of the Mughal emperors.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Agra - Taj Mahal
  • Agra - Akbar's Mausoleum
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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 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. This evening witness the Ram Raja Temple puja (prayer) ceremony at the shrine at the heart of the city. Stay in a restored heritage property tonight.
Accommodation
  • Heritage Property (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Orchha - Orientation walk
  • Orchha - Ram Raja Temple ceremony
  • Agra - Agra Fort
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
See our guide to Orchha here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/orchha-india-guide/
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.
Accommodation
  • Heritage Property (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Orchha - Orchha Palace
  • Orchha - Taragram visit
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today you'll get to soak up more of 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 15 hours), the starting point for your Ganges boat trip.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Orchha - Cooking demonstration
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Special Information
Read more about food and cooking on Orchha here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/cooking-demo-connections-india/

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 transfer to the Ganges (approximately 2 hours) by small riverboats for the sailing trip. You'll experience the sacred River Ganges, lifeblood of millions of Indian people, with a boat cruise through the heart of rural India. 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.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • River Ganges - Boat trip & camping
Meals Included
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
ents 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.
Leaving your boats at Chunar, transfer by private vehicle to Varanasi (approximately 2 hours). 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, there’s no doubt it’s one of the most amazing cities. Set off on a walking tour of 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. This evening soak up the unique magical atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony as the sun sets.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Varanasi - Sunset candle ceremony
  • Varanasi - Old City tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Varanasi - Sunrise boat trip
Optional Activities
  • Varanasi - Ram Nagar Fort - INR150
  • Varanasi - Sarnath day trip (entry only) - INR250
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today it’s wave goodbye to India and say namaste to Nepal, as you cross the border at Gorakhpur. 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). For groups of less than 5 you will travel by car and for bigger groups by bus. On entering Nepal, take a private bus to your hotel in Lumbini (approximately 1 hour). 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Lumbini - Heritage Park
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Continue your journey by private vehicle through the Terai to Intrepid Foundation’s project, the Madi Valley Homestay (4.5 hours). This project provides sustainable incomes and encourages the communities living on the fringes of Chitwan National Park to conserve the wilderness and wildlife around them. On our arrival, the local men and women, dressed proudly in their traditional Magar attire, will be there to greet you and welcome you into their homes. In the evening enjoy a cultural performance by the locals where they demonstrate one of the oldest ethnic dance forms of the Magar community; the Maruni Naach.

MONSOON ALTERNATE ITINERARY
Over monsoon season (May to August) the roads to Madi Valley can sometimes be rendered impassable due to swollen rivers and flooding. If you are travelling over this period there is a high chance your group will travel straight to Chitwan National Park today. After arriving at our lodge we will explore the local village by bike. In the evening, prepare for tomorrow’s exploration of the park with a presentation on the park's history, flora and fauna.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chitwan - Village Bike Tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the morning you will be given a guided village tour. After, try your luck fishing in one of the ponds around the village. Depending on weather and road conditions, you will also have the option to take a short drive to Baikunthe Tal where you can trek to a beautiful waterfall, sacred to the local people. After saying your goodbyes to your Madi Valley hosts, you’ll head to your lodge in Chitwan National Park via Twenty Thousand Lakes (Bis Hajaar Tal) by private vehicle (2 hours). 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 spot an Indian rhino.
Chitwan National Park 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. 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.

MONSOON ALTERNATE ITINERARY
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). Enjoy some brilliantly-coloured-bird watching along the Rapti river and a picnic lunch. Keep your eyes peeled for gharials - 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 guesthouse with a view of the river and plenty of jungle ambience in Ghagtai tonight. Toilet and bathroom facilities are shared here.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chitwan - Canoe trip
  • Chitwan - Canoe safari, Bird Watching walk or Jeep safari
  • Chitwan NP - Park entry
  • Chitwan - Crocodile breeding centre
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Special Information
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.
After breakfast, take a walk to the Rapti river from where you’ll be taken on a boat/jeep safari through the national park. Enjoy some brilliantly-coloured-bird watching along the Rapti river and a picnic lunch. Keep your eyes peeled for gharials - 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.
Once back at your accommodation there’ll be time to relax, or to take part in a number of optional activities offered by the park.

MONSOON ALTERNATE ITINERARY
Today you’ll return to your lodge 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 sight of the Indian rhino. Once back at your accommodation there’ll be time to relax, or to take part in a number of optional activities offered by the park.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
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).
Today you'll journey by bus from Chitwan to Nepal's capital, Kathmandu (approximately 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. Perhaps head out into Durbar Square, in front of the old royal palace and home to numerous beautiful temples, and browse the stalls of merchant's wares.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kathmandu - Durbar Square - NPR1000
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you’ll head out to the ancient Swayambhunath Temple, 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, rich in Buddhist symbolism, and you can observe Buddhist monks in prayer in the monasteries surrounding the stupa. You will also visit Pashupatinath, the most famous Hindu temple in the country, located on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. Here you will see Hindu holy men (sadhus) meditating and pilgrims bathing. There are also a number of optional activities to take advantage of if you have the time, including our Urban Adventures. 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kathmandu - Swayambhunath Temple
  • Kathmandu - Bodhnath Stupa
  • Kathmandu - Pashupatinath Temple
Optional Activities
  • Kathmandu - Early Morning Everest Scenic Flight - USD220
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Your adventure through Nepal and India ends today and you're free to leave the accommodation at any time.
Optional Activities
  • Kathmandu - Rickshaw Night Explorer Urban Adventure - USD68
  • Kathmandu - Panorama Hike Urban Adventure - USD57
  • Kathmandu - Kathmandu Living Urban Adventure - USD66
  • Kathmandu - Exploring Patan & Bhaktapur Urban Adventure - USD97
  • Kathmandu - In Focus: Cook in Kathmandu Urban Adventure - USD93
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

3 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 3 dinners

Transport

Auto rickshaw, Canoe, Cycle rickshaw, Jeep, Metro, Overnight sleeper train, Private vehicle, Shuttle Bus, Train, Van

Accommodation

Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night), Heritage Property (1 night), Hotel (10 nights), Lodge (2 nights), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night), Homestay (1 night)

Included activities

  • Delhi - Old Delhi walking & rickshaw tour
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
  • Jaipur - Walking & market tour
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort
  • Karauli - Village walk
  • Agra - Taj Mahal
  • Agra - Akbar's Mausoleum
  • Orchha - Orientation walk
  • Orchha - Ram Raja Temple ceremony
  • Agra - Agra Fort
  • Orchha - Orchha Palace
  • Orchha - Taragram visit
  • Orchha - Cooking demonstration
  • River Ganges - Boat trip & camping
  • Varanasi - Sunset candle ceremony
  • Varanasi - Old City tour
  • Varanasi - Sunrise boat trip
  • Lumbini - Heritage Park
  • Chitwan - Village Bike Tour
  • Chitwan - Canoe trip
  • Chitwan - Canoe safari, Bird Watching walk or Jeep safari
  • Chitwan NP - Park entry
  • Chitwan - Crocodile breeding centre
  • Kathmandu - Swayambhunath Temple
  • Kathmandu - Bodhnath Stupa
  • Kathmandu - Pashupatinath Temple

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available for this trip and is applicable for all nights with the exception of the overnight train.
2.Hot air balloon flights are operated by Sky Waltz in Jaipur. Flights operate from September 1st to April 31st and last approximately 60 mins. Return transfers, tea and coffee plus light refreshments and a certificate of flight are included in the cost. You can register your interest and pay your tour leader at your joining meeting on day 1 of your trip. Payment must be made by cash in either INR/AUD/USD/GBP only and is USD$260pp (subject to change). Flights are subject to availability and weather conditions (tickets are fully refundable in case of bad weather).
3. As this is a combination trip, the composition of your group, as well as the group leader, may change on Day 7.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides 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 Essential Trip Information

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