We leave Kathmandu early in the morning and head towards Pokhara. After leaving the Kathmandu valley, the road winds its way along the Trisuli Valley and we will have superb views of the mountains as we follow the river west. There is a chance to go rafting on the Trisuli River (optional), which is moderate and offers the best introduction to rafting in Nepal. Those who want to participate will meet the raft guides a couple of hours after leaving Kathmandu. Each raft holds 8 people. Life jackets and helmets are provided and there will be a safety briefing. There will be about three hours rafting with grade 2-4 rapids. We stop for lunch on the river side and later we will continue on to Bandipur. Situated at 1030 metres this picturesque town is nestled in the Himalayan foothills and has wonderful panoramic views of the Annapurna Range. Full of traditional Newari architecture it is a beautiful place to explore and soak up the tranquil atmosphere. There are numerous temples, caves and shrines - the perfect retreat after busy Kathmandu. Those not rafting will drive directly to Bandipur and will be there by lunchtime. The afternoon is free to explore the town.
Today we explore the surrounding area of Bandipur. This picturesque town is nestled in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal, lying above the main road that connects Kathmandu to Pokhara. Situated on a hilltop it has maintained its traditional atmosphere and boasts a mix of history, culture, architecture and spectacular panoramic views of the entire Annapurna range, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, Langtang and the Marsyangdi Valley. Bandipur was once a prosperous trading centre, and its charming buildings with their Newari-style facades and shuttered windows reflect its past glory. It was originally a Magar village settled in the early 19th century by Newars from Bhaktapur because of its malaria-free location, and it became an important stop on the India to Tibet trade route. Along with their trading skills and dialect the Newars brought their rich cultural heritage and architecture, which still defines the current Bandipur. After breakfast we will have a choice of walks. You can either walk to Ramkot which is a typical Magar village with traditional round houses, untouched by modern development (4 hours round trip) or walk to the biggest cave yet discovered in Nepal, Siddha Cave (4 hours round trip). This is also an easy hike. For either walk we will take a picnic lunch from the hotel with us.
We rejoin the main road and head west to Pokhara passing beautiful scenery on the way. Set in a beautiful valley near Phewa Tal, Pokhara has a magnificent backdrop; the mighty Annapurnas and Machhapuchhare, one of the most distinctive of the Himalayan peaks. We should reach Pokhara by lunchtime where the afternoon is free to explore its lakes, temples, traditional bazaar and array of handicraft shops.
We have three day walks around Pokhara in the foothills of the Annapurnas. All walks are optional and for those not wishing to participate your leader will suggest alternative activities. This morning we drive out of Pokhara to Khare from where we walk through lush forests to Australian Camp. From here, we should have magnificent views of the Annapurnas. We then head to the neatly laid out terraces of Dhampus. This village is set on a ridge with magnificent views of the Annapurnas. Machhapuchhare, the 'Fishtail' mountain can be seen throughout the day as it sits in the middle of the range and has a very distinctive shape. Considered holy this mountain cannot be climbed by anyone. Our bus will meet us here for the drive back to Pokhara.
We pack up this morning. The bus will take our luggage (and anyone not wanting to walk) to the mountain Lodge. We will take a short boat trip across the lake (approx half an hour). We then walk up to the Japanese Peace Pagoda, set on a hill overlooking the lake. From here it's a short walk to the to mountain Lodge, where we stay for two nights. This quiet guest house looks out on to the lake. With the Annapurnas as a backdrop this makes for a perfect setting to sit out on the veranda and enjoy the sunset and sunrise.
We have a full day to walk further up the ridge and explore the local villages.
We drive to Chitwan, where we spend the next two nights. The most popular way of seeing animals is on elephant back early in the morning. From the elephant we should see the Indian one-horned rhinoceros and several species of deer. We also make trips along the Rapti River in a dugout canoe, looking for crocodile and observing the abundant bird life. The safari lodge has knowledgeable and helpful staff, who accompany us on all the excursions. The lodge has a small complex of two-roomed huts with attached bathrooms and a separate communal dining/bar area.
Elephant rides, river trips and jungle walks in and around the park.
We drive back to Kathmandu after breakfast arriving at our hotel in the afternoon.
The day is free for sightseeing in Kathmandu. You may wish to visit Durbar Square in the heart of the old city where the old Royal Palace, with its intricate woodcarving is located. Outside is Kumari Chowk, home of the Kumari, the young girl who is revered as a living goddess. The whole area is a maze of temples and images. Alternatively you may wish to visit the monkey temple at Swayambunath, one of the largest Buddhist Stupas in the world at Bodnath, or the most important Hindu temple in the valley at Pashupatinath. Various sightseeing tours can be booked and paid for locally. For more details of these activities please refer to the Optional Excursions section.