Lumbini, birthplace of the Buddha, has been an important centre of pilgrimage for Buddhists and Hindus for 2 500 years. It lies in the Terai region of southern Nepal, not far from the famed Chitwan National Game Reserve. Our nine day tour will showcase these World Heritage landmarks and includes visits to rural Bandipur and urban Pokhara south of the high Himalayas.
From Kathmandu, we drive west through the forested Middle Hill region of rural Nepal, passed farming communities and along rivers that rise in Tibet. Pokhara is our second largest city and holiday playground. It lies on the banks of glorious Lake Phewa beneath the 50km Annapurna Range (our most popular trekking region). We spend a day exploring the city, the Mountain Museum and visit the Tibetan Cultural Centre. A Himalayan sunrise, with three of the fourteen 8 000m peaks on show, will be celebrated (twice) from high viewpoints.
The drive to Lumbini introduces the famed Terai or lowland region of Nepal/India. This is the breadbasket and industrial heart of the country. The cities are not large; the majority of the population still live in rural villages. The Terai has a tropical monsoon climate and is generally humid. Temperatures are most comfortable from mid October to January. Most of its annual 2 500m of rain falls from June – September.
West of Lumbini is one of the few remaining concentrated stands of true jungle (that once stretched the length of northern India; now removed for farmland on poor soils). Chitwan jealously guards its forests and grasslands: a surrounding buffer zone ensures its future. The park is rich in animal and bird life; including Bengal tigers, one horned rhinos, Indian elephants etc. Breeding stations in the buffer zone are increasing stocks of endangered species – released into the park. Enjoy a three hour game ‘drive’ on an elephant, a canoe trip to see crocodiles, a guided jungle walk. The local Tharu people will entertain you over dinner with a cultural show. Conclude with a guided early morning birding walk before driving back to Kathmandu.
Day 01:Arrival: Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport (1 300m/4 260ft). We will meet and transfer you to your hotel.
Day 02:A Day in the City: Kathmandu Valley Sightseeing Tour.
Day 03:Kathmandu – Bandipur (1 500 m/4 920ft), Bandipur village walk, 4-5 hrs drive
Day 04:Bandipur – Pokhara (880/2 900ft): Pokhara Valley Sightseeing Tour, 3 hrs drive
Day 05:Himalayan sunrise from Sarangkot. Pokhara – Lumbini (150m/500ft), 5-6 hrs drive
Day 06:Mayadevi Temple Puja visit, Lumbini – Chitwan National Park (100-800m/330-2700ft), 3-4 hrs drive
Day 07:Chitwan National Park activities: Elephant ride, Canoe trip, Jungle walk. Dinner and Tharu Cultural Show
Day 08:Early bird watching walk. Chitwan – Kathmandu (1 300m/4 260ft), 4-5 hrs drive
Day 09:Final Departure: Transfer to Tribhuvan International Airport for your flight to your next destination.
After completing passport, immigration and visa requirements, we will meet you outside the terminal building (look for your name board) and transfer you to your hotel: afternoon free. Evening: a welcome dinner, introduction to your guide and a briefing on the trek with a check on necessities. Overnight at hotel.
Sadly, many of our architectural treasures were damaged in the recent earthquakes: but these sites still have much to offer.
Take a day tour to five of the Kathmandu Valley’s cultural world heritage sites: Swayambhunath, the famed “monkey temple”; the city’s historical Durbar Square with ancient temples, unique art and architecture, plus the chance to see the Kumari (living goddess); Patan’s Durbar Square; the Hindu temple Pashupatinath and Bouddhanath, the world’s largest stupa.
A car and driver will take you to each site-entrance and wait for you. (Entry tickets and lunch are not included.)
From your hotel, we travel west along the Prithvi Raimarg which offers fascinating glimpses of rural Nepal as you pass through Middle Hill scenery and along major rivers such as the Trisuli Nadi, which rises in Tibet north east of Kathmandu. The route passes through the lower Gorkha region (beneath Manaslu); south of the epicentre of the first of the recent earthquakes. The famed Gurkha Regiments began here.
At Dumre, we turn south to the attractive village of Bandipur. The region’s inhabitants are Newars (noted for their fine stonework and wood carvings), Brahmins and Gurungs (who still send their sons to the famed Gurkha Regiments).
A late afternoon village walk overlooking their lovely valley will climax with a sunset display of some 80km of Himalayan giants to the north. The display will sweep from Dhaulagiri (highest peak in western Nepal), across the 50km Annapurna Range to Manaslu (mountain of the spirit) in the east. Three of the fourteen 8 000m/26 250ft peaks at the turn of the head! The sun rises between the eastern Annapurnas and Manaslu
After breakfast, drive back to Dumre and then continue west to the lakeside city of Pokhara and your hotel close to glorious Phewa Lake.
After a rest, we visit Devi’s waterfall and Shiva’s Cave. Explore Nepal’s only Mountain Museum. Visit the Tibetan Refugee Centre; to explore their lifestyle and the manufacture of their typical handicrafts. Drive to Pokhara’s Peace Pagoda for sunset. Overnight at your hotel.
After a pre-sunrise call, drive to the hill village of Sarangkot for a closer sunrise over the High Himalaya. Return to the hotel for breakfast.
Today, we head southwest on the Siddhartha Raimarg, through the Andhi Khola Valley before snaking over attractive hills to Butwal (250m, 22km from the Indian border). This is a typical Terai industrial and agricultural town: and Nepal’s second largest horticultural region. Lumbini and our hotel are further south. After lunch and a rest, we visit the sacred sites.
Lumbini was the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha (~ 563 to 483 BCE). Hindus regard Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu and visit Lumbini at full moon during Baisakh (April-May) to worship his mother as Rupi Devi. The focal point for pilgrims is a worn 14thC sandstone carving of the birth of the Buddha: believed to have been erected over his birthplace by King Ripu Malla.
The site has been revered for >2 500 years and today covers an area of 4,8 x 1,6 km within which only monasteries may be built: Theravadin in the eastern section, Mahayana and Vajrayana in the west. It was declared a world heritage site in 1997 and the Peace Pagoda was built in 2001.
Structures within the archaeological section include: the remains of the Maya Devi Temple (Buddha’s Mother) in the form of brick structures from the 3rd C BCE to the present; the Puskarni Pool (where Buddha’s mother would have bathed); and the 249 BCE pink sandstone pillar erected by Asoka (with Pali inscriptions testifying to his visit and the authenticity of the site). There are excavated remains of early Buddhist monasteries and stupas from the 3rdC BCE to the 5thC AD.
First we return to the Mayadevi Temple to observe the early morning puja. Return to the hotel for breakfast.
We then head east on the Mahendra Raimarg to the broad Narayani Nadi Valley (which carries water from three major Himalayan rivers to the Ganges) and Bharatpur (180m). The Chitwan District is a ‘food surplus’ region exporting produce across the country (particularly poultry). A short drive south of the city leads to Sauraha at the edge of the famed Chitwan National Park; and our hotel. (There is no accommodation within the park.)
After lunch and a rest: walk along the banks of the Rapti Khola to the village of Tharu; for sunset. The Tharu, an Indian ethnic group, have long been settled in this region (being naturally immune to malaria). Return to the hotel for dinner, followed by a Tharu cultural show.
Chitwan NP (932km2, opened 1973, World Heritage status1984) typifies the ‘original’ Terai region. It contains subtropical sal forest, grasslands and a rich mix of flowering species on hill slopes. It is home to 68 mammal, over 500 bird, 120 fish and 56 reptile and amphibian species. The animal population has increased significantly since the opening of the park and creation of the controlled surrounding buffer zone.
After breakfast we drive into the park to the elephant centre: for a 3hr elephant game-viewing ride. Look out, hopefully, for Bengal tigers, one horned rhinos, boars, et al. Next, visit the elephant bathing centre. After lunch and a rest, take a canoe river trip to see mugger and endangered gharial crocodiles. Follow this with an hour’s (cooler) guided jungle walk. Finally visit the elephant breeding centre outside the park. Return to the hotel for dinner.
Begin with an early morning 1 – 1½ hrs guided bird-watching walk along the river bank, followed by breakfast. Then drive back to Kathmandu; and your hotel. Rest of day free.
Transfer to Tribhuvan International Airport for your flight to your next destination.