On our Pilgrims trip we cover Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, staying in a selection of beautiful and often historic, hotels. Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha, Varanasi, where a Hindu can bathe away all sins and the Mughal Taj Mahal, arguably one of the most beautiful and famous buildings in the world!
If you would like to really explore Kathmandu thoroughly, we suggest you arrive at least two days before our start date. There is so much to see and do and the markets are never ending. Wander up and down Freak Street and Thamel and bargain with the shopkeepers, chill out in a local restaurant and try the local staple… ‘daal bhaat’ (some Nepalis eat this three times a day, every day of the year!!), settle into one of the many restaurants and coffee houses that now have free wi-fi for their patrons.
There are plenty of environmentally friendly cycle rickshaws that can be hired very cheaply but be sure to agree on a price before your wallahs begin to pedal away. As well as the many well-known and frequented sites in and around Kathmandu, there are literally hundreds of shrines, temples and other oddities tucked away in nooks and crannies all over and around the ancient city. Both Thamel and New Road are a shopper’s paradise.
Our scheduled drive times include lunch, photo and toilet stops but please remember that this is genuine adventure travel, so while we endeavour to follow the itinerary, it will not always be possible and it should be used as a guide only. You will need to remain open-minded and flexible in order to get the most out of your trip.
Day 01: Namaste. Arrive in Kathmandu to be greeted by our staff at the Tribhuvan Airport, from here you will be driven to the beautiful Dwarikas Hotel, a living museum, where you will be made to feel very welcome with the wonderful and friendly service. The food is a treat here and the setting very peaceful and relaxing. Overnight Kathmandu.
Day 02: Members of the group who would like to participate in an optional Mount Everest scenic mountain flight will kick off the day with an early start! You will be picked up around 05:45hrs and whisked off to the airport for a scenic Everest mountain flight. Flying close to the mountains you are rewarded with awe-inspiring views of 14 mountains over 6,000m, culminating in Everest, which gleams in the rising sun. Much has been written about Everest, but to witness it from a sightseeing flight is absolutely amazing; it remains an enigma - the highest spot on Earth!
After the mountain flight return for a delicious Dwarikas breakfast before taking in the sites of Kathmandu with a city tour, which includes visits to Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple), Pashpathinath, Durbar Square (Kathmandu) and Bodhnath. Finish the day with a nine course Nepali meal at the unforgettable Krishnapan Restaurant at Dwarikas. Overnight Kathmandu.
Day 03: Depart Kathmandu and travel along the Tribhuvan Highway following the Trisuli River and turning south when arriving in Mugling. Once we arrive at Narayangarh we are on the Terai, the flat lands of Nepal, which runs the entire length of the country. We continue west along the Mahendra Highway and upon reaching Butwal we’ll turn south towards Bhairawa which is the Nepali border town with India. Lumbini is only 35km from here. Drive time six to eight hours. Overnight Lumbini.
Day 04: Lumbini is the historical birthplace of Buddha and is one of the most important religious sites in the world.
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you, like the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.
We are what we think. All that arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you, as your shadow unshaken.In this world, hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate. This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible. We are what we think. ‘Lord Buddha’
Buddha was born under a sal tree in Lumbini in May 563BC. There are a number of monasteries around the site and the centre is the Maya Devi Temple which is the spot where Queen Maya Devi gave birth to Buddha. A sacred garden contains the pillar of Ashoka and the remains of many stupas and monasteries. Surrounding the sacred gardens is a huge park which was designed in 1978 by Kenzo Tange, a well-known Japanese architect. In this area there are lakes and Buddhist Monasteries, stupas, temples, gompas and pagodas which have been constructed by Buddhists from around the world. The Lumbini Museum is at the back of the compound and is devoted to the life of Buddha and the Buddhist religion, with photos and artefacts from around the world. The World Peace Pagoda is set in the Lumbini Crane Sanctuary. A great way to get around the area is either rickshaw or bicycle. We will organise whatever suits you. Overnight Lumbini.
Day 05: Leave Lumbini and travel through the border at Bhairawa/Sunauli to India. We travel through the state of Uttar Pradesh. Gorakphur, which is enroute for us, is the headquarters of the North Eastern Railway and is a train junction. Is is also where Lord Buddha died. Other towns we will travel through are Chillupar, Ghazipur and the major Buddhist centre, Sarnath. Drive time six to eight hours. Overnight Varanasi.
Day 06: Varanasi is one of the holiest places in India! It has been a centre of learning for more than 2000 years and has a population of two million. The Ganges River runs through the city and Hindu Pilgrims come to bathe in the waters in a ritual that washes away all their sins… there always seem to be a fair few in there! In the morning devout Hindus go down to the ghats and into the holy water. Many make offerings of grain and garlands of marigolds and lotus to the river where they mingle with small oil lamps floating in the currents. Most of the ghats are used for bathing but some are used for cremation. The Vishwanath Temple (Golden Temple) is the most sacred temple in Varanasi and is found in the narrow and winding alleyways of the old city. The Durga Temple (Monkey Temple) is about 2km from the old city and nearby is Tulsi Manas Temple, which was built of marble in 1964. Varanasi is famous for it’s silk (especially the brocade work), musical instruments, toys and carpets. Overnight Varanasi.
Day 07: Allahabad is 130km west of Varanasi and has a population of 2 million. It is here that the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers meet and the waters are believed to have soul-cleansing properties… Hindus hope to bathe in these waters at least once in their lifetime. Each January and February hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gather here for Magh Mela when they bathe in the waters. A fort, built by Akbar, overlooks the rivers. It was in this city that the East India Company officially handed control of India to the British government in 1858 at Minto Park. Drive time three to five hours. Overnight Allahabad.
Day 08: After driving through remote farming areas we arrive in Khajuraho. Khajuraho is a quiet village which was once a great Chandela capital and its many temples are a great attraction. The Chandela People built who the temples were later defeated by the Mughals. The temples are large and very beautiful, having elaborately decorated stonework depicting Indian life a thousand years ago. Many of the figures are erotic… very erotic! Almost all of the temples are aligned from east to west. There are several museums containing fine collections of statues and sculptures. It’s believed the famous Karma Sutra was penned in the area. Drive time five to seven hours. Overnight Khajuraho.
Day 09: Orcha (Hidden Palace) was once a capital city but is now a village set among well-preserved temples and palaces. The palace is built on an island on The Betwa River and has been partially converted to a hotel. Pilgrims are still using the temples; Ram Raja Temple was originally a palace but was turned into a temple with soaring spires. Drive time four to six hours. Overnight Orcha.
Day 10: Enroute today we are literally driving through a living museum. In Jhansi there is Rani Mahal which was a palace and is now a museum. Close by there is a small fort. At Datia, which is north of Jhansi, there is a seven-storey deserted palace. At Sanagir there is a large group of white Jain temples scattered along a hill and at Dhalpur the Shergarh Fort is very old and now ruined. We will stop at several of these sights. Drive time five to seven hours. Overnight Agra.
Day 11: Sunrise at the Taj Mahal is one of life’s unforgettable moments… an almost unbelievable experience. The Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his wife Muntaz Mahal who died in 1631 (though there are a few other theories as to why it was built)! The building was not completed until 1653 and approximately 20,000 people were involved in it’s construction. It is thought to have cost about US$60 million to build and converting that to a dollar value today would be almost incomprehensible.
After a late breakfast at the hotel, visit the very impressive Agra Fort which is constructed of red sandstone. This massive fort was begun in 1565 by Emperor Akbar and continuously added to by successive rulers… up to his grandson, Shah Jahan. During Shah Jahan’s rule it was finally upgraded to a palace, but he was deposed by his son Aurangzeb and imprisoned there spending his remaining years overlooking the resting place of his wife. On the opposite bank of the Yamuna River are the alleged foundations where Shah Jahan had begun to build a black Taj. This never came to fruition. There are many other attractive buildings to see in Agra plus markets and craft areas. Overnight Agra.
Day 12: Approximately 40 kms from Agra, we’ll arrive at Fatephur Sikri where we’ll have time to wander around this old abandoned marvel of Mughal architecture. Fatephur Sikri was the capital of the Mughal Empire for only 14 years between 1571 and 1585 when Akbar was Emperor and was called the ‘perfect city’. Unfortunately it was built far from a decent water supply and was plagued by water shortages. As this problem could not be solved the city became a ‘ghost town’ shortly after Akbar died. In the afternoon we reach the hustle and bustle of Delhi. Drive time five to seven hours. Overnight Delhi.
Day 13: Delhi City tour. Delhi is the capital of India, arguably the second largest city in the country. It is also the industrial hub of North India. The city is spacious and open, with beautiful government buildings (many were designed by Lutyen) and embassies. Old Delhi has a long and varied history, as can be seen by the monuments, mosques and forts. It is a major travel gateway and is one of the busiest entry points in India for overseas travellers. We will visit the Bahia Lotus Temple, Delhi’s Mughal era Red Fort, Jama Masjid, the country's largest mosque, Raj Ghat where Mahatma Ghandi was cremated, Humayun's Tomb which inspired Shah Jahan to build the Taj Mahal, Sansad Bhavan (Parliament House), India Gate and the 72.5m tall Qutb Minar constructed in 1199AD by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, Delhi's first Muslim ruler. Finish our time together with a final group meal. Overnight Delhi.
Day 14: Farewell and end of trip. We personally bid you farewell and arrange transport to get you safely to the airport.
We thank you for choosing to travel with us. Best Of Asia Overland, the specialists in ‘Adventure in Comfort’, welcome you anytime.
Crew: One permanent western leader/driver plus local guides in Nepal and India.
To find out what is included on our trips, please go to the 'TRAVEL THE BOA WAY' tab and click on 'what is provided'.