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Day by Day Itinerary

Travel to Nepal with OAT and discover the mighty Himalayas, whose snowcapped peaks are the very rooftop of the world. Sinuous green terraces wind as far as the eye can see along mountain valleys. Prayer flags adorn lively temples that reveal ancient scrolls and exquisite carvings. This is Nepal. With OAT, you’ll trek on stone paths threading pristine hillsides and sweeping valleys … float on a river raft through untouched forest … and ride by elephantback through lush jungle.

Kathmandu Chitwan Expand All
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    You depart the U.S. for your flight to Dubai.

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    • Accommodations:

    Stay overnight in Dubai before flying on to Kathmandu, Nepal tomorrow.

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    Explore the many sites of Kathmandu

    Travelers on the pre-trip extension to Bhutan: The Last Shangri-La join the main adventure today. This afternoon, we fly to Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. When we arrive at our hotel, we meet our Trip Leader, a Nepali, whose mission is to share the cities, land, people, and language of his or her homeland with us.

    Tonight, enjoy dinner on your own in this vibrant city.

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    View Stupas while touring Nepal

    Eager to introduce us to the captivating hub of activity that is Kathmandu, our Trip Leader will lead us on a walking tour of the city this morning. Kathmandu (4,265 feet) is the capital and largest city of Nepal. It is a bustling epicenter filled with spice sellers and artisans, rickshaws and sacred cows. Pilgrims make their way to local shrines as merchants sell their brightly colored and fragrant wares. Artisans gifted in their ancient techniques display woven fabrics and ceramic bowls made for temple offerings. The "old" city is filled with Buddhist and Hindu temples dating back to the 17th century; these shrines are well-worn by time while still vibrant in energy and spirit.

    We make the short drive to Patan (4,429 feet), which sits across the Bagmati River from Kathmandu. Patan was developed on relatively thin layers of deposited clay and gravel in the central part of a dried ancient lake known as Nagdaha. The city was designed in the shape of the Buddhist Dharma-Chakra (Wheel of Righteousness). The four thurs, or mounds, located on the perimeter of Patan are known as the Ashoka Stupas, named for Emperor Ashoka, who visited Kathmandu with his daughter, Charumati, in 250 BC and erected the five stupas. These mounds are joined by more than 1,200 Buddhist and Hindu monuments of various shapes and sizes located throughout the city. Patan is known for its art and artisans—the region has produced the most artists and finest craftsmen in Nepali history, and their devotional artwork gives us stunning displays of Nepal's fused cultures.

    We explore Patan’s Durbar Square, one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nepal that are preserved within a protected Monument Zone. As Durbar translates to “palace,” the term “Durbar Square” is used to describe any plaza opposite a royal palace. But while there are several Durbar Squares across Nepal, Petan’s is renowned for being one of the most picturesque, with its intricately carved architecture, delicate wind chimes, and ornate fountains.

    After lunch on our own, we’ll visit the holiest temple in Nepal: the Boudhanath Stupa. Like Mecca is to Muslims, Boudhanath Stupa, standing 36 meters high, is the main pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists. Tens of thousands of pilgrims make the journey each year. The temple’s hemispherical dome represents the emptiness from which everything begins; rising above the dome, the harmika shines the Buddha’s eyes in four directions that symbolize his total awareness. When Tibetan refugees entered Nepal, they settled around the Boudhanath Stupa, creating a small village that elicits the holy atmosphere of Tibet’s sacred city, Lhasa.

    Tonight, our group will gather for a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

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    See Mount Everest during a sightseeing flight

    At dawn, you may elect to join us for an optional flight to Everest (weather permitting). This iconic mountain is known in Tibet as Chomolungma, which means “Mother of the Universe” or “Goddess Mother of the Earth.” The Nepali name is Sagarmatha, or “Goddess of the Sky.” Avid climbers call this mountain “the ultimate climb,” and with its astounding summit height of 29,029 feet above sea level, Mount Everest earns the title of the tallest peak on Earth. Rising majestically out of the Himalayan range, its snowy peak and intricate geography offer us breathtaking views from the air.

    Or, you can enjoy some time at leisure before we all embark on a tour of Bhaktapur (Bhagdaon). The “City of Devotees,” Bhaktapur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site spanning four square miles. The city was the crown jewel of the Malla Empire 700 years ago, and today features its historic Durbar Square, ancient courtyards, holy temples, and twisting streets where artisans still practice age-old traditions.

    This evening, we'll return to Kathmandu for a Home-Hosted Dinner with members of a Nepali family, affording us an opportunity to experience local cuisine and learn about everyday life here in the Himalayas.

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    Trek the Himalayas while touring Nepal

    This morning, we fly to Pokhara (3,080 feet), a vital city along the ancient trade route from Tibet to India built around Lake Phewa. From our plane, we may see panoramic views of impressive canyons carved out by the Seti River and defined by the fast rise of the Annapurna mountain range. Pokhara boasts a number of natural phenomena such as a waterfall that plunges and disappears into a hole and a stretch of the Seti River that disappears into a small opening in the canyon wall.

    Before our journey begins, we meet our trek guide for a briefing. Then we begin our trek amidst terraced farmland and wooded hillsides. Walking downhill as we follow the lower foothills of the Annapurnas, intoxicating views of the Pokhara Valley surround us. As we enter the Modi River Valley, we hear the rush of flowing river and may find many colorful birds and butterflies fluttering on the riverbanks.

    After approximately an hour of walking with our light daypacks, we stop for a packed lunch along the route. After lunch, we continue to follow the Modi River until we approach Sanctuary Lodge (3,362 feet). Sanctuary Lodge, with its beautiful gardens and peaceful atmosphere, offers views of Macchapuchare, or Fishtail Mountain, a sacred peak that has never been summitted. While this famous peak is less than 7,000 meters high, it is known for its twin peaks and its startling beauty.

    The balance of the afternoon is yours to simply relax and enjoy the view. Later we'll have afternoon tea and a roundtable discussion on life in Nepal. We dine this evening on the simple, traditional fare of the Modi River Valley at our lodge.

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    Meet locals while touring Nepal

    As the sun rises at our lodge, mountain silhouettes transform into dramatic snowy peaks against a crystal blue sky. Join us for tea and coffee as we take in the unfolding of the landscape before us. Then, after breakfast, we begin our morning trek to the village of Birethanti (3,382 feet) passing through hamlets and forests. The houses of Birethanti seem to naturally rise out of the hillside, in perfect time and meter with the terraced rice fields. These velvety green “steps” that cascade down the hillside are a testament to the care and hard work of the people that live and work on the land. Upon entering this ancient village, and due to our small group size, we have the chance to interact with the villagers as they move through their day of feeding the animals, farming and caring for their children.

    We return to the lodge for lunch and then you are free to explore the riverbanks and surrounding land at your own pace.

    We dine at the lodge before retiring for the evening.

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    Meet children at the local school during Grand Circle Foundation visit

    This morning, we embark on A Day in the Life of a Nepali village, a day of discovery during which we'll learn firsthand what it’s like to live in the shadow of the Annapurnas. First, we’ll enjoy a chance to meet local children in their school (when in session) which is supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. Though formal education has existed in Nepal for 150 years, for the first century it was only available to members of the royal family. It has only been the last five decades that ordinary Nepali children were able to enjoy schooling as a result of the popular democratic uprising that ended the rule of the royal family. Today, five million students fill more than 20,000 schools (from elementary schools to universities). You’ll get to know a few of these promising young people when we visit.

    Then we depart for nearby Tomejhong village, where we'll explore and spend time with the hospitable people who live here. A Gorkha family will join us for lunch to share insight into their traditions and daily life. The Gorkha people arrived in western Nepal from India centuries ago, and trace their roots to the Rajput clan—part of the Kshatriya, or warrior class—from classic Hindu tradition. Known for their military prowess, courage, and loyalty, many Gorkhas were recruited by the British Army during their occupation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    Their culture is a fascinating blend of their Hindu roots and local traditions like shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism, as we'll learn during this exclusive opportunity for real cultural exchange.

    Back at the lodge, we’ll enjoy leisure time in the late afternoon, then come together for dinner.

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    Enjoy small group travel while touring Nepal

    After enjoying breakfast, we begin our transfer back to Pokhara with a stop at a beautiful waterfall. Set in a valley where Asia’s ancient civilizations crept down from the highlands of Tibet and the Indo-Gangetic Plain, Pokhara marks an important stop along an age-old trade route. The mountains around this serene tropical valley shoot up starkly toward the sky, leaping upwards of 26,000 feet and disappearing into the misty shroud that drapes about their shoulders. As lofty symbols of man’s highest hopes and the source of eternal inspiration, these peaks are considered sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and followers of Tibet’s indigenous Bon traditions alike. Machapuchare, the fishtail crown at the center of the Annapurnas, is off-limits to climbers because of its association with the high god Shiva, who is said to live high on its slopes with his consort, Pavarti, legs crossed in meditation upon a bed of glacial stillness.

    We arrive in Pokhara and stroll through a market before lunch at a local restaurant. This afternoon is free for you to browse among the lakeside shops of Pokhara or relax in the lodge gardens before dinner at a local restaurant.

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    View the Annapurna range while touring Nepal

    We enjoy breakfast at our lodge this morning, then we visit the International Mountain Museum (IMM). The IMM is the gateway for climbers and mountain enthusiasts, and the organization is working to support the people of the Himalayas while also bringing the majesty of this towering and expansive range to the international community. The IMM comprises four galleries, a research center, events, educational activities and climbing opportunities and will provide us with comprehensive information about the Himalayan range.

    After lunch together at a local restaurant, the balance of the day, including dinner, is on your own.

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    Enjoy rafting on the Seti Reiver while touring Nepal

    Today we begin our rafting journey along the Seti River (2,500 feet). This animated river runs through Pokhara and displays some visually amazing feats—at one point it appears to be only two meters wide, while its massive volume of water continues to flow, hidden by incredible depths. We drive to our rafting launch site after breakfast and receive information and instructions from our river guides.

    Then we board our American-made raft and let our experienced crew navigate the three-hour ride. As there is no road access to this area, the views of plant and wildlife are truly untouched and thrilling. Along its banks, women wash clothes, men fish with sticks and cloth nets, and children swim and play.

    We face a few sections of Class II rapids, where there may be some rough water with waves up to 3 or 4 feet, and perhaps some rocks and drops that require maneuvering by our expert guides. After a picnic lunch on the Seti’s shores, our afternoon rafting follows smooth, easy waters. We land on the banks of the river to settle into our safari-style camp surrounded by luscious forest. Dinner tonight is followed by a campfire beneath an endless starry sky.

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    Explore Nepal and stay at Seti River Camp

    After breakfast this morning, our guides lead us on a trek to a remote village where we'll walk through a bird-filled jungle (2,000 feet).

    We return to camp for lunch, and the afternoon is ours to relax in the camp’s gardens and hammocks or to walk the bird-filled bank of the Seti looking for white rumped vultures and purple swamp-hens. Or, take a refreshing dip in the warm Seti River. You may also ask your Trip Leader for suggestions on local hikes.

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    Experience the views of Chitwan National Park

    We begin our final rafting leg this morning. Savor the images of clear, rushing water, lush jungle foliage and villagers waving from the banks. We raft for about two hours, observing riverside villages and plentiful birdlife. Our rafts and experienced Nepalese crew expertly navigate five sections of Class II rapids and one patch of Class III rapids (especially after monsoon season) as we travel to our end point. After bidding farewell to our faithful rafting guides, we set off overland to Chitwan and enjoy lunch at our lodge.

    The next chapter of our adventure begins when the Sal forest of the Chitwan jungle meets the wide and beautiful valley of the Rapti River. Broad grasslands sweep north to the Mahabharata range and virgin jungle extends south to the Churia hills. For centuries, the dense jungle covering the foothills of the Himalayas formed an impenetrable barrier for Nepal, keeping it a hidden and mysterious land. The indigenous Tharu people, however, have spent generations living off this fertile land. Following lunch, we board ox carts and take in our lush surroundings as we make our way to a Tharu village. Tharu women are adept at transforming the exterior walls of buildings into vibrant works of art; as we observe their skill, we are greeted by the villagers and given glimpses into their lives and homes before we return to our lodge.

    When travelers began to explore Nepal, Royal Chitwan National Park (1,000 feet) was established to help the jungle remain protected, pristine and full of adventure. We spend our early evening in a discussion with a naturalist who outlines the history and features of the park we will be experience tomorrow. Tonight we share dinner and reflect on our remarkable day.

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    Discover the diverse widllife during an elephant ride at Chitwan National Park

    Today we begin our exploration of the Royal Chitwan National Park (1,000 feet), the oldest national park in Nepal. The park lies in the subtropical inner Terai lowlands of South-Central Nepal. Designated as a World Heritage Site in 1984, the park covers a pristine area with a unique ecosystem of significant value to the world. It contains the Churiya hills, ox-bow lakes and flood plains of Rapti, Reu, and Narayani rivers. Formerly, the Chitwan Valley was well known for big-game hunting and until 1950 was exclusively managed as a hunting reserve for the Rana Prime Ministers and their guests. In 1963, the area south of the Rapti River was demarcated as a rhinoceros sanctuary. In 1970, His late Majesty King Mahendra approved, in principle, the creation of Royal Chitwan National Park.

    Our morning begins with a walk and canoe ride through the jungle. Our accompanying naturalist points out the flora and fauna thriving here in Chitwan as we search for endangered birds, such as the Bengal florican and the Black stork.

    We return to the lodge for lunch and early afternoon relaxation before we embark on an exploration of the park from an entirely different perspective. A perch on the back of an elephant affords us the perfect vantage point to view all that this park has to offer. Elephants move fluently through the jungle with its thick tree cover and tall elephant grass. There are more than 43 species of mammals, more than 450 species of birds, and more than 45 species of amphibians and reptiles in the park. After our elephant trek, we return to the lodge for a traditional Tharu dance and dinner.

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    Experience the local culture in Patan Durbar Square

    After breakfast, we enjoy a discussion with our naturalist about local elephants and learn about regional efforts to protect this beloved and valuable animal.

    Following this discussion, we drive to the airport and fly back to the bustling city of Kathmandu (4,265 feet) via Bharatpur where we'll stop for lunch. Our Trip Leader accompanies us to our hotel as our small group readjusts to city life after days surrounded by the quiet of the Himalayas, the rush of the Seti River and the cacophony of animal calls in the jungle of Chitwan. Next, we’ll discover Pashupatinath, the most sacred temple of the Hindu god, Shiva, who is also known as Pashupati. This pagoda-style temple boasts gold-robed copper rooftops and silver-crowned doorways. Pashupatinath is considered so venerable that the chief priest is subject to no one’s discipline but the King of Nepal himself, and the King periodically receives reports directly from the chief priest.

    This evening we toast the memories of our journey during a special Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    This morning we fly from Kathmandu to Dubai, where, after midnight, you'll board your return flight to the U.S.

    If you are taking the post-trip extension, Tibet: Return to an Ancient Path, you fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa today.

    Please note: If you took our pre-trip to Bhutan and are not taking the post-trip, you will fly from Kathmandu to Delhi, where you will overnight at the Red Fox Hotel and fly to the US on Day 17. If you are taking our post-trip extension to Tibet, please be advised that on select departures, travelers will stay in Kathmandu today to begin Day 1 of their extension, and will therefore not stay in Kathmandu on Day 8 of their extension. This will not affect the included features or the number of days of this post-trip extension.

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    Just after midnight, board your flight from Dubai to the U.S.

Extensions

Traveler Reviews

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Striving for Excellence

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Our #1 commitment is delivering the best travel experience at the best value, so we take feedback from our travelers seriously as we strive to improve what we do. And one of the best ways for us to measure how travelers have rated our trips—including their experiences and the value we offer—is from our post-trip surveys, sent in by travelers.

Ratings based on percentage of travelers who rated these features "Excellent".

Overall Trip Excellence
72%
Trip Leader Excellence
100%
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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.  Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 5 locations in 15 days
  • Multiple early departures
  • Brisk paced, with no more than 2 nights in most locations, with 2 days rafting and 3 days hiking
  • Expect delays in regional air service

Physical requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be able to walk 5 miles unassisted and participate in 2.5-3 hour treks
  • Must not have health conditions which preclude climbing to high altitudes

Altitude

  • Elevations up to 5,000 feet

Climate

  • Prepare for heat and humidity in excess of 90°F during the day during summer, and as low as 50°F at night
  • Temperatures drop between October- March during winter

Terrain

  • Travel over city streets, rugged paths, and unpaved roads
  • Trekking through foothills that can be steep and slippery
  • Rafting down a river with Class II-III rapids
  • Agility and balance required in most situations

Transportation

  • Travel by 18-passenger minibus, canoe, river raft, and elephant back

Accommodations & Facilities

  • Accommodations include a riverside camp with permanent tents, attached bathrooms, and solar-heated showers; basic but comfortable lodges; and modest hotels
  • Electricity may be unreliable due to solar power; and heat and hot water may be limited

Cultural insight

  • We may see people living in poverty, which could be distressing for some travelers

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • Nepal: Visa required.
  • India: Visa required.
  • Bhutan (optional extension): Visa required.
  • Tibet (optional extension): Entry permit required.

Travelers who are booked on this adventure will be sent a complete Visa Packet— with instructions, applications, and a list of visa fees—approximately 100 days prior to their departure. (Because many countries limit the validity of their visa from the date it is issued, or have a specific time window for when you can apply, we do not recommend applying too early.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Gokarna Forest Resort

    Kathmandu, Nepal

    Just minutes from Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, the Gokarna Forest Resort boasts breathtaking views of the Nepalese valley from all of its 95 rooms. Each room features a private bath and comfortable furnishings. A spa and golf course are on-site.

  • Sanctuary Lodge

    Modi River Valley, Nepal

    With magnificent views of the sacred Machapuchare (Fishtail Mountain) and the Modi River, Sanctuary Lodge is located at 3,470 feet amid lovely landscaped gardens. Built in a traditional Nepali design, the lodge offers authentic ambiance in a spectacular setting. Ten rustic-style rooms include a private bath with shower.

  • Waterfront Hotel

    Pokhara, Nepal

    This resort is the perfect location from which to explore the scenic town of Pokhara. Its 60 rooms include a hair dryer, Internet access, air-conditioning, minibar, and coffee- and tea-making facilities.

  • Seti River Camp

    Seti Valley, Nepal

    Located just above the Seti River, this safari-style camp features 21 permanent tents with twin beds, changing room, veranda, and attached bath. Solar-heated showers are available. You’ll be able to take a refreshing dip in the river, relax in a hammock, and share your evenings around a driftwood campfire.

  • Safari Narayani Lodge

    Chitwan, Nepal

    Located on a bluff overlooking the Rapti River, the Safari Narayani Lodge features 12 intimate rooms and a “Tharu Ghar”-inspired community center, perfect for mingling with fellow travelers. The lodge offers a dining hall and bar, cozy fireplace, and viewing deck and patio—the ideal location to spy wildlife in nearby Chitwan National Park.

Extensions

  • Hotel Jumolhari

    Paro, Bhutan

    Situated in the heart of Thimphu’s city center, the Jumolhari is a boutique-style hotel whose amenities include steam and sauna facilities, a bar, and large restaurant featuring a variety of ethnic cuisines. There are 26 rooms at the hotel, each with minibar, coffee- and tea-making facilities, satellite TV, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Meri Phuensum

    Punakha, Bhutan

    Meri Phuensum is a family-run hotel situated on a hilltop overlooking Punakha town that offers an outdoor porch and lush gardens on its grounds. An on-site restaurant offers Bhutanese, Indian, and Chinese cuisines. Its 33 rooms include simple comforts and Bhutanese-style furnishings.

  • Shangbala Hotel

    Lhasa, Tibet

    The Shangbala Hotel is well-located in the heart of the Tibetan Quarter in Lhasa, just a short walk from Jokhang Temple and the Barkhor Bazaar. Each of its 70 rooms features a TV, telephone, minibar, and private bath. Hotel facilities include restaurants serving Chinese and Western cuisine, a bar, a sauna, and a currency exchange.

  • Gokarna Forest Resort

    Kathmandu, Nepal

    Just minutes from Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, the Gokarna Forest Resort boasts breathtaking views of the Nepalese valley from all of its 95 rooms. Each room features a private bath and comfortable furnishings. A spa and golf course are on-site.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two adventures to maximize your value. Here are more ways to create the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

  • Extend your adventure and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip extensions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your adventure
  • Choose to “break away” before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent traveler miles

The air options listed above will involve an additional fee of $100 per person for confirmed requests (as well as incremental airfare costs based on your specific choice).

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $3995
w/ standard air $5195

Solo Traveler Stories

Why Travel Solo on Nepal & the Mystical Himalayas

We're proud to offer the best value for solo travelers in the industry, guaranteed, with FREE Single Supplements on your base trip and all extensions. Travel with the leader in solo-friendly travel on Nepal & the Mystical Himalayasand save up to $1580 per person versus the competition.

Our small group size and expert, resident Trip Leaders help solo travelers make personal connections and ensure peace of mind. Here are some thoughts from solo travelers about why this adventure was right for them.

"Our Trip Leader, Anup, showed respect and a high level of patience. He is very knowledgeable and is an excellent problem solver. He was always kind and extremely thoughtful—he made certain my birthday was a special day for me."

Lyn Brown, 6-time traveler
Fort Myers, Florida

Capturing the Beauty of Nepal Through a Camera Lens

Lynda Thorstrom, 10-time traveler, Olympia, Washington

When my children were young, our family spent three months each summer in a little cabin on Lake Okanagan in British Columbia. This family tradition helped my children to grow up appreciating the outdoors and the beauty of nature.

As my children grew older, my middle daughter, Nishon, and I began to travel internationally together. Since we’ve started, my daughter and I have been to Peru, Africa, and most recently, Nepal. Nishon is an avid travel photographer who loves to capture the wildlife and children of the destinations we visit.

Since Nishon and I love adventure—and especially hiking—when we began planning our most recent trip, we were intrigued by OAT’s Nepal & the Mystical Himalayas adventure. Nepal offered amazing hikes, visits to the countryside, and the opportunity to meet the country’s native people.

And this trip didn’t disappoint. We enjoyed some of the most incredible hikes. One morning, we woke very early to begin a trek into a small village. As we approached the entrance to the village, the sun was just coming out and the villagers began to emerge from their huts. Nishon grabbed her digital camera and started snapping photos of the amazing sight. It is a moment we’ll always remember.

And although we missed visiting Chitwan National Park, our wonderful Trip Leader, Sanjib Mishra, went out of his way to make arrangements for our group to spend the day driving and riding in more unusual ways than I can remember: Dugout boat on the river looking for crocodiles, bareback riding an elephant on the banks of the river, and riding in an ox-drawn cart, a pony-drawn cart, and atop an elephant in a basket looking for rhinos outside the park.

Nishon and I enjoyed so many wonderful adventures together in Nepal … and truly loved the beauty of the Nepalese people. While we were in Kathmandu, Nishon and I saw a petite, 103-year-old woman with the biggest and brightest smile we’ve ever encountered. Nishon quickly grabbed her camera and captured the sheer joy on this woman’s face. It was such a wonderful moment … and one that we can always cherish thanks to her photograph.

And the best part about these amazing memories is that we’re able to treasure them together. Nishon and her family live on a farm in Washington that reminded me of the beautiful hill farms we saw in Nepal. Several years ago, her husband built me a home on their property, where we can all enjoy the many advantages a farm has to offer. I can honestly say we’re best friends. We have so much fun and when we’re traveling, we feed off of each other’s energies. I guess you could say that we tend to be the “characters” in our group … and I think that our group members really get a kick out of us. We even have three fellow travelers from our trip to Nepal visiting us in Washington this year.

Our adventures allow us to take ourselves out of our normal environment and force us to rely on each other. Thanks to Nishon’s breathtaking photography, we’re able to journey to these places all over again from the comfort of our own living room.

Partner since: 1994
Total donated: $564,859

Making a difference in Nepal

Simply by traveling with OAT, you support the work of the nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation. Alan and Harriet Lewis created the Foundation with the mission of changing people's lives through travel — which includes both the travelers who journey with OAT, and the local people who welcome us so warmly into their homelands.

Learn more about our work in Nepal, and what you'll experience during your itinerary:

A Day in the Life of Tomejhong Village

Your visit to the Laxmi Primary School is just one aspect of your Day in the Life experience, which is featured on most OAT itineraries. Each Day in the Life is specifically tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, Tomejhong Village. You’ll get to know the local people through conversation and hands-on activities, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

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A Day in the Life of Tomejhong Village

Your visit to the Laxmi Primary School is just one aspect of your Day in the Life experience, which is featured on most OAT itineraries. Each Day in the Life is specifically tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, Tomejhong Village. You’ll get to know the local people through conversation and hands-on activities, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

Meet the People of Tomejhong Village

The foothills of the Annapurnas are home to a school supported by the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative, so we’ve developed close partnership with local leaders, who are eager to welcome you into their daily lives. In our Day in the Life of Tomejhong village, we'll learn firsthand what it’s like to live in the shadow of these ancient mountains.

First, we’ll enjoy a chance to meet local children in their school (when in session) which is supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. You’ll interact with both students and faculty here, and see firsthand the improvements made possible by Foundation support—and the support of travelers like you.

You’ll then depart for nearby Tomejhong village, where we'll explore and spend time with the hospitable people who live here. A Gorkha family will join us for lunch to share insight into their traditions and daily life. The Gorkha people arrived in western Nepal from India centuries ago, and trace their roots to the Rajput clan—part of the Kshatriya, or warrior class—from classic Hindu tradition. Their culture is a fascinating blend of their Hindu roots and local traditions like shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism, as we'll learn during this exclusive opportunity for real cultural exchange.

By the time we return to our Sanctuary River lodge in the afternoon, we hope you’ll come away with a richer sense of what life is like in the Himalayas and an appreciation for the warmth of the people who call this area home.

Grand Circle Foundation

Supporting a World Classroom: Nepal

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. In Nepal, you’ll visit a school funded by Grand Circle Foundation: Laxmi Primary School. Our projects here have included building a classroom, improving plumbing, and more.

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Supporting a World Classroom: Nepal

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. In Nepal, you’ll visit a school funded by Grand Circle Foundation: Laxmi Primary School. Our projects here have included building a classroom, improving plumbing, and more.

"It was eye-opening to see how the government schools function in small towns, with many children not starting school until 8 or 9 and many students leaving before finishing lower secondary school…. We support the work you are doing with schools throughout the world."

Ahlene & David Welsh
Claremont, California

Laxmi Primary School

Partner since: 2009 • Total donated: $7,670

We've been supporting the community of Tomejhong since early 2009, and we're looking forward to having a lasting impact on the lives of the 30 students who attend the Laxmi School. It has only been the last five decades that ordinary Nepali children were able to enjoy schooling as a result of the popular democratic uprising that ended the rule of the royal family. Today, five million students fill more than 20,000 schools in Nepal (from elementary schools to universities), and many of the more remote schools operate with very limited resources.

So far we’ve funded the building of a new classroom, and furnished it with benches for the students at the Laxmi School. We’ve also improved the school plumbing by adding a toilet, running water, a water pipeline and a reserve tank.

School in session:

Early January through early May; early July through late December

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Sports equipment, such as deflated soccer or basketballs 
  • Educational books with pictures for the school library 
  • Maps of the world and U.S. 
  • Games that are both educational and fun 
  • Board games for playing indoors 
  • Crayons 
  • Coloring books 
  • Pads of drawing paper
Grand Circle Foundation

Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

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Photos From Our Travelers

On location in Asia

Here’s how OAT travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our Nepal & the Mystical Himalayas adventure. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite OAT trip photos.

  Temples, Kathmandu, Nepal  

Dan Adams, 8-time traveler from Phoenix, Arizona, brings us this lost-in-time moment, as the golden light of Kathmandu bathes the ancient buildings and temples of the Patan neighborhood.

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How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to: OATtravelerphotos@oattravel.com.

Please be sure to include the name of your OAT adventure, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.

Beyond the Blue Horizon

The wildlife of Nepal

by Pamela Schweppe

About 29% of the country, however, is not alpine but subtropical, and is carpeted with large swaths of jungle.

When we think of Nepal, images of Mount Everest and the high Himalayas are usually the first to spring to mind—a terrain that’s generally no more hospitable to birds and animals than it is to human beings.

About 29% of the country, however, is not alpine but subtropical, and is carpeted with large swaths of jungle. It’s here where the rich wildlife of Nepal comes into its own. Take the Indian rhinoceros, for example. This lumbering fellow, who can weigh in at 6,000 pounds and whose hide is so thick it’s practically bulletproof, is also known as the one-horned rhinoceros—and it’s that horn (believed by some to be an aphrodisiac) that has led to the animal’s near extinction. Down to a total population of only about 100 a few decades ago, this species now numbers about 400, and vigorous efforts to combat poaching continue.

Rare beauties

In Nepal, the Indian rhino is most likely to be found in Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is also home to roughly 50 species of animals, 450 species of birds, 45 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 65 species of butterflies. During OAT’s Nepal & the Mystical Himalayas adventure, you may take your viewing platform atop one of the park’s most famous residents: an elephant. And if you’re lucky, perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of the endangered Bengal tiger. More than 80% of the estimated 5,000 that remain are believed to live in Nepal, with approximately 125 adults living in the Chitwan National Park as of 2010—a slow but heartening increase from the estimated 40 adults which populated the park in the 1980s.

Creatures of the forest

Among the other mammals found here is the gaur, a wild ox whose large size and curved horns immediately betray its close relationship to the bison, water buffalo, and yak. Deer are also abundant in Nepalese jungles, including the prehistoric-looking muntjacs—affectionately known as “barking deer” (because of its call)—and musk deer, whose musk glands are the source of the popular fragrance. You’re also likely to see monkeys—perhaps the pink-faced rhesus monkey, considered sacred to Buddhists and Hindus—as well as sloth bear and antelope.

Birds of a feather

Nepal is also a birder’s paradise, hosting more species within its borders than the entire North American continent! The country’s national bird is the Daphne, an exotic pheasant with brilliant plumage—which it’s not shy to show off when it stretches out its wings to dance. Kingfishers, flycatchers, and woodpeckers also thrive here, and as you float along the Seti River, you might spot black and white storks, egrets, and heron.