Nepal is known for its snow-capped Himalayan peaks, and this tour offers a taste of that imposing grandeur—but it also encompasses the grassy lowlands of the Terai in Nepal's south. Take in stunning views of the world's tallest mountains and immerse yourself in the bustle of local village life. Wake up to sounds of nature and break your fast with the elephants. Explore the best of central Nepal and Chitwan!

Highlights

  • Meander the narrow alleys of Kathmandu and explore local bazaars
  • Wake up to breathtaking views of the Himalayan Mountain Range
  • Spot wildlife on safari in the lowlands of Chitwan National Park
  • Spend a day with elephants and their keepers
  • Take in the flavors of village life and smile with the locals 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Kathmandu; Bazaar walk Kathmandu
Day 2 Flight to Pokhara; drive to Kande; trek to Australian Camp Australian Camp
Day 3 Trek to Astam Astam 
Day 4 Trek to Ghachok Ghachok
Day 5 Drive to Gorkha Gorkha
Day 6 Free morning; drive to Chitwan Chitwan
Day 7 Safari in Chitwan National Park Chitwan
Day 8 Boat safari down the river Chitwan
Day 9 A day with the elephants Chitwan
Day 10 Early flight to Kathmandu; sunset in Namo Buddha Namo Buddha
Day 11 Explore Namo Buddha and Bhaktapur Bhaktapur
Day 12 Back to Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 13 Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Kathmandu

Brass, bronze, and copper wares for sale in Kathmandu

Meet your guide at Tribhuvan International Airport and pass through Kathmandu’s narrow, winding streets to your hotel for a chance to settle in before heading out. Follow your guide on a walk of Kathmandu's bazaar (enclosed marketplace or street) and explore the secret alleys and courtyards of Old Patan.

Walk into the Old City and explore the narrow alleys where countless Hindu and Buddhist temples await to be discovered. Make your way through local bazaars selling an array of fruit, vegetables,  spices, and even polished metals of brass, bronze, and copper. Keep your eyes open for the brightly clad locals of the Kathmandu Valley, including Gurkhas (soldiers of Nepalese nationality), Sherpas (Tibetic ethnic group native to mountainous regions of Nepal and surrounding area), and sadhus (Hindu or Jain holy person).

Day 2: Flight to Pokhara, drive to Kande, trek to Australian Camp

View of Annapurna South
View of Annapurna South

Catch your domestic flight to Pokhara (a stunning 30-minute flight along the Himalayan Range) and be sure to look out for four of the world’s highest mountains over 26,247 feet (8000 m): Dhaulagiri I, Annapurna I, Manaslu and Shishapangma. After lunching in Pokhara, take a scenic 1-hour drive to Kande, the starting point of your trek to Australian Camp. The trail is uphill and takes approximately 2-hours. Along the way, enjoy the magnificent views of the Annapurna Range, including Machapuchare (commonly referred to as Fishtail).

Day 3: Trek to Astam 

Sunset in Astam
Sunset in Astam

After breakfast hike to the stunning ridgetop village of Astam (sunset village). At 5,007 feet (1,526 m) elevation, this beautiful village is superbly located with stunning views of Machapuchare, centrally located and surrounded by the peaks of the Annapurna section of the Himalayan Range. Enjoy the simple life in idyllic Astam and let its wholesomeness wash over you.

Hiking duration: 4-5 hours 

Day 4: Trek to Ghachok 

Morning views from Ghachok
Morning views from Ghachok

Rise to the spectacular view of the Annapurna mountain range before you hit the trail and follow the ridgeline working your way to the large village of Ghachok at an elevation of 4,134 feet (1,260 m). Note the differing housing styles and clothing and gain a better insight into regional farming and daily life while you exchange smiles with the friendly locals.

Before settling in for the afternoon, hike out of Ghachok up the hillside following an irrigation stream. Take in the scenery of the surrounding villages and look upon the patchwork fields growing rice, wheat, and vegetables. Today's hike ends with a short but steep descent to the stream below, where you're welcome to take a dip before you climb back up to Ghachok and through the winding streets to your accommodation.

Hiking duration: 4 hours 

Day 5: Drive to Gorkha

View of the Manaslu range from Gorkha Gaun
View of the Manaslu range from Gorkha Gaun

Bid farewell to your hosts and beautiful Ghachok and drive the short distance back to Pokhara to explore this charming lakeside town before having lunch at the water’s edge. Hit the road for a three-hour transfer to the heartland of modern Nepal, Gorkha District — the seat of the royal Shah Dynasty, renowned for unifying what is now known as Nepal. Appreciate Gorkha's stunning views while enjoying charming village life.

Day 6: Free morning before you drive to Chitwan

Sunset over The Terai
Sunset over The Terai

The morning offers you a variety of options: explore the village and learn about rural life, try a cooking class, or arrange to go and visit the King’s palace in Gorkha's old town. Or, if the mood strikes, do nothing at all and simply enjoy the mountain views from the comfort of your hotel.

After lunch set off for Nepal's lowlands, The Terai, and experience a landscape and culture completely different than that of the north. Drive through narrow winding gorges and deep river valleys passed terraced fields tilled by generations of family and reach the vast plains and the vibrant jungle of the Chitwan National Park in time for the sunset.

Day 7: Safari in Chitwan National Park

If luck allows, you may spot a Bengal tiger

Spend the day escorted by an experienced naturalist who will educate you on the wildlife in Chitwan National Park, including the greater one-horned rhinoceros (also known as the Indian rhinoceros), deer (spotted, hog, sambar, and barking), as well as a wide variety of birdlife. With a bit of luck, there is even the chance of seeing a leopard, sloth bear, and royal Bengal tiger. A day to always remember.

Day 8: Boat safari down the river

Greater one-horned rhinoceros and calf
Greater one-horned rhinoceros and calf

Hop aboard a traditional longboat to travel to your next hotel outside of Chitwan National Park — another incredible opportunity for animal spotting (birds, crocodiles, rhinoceros, and perhaps even a tiger). Disembark and drive to your hotel and feel the peace of nature wash over you.

In the afternoon you are free to either spend time exploring parts of the jungle or take a bullock-cart (ox-cart) ride into the Tharu village nearby to explore the local culture of this part of the Terai.

Day 9: A day with the elephants

Spend time with a mahout and learn how to prepare elephant food
Spend time with a mahout and learn how to prepare elephant food

Get an early morning start and follow the elephants to the grasslands, where mahouts (elephant keepers) cut and collect grass for the elephants to eat during the day. While watching these graceful creatures graze in the morning mist, drink a steaming cup of traditional Nepali tea to celebrate the occasion.

Spend the rest of the morning with the mahouts learning how to make kuchis (elephant food made of grass, molasses, and salt) and hang around the elephant corrals before walking in the cool of the late afternoon alongside the elephants and their mahouts through jungle, grassland, and wetland.

Day 10: Early flight to Kathmandu and sunset in Namo Buddha

The traditional cottages at Namobuddha Resort

This morning you will be transferred to the Bharatpur Airport for your 20-minute flight back to Kathmandu. On arrival you will proceed to Boudhanath — this Buddhist stupa (heap) is one of the largest in the world. Next, you will visit Pashupatinath Temple, one of the holiest temples in Hinduism. Situated on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River, Pashupatinath is an important pilgrimage site, as a result, there is a constant stream of sadhus coming from Nepal and India.

Afterwards, drive the hour to sacred Namo Buddha in time for sunset.

Day 11: Explore Namo Buddha and Bhaktapur

The monastery at Namo Buddha with the Himalayas in the background
The monastery at Namo Buddha with the Himalayas in the background

After breakfast overlooking the mountains, take the morning to explore Tamang Buddhist culture and Tibetan Buddhism. Start with a short stroll down the hillside to visit the little stupa at Namo Buddha. Learn about the significance of Namo Buddha Stupa and its place in local Tamang culture before you trek a short distance up to the Tibetan Buddhist monastery overlooking this stupa.

From here head out of town to Bhaktapur, one of the three ancient cities within the Kathmandu Valley. Bhaktapur is considered to be one of the more historically authentic royal cities as the local population carry out their daily tasks similar to the generations before them. Check into your guesthouse before meeting up with your guide to explore this fascinating and ancient city.

Day 12: Back to Kathmandu

The gardens at the Shangri La hotel

Spend the morning relaxing and looking around Bhaktapur before you are transferred back to Kathmandu. Once in Kathmandu, the rest of your day is free for you to relax or self-explore, though if you need assistance, don't hesitate to reach out to your local specialist.

Day 13: Depart Kathmandu

Sadhu - Kathmandu, Nepal
Sadhu in Kathmandu

After breakfast and before you check out of your hotel, spend your remaining free time as you like before you are brought back to the Tribhuvan International Airport for your flight home. 

Map

Map of Best of Central Nepal: Astam & Chitwan - 13 Days
Map of Best of Central Nepal: Astam & Chitwan - 13 Days