- Cycle the ‘magical marijuana trail’—a family-friendly activity despite the name!
- Meditate Lakeside in Pokhara
- Hike up to Sarangkot to enjoy panoramic views of the Annapurna Himalaya
- Taste Bhaktapur’s famous king curd
- Learn about Hindu and Buddhist culture at Kathmandu’s temples and museums
|Day 1||Arrival in Kathmandu||Kathmandu|
|Day 2||Introduction to Hinduism and Buddhism||Kathmandu|
|Day 3||Cycle the marijuana loop near Kathmandu||Pokhara|
|Day 4||Outdoor adventures in Pokhara||Pokhara|
|Day 5||Relax in Pokhara||Pokhara|
|Day 6||Back to Kathmandu; Visit to Bhaktapur||Bhaktapur|
|Day 7||Bhaktapur and Patan||Patan|
|Day 8||Visit to Namobuddha||Namobuddha|
|Day 9||Depart Kathmandu||Kathmandu|
Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu
After arriving in Kathmandu and settling into your hotel, there may be time for some sightseeing. A great introduction to the culture, architecture and devotional life of Kathmandu is to visit the Kathmandu Durbar Square. This is a short walk from Thamel, the busy tourist hub. The square is most atmospheric in the evening — people come to worship at sunset, when the fading light intensifies the red brick medieval temples and the bright white early 20th century palace.
Day 2: Kathmandu - Introduction to Hinduism and Buddhism
Today you will be introduced to the two major religions of Nepal — Hinduism and Buddhism — through two iconic sites. While the majority of Nepalis are Hindus, Buddhism also plays a large part in Nepali culture, and many people follow aspects of both religions.
In the morning, visit the Boudhanath Stupa. This is considered the holiest Tibetan Buddhist site outside of Tibet, and the surrounding area is a hub of Tibetan life and culture in Nepal. The enormous white dome is topped with a gleaming golden top, from which the languorous eyes of the Buddha gaze.
After a Tibetan lunch overlooking the stupa, head to nearby Pashupatinath Temple. This is the most sacred Hindu site in Nepal, and is a riverside complex of temples, cremation ghats (steps) and the occasional eccentric sadhu (Hindu holy man). Pashupatinath leaves a deep impression on visitors due to its somber yet celebratory atmosphere, and exquisite architecture.
Day 3: Cycle the marijuana loop
It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to cycle the ‘magical marijuana loop’! Despite its name, this is a family-friendly activity: mountain biking through the small villages on the outskirts of Kathmandu. It’s a physical challenge but not too difficult, with just a few short uphill stretches. Cycling is the perfect way to enjoy the rice fields in the countryside, as well as visit a number of smaller places that you probably wouldn’t make it to otherwise. As for the name? Yes, marijuana grows like a weed in much of Nepal, and you will be riding through fields abundant with the plant.
In the afternoon, get ready for your flight to Pokhara, and try to get a seat on the right-hand side of the plane for mountain views. After arrival, enjoy happy hour cocktails and a relaxed dinner while enjoying the sunset over Phewa Lake.
Day 4: Outdoor adventures in Pokhara
From the lakeside city of Pokhara you will be able to see the beautiful fish-tail peak of Machhapuchhre. For more expansive views and the opportunity to walk in the mountains, take an early morning trip to Sarangkot. From the 1590 meter lookout atop the ridge above Pokhara, you have lake views on one side and Annapurna Himalaya views on the other. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can paraglide from here. Pokhara is one of the best places in the world for paragliding, due to the awesome views and stable air currents.
If paragliding isn’t your thing, head back downhill for some sightseeing around Pokhara. Although the city is better known for its natural beauty than its cultural treasures, there are still a few worthwhile sites to visit. The International Mountain Museum houses informative exhibits on all aspects of mountaineering in the Himalaya. The Gupteshwor Mahadev Gupha is an impressive underground cave shrine, dedicated to the god Shankar. Tashiling is a Tibetan refugee settlement, where you can visit a carpet-weaving workshop with great views.
Day 5: Unwind in Pokhara
After so much action you may be in need of some rest, and Pokhara’s Lakeside is an ideal place to do this. You can take a yoga or meditation class at Pranamaya Yoga, swim in the pool at Temple Tree Resort or Shangri-La Village, or get a massage at one of the dozens of parlors throughout the town, catering to all budgets. Another popular Lakeside activity is to paddle on the lake in a boat or small kayak. You can even hire a boatman to do the paddling for you, for extra relaxation time!
Day 6: Return to Kathmandu; Bhaktapur
After flying back to Kathmandu, head straight to Bhaktapur. This is one of the old kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley, and despite damage in the 2015 earthquake, remains one of the best places to experience Newari culture. The Newars are one of the original ethnic groups of the Kathmandu Valley, and their distinct carving, metalwork and pottery are all on display in Bhaktapur. It is one of Nepal’s most impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Day 7: Bhaktapur and Patan
It’s worth getting up early in Bhaktapur to appreciate the warm early morning light on the red-hued buildings, and to witness the local people perform their puja (worship). For breakfast, seek out some delicious juju dhau, or ‘king curd’. This creamy yoghurt is a specialty of Bhaktapur, and many people say it’s the best yogurt in Nepal.
Later, drive to Patan, home to the third medieval Durbar Square in the Kathmandu Valley (the other two being in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur). The temples of Patan Durbar Square are well-preserved, and a highlight is the excellent Patan Museum, housed in the former palace. Here, take a journey through the architectural, artistic and spiritual traditions of Nepal, through interesting Hindu and Buddhist artefacts and displays. Return to Bhaktapur overnight.
Day 8: A Visit to Namobuddha
After Boudhanath, the little town of Namobuddha is the second most important Tibetan Buddhist site in Nepal, and has long attracted pilgrims. Located just outside the Kathmandu Valley, a colourful monastery and stupa is perched at the end of a ridgeline. Today you can choose to just relax at the Namobuddha Eco-Resort (which makes delicious vegetarian food from their own organic vegetable garden) and enjoy the mountain views on the skyline, or take a short hike up and down the hills around the town.
Day 9: Return to Kathmandu
If you’re leaving Nepal today, make an early start from Namobuddha to reach Kathmandu. If there’s time, pick up some handcrafted souvenirs from one of the fair-trade shops along Lazimpat Road, north of Thamel. Paper products, pashmina knitwear and Tibetan-style jewellery are all uniquely Nepali products that make great gifts, and purchasing them helps support local artisans.