For those who can take 2 weeks of vacation to visit Nepal, here is a 12-day itinerary that allows you to experience the highlights of Nepal: Culture in Kathmandu, a short trek in the Himalayan foothills near Pokhara, and a jungle safari in Chitwan National Park in the southern lowlands of Nepal.

Highlights

  • Explore Kathmandu’s world heritage sites, such as Boudhanath and Durbar Square
  • Take a short trek to the beautiful village of Ghandruk
  • Spend 2 days in the south of Nepal on a wildlife safari to Chitwan National Park
  • A spectacular mountain flight that offers close up views of Mount Everest

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu

Patan's Durbar Square
The main square of Patan, one of the Kathmandu Valley's three cities

You'll be picked up at the airport and transferred to your hotel to settle in. In the evening, we'll recommend a few great places to check out for dinner. 

Day 2: Visit Kathmandu’s World Heritage Sites

The famous Boudhanath Stupa, where Buddhist monks come daily to pay tribute to this holy shrine.

Boudhanath, the "world’s greatest Buddhist stupa", Swayambunath (“The Monkey Temple”) and the ancient temples in the city center of Kathmandu. While these sites have been damaged by the 2015 earthquake, they are still must-see attractions. The sites are currently actively rebuilding.

Day 3: Fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara

Phewa Lake, with the city of Pokhara along its shores
Phewa Lake, with the city of Pokhara along its shores

This is a short, less than an hour-long flight with great views of Annapurna and other Himalayan giants. Upon arriving in Pokhara, drive to Phedi for the trailhead where the trek starts. Start the trek with a couple of hours hike to Pothana.  

Days 4-6: The Ghandruk Trek, AKA Lower Anapurna Trek

From Ghandruk, there are views to the mountains of Annapurna (including Machapuchare).

The Ghandruk trek is a great introduction to trekking in Nepal. Its trails are at a relatively low elevation (just under 2000 m, or 6500 ft), and the day's stages are very doable, even for people who aren't big hikers. The views of the Himalayan giants Annapurna and Machapuchare are phenomenal. The trails take you through lush forests and are not too steep. You will trek through several villages, and you can stay in lodges. This trek will make you want to come back to Nepal to do more trekking

Day 7: Spend the day in Pokhara

Pokhara is a great place to relax next to Phewa Lake and watch paragliders circle overhead. After lunch catch a ride on a scooter to the world peace pagoda on top of the hill for the best views of Pokhara Valley. 

Day 8: Drive from Pokhara to Bandipur

Local residents in Bandipur
Local residents in Bandipur

This a scenic 2-hour drive leads to the charming town of Bandipur, situated in a ridgeline. The Old Inn is a boutique hotel with character. The Inn is well-known for the great local food they serve, including dhal bhat. On clear days the there are good views of snow covered mountains. 

Days 9-11: Chitwan National Park

Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park

The next day, you'll drive a couple more hours to Chitwan National Park in the jungle of Southern Nepal, close to the Indian border. Chitwan may not be as well-known as the high mountains of Nepal, but it's a unique place that is worth a visit. Chitwan is home to one-horned rhinoceros, tigers and the narrow-snouted gharial crocodile. On day 10 you'll enjoy a full day of safari, riding on the back of elephants.

Days 11-12: Morning in Chitwan, fly to Kathmandu in the afternoon, and spend a final day in Kathmandu 

After an early morning observing wildlife, a short flight will take you back to Kathmandu.  On your final day, revisit the places in Kathmandu you liked most, or explore the nearby old royal cities Patan and Bhaktapur. Another popular option is to take a mountain flight with spectacular close-up views of Mount Everest.

Map

Map of Nepal's Golden Triangle: Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Chitwan - 12 Days
Map of Nepal's Golden Triangle: Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Chitwan - 12 Days

Recent Trip Reviews

Related trips planned by kimkim specialists

Trip to nepal, Nepal - Oct 15 - Oct 24, 2018

Traveler: Genevieve G. - Local specialist: Ngima Dorji Sherpa

My husband and I had a wonderful trip organised by Ngima and his family. The whole experience has been breathtaking and it will remain in our memories for a long time. We chose to visit Kathmandu for two days , we then drove to Bandipur in private car, continuing to Pokhara the next day. We then did a three days treck with a guide and porter in the Annapurma, after which we flew back to Kathmandu. Our guide in Kathmandu was very knowledgeable and attentive to our needs , giving us lots of... read more

My husband and I had a wonderful trip organised by Ngima and his family. The whole experience has been breathtaking and it will remain in our memories for a long time. We chose to visit Kathmandu for two days , we then drove to Bandipur in private car, continuing to Pokhara the next day. We then did a three days treck with a guide and porter in the Annapurma, after which we flew back to Kathmandu. Our guide in Kathmandu was very knowledgeable and attentive to our needs , giving us lots of free time to enjoy particular spots when we wanted to. Our driver in Kathmandu was very professional and punctual making the visit from sites to sites a breeze in a very busy and someyimes chaotic city.
Pema Futi , our guide in the Annapurma was very professional and friendly , making sure we enjoyed our treck and were well fed and comfortable in the tea houses we staid in. Everything in the trip was organised very professionally and I highly recommend Ngima's company Nepal Myths Mountain Trails to anyone wanting to have a memorable and wonderful trip in Nepal.

Philip

Ghorepani, pokhara and kathmandu, Nepal - Mar 2 - Mar 16, 2018

Traveler: Philip H. - Local specialist: Amanda Delecca

Summary

These guys know their stuff and can handle much more difficult challenges than ours.

Background

John and I started walking about a year ago and decided that it would be a good challenge to go trekking in Nepal. We are 67 and 64 years old and no previous trekking experience.

We first looked at holiday packages to Nepal, many are 14 day packages with 3-4 days trekking. That wasn’t enough trekking for us. Google search recommended using trekking companies being members of the... read more

Summary

These guys know their stuff and can handle much more difficult challenges than ours.

Background

John and I started walking about a year ago and decided that it would be a good challenge to go trekking in Nepal. We are 67 and 64 years old and no previous trekking experience.

We first looked at holiday packages to Nepal, many are 14 day packages with 3-4 days trekking. That wasn’t enough trekking for us. Google search recommended using trekking companies being members of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal. Himalayan Trails is on the members list and are also a travel agency with excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. We live in Australia and Himalayan Trails has a sales representative from Australia, Amanda Delecca who handled our package.

Package Development

Contact and financial control was through the US online travel agency Kim Kim website portal. Amanda considered our inexperience, age and general health to design options for us. We chose the lower Annapurna Circuit. After several “conversations” through the Kim Kim portal we extended the 6 day loop to 8 days with a “rest” day at Ghorepani.

On the lead up to our trip Amanda communicated with us giving encouragement and sent helpful tip sheets for arrival and departure, what to pack, etc.

We wanted some cultural experience in our package. Our final itinerary is below.

Day 1. Arrive from Australia.

Day 2. Catch-up day in Kathmandu to meet Amanda and our trekking guide to help us get those last minute items - buy or hire.

Day 3. Sightseeing Pashupati Ceremonial area, Boudhanath Stupa and Swoyambhunath.

Amanda suggested we fly to Pokhara. The flight takes 25 minutes and saves a day on the road. So for about $200 we saved 2 full days travel.

Days 4-11. Fly to Pokhara and drive 45 minutes to start trekking at Phedi to Potana, trek to Landruk, to Grandruk, to Tadapani, to Ghorepani, up Poon Hill pre dawn and return to Ghorepani, to Tikhedhunga, to Hile (20 minutes to catch vehicle for 2 hour drive to Pokhara). This direction around the loop avoided the huge number of steps on the first day ensuring our continued enjoyment.

Day 12. After our trekking we had 2 nights in Pokhara, giving us one and a half days sightseeing on our own.

Day 13-15. On return to Kathmandu, Himalayan Trails met us at the airport and took us up to Namobuddha, the next day to Bhaktapur, then we were off.

The Actual Experience

I have travelled a little bit now and my wife and I often book a package at our country destination, such as in Jordan, or Morocco. It is always a consideration as to whether we would be met at the airport. In this case the guide and driver were there holding a sign so we knew we had “landed”.

From there everything went as promised. Guides and drivers were all very good, not rushed, knew their stuff, and were patient while I took photos, or had to repeat information. All vehicles were modern and clean in as new condition. We got the sense that they considered it a privilege to work for Himalayan Trails. We had a different guide and driver on our return, they knew their areas, being a Buddhist and living in Bhaktapur.

The most important people were our trekking guide and porter. Turns out they were both from the Sherpa region. Our guide “No-wun” was very experienced having been on mountaineering expeditions since he was 14, on Mt Everest and leading climbing expeditions on other mountains. No-wun checked everything we hired, bought, or used. On the trail he set a comfortable pace for us, rested us when needed, checked our rooms, monitored the kitchens, looked after all our needs.

Our porter “Peppi” walked with us following up behind, waiting when one of us stopped. Eventually Peppi joined with John and I singing on trail.

All four of us easily interacted like old friends.

Each day we trekked 3-5 hours with two 6 hour days. It meant we were checked into our tea house most days by 2pm avoiding the need to trek in the afternoon storms. In March the sun shines in the morning and clouds and rain come in the afternoon. We had plenty of time to dodge the hail and explore local villages on our own.

Accommodation Food and Facilities

The hotels and resorts in Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara were excellent. Our first was The Inn Patan right next to the central square. It was originally a large family home. So convenient to historic sites. John and I walked around at dusk. The room was big and faced a back courtyard so very quiet, beds very comfortable and menu cosmopolitan enough for us both.

In Pokhara we stayed in the Temple Tree Resort. It was definitely a resort! Beautiful property, big rooms and really hot showers. Prices for food and clothes washing were high, so we ate out at Moondance cafe each meal and I got my washing done across the street in a small laundry opposite the entrance for next to nothing, so I gave the lady double. We visited the Gurkha Museum and the International Mountaineering Museum on our first day; and went for a boat ride on Lake Fewa and shopping the next.

We stayed at the Namobuddha Resort high on a Hill. It was very unusual with separate buildings, vegetarian food, and a sense of serenity. We sat outside having a vodka before going to the main building for dinner. Rooms were generous, the bathroom was in a separate building and massive! Loved the food there.

Our last few nights were at 1905 Suites. We were blown away by this boutique property. We ate dinner in and the food was amazing.

Some summing up the hotel and resort part of the package - all properties were privately owned and offered completely different experiences, rooms and food excellent, bathrooms functional. We would recommend any of them to our friends.

Accommodation on the trail was “Tea Houses”. All offered us twin rooms with a simple, but comfortable bed in dormitory style accommodation. Meals were limited, with the same menu appearing almost everywhere. All the food we tried was good - especially given where we were! The Chicken Dal Bhat was my local favourite. Those with sweet tooth can try mars roll, or chocolate pudding!

We had a mix of washroom arrangements, but most were ensuite. All places had an English type toilet in the room, and at least one English communal toilet. Hot water ranged from almost cold to scolding, so test your water first. We trekked early March so we had limited number of other trekkers. The only Tea House that was a bit average was the one a Tadapani. Our favourite was the one in Ghorepani called Superview Hotel. All Tea Houses had wi-fi, but power was not reliable. If you take a lot of video then take a power bank with you. I used mine once to recharge.

All our expectations for a great trip and trekking were well exceeded.

We had a debrief with Amanda on our last day - just where we started at Himalayan Java Coffee at the entrance to Thamel. Great place. We spent an hour with her going through all aspects of our trip before saying goodbye. It was evident that Amanda had been in contact daily with our guides and hotels/resorts and was across our whole trip.

Conclusion

Well there is much that I cannot say in this short space, but our experience with Himalayan Trails was outstanding. Although our trekking was simple and easy (compared to others) we felt we were treated with the same high levels of service and safety. We would confidently recommend them to any of our friends.

Other Things You Should Know

If your going that far to Nepal, take a scenic flight to Mt Everest, after all it is the “big daddy”and see the top of the world go by. We tried it on Day 3 but due to cloud got cancelled on the runway. Himalayan Trails rescheduled us with Buddha Airlines on Day 15. We saw it. Truly awesome experience.

When in Nepal, use taxis. They are not that dear. Negotiate a price up front and get to where you need to be fast. Don’t waste your time travelling - you’ve paid to be there so get to where you want to be quickly.

Be generous. Tip for good service. You don’t have too, but a small amount in European, American, or Australian is nothing to you and is a great deal to the Nepalese.

Happy trekking.

Phil Hewitt
Adelaide Australia

Family trip to nepal - ktm, trekking and chitwan, Nepal - Oct 23 - Nov 5, 2016

Traveler: l m. - Local specialist: Raj Gyawali

Social Tours couldn't have been better - we'd recommend them to anyone. They pulled together a fantastic trip and were very accommodating of requests we made whilst out there. The guides were great, too.

Kim

Incredible nepal journey, Nepal - Mar 13 - Mar 25, 2016

Traveler: Kim C. - Local specialist: Kim Bannister

Loved planning the trip working closely with my expert - she answered so many questions and really helped me solidify our perfect itinerary

Kim went above and beyond to make our trip amazing - she arranged special anniversary gifts at check-in, had staff pick us up and take us to the airport and she even included us in a pre-trek dinner with her Upper Mustang group - so fun to feel like you have a local friend.