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