See the best of Nepal's Golden Triangle on this relaxed itinerary that takes you from the streets and shrines of Kathmandu to the lakeside bliss of Pokhara and the wilds of Chitwan National Park. You'll have lots of time to explore Nepal's capital and the gorgeous sacred sites around it. Later, relax by Phewa Lake, gazing up at the incredible views of the Annapurnas. Cap off your trip with a jeep game drive or river safari, meeting a host of Nepalese creatures and possibly spotting a Bengal Tiger along the way!

Highlights

  • Explore Kathmandu's bustling streets and sites
  • Visit the ancient city of Bhaktapur and the unforgettable Swayambhunath
  • Set sail on an evening boat tour in Pokhara
  • Discover the wilds of Chitwan National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Kathmandu! Kathmandu
Day 2 Explore Kathmandu: Bhaktapur and Swayambhunath Kathmandu
Day 3 Drive from Kathmandu to Bandipur Bandipur
Day 4 Drive from Bandipur to Pokhara, Evening Boat Tour Pokhara
Day 5 Fly from Pokhara to Chitwan Chitwan
Day 6 Explore Chitwan: Safaris, Wildlife, and Relaxation Chitwan
Day 7 Fly from Chitwan to Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 8 Depart Kathmandu  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Kathmandu!

The cityscape of Kathmandu and Boudhanath Stupa
The cityscape of Kathmandu and Boudhanath Stupa

Flying into Kathmandu, you'll have views over the valley, the Himalaya, and the terraced fields below. After completing customs, a representative will be waiting to greet you outside the airport and to guide you through the initial culture shock of Kathmandu’s narrow, winding streets to your hotel.

Once you've settled in, head out and explore the city. Kathmandu Durbar Square is a great place to start your exploration, where you'll walk through narrow alleyways teeming with small shops, ancient temples, and local restaurants. If you want to stretch your legs, Swayambhunath, the white stupa rising above the valley, is the perfect spot to catch the sunset over the valley.

In the evening, the tourist hub of Thamel is a good place to grab your first meal, with a variety of restaurants to chose from offering both Western and local Nepali dishes.

Day 2: Explore Kathmandu: Bhaktapur and Swayambhunath

Morning dawns on the temples of Bhaktapur's Durbar Square
Morning dawns on the temples of Bhaktapur's Durbar Square

After breakfast, you'll drive to Bhaktapur, one of the three ancient cities within the Kathmandu Valley. Situated about 8.5 miles (14 km) east of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur is one of three ancient cities within the Kathmandu Valley; shaped like a conch shell, the city has been revered since its founding in the 9th century.  Also known as Bhadgaun, meaning the "city of devotees," this is the home of true medieval art and architecture in the valley. 

After exploring Bhaktapur, you'll drive back into Kathmandu to visit the Swayambhunath, perched on a hilltop where the legendary Buddhist saint, Manjushri, discovered the lotus growing in the ancient Kathmandu Valley lake. Swayambhunath commands a superb view over Kathmandu and is one of the best places to observe religious harmony between the Nepalese Buddhists and Hindus.

The stupa (a dome-shaped Buddhist structure) is one of the oldest shrines in the world and dates back over 2,500 years. Along with prayer wheels and fine paintings displayed in the monasteries, Swayambhunath is the largest Buddha statue in Nepal; it's composed of a solid hemisphere of brick and earth supporting a conical spire capped by a pinnacle of copper gilt. Painted on the four-sided base of the spire are the all-seeing eyes of Lord Buddha.

The rest of the afternoon and evening is then yours to explore, shop, and, of course, check out Kathmandu's nightlife and many great restaurants. 

Driving time: 2 hours (return)

Day 3: Drive from Kathmandu to Bandipur

Evening views from Bandipur of the Himalaya
Evening views from Bandipur of the Himalaya

After breakfast, you'll start the overland trip to Bandipur in the early morning to avoid traffic in Kathmandu. You'll arrive in Bandipur for a late lunch and can explore the charming village for the rest of the day. Before sunset, you may want to climb the nearby hill to watch the beautiful shapes of the foothills as they change color.

Bandipur
A beautifully preserved village crowning a lofty ridge above the highway stop of Dumre, Bandipur is a living museum of Newari culture. Its winding lanes are lined with traditional Newari houses. Time seems to have stood still here, although it has taken a lot of effort to preserve the magic while developing the town as a destination. Despite its proximity to the epicenter of the 2015 earthquake, a number of village houses collapsed, yet Bandipur escaped with only minor damage overall. 

Driving time: 6 hours

Day 4: Drive from Bandipur to Pokhara, Evening Boat Tour

Phewa Lake against the backdrop of the Annapurnas, Pokhara
Phewa Lake against the backdrop of the Annapurnas, Pokhara

After enjoying the sunrise and early morning, you'll leave Bandipur behind and travel overland to Pokhara, one of the enchanting places to view the Phewa Lake and the magnificence of Machhapuchhere (22,890 feet/6,977 meters) rising behind it, creating an ambiance of peace and magic. En route, you can take a detour to Begnas Lake, a beautiful spot for a short walk or boat tour.

After arriving in Pokhara, you'll check in to your hotel before heading out to explore the lakeside, and finally relaxing over dinner.

Pokhara Valley

At 2,713 feet (827 m), Nepal's second-largest city is situated in a tranquil valley along the banks of Phewa Lake. It's the starting point for many of Nepal’s famous treks and rafting destinations. The valley surrounding Pokhara is home to thick forests, gushing rivers, clear lake and world-famous views of the Himalaya.

Driving time: 3 hours 

Day 5: Fly from Pokhara to Chitwan

Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park

After breakfast, you'll be transferred to Pokhara Airport for your flight to Bharatpur, Chitwan's main airport. A car will meet you there to take you to the jungle of Chitwan National Park.

After you arrive at your lodge, settle in and take a walk around the grounds. You can choose from a number of activities to do this afternoon or simply relax and enjoy some free time.

Flight time: 20 minutes

Day 6: Explore Chitwan: Safaris, Wildlife, and Relaxation

One-horned rhino, an endangered species, inside Chitwan
One-horned rhino, an endangered species, inside Chitwan

Today, choose from a variety of activities or take the day to relax and explore on your own. You can embark on a full day of jungle safari activities, spending time with Nepal’s majestic elephants in the dense jungle in search of wildlife, or take a river safari in traditional carved-out wooden canoes to spot animals and birds along the river banks.

Wildlife in Chitwan includes the greater one-horned rhinoceros, spotted deer, hog deer, sambar deer, and barking deer, as well as a wide variety of birdlife. With luck, there is always the chance of glimpsing the leopard, sloth bear and Royal Bengal tiger (although it is very rare to spot a tiger these days, recent spottings have occurred!). 

Day 7: Fly from Chitwan to Kathmandu

Kathesimbhu Stupa in Thamel
Kathesimbhu Stupa in Thamel

After breakfast in Chitwan, you'll be transferred to Bharatpur airport and return to Kathmandu by flight. 

Once you're back in Kathmandu, you'll be transferred to your hotel and the rest of the day is yours. Explore the city's streets on foot, bicycle, or rickshaw, perhaps shopping for souvenirs or seeing anything you may have missed at the beginning of your trip.

Flight time: 25 minutes

Day 8: Depart Kathmandu

The all-seeing eyes of Buddha at Swayambhunath
The all-seeing eyes of Buddha at Swayambhunath

It's time to say farewell to Nepal. Enjoy your last moments in Kathmandu with breakfast in a café, a final stroll through the narrow alleys and temples, and some final souvenir shopping. A driver will be waiting for you at your hotel to take you to the airport for your return flight home. It's best to be at the airport at least two hours prior to departure.

Map

Map of Nepal's Golden Triangle: Kathmandu, Pokhara, & Chitwan - 8 Days
Map of Nepal's Golden Triangle: Kathmandu, Pokhara, & Chitwan - 8 Days