This offbeat trip plan is perfect for the explorer looking to combine a trek with cultural discovery, a jungle safari, and an epic helicopter tour of the Himalaya. Get to know the traditions and history of the Kathmandu Valley, then hike through the gorgeous Annapurna region and summit Pikey Peak, where you'll enjoy a spectacular view that Edmund Hillary claimed as his favorite of Everest. Trade the trail for the jungles with a safari in Chitwan National Park, then end your trip on a high note with areal views of the Himalaya on a flight above the world's tallest peaks.

Highlights

  • Explore Kathmandu's cultural and sacred sites
  • Trek to Pikey Peak on a route that's off-the-beaten-path and away from the crowds
  • Go on safari in Chitwan National Park and spot exotic wildlife
  • Take an aerial tour of the Himalaya

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Kathmandu! Kathmandu
Day 2 Explore Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 3 Drive from Kathmandu to Dhap, Trek to Sigane or Jhapre Jhapre
Day 4 Trek from Jhapre to Pikey Base Camp Pikey Base Camp
Day 5 Trek from Pikey Peak Base Camp to Chaulakharka via Pikey Peak Chaulakharka
Day 6 Trek from Chaulakharka to Shivalaya  Shivalaya
Day 7 Drive from Shivalaya to Charikot Charikot
Day 8 Drive from Charikot to Namobuddha Namobuddha
Day 9 Drive from Namobuddha to Bhaktapur, Explore the Ancient City Bhaktapur
Day 10 Fly from Kathmandu to Chitwan Chitwan National Park
Day 11 Explore Chitwan: Safaris, Wildlife, and Relaxation Chitwan National Park
Day 12 Fly from Chitwan to Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 13 Everest Mountain Flight, Explore Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 14 Depart Kathmandu  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Kathmandu!

Kathesimbhu Stupa in Kathmandu
Kathesimbhu Stupa in Kathmandu

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

Boudhanath stupa
Boudhanath stupa

Kathmandu has a special atmosphere during the early morning hours when the city is slowly coming to life yet not too chaotic. It's a great time to walk and explore the streets or have a chai overlooking one of the local courtyards or durbar squares. 

After breakfast, there are then a number of ways you can spend your day given the myriad famous sights around the Kathmandu Valley. You can use this as a free day or you can utilize a local English-speaking guide who knows the city well and can explain the history and significance of the sights (along with a private jeep to take you around).

In the evening, head out for dinner at one of the city's great eateries, or your specialist can arrange a home-cooked dinner with a local family.

Day 3: Drive from Kathmandu to Dhap, Trek to Sigane or Jhapre (9,580 feet/2920 meters)

Mountains view of the Numbur Himal section of the Himalayan Range.
Mountains view of the Numbur Himal section of the Himalayan Range.

Depart Kathmandu in the early morning for the long drive to Dhap. You'll follow a Japanese-built road through the mountains to the Sun Kosi river. Then, you'll follow the river until you cross over and climb up to Okhaldhunga. From here, it’s about a 3-hour drive to the trailhead at Dhap.

The road from Okhaldhunga is a good blacktop road that climbs from 5, 118 feet (1,560 m) in Okhaldhunga to 9,186 feet (2,800 m) at Dhap, where your trek begins. As you near Sigane, you'll see mountains coming into view which will become quite familiar: these are the peaks of the Numbur Himal section of the Himalayan Range.

For the first couple of hours, the trail from Sigane will be under construction. The first village you'll reach is Jhapre, which stands at 9,580 feet (2,920 m) and is perched above a deep valley with nice views of Everest and Numbur Himal. Be sure to visit the town's monastery and stupa before you relax for the evening.

Walking time: 4-5 hours

Day 4: Trek from Jhapre to Pikey Base Camp (11,762 feet / 3,585 m)

Rhododendron blossoms in spring
Rhododendron blossoms in spring

Today, you'll get an early morning start with views of Numbur Chuli, Everest, and the eastern Himalaya range. The trail starts on a dirt road for a while and then quickly turns into a gentle uphill climb through pine and rhododendron forests until you reach Bhulbule. You can take a break at the local tea shop there, and then continue on a gentle uphill climb, arriving in Lhamuje for lunch. 

The trail this afternoon begins a series of gentle ups and downs along the ridge, which eventually arrives at a pasture where you can see grazing yaks. In the spring, you'll experience different species of rhododendron flowers during the walk, along with spectacular views of the Himalaya. You'll pass a mani wall and then will climb a steep uphill zigzag trail to Pikey Peak Base Camp, where you can reward yourself with a visit to the local yak cheese factory. 

Trekking time: 5-6 hours

Day 5: Trek from Pikey Peak Base Camp to Chaulakharka (4,790 feet/1,460 meters) via Pikey Peak

Prayer flags at the viewpoint from Pikey Peak
Prayer flags at the viewpoint from Pikey Peak

The trail to the top of Pikey Peak starts from behind the lodge and follows a gradual slope to the summit, which is strewn with colorful prayer flags. You'll start your ascent before dawn, and will be rewarded with a breathtaking sunrise from the mountaintop. If the weather is clear, you will even be privy to spectacular views from Annapurna to Kanchenjunga. It is truly amazing! 

It’s a quick descent back to the lodge for a fast breakfast, after which you'll hit the trail for your next exciting leg.  As you leave Pikey base camp, you'll pass a mani wall, then will continue along a  beautiful high contour through trees, accompanied by a backdrop of stunning mountain views. 

You'll bend around the valley, descending through a gorgeous forest, until you eventually pass a cheese factory, which marks the beginning of Ngaur. This village features a picturesque cluster of houses on an outcrop. Although Ngaur endured extensive seismic damage, you can visit a small new prayer wheel building beside the remains of the village's temple, or gompa

As you continue on, the trail will descend steeply through a forest to Kosinasa (referred to locally as  Lamane), which stands at 9,432 feet (2,872 m). If time permits, wander through the village and be sure to stop in an eatery for a particularly delectable bowl of Daal Bhat, a dynamic Nepalese lentil curry.

Your trail will continue to follow the hillside to Gumba, climbing slightly up to 9,777 feet (2,980 m). This tiny village is home to about a dozen houses on the hillside and a relatively new gompa. After you pass through town, the trail turns right and drops steeply through the forest, down to Namkheli, after which the trail continues to Likhu Kola, a river situated at 5,036 feet (1535 m), and Chaulakharka, where you'll rest for the night.  

Trekking time: 6-7 hours
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 6: Trek from Chaulakharka to Shivalaya (5,807 feet/1,770 meters)

Admiring the view from a suspension bridge
Admiring the view from a suspension bridge

This morning you'll tackle a fairly steep 2,460-foot (750 m) ascent — sometimes on new tractor track — to Bhandar. After your climb, reward yourself with a cup of tea at the village's best lodge before you journey on to Deurali.

Your second big ascent of the day is up to the Deurali Pass (12,139 feet/3700 meters). On the east side of the pass, take in gorgeous views over the valley and river back towards Pikey Peak. On the west side sits the little village of Deurali, with Langtang visible beyond. Spend some time soaking up the charm of Deurali, where teas houses nestle together around rows of mani walls. The town is the perfect spot for today's lunch. 

When you hit the trail in the afternoon, you'll find your route drops steeply at first, then levels out all the way down to Shivalaya (a bustling village on the river), where you can spend the night. If you're eager to press on,  you can continue to Those or Jiri, where you can catch the bus tomorrow morning.

Trekking time: 7-8 hours 
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 7: Drive from Shivalaya to Charikot

The view from the road
The view from the road

Today, you'll bid farewell to the mountains and drive back to Kathmandu. The first part of this journey follows a stunning route on a Swiss-built mountains road, first descending all the way to the Tama Kosi before climbing to Charikot, a little hill town at 6,562 feet (2,000 m). You'll spend the night relaxing here in a very comfortable, family-run retreat with stunning mountain views, hot showers and, surprisingly, the best Thai curry in Nepal!

In the afternoon, you can visit the ancient trading town of Dolakha, with its old Hindu and Buddhist temples; learn more about the Shamanism of the original Thami inhabitants here and the mingling of these three major religions. After, you'll drive down and return in time for a drink as you enjoy the sunset over the mountains.

Day 8: Drive from Charikot to Namobuddha

Namobuddha
Namobuddha

Enjoy the view at breakfast this morning before hitting the road and driving through Mudu, after which it's all downhill to the Bhote Koshi River. From there you'll follow the Arniko highway from Tibet, climbing to Namobuddha, a beautiful location sacred to Buddhists, especially those in the local Tamang population.

Be sure sure to visit the lovely little Stupa commemorating the selfless act of Siddartha Gautam offering his body to a hungry tigress – an act which is said to have contributed to his ultimate achievement of enlightenment and ‘Buddhahood’. Tonight you'll be staying in the Monastery grounds at the guest house; see what life is like for the religious community here as you eat with the resident monks.  

Day 9: Drive from Namobuddha to Bhaktapur, Explore the Ancient City

Panauti, one of the oldest villages in Nepal
Panauti, one of the oldest villages in Nepal

After breakfast overlooking the mountains, you'll drive to the village of Panauti to explore how Tamang Buddhist culture contrasts with that of Tibetan Buddhism. You'll start with a short walk down the hillside to the small stupa at Namobuddha. This stupa commemorates Siddhartha Gautam’s selfless act of offering his body to a hungry tigress, which is said to have contributed to his ability to achieve enlightenment and, ultimately, Buddha-hood. From here, you'll climb a short distance up to the newly built Tibetan Buddhist monastery perched on the hilltop above the stupa.

You'll then head back down into the Kathmandu Valley to Bhaktapur, one of the three ancient cities within the Kathmandu Valley. Bhaktapur is also known as Bhadgaun (the "City of Devotees"); it is the home of true medieval art and architecture and is also the center of traditional Nepalese wood carving in the valley. Compared to the other two cities (Patan and Kathmandu), Bhaktapur is the most original and is without a doubt the most historically authentic, as it is a living museum where farmers dry their harvest, potters turn their wheel, and people go about their daily life as they have done for centuries.

Here, you will check into a charming traditional-style guest house and when you are ready, your guide will take you out to explore this fascinating ancient city at dusk.

Day 10: Fly from Kathmandu to Chitwan

Looking out over the river in Chitwan
Looking out over the river in Chitwan

This morning, you'll get up early for your flight to the famous Terai region of Nepal, home of Chitwan National Park. You'll find that the landscape and culture here are totally different from those of Kathmandu or the Himalaya. The name 'Terai' refers to the extensive plains in the southern part of Nepal — this area is the most northern extension of the great Gangetic plains of India, land that was won and lost in decades of struggle and it shares both Indian and Nepali characteristics and culture.

Upon arrival at the airport in Chitwan, you will be picked up by a representative from your lodge; you'll arrive at your accommodations in time for lunch (unless you choose an afternoon flight) and a briefing about the activities available during your stay. 

Day 11: 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, you can glimpse the leopard, sloth bear, and Royal Bengal tiger (although it is very rare to spot a tiger these days, recent spottings have occurred!). 

Day 12: Fly from Chitwan to Kathmandu

Kathesimbhu Stupa in Thamel
Kathesimbhu Stupa in Thamel

After breakfast in Chitwan, you'll be transferred to Bharatpur airport for your flight back to Kathmandu. In the capital, 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 13: Everest Mountain Flight, Explore Kathmandu

Mt. Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse from above
Mt. Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse from above

Before breakfast, you'll take an early morning flight (1-hour) to see Mt. Everest as well as Nepal's other mighty peaks. It's a spectacular flight that flies east along the Himalayan range to Mt. Everest and back. You'll be picked up from your hotel, shuttled to the domestic airport, and will be back at your hotel in time for breakfast.

During the flight, look out the lefthand side of the plane to see famous peaks such as Shisha Pangma (26,289 feet / 8,013 m), Cho-Oyu (26,906 feet / 8,201 m), Nuptse (25,771 feet / 7,855 m), and finally Everest (29,029 feet / 8,848 m), known as 'Sagarmatha' by Nepalese and 'Chomolungma' by Tibetans.

After breakfast, you'll have some free time to explore on your own. You can relax at the hotel or head out for a short walk. If you need some inspiration, your specialists can recommend some great routes. In the afternoon, you'll have the option of taking a guided tour (via private jeep) to some of the famous cultural sites of the Kathmandu Valley. See the attached articles for ideas of the places you could visit. 

Flying time: 1 hour

Day 14: 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 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.