Raj Gyawali

A leader in sustainable tourism, Raj is an expert in a range of activities - from mountain-biking to local cooking classes and market tours.

What places and activities do you specialize in?

"I love the outdoors, and have enjoyed almost everything that Nepal has to offer in terms of soft adventure. I also am very interested in the deep inter cultural learning that travel offers. Combine the two and this is my expertise in this region - Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, India, and now is slowly extending to Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand.

I specialize in experiences that are custom tailored soft adventure, but generally go beyond the surface of travel and immerse into the country. Participatory experiential experiences that leave a lasting impression and ends in the traveller being wiser."

How did you get involved in travel?

"What attracted me to travel as a business was the ramifications it has on development, specially in countries like Nepal, where travel goes deep into the countryside, and puts money into the hands of people who really need it. In 1998, while still working in manufacturing and exports, I participated in designing a tour for British school kids which fundraised to build a school hostel in a village and also participate in the process as part of the travel experience. Thats where I realized how deep travel can reach. The seed for socialtours was born there.

More recently, I went on a mountain biking holiday in Bhutan with my friends who are all enthusiasts as well. Rather than hit the well beaten trail, we use our connections in Bhutan to design a fully custom tailored five day experience, which went from first descents on trails never before biked, to deep immersive local stays in family run lodges, to enjoying a drink with royalty in Thimpu, courtesy of the connections we have in the region. An experience that will last forever in my mind, specially as it was at a time when a holiday was needed the most for all of us."

Please share a unique travel experience you will never forget.

"I go to different places for my holiday, mostly to expose my daughter to the same sort of experiential experiences that will expand her learning of cultures and inculcate a love for outdoor activities. Plus that is what we love as a family too. We end up mostly going to Thailand and Austria for this now, as we are connected with family in these countries, and you can only take so much holiday, and when we have other time, explore deeper into Nepal and adjoining countries."

Featured trips & expertise

Monks during prayer time - Rene Jungsnickel

Kathmandu Inside Out - 7-day itinerary

This trip gives a very good feel of Kathmandu Valley and includes all the highlights during a week-long trip. Cultural highlights, local food, and hikes ensure that you will get a taste for all the great things Kathmandu has to offer. It also highlights some of the events that happen in the city, giving a feel for the modern side of the valley.

Catch the sunrise for Nagarkot, a hill station on the rim of Kathmandu Valley

Highlights of Kathmandu and Pokhara - 7 Days

Looking to explore the cultural, more relaxing side of Nepal? Showcasing dazzling temples and world heritage squares, placid lakes and serene mountains, this week-long itinerary takes in the classic sights of Nepal as well as the more off-the-beaten path experiences, including Nepal’s famous lake town, Pokhara.

A Week in Kathmandu Valley

Here’s a trip plan that gives you a taste of what Nepal has to offer within a week: a short trek with great views of the Himalaya combined with a visit to the ancient cities of Bhaktapur and Patan. You'll stay within striking distance of Kathmandu.

Panchase Trek - 4-Day Trek Near Pokhara

For travelers wanting an authentic Himalayan trekking experience with incredible views without the time (or stamina) required for a long trek, the Panchase trek is perfect. It starts close to the popular town of Pokhara, takes just four days, and can be done in autumn, winter, or spring.

Nar Ghedi Monastery

Nar Phu Valley Trek - 9 Days

The Nar Phu Valley trek is a real Himalayan wilderness experience that is as unforgettable as it is spectacular. Tucked between the more visited Annapurna and Manaslu regions, Nar Phu is a true hidden gem that offers trekkers a rare opportunity to explore unspoiled valleys that feature a mix of raw Himalayan nature and ancient Buddhist culture.

Shivapuri National Park

Trekking With Your Family In Nepal

There’s no reason to put off trekking in the Himalaya until the kids have left home. Aside from the amazing landscapes, cultural and wildlife encounters awaiting you, here are some other great reasons why visiting Nepal with your family is a good idea.

Recent trip reviews for Raj

Trip to nepal, Nepal - Apr 16 - Apr 25, 2017

Traveler: Robin B. - Local specialist: Raj Gyawali

Raj and the team Social Tours couldn't have been more helpful. It was an expensive trip but we saved a lot of time that we would have otherwise spent finding out about places and organizing trips. The 4 guides who took care of us were very knowledgeable and specialized in their work.
Raj is very knowledgeable with a lot of contacts and is highly respected within the Nepalese tourist industry.
Anura is intelligent and sparkly, and a tremendous asset to Social Tours.
Social Tours helped make... read more

Raj and the team Social Tours couldn't have been more helpful. It was an expensive trip but we saved a lot of time that we would have otherwise spent finding out about places and organizing trips. The 4 guides who took care of us were very knowledgeable and specialized in their work.
Raj is very knowledgeable with a lot of contacts and is highly respected within the Nepalese tourist industry.
Anura is intelligent and sparkly, and a tremendous asset to Social Tours.
Social Tours helped make this our trip of a lifetime!!!

There was only one night where the accommodation was noisy, poky and uninviting, but all our other accommodation was exceptional

Raj Gyawali, local specialist, responded to this review:

Robin, thanks a ton for taking the time to review the trip and also for coming to Nepal. We do take feedback quite seriously and use it to improve on our services. I am sorry that the accomodation at Bhaktapur was a bit cramped, but its a heritage house thats 700 years old and we like to support them because of their dedication to restoration of ancient traditional living styles. I agree that this would not fit easy with every traveller, and its unfortunate it was not a fit in this case. Glad... read more

Robin, thanks a ton for taking the time to review the trip and also for coming to Nepal. We do take feedback quite seriously and use it to improve on our services. I am sorry that the accomodation at Bhaktapur was a bit cramped, but its a heritage house thats 700 years old and we like to support them because of their dedication to restoration of ancient traditional living styles. I agree that this would not fit easy with every traveller, and its unfortunate it was not a fit in this case. Glad you loved the heritage property in Patan, the hotel in Nagarkot and the one at the Shivapuri Hills.

It is also a joy to hear that the trip was a great one to remember over the years. Glad also the human assets we have are good and were a good match. This is what we like to hear obviously.

I agree it was a bit expensive, but we did everything possible to give you the best that was possible, and it tends to add up eventually.

Overall, very happy that you consider it a trip of a lifetime and hope we shall see you and Elle back in Nepal sometime!

Kym and joris trip to nepal, Nepal - Apr 7 - Apr 22, 2017

Traveler: Kym d. - Local specialist: Raj Gyawali

Raj planned a great trip for us. He took our interests & priorities into account really well.

In Pokhara, the local restaurant we visited for lunch was not really nice. Also it was a shame that the manager of the permaculture coffee farm we visited wasn't home when we went there So we didn't gain much insight into the process.

Raj Gyawali, local specialist, responded to this review:

Kym and Joris, thanks for the feedback. Malika reports that the local restaurant you were taken too had unfortunately mixed up the orders and brought you the wrong food. Apologies there. Sometimes in Nepal, local restaurants are a bit complacent that way.

Suriya the Farmer is a bit of a celebrity and typically in Nepal, things never happened too planned, as you might have noticed, and this is what happened up there. While Malika had informed him previously about your trip, he got called to... read more

Kym and Joris, thanks for the feedback. Malika reports that the local restaurant you were taken too had unfortunately mixed up the orders and brought you the wrong food. Apologies there. Sometimes in Nepal, local restaurants are a bit complacent that way.

Suriya the Farmer is a bit of a celebrity and typically in Nepal, things never happened too planned, as you might have noticed, and this is what happened up there. While Malika had informed him previously about your trip, he got called to a water supply meeting and was not available when you went up there. Unfortunately no one can explain it better than him about the area, and with the subject matter specialist not here, I am sorry this dampened the experience at the permaculture farm a bit.

Thanks for appreciating our understanding of your priorities and interests in developing your trip. This is something we really try hard to do, and when that happens its a real joy!

10 day nepal trip, Nepal - Apr 13 - Apr 22, 2017

Traveler: Ruth S. - Local specialist: Raj Gyawali

I have never really been much of a "tour" traveler. I can't thank Raj's team at Social Tours for all the high level of detail planning and caliber of guides, drivers and information by his group. Amazing!

Responsive, well planned, all of Raj's staff were beyond excellent and professional. We now consider them friends.

Raj Gyawali, local specialist, responded to this review:

Ruth, read this review and the one you posted on the conversation... Am so happy! This is what we aim for, and while we cannot always reach this exceeding of expectations, when we do, and we get these reviews, its the pat on the back that we work for. Thank you, and cannot wait to see you again in Nepal!

Best of the kathmandu valley in 2 days, Nepal - Feb 15 - Feb 17, 2017

Traveler: Shrikrishna D. - Local specialist: Raj Gyawali

It was a last minute thought about trip, however the tour got planned by Raj of Social tour through kimkim so well that it gave feel of well planned one. The tailor made trip of four day was planned perfectly with A/C car , excellent guide Mr Sushil and versatile driver Suman. It was extremely pocket friendly despite mountain view flight thrown in the package by Raj. Exposure to genuine singing bowls was a mesmerising experience among other events.

Raj Gyawali, local specialist, responded to this review:

Deshpande, thanks for taking the time to make this review. Truly means a lot that it met your expectations and looks like from the sound of it, we went a bit beyond as well. Will definitely transfer your appreciation to Sushil and Suman. Both are excellent assets and truly valued.

Hope to see you in our neck of the woods again at some point!

Trekking over christmas at the edge of kathmandu, Nepal - Dec 26 - Dec 28, 2016

Traveler: Linda F. - Local specialist: Raj Gyawali

hi there: Our guide and porters were excellent! The first night accommodation was 1 star and that's being generous. I was under the impression that it was going to be a 3 star. Apparently our family of 7 cost $20 USD total to stay there, which is no surprise, as camping would have been more glamorous. I don't know why the tour company went so cheap on us, obviously to save money, but it wasn't fair, given we weren't told we were going to be in a 1 star of less, and if I had known this, I... read more

hi there: Our guide and porters were excellent! The first night accommodation was 1 star and that's being generous. I was under the impression that it was going to be a 3 star. Apparently our family of 7 cost $20 USD total to stay there, which is no surprise, as camping would have been more glamorous. I don't know why the tour company went so cheap on us, obviously to save money, but it wasn't fair, given we weren't told we were going to be in a 1 star of less, and if I had known this, I would not have booked with this company, as all the others who I inquired with were all going to put us in 3 star for the same price. The second night accommodation was HORRIBLE and would be given a negative 3 star rating! My family all said (and that's our 5 kids) that it was the WORST place we had ever stayed. There was vomit filling the bathroom sink when we arrived and no one cleaned it until I complained. The kitchen facilities were SO dirty, I refused to have food cooked in it for dinner, and instead bought chocolate bars down the street for my kids to eat. The food for that night was supposed to be included. We ended up paying for it ourselves. Breakfast left us no option but to eat white toast and have a few hard boiled eggs each. It was so disappointing. The beds had dirty sheets on all beds, and the toilet did not flush. There was no running water in the sink for brushing our teeth or cleaning up. Like the first night, our sleep was freezing cold, like we were camping outside. Windows were broken, or didn't shut properly. We could see our breath while eating our breakfast and dinner on both nights. For the price we payed to do this trip, we were ripped off. The third night was the only night that was acceptable with a proper three star hotel. Honestly, if the trip company we were introduced to through your sight told us we would be in 1 or negative star ratings for the first two nights, we would have gone with another company. As I said, the guides were excellent, helpful and very personable, and the last night of our stay was great, but the first two nights really left me no choice but to NOT recommend this company to any of my many, many expat friends. We were NOT satisfied, and very uncomfortable in our stay for the first two nights, and feared for food poisoning, catching a disease from the uncleanliness of the second place, with the vomit, other body fluids present, dirty bed sheets, as well as general uncleanliness. (cigarette burns in carpet, non functioning toilet ( already soiled when we got there) and non functioning water taps in our bathroom sink. Please understand as diplomats, a 3 star rating is a minimum, and if we had wanted to stay in a hovel, we would not have gone with this company in the first place. Though they get an A + on service on a personal level, the accommodations on the first two nights were completely , and utterly NOT acceptable and the second night, completely disgusting in all respects.

Raj was amazing. He hosted us lunch at the office, gave us t-shirts, took us to an outlet store to buy gear and arranged safe transportation, gave us his best guide ( wonderful!) and great porters, the first two nights accommodations were - first - 1 star and second night, - negative 3 star rating, as in "we wanted to leave, but were stranded" and no choice but to stay. I felt like I was a hostage.

Raj Gyawali, local specialist, responded to this review:

Linda,

Sorry to hear that your experience was so terrible in the first two nights. I can assure you that this was not our intention at all and the effort we made to give your family the first trek experience you wanted in Nepal that was soft, short and easy was entirely genuine.

The fact that the accommodations at chisopani and jarsingpauwa are basic is normal. The reason you have great guides and crew is because they can manage hygiene and expectations in situations like this.... read more

Linda,

Sorry to hear that your experience was so terrible in the first two nights. I can assure you that this was not our intention at all and the effort we made to give your family the first trek experience you wanted in Nepal that was soft, short and easy was entirely genuine.

The fact that the accommodations at chisopani and jarsingpauwa are basic is normal. The reason you have great guides and crew is because they can manage hygiene and expectations in situations like this.

This is also why we offset the two days accomodation with a proper hotel on night three.

We had also made a suggestion of a proper full 3star accomodation trek which included nagarkot, dhulikhel and bhaktalur which you turned down because of the price and interest in more walking.

Regardless, i am very sorry this happened. We never like to have disappointed travelers, but sometimes the expectation vs reality divide in Nepal can be challenging.

I still hope you had a good first experience of what multi day trekking can be like in Nepal, regardless of the accommodation problems. No matter where you feel in Nepal, full 3star accommodation treks are difficult in nepal, and most places will always offer basic accommodation, simple. Trekking eventually in Nepal will never be about the accommodation, but the experience in the mountains.

My apologies for the bad accommodations.

View mt everest, Nepal - Nov 30 - Dec 6, 2016

Traveler: Natasha A. - Local specialist: Raj Gyawali

Raj was extremely helpful from the very first day. He was very approachable. He was also very hospitable after we arrived in Nepal. We thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of our trip and will definitely be recommending both Raj (Social Tours) and Kimkim to future travellers.

Raj Gyawali, local specialist, responded to this review:

Natasha and Mizna, thanks so much for the wonderful review. So glad you had a great trip and Robin also confirmed that you were blessed with real good weather. Sorry you could not make it to the farewell that we wanted to offer you. Thank you very much for taking the time.

6 days of trekking and culture, Nepal - Nov 1 - Nov 6, 2016

Traveler: kayla b. - Local specialist: Raj Gyawali

I had to follow up a pick up time and itinerary several times. The first guide was late, thought I was being transferred to a different hotel, because he had his bike we walked for a decent while before being able to get a taxi which would take us and the bike.

The cycle tour was quite good. But the ending was disappointing being a festival there was no pizza and a drink. We found a place to have a drink and I was left to pay for my own taxi back to the hotel.

The following day the... read more

I had to follow up a pick up time and itinerary several times. The first guide was late, thought I was being transferred to a different hotel, because he had his bike we walked for a decent while before being able to get a taxi which would take us and the bike.

The cycle tour was quite good. But the ending was disappointing being a festival there was no pizza and a drink. We found a place to have a drink and I was left to pay for my own taxi back to the hotel.

The following day the monkey temple and the monastery were great. The monk was very illuminating and spoke very well. It was disappointing however that we could only talk for an hour and the monastery and library closed 15 minutes after finishing our discussion with the monk.

The welcome dinner was very nice and the social tours consultant (the young girl) she was very friendly and nice to talk to.

I enjoyed my time with Juman over the next few days hiking. The villages and scenary were nice even if majority of the time we were walking on the road.

I was disappointed that the hiking times were advertised 3.5-4.5 hours every day when the first day I walked for 2 hours and 10 minutes only and was eating lunch by 10am in an effort to stall time. On the second day we walked to Bhaktapur and again I was there much earlier then expected.

Juman was great company and the local guide in Bhaptapur had a lot of knowledge of the area.

Getting back to Kathmandu was very unorganised. I had to insist that the Peacock guest house organise and pay for the taxi back to Kathmandu as I was having trouble with my bank cards so couldn't get money out of the ATM's.

I was supposed to stop off at the coffee plantation on the way back which never happened, and the taxi driver asked for money when I arrived at the hotel implying that he hadn't been paid. He called the Peacock guest house and thank fully they sorted it out for me.

I thought that a transfer to the airport was included on the final day but this was not.

Whilst I liked the accommodation and it was very nice compared to the hostels I had been staying in, it was apparent that there was lots of other options (cheaper options) in the areas where I stayed which would have drastically reduced the amount which I paid for the trip, and I was disappointed that despite my request that this wasn't looked into.

Raj Gyawali, local specialist, responded to this review:

Kayla, am sorry to hear that some of the experiences we developed were not quite what you expected. I can assure you however that from our side, we have made every effort to ensure that it does match your expectations, in fact, exceed it.

Some of the errors have been pure misunderstandings which should not happen. I agree, and the feedback you have provided will ensure that we avoid these errors in the future.

Thanks for taking the time to provide this feedback. I must assure you that... read more

Kayla, am sorry to hear that some of the experiences we developed were not quite what you expected. I can assure you however that from our side, we have made every effort to ensure that it does match your expectations, in fact, exceed it.

Some of the errors have been pure misunderstandings which should not happen. I agree, and the feedback you have provided will ensure that we avoid these errors in the future.

Thanks for taking the time to provide this feedback. I must assure you that we do take peoples dream trips very seriously, and nothing that we did was done frivolously, but sometimes, situations make us have to adjust programs. Usually these adjustments enhance the trips even more, but unfortunately in this case, was not so! I regret that, as I feel bad that you did not have a fulfilling experience. That is never our intention!

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.

Raj Gyawali, local specialist, responded to this review:

Glad you loved the trip and the people behind the work. Thats what we really treasure - the people, who make all this happen. Thanks for appreciating that!

We really enjoyed having you here!

Everest region monsoon trek, Nepal - Jul 6 - Jul 22, 2016

Traveler: Anita P. - Local specialist: Raj Gyawali

Kimkim made this such an easy trip to book. I could log into kimkim and ask questions about anything and everything whenever they came to mind. Things related to trekking or Nepal in general. Kimkim would respond within 24 hours with great information. They were attentive to catering the trekking to what I wanted to do and see, kimkim worked with my budget and time frame to make sure I was getting the best deal possible.

Raj and everyone at social tours was super welcoming! They went out of... read more

Kimkim made this such an easy trip to book. I could log into kimkim and ask questions about anything and everything whenever they came to mind. Things related to trekking or Nepal in general. Kimkim would respond within 24 hours with great information. They were attentive to catering the trekking to what I wanted to do and see, kimkim worked with my budget and time frame to make sure I was getting the best deal possible.

Raj and everyone at social tours was super welcoming! They went out of their way to make sure things ran smoothly and that I was properly prepared for the trek. They checked in with me during the trek to make sure everything was ok. Once back in Kathmandu they were still very helpful and made sure I had everything I needed. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Raj and his team to other travellers looking to come to Nepal. Even if you just wanted to stay in Kathmandu, these guy have so many options for things to go and see and they really put the effort in to making sure you feel welcome and have an awesome stay in Nepal.

Raj Gyawali, local specialist, responded to this review:

Anita, sorry it took a while before I could respond as I was travelling. Thanks for the wonderful feedback and such a beautiful testimonial and recommendation. We love it that you appreciate our style of service. Hope to see you back here in Nepal of course, and another opportunity to showcase a different region in Nepal. Nepal is awfully addictive and we are quite sure you will come back one day!

3-day kathmandu valley tour, Nepal - Jul 9 - Jul 15, 2016

Traveler: Luke S. - Local specialist: Raj Gyawali

Day 1: really great. Nice walk up to a very cool hotel. Got away from the city and really got a feel for the country side.

Day 2: hike back down to Bhaktapur was ok. The second half of the hike was on a main road with lots of traffic, so not that enjoyable. I would have been better if we could have walked in more rural setting like the day before. We ended up catching a bus to get to the hotel. The hotel was noisy, and not very modern bathroom. I would have changed the... read more

Day 1: really great. Nice walk up to a very cool hotel. Got away from the city and really got a feel for the country side.

Day 2: hike back down to Bhaktapur was ok. The second half of the hike was on a main road with lots of traffic, so not that enjoyable. I would have been better if we could have walked in more rural setting like the day before. We ended up catching a bus to get to the hotel. The hotel was noisy, and not very modern bathroom. I would have changed the hotel.

Day 3: very intense day. Early morning tour of Bhaktapor. Then move to Patan and tour and lunch and shopping there. Then Kharma Cafe, and finally goodbye dinner. Probably too many moves around on this day. Maybe would have been better to do Bhaktapor tour previous afternoon. Plus Kharma Cafe was not that interesting. I appreciate the concept of sustainable, local business, but driving 20 minutes there and 20 back for a coffee did not add significant value to the day...

I'm pleased with the support and service. I had no idea what to expect as I had never visited Nepal, so had some different thoughts in my head around what to expect. Organization and service was good, but now that I have a better idea of the urban Nepal, I would ask for some different options and focus things differently....

Raj Gyawali, local specialist, responded to this review:

Thanks Luke, for taking the time to send in this thoughtful review. Glad you liked it overall. Appreciate your honesty in giving us the constructive criticism for improvements. As you wrote, perhaps the third day was a bit too intense, starting a bit too early and it was packed...

I guess I was too excited to try and get you to see as much as possible.

The walk to Bhaktapur down from Nagarkot has three options, one that is more like you wanted, but is far longer - and the other thats... read more

Thanks Luke, for taking the time to send in this thoughtful review. Glad you liked it overall. Appreciate your honesty in giving us the constructive criticism for improvements. As you wrote, perhaps the third day was a bit too intense, starting a bit too early and it was packed...

I guess I was too excited to try and get you to see as much as possible.

The walk to Bhaktapur down from Nagarkot has three options, one that is more like you wanted, but is far longer - and the other thats the one you did and did not appreciate the walk on the road bit that is there at the bottom of the hill - and a third one that hikes all the way to Dhulikhel where you get picked up. I guess it is a bit complicated to guage the exact one that clients want, and on hindsight, which is always easier, I guess I should have scheduled in the third, which would be more to your liking... and more of a nature walk.

Thanks for all this. It is truly appreciated. We hope to see you in Nepal again!

6-day cultural tour kathmandu - pokhara, Nepal - Jul 1 - Jul 6, 2016

Traveler: Ana R. - Local specialist: Raj Gyawali

Namaste to all at Social Tours,
Thank you very much for all doing your best on this very special trip. My cousins and I are leaving Nepal with the highest opinion of its people due to your infallible attentions, flexibility and enthusiasm.
All of our tour guides were extremely nice and helpful.

We will do our best to recommend your services and hope to be back in the future

Raj was amazing.
We didn't get to meet him while we were there but we was incredibly helpful throughout the whole planning process and left us in very good hands!

Raj Gyawali, local specialist, responded to this review:

Thanks for the wonderful review Ana, truly appreciate it... Sorry was busy when you were here, but was following every day and keeping tabs on how the trip was progressing.. and was happy each day it went well... Glad it was a good trip! Hope to see you in Nepal again, and meet you someday!

Khopra danda trek, Nepal - Mar 3 - Mar 11, 2016

Traveler: Nick L. - Local specialist: Raj Gyawali

Did a great job booking a trekking tour on very short notice. Everything went very smoothly and Alex and Raj were very responsive. In hindsight, I would have appreciated a more detailed price breakdown, but I didn't think to ask for that while booking.

Social Tours did a great job of getting me settled into my hotel in Kathmandu, and the trekking guide that they had hired did a wonderful job of making sure I was safe and that all my needs were taken care of during the trek.

Alex Buri, kimkim staff, responded to this review:

Nick, it was a pleasure helping you plan your trip. Glad to hear you had a great time and everything worked out on short notice. Good feedback on the price breakdown, and happy to explain more next time :)

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