Experience the lesser known side of Nepal. The quieter, hidden and more local side. Uncover the soul of this welcoming, warm country as you spend time living with locals in remote rural villages surrounded by lush rice paddies and ancient temples, be blessed by a Tibetan Lama and embrace the magic of an evening aarti ceremony on the banks of the holy Bagmati River.
Search for the elusive rhino on elephant back as you explore Chitwan National Park whilst also taking time to understand and appreciate the local Tharu culture. Cook with locals learn their daily way of life.
This journey also introduces you to the mysterious and intriguing monastic life where you will better understand and appreciate how the Kagyu and Nyingma Traditions of Tibetan Buddhism are lived. The perfect journey for those who are seeking to discover the off beat and local side to a destination as beautiful and enigmatic as Nepal.
Welcome to the buzzing city of Kathmandu! Stepping off the plane is an adrenaline rush in itself for many people. Your eyes darting from left to right, not wanting to miss any of the action, your ears ringing with the whirring sounds of Himalayan mountain life and the aromas assaulting your senses. You will be met upon arrival at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is yours at leisure to trundle through narrow winding streets or hop in a rickshaw and explore. This evening, a pre tour meeting will take place where you will meet your fellow travellers and receive a briefing on your tour. Documents will be collected this evening, so please ensure you have a copy of your passports, travel insurance and at least four passport photos.
2 nights Nepali Ghar or similar
Following breakfast this morning, you will be met before commencing your city tour of the enchanting city of Kathmandu. Kathmandu for many is exhilarating, intoxicating and exhausting.
Durbar Square swarms with life. Though a few of the square’s 50-plus monuments date from the 12th century, most are from the time of the Malla Kings. Probably the most famous building here is the Kumari Bahal, a building richly decorated with beautiful woodcarvings, which is home to the Royal Kumari, the Living Goddess, and a manifestation of the great goddess Durga. Nearby, the former Royal Palace is a Mall Dynasty dwelling, once considerably more extensive than today. Within the courtyard is Nassal Chowk, which originally hosted dramatic dance performances. It is now the coronation site of the Shah kings and contains some of the finest wood carvings you will see anywhere in the kingdom. The 14th century Jagannath Mandir is the oldest temple in the area, its steps carved with inscriptions in many languages, nearby Telaju Mandir is one of the largest and finest temples in the Valley. It is dedicated to the patron deity of the royal family, Taleju Bhawani, a wrathful form of Durga who once demanded human sacrifices.
Explore the nooks and hidden crannies of Kathmandu by rickshaw. The best way to experience the bustling markets and the daily life of the Nepalese people is from the back of a rickshaw as you wind through the labyrinth of lanes through Ason and Indra Chowk to Thamel.
Continue on to Boudhanath. This is the largest stupa in Nepal and one of the largest in the world located east of the valley. It was built by the Lichchhavi King Mana Dev in the 5th century A.D. The Rinpoches who reside here established Boudhnath as one of the most flourishing centres of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. The colossal ancient stupa is 36 metres high.
From here, you will be transferred to the Monastery at Boudhanath for a traditional blessing from a Tibetan Lama.
Rinpoche or incarnate Lamas have long been offering a variety of blessings and ceremonies for the well-being and benefit of individuals, the community, and all sentient beings.
The Blessings include:
House/Land Blessing – This is a blessing to promote the health, peacefulness, and productivity of house and land.
Blessing For Children – This is a blessing to promote fertility.
Blessing Of Children -This is a blessing that promotes the safety, health and auspicious development of children.
Anniversary Blessing – This is a blessing to commemorate an event or special occasion.
Pet Blessing – This a blessing for the sentient beings that people adopt as a loving part of their lives.
There are several different types of ceremonies which include a marriage ceremony or long life ceremony. This ceremony promotes a long life for the devotee and family, as well as invoking the great compassion of the Buddhas to bless and augment the vitality of all living beings. There is also a special long life ceremony – This is a unique and powerful way to magnetise all vital forces to assist the recovery and well-being of individuals.
Tibetan Buddhist Funeral Ceremony – This is to promote the enlightenment and good migration of the departed person’s mental continuum.
After your blessing, you continue onto Pashupatinath. This is Nepal’s most sacred Hindu shrine and one of the subcontinent’s great Shiva sites. The supreme holiness of the site stems from the Shiva linga enshrined in the main temple and its location. It expresses the very essence of Hinduism as pilgrims, priests, devotees, temples, ashrams, images, inscriptions and cremation ghats intermingle with the rituals of daily life, all sprawled along the banks of the sacred Bagmati River. The temple’s origins are obscure, an inscription dates from 477, but a shrine may have stood here for 1000 years before that. The evening Aarti ceremony on the banks of Bagmati River, is truly fascinating with mantras, kirtan, bells, incense and lights, all surrounded by the many devotees. It is a magical experience to witness. (B)
After breakfast, you will make your way to Chitwan National Park. Chitwan is 180km from Kathmandu (approx 5 hour drive). Chitwan is one of Asia’s premier wildlife reserves. Its 360 square miles of tall grasslands and forests are home to a wide variety of mammals and birds, including several endangered species. Upon arrival, enjoy some refreshments, before learning of the activities on offer here.
Whilst in Chitwan, you will have opportunity to be immersed in a Tharu community experience which provides great opportunity for uplifting the Tharu people’s culture and lifestyle through hospitality services. A wide variety of wildlife adventures and local community activities are available for you to participate in. (B,L,D)
2 nights Barahi Eco Resort
Today is a day of park based activities. Keep your eyes peeled for tigers, leopards and other elusive wildlife. Other activities on offer include canoeing, nature walks and bird watching. Enjoy walking through the forests with naturalists and witness the native folk dances of the Terais. (B,L,D)
Following breakfast, you depart and head towards Panauti, 190km from Chitwan. Although the distance is not far, the drive is long taking 6-7 hours to reach. Upon arrival, the remainder of the day is at leisure.
Panauti is a historical, and a hidden gem of Nepal. History books state that in the early 18th century, the king of Bhaktapur gifted Panauti state as a dowry to his brother-in-law. Panauti still holds an apex reputation for its beautiful temples, arts and crafts, festivals and tradition. Panauti nestles at the confluence of two spiritual rivers, Rosi and Punyamati.
In Panauti, you will be staying in a community homestay which operates under a distinct philosophy, ‘Run by the Women for the Women’. Here you will have the opportunity to experience the typical, but sweet lifestyle of a Nepali family.
Meals are cooked by your host family and if you are interested in learning, you are more than welcome to join in with the host family in their kitchen. (B,L,D)
2 nights at community home stay in Panauti
Today is yours to explore Panauti. Wander through the ancient city or hire a bike to go further afield. Panauti feels as if has been left exactly the way the founders had built the town. A nostalgic atmosphere covers the narrow town streets and ancient structures. It is known as a Newari town.
For those who are interested, take a trek for 2-3hours to visit Namo Buddha Temple. It is one of the most famous pilgrimage sites for both Buddhists and Hindus in Nepal. Nestled at the top of a hill, your eye’s will be entertained by the infinite sight of the Himalayan mountain range and valley below.
For those wanting to get their hands dirty, depending on the season, you can get to work in the fields with the local farmers. Panauti is a beautiful green town, highly occupant by traditional farmers. Most of the farmers in Nepal depend upon Rain-Water for irrigation, so monsoon (June to August) is the best time to join in with farmers for planting rice seedlings. Similarly, harvesting (October to November) is also a memorable experience. (B,L,D)
Today following breakfast, it is time to farewell your Nepali family. The drive is approx 2 hours . You will visit Patan also known as Lalitpur, the city of beauty. The city is separated from Kathmandu only by the Bagmati River and is the second largest town in the valley. Lalitpur is fragmented from other cities due to its ancient architectural masterpieces. Patan’s central Durbar Square is absolutely packed with temples: Its an architectural centre point with a far greater concentration of temples per square metre than Kathamandu or Bhaktapur. Within the city also lies the Tibetan refugee centre, home to most of the valley’s Tibetan population. While technically refugees, the Tibetans are some of the wealthiest people in the valley because of the carpet industry they operate. For those looking to bring home a fine Tibetan carpet, this is the place to shop. (B,L,D)
Overnight The Inn Heritage Hotel
Today enjoy a visit to Bungamati. Bungamati is a classic Newari village dating from the 16th century. It is perched on a spur of land overlooking the Bagmati River, 10km from Kathmandu, and is shaded by large trees and strands of bamboo. Fortunately, the village streets are too small and hazardous for cars so it retains a quaint charm. There are many woodcarving shops in the village and a couple of carpet looms, but visitors have yet to arrive en masse, so tread gently. In the centre of the village square is the Rato Machhendranath Temple, a shikhara style temple.
Khokana is another Newari village, a short walk across the paddy fields from Bungamati. Khokana, a traditional and tiny Newari village lies about eight kilometres south of Kathmandu (on the outskirts of Patan). With its own history, this town has retained its tradition and culture. It is a living museum and recalls medieval times. The farming community of Newars who live here are mostly dependent on agriculture and much of their daily activities take place outside of their dwellings. You will see the women sitting outside spinning and men crushing seeds. The village is famous for its unusual mustard-oil harvesting process in which a heavy wooden beam is used to crush the mustard seeds in order to extract the oil. This oil can be consumed if desired, but it can also be used for therapeutic massage. This was also the first village, indeed the first habitation, to receive electricity, before Kathmandu. In the centre, there is a three-storey temple, Shree Rudrayani, with a particularly wide main street, especially for a village of such small size. Khokana has been nominated to be listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, representing an indigenous village and its mustard-oil seed industrial heritage.
Spend the night amidst the most scenic area in the Kathmandu Valley, in a Buddhist Monastery Guest-house, located in the most peaceful location alongside Neydo Tashi Choeling Monastery. Here you will learn the life of a monk.
At 5pm, witness the debating session of the monks, which happens outside behind the monastery. It’s an interesting activity to watch and looks almost like a great challenge with an opponent. This activity helps monks understand and internalise the teachings of the day.
Following the debating, experience the daily protection puja, with the constant beating of drums, blowing of the conch shell and long traditional horns etc. This is a traditional ritual, which propitiates mainly the Mahakala and his retinue and other hosts of Dharmapalas or Protectors of the Buddha Dharma to seek protection of the Dharma and its lineage as well as protection to all the true practitioners of the Dharma. Dinner is from 7pm in the dining room. (B,L,D)
Overnight at Neydo Hotel
At around 5am, the bell rings to wake the monks. They make their way to the main hall to perform standard chants for about one and a half hours for world peace, as well as aspirational prayers and longevity prayers for the upholders of the Dharma. (English transliteration and translation text is available to follow the prayers. It is a very soothing experience, where the sounds surround you with resonance and awe.)
Breakfast follows and you may queue to eat with the young monks in their refectory, or return to the guesthouse for a more leisurely breakfast.
After breakfast, classes start for the young monks and continue throughout the day. These include reading and writing Tibetan, literature and studying Buddhist teachings. You will meet with a Khenpo to teach you meditation for an hour.
Following meditation, enjoy some free time before transferring to Bhaktapur.
Located 12 km east of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur or Bhadgaon literally meaning ‘the City of Devotees’ is the smallest city in the Kathmandu valley. Its Main Square or ‘Layaku’ is famous for the 15th century Palace of 55 Carved Windows with the Golden Gate as a royal entrance. In front of the palace building are innumerable temples and architectural showpieces including the Lion Gate, the statue of King Bhupatindra Malla mounted on a giant stone pillar and the stone temple of Vatsala Devi; another beautiful example of Shikhara-style architecture. There is a bronze bell on the terrace of the temple, which is also known as the Bell of Barking Dogs. This was erected in 1737 by King Ranjit Malla; its sounding announced the beginning and end of a daily curfew. (B)
Note: The recent earthquake has destroyed few temples in the durbar square premise including Vatsala temple; several structures have sustained minor damages.
Overnight Hari’s Home or similar
Following breakfast, the day is at leisure until it is time for your transfer to Kathmandu airport for your onward flight. (B)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
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This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.