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Are you ready to step out of the ruts of daily life, restore some of the magical curiosity you once had as a kid, and wake up to a completely fresh perspective? If you are an explorer at heart, if your soul is craving to be lit up, and you desire an adventure that will leave you feeling deliciously connected to life and juiced up to experience the present like never before, join Sandy Kingsley and an amazing group of of travelers for an inspired journey to India and Nepal.
You will be staying in a variety of well appointed four and five star hotels throughout the journey. At the end of a big day of exploration, you will have a luxurious place to come “home” to. Prepare to experience Indian and Nepali hospitality, combined with distinct character and elegance where you will want to kick your feet up and relax. Several of the hotels will have spa services available. You can choose if your free time is spent exploring or indulging. The specific properties will be shared with you as the departure gets closer.
Melodic, mesmerizing chanting. The smell of incense burning. Cultures infused with spirituality, connection to the heart, rituals and celebrations, rich history, towering Himalayan mountain peaks, and delicious Indian and Nepali food. There will be so many opportunities to stand in awe in this magical land.
Imagine waking up for a yoga and meditation class with the Himalayas as the backdrop. Allow the peaceful energy of the most spectacular mountain range in the world permeate your being and bring you closer to your perfect inner nature.
Embrace the calm and the chaos. Camels, cows, rickshaws, and cars share the streets. Wander through the colorful, chaotic bazaars of Jaipur, explore Bapu Bazaar to see the bright fabrics. Then stand on the wall of a massive fort as you view the amber city below. Take a camel cart ride through a village (yes, a camel cart ride!). Celebrate Indian-style, the festival of Dussehra. Music, dancing, fireworks, and other crazy festivities highlight the evening.
Walk a kora (ritual circumnavigation) beneath the eyes of wisdom of the Buddha at Boudhnath, side by side with other Buddhists making this same pilgrimage. Visit two of the holiest temples in the world, Pashupatinath to Hindus and Boudhnath to Buddhists. Prayer flag-decked lanes, butter lamps, monks in maroon robes: experience Tibetan Buddhist life.
Step off of the plane into the Delhi airport… and your enchanted journey begins! You will be met there by a very special crew and a delightful traditional Indian welcome. You will meet your in-country host and guide, and then you are brought back to the hotel for check in. The sweet scent of Frangipani (called Champa in Hindi) will fill your senses and you will comfortably settle in to the elegant hotel to get some rest.
After a delicious breakfast, you will leave for Jaipur (approximately five and a half hour drive). And yes, they do have good coffee in India, as well as delicious masala chai. The choice is yours!
Jaipur is the capital of the state of Rajasthan, India’s most colorful and lavish state. Think maharajas, camels, palaces, forts, and the desert. Rajputs, the people who live in this region, are from warrior clans who have controlled this part of India for more than 1,000 years. Sense of honor and chivalry are held to a high standard and you will see this reflected in nearly every greeting you receive.
Your first true exploration of this journey will begin in the small charming village of Bagru, a short drive from Jaipur. Bagru is known for their natural vegetable dyes and hand block printing. You will meet an artisan of this trade and he will show you the process and guide you through to make one of your own block prints.
You’ll start the day with a morning yoga and/or meditation session at the hotel, for all those who want to partake. After breakfast, you will meet up with your private guide and head to Amber Fort. Built in 1600, Amber Fort sits high on a hill and protects a palace complex, complete with the Maharaja’s apartments, a Diwan-i-Am (public audience hall), courtyards, and zenana (the quarters where wives and concubines gathered).
Listening to the rich and proud history, you may begin to understand the feeling of enchantment that surrounds the the region. Intoxicating and wondrous, those feelings of amazement continue as you visit the City Palace, the Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds).
The Jantar Mantar is an “observatory” with giant instruments looking more like sculptures of sorts, for measuring time and the stars. Maharaja Jai Singh loved astronomy. The pink sandstone of the Hawa Mahal, five stories high, is carved into an ornate screen where the women of the royal court could observe city life without being seen.
This evening, you will partake in the Hindu festivities and celebrate Dussehra. Dussehra honors the victory of Lord Ram over the demon king Ravan, and the victory of good over evil. Giant effigies of the Ravan and his two brothers are lit into blazing flames as the very good-natured, friendly crowd at the festival passionately cheers!
You will start this morning again with an optional yoga and/or meditation session by the pool. After another beautiful breakfast at the hotel, you will have this entire day at your own leisure. You may choose to schedule and enjoy an authentic Ayurvedic treatment at a nearby Ayurvedic center; fill your day feeding your curiosity in the Pink City as you shop, explore and engage at your own pace; or relax by the pool at our hotel.
Today gives you the chance to absorb all of your spectacular experiences to date. Each day on this itinerary will fill you up and send you to bed brimming over with wonder. You will appreciate taking what you need for yourself today. Whether it is rest, relaxation and contemplation, or a walk overlooking the city at another unforgettable fort, your trip leader and in-country guide will help you facilitate what you need.
After a delicious breakfast (it will be a little too easy to get used to this!), you will head towards Delhi with a stop at Samode, a village nestled in the Araveli Hills.
You will check out a stunning palace property that is still run by the noble family, wander through the courtyards, and imagine life from an earlier time.
In the village, you will meet with some locals, take a camel cart ride through town, and then enjoy a delicious group lunch in the garden. In the afternoon, you will continue our drive back to Delhi.
You will fly this morning to Kathmandu, Nepal and continue to illuminate your souls. Your stay in Nepal will combine heartfelt spirit with adventure and delight. The Kathmandu Valley lies to the east of the northern Indian plains, below the towering snow covered peaks of the high Himalaya. Your inspired journey in Nepal -walking Koras around shrines, witnessing cremation sites on the river, and watching the abundant wildlife on safari - begins today!
It has been said that there are nearly as many temples as there are houses in the Kathmandu valley, and as many idols as inhabitants; there is not a river or a hill within its limits that is not consecrated to Hindu or Buddhist deities. From the amazing architectural monuments to dozens of spiritually significant temples and shrines, to hidden courtyards, cobblestone streets, tasty momos, Kathmandu is intoxicating.
While you may also feel the sensory overload of the city, you will be stirred and inspired as you take it all in, in this land of culture, tradition, religion, and sweet Nepali people. This evening, you will experience a rickshaw ride through Thamel market, a lively backpacker hub. This is a good area to do some souvenir shopping as well, after the ride.
After a delicious breakfast in your new digs, today is full with exploration and discovery in Kathmandu, with your private guide. You will visit Durbar Square, from where the city’s kings once ruled (Place of Palaces). Filled with worshipers, shrines, and people selling goods, it’s an active hub in the city.
You will also visit Pashupati Nath Temple, considered one of the holiest Hindu shrines, and a sacred site along the Bagmati River. While only Hindu people may go inside the temple itself, we will be able to have a peak in; plus there is much to see within the huge temple complex. Similar to Varanasi in India, ritual bathing, cremation ghats, shrines to Shiva all can be found in this holy area.
To complete this full morning, Boudhnath stupa is one of the oldest and the biggest Buddhist monuments ever built in the Himalayan Kingdom, in 5th century AD. Pulsing with Tibetan Buddhist life, this stupa is to Tibetan Buddhists what Mecca is to Muslims. Along with the other pilgrims, you will make a kora around the stupa, beneath the eyes of the Buddha.
Later in the afternoon, you will visit a local school to see up close and personal some of the children who live in this remarkable city.
Early breakfast this morning at your hotel, and then you are off to Chitwan National Park, a World Heritage reserve. Welcome to “the Heart of the Jungle!” After an approximate five hour drive, you will check in and eat lunch at your hotel, the Jungle Villa Lodge. Three meals a day are included with your accommodations at the lodge where fully organic vegetables and dairy products produced by local farmers are used.
This afternoon, you will visit the Tharu villages (Tharus are one of the earliest inhabitants of this region, the Terai.) You will stroll through the mustard fields, see the locals at work, and learn more about their culture. In the evening, you will enjoy the quiet with good company at the lodge.
You have a full day to experience Chitwan, one of the best wildlife-viewing national parks in Asia. Explore the jungle from the top of an elephant - this gives you the best probability of spotting the one-horned rhinos that roam in the park, and it’s also the safest since rhinos are typically fearful of elephants. A jeep safari will give you another perspective and more opportunities to spot deer, birds, monkeys, and other wildlife.
In addition to more than 543 species of birds, a few of the other “Big Five” animals that live in the reserve include wild Asian elephants, the royal bengal tiger, gharial, and the sloth bear. Plus, you will have the incredible opportunity of seeing elephants during their daily bath in the river, and mama-baby interactions too! You can also opt for a canoe ride on the Bapti River (not included but very affordable) or any of the other activities the lodge offers.
Saving you travel time, this morning you will hop a short flight back to Kathmandu and from there head to Dhulikhel, about a two hour drive. A well-preserved Newari town, Dhulikhel also has spectacular Himalayan views (The Newars, while an ethnic minority in Nepal, comprise the majority culture through the Kathmandu Valley).
Today’s walking tour of the town will include an exploration of the temple-lined village square, seeing the originally developed settlements of Nepal, observing farmers in the fields, and soaking in the mountain views. Shiva temple, Ganesha shrine, Kali temple, Garuda (King of the Birds) worshiping in front of a three-tiered, Newari-style temple - these are just a few of the sites that will flame the magical light in your hearts.
This evening is at leisure to explore and/or enjoy the charming property where you are staying.
Yoga and meditation class at the hotel will start your day. The rest of the day is at your leisure to experience the thriving markets, to take in the panorama of mountain peaks, to make some new Nepali friends, and/or to get out into the mountains on a hike!
If you are interested in making this a full day of hiking, you can hike to Namobuddha stupa, one of the three most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Nepal.
After a lovely breakfast at the hotel, you will leave for Bakhtapur (approximately an hour drive). The everyday culture of the Kathmandu Valley will come to life as you experience this medieval, temple-studded, quiet town. Founded in the 12th century by King Ananda Malla, Bakhtapur was a stop along the trade route from India to Tibet.
Your private guide will take us around Durbar Square, the Golden Gate, and through the narrow winding streets. Parts of the town are still badly damaged from the 2015 earthquake, yet that does not diminish the charm of its people. Artisans weaving cloth, clay pots drying in pottery square, locals visiting on street corners, and in communal courtyards are some of the scenes you will take in.
With three major squares full of exquisite temples, with the nickname, “City of Devotees,” and with the simple pace of life, it’s not hard to imagine how a feeling of spirit will fill each breath you take as you explore this pedestrian town.
When you are done in Bakhtapur, you will head to Kathmandu where you will experience the love that goes into a delicious Nepali meal. You will be invited into a home for a cooking demonstration and share a meal with your gracious hosts.
Your final day in Nepal. You may desire to relax at the hotel as you get packed up, or you can choose to wander through more of the amazing markets, shop for souvenirs, or go back to one of your favorite stupas. You will be transferred to the airport midday to fly back to Delhi. From Delhi, you will catch your flights home.
This retreat includes temple visits, the Hindu Dussehra Festival, palace visits, jungle elephant safaris, jeep safaris, visit to a local school, and rickshaw rides.
The trip to India will focus on the Jaipur region in Rajasthan, with visits to villages outside of the city, and the Aravelli Hills. The Nepal portion of the trip will highlight the Kathmandu Valley, including captivating Kathmandu itself, several heritage towns and with several days spent in Chitwan National Park (for jungle safaris) and Dulikhel (with amazing views of the Himalaya).
Daily breakfast except on arrival day, lunch at Samode Bagh, all meals at the lodge in Chitwan (two lunches, two dinners), and drinking water are included. Rich in flavor, beautifully spiced, with a variety of vegetables, beans and meats, breads and rice, the Indian and Nepali food is sure to delight your senses. Through the trip you will be discovering restaurants and delicious dishes. And in Nepal you will be invited in to a local home for a cooking demonstration and a meal. It is very easy to find vegetarian options and non-dairy, gluten free options are generally easily accommodated for upon request.
If you have never experienced the splendor of the Taj Mahal - perhaps this is your first trip to India - then you will want to consider this add-on. Arrive with Sandy a few days early for a morning at the Sivananda Ashram with a vegetarian cooking demonstration then a crazy rickshaw ride through the streets of Old Delhi.
The following day, witness the spectacular reflections of light as they shimmer off of the white marble of the Taj and visit Agra Fort to learn more about the era in which this world wonder was built. Note that this Taj Mahal add-on comes before the main trip.
There will be several options for Ayurvedic treatments. One day in Jaipur is left open and you can choose to set up a treatment at a local Ayurvedic wellness spa (the guides will arrange it for you.) A few of the hotels will offer spa treatments as well.
Please book your flight to arrive at Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL). You must arrive in Delhi, India on September 28, 2017. Most flights will arrive in the evening and at least a day after your departure date from the U.S. with the time difference. Inspired Exploration - Travel to Delight the Heart and Senses will have transportation from the airport to the hotel waiting - before you book your flight, they will let you know what time that will be.
Alternate arrangements can be made for an additional cost. You will fly out of Delhi as well for your return flight on October 10, 2017. Again, most flights will leave in the evening. If you are joining Inspired Exploration - Travel to Delight the Heart and Senses for the pre-trip add on, you must arrive in Delhi on September 25, 2017, three days ahead of the main group.
Again, since transport will be coordinated from the airport to the hotel, Inspired Exploration Travel will tell you what your arrival time-frame should be before you book your flight.