Days 1-3 Kathmandu/Chitwan National Park
Kathmandu is like an alluring whirlwind of sights, sounds, smells and colours. Almost overwhelming, its charm and history peeks out from the most unexpected places rendering most visitors enamoured. Home to tigers, one-horned rhinos, leopards and hundreds of other species, beautiful Chitwan National Park covers hundreds of square kilometres of forests, grasslands and flood plains.
Day 4 Kathmandu
With the two sister cities of Bhaktapur and Lalitpur (Patan) close by, Kathmandu has a wealth of sights to explore, markets to discover and places to relax in.
Days 1-2 Kathmandu
Kathmandu is like an alluring whirlwind of sights, sounds, smells and colours. Almost overwhelming, its charm and history peeks out from the most unexpected places rendering most visitors enamoured.
Day 3 Phakding
Enjoy a spectacular scenic flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, flying parallel to the Himalayan mountains that border Nepal and Tibet. Explore this small village and in the afternoon begin the trek with a descent towards Dudh Kosi River before joining the main trail and continuing to Phakding.
Days 4-5 Namche Bazaar
From Phakding, cross the river and head up the valley while being shaded by blue pine trees. Smell the perfume of the nearby rhododendron forest and take a sneaky peak at the snow-capped mountains in the distance. After lunch, ascend to Namche Bazzar in search of an elusive view of Everest. Stay in Namche Bazaar for a second night to acclimatise to the change in altitude. In the mean time, learn about the Sherpa way of life at the National Park headquarters or relax with a picnic in the beautiful Bhote Khola River Valley.
Day 6 Mongla
After a relaxing day, ascend to Khumjung for lunch, where the sacred rocky peak of Khumbilya (5761 m) towers above. In the home of the region’s guardian goddess, pass through beautiful birch forest and continue walking through the miraculous mountain scenery to tonight’s rest spot, Mongla.
Day 7 Gokyo Valley
Start a slow decent to Gokyo while admiring the glory of Kantega, Thamserku and Ama Dablam. As the vista expands before your eyes, see Cho Oyu (8153 m) and Gyachung Kang (7922 m) to the north, and Taweche (6542 m) and Cholatse (6440 m) across the valley to the east.
Day 8 Machhermo
Begin with a climb out of the Dole Valley. Take a breath and be surprised by how thin the air is; walking through high-altitude areas is best undertaken at a slow and steady pace. By lunchtime, arrive at Machhermo (4465 m). Take some time to rest and recover, but keep an eye out at all times for the notoriously elusive yeti.
Day 9 Gokyo
Be on the look out for the colourful Tibetan snow cocks often found in the area. Continue past Nepal’s largest glacier, also the source of the Dudh Kosi River, before arriving at Gokyo. View the incredibly blue and religiously important lakes of Gokyo; tonight’s lodge and a warm cup of tea are conveniently situated close by.
Day 10 Machhermo
Wake early for a steep morning climb to Gokyo Peak (5360 m) and be rewarded by one of the best panoramas in the Khumba. Everest, Cho-Oyo, Lhotse and Makalu fill the horizon, and the incredible Gokyo Lakes and massive Ngozumpa Glacier lie below. Return to Gokyo for breakfast before journeying back to Machhermo for the night.
Day 11 Phortse
Take a leisurely walk through forest where musk deer often lurk on track to the Sherpa village of Phortse. Enjoy some quiet time in this peaceful village, meet some of the locals and indulge in the silent mountain scenery.
Day 12 Dingboche
Descend upon the exposed trail of Imja Khola before stopping for lunch near a beautiful monastery that once housed a legendary yeti scalp. With a bit of luck, spot a Himalayan tahr (goat) high above the trail in the crags and admire how it traverses the steep rock face. Continue walking to above the tree line on a quest for a spectacular sunset.
Day 13 Lobuje
Venture up to a chorten for a brilliant scenic view of the dominating skyline. Munch on lunch at the foot of the huge terminal moraines of the Khumbu Glacier that flow from Everest. Then visit a line of memorial cairns that were built in memory of the porters who died on various Everest expeditions. Follow the valley stream to Lobuje, the rest stop for the night.
Day 14 Gorak Shep (5160m) - Everest Base Camp
After a leisurely breakfast, begin the slow and steady trek to Gorak Shep before continuing on to Everest Base Camp. As always, the scenery is spectacular and if visiting in the trekking season you’re likely to encounter yaks and porters supplying food and equipment for upcoming exhibitions. With camera to eye, be sure to capture the backdrop and daily happenings of this trekking base. There are no views of Mt Everest from Everest Base Camp, but you can see the notorious Everest Ice Fall that flows from the Western Cwm, or ‘valley of silence’, which is regarded technically as the hardest and most dangerous section of the mountain.
Day 15 Kala Patar - Pheriche
Rise early to make tracks for Kala Patar – an amazing vantage point for an awesome sunrise. Surrounded by Pumori, Nuptse, Changtse, Ama Dablam, Taweche, Kantega and Everest, this is the highpoint (literally) of the adventure. Snap away with cameras, but know that nothing can really compare to the achievement of climbing to this point. Breathe in the fresh mountain air while soaking up the indescribable vista, and proudly acknowledge the surreal and emotional experience that this fine accomplishment brings with it. Catch your breath back in Gorak Shep, and after breakfast set off for the Khumbu Khola crossing en route for Pheriche.
Day 16 Namche Bazaar
Head back to Namche Bazaar and if returning on a Saturday watch the happenings of a local market, which attracts Tibetans from the north and Rais from the south. Otherwise check out the informative museum in the national park visitor’s centre and refuel with a warm butter tea and some succulent pastries from one of the bakeries.
Day 17 Phakding
Rehash the steps of the past few days while happily breathing in what now seems like an abundance of air. Have the camera handy to capture some last-minute snaps of the incredible surrounding environment.
Day 18 Lukla
After a final climb back into Lukla, relax and bask in the accomplishment of completing this challenging trek. Catch a flight back to Kathmandu the following morning.
Days 19-20 Kathmandu
With the trekking part of this incredible trip over, it’s time to indulge in a little shopping and sightseeing, and perhaps a final dinner with the group before departing Nepal.
Days 1-2 Kathmandu
Arrive in Kathmandu and dive head first into this exhilarating, exciting and exhausting city. Touristy Thamel is well worth a scout out, particularly if you need to pick up some trekking gear (just don't expect the quality to last). Step outside Thamel's walls and wander the streets of the Old Town for a better insight into the 'real' Nepal. Enjoy a guided city tour, marvel at Durbar Square or perhaps go on a Mt Everest scenic flight through a crescendo of the highest peaks in the world.
Day 3 Shyauli
Rise early for the short flight to Pokhara before transferring by private bus to Nayapul – the start and end point of many trips into the Annapurna region. Set off through Nayapul, over a suspension bridge and across the Modi River to reach Birethanti, the entrance to the Annapurna Conservation Area. Continue upstream following the Modi Khola, passing through Chettris and Brahmins settlements. On clear days, Machhapuchhre, also known as the 'Fishtail', looms dramatically in the distance. Spend the rest of the day at the small village of Shyauli Bazzar.
Day 4 Ghandruk
Begin the climb to Ghandruk, one of the biggest Gurung villages in the area. After a gradual climb out of Shyauli, the trail steepens up stone steps through some beautiful villages, where you can start to get a feel of what everyday life is like for the locals. Continue climbing through rolling terraced hillsides all the way to Ghandruk, where the massive peaks of Annapurna South, Hiunchuli and Machhapuchre tower over the valley below.
Day 5 Tadapani
Upon leaving Ghandruk and making your way to Tadapani, take in the change of scenery as the green irrigated fields backed by the brilliant blue sky make way for oak and rhododendron forest. It's a particularly pretty section of the trek, and if visiting in spring, the rhododendron will be in full bloom. Listen to the sounds of small waterfalls and chirping birds while continuing along the trail to Tadapani. Watch the sun set over the the Annapurna Himal or wake early to see the sunrise.
Day 6 Bayli Kharka
After another tea house breakfast of Gurung bread, a vegetable omelette or perhaps banana pancakes, head off on an alternate and rarely used trail. Gradually climb through thick rhododendron forest and water buffalo pastures before emerging above the tree line for superb views of the Annapurna range. After lunch, continue along the trail before it opens into a clearing known as Bayli Kharka, where you'll find your lodge for the night and some more impressive views of Dhaulagiri Himal.
Day 7 Upper Chistibung
Enjoy a morning descent to the pastures of Lower Chistibung. Stop here for lunch, refuel the kilojoules and kick off the afternoon ascent to Upper Chistibung. On reaching the village, the trail opens up into a temporary herder's settlement; spend the night here. Because this lesser-known trail is little visited by tourists, these villages have been unable to enjoy the benefits of tourism. The lodges where you'll stay over the next week are run by local communities and were constructed, with the help of our travel community, to help boost tourism. The profits go to benefitting the local communities, local projects and schools.
Day 8 Kopra Ridge
Fuel up at breakfast for a steady climb to Kopra Ridge. Today is all about the monstrous mountain peaks, and after arriving at the lodge in time for lunch, you'd be hard pressed to find a more spectacular site to marvel at over a meal. Annapurna South towers directly above and sits only 6 km away, while Fang and Nilgiri command the sky in the north, and the Dhaulagiri Himal dominates the entire western skyline. Spend the afternoon pondering the not-so-subtle beauty of these amazing peaks before retiring to bed in the community lodge.
Day 9 Swanta
Descend steeply downhill, retracing the trail back to Chistibung, passing shrines used by pilgrims on their yearly visit to the sacred lakes. Watch villagers go about their daily lives and perhaps see shepherds on the trail. Continue trekking to the village of Swanta - perhaps visit the local school and interact with the kids and enjoy an overnight stay in the newly constructed lodge.
Day 10 Ulleri
After descending out of Swanta and stopping at the local watermill, head back to the main trekking trail. On reaching the village of Ghorepani, take a well-earned rest with a cup of tea in hand and behold the views of the Dhaulagiri massif. Take relief in knowing that the rest of the day is all downhill – but be sure to look after those knees. Stop for lunch at Nangethanti and arrive at Ulleri by mid-afternoon.
Days 11-12 Pokhara
The final stretch is all downhill to Naya Phul. Stop along the way for lunch and to rest the knees. Revel in the achievement of the past few days while waiting to be transferred back to Pokhara. Enjoy the luxury of a hot shower and spend the next couple of days exploring the peaceful surrounds of this picture-perfect town. Perhaps spend an evening dining at one of the many lakeside restaurants.
Days 13-14 Kathmandu
After a free morning in Pokhara, head to the airport for a 30-minute flight back to Kathmandu. Enjoy a free afternoon exploring the sights or spending up on souvenirs and last-minute present shopping. Take the opportunity to participate in a final group dinner – the last chance to eat delicious momos and dal bhat – while reminiscing the days gone by.
Days 1-2 Beijing
Beijing has a long and colourful history and this rapidly modernising city is an amazing whirl of ancient sites, modern buildings, bicycles, people, shops and eateries.
Days 3-4 Chengde
Sitting pretty in the mountains, Chengde is a breath of fresh air, especially the enchanting Mountain Resort which is a former royal summer residence.
Day 5 Jinshanling
Jinshanling is a mountainous area with an attractive section of the Great Wall, which zigzags up the steep terrain and straddles peaks like a suspension bridge.
Days 6-7 Datong
Bordering Inner Mongolia, Datong is a coal rich city that founded in 200BC and is the gateway to the incredible Yungang Grottoes and Hanging Monastery.
Days 8-9 Wutai Shan
Wutai Shan is also called 'Five Plateau Mountain', and is home to the Bodhisattva of wisdom and harbours some of China's most sacred monasteries and temples.
Days 10-11 Pingyao
Walking through the beautifully preserved streets of Pingyao is like stepping back into Imperial China with red lanterns lighting streets, imposing city walls and traditional buildings at every turn.
Day 12 Lijiashan
With cave dwellings adorning the hills around Lijiashan, this fascinating town is a definite highlight of any trip to China.
Days 13-14 Yan'an
Yan'an was where Mao's Long March ended in 1935, and was the Communist Party's base until 1948 - it's also filled with cultural sites and nature to enjoy.
Days 15-17 Xi'an
As the start of the ancient trading route the Silk Road and an imperial centre for 2,000 years, Xi'an has a fascinating history and rich cultural sites to discover.
Day 1 Chiang Mai Arrival
There's so much to see and experience in Chiang Mai, you can always arrive earlier to spend a few more days in this vibrant northern city.
Day 2 Elephant Nature Park
Visit the Elephant Nature Park, a scenic drive from Chiang Mai through the Mae Taeng Valley. Spend a day with these magnificent creatures - learning about their lives and why it is so important to protect them, feeding them lunch and joining in with bath time - if you don't mind getting wet of course!
Day 3 Chiang Mai Departure
Take an early morning Songthaew ride to the Kad Ton Payom flea market where alms can be bought to offer passing monks. Sate appetites with a breakfast of local specialities before heading to peaceful Wat Umong to revel in the ambience and hear the abbot speak about Buddhism and Dharma. Then, mingle with monks at Wat Suan Dok and learn some basic meditation techniques.