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Extension: Lands of the Deities: The Spiritual Capitals of Kathmandu and Varanasi

Program Number: 21200RJ
Start and End Dates:
1/26/2014 - 2/1/2014;
Duration: 6 nights
Location: Nepal
Price starting at: $1,659.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type:
Meals: 14; 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 4 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

With sacred ancient temples and an energy that evokes the great mysteries of mankind, the spiritual capitals of Nepal’s Kathmandu and India’s Varanasi have drawn religious pilgrims and non-believers for centuries. From the foothills of the Himalayas to the banks of the Ganges River, experience the timelessness and day-to-day life of these deeply mystical places.


• Explore one of the most significant Hindu temples in the world, located on the banks of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu.
• Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bhaktapur, an ancient town in the Himalayas rich with culture, temples, and wood, metal and stone artwork.
• Take a boat ride on the scared Ganges River to view the early-morning rituals of the bathers, then learn about the holy site where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon.

Date Specific Information


This program operates in reverse, 2 nights Varanasi and then 3 nights Kathmandu.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Kathmandu, 3 nights; flight to Varanasi, 2 nights; flight to Delhi for departure.

Flight to Kathmandu
3 nights

Descend over snow-capped Himalayan peaks to arrive in Kathmandu, home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Meet the young students of Tribhuvan University, the oldest and largest university in Nepal. Step inside Pashupatinath temple, one of the most sacred Hindu temples in the world. Learn about Boudhanath the largest Buddhist stupa in the world and home to 12,000 Tibetans. Venture to the ancient town of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley and see its 55-window palace, intricately carved Golden Gate and the elaborate statues and terraces of its temples.

Flight to Varanasi
2 nights
Flight to Delhi for departure
1 night

Journey to the spiritual capital of India and one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world, Varanasi. Witness the sacred religious Hindu rituals of “puja” and “aarti” while taking a boat ride in the Ganges River. Meet an astrologer and learn about this ancient science, which is an integral part of Hinduism. Explore Sarnath, a holy site where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon.


Nestled in the Himalayan mountain range, Nepal is home to eight of the world’s highest peaks — including the majestic Mount Everest. Unpredictable weather patterns make climbing Everest a difficult feat for even the most seasoned mountaineers, but an average of 2,000 climbers reach its summit annually.

Meals and Lodgings
   Radisson Hotel Varanasi
  Varanasi, India 2 nights
   Crowne Plaza Hotel Kathmandu Soaltee
  Kathmandu, Nepal 3 nights
 Radisson Hotel Varanasi
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: Radisson has 116 hotel rooms in Varanasi, including 2 elegantly designed suites, 14 Business Class Rooms and 100 Superior Rooms. All of our guest rooms offer turndown service and a wide range of amenities.
  Contact info: The Mall Cantonment, Varanasi
U.P. 221002
221 002,   India
phone: +91 54 2250 1515
  Room amenities: Newspaper delivered to the room - daily Digital safe in each room Broadband Internet access Mini-bar and tea/coffee maker Telephone with voicemail and direct dial Satellite television Hair dryer
  Facility amenities: Includes complimentary broadband Internet access, television with 48 channels and a bottle of mineral water provided daily. Relax in the oasis of comfort provided by our spacious rooms with the option of interconnecting, city view or pool view. Complimentary buffet breakfast and use of Health Club (gym, steam room, whirlpool).
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Crowne Plaza Hotel Kathmandu Soaltee
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Contact info: PO Box 97 Tahachal
Kathmandu,   Nepal
phone: +977-1-4273999
  Room amenities: Cable / Satellite TV, Coffee/Tea Maker, Mini Bar, High-speed Internet Access, Wireless Data Connection, Electrical Adapters Available,Phone, Bathtub, Hairdryer, Private Bathroom, In Room Safe, Individually Controlled Air Conditioning
  Facility amenities: Health & Fitness Center (On-Site), Housekeeping & Laundry Services, Travel Services, Foreign Currency Exchange, Entertainment & Recreation, Sauna and Steam bath, Barbeque Grills, Outdoor Pool, Casino, Hotel Shops, Business Center
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: yes Please contact Road Scholar Travel Services for more information.

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
The program begins with lunch on Day 1 at the program hotel in Varanasi. You will be staying at Radisson Hotel Varanasi that night.
  End of Program:
The program concludes with lunch on Day 6 at the program hotel in Kathmandu, followed by transfer to the aiport for the return flight home via Delhi. You will be staying at Crowne Plaza Hotel Kathmandu Soaltee the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. N/A
  Parking availability:
Driving is not recommended.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Varanasi
  Transportation to site: All participants who are on the extension will be provided with the airport transfer from the Delhi Hotel to the Delhi airport and from the Varanasi airport to the program hotel at the beginning of the program.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Kathmandu
  Nearest airport:  Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport
  Transportation from site: There is one designated group there from the program hotel to the airport in Kathmandu. If the transfer time does not work for you, you can arrange a taxi with your group leader or you can pre-book a transfer with Road Scholar Travel Services.
Elevation Note: Kathmandu's elevation is 4,368 ft.

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Flight from Delhi Varanasi, Arrival & Check-in, Heritage Walk
(Sunday, January 26)

Note: Everyone on the extension is provided with the flight from Delhi to Varanasi as well as the transfer to the airport in Delhi and the transfer to the hotel in Varanasi.

 Morning: Fly from Delhi from your main program 21109 and arrive in Varanasi in the late morning.
 Lunch: Enjoy a buffet lunch at the hotel featuring regional cuisine.
 Afternoon: HERITAGE WALK: This afternoon, explore the old part of Varanasi with your Group Leader as you explore temples and havalis (traditional houses), local markets, and interact with people of this community.
 Dinner: Dinner will be at hotel.
 Evening: Relax and recharge your batteries after a busy day of travel and discovery.
Accommodations: Radisson Hotel Varanasi
Meals Included: Lunch, Dinner

Day 2: Morning boat ride / Varanasi discovery / Sarnath / Aarti Ceremony
(Monday, January 27)

Note: This day requires getting in and out of small boats, walking along cobblestones on narrow streets, and walking about .5 miles (one way) to get to the Ghats for the Aarti Ceremony in busy crowded streets. You will be taking a rickshaw ride part of the way, approximately 30-minutes.

 Breakfast: We will return to the hotel for breakfast after our early morning field trip. The buffet includes Indian, Continental, and American breakfast options.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: We begin the day before breakfast with a morning boat ride on the Ganges River to observe people performing daily rituals, then see temples and ghats (steps leading down to the water) for which the city is well known. Mid-morning, we explore Sarnath, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site where tradition says Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon. Set in well-maintained gardens, Sarnath's ruins are a pleasant place to stroll or meditate. The highlights are Asoka's pillar, the ruins of the Mulagandhakuti and the huge Dharmek Stupa. Farther to the east is the modern Mulagandhakuti Vihara with its beautiful wall paintings and, behind it, the Deer Park.
 Lunch: Taste more of the flavors of India with lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: CEREMONY: Later in the afternoon or early evening, during a boat cruise on the Ganges, you will be able to witness sacred Hindu religious rituals of “puja” and “aarti.” Puja refers to a variety of rites, one of which is aarti (also arti, arati), a ceremony in which light from little lamps with wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. Aarti also refers to the songs sung in praise of the deity when lamps are being offered.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel affords more opportunities to savor the local flavor.
 Evening: The remainder of the evening is free. Share your favorite highlights of the day with new Road Scholar friends.
Accommodations: Radisson Hotel Varanasi
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Depart Varanasi, Flight to Kathmandu, Arrival and Check-in, History & Culture of Nepal
(Tuesday, January 28)
 Breakfast: Our early breakfast buffet at the hotel includes Indian, Continental, and American breakfast options.
 Morning: We depart the hotel early and transfer to the airport for the flight to Kathmandu.
 Lunch: For convenience, there will be a box lunch en route to the airport.
 Afternoon: FLIGHT: Afternoon flight to Kathmandu. It is a panoramic thrill flying into Kathmandu on a clear day with the views of snow-capped mountain peaks sprawling down below. In the late afternoon, there will be a lecture on the history and culture of Nepal. Visiting students of Tribhuvan University will tell you about their goals, aspirations and lives.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Hotel Kathmandu Soaltee
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Patan Durbar Square, Swoyambhunath Stupa, Kathmandu City and Durbar Square, Free Evening
(Wednesday, January 29)
 Breakfast: Our breakfast buffet at the hotel offers world cuisine with Indian, Continental, and American options.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: We explore Patan Dhubar Square. Most of the Square was created in the 16th-17th centuries when Patan's prosperity was at its height. It is filled with pilgrims, monuments, and temples including Krishna Mandir, the most important Krishna temple, dating from 1637. Our field trip continues to the Patan Museum, housed in what was once the royal palace. Acclaimed as one of the finest museums in South Asia, it displays traditional sacred arts of Nepal such as cast bronzes and gilt copper repoussé work for which Patan is famous.
 Lunch: Lunch in Patan.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Here in the seat of royalty until the last century, we will explore Swoyambhunath stupa -- a golden spire crowning a conical wooded hill -- the most ancient and enigmatic of all the holy shrines in Katmandu valley. Its lofty white dome and glittering golden spires are visible from many miles and from all sides of the valley. Historical records found on a stone inscription give evidence that the stupa was already an important Buddhist pilgrimage destination by the 5th century AD. Continue to explore Kathmandu Durbar Square, a wondrous cluster of ancient temples, palaces, courtyards and streets.
 Dinner: This evening have dinner on your own to sample the restaurants and foods of your choice. Your group leader will be happy to offer suggestions.
 Evening: FREE EVENING: Take the rest of the evening for further personal exploration or relaxing and recounting your experiences.
Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Hotel Kathmandu Soaltee
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: Bhaktapur, Pashupatinath Temple, Boudhanath Stupa, Cocktail Party & Farewell Dinner
(Thursday, January 30)
 Breakfast: Our breakfast buffet at the hotel offers world cuisine with Indian, Continental, and American options.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: Bhaktapur. Approximately 45 minutes away by coach, Bhaktapur sits at an elevation of 4,596 feet (1,401 meters). Its name means “city of devotees” as will be apparent during our exploration. In Bhaktapur's Durbar Square, visit key sites beginning with the National Art Gallery containing ancient and medieval paintings belonging to Hindu and Buddhist schools depicting Tantrics of various periods. The Golden Gate, built by King RanjitMalla, is one of the most beautiful and richly carved specimens of its kind in the entire world, embellished with deities and monsters of marvelous intricacy. The Palace boasts 55 windows in a wood-carved balcony among the brick walls with their gracious settings and sculptural design. Nyatapola Temple stands on five terraced platforms with each terrace containing a pair of figures: two famous wrestlers, two elephants, two lions, two griffins, and the Baghini and Singini (tiger and the lion goddesses).
 Lunch: Today you have another opportunity for a mealtime adventure on your own to sample more of the tastes you enjoy. Your group leader will be happy to offer suggestions.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Pashupatinath is one of the most sacred Hindu temples in the world. During the annual Shivaratri pilgrimage, thousands of devotees of Lord Shiva from Hindu communities around the world pay homage here. We will explore led by our expert guide. We then proceed to Boudhanath, the largest Buddhist stupa in the world. Set in a Mandala design, it is built on a flat surface of various levels of terraces, painted in pastel colors and adorned with prayer flags. Altogether, 108 Buddha images and 147 insets of prayer wheels adorn the base of the huge circular edifice. The settlement of Boudhanath has the largest community of Tibetans — 12,000 in all.
 Dinner: Enjoy the convivial atmosphere of cocktails and a farewell dinner in a private home hosted especially for Road Scholar guests.
Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Hotel Kathmandu Soaltee
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Free Morning in Kathmandu, Program Concludes with Lunch, Afternoon Flight to Delhi
(Friday, January 31)

Note: For those taking the group flight, there is between 7-8 hour layover in Delhi.

 Breakfast: Our breakfast buffet at the hotel offers world cuisine with Indian, Continental, and American options.
 Morning: FREE MORNING: Explore Kathmandu on your own, seeking out what is most interesting and appealing to you. Your group leader and local guide will be happy to offer suggestions. We then depart for the airport and return flight home.
 Lunch: We will have our last lunch at the hotel, which concludes the program. We hope you have enjoyed this extension program and will join us again for other rewarding Road Scholar programs in the future. Best wishes for all your journeys!
 Afternoon: After lunch, you will transfer to the aiport for your return flight home via Delhi.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 7: Arrival home
(Saturday, February 1)
 Arrive To: Arrive back home.
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A Photographic Guide to the Birds of India and Nepal

Author: B. Grewal

Description: A slim pocket guide to 252 of the most conspicuous birds of India and Nepal.

Annapurna, The Epic Account of a Himalayan Conquest and its Harrowing Aftermath

Author: Maurice Herzog

Description: Conrad Anker provides a new foreword for this 60th-anniversary edition of Maurice Herzog's classic, dictated from his hospital bed in Paris. French minister of youth and sport in the 1960s and former mayor of Chamonix, Herzog recovered nicely (he's 103 in 2012).

Arresting God in Kathmandu

Author: Samrat Upadhyay

Description: This collection of stories explores the nature of desire and spirituality in modern Nepali society.

Buddha's Orphans

Author: Samrat Upadhyay

Description: This novel by Samrat Upadhyay (Arresting God in Kathmandu) sets Nepal’s political upheaval as a backdrop to the love story of Raja, an orphan boy, and Nilu, a daughter of privilege. Their story transports readers across generations and explores family connections.

Escape from Kathmandu

Author: Kim Stanley Robinson

Description: The four interconnected stories in this laugh-out-loud novel include the (mis)adventures of two young Americans with a Yeti, international espionage, mountain climbing of the highest sort and a quest for Shangri-La.

Fortress Monasteries of the Himalayas

Author: Peter Harrison

Description: This slim book recreates the dramatic and colorful fortifications of Tibet, Ladakh, Nepal and Bhutan, recounting their history through foreign incursions, religious conflicts and civil wars to the Tibetan uprising and flight of the Dalai Lama from Potala Palace in 1959.

High Adventure

Author: Sir Edmund Hillary

Description: A classic of 20th-century mountaineering, this 50th anniversary edition of young Hillary's personal account of his historic ascent of Everest, written the heady days after the celebrated climb, includes a new preface by the author. With black-and-white photos. Hillary modestly attributes his success to "a goodly share of imagination and plenty of energy."

Himalayan Voices, An Introduction to Modern Nepali Literature

Author: Michael Hutt (Editor)

Description: A collection of 20th-century Nepali poetry and short fiction, much of it translated into English for the first time. This anthology offers insight into Nepal's literary traditions, society and culture.

In the Land of No Right Angles

Author: Daphne Beal

Description: Beal evokes the grit of Kathmandu and the emotional intricacies of trying to do good in the world in this tale of a young American student abroad, an older expat and a young village woman whose life they change forever.

Into the Silence

Author: Wade Davis

Description: In this thrilling portrait of George Mallory and fellow climbers, Davis vividly recreates Britain’s heroic attempts to scale Everest in the 1920s, putting the whole enterprise into the context of World War I and British Imperial ambitions.


Author: Sandy Hill

Description: Published with the American Alpine Club, this stunning celebration of the allure of climbing and grandeur of the great peaks features images by nature photographers and adventurers spanning two centuries, Ansel Adams, Edmund Hillary, Bradford Washburn and Galen Rowell among them. Sandy Hill, one of the first women to reach all seven summits, and others provide concise essays but it is the 350 oversized, sumptuously produced black-and-white and color photographs that entrance.

Nepal Map

Author: Nelles

Description: A double-sided map at a scale of 1:500,000, with insets of Kathmandu City and Kathmandu Valley.

Photographic Guide to Birds of the Himalayas

Author: Bikram Grewal

Description: A pocket guide to 250 birds found from the foothills up to high elevations ranging from the Hindu Kush and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh in the Eastern Himalayas. With brief descriptive information, maps and 260 full-color illustrations.

Snake Lake

Author: Jeff Greenwald

Description: Greenwald (Shopping for Buddhas) returns to his old haunts in Kathmandu during the Maoist uprising in this personal account, including his thoughts about his brother, falling into depression, back home in the United States.

Spectrum Guide to Nepal

Author: Camerapix

Description: A comprehensive guide to the country, its people, history, culture and geography, featuring excellent maps and 200 color photographs.

The Snow Leopard

Author: Peter Matthiessen

Description: The most perceptive, acutely observed and personal of all his books, Matthiessen's account of a five-week journey through Nepal with naturalist George Schaller combines their quest for the elusive cat with a moving introduction to Buddhism and the people and culture of the Himalayas.

Trekking Nepal, A Traveler's Guide

Author: Stephen Bezruchka

Description: A respected guide covering route planning, national parks, health, where to go and what to do in Nepal. With an overview of the geography, history, religion and culture of the region.

Wild India, The Wildlife of India and Nepal

Author: Guy Mountefort, Gerald Cubitt (Photographer)

Description: An informative introduction to the natural history of the region in a handsome oversize volume. With hundreds of extraordinary photographs of the wildlife and landscapes of the Himalayas, the Indo-Ganges Plain and the Deccan.

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