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

Program Number: 21200RJ
Start and End Dates:
1/30/2014 - 2/5/2014;
Duration: 6 nights
Location: Nepal
Price starting at: $1,659.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type:
Meals: 12; 4 Breakfasts, 4 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.

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
   Crowne Plaza Hotel Kathmandu Soaltee
  Kathmandu, Nepal 3 nights
   Radisson Hotel Varanasi
  Varanasi, India 2 nights
 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 prior: yes Please contact Road Scholar Travel Services for more information.

 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

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Day 1 in the morning at the program hotel in Kathmandu. You will be staying at Crowne Plaza Hotel Kathmandu Soaltee that night.
  End of Program:
Day 6 after lunch at the program hotel in Varanasi. You will be staying at Radisson Hotel Varanasi 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:  Kathmandu
  Nearest airport:  Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport
  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 Kathmandu airport to the program hotel at the beginning of the program.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Varanasi
  Transportation from site: There is one designated group there from the program hotel to the airport in Varanasi. If the transfer time does not work for you, you can take 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: Arrive to Kathamandu / Kathmandu Durbar Square / Swoyambhunath
(Thursday, January 30)
 Morning: Fly from Delhi from your main program 21109 and arrive in Kathmandu in the morning. Transfer to your hotel and check in. Then join your group leader and lecturer for a brief oriention of Nepal and the Kathmandu Valley.
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel.
 Afternoon: Get an orientation of Kathmandu city, the seat of royalty till the last century. Explore Kathmandu Durbar Square, a wondrous cluster of ancient temples, palaces, courtyards and streets. Continue to Swoyambhunath stupa, a golden spire crowning a conical wooded hill, is 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.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: Participate in a presentation on Nepal history and culutre. Then meet with students from the local university and learn about their goals and aspirations.
Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Hotel Kathmandu Soaltee
Meals Included: Lunch, Dinner

Day 2: Kathmandu / Patan / Pashupatinath and Boudhanath
(Friday, January 31)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Begin the morning with a presentation on Newar Art. Then being your exploration of Patan Dhubar Square, a square filled monuments and the 17th-century Krishna Mandir. Continue to Patan Museum which displays the traditional sacred art of Nepal. Most of the objects are cast bronzes and gilt copper repousse work, traditional crafts for which Patan is famous.
 Lunch: Lunch in Patan.
 Afternoon: Visit Pashupatinath, one of the most sacred Hindu temples in the world. During Shivaratri annual pilgrimage, thousands of devotees of Lord Shiva from all the Hindu communities of the world pay their homage here. Then proceed to Boudhanath the largest Buddhist Stupa in the world. It is built on a flat surface of various levels of terraces. The stupa is painted in pastel colors and adorned with prayer flags. It is set in a Mandala design. 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 – twelve thousand in all.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own.
Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Hotel Kathmandu Soaltee
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 3: Kathmandu / Bhaktapur City / Free time
(Saturday, February 1)
 Morning: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Bhaktapur, also known as Bhadgaon or Khwopa, is an ancient Newar town in the east corner of the Kathmandu Valley and was once the capital of Nepal during the great Malla Kingdom until the second half of the 15th century. Bhaktapur is listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO for its rich culture, temples, and wood, metal and stone artwork. It is the home of traditional art and architecture, historical monuments and craft works, magnificent windows, pottery and weaving industries, excellent temples, rich local customs, culture, religion, festivals, musical mystic and so on.
 Lunch: Lunch on own so that you can explore Bhaktapur on your own.
 Afternoon: Transfer back to town and the time is free for you to explore the Kathmandu valley on your own.
 Dinner: Cocktails and dinner at a private home especially hosted to cater Road Scholar guests.
Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Hotel Kathmandu Soaltee
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 4: Kathmandu / fly to Varanasi / Arti ceremony
(Sunday, February 2)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Free morning on your own before your flight to Varanasi. Depending on the day of the week, the flights are direct to Varanasi or goes via Delhi.
 Lunch: Lunch either on the flight or on your own.
 Afternoon: Arrival in Varanasi between 3-4pm. Transfer to your hotel. In late afternoon, meet an astrologer and learn about this ancient science which is an integral part of Hinduism.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Radisson Hotel Varanasi
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5: Morning boat ride / Varanasi discovery / Sarnath
(Monday, February 3)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Before breakfast begin with an early morning boat ride on the Ganges river to see the early morning rituals on the ngats along the Ganges. Return to the hotel for breakfast. Afterwards, continue to Sarnath, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a holy site where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon. Set in well maintained gardens Sarnath's ruins are a pleasant place to stroll amongst or meditate in. The main things to see are Asoka's pillar, the ruins of the Mulagandhakuti and the huge Dharmek Stupa. Further to the east is the modern Mulagandhakuti Vihara with its beautiful wall paintings and behind it the Deer Park.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Time in the afternoon for you to relax. Then in the late afternoon, witness an "Aarti" ceremony while enjoying the boat cruise of Ganges. Aarti is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja, in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. Aartis also refer to the songs sung in praise of the deity, when lamps are being offered
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Radisson Hotel Varanasi
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Varanasi / afternoon flight to Delhi
(Tuesday, February 4)

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

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Free morning on your own to explore Varanasi.
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel.
 Afternoon: Your program ends after lunch. Transfer to the aiport for your return flight home via Delhi.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 7: Arrival home
(Wednesday, February 5)
 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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