Day 1 UK/Kathmandu
Today you'll fly to Kathmandu via Abu Dhabi.
Day 2 Kathmandu
On arrival in Kathmandu we'll transfer you to your hotel, your base for the next three nights. This evening get to know your travelling companions over dinner in a restaurant close to your hotel.
Day 3 Kathmandu
Today you'll see the incredible UNESCO-listed Boudhanath Stupa, one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world. This is the centre of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu and is rich in Buddhist symbolism. Thought to have been built in the 14th century after the Mughal invasions, there are many legends surrounding the reason for its construction, and today it remains an important place of pilgrimage. The base of the stupa is made up of three large platforms which symbolise Earth, and here you can admire mountain views and prayer flags fluttering in the breeze while you listen to the chanting of devotees. Be sure to gaze up to the square tower atop the building, which bears the Buddha eyes on all four sides. Instead of a nose, you'll see a question mark-type symbol, representing unity, and above this, the third eye, symbolising the wisdom of Buddha.
Next we're going to head to the bustling tourist district of Thamel, where you can experience a fun rickshaw ride through its narrow streets, where shops sell everything from pastries to handicrafts.
Day 4 Kathmandu
A day of discovery takes you to Patan, an incredible city boasting dozens of Buddhist and Hindu temples and more than 1,200 monuments. After a tour, we'll have lunch together before we visit Khokhana, a living museum that offers a glimpse of medieval life in a traditional Newari village. There's time to explore this UNESCO-listed site and admire the three-storey temple here. This evening you are invited to take part in a Nepalese cookery class, with dumplings, noodle soup and curry likely to be on the menu.
Day 5 Chitwan
We move on to Chitwan today, where you've an incredible highlight to look forward to, a leisurely guided river canoe ride. As we pass by lush jungle, we're likely to spot wildlife in the water, up in the sky and on the river banks, so keep your eyes peeled. Look out for crocodiles basking in the sun and exotic birds drinking at the water's edge or swooping down to catch a fish.
Day 6 Chitwan
Another great day is in store for nature-lovers, as we head into Chitwan National Park. Located in the foothills of the Churia mountain range, it is famed for its variety of wildlife, with 68 species of mammal and more than 500 types of bird resident here. It's also renowned for its protection of one-horned rhinoceros, royal Bengal tiger and gharial crocodile, so keep your fingers crossed for sightings as we explore with an expert guide. We're going to revisit the park this evening, when the creatures we see could include elephants, leopards, monkeys, sloth bear and deer.
Day 7 Pokhara
We arrive in the Pokhara Valley today, a picturesque area which boasts snow-covered peaks, lakes and rivers. Located virtually in the centre of Nepal, it's also perfectly placed for fantastic close-up views of the Himalayas.
A free afternoon gives you a great opportunity to soak up your incredible surroundings.
Day 8 Pokhara
Together we'll head to Naudanda, which means 'nine hills'. From here we'll take in spectacular views over the Annapurna Mountains, a section of the Himalayas. We'll also have lunch today at a boutique hotel. This afternoon you might choose to join our fascinating optional excursion to experience life in a Tibetan refugee camp. You'll meet a family that has settled here, discover the arts and crafts of the Tibetan Plateau, and have the chance to buy handmade jewellery, wood carvings, rugs and other unique souvenirs. We'll then head to the Tashi Palkhiel handicraft centre to learn about local crafts and the importance of symbols and images in daily life. We'll also attend the Pema Tsal Sakya Buddhist School and Monastery, where we'll take part in a pooja – a religious ritual performed by the monks. Our evening comes to an end as we join a local family for a simple meal of Tibetan specialities, including Tsampa – roasted barley flour – butter tea and traditional bread.
Day 9 Kathmandu
Before heading back to bustling Kathmandu, we'll enjoy the peace of Bhadgaon, where, instead of noisy traffic, we may hear the hypnotic chanting of mantras. Also known as Bhaktapur, meaning the 'city of devotees', it is celebrated for its glorious architecture such as its many pagoda-style temples and red-brick buildings. The Palace of 55 windows built by King Bupatindra Malla and the Nyatapola Temple, which is the highest in Nepal, standing on five terraces, are just two highlights. This afternoon you'll also have the chance to enjoy an optional pottery making experience.
Day 10 Kathmandu/Dehli
You'll fly to Delhi this morning and on arrival we'll transfer you to your comfortable hotel, where you'll have time to freshen up. You'll then start your sightseeing with a tour of New Delhi, a spacious, imperial city created by the British in 1911. We'll drive through elegant boulevards to see the iconic India Gate and imposing Parliament House, which are grand reminders of the city's colonial past. We'll also see the soaring sandstone tower, Qutub Minar, and conclude our tour at Humayun's Tomb, built in 1570 and said to have inspired the Taj Mahal.
Day 11 Delhi/Jaipur
Your morning is going to be spent delving into the maze of narrow streets and thronging markets of Old Delhi. Firstly, you'll travel by cycle rickshaw, then you'll explore the fabled street bazaar of Chandni Chowk on foot, admiring the spectacular Red Fort as you go. The marble domes of the Jama Masjid Mosque are sure to impress, and Raj Ghat, the simple memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, is your final stop.
If all that sightseeing has given you an appetite, our optional street food excursion will be just perfect. We'll hop on rickshaws and work our way around Old Delhi's historic and atmospheric streets, stopping to try the vegetarian specialities unique to this region. Chat with the vendors as you try chole bathure (chickpeas served with a fried bread), dahi bhalla (fried flour balls in yoghurt) and aloo chat (spicy potatoes). Also on the menu will be paratha flatbread and the spiced yoghurt drink, lassi. If you have a sweet tooth, try jalebi - pretzel-shaped deep-fried batter soaked in sugar syrup - and the local version of bread and butter pudding. There is so much to try, and if you're craving meat, don't worry, we'll make our way to a stall offering fried chicken.
Next we'll immerse ourselves in the largest spice market in Asia, Khari Baoli, which is actually an entire street. It's fascinating to watch as huge sacks of multi-coloured spices are traded, and the intoxicating aroma is out of this world.
Later, we'll head to the 'Pink City' of Jaipur. The sight of sandstone buildings tinged with pink and ochre set amongst barren hills will greet us on arrival in the capital of Rajasthan.
Day 12 Jaipur
You've a day of discovery ahead of you, with your first highlight the marvellous Amber Fort. This 17th century stronghold commands a hilltop setting high above the surrounding valley. Step inside to see the Temple of Kali, the Palace of Mirrors and the Hall of Pleasures.
In the afternoon, you'll get to know the 'Pink City' of Jaipur, where all the buildings were painted pink by maharaja's decree. Together we'll explore the commanding City Palace and discover Mughal treasures in its museum. We'll also see the elaborate façade of the Palace of the Winds. From its 953 intricately decorated small windows, the ladies of the court could gaze upon the outside world unseen.
Tonight, a really special optional trip gives you the chance to visit a family home for a cookery demonstration and dinner.
Day 13 Bharatpur
Bharatpur is our next base, and on the way here we're going to take in the exceptional sight of Abhaneri's stepwell, an ancient water storage system.
Lunch is served at the hotel, then our afternoon is spent at the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, which we'll reach by rickshaw. As well as many species of birds, also resident here are sambar and chital deer, boar and nilgai – the largest Asian antelope.
Day 14 Agra
This morning we're going to journey by road to Agra, visiting the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri en route. Built by an emperor in 1569 to celebrate the birth of his son, you can stroll through its pink and red sandstone pavilions and palaces.
In the afternoon, we'll visit the Agra Fort, where the Emperor Shah Jahan, who commissioned the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned by his son. Wander through its chambers to catch your first glimpse of this famous white-marble mausoleum. We'll also visit a Petha shop - a traditional sweet of the area and one of the most iconic street foods in Agra. Petha is prepared from white pumpkin or ash gourd and mixed with nuts which give it a unique taste. Being a speciality of Agra, it has people rushing from all parts of the country due to its delicious flavour. Meals included: B,D
Day 15 Delhi
Today is the day that you'll see the Taj Mahal, on a dawn visit. The early start is well worth it as you view this magnificent mausoleum that was built by Shah Jahan as a memorial to his beloved wife, Mumtaz. The exterior is decorated with many different precious and semi-precious stones, and it appears to change colour as the sun shines upon it. This building, which took 20,000 men more than 20 years to build, and sits in a vast complex, is an undeniably extravagant expression of love.
We're also going to see the Taj Mahal from another perspective later, as we head to Mehtab Bagh. This centuries-old garden complex sits on the other side of the Yamuna River and is exactly aligned with this iconic masterpiece, offering equally spectacular views.
A journey by road then takes us back to Delhi, where you can enjoy a relaxed evening before your flight home tomorrow.
Days 16 - 18 Delhi/UK
Today we'll transfer you to the airport for your return flight to the UK.
Please note: During this tour you will travel to altitudes of over 5,500ft. If you suffer from heart or respiratory conditions please consult your doctor.