Day 1: Arrive Kathmandu. On arrival you will be met at Tribhuvan International Airport (located 6 miles from central Kathmandu) and transferred to our hotel. The rest of the day is free to acclimatise and explore the bustling capital city of Nepal. Accommodation: hotel.
Day 2: Kathmandu. This morning we embark on a fascinating city tour by bicycle. Kathmandu is one of the world's oldest cities and is rich in cultural heritage. The old part of the city is criss-crossed with narrow medieval streets and centres on Durbar Square, a World Heritage Site. It boasts distinctive pagoda-roofed temples, old monasteries and numerous historic monuments.
We will discover other key sites on our cycle tour including the Royal Palace, Swayambhunath Stupa (one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal known as Monkey Temple) Boudhanath Stupa (for an insight into Tibetan culture) and Pashupati Temple (one of the holiest Hindu shrines in the world).
After the city tour there will be time to wander through the bustling street markets and lively backstreets. Souvenir options are plentiful and include Nepali clothing, embroidery and ceramics. This evening after dinner we will hear more about the journey ahead from our local team. Accommodation: hotel.
Day 3: Kathmandu - Nauboise. We set off through the suburbs and witness the modern face of Kathmandu which serves as the political and economic centre of Nepal. Beyond the historic temples and monuments it feels like another developing world city embracing 21st century life. We reach the main Prithvi Highway which connects Kathmandu to Pokhara and head towards Thankot.
From Thankot the route becomes more rural as we approach the highest point of the Kathmandu Valley - the Thankot Pass (1,550 metres). From the summit there are amazing views of the Langtang peaks, Ganesh Himal, Manaslu and on a clear day as far as the Annapurna mountain range. The next section of the route is steep, winding downhill all the way to the small town of Nauboise, our overnight stop.
Nauboise (920 metres) is located at the junction of the Prithvi and Tribhuvan Highways. The latter is where we will head tomorrow. Note: There is also an off-road option from Kathmandu to Nauboise which is a similar distance to the on-road route. Accommodation: guest house. Cycling distance: 29 km.
Day 4: Nauboise - Daman. A tough but very rewarding ride today. The stretch of the Tribhuvan Highway between Nauboise and Daman has been described as the most spectacular bike ride in Nepal, if not the world. Until the bypass through Mugling opened about two decades ago this was the only road to India. Today there is little traffic along the route which is reasonable quality tarmac. The road spirals up and down endless hills and passes through broad valleys and small villages.
We climb in two stages to reach Daman. First we ascend to a pass of 2,000 metres, then we descend a few hundred metres before a embarking on a final climb of 500 - 600 metres. Daman (2,400 metres) is reputed to have the most spectacular outlook on the Himalaya - an incredible 400km panorama which extends from Annapurna to Everest. There are also great views over the Terai to India. Our accommodation is located 2.5km beyond the town. Accommodation: hotel. Cycling distance: 54 km.
Day 5: Daman - Hetauda. After breakfast there is a short 5km ascent to the pass above Daman at 2,500 metres. From the summit we'll look down over the plunging slopes of the Mahabharat Lekh which leads to the Terai, the low plains of Nepal. For the rest of the day we enjoy the ultimate downhill ride through pine and rhododendron forests which eventually give way to semi-tropical vegetation as the air becomes more humid.
Initially small clusters of houses cling to lonely hill tops but as we approach the Terai we start to pass through more and more villages. Watch out for stray animals and children as you ride through! All the while the road winds like a big crawling snake, down to the ground, nearly 2,000 metres below. The town of Hetauda (455 metres) lies at the bottom of the downhill and you are bound to dismount on an unforgettable high. Accommodation: Guest house. Cycling distance: 53 km.
Day 6: Hetauda - Chitwan National Park. A much flatter ride today after the adrenalin-pumping downhill of yesterday. We are now in central Terai, a region of hot subtropical plains and the surrounding vegetation reflects this. Sal (hard wood) and Kal (silk cotton) trees line the roads to the Royal Chitwan National Park. At Tadi, the route diverts onto a dirt track to the outskirts of the park area at Sauraha. We overnight at a hotel in the Chitwan National Park which was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1984.
The park covers a pristine area with a unique ecosystem and is the largest and most famous wilderness in Nepal. It boasts more than 43 species of mammals and is especially renowned for the endangered one-horned rhinoceros and Bengal tigers. It is also home to 450 species of birds and 45 types of amphibians and reptiles. This evening we hear more about the range of activities on offer tomorrow. Accommodation: hotel. Cycling distance: 72 km.
Day 7: Chitwan National Park. Today is a welcome break after the exertion of the previous days of cycling. You may choose to rest and recuperate at the hotel or venture into the Chitwan National Park. The best place to start is the Visitor Centre at Sauraha which provides fascinating information on wildlife and conservation programmes. Accommodation: hotel. The park is a popular destination for ecotourists and activities (at an extra charge) include:
Canoeing: A journey down the river Rapti in a traditional 'dug out canoe' offers the chance to quietly observe the exotic species of birds and animals that come to drink at the water's edge.
Elephant safari: The opportunity to get a closer view of the endangered one-horned rhinoceros and possibly the elusive Bengal tiger from a safe vantage point.
Guided jungle walk or drive: Walk or drive deep into the jungle, accompanied by an experienced naturalist, to prime locations in search of rare animals.
Bird watching: An early morning walk through the bush and along the Rapti River, with an expert guide to view some of the 450 species of exotic birds including the Giant Hornbill, Lesser Florican and Paradise Flycatcher.
Observation tower: Climb the 22 foot high wooden tower built in a prime location within the park for a unique perspective on wildlife in the wilderness.
Village tour: Visit a traditional Tharu village deep in the jungle.
Day 8: Chitwan National Park - Lumbini. We leave the park and spend the whole day cycling through the western Terai. Today's ride offers a real glimpse into local life in this part of Nepal. We pass through picturesque thatched villages where farming methods have changed little in centuries. Cycling is the ideal way to discover this beautiful area and to meet friendly villagers living a traditional and simple life.
Our destination is the sacred town of Lumbini, birthplace of Lord Buddha (623BC). Lumbini and the surrounding area have the remains of many ancient stupas and monasteries which were built up to the 9th century. Buddhism declined in the area after the arrival of Islam and later Hinduism and the garden of Buddha's birth was lost for 1000 years until it was re-discovered by a German archaeologist in 1895.
Lumbini was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Today it is mainly visited by Buddhist pilgrims from Japan, Thailand and Tibet retracing Buddha's footsteps through the stations of his life. We overnight at a hotel in this tranquil pilgrimage town. Accommodation: hotel. Cycling distance: 121 km.
Day 9: Lumbini - North of Bartung. We set off from Lumbini towards Butwal (pop.75,600), the largest town before Pokhara. The terrain is predominantly flat and it is an easy ride. Once through the hustle and bustle of Butwal we leave the plains behind. The scenery becomes more rugged as we ascent into the mountains. It is an agricultural area where little seems to have changed in centuries. It is a slow uphill push as the road climbs high above a river raging below.
We pass the turn off to Tansen, an attractive Himalayan hillside town which is the most popular summer resort in western Nepal on account of its stunning views and climate. Around 36km from Butwal, we reach the village of Bartung. From there we climb further into the mountains on narrow winding roads. Our exertions are rewarded with glorious views across the terraced hillsides far below. We overnight in a small town around 13km north of Bartung.
Accommodation: guest house. Cycling distance: 81 km.
Day 10: North of Bartung - Waling. Another thrilling ride as we continue on roads cut through high mountains and deep valleys. The terrain is more undulating than yesterday as we journey up and down through beautiful surroundings. It is an area of golden sunlit terraces, green patchwork fields, gurgling streams and deep ravines. Our route passes through tiny villages where local people live in mud houses with thatched roofs. We witness scenes from a bygone era - children playing with home-made toys in the streets, elderly villagers sitting on grass mats in the sunshine, farmers ploughing the land by hand.
Our destination is the town of Waling nestled in the Adhikhola valley. The name Waling is said to have derived from the word 'Wali', which is the song that women used to sing as they planted paddy in the fields. Waling is famous for its green paddy fields which grow along the banks of the Adhikola River and its tributaries. Accommodation: guest house. Cycling distance: 46 km.
Day 11: Waling - Pokhara. We set off along the winding Siddhartha Highway which links Waling to Pokhara. It is a rugged, dramatic landscape offering breathtaking panoramic vistas and there are several viewpoints en-route. During the first 47 km the road undulates from around 850 - 1100 metres until we reach the pass (1,284 metres) which is the highest point along the highway. The road then nose dives for 3km only to rise again slightly before tumbling down to Pokhara (827 metres).
The scenery becomes more and more impressive as we near the end of the ride. Pokhara, located in a magnificent valley of lakes and mountains, is the second largest tourist destination in Nepal. It offers one of the best mountain panoramas in the world with spectacular views of the Himalaya. The most impressive peak is Machhapuchhre (Fishtail Mountain), which stands only 25km away from Pokhara. Its reflection in the Lake Phewa is considered one of the most beautiful sights in Nepal. Accommodation: hotel. Cycling distance: 64 km.
Day 12: Pokhara. We have a break from our bikes today in order to spend more time discovering Pokhara and its environs. If Kathmandu is the cultural hub of Nepal, Pokhara is its adventure centre. There is the opportunity to sample some of the activities on offer in this spectacular setting (for an extra charge). They include: trekking, rafting, kayaking, canyoning, paragliding, horse riding and jungle safaris. Pokhara is also a place of remarkable natural beauty.
The serenity of Phewa Lake and the magnificence of the fish-tailed summit of Machhapuchhre rising behind it create an ambience of peace and tranquility. You may decide to simply relax by the lake enjoying the temperate, sub-tropical climate. Alternatively you may choose to discover what the town has to offer - Pokhara bazaar, Devi's Falls, World Peace Pagoda and Seti Gorge. This evening we hear more about the final 3 days of cycling from the local team. Accommodation: hotel.
Day 13: Pokhara - Jomsom - Muktinath - Jomsom. This morning we take a short flight from Pokhara to Jomsom (2,713 metres). Jomsom is the headquarters of the Mustang District and a key location along the popular Annapurna Circuit trekking route. We cycle off-road from here through a dramatic, arid landscape towards Muktinath (3,825 metres). It is a tough ride over rocky terrain which resembles the Tibetan plateau with some fascinating rock formations en route. Muktinath is as pilgrimage centre for Buddhists and Hindus.
The shrines, in a grove of trees, include a Buddhist monastery and the Vishnu temple of Jiwala Mayi. An old temple nearby shelters a spring and natural gas jets which provide Muktinath's famous eternal flame. The earth - water - fire combination accounts for Muktinath's great religious significance. Spectacular views of the Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Tukuche peaks and several other 8,000 metre peaks are visible. We return to Jomsom to overnight. Accommodation: Tea House
Cycling distance: 45 km.
Day 14: Jomsom - Beni. We set off from Jomsom alongside the Kali Gandaki river over sandy and rocky tracks. Today's ride is 100% off road over rolling hills. We pass through various villages including Marpha, a picturesque place with white-washed houses and cobbled streets which is well known for its apple production. The next section is easy riding, following a jeep track to Kalopani, a beautiful village set below the Dhaulagiri Himal. From the village there are panoramic views of Dhaulagiri, the Nilgiri peaks and Annapurna I.
After about 25km we reach Kalopani (2,530 metres) which means 'black water'. From there the route is downhill at first. We cross a suspension bridge and ride through pine forest to reach Ghasa. The trail then goes steeply down to the Rupse waterfall, one of the biggest along the route. Beyond, the trail is much easier, passing through Dana village and crossing rice paddies to Tatopani (1,190 metres), a small town on the north bank of Kali Gandaki River.
Tatopani means 'hot water' in Nepali and the village took its name from the hot springs nearby. At this point we have ridden 48 km. The last stretch of the trail follows the Kali Gandaki River through the world's deepest gorge to reach Beni. It is an easy ride through stunning scenery and we arrive at Beni (830 metres) late afternoon. Accommodation: Tea House. Cycling distance: 75 km.
Day 15: Beni - Pokhara - Kathmandu. Today's ride is 100% on-road which will be a relief after the last couple of days of dirt tracks. We leave Beni, headquarters of the Parbat District, and head back into the tranquil countryside. We continue following the Kali Gandaki river in order to reach the Baglung Highway.
We cycle along it to Naudanda, an attractive village perched on a hilltop surrounded by steep rice terraces. From there we ride to the Sarangkot viewpoint (1,592 metres) which offers the most spectacular panoramas in the Pokhara area. From there we can marvel at Annapurna (8,019 metres), Manasalu (8,165 metres), Ganesh Himal (7,446 metres), Dhaulagiri (8,167 metres) and Machhapuchhre (6,993 metres).
It is then a steep downhill ride back to Pokhara with lakeside views en-route. We celebrate the end of this epic cycle ride and bid farewell to our bicycles. We then transfer by road back to Kathmandu along the Prithvi Highway (6 hours approx). Overnight in Kathmandu. Accommodation: Hotel. Cycling distance: 75 km.
Day 16: Tour ends. Transfer to the airport for our flight home!
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