National Geographic: Best Spring Trips 2017

Pokhara is the second largest city of Nepal and tops the list of must visit places. With its bewitching beauty extended in forms of snow-capped peaks, tranquil lakes, greenery, adventure sports and trek trails, Pokhara is a place for anyone and everyone. With the magnificent Annapurna range forming the backdrop and the serenity of three major lakes – Phewa, Rupa and Begnas – Pokhara is the ultimate gateway for relaxation. While most famous treks begin here, Pokhara also offers adventure activities like paragliding, ultralight flight, and the world’s longest and fastest zip line.


Nepal is widely known for its vast trekking trails and spectacular views, however, there are many short trails as well that offer views equally stunning and splendid. Ghandruk, a beautiful Gurung settlement, takes you through rhododendron forests and rural areas, giving you an insight into the conventional lifestyle of the locals with glimpses of Machhapuchhre and Annapurna.

Ghorepani – Ghandruk Trek – 10 Days

Tihar – The Festival of Lights

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Tihar or Deepawali is the festival of lights celebrated widely in Nepal. The five day long festival falls a fortnight after the grand festival of Dashain during Kartik, the seventh month of the Nepalese calendar. A joyous annual festival occurring in late autumn, Tihar brings happiness, prosperity and good wishes into the lives of people. Each day represents reverence to not just humans, but also to the sacred cows, dogs, crows and oxen that are honored in the Hindu culture. Being the festival of lights, butter lamps known as diyos are lit and the entire country illuminates to celebrate with immense joy and ecstasy.

First Day – Kag Tihar
The first day of Tihar is Kag Tihar where the Kag or crow is worshipped. Considered to be the messenger of death, people try to ward off grief and death in their families by offering food to crows.

Second Day – Kukur Tihar
The second day of Tihar is dedicated to the most loyal friend of mankind, Kukur or dog. Dogs are especially important to Nepal’s Hindu practitioners and are regarded as mount of God “Bhairab” as well as “Yama” (God of Death). They are said to guard the gates of afterlife and represent the concept of dharma, the path of righteousness.

On this day, dogs are worshipped as a gratitude for their loyalty and service. A garland of marigold flowers that are in full bloom during this time is draped around their neck and an auspicious red tika applied on the forehead that signifies their devotion and friendliness. They are offered delicious food and the day is marked to treasure the relationship between humans and dogs.

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Third Day – Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja
The third day is one of the major days of Tihar. The morning is Gai Tihar meaning cow worship. In Hinduism, the cow is regarded as Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. She is considered holy and sacred and in ancient times, cow milk, dung, and even urine were utilized as a source of purifying oneself. The cow is fed plenty of grass and garlanded with the auspicious marigold flower this morning.

In the afternoon, houses and offices are cleaned and floors painted with Red Mud (Rato Mato) and cow dung (gobar). Rangoli, a pattern made of colored rice, colored sand and flower petals, is drawn at the main entryway of the house and traditional butter lamps (Diyo) are lit to welcome the gods and goddesses. Doors and windows are decorated with fresh garlands of sayapatri (marigold) and makhamali (chrysanthemums) flowers. In the evening at a scheduled auspicious time, Goddess Laxmi is worshipped and thanked for the well-being and prosperity of the family. Various sweetmeats are offered to the goddess and relished amongst family and friends. After the prayers, girls and boys go out to the neighborhood houses singing and dancing to the customary songs, Bhailo and Deusi for which they are bestowed with money, fruits and selroti, a Nepalese delicacy made of rice and sugar.
Firecrackers and sparklers light up the sky although the government has imposed a ban to avoid any mishaps and protect the environment.

Fourth Day – Goru Tihar and Mha (aatma or self) Puja

This day different types of prayers or Pujas are held depending on one’s cultural background. People who follow Vaishnavism perform the Gobardhan Puja (honoring Gobardhan Mountain) or Goru Puja (worship of the oxen). The ox helps farmers plough fields and draw the carts in the paddy fields of Nepal, a predominant agricultural country. They are fed and worshipped and Govardhan Puja is performed, where a paste of cow dung is applied outside houses as replicas of the Gobardhan Mountain.

At dusk the Newar community perform Mha Puja also known as self-puja. It is done to purify the body and soul for one’s prosperity and longevity. A Mandala or mandap, sand painting of a sacred diagram signifying good fortune and long life, decorated with marigold flowers, sweets, fruits and a special garland is set for each family member who sit cross-legged behind it. The elder female member then begins applying the tika on their foreheads and performs the rituals handing over shagun, auspicious food consisting of boiled eggs, fruits, sweets, fish, and the traditional rice wine. Later they indulge in a scrumptious feast and revel in the festive ambience.

This day also marks the new year of the Nepal Sambat, the Newari calendar.

Fifth Day: Bhai Tika
The final day of Tihar is dedicated to the siblings, particularly brothers. At an auspicious time scheduled a day earlier by an astrologer, the entire nation’s sisters apply tika of five colors on her brother’s forehead and pray to Yamraj, the god of death, to ensure his long life. She also ties a sacred cotton thread of Tantric value meant to protect them and offers him sweets and fruits. Similarly, the brothers give tika to sisters and offer her gifts and money along with an assurance to protect her forever. Those without sisters receive tika from cousins and relatives. The impact of this day is to strengthen the bond between brothers and sisters.

Tihar is the second biggest festival of Nepal after Dashain. The proximity of the two major festivals gets people in the merry-making mood the entire month beginning from Dashain and lasting until the end of Tihar.

Flying Safari – Tigers & Rhinos

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FLYING SAFARI – TIGERS & RHINOS (Fixed Departure 2017)
India & Nepal

This tour takes us on a wild journey through jungles of central India which was Rudyard Kipling’s source of inspiration for his “Jungle Book”. We visit both Kanha and Bandhavgarh National Parks, being rated as the best for tiger spotting the world over. Later we fly to Nepal and into Chitwan, a place rich in flora and fauna and famous for its wildlife and jungle activities. In March / April the days start getting warmer; most water sources start to dry up and the game is concentrated around the few remaining water sources, making this period the best time to photograph and observe tigers of central India and one-horned Rhinoceros in Nepal.

Highlights of the tour:
• Most comfortable way to see tigers in the wild
• Visit best Tiger Habitats
• Stay in first class award-winning boutique jungle lodges
• Exclusive vehicles for game drive with English Speaking Naturalist
• Fly between the parks in charter planes maximizing game viewing time
• Fully accompanied by expert naturalist
• One horned Rhinoceros

Bandhavgarh National Park: Bandhavgarh is set among the Vindhya hills of Madhya Pradesh, India. It is large in biodiversity and densely populated with tigers. With tigers at the apex, it is also rich in birdlife and other wide range of game. The elephant and jeep safari is an exhilarating experience that takes you through the lush greenery and natural habitat of the varying wild species. It is a safe trip to get a closer look at all the imperial creatures including the royal tigers.

Kanha National Park: Kanha National Park is spread across the Maikal chain of hills, Madhya Pradesh, India. It is popular as a tiger reserve and for preservation of the rare Swamp Deer (Barasingha). Conservation programs for the overall protection of the Park’s fauna and flora, makes Kanha one of the finest National Parks in Asia. The safari takes you on an amazing journey into the wild offering excellent outlook for keen photographers.

Chitwan National Park: Chitwan National Park – ‘the Heart of the Jungle’ is situated in the mid-southern Terai, Nepal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is regarded as one of the best wildlife- viewing national parks in Asia. Home to rich flora and fauna, the park boasts one – horned rhinos and other alluring species like bengal tigers, leopards, asiatic elephants, wild boars, sloth bears, gharial crocodiles, monkeys, deer and more than 600 species of birds.

Hotels

Trident Gurgaon Hotel, Delhi:
Trident Gurgaon Hotel is a five-star hotel owned and managed by the Oberoi Group. It has a resort-like ambience with the designs influenced by Moroccan, Mughal and Rajasthani architectural styles. The rooms represent graceful style and sophistication in every detail with touches of traditional artifacts and elegant furnishing. It welcomes in its warm embrace with magnificence and style accompanied with modern amenities ensuring a comfortable stay.

Kings Lodge, Bandhavgarh:
Situated in an incredible location between the Sal forested hills of Bandhavgarh National Park, Kings Lodge assures a great wildlife experience, outstanding hospitality and an experienced team of naturalists. Its air-conditioned cottage rooms with a large verandah offering views of the forest, are well appointed with wood furniture in honey hues and inviting crisp cotton linen. They have a multi-cuisine dining hall with a fire place overlooking the wild grasslands back dropped by Sal forested hills. They offer an experienced naturalist team with focus on birding tour and an overall holistic wildlife experience. An eco-friendly construction with eco-sensitive waste disposal systems, the units are designed to blend with the surrounding landscape.

Kanha Earth Lodge:
Kanha Earth Lodge lies in the natural forest, tucked away in a small hamlet bordering Kanha’s buffer zone. The luxury bungalows with en suite bathrooms and open verandahs have been inspired by Gond tribal architecture which offers environmentally sensitive, low-impact accommodation through designs and use of local stone and waste wood. It creates an ideal setting for nature walks, birding and cycling trips through the surrounding forest. Earth Lodge offers a variety of Indian and Continental cuisine; all dishes served are prepared from local sources of fresh products.

Barahi Jungle Lodge, Chitwan:
Barahi Jungle Lodge is situated on the banks of Rapti River in Chitwan reflecting the tranquility of the National Park. It offers a refined luxury experience with excellent services and amenities. The hotel assures to be an ideal place of stay for those seeking charm, comfort and convenience in Chitwan. The ambience, architecture and interior style, blends with the jungle giving a stunning insight into the Tharu culture of Nepal mixed with wilderness, strengthening the bond of nature and mankind. The lodge offers authentic Nepalese, Continental, Indian, Thai and Chinese Cuisines. In the evenings, the Tharus perform a cultural show making the environment lively and vigorous.

Itinerary in detail

Prince Harry in Nepal

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I hope that everyone back home who took an interest in the tour can see that Nepal is a country that you really have to come and visit. You have to come and see world heritage sites like Patan Durbar Square and be inspired by Nepal’s history. You have to come and walk in the foothills of the Himalayas – watching the sunrise over those majestic mountains is something I will never forget. But most of all you have to come to meet the people of Nepal. I have rarely in my life felt as welcomed as I have over the last few days.” – Prince Harry (23 March, 2016)

Prince Harry who was in Nepal for a five-day official visit extended his stay in Nepal by six more days to help rebuild a school in a remote village in Nepal that was damaged by the April 2015 earthquake. “The people I have met and the beauty of this country make it very hard to leave. Thankfully however, I’m not leaving just yet!” he said.

Dharma Adventures provides opportunities to enthusiasts who want to delegate their technical and physical skills depending on the project. Our Building Back Better programs include rebuilding schools, community spaces, religious buildings etc.