*As with all the plans we humans make, this schedule is also subject to change. :)
PHASE 1: TOUCHING GROUND IN NEPAL
You'll spend 3 nights at the Vajra, an authentic, Nepali-style hotel away from the chaos, but close to everything you want to see. Here, your instructors will lead morning and evening yoga classes in the ‘pagoda room’ with gorgeous ceiling frescos, overlooking the great stupa at Swayambhu. (The glow of Swayambhu at night is a sight not to be missed.) You'll spend three days taking in the best that Kathmandu has to offer with its extraordinary temples and shrines dedicated to Hindu, Buddhist and local deities.
Day 1: When you touch ground in Nepal, our drivers will be there to pick you up from the airport. You’ll be transferred to the hotel, where you can unwind from your journey, rest, enjoy the garden and a meal, and soak up the atmosphere. Once everyone has arrived, you’ll have a gentle yoga practice before dinner and a brief orientation before turning in for the night.
Day 2: After an early breakfast, you'll be guided on foot to Swayambhu, and climb the 365 steps required to reach the great stupa. The epic climb is an auspicious way to begin your journey! Also known as the ‘Monkey Temple’ due to the abundance of Rhesus Macaques that live here, Swayambhu offers a fanastic view of the Kathmandu Valley. Here, learn how stupa architecture reflects Buddhist thought, meet the ‘5 Dhyani Buddhas’, and join local pilgrims as they circumambulate the holy site. Later, enjoy a rejuvenating yoga practice and a delicious lunch back at the hotel. After lunch, we have a fantastic lecture planned for you, entitled "Understanding Nepal" with our expert guide and mentor, Anil. Then you'll head out for a night on the town and some sumptuous local cuisine.
Day 3: After an early breakfast at the Vajra, you'll head to Patan. Full of religious art, temples, monasteries and communal courtyards, Patan's ornate architectural details are an incredible feast for the eyes. In many ways, life carries on here as it has for centuries. A town full of artisans and craftspeople, Patan offers a great opportunity to meet the people who give this city its unique beauty. You'll also see first-hand how spirituality is woven into everyday life and observe this community's morning rituals. After lunch, you'll return to the hotel and have some time on your own before an afternoon practice session. Tonight, we'll be watching a classical dance performance in the Pagoda Room followed by a typical Tibetan meal overlooking the stupa at Swayambhu.
PHASE 2: REFLECTION AND STUDY AMONG BUDDHAS
In Boudhanath, dozens of monasteries are situated around an enormous, breathtaking stupa. Hundreds of Tibetan devotees circumambulate the stupa while reciting mantra and spinning prayer wheels every morning and evening. During your three nights at Sechen Monastery Guesthouse, you’ll practice yoga and receive dharma teachings as monastic life carries on around you.
Day 5: After early morning practice and breakfast at the Vajra, you'll head to Boudhanath with our expert guide where you'll explore the Boudha stupa, a massive, three-dimensional mandala (one of the largest in Asia) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After lunch you'll check in at the Sechen Monastery Guesthouse and have some free time to wander a few of the many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the area and check out the countless shops selling Buddha statues and other ritual items as well as textiles and other local handicrafts. We'll have an "Introduction to Buddhism" talk at a local monastery, and after the talk, you'll have a chance to circumambulate the stupa with the local community and find some tasty eats on your own (a recommended list will be provided.)
Day 4: Put on your walking shoes. After an early morning practice and breakfast, you'll venture to Nagi Gompa, a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery tucked away high on a hilltop in Shivapuri National Park. See first hand how the nuns live, experience a genuine place of retreat, and enjoy sweeping views of the valley. From here, you'll head out on foot down the steep hillside past local villages and through pine forests to Pullahari, one of the most stunning Tibetan monasteries in the Kathmandu Valley (a 2.5 hour hike). Visit with the young monks, observe the monks' evening puja and witness an incredible Kathmandu sunset. Tonight you'll enjoy a hearty meal back at the hotel after a long day's trek.
Day 6: After early morning practice and breakfast, you'll head to Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery in Boudhanath and meet Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, the Abbot and spiritual head of the monastery. After meeting Rinpoche and offering the traditional 'katag' or ceremonial scarf, you'll attend his dharma talk in the monastery’s main prayer hall. Receiving teachings in this space, with giant golden buddhas gazing out at you, is a powerful experience you'll never forget. After the teaching and lunch at a local favorite restaurant, you'll have some free time in the afternoon to explore the neighboring monasteries before our second teaching of the day with Venerable Drokpa Tulku, a senior teacher at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery. You'll join the group tonight for a rooftop feast overlooking the great stupa.
PHASE 3: MERGING WITH THE SKY
Just when you're ready to take up the monastic life, you'll head to the valley's edge, to the hills of Kavre. The peacefulness of this stretch of the valley is hard to imagine until you're there. At the Namo Buddha Resort, you'll enjoy 3 days of Himalayan views and lush, green terraced fields. It is the ideal place for practice, and the surrounding hills and villages provide beautiful scenery for day hikes.
Day 7: After morning practice and breakfast at the Siddhi Manakamana, you'll head to Namo Buddha, long held as a "power place" for spiritual practice and retreat. You'll arrive at the Namo Buddha Resort in the late afternoon, settle into your cottage, and soak up the scenery. After an early evening yoga practice in the main hall, you'll have a hearty dinner and free time afterwards to catch up on journaling or just hang out with fellow yogis.
Day 8: At the resort, enjoy morning and evening yoga and meditation sessions, and visit nearby Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery, perched on a steep ridge overlooking the valley. Here, the view is so spectacular you just might think you've already reached nirvana. The beautiful and sprawling Thrangu Monastery was built on the hillside where, in a previous life, the Buddha is said to have offered his own body to a starving tigress in order that she could feed her cubs. The site celebrates this fearless act of compassion and is a principal pilgrimage place for Tibetan Buddhists.
Day 9: After an early morning practice and breakfast at the resort, you'll take a 3-hour hike through local villages and rice terraces to see and experience life among the Himalayan hill communities.
Back at the resort, enjoy some free time before an evening meditation and a healthy meal.
PHASE 4: COMING HOME AGAIN
Day 10: After morning practice at the monastery, you'll head back to where you started -- the Vajra Hotel. For many, it's the last full day in Nepal, so after checking back in, you'll have the chance to hit Thamel for some last minute shopping. Here, you can pick up any gifts you want to bring back with you from the hundreds of colorful shops and handicraft sellers that line the streets.
When you've had your fill, everyone will meet for a very special farewell dinner.
Day 11: After our final morning practice in the pagoda room, we'll have breakfast and some final goodbyes. It's time to head back home. Your airport transfer will be waiting just outside of the hotel to take you back to Tribhuvan International Airport.