Below are some of the major travel highlights for Himalayan Frontiers. For more in-depth attractions of each country on this route, click on the country names below or select a route to see the highlights on this section of the journey. Click on the icons below to focus on specific types of features (click again to return to all).
|In-depth highlights: Bhutan, China, India, Nepal
Highlights of Delhi - Kathmandu
India's bustling capital city comprises two main parts. Old Delhi was the capital of the Mughal Empire between the 12th and 18th centuries and is characterised by its narrow streets and alleyways, bazaars and historic monuments. The Jama Masjid (Great Mosque) is the largest and one of the most impressive in India while the Red Fort and Humayun's Tomb (separate features) are spectacular historic structures. New Delhi is a stark contrast, the imperial city of the British with wide, open boulevards and imposing buildings designed by architect Edward Luytens. Its attractions include the India Gate war memorial arch, Connaught Place, Lok Sabha or the Parliament Building, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, once the imperial palace of the British viceroy and now the residence of the President of India, and Raj Ghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.
|Red Fort of Delhi
The Red Fort was built in the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as his palace fort and represents the zenith of Mughal creativity, a fusion of Islamic, Hindu, Persian and Central Asian influences. The red sandstone walls stretch for 2.5km and are 33 metres high, enclosing palaces, gardens and pavilions and remains a powerful symbol of India.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Red Fort Complex
The tomb of Humayun, second Mughal Emperor of India, was built in 1569-70 by his widow, 14 years after his death. Later used to bury various members of the ruling family, it has been called the necropolis of the Mughal dynasty. Located in the centre of a garden laid out in char baah style, it inspired several architectural innovations which would culminate in the construction of the Taj Mahal a century later.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Humayun's Tomb, Delhi
Qutb Minar is a red sandstone tower, 72 metres high, that was constructed in the 13th century. It is surrounded by funerary buildings, including the Alai-Darwaza Gate built in 1311, and two mosques including the Quwwatu'l-Islam (Might of Islam), the oldest in northern India.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi
Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan and is known as the 'Pink City' since its buildings were painted for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1876. Jaipur was designed as a planned city, though today it exhibits the colourful chaos and bustle of many Indian cities, with streets packed with pedestrians, bicycles, cars, buses, camels and cows. Inside its old city walls, the City Palace now contains a museum for royal garments, miniatures, carpets, manuscripts and armour. The 18th century observatory of the astronomer Jai Singh, known as Jantar Mantar, contains a series of immense astronomical instruments made of marble and brass that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Elsewhere the pink sandstone facade of the Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal) is a famous Jaipur landmark. 11km north of Jaipur lies the spectacular Amber Fort, a hillside complex containing many courtyards and fine decorated palaces, halls, gardens and temples. The massive gateway can be reached by riding an elephant into the fort.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Jantar Mantar
The Taj Mahal is one of the most recognised, admired and magnificent buildings in the world. It was built between 1631 and 1648 by the orders of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum in memory of his third and favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to his 14th child. It's estimated that 20,000 workers were employed in its construction, including masons, marble workers, mosaicists and decorators. The Taj Mahal stands before a vast Mughal garden, laid out in perfect symmetry, with the canals providing an exquisite reflection of the building. It is a study in architectural precision, combining elements and styles from Persian, Central Asian and Islamic architecture. The white marble exterior is inlaid with thousands of pieces of coloured and semi-precious stones, decorative bands and calligraphic inscriptions. The Taj Mahal is best visited at sunrise or sunset when the sun casts the building in different lights, but many hours should be spent here admiring one of the world's great sights.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Taj Mahal
|Red Fort of Agra
The Red Fort of Agra was a centre of the Mughal Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries. Construction was begun by Emperor Akbar and continued by his successors Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. Its red sandstone walls stretch for 2.5km and enclosed the imperial city of the Mughal rulers, comprising ornately decorated palaces such as the Jahangit Palace and Khas Mahal, the beautiful white marble Pearl Mosque and numerous audience halls, courtyards and fountains. The Fort reflects a fusion of Hindu and Islamic styles leading to a distinctive new Indo-Muslim art. There are great views of the nearby Taj Mahal from Agra Fort.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Agra Fort
The city of Varanasi, located on the banks of the Ganges River, is the holiest Hindu site in India. Hindu pilgrims flock here from all over India to bathe in the Ganges, along the 4km of ghats, or steps, that lead down to the river. A boat ride on the river, especially at dawn, to watch this religious ritual is an extraordinary experience. There are also a number of burning ghats where cremations take place. The city itself, supposedly one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, is a chaotic and crowded place, but fascinating to wander its winding streets amongst temples and bazaars, which specialise in selling silk.
Sarnath, located just 10km from Varanasi, is the site where Buddha preached his first sermon after attaining enlightenment 2,500 years ago and is therefore an important site of pilgrimage for Buddhists. The Dharmarajka and the Dhamekh Stupas lie on the spot where he first espoused the Buddhist teachings. The nearby Ashoka Pillar and monastery housed some 1,500 monks at its height before destruction by Muslim armies. Rediscovered by British archaeologists in the 19th century, it has been restored and is now one of Buddhism's holiest sites.
|Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya
Located in Bihar Province on the plains of the Ganges, Bodh Gaya is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world as the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment in 531 BC. Thousands of Buddhist pilgrims flock to the Mahabodhi temple, built in the 6th century AD on the site of the original temple built in the 3rd century BC. One of the oldest Buddhist brick temples in India, Mahabodhi is topped by a 50 metre spire. Other items of interest here are 25 metre high statue of Buddha and the giant Bodhi tree which is supposed to be the direct descendant of the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha achieved supreme insight.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya
|Royal Chitwan National Park
Royal Chitwan National Park is located in south-central Nepal close to the border with India. It comprises 932 km² of 'terai' subtropical lowland. One of the finest game parks in Asia, Chitwan is renowned for its population of one-horned rhinos, of which there are roughly 400 in the park. There are also several species of deer, wild dog, sloth bear, elephants, striped hyenas, bison and small populations of leopard and tiger, of which there are about 80, though sightings are rare. The best way to view wildlife is to take a safari on elephant-back. Another option is to take a dugout canoe ride on the Rapti River to view marsh-mugger crocodiles and some of the estimated 400 bird species in the park.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Royal Chitwan National Park
|Lumbini - the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha
Lumbini was the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, in 623 BC and has been a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists for thousands of years. The Indian Emperor Ashoka visited and built a commemorative pillar which can still be seen today. Numerous temple complexes have been built here over the years.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha
Nepal's capital is a fascinating city narrow streets and alleyways, palaces and hidden temples, with a huge diversity of people. The city is centred around Durbar Square, home to the Royal Palace and numerous temples. The alleys leading from the square are filled with shops and bazaars selling an amazing range of products. The Buddhist stupa of Swayambhu, known as the monkey temple, is the oldest holy shrine in the valley and offers spectacular views. Bodhnath Stupa is one of the biggest Buddhist shrines in the world, surrounded by temples. Pashupati is the most famous Hindu temple in Nepal, set on the banks of the holy Bagmati River.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Kathmandu Valley
|Towns of Kathmandu Valley
The towns of the Kathmandu Valley combine the architectural and cultural richness of the capital in a much less developed setting, making for some beautiful and atmospheric locations. Across the Bagmati River 14km east of Kathmandu lies Patan (or Lalitpur), known as the 'City of Beauty', renowned for its Durbar Square with more than 50 temples and shrines. Bhaktapur (or Bhadgaun), known as the ‘City of the Devotees’, is a beautifully preserved medieval town of potters and pagodas.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Kathmandu Valley
One of the world's classic trekking destinations is in the Khumbu Valley of the eastern Himalayas underneath the towering peak of the world's highest mountain - the incomparable Mount Everest (8848 metres). Located in Sagarmatha National Park, this area comprises several dramatic mountain peaks in addition to Everest, glaciers and deep valleys formed by tributaries of the Dudh Kosi which flows southwards through Lukla (2,800 metres), the base for exploring the park. This is the home of the Sherpa people, with their unique culture based on the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, which can be encountered in the town of Namche Bazaar with its Sherpa Museum and Visitor Centre and the famous and sacred monastery at Thyangboche. Trekking options in the park range from moderate introductory trails to the classic trek to Everest base camp and the challenging ascents of mountains like Mera and Island Peak.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Sagarmatha National Park
The Annapurna Range of the Himalayas Mountains is one of the most popular trekking regions in Nepal. The area offers spectacular views of some of the highest peaks in the Himalayas, including Annapurna I, II and II, Dhaulagiri and the fish-tail peak of Machhapuchhare. It is also a culturally rich region, with mountain villages of a diverse group of Hindu and Buddhist peoples. From a base in the picturesque town of Pokhara, trekking options range from moderate introductory treks to the long circuit around the Annapurnas and a route to the incomparable Annapurna Sanctuary.