IN & AROUND CHITWAN, POKHARA & KATHMANDU
PMGY volunteer in Nepal participants are offered a choice of rural and urban locations in this stunning country with volunteer programs in Chitwan, Pokhara & Kathmandu. Each location is unique in its own way!
This off-the-beaten-track destination offers such stark and beautiful scenic contrasts from mountains to jungle and there are few countries in the world that are as well set up for independent travel as Nepal. Wandering the trekking shops, bakeries and pizzerias of Thamel and Pokhara, it’s easy to feel that you have somehow landed in a kind of backpacker Disneyland.
Participants generally volunteer on a Monday-Friday basis and the weekends are free to relax or travel further afield. As our volunteers will testify, the wider travel opportunities are extremely important to the whole experience and it is something we certainly recommend. Our local team are able to arrange activities, transport and accommodation but please note this is usually an independent experience outside of the core program.
Chitwan is located in the vast flat and fertile Terai region close to the Indian border. The main city in the region of Chitwan is Bharatpur. Paddy fields, ox-towed carts and an array of wildlife, make this a perfect location for those seeking a quieter and more rural atmosphere. However, there are still plenty of activities to do in your spare time: bird watching, jungle safari and white-water rafting. Whether you cross the country by mountain bike, motorbike, raft or tourist bus, Nepal offers an astonishingly diverse array of attractions and landscapes.
Far from the earthquake epicentre, and almost unaffected by the disaster, Pokhara is blessed with spectacular scenery and a booming adventure sports scene. One of the world’s best paragliding spots, surrounded by white-water rivers and the gateway to the world-famous Annapurna range treks. What’s not to love about this laid-back, lakeside town with views of snow-capped mountains just 20km away. You’ll find everything you need here from western restaurants and international hospitals to markets and boating on the lake.
Kathmandu is Nepal’s capital and only major city. It is a bustling metropolis rooted in history and rich in culture. Filled with temples, palaces and courtyards, the unique architectural heritage and religious influence make it a fascinating location to live. The 2015 earthquake brought devastation to parts of the city. Stroll through the backstreets and Kathmandu’s timeless cultural and artistic heritage will reveal itself through the hidden temples overflowing with marigolds, courtyards full of drying chilies and rice, and tiny hobbit-sized workshops.
This square, where the city’s kings were once crowned and ruled from, remains the traditional heart of the old town and Kathmandu’s most spectacular legacy of traditional architecture. It’s easy to spend hours wandering around this Unesco World Heritage Site, with its popular watch-the-world-go-by temples. Unfortunately, the square bore the brunt of Kathmandu’s 2015 earthquake damage. Half a dozen temples collapsed, as did several towers in the Hanuman Dhoka Palace complex, but it’s still a fabulous complex to explore.
ROYAL PALACE - HANUMAN DHOKA
Kathmandu’s Royal Palace, known as the Hanuman Dhoka dates back as far as the 4th century AD, although it was expanded considerably in the 17th century. It gets its name from the stone image of Hanuman, the Hindu deity, that sits near the main entryway. ‘Dhoka’ means door or gate in Nepali. Sadly, this sprawling palace was hit hard by the 2015 earthquake and damage was extensive. It has been reopened however and visitors still have access while the Nepalese go about reconstructing this beautiful complex.
GOLDEN TEMPLE - KWA BAHAL
Untouched by the earthquake, this unique Buddhist monastery is just north of Durbar Square. It was allegedly founded in the 12th century, and it has existed in its current form since 1409. The temple gets its name from the gilded metal plates covering the front and is one of the most beautiful in Patan. Outside of winter, look for the tortoises pottering around the compound – these are the temple guardians. It’s worth ducking south to see the small, two-tiered Uma Maheshwar Temple and the handsome stone Gauri Shankar Temple.
Another Unesco World Heritage Site, the journey up to the Buddhist temple of Swayambhunath is one of the definitive experiences of Kathmandu. Mobbed by monkeys and soaring above the city on a lofty hilltop, the ‘Monkey Temple’ is centred on a gleaming white stupa, topped by a gilded spire painted with the eyes of the Buddha. Coming to Swayambhunath is an intoxicating experience, with ancient carvings jammed into every spare inch of space and the smell of incense and butter lamps hanging heavy in the air.
The Nepal Himalaya is the ultimate goal for most mountain lovers. Some of the Himalaya’s most iconic and accessible hiking is on offer here, with rugged trails to Everest, the Annapurnas and beyond. Nowhere else can you trek for days in incredible mountain scenery. Then there’s the adrenaline kick of rafting a roaring Nepali river or bungee jumping into a bottomless Himalayan gorge. Canyoning, climbing, kayaking, paragliding and mountain biking all offer a rush against the backdrop of some of the world’s most dramatic landscapes.
There are several amazing weekend trips to get involved in during your time with PMGY in Nepal. Travelling over the weekends is a huge part of the experience as it gives you the opportunity to explore the country with fellow volunteers on the program.
Due to a lack of public transport travelling independently in Nepal is not the easiest thing to do. Even if there were a better transport network it would not be viable to travel out to a national park and then be left to your own devices. As a result, you really need to travel in a more private network to ensure your safety and to make the most of the weekend opportunities.
There are many travel agents based in Kathmandu who can provide affordable and reputable weekend trip options to our volunteers, and they also allow for you to meet other travellers in Nepal. Our local team are also able to organise weekend trips for volunteers, but we want to ensure participants have the freedom to book elsewhere if this suits their plans better.
As a result, we have found participants to prefer the flexibility to explore all the opportunities available to them once they arrive in Kathmandu rather than pre-organising trips only for people to want to change these plans once they arrive. You can therefore book weekend trips locally based on your budget, travel preferences and once you have met other volunteers on the program.
We have outlined a couple of popular weekend trip options to give you an idea of some of the trips you can get involved in during your time with us. We recommend participants do not make any firm commitments until they arrive in Nepal as participants will usually travel in a group and our team are a great resource to help you make plans!
CHITWAN SAFARI WEEKEND TRIP
INCLUDES - TRANSPORT, ACCOMMODATION, MEALS & ENTRANCE FEES
Chitwan National Park lies is the subtropical south-central Nepal, boasting an abundance of wildlife and bordered by the Narayani River, creating a natural boundary to the surrounding villages. This World Heritage Site protects a huge area of grassland and forests, inhabited by Bengal tigers, sloth bears, monkeys, rhinos, leopards and deer. This is the perfect place for wildlife lovers in Nepal, there are thought to be over 500 species of birds living here too!
The best way to explore is a safari around the jungle and marshland, with a guided tour to help you spot those camouflaged tigers and learn about the one-horned rhinoceros. You can glide along the Narayani River by canoe and join the Tharu cultural dancers for a bit of Nepalese tradition!
DAY ONE - TRAVEL TO CHITWAN
We will be heading to Chitwan by Tourist Bus this morning from your project location. Please note that depending on your location the journey may take a few hours due to the road quality and traffic.
After freshening up it’s time for some lunch and some rest. Depending on the weather and season the following activities may be rearranged on your schedule to maximise your experience in Chitwan National Park.
In the evening you can experience the traditional songs and dances from the Tharu culture. This is a unique display of colourful costumes and instruments, with the chance to get involved and join them on stage!
DAY TWO - CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK
We’ll be heading into Chitwan National Park by jeep or bicycle to spot the wildlife, so get your camera ready! You’ll get a guide on your tour to point out the wildlife hiding behind the trees! The terrain here is the perfect tiger habitat, and there are leopards lurking outside of their territory too. Chitwan is famous for hosting the endangered one-horned rhinoceros, This National Park is also believed to have the highest population density of sloth bears, a small and very furry brown creature, with very long claws! You may also find monkeys, crocodiles, boar, porcupines and beautiful species of birds.
There’s also a chance to hop in a Canoe along the Narayani River, spotting the birds and crocodiles along the way! Hopefully, we can catch a nice view of the sunset to end a great day.
DAY THREE - TRAVELLING TO PROJECTS
It’s time to head back to your projects after breakfast, with a chance to reflect on your trip on your bus journey home.
POKHARA & ANNAPURNA WEEKEND TRIP
INCLUDES - TRANSPORT, ACCOMMODATION, MEALS & ENTRANCE FEES
The lakeside town of Pokhara is the gateway to the Annapurna Region, stretching around Phewa Lake, where the Tal Barahi Temple sits proudly in the centre. The landscape here is breath-taking, with a panoramic view of the Himalayas lining the edge of the city.
Pokhara is famous for being the base for trekkers into the Annapurna Mountain Range, so you can only imagine how spectacular the views are from both the city below and the peaks above! If you’re up for an adventure it’s time to stretch your legs and head to the mountains for a weekend trek, complete with stunning sunrise views and buckets of Dal Bhat to fuel you!
DAY ONE - EXPLORING POKHARA LAKESIDE
After freshening up it’s time for some sightseeing! We’ll have a walk around the lakeside to explore the shops, bars and yoga hideouts – you can haggle all your last-minute trekking gear here too! We may have the chance to hop on a boat to enjoy Phewa Lake from the water for a relaxing ride to take in the beauty of the scenery and watch the paragliders circle above.
DAY TWO - TREKKING KANDE - DHAMPUS
Get your walking boots on as it’s time to hit the mountain! After breakfast, we’ll be catching the local bus to the small town of Kande, where our trek will start.
From Kande to Dhampus it takes around 5 hours, hiking uphill past mountain villages, farm terraces and forests. Be prepared as the ascent can get pretty steep! Most of the track is natural mountain terrain or uneven stone steps. We’ll stop for lunch on the way, with many rest breaks to catch your breath and take in the views!
DAY THREE - SUNRISE
There’s nothing more magical than watching the sunrise through the mountains, so we’ll be up early to marvel at the sight!
We’ll head back to the tea house for some breakfast, then begin the trek down to Phedi. This area is dotted with Gurung villages, a culture that traces back to Tibet after the communities migrated to the Himalayan foothills centuries ago. As you walk around you can visit the villages and temples, practise the local language and experience a taste of mountain life.
When we reach Phedi we’ll take a bus back to Pokhara for lunch. The fun doesn’t stop there! There’ll be some free time for sightseeing in the afternoon. We’ll head up to Davi’s Falls, a beautiful waterfall that descends into an underground tunnel to Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave.