Small group walking tours to Japan and China

The Kingdom of Nepal is an adventurous traveler's paradise: towering snowcapped mountains, splendid medieval cities, and a rainbow mosaic of different peoples and tribes. The country is still largely roadless: villagers, traders, pilgrims, and tourists alike travel by foot, on trails, in a realm of camaraderie. It is said that people come to Nepal to see the mountains, but they leave remembering the people. Nowhere else on earth will you find such genuine warmth and spontaneous friendship.

This fall, from Sept 29-October 12, Esprit will be offering a trip to Nepal that combines comfort, accessibility, and an in-depth, insider's view. (Moderate walking, maximum elevation of 5000 feet.) Our group leader, Nancy Craft, is uniquely qualified to lead such a tour. Nancy first visited Nepal more than twenty years ago on a mountaineering expedition. She has returned more than a dozen times since then, to travel, trek, explore the country's art, architecture and religion, and help out in her spare time at Tibetan and Nepali schools and orphanages. Nepal is an ongoing and vital part of her life: in fact, she and her husband Rob were married at a Sherpa Buddhist monastery near Mt. Everest in 1992.

Our 14-day tour begins in Nepal's vibrant capital Kathmandu, where we'll be staying at a Western-style hotel in the lively Thamel neighborhood, within walking distance of many of the city's prime attractions. Over a four-day span we'll explore the city on foot, including Swyambunath Sacred Mountain; Durbar Square, the city's ancient palace complex; the giant Buddhist Stupa at Boudnauth; the incredible grand bazaar, Asan Tole, a warren of exotic shops and stalls on narrow streets and alleyways; and the pedestrian-friendly Medieval town of Bhaktapur. Through Nancy, we'll meet a wide variety of local Nepalis, from monks and merchants to schoolteachers. We'll also tour Nancy's current project- a joint venture weaving collective with our Nepali ground operator, EcoTrek, which has created meaningful work for the wives of our porters.

From Kathmandu we'll fly to Pokhara, picturesquely situated on the shores of Lake Phewa. Along the way we'll have spectacular views of the entire Himalayan range. This will be our base for a three day/two night trek up into the hills. Nancy will set a mellow pace of four or five hours a day, as we pass through subtropical valleys, terraced fields and pastures, brilliant rhododendron forests, and villages perched on high ridgetops, with unbelievable views of the high Himalayas. Porters will carry our gear, and we'll spend our nights at local trailside guesthouses: backpacking at home was never this comfortable.

After completing the trek, we'll fly back to Kathmandu, where we'll dine and spend the night at a charming hilltop lodge overlooking Kathmandu Valley. The next morning, after a last view of snowcapped peaks, we'll return to Kathmandu for a final day of strolling and shopping, culminating in a celebratory dinner hosted by our new Nepali friends.

On our way home, we've added a special treat: a whirlwind tour of Bangkok, featuring delicious Thai cuisine, busy markets, and the fantastic architecture of Bangkok's Buddhist temples and palaces. Also, consider joining Nancy for a 4-day extension to Chiang Mai in the north, for crafts shopping and further exploration of Thai culture.

Tour cost: $3625, including airfare from L.A., lodging, most meals, all land costs.
Chiang Mai extension: $850

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