The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have announced they will visit Bhutan and India, while Prince Harry is off to Nepal. Here, Rickshaw Travel highlights the top tours for those looking to follow in royal footsteps and have an enriching local experience.
Yes, William and Kate are off to Bhutan for the first time this spring as part of a six-day royal visit that will also include several days in India. Kensington Palace has also confirmed an official visit by Prince Harry to Nepal, a destination it’s understood he has long wanted to visit after serving with Gurkha troops in Afghanistan. Prince Harry has reportedly asked to see the country’s reconstruction efforts after the devastating earthquake in Nepal last April.
There are many options for holidaymakers inspired by the royal visits to have their own immersive travel experience, join in with the local community and get an authentic view of a destination.
It is hoped and thought that the royal visits will have a positive impact on Bhutan, India and Nepal. Travel is a huge social and environmental benefit to the destinations and people in these countries.
Rickshaw Travel aims to maximise the benefit of tourism whilst minimising the impact and working as sustainably as possible. It creates meaningful travel itineraries and homestay options that bring travellers closer to the country they’re visiting. Through authentic homestays guests will come face to face with new cultures and meet entirely new people with a completely different view of the world.
What are your options?
Travel to Bhutan
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been compared to Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his beautiful Queen Jetsun Pema who have been referred to in the press as ‘the William and Kate of the Orient’. ‘The Dragon King’ has also been known to invite his subjects into his home for tea and a chat which seems an apt reflection of the warmth and welcoming hospitality you would expect from a Buddhist country that measures wealth on happiness.
Rickshaw Travel recommends:
Haa! A Hidden Shangri-La
On this bite-size trip the idea is for you to find a tremendous sense of freedom and will experience the pristine beauty and nature of the Haa Valley. The landlocked country or Bhutan has preserved much of its Buddhist traditions, beautiful landscape and wildlife. Most tourists only visit here as a day trip but Rickshaw Travel arranges for guests to stay in a locally owned family guesthouse so they can get a true sense of Bhutanese life at the foot of the Himalayas.
This two-day bite-size trip costs from £228 per person and includes one night’s accommodation (based on two sharing), all meals and drinks, transport with private driver*, English-speaking guide and entrance fees as applicable.
Warm Welcomes in the Mighty Dzong
This trip will take you on a journey through rural Bhutan villages where time has stood still. Holidaymakers can stroll through the emerald Punakha Valley past one of the most beautiful monastery fortresses in the country, receive a blessing in the Temple of the Mad Monk, absorb the breathtaking scenery, visit mighty Dzongs, see red chillies hanging out to dry in the sun, and eat homemade meals in a traditional farm homestay.
This three-day bite-size trip costs from £448 per person and includes two nights’ accommodation (based on two sharing), all meals and drinks, transport with private driver, English-speaking guide and entrance fees as applicable.
For those who wish to combine a trip to Bhutan with India like the Royals, Rickshaw Travel recommends this five-day trip: Through the Foothills to India
Over the five days of this trip travellers will journey deep into eastern Bhutan, where only a few tourists go. During the journey south, the landscape changes from coniferous trees and rhododendrons to soft bamboo forests and thriving corn fields as travellers cross the border into India. Eastern Bhutan has plenty to offer those who manage to reach it. With fewer tourists than the West, guests can often feel like they are only ones visiting the remote Monasteries and Temples. Highlights include seeing the stupa modelled on a carved radish, enjoying the hubbub of Bhutan’s second largest city and arriving in India.
This five-day trip costs from £895 per person and includes four nights’ accommodation (based on two sharing), all meals and drinks, transport with private driver, English-speaking guide and making your own wooden carving in Trashi Yangtse.
And on to India
Although Prince William has never visited India before, his father Prince Charles has made eight official royal tours of the nation. His most recent nine-day tour was in 2013 when he visited Dehradun, New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Kochi.
Charles and Diana also visited India in 1992 when Diana was famously pictured in front of the Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. William and Catherine have confirmed they will also visit the Taj Mahal on their tour of India.
Rickshaw Travel offer a different Taj Mahal experience where guests can not only wonder at the sunrise over this stunning site but also experience local life in a characterful friendly homestay, just a few minutes walk from the Taj Mahal.
India’s Golden Triangle is the stuff of legend, with the ethereal Taj Mahal at its pinnacle. Rickshaw Travel’s bite size trip ‘Sunrise at the Taj Mahal‘ encompasses a number of World Heritage Sites that all rank amongst the most amazing places on Earth. Bharatpur, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Fort, and (last but not least) the Taj Mahal can all be appreciated on this rare journey between Jaipur to Agra.
During this India trip you can also visit the mystical monkey temple of Galta, watch huge flocks of birds fly across the Bharatpur wetlands, wander through the abandoned ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri and stay with a local family to watch dawn break over the Taj Mahal.
This three-day bite-size trip costs from £155 per person and includes two nights’ accommodation (priced based on two sharing), breakfast, private transport and a guided tour of the Taj Mahal and Agra fort.
This trip can be combined with a whole range of specialist trip options and itineraries from Rickshaw Travel which pick out the best highlights and off-the-beaten track adventures in India.
Inspired by Nepal
Prince Harry has announced a visit to Nepal almost a year on from the devastating effects of the April 2015 Nepal earthquake. The earthquake and aftershocks which struck between the capital Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara, severely impacted the local communities and landmarks but Nepal is making progress in its efforts to attract tourism back.
Rickshaw Travel works with local community-focused projects that holidaymakers can contribute to and get involved with in Nepal. They support the International Porter Protection Group, which ensures the well-being of the local guides and porters trekking through the Himalayas, for example by paying for their medical care and ensuring the upkeep of a rescue post.
The following bite-size trips provide the opportunity to get behind the scenes in Nepal and interact with the local communities and projects:
Namaste! Warm Welcomes in Nepal
The Nepalese are known for their warm welcomes and this tour gives a rare insight into their hospitality and culture whilst helping support the local community.
Travellers are collected from their hotel in Kathmandu and transferred to the small town of Panauti, one of the oldest in the Kathmandu valley. Here they’ll find narrow alleys paved with stone, terracotta dwellings and red-brick temples and they will be welcomed into a local family home for their stay.
Depending on the time of year, guests can help out with the rice harvest or other farming activities or lend a hand in the kitchen with some traditional Nepali home cooking. You can expect tasty dhalls, aromatic cumin potatoes and spicy ginger tea during their stay. This homestay programme is part of a Nepali community project where local women open up their homes to visitors. Not only does this allow tourists to learn more about the Nepali psyche and gain a better understanding of the local customs, but also provides these women with a much needed source of income.
Prices for the bite-size trip start from £45 per person, based on two people sharing. This includes one night in a basic Nepalese family home, meals and transfers from Kathmandu. Those wishing to spend more time in Panuati can extend their stay to two nights, giving more time to explore the nearby sights of Khopashi, Namobuddha and Kanteshowri. Prices for a two night stay cost from £75 per person.
Rickshaw Travel also offers more adventurous trekking options in Nepal. The following new tours help support the local communities as well as explore the incredible landscapes of this destination. All Rickshaw Travel Nepal treks are private independent treks (not group tours) accompanied by a guide.
From Mountain Ridges to Hidden Villages eco trek
Trek between soaring mountain peaks through a remote region of the Annapurna Mountain Range. The local people here have collaborated with the United Nations Development Fund to create a unique trek where hikers will stay at eco-lodges and family homes. This trekking experience will give guests the opportunity to view the culture and village life of the locals, see wonderful wildlife in their natural Nepalese habitat and be surrounded by beautiful mountainous backdrops. Guests will be welcomed into local homes, some of which being charming eco-lodges. They will fall asleep after feeling the comforting warmth of home-cooked Nepalese meals in their stomachs and wake up to watch the sun rise over the Annapurna Mountain Range.
The six-day trek is priced at £378 including accommodation (price based on two people sharing), all meals during the trek, return transfer from Pokhara, English speaking guide and one porter per two people.
Rickshaw Travel’s new Helambu homestay trek combines trekking with culture.
Trekkers on this tour will stay with Tibetan families in a mix of unusual lodges and family homes where they will get a glimpse of life in the mountains. Travelling between snow-tipped peaks, they will sleep in lodges carved into dramatic cliff faces and stay at home with warm Tibetan families, following the Helambu route through the Himalayas. It’s a tough trek, but it’s packed with local spirit, snow-capped views and a real sense of community. Over one unforgettable week, guests will hike from flower-filled foothills to bare rocky peaks and they can even lend a hand with the cooking.
The seven-day trek is priced at £445 including six nights’ accommodation (price based on two people sharing) with breakfast, transport, English speaking guide and one porter per two people.
All these options and more can be found at www.rickshawtravel.co.uk where travellers can combine three or more bite-sized trips to create an individual journey or select from a series of recommended itineraries. Rickshaw Travel can also help combine destinations and design individual itineraries so travellers can visit Bhutan and India, India and Nepal or even all three destinations in one trip.