Experience Nepali language and culture immersion while home-staying in a rural village and volunteering on a valuable community development project. Trek the Annapurna Circuit, in the shadow of Himalayan giants through Annapurna National Park. Study yoga, meditation and Tibetan Buddhism while living at a small monastery. Raft one of the worlds top river journeys down the Kali Gandaki River. Travel overland across the roof-top of the world between Kathmandu and Lhasa, the spiritual heart of Tibet, through incredible landscapes, amazing historic sites, and visit Everest Base Camp.
For a relatively small country Nepal has astounding diversity – in environment, ranging from the semi-tropical Terai region in the south to the mountainous Himalayas in the north, home to eight of the world's ten highest mountains, including Mount Everest. Nepal is a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic, multi-religion country. Hinduism is practiced by a huge majority of the people, but the country also has a strong Buddhist tradition - Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha is located in Nepal. Nepal is a country in transition ( in recent years has changed from a monarchy to a federal democratic republic), and in recovery since the April 2015 earthquakes.
Imagine soaring Himalayan peaks, fluttering prayer flags, big skies, and stunning Buddhist monasteries. Known as The Land of Snows and the mythical Shangri La, Tibet has historically been isolated by its mountainous geography. This isolation has, for centuries, fired people’s curiosity about the kingdom which has only been possible to visit since the 1980s. The country's rugged and spectacular mountain environment combined with its sparse population and stunning historical sites make any overland journey across the Tibetan Plateau both a spiritual and epic travel experience.
Facilitated by our supportive and experienced Program Instructors, this is an excellent choice for students wanting to develop personal and leadership skills, have new experiences and challenge themselves, be immersed in unique environments and learn about sustainability.
This gap semester program is suitable for high school graduates, gap year students, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 24 years. Optional transferable academic credit is available on this program.
This program can be combined with Summer, Fall, or Spring program options in other regions of the world (New Zealand & Australia, Central America, South America, Southeast Asia) for an in-depth and enriching global gap year experience.
“Go to Tibet and see many places, as much as you can, then tell the world.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
On arrival in Kathmandu you will be met and welcomed by your Program Instructors. We travel to a
peaceful village in the foothills of the Himalaya for a comprehensive program orientation with all
program participants. There will be time to go hiking in the hills and begin forming the all-important
bonds with our group mates.
We then travel to the outskirts of Kathmandu, to a beautiful Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Pharping
with Mahalaya Nepal, for a fantastic 3-day yoga and meditation retreat. We’ll also have an
introduction to Tibetan Buddhism and gain insight into life in a Buddhist monastery.
Our time will be spent in a small village in the foothills of the Himalayas, west of Pokhara. There are
few roads in the area, and we will walk 30 minutes from the nearest road to our village. We will be
homestaying in pairs/small groups, in the homes of local families, immersing ourselves in Nepali
culture and language, and assisting the community on a development project they’ve initiated. This
is particularly valuable to the community in the wake of the April 2015 earthquakes.
During the day we will be working with community members, on the project. There will be
wonderful opportunities for cultural exchange, including helping cook meals, learning about local
food production, learning Nepali language and gaining experience in grassroots development.
From Kathmandu we drive west towards Pokhara in central Nepal. This is our gateway to Annapurna
National Park, and an incredible journey trekking the Annapurna Circuit through the rugged
Himalayas. Over two weeks we make a gradual acclimatization to altitude. We trek through glacial
carved valleys, overnighting in small lodges and tea-houses with Sherpa and Tamang families. The
trail takes us through rhododendron forests, steep gorges, past glaciers, breath-taking lakes, and
some of the highest mountains on earth.
Pokhara is nestled on the banks of Lake Phew Tal at the foot of the mighty Annapurna mountains,
and once an important town on the trading route between Tibet and India, it was accessible by foot
only until the late 1960s. Today, Pokhara is one of the most popular places to visit in Nepal, and is
home to the World Peace Pagoda and several Tibetan communities. It has unbeatable views of the
towering mountains nearby.
From Pokhara we embark on a 6-day rafting journey down the lower Kali Gandaki River. Named after
“Kali” the goddess of destruction, the Kaligandaki is said to be one of Nepal’s most holy rivers.
Beginning its journey high on the Tibetan Plateau in Mustang, the “Mighty Kali” plunges down
through the Himalayas, carving into one of the deepest gorges in the world between Dhaulagiri and
With exciting white-water rapids, spectacular mountain views, traditional villages, endless
suspension bridges, waterfalls, a jungle corridor rich in wildlife, deep gorges, cultural temples and
beautiful white sandy beaches for camping, this has to be one of the best all round river adventures
We come ashore near Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will learn about the
significant threats facing Nepal’s wildlife and habitats, try spotting endangered rhino, and spend
time learning about the local Tharu culture through working alongside local villagers.
We fly to Lhasa, Tibet to experience the birthplace of Tibetan Buddhism and its ancient cultural
heart. Lhasa, meaning ‘place of the gods’, is one of the highest cities on earth, nestled on the Tibetan
Plateau surrounded by mountains. Since the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950, change has been
dramatic, with many Tibetans now living in exile, and as a minority in Lhasa.
During our time in Lhasa we will be staying in the Tibetan quarter and visiting the historically
significant Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera and Drepung Monasteries. You’ll also get a chance to
visit Bakhor Street market for some gift ideas, attend a Tibetan cooking class and learn how to make
tradition prayer flags. Departing Lhasa we take an incredible road trip across the ‘roof top of the world’ as we traverse the Friendship Highway. We overnight at small villages and towns along the route. We’ll visit stunning turquoise Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse, Shigatse, Rongphu Monastery and Everest Base Camp at 5150m (16,900ft). En route to Base Camp we’ll stop at a monastery and have the opportunity for a short hike to make the most of the breathtaking views. There’s also a chance to stay at the Rongbuk Monastery (the highest guest house in the world!) for the night.Our final day on the road takes us back to Lhasa before we fly back to Kathmandu
We return to Kathmandu, then out to a low-key resort to celebrate and reflect upon our learning
and growth throughout the program. You will depart Nepal a different person, touched by the
people, places and experiences you’ve encountered, and with an intimate understanding of the
complex issues facing our environments and indigenous cultures.
This program is challenging and rewarding. Students need to be interested in engaging with local people, pursuing new experiences, pushing personal boundaries, and be fit enough to complete a 16-day trek (4-6 hrs trekking per day carrying a daypack), and engage in physical work during the service project.
The program is open to high school graduates, university students and graduates, ideally 18-24 years. This program is suitable for participants of moderate fitness with an interest in other cultures and enthusiasm for new experiences. You need to be committed to, and prepared for, some physical work whilst on the volunteer/community service component of the program i.e. tree planting, painting, trail-building; and challenging physical activity whilst trekking and rafting. You don’t need to have had previous experience with travel or any of the activities offered, but it is important you have a ‘can do’ positive attitude.
The program is a shared group experience. We expect you to join the program with an open mind and a willingness to work together with your group mates to make the program an amazing experience for the whole group. Additionally, the program will be as much about the inner journey of personal growth and learning about yourself as it is about what you will experience in the outer physical journey. We expect you to be open to learning and challenging your ideas and assumptions.
Our accommodation will be a mixture of comfortable and clean hostels and simple trekking lodges consisting of nights village homestay (homestaying in pairs/small groups, in the homes of vetted local families), Buddhist Monastery guesthouse and camping with tents provided. Laundry and WiFi will be available approximately once per week, except while on expedition.
Generally there will be the opportunity to eat Nepali, Tibetan or Western style food. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. All meals are included in the program cost.
* Students will get a Nepal visa upon arrival in Kathmandu
The Pacific Discovery Nepal and Tibet Gap Year Semester enables you to immerse yourself in an astoundingly rich cultural heritage and dramatically diverse environments, as we journey through Nepal and Tibet.