DAYS 24 – 87: INDIA
Returning to India for the third time, you will have the opportunity to really immerse yourself in the country over the following 9 weeks. India has a huge amount to offer, from the beautiful landscapes of the Himalayas which you have already enjoyed in Darjeeling, to the amazing temples and coastlines, rich culture and of course the food!
You will stop for a night in Gorokphur before continuing on to the holy city of Varanasi. The following day you will get up very early for a boat trip down the Ganges. This is a magical time of day to see the Ghats and watch the morning rituals of the thousands of people who come here to purify themselves in the holy river. You will have auto-rickshaws for the rest of the day to explore the city including a traditional silk workshop and the Mother India temple.
From Varanasi you will drive to the town of Khajuraho where you will stay for three nights. On arrival you will have some free time to relax at your treehouse campsite. The following day you will head out for an included guided visit to the Khajuraho Erotic Temples, and then you will have a free day to explore the area, relax on the banks of the river, or take an optional jeep safari to the nearby Panna National Park in search of wildlife.
From Khajuraho your overland tour will travel 400km to Agra. The following day you will have an included day tour of the major sites of Agra starting with sunrise at the world-famous iconic mausoleum of the Taj Mahal, followed by a visit to the Agra Fort.
From Agra you will travel to the pink city of Jaipur, stopping en route at Fatehpur Sikri (the old capital of the Mughal Empire). In Jaipur you will have a full day exploring the sites of Jaipur on the truck with your local guide. Whilst in Jaipur there will also be the option for an early morning or late afternoon hot air balloon ride over the city.
Your next stop will be Delhi where you will stay for three nights. While here you will have an included guided tour of Old Delhi, heading to the Mughal Jama Masjid mosque, a local tea-maker, a Sikh temple, and the local spice markets as well as free time to explore the city.
From Delhi your overland tour will continue to Bikaner where you will either stay in a local hotel or camp at an eco-lodge a short distance outside the city.
Your next stop will be the ancient Rajasthani city of Jaisalmer. Enroute you will have an included visit to the Karni Mata Temple where you have the opportunity to witness the incredible spectacle of the 20,000 sacred rats!
Jaisalmer is the base for your magical overnight camel safari with local Rajasthani camel drivers. After a free morning to explore the sites of Jaisalmer you will head out on the camel safari into the Thar Desert. The following morning you will return to Jaisalmer and have free time to relax or explore more of the city and surrounding area.
From Jaisalmer you will drive to another famous Rajasthani city, Jodhpur. En route to Jodhpur you will make an included visit to the Sambhali Trust project (a charitable project that works for the empowerment of women and girls in Rajasthan), where you will learn about the efforts of the project and make a group donation from the kitty.
After your visit you will make your way to your accommodation, rooms that have been set up by local families in their own homes for visitors. You will be splitting up into 2 or 3 small groups for your homestays.
On the following day you will be in and around Jodhpur. In the morning you will have an included visit to the Mehrangarh Fort and Palace, and the afternoon is free to explore the city independently.
From Jodhpur you will travel to Udaipur, visiting the Jain Temple at Ranakpur en route. You will have three nights in Udaipur giving you plenty of time to discover this amazing, romantic Rajasthani city, take part in some optional activities and relax on one of the many roof-top terraces in the city.
Leaving Udaipur, you will be joined by a local cook who will accompany you during the next few days whilst you are wild camping. You will be travelling on the backroads of rural Rajasthan and will be well off the tourist trail here!
Your journey through Rajasthan will take you to Mandu, an extensive and largely abandoned hill-top fort from the Mughal era, the Kharwand Dam, the incredible Buddhist rock caves and paintings of Ajanta and the ancient Buddhist, Hindu & Jain caves near Ellora.
Saying farewell to your local cook you will drive to the bustling city of Mumbai where you will stay for three nights and enjoy the luxury of a hotel after 4 nights of camping!
While in Mumbai you will have free time to explore the city, and there is also the opportunity to take a tour of the Dharavi slum areas of the city.
From Mumbai you will take the train along the coast to Goa where you will stay for two nights at the relaxed beaches of Vagator in the northern part of Goa. Most travellers are drawn to Vagator for the stunning sunsets, the laid-back atmosphere and the proximity of some other quieter beaches in the area such as Arambol and Anjuna.
After your 2 nights on the northern beaches of Goa, you will head off in your overland truck to the southern end of Goa, stopping off en route at the site of Old Goa to spend some time independently exploring the area’s colonial buildings.
In southern Goa you will stay for two nights in beautiful beach huts on the stunning beach of Agonda, which is a perfect place to sit back and watch the fishing boats landing their catch, sample the delicious local cuisine, or visit the nearby beach of Palolem with its many bars and restaurants.
Leaving the beaches of Goa behind you, you will set off on a full day drive into the state of Karnataka and to the village of Hampi. The village is located within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the ancient Vijayanagara Empire. On the following day you will have a guided tour of the historical sites around Hampi by rickshaw and on foot.
From Hampi you will have another full day drive to the city of Mysore, one of India’s most attractive towns. In Mysore you will have free time to explore the city’s beautiful gardens, the amazing and elaborate Mysore Palace, and the Shri Chamarajendra art gallery.
From Mysore you will travel up into the cool highlands and head to the hill-station of Wayanad, a small settlement surrounded by tea and coffee plantations. Over the 2 days that you have in Wayanad you will have the chance to hike up Chembra Peak, visit local waterfalls and tea plantations, visit the petroglyphs at the Edakkal Caves, and to visit the nearby Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary.
Whilst in Wayanad you will stay as guests of local families at a homestay, where they have set up rooms for visitors in their homes.
A full day’s drive will then take your overland tour to the coastal city of Kochi where you will take a local boat to Fort Cochin and have free time to explore and visit various sites including the Jewish Quarter, St Francis Church and the iconic Chinese fishing nets. In the evening we will be able to see a performance from the famous Kathakali dancers, India’s most spectacular dance drama.
Leaving the bustle of Kochi behind, you will embark on an included overnight houseboat cruise on the tranquil Keralan backwaters of Alleppey. You will often split into smaller groups to board our traditional ‘Kettuvallom’ boats which will take you around the scenic rivers and you will spend the night aboard.
After your fantastic overnight cruise along the Keralan backwaters, you continue your journey with a short drive to the beach resort of Varkala.
You will have 3 nights here with free time to explore the surrounding areas and relax on the beautiful beaches. Varkala is well known for its beaches, and there are also lots of great local restaurants where you can sample the justifiably-famous Keralan cuisine.
From Varkala you will have a morning drive to Kanyakumari (also known as Cape Comorin), the very southern point of India. Here you will have free time to independently explore the Vivekananda Rock and the surrounding sites.
The following morning you have the option to get up early to watch the sunrise from the southern tip of India with thousands of locals, which can be an incredible experience! From Kanyakumari you then start heading back north again, and drive to the holy city of Madurai. In the afternoon you will have an included visit to the Sri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai.
Your next stop will be the French-influenced town of Pondicherry where you will have a free afternoon to independently explore the town.
The following day you will have a short drive to the ancient city of Mahabalipuram, once the capital of the Pallava Dynasty in the 7th Century CE. On arrival you will have an included visit to the incredible Shore Temples and other monuments around the town.
A short drive will then take you to the bustling coastal city of Chennai, visiting an interesting crocodile farm en route. You will have two nights in Chennai, with free time to explore the city and surroundings.
From Chennai you will drive to the bustling town of Tirpati where you will have an included visit to the Sri Venkateswara holy temple in the nearby town of Tirumala. You will then spend the next few days overlanding through Andhra Pradesh, one of the least developed states in India. This is real off-the-beaten-track overlanding. On your first night you will stay in Vijayawada, and then at the coastal town of Visakhapatnam.
Over the next 5-6 days you will have a comprehensive guided tour to the rarely-visited Odisha Tribal Regions.
In these regions the itinerary has to be kept fairly flexible, allowing you the freedom to alter things slightly if you hear of any special events or market days in particular villages. However, we will generally follow the plan below:
- Day 1 – you will have an early start from Visakhapatnam to arrive in a small village called Goudaguda in time to visit the Monday markets. Beautiful earthen pottery is skillfully produced in this area and you may even get the chance to try this for yourself. In Goudaguda you will stay in a local guesthouse which has been styled on local tribal houses.
- Day 2 – you will have a full-day guided walk through the countryside around Goudaguda, visiting the neighbouring Mahali and Kondh tribal villages. You will return to your guesthouse in Goudaguda for the night.
- Day 3 – will drive to the lively Chatikona Market, a weekly highlight for the Dongria Kondh tribe. We will then travel through the hills to the village of Muniguda, our destination for the night where you will stay in basic rooms in the grounds of New Hope Charitable Trust. On arrival you will be welcomed by the Trust (a local NGO helping to uplift the poor and disadvantaged), and in the afternoon you will have a cooking demonstration and spend some time with the children and the elderly people of the New Hope Trust.
- Day 4 – will drive to a small village called Taptapani, where on arrival we will visit the temple hot springs. You will stay overnight in a basic local hotel.
- Day 5 – will drive to the fascinating fishing town of Gopalpur, a once major port for the East India Company which has an interesting decaying charm. We will have a free afternoon to independently explore the town on arrival. You will stay in a local hotel in Gopalpur.
Leaving the Odisha tribal areas behind, you will drive to the small town of Puri. Puri is one of the holiest pilgrimage places in India, and has a wonderful long sandy beach. On arrival you will explore the old pilgrim route by cycle-rickshaw, taking in ashrams, Hindu monasteries, a palm leaf manuscript library and the awesome Jagannath temple.
You will have three nights in Puri. On the first full day here, you will take a short drive back to visit Chilika Lake and explore the lake on bamboo-pole-driven canoes. There may also be the opportunity to visit the Usthi Children’s Foundation in the town.
On the second full day, you will begin with a cycle ride through rice paddies and rural hamlets, meeting local craftsmen and women and watching them demonstrate their unique crafts. In the afternoon you will have a guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Konark Sun Temple.
From Puri you will travel by train to Kolkata, the final stop on your epic 87-day overland tour of India, Nepal & Bhutan. Your overland tour includes one night’s accommodation in Kolkata, and free time to independently explore this remarkable city, or take an optional photographic tour. We recommend spending a few extra days in Kolkata at either the start or the end of the overland tour to give yourself time to explore India’s largest city which has so much to offer!