Day 1 - Chennai
Border Information: If you are joining in Chennai, you will most likely enter India in Chennai International Airport (IATA code: MAA).
Today is a free day to explore the sights, sounds and flavours of Chennai. There will be an important group meeting at 6:00pm - please look for a note from your tour leader when you arrive at the hotel giving more details about this meeting.
Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Chennai before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Chennai.
In Chennai we will stay in a comfortable modern hotel.
*Important note* - if you are joining the trip in Chennai, please make sure that you send us a scan of your Indian visa as soon as you have obtained it. If you plan to take the e-visa option, please make sure you arrange this well in advance and send us a copy of your receipt as soon as possible. If we do not receive this in advance, then we will not have enough time to get your permits for the Odisha Region and you will not be able to visit this area.
Hotel for the night: Hotel Pandian
15 Kenneth Lane
Chennai 600 008
Tel - +91 44 2819 1010
Freely explore the beaches of Chennai, including the 12km-long Marina Beach, the longest urban beach in the world : Included in Kitty
Visit the many historic temples, mosques, and churches of Chennai : Free
Visit the Fort St. George, the site of the East India Company's first trading station in 1640, and the first British fort in India : INR 100
Visit the Chennai Government Museum, and its incredible selection of antiquities including Roman artefacts and coins from all eras of India's past : INR 250
Chennai (previously known as Madras) was the site of the first major settlement of the East India Company in 1639, and is now the fourth largest city in India. The town grew up around the Fort St. George and along Mount Road, and some interesting historic buildings can be seen here. It's true that it is busy, noisy and often extremely hot, but in many ways it is a surprisingly efficient and orderly place. The Government Museum is worth a visit if you're interested in the history of the city, and its 13km-long Marina Beach is the country's longest urban beach. You might prefer to just wander the streets and soak up the atmosphere, exploring the many temples and bustling local markets.
Day 2 - Tirupati, Tirumala
Today we start our journey with a drive to the bustling town of Tirupati. In the afternoon we will have an included visit to the Sri Venkateswara holy temple in the nearby town of Tirumala.
In Tirupati we will stay in a friendly local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).
Visit the chaotic Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirumala along with 10,000 devoted pilgrims, one of the holiest temples dedicated to the Hindu deity Vishnu : Included in Kitty
In the very south of Andhra Pradesh state is the small town of Tirupati. Thousands of pilgrims flock here every day to visit the Sri Venkateswara Temple, which sits above the city on the sacred mountain of Tirumala. Sri Venkateswara is believed by Hindus to be an incarnation of the deity Vishnu, and is said to have appeared here to save mankind during an appearance of the devil-god Kali. The temple is visited by an astonishing 30-40 million pilgrims per year (around 50,000-100,000 people a day and more on special festivals), making it the most-visited holy site in the world and the richest in terms of visitor donations.
Day 3 - Vijayawada
Leaving Tirupati, we will spend the next few days over landing through Andhra Pradesh, one of the least developed states in India. This is real off-the-beaten track over landing, and we will arrive in the small city of Vijayawada this evening.
In Vijayawada we will stay in a basic local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 hours.
Day 4 - Visakhapatnam
Today we continue our journey and drive through the back roads of Andra Pradesh. Our final destination tonight is the coastal town of Visakhapatnam.
In Visakhapatnam we will stay in a local hotel on the sea front.
Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.
Day 5-9 - Odisha Tribal Area
" Day 5 to 9 "
Today we will begin our guided tour through the rarely-visited Odisha Tribal Regions, which we will comprehensively visit over the next 6 days. In these regions the itinerary has to be kept fairly flexible, allowing us the freedom to alter things slightly if we hear of any special events or market days in particular villages. However, we will generally follow the plan below:
On the first day we 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 we will stay in a local guest house which has been styled on local tribal houses.
Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.
On the following day we will have a full-day guided walk through the countryside around Goudaguda, visiting the neighbouring Mahali and Kondh tribal villages. We will return to our guest house in Goudaguda for the night.
On the next day we 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 tonight. On arrival we will be welcomed by the New Hope Charitable Trust (a local NGO helping to uplift the poor and disadvantaged), and in the afternoon we will have a cooking demonstration and spend some time with the children and the elderly people of the New Hope Trust.
In Muniguda we will stay in basic rooms in the grounds of the charitable trust.
Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.
On the following day we will drive to a small village called Taptapani, where on arrival we will visit the temple hot springs.
In Taptapani we will stay in a basic local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 6-8 hours.
On the next day we 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.
In Gopalpur we will stay in a local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 4-6 hours.
Visit the Monday market in the indigenous melting pot of Goudaguda, soaking up the incredible atmosphere as the locals barter and trade their produce : Included in Kitty
Head out for a full day hike around the Goudaguda region, visiting nearby villages of the Kondha, Mahali and Paroja tribal people : Included in Kitty
Explore the rarely-visited Wednesday Market in Chakitona, the main weekly market for the Desia and Dongria villagers from the area : Included in Kitty
See a fascinating local cooking demonstration and learn about the incredible work of the New Hope Community Centre in the rural village of Muniguda : Included in Kitty
Bathe in the natural hot springs with the local villagers at the small temple of Taptapani : Included in Kitty
About Odisha Tribal Area:
The hinterlands of Odisha are home to more than 60 different tribal communities, all with their own distinct indigenous culture and traditions. Perhaps one of the most fascinating tribes are the 'Bondas', fiercely independent people of Tibeto-Burmese origin. The women of this tribe wear many silver necklaces from their shoulders up to their chin and prefer to take younger husbands, so that they will have someone to earn a livelihood for them in their old age. The Paraja tribe are also particularly interesting because of the numerous deities that they worship, who are all said to live in the hills and forests. They also love dance and music, and their celebrations are also accompanied by a lot of singing and dancing. This is a remote region which is difficult to visit as a single traveller, and exactly the kind of place where over landing comes into its own.
Day 10-12 - Puri
" Day 10 to 12 "
Today our tour of the Odisha tribal areas comes to an end and we drive on 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 we will explore the old pilgrim route by cycle-rickshaw, taking in ashrams, Hindu monasteries, a palm leaf manuscript library and the awesome Jagannath temple.
Estimated Drive Time - 6-8 hours.
We will spend 3 nights in Puri. On the first full day here, we 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, we 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 we will have a guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Konark Sun Temple.
In Puri we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.
Visit the Usthi Foundation rural education project for Telugu children near Puri and support the incredible work they do there (if available) : USD 10
Take a day trip out to the beautiful Chilika Lake, Asia's largest lagoon and home to an incredible abundance of bird life : Included in Kitty
Explore the religious sites of Puri by cycle rickshaw, including the Jagannath Temple, one of the four most sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites in India : Included in Kitty
Explore the ruins of the 13th-century Sun Temple of Konark near to Puri, shaped like a colossal chariot with elaborately carved stone wheels : Included in Kitty
Take a cycle ride through the stunning back roads and villages near Puri, to visit the artisan village of Raghurajpur and see the fantastic array of handicrafts traditionally manufactured there : Included in Kitty
Puri is one of the oldest cities in the eastern part of India and an important destination for Hindu pilgrims - it is considered by Hindus to be one of the holiest places in India and is the eastern point on the revered Char Dham circuit of pilgrimage sites (along with Rameswaram in the south, Dwarka in the west, and Badrinath in the north). It is considered highly sacred to complete the Char Dham circuit, and the centrepiece of this pilgrimage in Puri is the huge Jagannath Temple, an enormous complex which is home to more than 5000 priests and aides. Unfortunately unless you are Hindu you will not be able to enter the temple's interior, but even from the outside it's worth a visit, and you can't help but be impressed by the sheer scale of the building. Puri is also the gateway to the incredible 13th Century Konark Sun Temple, elaborately built by the Eastern Ganga Dynasty in the shape of a gigantic chariot to honor the Hindu sun deity Surya. The town is also popular with local Indian holidaymakers because of it's long sandy beach and pleasant waterfront, which makes it a good spot to kick back and relax and recharge your batteries.
Day 13 - Kolkata
Today we will travel by train to Kolkata, the largest city in India. We will have free time today and tomorrow to independently explore this remarkable city, or take an optional photographic tour.
In Kolkata we will stay in a comfortable hotel.
Estimated Journey Time (by train) - 7-8 hours.
Experience a local train ride from Puri to Kolkata : Included in Kitty
Kolkata was originally a British settlement, built by the East India Company in the 17th Century during their trading and colonising expansion along the boast of Bengal - it also became the capital of the British colonial government until 1911 when this was moved to Delhi. The city is now India's third largest, and is regarded by many as the country's intellectual and cultural capital. At first you are assaulted by the noise and chaos of this bustling metropolis, but take the time to explore and you'll discover some impressive colonial architecture, some of the best restaurants in India and a thriving arts scene. Bengali theatre, dance, poetry, art, music and film are all showcased here, and there's usually plenty to choose from on at the city's many venues. An interesting relic of the colonial era is the Victoria Memorial - a beautiful domed white marble edifice set in tranquil gardens, the monument was built to commemorate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. Kolkata is also home to the Sister's of Charity Mother house, the mission where Mother Teresa did much of her work. Finally, if all the hustle and bustle is getting too much for you, you can explore the vast green fields of the Maidan or take refuge in the beautiful botanic gardens along the banks of the Hooghly River.
Day 14 - Kolkata
Border Information: If finishing your trip in Kolkata, you will most likely exit India at Kolkata Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (IATA code: CCU).
Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Kolkata. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the Dragoman Sales team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.
Freely explore the streets of the BBD Bagh, the heart of Kolkata and one of the best areas of British colonial architecture in the world : Free
Discover the world's largest tree (The Great Banyan Tree) at the A. J. C. Bose Botanic Gardens, the place where tea was first cultivated in India : INR 200
Visit the Eden Gardens, the most famous and iconic cricket stadium in India : Free
See the famous Howrah Bridge over the Hooghly River, thought to be the busiest bridge in the world with 150,000 pedestrians and 100,000 vehicles crossing every day : Free
Discover the incredible array of art and historical artefacts on display at the Indian Museum in Kolkata, the largest and oldest museum in India : INR 200
Head out on a fantastic photographic tour of Kolkata, exploring the hidden gems, back streets, and photogenic spots of the city with a superb local guide : INR 2000
Explore the vast fields and parks of the Maidan (the 'lungs of Kolkata') and observe daily life away from the chaos of the city : Free
Visit and support the Usthi Foundation's school and farm for impoverished children in Kolkata, and see the amazing work they do (if available) : USD 10
See the huge white marble Victoria Memorial, built in the early 20th century by the British Viceroy of India and a grandiose reminder of Kolkata's colonial past : INR 200
Visit the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Centre, a museum illustrating the life and work of the famous and controversial missionary : Free
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money