The pace of life in Southern and Eastern India is very different from the frenetic hustle and bustle of the north. As it is too hot and humid to move really quickly; perhaps the calm of the greens and ambers of everyday life, just leads folk to slow down. The south is about beautiful food, relaxation, beaches and rural life. Kerala is becoming a world famous region to visit and not just for its stunning beaches, but also for its culture and the beautiful inland waterways.
Lesser known wonders such as Hampi or the garden city of Mysore are just as inspiring as the Taj, and drifting along the backwaters in a converted houseboat is just about as good as it can get in India.
But the eastern seaboard has some stuff that is seldom even heard about, but we know that after five days exploring the tribal lands of Odisha you will think about India in an entirely different way. Throw in the explosion of chaos and noise in Kolkata and you have a trip that you will never forget
Border Information: If joining the trip in Mumbai, you will most likely enter India from Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (IATA code: BOM).
There will be an important group meeting at 6:00pm at the joining hotel in Mumbai - please look out at the reception for a note from your tour leader with further details about this meeting. Otherwise, today is free to explore the sights and sounds of Mumbai.
In Mumbai we will stay in a good quality hotel.
Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Mumbai 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 Mumbai.
Today will be a free day to explore the city. This is also an opportunity to take a tour of the Dharavi slum areas of the city.
Please note that the trains are often heavily booked in advance and it may not be possible to confirm tickets for all passengers. In the event that we cannot get a train ticket confirmed we will notify you to make alternative arrangements. This will generally mean you will travel by flight the next day and re meet the group in Goa.
We will start our journey early by taking the train along the coast to Goa. We will stay for 2 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.
In northern Goa we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities close to the beach.
Estimated Journey Time (on train) - 11-12 hours.
After our 2 nights on the northern beaches of Goa, we head off in the truck to the southern end of Goa. En route we will stop off at the site of Old Goa to spend some time independently exploring the area's colonial buildings.
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!).
We will stay for 2 nights on either the stunning beach of Agonda or Palolem, these beaches are the perfect places to sit back and watch the fishing boats landing their catch or sample the delicious local cuisine.
Leaving the beaches of Goa behind us, we 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.
Estimated Drive Time - 9-11 hours.
On the following day we will have a guided tour of the historical sites around Hampi by rickshaw and on foot.
In Hampi we will stay in a comfortable local guesthouse.
From Hampi we will have another full day drive to the city of Mysore, one of India's most attractive towns.
Estimated Drive Time - 10-12 hours.
On the following day we will have free time in Mysore to independently explore the city's beautiful gardens, palaces, and the Shri Chamarajendra art gallery.
In Mysore we will stay in a comfortable hotel.
Today we travel up into the cool highlands and head to the hill-station of Wayanad, a small settlement surrounded by tea and coffee plantations. Enroute we will have the opportunity to visit the Eddakkal caves. A steep hike up allows breathtaking views over the local area and an insight into the carvings thought to date back over 3,000 years.
Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.
We will have a free day in Wayanad where we have many options available. From hiking up Chembra Peak, visiting local waterfalls and tea plantations, or the chance to visit the nearby Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary.
Whilst in Wayanad we stay as guests of local families at a guesthouse where they have set up rooms for visitors in their homes.
Today we will continue our journey with a full day drive to the coastal city of Kochi.
Estimated Drive Time - 7-10 hours.
On the following day we 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.
In Kochi we will stay in a comfortable hotel.
Leaving the bustle of Kochi behind, today we embark on our included overnight houseboat cruise on the tranquil Keralan backwaters of Alleppey. We will often split into smaller groups to board our traditional 'Kettuvallom' boats which will take us around the scenic rivers and spend the night aboard.
After our fantastic overnight cruise along the Keralan backwaters, we continue our journey with a short drive to the beach resort of Varkala.
Estimated Drive Time - 5 - 7 hours.
We 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.
In Varkala we will stay at a beach resort.
Today we will have a morning drive to Kanyakumari (also known as Cape Comorin), the very southern point of India. Here we will have free time to independently explore the Vivekananda Rock and the surrounding sites.
In Kanyakumari we will stay in a local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.
This morning we 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 we then start heading back north again, and drive to the holy city of Madurai. In the afternoon we will have an included visit to the Sri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai.
In Madurai we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.
Today we head to the French-influenced town of Pondicherry, and will have free time on arrival in the afternoon.
Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.
We will have 2 nights here with plenty of time to relax and soak up the atmosphere and spend time exploring the town and its beautiful colonial architecture.
In Pondicherry we will stay in a local guesthouse.
Today we have a short drive to the ancient city of Mahabalipuram, once the capital of the Pallava Dynasty in the 7th Century CE. On arrival we will have an included visit to the incredible Shore Temples and other monuments around the town ( time permitted ).
In the afternoon we will finish the short drive to the bustling coastal city of Chennai.
In Chennai we will stay in a comfortable hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 5 - 6 hours.
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.
Today we start our journey with a drive to the bustling town of Tirupati. On the way we will have an included visit to the Sri Kalahasti temple.
In Tirupati we will stay in a friendly local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 5 - 6 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!).
Leaving Tirupati, we will 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, 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.
Today we continue our journey and drive through the back roads of Andra Pradesh. Our final destination tonight is the costal town of Visakhapatnam.
In Visakhapatnam we will stay in a local hotel on the sea front.
Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.
Today we will begin our guided tour through the rarely-visited Odisha Tribal Regions. 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 guesthouse which has been styled on local tribal houses.
Estimated Drive Time - 6- 7 hours.
On the following day we will have a guided walk in the morning through the countryside around Goudaguda, visiting the neighbouring Mahali and Kondh tribal villages. We will return to our guesthouse 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.
In Muniguda we will stay in basic local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.
On the following day we will drive further through an Elephant Range. We will then walk into the Desia Kondh indigenous community. They are distinguished by the unique facial tattoos of the women. After a village visit and picnic lunch we will continue to Baliguda.
In Baliguda we will stay in a local basic 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.
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. 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 - 5 -7 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 by boat and take a walk through some of the surrounding fisherman's villages.
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.
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) - 8 -9 hours.
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 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.
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Trip Name: Southern & Eastern Explorer
Duration: 37 Days
From Price: ₤1,729
Supplier Tour ID: WMA1/158132
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