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.*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.We will also need these to purchase your train tickets.
Today we start our journey with a drive to the bustling town of Tirupati. In the afternoon there will be an optional visit to the Sri Venkateswara holy temple in the nearby town of Tirumala. ( Please note if you wish to visit the temple there is a dress code of Dhoti with upper cloth for men and saree or half-saree with blouse or churidar with pyjama and upper cloth for women. It is also quite difficult to get tickets to visit the temple due to the high numbers of pilgrims visiting the temple during this time, if we can not get any tickets available we will visit Srikalahasteeswara temple instead ).
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.
Today we continue our journey and drive through the back roads of Andra Pradesh. Our final destination tonight is the costal town of Visakhapatnam.
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:This morning 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.
Today we will have a guided walk in the morning through the countryside around Goudaguda, visiting the neighbouring Mahali and Kondh tribal villages. This evening we will return to our guesthouse in Goudaguda for the night.
After breakfast at our guesthouse we will drive to the lively Chatikona Market, which is a weekly highlight for the Dongria Kondh tribe. We will then continue on and travel through the hills to the village of Muniguda, our destination for tonight.
Today we will continue our journey north driving through a well known Elephant Range. We will then have a chance to stretch our legs and 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.
Today we are going to continue on 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 plenty of free time here to be able to explore this fascinating town.
Our tour of the Odisha tribal areas comes to an end today as 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.
Our first full day here in Puri, we plan to 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.
Today 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.
It will be an early start today as we will travel by train to Kolkata, the largest city in India. We will have free time today and tomorrow to explore this remarkable city, or take an optional photographic tour.Estimated Journey Time (by train) - 7-8 hours.
Border Information: If you are joining in Kolkata, you will most likely enter India at Kolkata Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (IATA code: CCU).There will be an important group meeting at the joining hotel at 10:00am. Please look out for a note from your tour leader at the hotel reception when you arrive for more details about this meeting. The afternoon is free to explore Kolkata.Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Kolkata 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 Kolkata.We will meet in the evening to board an overnight sleeper train from Kolkata to Siliguri - accommodation will be aboard the train tonight, where there are bunk beds with sheets provided.
We will arrive into Siliguri at around 9:00am this morning, meeting our jeeps and drivers at the station for our onward journey through the narrow winding roads to Darjeeling. The town of Darjeeling is really more a collection of villages situated on a high ridge, linked by a series of steps and winding lanes and surrounded by rice and tea terraces.Jeeps are used in this region rather than our overland truck as they are perfect for the narrow, steep and winding roads of the area.
Today is a free day in Darjeeling to relax, enjoy the surrounding area and take part in some optional activities.
Border Information: Exit India at Jaigaon, enter Bhutan at Phuntsholing.This morning we will drive in locally-chartered jeeps from Darjeeling to the Bhutanese border at Phuntsholing, where our local Bhutanese guide will be waiting to receive us at the border gate. Your tour leader will collect all the group's passports to get the visa process underway in order to save time in the morning.(Please note we will be travelling in a locally chartered bus throughout Bhutan and not our normal overlanding truck).
This morning we will finalise our visas and then start our journey into Bhutan with a drive in a locally-chartered bus from the warmer climes of Phuntsholing up to the capital of Thimphu, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas.We will have time in the evening to take a stroll around Thimphu and start to take in the atmosphere and culture of this beautiful country and its gentle way of life.
Today we will have a day in Thimphu for sightseeing. We will have an included city tour from our local guides, including the Changangkha Temple, Memorial Chorten and the Takin Reserve, and there will also be plenty of time for free exploration and visiting the Thimphu markets.
In the morning we will drive to the old capital Punakha, via the Dochu La Pass at 3050m, where we will stop for a hot drink and to enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Eastern Himalaya ranges. We will notice the change of climate and vegetation as we approach the low-lying Punakha at 1250m altitude. This afternoon we will visit the imposing Punakha Dzong (Palace of Great Happiness). Built in 1637 CE, it is strategically placed at the confluence of two rivers, the Po Chu and the Mo Chu. After this, we will take a pleasant walk for an hour or so across the terraced fields to Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility) built in the 15th century by the 'Divine Madman' (Lama Drukpa Kuenley).In Punakha we will stay in a local farmhouse, where we will experience a genuine slice of Bhutanese life and hospitality. The facilities here will be rather basic, but the accommodation is exactly how a typical Bhutanse family live, and the food is in no way adapted for tourists.
Today we drive to Trongsa, the gateway to central Bhutan at 2180m. Set amidst spectacular scenery, Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of Bhutan's royal family, commands the eye from miles away. We can also visit Ta Dzong - the newly opened museum in the watchtower is dedicated to the Wangchuk dynasty, tells the stories of the Dzong and the valley, and features personal belongings of the kings and queens of Bhutan.We then continue through some of Bhutan's most beautiful landscapes to Bumthang, an area of high valleys at 2580-3100m.In Bumthang we will stay again in a local farmhouse with basic facilities.
We will spend today sightseeing in Bumthang, the spiritual heartland of Bhutan, with its many legendary monasteries, temples and palaces. Bumthang is the collective name for an area of 4 valleys - Chokhor, Tang, Ura and Chhume.Our guide will take us on a fascinating walking and/or driving tour of a variety of sacred sites including Jamba Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang and Tamshing Lhakhang. We can also visit Bhutan’s largest Dzong, Jakar, with its picturesque location overlooking the Chokhor valley.
Today we drive to Gangtey at 2900m. On arrival we can enjoy the views of the immense and remote Phobjikha valley and the black mountain ranges. We will visit Gangtey Gompa (one of Bhutan's oldest monasteries which has recently been extensively renovated) and explore the valley where the villagers continue to live a traditional Bhutanese rural lifestyle. This is the site where black-necked cranes visit in their hundreds in November each year after spending the summer in Tibet.
Today we will head out for a day hike in the beautiful Phobjikha Valley. We will first visit the information Centre which has lots of information on the valley famous for its migrating birds. From here we will walk through local villages and forests of blue pine trees covered with lichen ( know as old mans beard ) and follow the nature trail to Kingathan Village. Here we will visit a temple built by the Queen Mother before making our way back to the hotel.The walk takes approximately 6 - 7 hours for casual trekkers. This trail is especially recommended for bird lovers.
This morning we will take a trek up to the hill-top village of Rinchengang and learn about its interesting history. After this we will continue our drive to Paro, where we will have an included visit to Ringpung Dzong, one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture.
Today we take a day walk to the 'Tiger's Nest', the sacred Taktsang monastery which clings to the rock face 900m above the valley floor. Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to the site riding on a tigress, and subsequently meditated here for 3 months. It is one of Bhutan's most holy sites and draws pilgrims not only from Bhutan but also from neighbouring Buddhist countries.
Border Information: Exit Bhutan at Paro, enter Nepal at Kathmandu.Today we will take a short flight from Paro to Kathmandu in Nepal. On arrival we will have free time to explore the incredible city, soak up its atmosphere, and visit its historical sites.Please note: The flights between Bhutan and Nepal will be with Druk Air or Bhutan Airines - both airlines sometimes change their schedules at short notice. If this happens we will inform you of any itinerary changes as soon as possible.
Border Information: If you are finishing your trip in Kathmandu, you will most likely exit Nepal at Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport (IATA code: KTM).Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Kathmandu. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact your sales agent if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities available.