Chennai to Kathmandu

Asia is the continent where overlanding all started, and Dragoman has been the leading operator there since our first trucks went through in the 1980s - take advantage of our years of experience and come with us as we include all the must-see attractions as well as heading into the wilds, well away from the usual tourist trail. Starting in the hectic southern city of Chennai, we visit the holy Sri Venkatesvara Tirumala temple en route to the tribal areas of Odisha. This is a very special and rarely-visited region where you'll meet many different tribal people with their own distinct cultures and traditions. We then head to the historic town of Puri before arriving in the buzzing city of Kolkata. From there we will ascend to the cool, tea-growing hills of Darjeeling, and then move to the serene paradise of Karmi Farm in the Himalayan foothills. Continuing to the Tibetan town of Gangtok in the mountainous province of Sikkim, we then head to Nepal and the beautiful forests of Chitwan, before arriving at the evocative Nepalese capital of Kathmandu. A phenomenal Indian experience sure to leave you with many wonderful memories!

Duration: 29 Days Guaranteed Departure: Yes
For lovers of: Sightseeing Physical rating: Average
Accommodation standard:   Budget% Traveller Tour Rating: 80.0%  
Your Guide: English speaking Tour code: 158129
Starts: Chennai, India Finishes: Kathmandu, Nepal
You will visit
  • Chennai
  • Tirupati
  • Tirumala
  • Vijayawada
  • Visakhapatnam
  • Odisha Tribal Area
  • Puri
  • Kolkata
  • Overnight train to Siliguri
  • Darjeeling
  • Karmi Farm
  • Gangtok
  • Barhara
  • Chitwan National Park
  • Khatauti Khola
  • Kathmandu



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.


Day 2: Tirupati

Today we start our journey with a 145kms drive to the bustling town of Tirupati. In the afternoon we will visit the Sri Venkateswara holy temple in the nearby town of Tirumala.

In Tirupati we will stay in a friendly local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, borders and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).


Day 3: Vijayawada

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 aim to cover 420kms today to reach the small city of Vijayawada.

In Vijayawada we will stay in a basic local hotel. 

Estimated Drive Time - 10 hours.


Day 4: Visakhapatnam

Today we continue our journey and drive 370kms through the back roads of Andra Pradesh. Our final destination tonight is the costal town on Visakhapatnam.

In Visakhapatnam we will stay in a local hotel on the sea front.

Estimated Drive Time - 8-9 hours.


Day 5-9: Odisha Tribal Area

Today we 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 guesthouse which has been styled on local tribal houses. Estimated Drive Time - 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 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 then roll through the hills to 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); 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. We will stay in basic rooms in the grounds of the charitable trust tonight. Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours depending on the length of the visit to the Chatikona Market.

On the following day we will drive to a small village called Taptapani, where on arrival we will visit the temple hot springs. We will stay in a basic local hotel for the night. Estimated Drive Time - 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 explore the town. In Gopalpur we will stay in a local hotel. Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.


Day 10-12: Puri

Today our tour of the 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 - 7-8 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.


Day 13: Kolkata

Today we will travel by train to Kolkata, the largest city in India. We will have time today and tomorrow to explore this remarkable city and to take an incredible photographic tour.

In Kolkata we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Journey time (by train) - 7 hours.


Day 14: Kolkata

Border Information: If you are joining the trip in Kolkata, you will most likely enter India at Kolkata Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport.

Today is a free day to explore the sights, sounds and flavours of Kolkata, India's largest city. 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.

In Kolkata we will stay in a comfortable hotel.


Day 15: Kolkata

Most of today will be free time to continue exploring Kolkata, and we will have the opportunity to take an incredible photographical tour of the city.

Whilst in Kolkata, your leader will assist you in arranging you Sikkim permit (you will need to bring passport photos and a photocopy of your passport photo page).

We will meet in the evening to take our overnight train to Siliguri.


Day 16-18: Darjeeling

We will arrive into Siliguri at around 9:00am this morning and go on to meet our jeeps and drivers for the 90km journey to Darjeeling, a town that 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 here due to the narrow, steep and winding roads of the area. We will continue with the jeeps all the way until the trip returns to Siliguri (after Gangtok).

Drive time (in jeeps) - 3-4 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, borders and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

We will spend 3 nights in Darjeeling, giving us plenty of time to relax and enjoy the surrounding area. 

In Darjeeling we will stay in a local hotel.


Day 19-21: Karmi Farm

Today we will have free morning in Darjeeling. After lunch we will leave in our jeeps for Karmi Farm, a tea plantation located in a remote rural area nearby.

Drive time (in jeeps) - 3 hours.

We will stay at Karmi Farm for 3 nights, which gives us lots of free time to enjoy some fantastic hikes around the region, visit the Karmi Farm Clinic charitable project, go bird watching and to relax and take in the stunning views from the lodge.

In Karmi Farm we will stay in a guest lodge.


Day 22-23: Gangtok

After breakfast, we leave Karmi Farm in our jeeps to continue 200kms to Gangtok, the hilltop capital of Sikkim, where we will stay for 2 nights.

Drive time (in jeeps) - 7 hours, depending on how long the border crossing into Sikkim takes.

On the following day we will take an included guided visit of the nearby Rumtek Dharma Monastery in the morning, leaving the afternoon free for you to explore Gangtok.

In Gangtok we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.


Day 24: Barhara

Border Information: Exit India at Kakarbhitta, enter Nepal at Kakarbhitta.

Today we travel in our jeeps back to Siliguri, where we will finally join our Dragoman overland truck! We will then drive over the border into Nepal and continue as far as we can.

Tonight we will aim to wildcamp in the Himalayan foothills, possibly near to Barhara.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours in the jeeps, 6 hours on the truck.


Day 25-26: Chitwan National Park

Today we continue our drive to reach Chitwan National Park.

Whilst in Chitwan we'll visit Bis Hajaar Tal, also known as 20,000 Lakes, which is a wetland area near the Royal Chitwan National Park. Here we will get the opportunity to see peacocks, wild boars, deer and there is also a slim chance of seeing tigers and rhinos.

On the following day we'll exploring the national park by canoe and on foot, and there is the option to take a jeep safari! There will be an opportunity to see a traditional Nepali dance demonstration in the evening.

In Chitwan we will stay in a local guest lodge.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.


Day 27: Khatauti Khola

This morning we drive 165kms uphill to Khatauti Khola, home to the Royal Beach Camp eco-adventure camp in the Nepalese mountains.

There are all sorts of optional activities on offer here for the afternoon such as kayaking, rafting, hiking and mountain biking.

In Khatauti Khola we will camp at the Royal Beach Camp.

Estimated Drive Time - 4 hours.


Day 28: Kathmandu

This morning we have free time at the Royal Beach Camp to give more time for the optional adventure activities there, then after lunch we drive the last 85kms to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.

In Kathmandu we stay in a comfortable local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 2 hours.


Day 29: Kathmandu

Border Information: If you are finishing your trip in Kathmandu, you will most likely exit Nepal at Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport.

Today you will have free time to explore the fascinating and evocative city of Kathmandu. 

Please note that if you are leaving the trip in Kathmandu, there is no accommodation included tonight.

    • Freely explore the beaches of Chennai, including the 12km-long Marina Beach, the longest urban beach in the world
    • 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
    • Visit the Monday market in the indigenous melting pot of Goudaguda, soaking up the incredible atmosphere as the locals barter and trade their produce
    • Head out for a full day hike around the Goudaguda region, visiting nearby villages of the Kondha, Mahali and Paroja tribal people
    • Explore the rarely-visited Wednesday Market in Chakitona, the main weekly market for the Desia and Dongria villagers from the area
    • See a fascinating local cooking demonstration and learn about the incredible work of the New Hope Community Centre in the rural village of Muniguda
    • Bathe in the natural hot springs with the local villagers at the small temple of Taptapani
    • Take a day trip out to the beautiful Chilika Lake, Asia's largest lagoon and home to an incredible abundance of birdlife
    • Explore the religious sites of Puri by cycle-rickshaw, including the Jagannath Temple, one of the four most sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites in India
    • Explore the ruins of the 13th-century Sun Temple of Konark near to Puri, shaped like a colossal chariot with elaborately carved stone wheels
    • 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
    • Experience a local train ride from Puri to Kolkata
    Tour Staff
    • 2 crew members and local guides as necessary
    • 5% Camping - 95% Hotels
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Reviews (1)
Kristy M. Posted on: 

Good quality gear that had no problems during the trip. Vehicle felt safe throughout, even with the poor quality of Indian roads and dangerous drivers (Jim, our driver, was fantastic).

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