Essential India & China

India | China

Culture

Visit the two most populous countries on Earth.

Dates & Prices

Intro

Experience the unique charm of India's capital with a tour of Old Delhi. Discover the magnificent Taj Mahal, a testament to love, and marvel at the ornate architecture of Delhi's Red Fort before exploring the elaborate palaces and forts of the pink city of Jaipur. Explore the metropolis of Mumbai, also home of Bollywood, before catching a flight to Beijing, where you will discover Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City. Uncover the history behind the iconic Terracotta Army in Xi'an, and meet the native Giant Panda in Chengdu before catching the striking Pudong skyline of Shanghai and sampling its famous cuisine.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Explore the heritage sights of Old and New Delhi
  • Visit the magnificent Taj Mahal
  • Beautiful Rajputana architecture of the Amber Fort
  • Explore Mumbai, India's most populous city
  • Imperial Palace in The Forbidden City
  • Ancient Temple of Heaven Park
  • The iconic Terracotta Army
  • Visit Giant Pandas in Chengdu
  • The icnonic Pudong skyline of Shanghai

Places Visited

Delhi - Agra - Jaipur - Mumbai - Beijing - Xi'an - Chengdu - Shanghai

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Domestic flights
Accommodation
Meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Itinerary
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Day 1 : Arrival into Delhi

Arrival into Delhi, where you will be met by a Travel the Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Overnight in Delhi. 

Meal plan: Dinner

India’s capital and a major gateway to the country, contemporary Delhi is a bustling metropolis, which successfully combines the ancient with the modern. Amidst the vast spiraling skyscrapers, the remnants of a bygone era in the form of its many monuments, stand as silent reminders of the region’s ancient legacy. The first impression for any visitor travelling in from the airport is of a specious, garden city, tree-lined with a number of beautiful parks.

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Day 2 : Delhi

Spend the day visiting the sights of Old and New Delhi. Overnight in Delhi. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The walled city of Old Delhi, which includes the Lal Qila or Red Fort of Delhi, was established in 1650 AD by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The Spice Bazaar, or Khari Baoli, is a street in Old Delhi known for its wholesale grocery and is one of Asia’s largest wholesale spice markets selling all kinds of spices, nuts and herbs. Operating since the 17th century, the market is situated close to the historic Delhi Red Fort. Learn about the spices on sale and smell their aromas. One of Delhi's most interesting buildings is the Jama Masjid (mosque), which is surrounded by traditional businesses that showcase centuries’ old arts and crafts. There is also a marvellous old-fashioned shop where you can test Indian perfume from cut-glass bottles. You will saunter through the main bridal street of Old Delhi, Kinari Bazaar, with its dazzling display of embroidered silk wedding saris.
 


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Day 3 : Delhi - Agra

Depart Delhi and take the train to Agra. On arrival in Agra, you will be transferred to your hotel. Spend the afternoon visiting the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Overnight in Agra. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

​The Taj Mahal is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built for Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The construction of the tomb began in 1632 and employed more than 20,000 workers. Situated on the right bank of the Yamuna in a vast Mogul garden, this funerary monument, bounded by four isolated minarets, reigns with its octagonal structure capped by a bulbous dome through the criss-cross of open perspectives offered by alleys or basins of water. The materials were brought in from all over India and central Asia and white Makrana marble from Jodhpur. Precious stones for the inlay came from Baghdad, Punjab, Egypt, Russia, Golconda, China, Afghanistan, Ceylon, Indian Ocean and Persia. The unique Mughal style combines elements and styles of Persian, Central Asian and Islamic architecture.

Situated on the bank of the river Yamuna, the UNESCO World Heritage Agra Fort is an enormous, grand structure. The special feature of this fort is the 2.5km long and 21 metre-high circuitous wall of solid red sand stone in which each of the stones are closely bound by iron rings. The fort is surrounded by a deep moat. Some of the important buildings inside the fort are the Jahangiri Mahal, the Moti Masjid and Mena Bazaars.

Built in the early 16th century and formerly the capital of the mighty Mughals, Agra is famous for its beautiful medieval monuments. The city was pampered by the Mughals for more than two centuries, adorned with their beautiful artworks and striking architectural styles.The crowning jewel of Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal (World Heritage Site) is one of the world’s most beautiful and beloved structures. 

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Day 4 : Agra - Jaipur

Drive to Jaipur, stopping en route at Farehpur Sikri, along with the Stepwells of Abhaneri. On arrival in Jaipur, you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Jaipur. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Fatehpur Sikri was built by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 16th century to serve as the capital of his vast empire. Although Akbar had many wives, he did not have an heir, which led him to many holy men and finally to the renowned Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chisti, who lived in an isolated cave near Sikri. The saint blessed Akbar and soon a son was born to him. The grateful emperor named his son Salim after the saint, erected the grand Jami Mosque near the saint's dwelling and vowed to build a great city in that place. Thus emerged the great city of Fatehpur Sikri, a citadel of grand courts, palaces, mosques and gardens that rivalled the splendours of Delhi and Agra. However, destiny had other things in store for the city. Shortage of water and unrest in the north-west made Akbar abandon the city only 13 years later. Today, even after the passage of 400 years, the magnificence of this royal city has not faded and remains immaculately preserved.
 


The Stepwells of Abhaneri, also known as 'Chand Baori', is an ancient landmark that was once used to conserve water in the arid state of Rajasthan. The stepwell was built by King Chanda during the Nikumbh dynasty (between 800 and 900 CE) and dedicated to Hashat Mata - the Goddess of Joy and Happiness - upon its completion.

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Day 5 : Jaipur

Spend the day visiting the sights of Jaipur, some of these will include Amber Fort, City Palace and the Jantar Mantar Observatory. Overnight in Jaipur. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Set in rugged, picturesque hills, the Amber Fort is a fascinating piece of Rajputana architecture. Constructed by Raja Man and completed by Sawai Jai Singh I, the fort is made from red sandstone and white marble. The rugged, forbidding exterior encloses an inner sanctuary with some spectacular art and architectural styles. The interior wall of the palace depicts expressive painting scenes with carvings, precious stones and mirror settings.

Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is one of the five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur in the 18th century. These observatories incorporate many unique building styles, each with a specialised function for astronomical measurement. These structures, with their striking combinations of large scale geometric forms, have captivated the attention of architects, artists, and art historians worldwide.

City Palace has been home to the rulers of Jaipur since the first half of the 18th century. The sprawling complex is a superb blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture with open, airy Mughal-style public buildings leading to private apartments. Today, part of the complex is open to the public as the City Palace Museum houses numerous medieval treasures including miniature paintings.

The capital and largest city in Rajasthan, Jaipur was planned and named by the Great warrior astronomer Maharaja Jai Singh II (1699–1744 AD). The buildings are constructed in pink sandstone after the whole city was painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria in 1876 during their tour of India, with pink symbolising hospitality. Many of the avenues remain pink, giving Jaipur its popular name of the “Pink City”.

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Day 6 : Jaipur - Mumbai

Travel to the airport, where you will fly on to Mumbai. On arrival in Mumbai, you will be transferred to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Overnight in Mumbai. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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Day 7 : Mumbai

Spend the morning touring the city of Mumbai. The afternoon will be free for you to spend at your leisure. Overnight in Mumbai. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Mumbai is the most populous city in India, the economical and commercial centre of the country and the home of Bollywood, the Hindi film industry. Mumbai's most famous site is the Gateway of India, a 26-metre-high arch built to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary in India in 1911. Other important landmarks include the Marine Drive boulevard, known as the 'Queen's Necklace' due to its resemblance to a pearl necklace when viewed at night from above; Dhobi Ghat, the world’s largest open air laundry; Crawford Market, the largest market in Mumbai,  named after  the first Municipal Commissioner of the city, Arthur Crawford; and the Victoria Terminus railway station, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The latter is famous for its blend of Gothic Revival and traditional Mughal architectural styles, and was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. In 1996 it was renamed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, after the founder of the Maratha Empire.

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Day 8 : Mumbai - Beijing

Travel to Mumbai Airport for your flight to Beijing. On arrival in Beijing, you will be met by your local guide and transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Beijing. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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Day 9 : Beijing

Spend the day sightseeing in Beijing. Walk through Tian'anmen Square, travel to the Forbidden City and visit the Temple of Heaven Park. Overnight in Beijing.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The city of Beijing lies in northern China and is one of the largest and most populous cities in the world. As one of the country’s six ancient cities, it is thought to be the point where historic and modern China meet. This vibrant capital is home to world-famous ancient sites, including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, as well as some of the world’s most innovative modern architecture, including the 2008 Olympic Park.

The Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum or Gu Gong, lies at the heart of Beijing. Built under the rule of the Emperor Chengzu in the Ming Dynasty, the Forbidden City holds the best-preserved and largest imperial palace in China - serving 24 emperors over five centuries. The essence of traditional Chinese architecture can be seen in the yellow roofing of the city, considered to be the symbol of royalty. Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, the palace is now a museum and has become one of China’s most popular tourist attractions. 

Tian'anmen Square, in central Beijing, is named after the Tian'anmen - or ‘Gate of Heavenly Peace’ - located to its north. This large square is of great cultural and historical significance, containing the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. In more recent history, the square has been the site of many political protests, including the student-led demonstration known as the ‘June Fourth Incident’ of 1989. 

The Temple of Heaven Park was built in 1420, and was originally where the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasty held the 'Heaven Worship Ceremony'. In recent history, this site has been opened as a public park, providing an example of ancient philosophy, cultural history and religion for the region.

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Day 10 : Beijing

Travel to see the iconic Great Wall of China, learn about its history before walking along its parameters. Later, visit a Jade Museum, before travelling back to Beijing to see the Summer Palace. Overnight in Beijing. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

The Great Wall of China is made up of a series of fortifications that were built along the northern borders of China to protect the historic empire from nomadic raids. Sections of the wall were built as early as the 7th century. These were added to, made bigger and stronger - later being referred to as the Great Wall. In addition to its defensive role, it also became an effective border control for China - regulating the trade of the Silk Road, immigration and emigration. 

The Summer Palace was an imperial garden in the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1912). Today, the vast ensemble of lakes, gardens and palaces have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

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Day 11 : Beijing - Xi'an

Transfer to Beijing railway station for your train to Xi'an. On arrival, transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Xi'an. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Xi’an, formerly known as Chang’an, was the ancient imperial capital of China. Today it is the capital city of Shaanxi Province in northwest China. It is one of the oldest cities in China and marks the starting point of the famous Silk Road, where countless momentous journeys started or finished. Key sights in Xi'an include the Xi'an Ancient City Wall, which dates back to the 14th Century, the Little Wild Goose Pagoda and the nearby Terracotta Army.

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Day 12 : Xi'an

Spend the morning touring the site of the Terracotta Army, before visiting the Xi'an Arts and Ceramics Exhibition Centre. Return to Xi'an, where you will walk the parameters of the city wall and take a tour of the Muslim Quarter. Overnight in Xi'an. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

The Xi'an Arts and Ceramics Exhibition Centre features artist reproductions of the iconic terracotta warriors, along with an array of traditional ceramic figures, furniture and silk rugs. 

Discovered in 1974, the breathtaking Terracotta Army sculpture collection contains nearly 8,000 life-size and highly-detailed terracotta warriors as well as horses that guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huang - the first Emperor of China. Each warrior is unique and is believed to have been modelled on an actual soldier of the time. They have been in place for over 2,200 years, protecting the emperor in his afterlife, and are now considered to be the 8th Wonder of the Ancient World.

The Muslim Quarter of Xi'an, the hub of the Muslim community in the city lies around Beiyuanmen Muslim Street. This narrow street houses market stalls and stores with authentic souvenirs, clothing and Islamic cuisine. Visitors and locals alike enjoy sampling the many unique dishes on offer along this winding street.

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Day 13 : Xi'an - Chengdu

Begin the day with a visit to the Little Wild Goose Pagoda, before travelling by train to Chengdu. On arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Chengdu. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province. It is one of China’s six central cities and a primary transport hub. The city is famous for its teahouse culture, where they have been serving the same brews for generations. Chengdu is also China’s ‘Panda Central’, both where panda’s originate from and also home to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base. An important historical sight in Chengdu is the Jinsha Museum, which houses the remains of a settlement dating back to 2700 BC.

The Little Wild Goose Pagoda is a UNESCO-listed Buddhist tower that lies in the centre of the Jianfu Temple. Built during the Tang Dynasty, it stands at 45 meters high, and is an example of ancient Buddhist architecture. A morning bell would chime from the pagoda throughout the Qing dynasty as a call to prayer for happiness. This bell chime is a prominent feature of Xi'an history and has become a popular attraction. Today, the original bell is preserved in the Bell Tower, whilst there is also a copy of the bell that can be rung by visitors.

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Day 14 : Chengdu

Visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where you will learn of conservation efforts and have the opportunity to see Pandas. Later, visit the Shu Brocade and Embroidery Museum. Overnight in Chengdu. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding was established in 1987 in the aim of continuing the research and conservation efforts of Chengdu Zoo - promoting Chengdu as the home land of the Giant Panda. Their work is currently focused in artificial reproduction procedures to increase the numbers of the engendered Giant Panda, who now have a population of less than 2,000. Their future aims are in helping these animals adapt to their natural habitat with the view that they can then be released into their natural habitat. 

The Shu Brocade and Embroidery Museum is the only remaining place in China where you can see the professional process of Shu brocade hand weaving. Visitors can also learn about the history and culture of this historic process. 

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Day 15 : Chengdu - Shanghai

Travel to the airport for flight on to Shanghai. On arrival, transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Shanghai. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 16 : Shanghai

Spend the day touring in Shanghai - sights will include the Yu Garden, a silk museum and Shanghai Museum. Take an evening cruise along the Huangpu River, before returning to your hotel. Overnight in Shanghai. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Shanghai Museum houses ancient Chinese art. The museum was founded in 1952 and can be found on the People's Square in the city's Huangpu District. 

The Yu Garden lies beside the City God Temple in the old city of Shanghai. Built during the Ming dynasty for the Pan En minister and stood as the largest, most prestigious garden of its era. It includes features such as the Wanhua Chamber and Sansui Hall that are each seperated by grey tiled ridges, or 'dragon walls'. 

The Huangpu River is a main tributary of the Yangtze River that flows through Shanghai. Shanghai Port, one of the most famous and important ports throughout China, can be found on the Huangpu River. 

The global financial centre of Shanghai is located in the Yangtze River Delta on the eastern Chinese coast. The largest and most populated city in the country is home to the famous Pudong skyline, which is punctured with skyscrapers. Each city district within Shanghai tells its own story. Evidence of its colonial history can be found in the architecture and cuisine found on The Bund and in the French Concession district. Whereas in the Old City, Nanshi, you can find sights such as Yu Garden and the Huxingting Tea House. 

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Day 17 : Shanghai

Transfer to the airport for your departure flight. 

Meal plan: n/a

Extensions

The Golden Triangle (5 days)

Marvel at India's most incredible forts and palaces

Kolkata & Sunderbans (6 days)

Discover colonial Kolkata and the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve

Indian Odyssey (29 days)

Experience the best of North and South India

Wildlife of Madagascar, India & Borneo (29 days)

Spot lemurs, tigers & orangutans

Highlights of the Subcontinent (22 days)

Discover iconic sights of India, Nepal & Bhutan

Wildlife of India & Borneo (21 days)

Get under the skin of Asia's two best wildlife spots.

Hill stations to the Himalayas (20 days)

Travel through the Himalayan foothills to Ladakh

Monks, Tribes & Rhinos (20 days)

Himalayan mountains, unseen tribes & amazing wildlife

Classic Bhutan & Assam Cruise (18 days)

Experience Bhutan's rich culture, colonial Kolkata and rural life in Assam

Essential India & China (17 days)

Visit the two most populous countries on Earth.

Textiles & Artisans of Gujarat & Rajasthan (16 days)

Nomadic tribes, traditional textiles, crafts & Mewar Festival

Essential India & Sri Lanka (16 days)

India's Golden Triangle & the best of Sri Lanka.

Glimpse of India & Nepal (16 days)

Golden Triangle and the Himalayas

Rajasthan Explorer (15 days)

Fort cities, rural villages & camel fair

Nagaland: Festival of the Headhunters (15 days)

Aoling Festival, wildlife in Assam & natural beauty of Manipur

Kerala Calling (15 days)

Tropical mountains, tea & spice plantations, and backwaters

Big Six of India (15 days)

Spot tigers, lions, leopards, buffalo, rhino & elephants

Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival (15 days)

Wildlife, tribes & rural life in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur

Taste of South India (15 days)

Experience the flavours and exotic spices of South India

Spirit of South India (14 days)

Temple towns of Tamil Nadu to backwaters of Kerala

Wildlife of North East India (14 days)

Diverse wildlife in Assam and the Sunderbans

Taj, Tigers & Temples (14 days)

An intoxicating immersion into India's diversity

Karnataka Odyssey (14 days)

Coffee farms, wildlife and stone temples

Tribes of North East India (14 days)

Remote tribal cultures in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam & Nagaland

Sacred India (14 days)

Uncover the religious diversity of India

Delicacies of North India (14 days)

Discover the huge diversity of North India's cuisine

Big Cats of India (14 days)

Experience the thrill of the Indian jungle ...

Treasures of Gujarat (14 days)

Villages, temples, salt flats & the world's last Asiatic lions

Kerala & Karnataka Explorer (14 days)

Idyllic backwaters, tropical forests & ancient temple towns

Heart of India (14 days)

Lucknow, Varanasi & the wonders of Madhya Pradesh

Tribal Orissa & Chhattisgarh (14 days)

Distinct tribal cultures, unique temples & traditional textiles

Kashmir and Ladakh Explorer (14 days)

Houseboats, Himalayas & Hemis Festival

Best of Bengal & Sikkim (14 days)

Colonial Kolkata, Darjeeling toy train & Buddhism

Hidden Rajasthan (13 days)

Rural villages, grand forts & wildlife

Markha Valley Trek (12 days)

Set foot in Ladakh's hidden Himalayan valleys

Glimpse of India (11 days)

Golden Triangle, tigers & exotic Goa

Classic Kerala (10 days)

Tea, spices, backwaters & beaches

Essential Rajasthan (10 days)

Discover the forts, palaces, villages and desert of Rajasthan

Living Bridges of Meghalaya (7 days)

Waterfalls, hills and living bridges in North East India

Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed my tailor made tour of northwestern and central India. Guides and accommodations were excellent and we saw as much of the area as could be packed into two weeks. I look forward to another tour with Travel the Unknown.

Mary Trubek (USA) , Tailormade India

What an excellent service! Rahul adapted, extended and improved our trip so many times without a qualm and we ended up with the trip of a lifetime. The destinations are unusual and interesting but everything has been checked out by the team and works brilliantly. I can`t wait to do another trip.

Penelope Smith , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India

Another fantastic trip with this company. WE really managed to get off the beaten track and have seen some amazing sights. Well put together. We will travel again with Travel the Unknown

Hazel & James Frost , Tailormade India

This is our second fabulous trip with Travel The Unknown and we were not disappointed. Rajasthan's vibrant colours of turbans and saris, the noise, the spicy aromas, the silence in the hot air balloon over rural Jaipur, the majestic forts and palaces of ancient times, sighting leopards in the wild, all far exceeded our expectations and the heritage homes and hotels we stayed in, whilst being of high standard in every way, still had a friendly family touch. Thanks so much to Rahul and the team for such a memorable trip. Six weeks on and we still can't stop talking about it. I can't wait for the next one!

John & Christine Gregory , Tailormade India

Another great trip from Travel the Unknown. I would recommend this company to anyone who wants to move outside the boundaries of the usual tourist itinerary.

Catherine Crawford , Kashmir & Ladakh Explorer, India

Travel the Unknown put together an Itinerary in North East India - Living Root Bridges for me and a travelling companion. The accommodations, transportation, promptness of drivers, and knowledge of our guide was excellent. Easy booking from office and good pre trip information. Thanks TTU!

Christina Taft , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

Wow, India is incredible and Travel The Unknown put together a trip that really showed the diverse nature of the country and cultures, from the busy capital Delhi to the splendour of the Taj Mahal and then off the main tourist trek with an overnight sleeper train to Varanasi on the Ganges, the Hindu religious capital with bathing , washing and cremations alongside the river - an astonishing experience. We then moved to the forgotten North East corner where there is a tribal culture in an area seemingly cut off from the rest of India. Our destination was the Living Root Bridges which are unique and remote. Just want to go back to India for more...

Ken Sankey , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

Gotta say thanks to Travel The Unknown for organising my fascinating trip to a little-known area of the world. The scenery was fantastic, food was amazing, the guide was great and the living bridges were inspiring. An India not many get to see. Thanks again.

Stephen , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

I had been studying the Apatani Tribe for quite some time… I’m talking roughly 7 years! Travel The Unknown made my dreams come entirely true. They organized every aspect of my experience in the most minute detail. I have never felt such confidence in an agency nor worked with one more knowledgeable about their destination. Because of them and their kind efforts, I will continue to travel with Travel The Unknown for all future expeditions to this or similar regions. Thanks, Travel The Unknown, for everything!

Christian Noni , Tailormade North East India

As always Travel The Unknown were exceptional in organising my trip to India. The guides for Meghalaya and the Golden Triangle were friendly, extremely helpful and very informative. The tour was busy but never felt rushed; the combination of Meghalaya and Golden Triangle giving quite a varied perspective of India.

Terry Cooper , Living Bridges of Meghalaya

The Living Root Bridges trip was our first time with Travel the Unknown and we would have no hesitation from booking with them again.

Andria & John Palmer , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

This trip was my first time travelling with Travel The Unknown, but definitely not my last!

Lori Martin , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India
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