Kerala & Karnataka Explorer

India

Culture

Idyllic backwaters, tropical forests & ancient temple towns

14 days £2,195 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

Be welcomed into Kerala with a peaceful cruise along the picturesque backwaters of Alleppey and a traditional Kathakali dance. Observe the colonial history behind the port city of Cochin before proceeding up into the tropical mountains of Wayanad. Venture over to Karnataka to witness free-roaming elephants in the rugged wilderness of Kabini and savour the spectacular panoramic views over Mysore's palaces from the sacred Chamundi Hills. Discover the religious and archaeological centre of Hampi and wonder at the origins of Hindu temple architecture in ancient Chalukya temple towns. Complete your visit in the former Portuguese colony and spiritual sanctuary of palm-fringed Goa.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Cruise backwaters of Alleppey
  • Sunset cruise on Cochin harbour
  • Witness a traditional Kathakali performance
  • Ancient caves and tropical forests of Wayanad
  • Wildlife and jungle lodge in Kabini
  • Stone temples of Karnataka
  • Gravity-defying boulders in Hampi
  • Uncover Goa's Portuguese past

Places Visited

Cochin - Alleppey - Kumbalangi Village - Wayanad - Kabini - Mysore - Hampi - Badami - Aihole - Pattadakal - Goa

What's Included

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

Arrive in Cochin, where you will be met by a Travel the Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel in Alleppey. The afternoon is free to rest or explore. Enjoy watching a traditional cooking demonstration, where you will learn about authentic Kerala cuisine. Overnight in Alleppey.

Meal plan: n/a

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Day 2 : Alleppey

In the morning you will proceed on to Alleppey. On arrival, begin the day with a walking tour of the city. Later, board a house boat for a day cruise. Lunch will be cooked and served onboard. In the evening you will disembark and transfer to your backwater resort. Overnight in Alleppey.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Also known as the 'Venice of the East', Alleppey is a town with a large network of picturesque canals, backwaters, lagoons and beaches. In the past, Alleppey was one of the busiest trade centres along the Malabar coast.

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Day 3 : Alleppey - Cochin

After breakfast, drive from Alleppey to Cochin. Stop on the way to visit Kumbalangi Village, where you will stop for lunch. Continue your journey to Cochin, where you will spend the rest of the day sightseeing. Witness the mix of Dutch, English, Portuguese and Jewish influences that make the city such a unique place. Later, witness a traditional Kathakali performance. Overnight in Cochin.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Cochin, the 'Queen on the Arabian Sea', is a major port city that was once a much-prized pawn for the English, Portuguese and Dutch due to its strategic location and prominence in the lucrative spice trade. This history of foreign colonies has resulted in a diverse culture, with European influences visible in much of Cochin's architecture and overall development, aiding it to become the commercial and industrial capital of Kerala. 

Dating back to the 17th century, the Kathakali dance performance, literally meaning "story-play", is the classical dance form of Kerala in which a story is portrayed through a combination of dance and mime. Instead of dialect, characters 'speak' through dramatic body movement and facial expression, while mood is set through musical composition. Heavy and elaborate makeup and costumes are used to portray the different character types, while themes are primarily religious in nature and based on the universal struggle between good and evil. 

The remote fishing village of Kumbalangi faces the Kochi backwaters. It was India's first designated ecotourism village and aims to integrate tourism with its traditionally rural way of life. Visitors can gain a real insight into the natural beauty of the region as they watch local fishermen at work, using authentic Chinese fishing nets. 

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Day 4 : Cochin - Calicut - Wayanad

Board a train from Cochin to Calicut (Jan Shadabdi Express - departs at 0920 Hrs & arrives Calicut at 1300 Hrs). Proceed to drive to Wayanad. The drive is picturesque through the Western ghats, escaping from the sultry climate below to a perfect, cool and temperate climate at Wayanad. Upon arrival in Wayanad, you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Wayanad.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Calicut, also known as Kozhikode, is the largest city in Kerala. In the past, it was dubbed the "City of Spices" for its role as the major trading point of eastern spices. In 2012, Calicut was given the tag of "City of Sculptures" because of the various architectural sculptures located in various parts of the city. 

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Day 5 : Wayanad

In the morning, enjoy a trek to Edakkal Caves (ancient carvings of pre-historic stone ages), Pookot lake and the tomb of Pazhassi Raja. Later, visit the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary. Overnight in Wayanad.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Known as the "Land of the Paddy Fields", Wayanad district is located at altitudes ranging from 700 to 2100 metres above sea-level. Although the least populous district in Kerala, Wayanad is home to many indigenous tribes, as well as unseen tropical mountains, the Edakkal Caves and 4th century BC petroglyphs. 

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Day 6 : Wayanad - Kabini

Today you will depart Wayanad and transfer to Kabini Forest Reserve. Go on a safari to Nagarhole Sanctuary to see the wildlife in close quarters. Often, it is possible to see wild elephants, Gaur (Indian bison), spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer (found only in Sri Lanka and South India), Sambar, sloth-bears, marsh crocodiles, otters, Indian wild dogs, leopards and tigers. One could also spot the flying lizard and the flying snake gliding from tree to tree. Later, return back to resort. Overnight stay in Kabini.

Meal plan: Breakfast

The Kabini Forest Reserve is one of the most popular wildlife destinations in Karnataka thanks to its lush green landscape, large tranquil lake, and regular sightings of herds of elephants. It comprises the south-eastern part of Nagarahole National Park. Situated on the banks of the Kabini River, the reserve is spread over forestland, valleys, and water. It was once a private hunting lodge of the Maharajah of Mysore, and a popular hotspot for British Viceroys and Indian royalty. Today it is thought to be one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka, famous for its spectacular wildlife and bird life.

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Day 7 : Kabini - Mysore

In the morning, enjoy a gentle ride down the river in a traditional Coracle boat (a small round boat made of bamboo). There is also an option for a second safari (book directly through your lodge, subject to availability). Transfer to Mysore. The afternoon is free at your leisure. In the evening, enjoy views over the Mysore Palace from the Chamundi Hills and visit Nandi Bull. Overnight in Mysore.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Also known as the 'City of Palaces', Mysore retains a quaint charm that never fails to enchant. Situated in the southern part of the Deccan Plateau, Mysore District is an undulating tableland, covered in parts by granite outcrops and fringed by verdant forests. Its Dasara festival attracts visitors from all over the world. The cultural capital of Karnataka, Mysore is also home to a famous university, an academy of visual arts and its very own painting style.

The Chamundi Hills are part of the eight most sacred hills of Southern India. They were named after the goddess Chamundeshwari, and their temple has always been under the patronage of the rulers of Mysore. From the top of the hill you have a panoramic view of the city.

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Day 8 : Mysore - Hampi

Enjoy a full day sightseeing tour of Mysore, which will include visits to sites such as Mysore Palace and Devaraja Fruit and Vegetable market. In the evening, transfer to Mysore Railway Station to board an overnight train to Hampi (first class AC sleeper, subject to availability). Overnight on train.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The Palace of Mysore is the official residence of the Wodeyars, the former royal family. Completed in 1912 and expanded in 1940, it is one of India's most visited sights. Its architectural style is commonly known as Indo-Saracenic, a mixture of several other styles, such as Hindu, Muslim, and Gothic.

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Day 9 : Hampi

Arrive at Hampi station and transfer to hotel. Morning is free to rest. Spend the afternoon sightseeing in Hampi. Overnight in Hampi.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Renowned for its unique landscape of gravity-defying boulders, the World Heritage Site of Hampi boasts some spectacular 13th century temples. Once one of the largest and richest cities in the world at the core of the Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi was left in ruins by marauding Moghul invaders in the 16th century, though preserves its past and remains a major religious and archeological centre. Hampi's vast terrain boasts impressive craftsmanship in intricately-carved monuments and temples. The Vijaya Vittala Temple is a particularly stunning spectacle, with 56 musical pillars that produce the sounds of 56 different musical instruments. As the sun sets, the entirety of the temple is turned golden. In the courtyard stands the iconic Stone Chariot, carved out of a single rock. The sheer detail of the carvings and the number of sculptures within Hampi speak of a race of artisans consistently outdoing each other in craftsmanship.  

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Day 10 : Hospet

After a relaxed breakfast, enjoy a full day tour of Hampi exploring the temples, monuments and monolithic structures. Visit the Virupaksha, Vijaya Vittala and Hazararama Palace Temples, and explore the Royal Enclosure and the Lotus Mahal. Wonder at the imposing structures of Lakshmi Narasimha, the Stone Chariot, the Ganesha statues and the Badavilinga. Cross the Tungabadra River to the ancient capital of Anegundi to traverse leisurely roads and scale the boulders above the Sanapur Lake. Overnight in Hampi. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 11 : Hampi - Aihole / Pattadakal - Badami

Today you will depart Hampi and transfer to Badami. Visit the ancient temple towns of Aihole and Pattadakal en route. Afternoon is for sightseeing in and around the cave temples of Badami, Overnight in Badami.  

Meal plan: Breakfast

Situated in a ravine that surrounds the Agastya Lake, Badami was formerly known as Vatapi - after the twins, Vatapi and Ilvala, from the legend of Ramayana. Once the regal capital of the Badant Chalukyas between the 6th and 8th centuries, Badami is best known for its beautiful cave temples. Constructed during the 6th and 7th centuries, the four temples testify to the early style of South Indian architecture and reveal the tolerance towards different religions in this period: the first cave is dedicated to Shiva, the second and third to Vishnu, while the fourth was built in honour of Jain Tirthankaras. Intricate carvings of Hindu gods and early inscriptions, including the earliest available kannada poetry, are strewn across the area. Badami also boasts a Buddhist cave which can only be entered by crawling on your knees and the impressive Badami Fort.  

Aihole, a prominent city during the Chalukya Dynasty, lies close to Badami and is one of Karnataka's most popular visitor attractions due to its stunning temple complex. With about 125 temples dating mostly from the 6th to the 8th centuries, it is historically famous as the birthplace of the Chalukya and Hindu temple architecture, though also holds early Buddhist caves and Jain monuments. With its mix of architectural styles, Aihole provides a valuable record of the origins and development of Northern Indian temple architecture.

Pattadakal, situated on the banks of the Malaprabha river, is a World Heritage site renowned for its numerous Chalukya monuments. One of the capitals of the Chalukya Dynasty, it served as a royal commemorative site during the 7th and 9th centuries. With 9 Hindu temples and a Jain sanctuary, it blends Southern and Northern Indian architecture, representing the culmination of early Western Chalukyan architecture.

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Day 12 : Badami - Goa

Transfer from Badami to Goa. The rest of the day is free to enjoy at your leisure. Overnight in Goa. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 13 : Goa

After breakfast, proceed for a half day guided sightseeing at Goa. Visit the Bom Jesus Basilica and the Se Cathedral. Afterwards, visit the Fountainheads and the Latin quarters, passing by the famous statue of Abade Faria, or Jose Custodio de Faria, trying to hypnotise a woman next to the Government Secretariat. Later, continue to the Dona Paul Jetty where you will walk a few minutes to the main point to enjoy the Arabian sea view. Drive back to the hotel. The afternoon is free at your leisure. Overnight in Goa. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

After the arrival of the Portuguese in 1510, the prosperous port city of Goa was a Portuguese colony and Indian union territory until liberated by India in 1961. However, Portuguese influence is still visible today, particularly in the quaint colonial streets of the capital Panjim's old Latin Quarter and the whitewashed churches and Catholic cathedrals of Old Goa. As a result, Goa's culture is mixed, an amalgamation of Hindu and Catholic religions, though one of mutual respect. With its uninterrupted golden-sand beaches along the Arabian Sea coastline, peaceful lifestyle and increase in the practice of yoga, Goa has become a spiritual sanctuary for many travellers.

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Day 14 : Departure

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home.

Further extensions in Goa and India are possible - please contact us for more information. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation Title

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Ramada Resort

The Ramada Resort is situated near to the Kerala Backwaters and the scenic Punnamada Lake. The hotel has been decorated in a contemporary style. The spacious bedrooms are fitted with modern amenities, including satellite television and wifi. The breakfast buffet serves a combination of Western and Asian dishes. Other facilities include a salon, sauna, fitness suite, spa and outdoor swimming pool. 

Visit hotel's site
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Eighth Bastion

The Eighth Bastion is an contemporary hotel in the centre of Dutch Cochin. It has an elegant decor which hints towards the region's colonial history. The East Indies Restaurant serves a variety of traditional and contemporary local dishes. 

Visit hotel's site
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Vythiri Resort

The Vythiri Resort can be found nestled in the rainforests of Wayanad. Independent cottages are situated alongside trickling streams, beneath the tropical canopy. They have been designed and decorated in a traditional style, complementing their natural surroundings - whilst also providing guests with modern comforts to allow for a relaxing stay. The on-site restaurant serves a variety of cuisine options, whilst the coffee shop offers a more relaxed dining environment. The resort is also home to a spa, fitness suite, swimming pool and natural pool, which guests can enjoy during their stay.

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The Serai

The Serai Resort lies on the banks of the Kabini River. The contemporary-style, spacious bedrooms lead on to outdoor patios, which provide scenic views across the river. Wild Grass, the on-site restaurant, serves a fusion of Indian, Western and Chinese cuisine. Guests can relax in the resort spa, make use of the fitness suite or enjoy a swim in the outdoor pool during their stay. 

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Royal Orchid Metropole

A four star grand heritage hotel, Royal Orchid Metropole is steeped in the history and culture of Mysore. The bedrooms are decorated in a similarly traditional style - also being fitted with modern amenities to allow for a comfortable stay. There are four on-site dining facilities that offer an array of cuisine options to guests. The hotel is also home to an outdoor swimming pool which guests can enjoy in their spare time. 

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Hampi Train

The overnight train will provide travellers with 1st class, soft-sleeper accommodation. Although each train may be slightly different, the air-conditioned accommodation is generally made up of 4 bunks within a private room. These rooms will have luggage racks and closets for guests to use.

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Royal Orchid Central Kireeti

The Royal Orchid Central Kireeti is situated near to the UNESCO-listed Hampi. The hotel has been decorated in a contemporary style. Each en suite bedroom is equipped with modern fixtures and fittings including satellite television, a mini bar and access to wifi. Guests can choose to dine in open-air Regal Garden restaurant, which largely serves local dishes - or enjoy the more relaxed environment of Echo Cafe and the Signature Mix Lounge Bar. The hotel is also home to a fitness suite and spa that guests are invited to use during their stay. 

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Badami Court

Badami Court is located in rural Karnataka. The colonial-style building has a simple decor. The en suite bedrooms offer modern comforts including air-conditioning and satellite television. Pulakeshi Restaurant serves a variety of local and national dishes to guests, who can also make use of the on-site swimming pool during their stay.

Visit hotel's site
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Cidade de Goa Beach Resort

Cidade de Goa Beach Resort has a contemporary, coastal inspired decor. Many of the spacious bedrooms provide scenic views across the neighbouring beach. The hotel has 4 dining venues serving an array of cuisines along with 2 bars for guests to choose between during their stay. Other hotel facilities include a fitness suite, spa and swimming pool.

Visit hotel's site
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

Hill stations to the Himalayas (20 days)

Travel through the Himalayan foothills to Ladakh

Rajasthan Explorer (15 days)

Fort cities, rural villages & camel fair

Textiles & Artisans of Gujarat & Rajasthan (16 days)

Nomadic tribes, traditional textiles, crafts & Mewar Festival

Classic Bhutan & Assam Cruise (18 days)

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

Hidden Rajasthan (13 days)

Rural villages, grand forts & wildlife

Kerala & Karnataka Explorer (14 days)

Idyllic backwaters, tropical forests & ancient temple towns

Glimpse of India (11 days)

Golden Triangle, tigers & exotic Goa

Tribal Orissa & Chhattisgarh (14 days)

Distinct tribal cultures, unique temples & traditional textiles

Highlights of the Subcontinent (22 days)

Discover iconic sights of India, Nepal & Bhutan

Essential India & Sri Lanka (16 days)

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

Essential India & China (17 days)

Visit the two most populous countries on Earth.

Nagaland: Festival of the Headhunters (15 days)

Aoling Festival, wildlife in Assam & natural beauty of Manipur

Wildlife of India & Borneo (21 days)

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

Wildlife of Madagascar, India & Borneo (29 days)

Spot lemurs, tigers & orangutans

Best of Bengal & Sikkim (14 days)

Colonial Kolkata, Darjeeling toy train & Buddhism

Glimpse of India & Nepal (16 days)

Golden Triangle and the Himalayas

Classic Kerala (10 days)

Tea, spices, backwaters & beaches

Kerala Calling (15 days)

Tropical mountains, tea & spice plantations, and backwaters

Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival (15 days)

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

Taj, Tigers & Temples (14 days)

An intoxicating immersion into India's diversity

Spirit of South India (14 days)

Temple towns of Tamil Nadu to backwaters of Kerala

Karnataka Odyssey (14 days)

Coffee farms, wildlife and stone temples

Essential Rajasthan (10 days)

Discover the forts, palaces, villages and desert of Rajasthan

Tribes of North East India (14 days)

Remote tribal cultures in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam & Nagaland

Living Bridges of Meghalaya (7 days)

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Sacred India (14 days)

Uncover the religious diversity of India

Markha Valley Trek (12 days)

Set foot in Ladakh's hidden Himalayan valleys

Big Cats of India (14 days)

Experience the thrill of the Indian jungle ...

Kashmir and Ladakh Explorer (14 days)

Houseboats, Himalayas & Hemis Festival

Heart of India (14 days)

Lucknow, Varanasi & the wonders of Madhya Pradesh

Monks, Tribes & Rhinos (20 days)

Himalayan mountains, unseen tribes & amazing wildlife

Wildlife of North East India (14 days)

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Big Six of India (15 days)

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Delicacies of North India (14 days)

Discover the huge diversity of North India's cuisine

Taste of South India (15 days)

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Treasures of Gujarat (14 days)

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

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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