Thursday, August 27, 2015

Northeast India Explorer 2017 Itinerary

Up close and personal with an endangered Indian Greater One-Horned Rhino in Kaziranga National Park 

From the chaotic bazaars of Delhi, to the spectacular wildlife of Kaziranga National Park, to the absolutely unique living root bridges of Meghalaya, this trip will take you to a fair number of the most amazing places in India. In two weeks time, you'll explore ancient ruins, come face to face with endangered Indian Rhinos, hike through primordial jungle to some of India's most spectacular waterfalls, and visit remote villages that have not seen more than a handful of visitors. This trip promises high adventure. I guarantee you one of the most amazing travel experiences of your life!

Boating on the crystalline waters of the Umgot river, next to the beautiful Northeast Indian village of Shnongpdeng

We'll start in the bustling lanes of Delhi, and then take a short flight to the least visited, yet arguably most beautiful, part of the country: the Northeast. Here, we'll start by heading to the state of Meghalaya, home of the Khasi and Jaintia tribal groups. Our first stop will be the village of Shnongpdeng, which has the clearest river I've ever seen. The village is also within easy striking distance of several spectacular living root bridges, large waterfalls, and caves. From Shnongpdeng, we'll travel to Nongriat, the most famous of Meghalaya's deep jungle villages, and an equally great place to relax, or to take long treks into rugged jungle ravines and even more remote villages. After that, it will be time to head down to the state of Assam, to visit Kaziranga, India's premiere wildlife park and home of the vast majority of the world's Indian one horned rhinos, along with wild elephants, buffalo, leopards, cobras, tigers, and an incredible number of resident and migratory bird species.  For two weeks, you'll be seeing something incredible every single day!

Jumping off a huge rock into crystal clear blue water in front of a waterfall with a rainbow...Yes, this can be you! (photo: Erin Potter, taken during my 2014 winter trip).

MAIL ME AT:  if you would like to book a seat or receive more information!


Note: All pictures are by me unless otherwise credited.

One of the few things all of the diverse regions of India have in common are hordes of little kids!


The itinerary is 15 days long, beginning JAN 11 2017 and ending JAN 25 2017. This is not including travel to and from India. I will be there to greet travelers at Indira Gandhi International Airport on the 11th of January and will be there to see them off on the 25th.  

In order to reserve a seat on the trip, travelers must send me a 250 dollar, nonrefundable deposit via Paypal by NOV 23 2016 and the balance of the trip fee by DEC 9 2016.


The full trip fee is U.S. 2300.

Payment is to be made through Paypal. 

WHAT THE PAYMENT COVERS: All in-country accommodation. All group activities, including monument visits, local guiding fees, elephant and jeep rides. All in-country transport, including internal airfare, long distance road journeys, Delhi Metro rides, auto-rickshaw rides, cycle-rickshaw rides, etc. All expenses in the villages of Nongriat and Shnongpdeng, including accommodation, food, and local guides. Tips.

WHAT THAT DOES NOT COVER: International airfare. Visa/Passport processing fees. Travel/Health Insurance. Miscellaneous personal expenses, such as bottled water, snacks, gifts, additional medical supplies, batteries, etc. Meals in Delhi, Cherrapunji, and Assam (a typical meal costs 2-6 dollars per person). Hotel tariffs before and after the specified dates on the itinerary.

GROUP SIZE: Minimum group size will be THREE TRAVELERS. Maximum group size will be SIX TRAVELERS. Please do not send in deposits before the minimum number for the trip is likely to be reached. (I'll let you know!)

The world famous double decker living root bridge in Nongriat village. Living root bridges are made by training rubber tree roots across streams and small rivers. They are the world's only variety of  functional architecture which is grown rather than built. The bridges can take decades to become usable, but when they do, the roots only continue to strengthen, so the bridges actually get stronger as they get older. We will spend three nights at a rest house that is (literally) a one minute walk from the bridge pictured above. There's also a small waterfall in front of the living root bridge, and three small but wonderful swimming holes right under it....what could be better?


[NOTE 1: Be advised that India is a very flexible place, which means that to adapt, we will also have to be very flexible. Hence, be ready for a few on-the-spot emendations to this itinerary once we get there. A certain amount of unpredictability is a vital part of the Indian experience!]

DAY 1 DELHI: You'll arrive at New Delhi International Airport. I'll pick you up at Arrivals, and we'll all transfer to our hotel in Majnu-ka-Tilla, Delhi's center of Tibetan culture. We'll settle in for the night, and get some sleep.

DAY 2 DELHI: We'll wake up relatively early and have breakfast at one of Majnu-ka-Tilla's many very good Tibetan restaurants. After that, we'll take our first-of-many  cycle rickshaw rides to the Delhi Metro, which we'll ride to Humayun's Tomb, the historical and architectural predecessor of the Taj Mahal, and one of Delhi's most simultaneously lovely and laid-back major sights.

Delhi's lovely Humayun's Tomb

After that, we'll go back to the metro and ride to the Patel Chowk Metro Station, from where we'll walk to the nearby Jantar Mantar, a huge 18th century astronomical observatory, and then to the spectacular Agrasen Ki Baoli, a deep 14th century step well improbably situated right next to Delhi's main business district.

From Agrasen ki Baoli, we'll make the long journey back to our hotel, have lunch, rest up, and then head out on foot for our next adventure, The Northern Ridge. Here, we'll go on what can only be described as an urban wildlife safari. The Northern ridge, a densely forested urban park in the middle of North Delhi, has more monkeys than any other place that I know of, along with large numbers of peacocks and parrots!

Dinner at one of the many restaurants in Majnu-ka-Tilla

DAY 3: DELHI-GUWAHATI-SHNONGPDENG : This will be one of our tougher travel days. We'll get up early, transfer to the Delhi airport, take the earliest flight possible to the Assamese city of Guwahati, and then start the (roughly) 5 hour journey to Shnongpdeng, in the state of Meghalaya. The journey will take us up from the plains of Assam to the Khasi hills, passing through the city of Shillong on the way. Beyond Shillong, we'll descend through the spectacular canyon country of southern Meghalaya  before reaching the small border town of Dawki, which is only a few feet from Bangladesh. From there, it's a short bumpy ride through the jungle to our destination: Shnongpdeng on the shores of the river Umngot. Your day will begin in the maddening urban chaos of Delhi and end world's away, by the serene waters of the clearest river you'll ever see.

Rocks of the river Umngot, a short boat ride upstream from Shnongpdeng

DAY 4-5 SHNONGPDENG: Shnongpdeng is Meghalaya's most relaxing village. Located next to a huge river so clear that you can see the shadows of boats crawling along the bottom, there's no better place in the Khasi Hills to take a nap....or you can go out in the middle of the afternoon and ride a boat upriver for an hour or so. Shnongpdeng is one Northeast India's best kept secrets (though not for long!).

And, yet, if you're feeling energetic, Shnongpdeng also makes a great base for expeditions to some of Meghalaya's most incredible off-the-beaten-path adventures.

So for these two days we'll have plenty of options!


1: Shnongpdeng is on the banks of the river Umngot. If you can stand the cold, swimming upstream is an experience you'll never forget. Additionally, it's possible to hire a boat from the village  and explore the canyon of the Umngot a certain distance upstream. Also, if you're interested in angling, Shnongpdeng is one of Northeast India's best fishing spots!

2: Shnongpdeng makes a convenient base for one of Meghalaya's greatest day hikes: The trek to the Great Bridge of Kudeng Rim. This tough but rewarding hike will take you to one of the most incredible sights in all of Northeast India. The Great Bridge of Kudeng Rim is a living root bridge that is around a hundred feet long, around a hundred feet above the stream it crosses, and is in front of an amazing waterfall. After crossing the living root bridge, it's relatively easy to climb down into the bed of the river it spans, and then clamber up to the base of the waterfall. Here, there is the most spectacular clear water plunge pool I've ever seen. Plus, when the sun hits the waterfall at the right angle, there's also a rainbow! The hike also goes by two other spectacular living root bridges, several remote villages, and a small but interesting short, one of the trekking highlights of Meghalaya.

3: Another truly wonderful hike is possible to the small, charming, and completely undiscovered village of Burma, one of the friendliest places in Meghalaya.

4: can just relax....that's also definitely an option!

The view upstream, under the Great Bridge of Kudeng don't do it justice!


On this day, we'll leave Shnongpdeng behind and travel to the town of Cherrapunji (known locally as Sohra). The drive will only take around three hours, so there won't be any rush.

Our accommodation for the nights in Cherrapunji will be a simple, cozy, clean, backpackers hostel called By The Way.

Depending on how much time we have, we'll have the opportunity to visit one of several spectacular viewpoints in the near vicinity, overlooking either waterfalls in the the Khasi Hills or the plains of Bangladesh.

The village of Nongriat, our home for four nights, and a world unto itself.

DAY 7 CHERRAPUNJI-NONGRIAT: On this day, we'll transfer to our new home in the jungle. It'll be a twenty minute car ride, followed by a two hour, 2000 foot decent into a jungle gorge. In order to get to our destination, we'll cross two rivers via spectacular steel-wire suspension bridges, along with two living root bridges, in one of Meghalaya's classic hikes.

Our accommodations for the next three nights will be the cozy village rest house. A five start hotel it is not, but with an incredible living root bridge and swimming hole right next to it, the location of the rest house is without a doubt world class!

DAY 8-9 NONGRIAT: We will have two full days in the village of Nongriat. There's no point devising a detailed itinerary for this part of the trip, as what we do and when we do it will depend very much on how people are feeling. There are plenty of activities in Nongriat, ranging from brutal eight hour hikes deep into the virtually unknown jungle to sitting on a rock next to a natural swimming pool and reading a book all day.

On a living root bridge about 45 minutes from Nongriat.

ACTIVITIES IN AND AROUND NONGRIAT: We will have plenty of options as to how to spend our time. Bear in mind that simply hanging around in the village and meeting the locals can be just as rewarding as going out on epic hikes!

1: There are eight living root bridges in the immediate vicinity of Nongriat. There are also five dramatic wire suspension bridges (which are composed of steel cables that have been placed across streams) within ninety minutes walking of Nongriat. These bridges are perfectly safe, and provide one with some of the best views in the area. There is another wire-bridge, perhaps the most spectacular in the area, which crosses a large river beyond the village of Tynrong. This bridge is a longish but still doable day-hike from Nongriat. Plus there is one bridge that is made from both steel wire and roots, about thirty minutes from Nongriat.

2: There are seven other Khasi villages within walking distance of Nongriat. Most of these see far fewer foreign visitors than Nongriat, and are worthwhile day hiking destinations in and of themselves. 

3: As we will be in Nongriat during the dry season, when there is no risk of flash floods, there will be a large variety of places where we can swim (though the water tends to be rather on the nippy side!)

4: There is a small but interesting cave about two and a half hours from Nongriat. The hike to it is as interesting as the cave itself, as it involves walking up several thousand feet out of a canyon.

5: There are two longish waterfall hikes we can take. Both are spectacular and both are adventures. The hike to Rainbow Falls takes one along a narrow, cliff-hugging path to a large waterfall that, when the sun is out, has a rainbow. There are also several great swimming holes along the path and near the base of the falls. A longer expedition is possible to the base of 1115 foot Nohkalikai Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in India. This is maybe the most adventurous hike we can take from Nongriat, as much of the route is through difficult trackless jungle (a guide with a machete is a must!). Getting to the vast, deep, blue, plunge pool at the base of the falls is entirely worth the effort though!

Rainbow Falls, with rainbow (just above the big rock in the pool). The hike here involves going by five or six other waterfalls...they just don't have rainbows!

DAY 10 NONGRIAT-CHERRAPUNJI: This will be the day we hike back up out of the canyon. It'll be tough, but once you get to the end of the hike, you'll feel an amazing sense of accomplishment! We'll transfer back to By The Way, and take the rest of the day easy.

DAY 11 CHERRAPUNJI TO KAZIRANGA: On this day, we'll say farewell to the Khasi Hills and make our way back down to the plains of Assam. For a completely different expereince, we'll head to Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site and home of the vast majority of the world's Indian One Horned Rhinos. Kaziranga is arguably the greatest wildlife park in India, and in a single excursion into the park one is likely to see rhinos, wild elephants, water buffalo, and an incredible variety of resident and migratory birds. One also stands a reasonable chance of seeing a tiger!

A large male elephant and a rhino in Kaziranga National Park. We'll definitely be seeing plenty of both!

DAY 12 KAZIRANGA: This day will begin with what might very well be the high point of your trip to India: An Elephant ride into the long grass of Kaziranga in search of Indian One horned Rhinos, Buffalo, deer, and maybe, just maybe, a Bengal Tiger! During the afternoon, we'll have the option of visiting a tea estate, and in the evening we can head out for a longer jeep safari in the park!

Riding an elephant, in front of deer, looking for Rhinos and Tigers....Need I say more? (Photo Credit: Caleb Bercy)

DAY 13 KAZIRANGA-DELHI: This day will be taken up with our long ride back from Kaziranga, to Majnu Ka Tilla in Delhi.

DAY 14 DELHI: On this day, we'll tie up any loose ends in Delhi. If there's anything in Delhi we couldn't see for one reason or another, we'll see it on this day. We can devote the afternoon to shopping (which in a place like Delhi is immensely rewarding, but takes time and patience!)

DAY 15 DELHI-ONWARD DESTINATION: On this day, I'll see you off at the Delhi airport, to wherever you're headed next!

One of my favorite waterfalls, near Kudeng Rim village


This trip WILL INVOLVE QUITE A BIT OF WALKING, much of it over very difficult terrain. Most of the trails in Meghalaya are little more than thousand foot staircases. Additionally, we will have to do some of these hikes with large packs. While we will not be in a rush at any time, and people of different physical abilities will be encouraged to go at their own respective paces, it is highly recommended that you be prepared to do some fairly tough hiking. All the most beautiful views in Meghalaya are hard won with physical exertion! Additionally, in North India we will spend quite a bit of time on our feet. 

To train, walk up and down lots and lots of stairs!

Additionally, anyone with either a fear of spiders, or of heights, should be advised that we will be seeing plenty of both...often at the same time.

This trip will give you plenty of opportunities for downtime. There's no need to go on absolutely every excursion, and while I'll be happy to take the group on tough hikes every day, don't be too worried about missing out if you're legs aren't feeling too good at the moment: You'll miss out on a lot more if you get injured!


[Note: I am not a doctor. You should consult with a doctor several months before departing.]

FOOD:   As a rule of thumb, meat and uncooked fruits and  vegetables are the foods most likely to get you sick. Meat should generally be avoided unless it's from a relatively upscale restaurant with visibly decent health standards. Eating street food is generally unwise, particularly cut fruit. There are some exceptions, which I'll show you when we're there (it's impossible to explain without being there!). Fruits with peels or rinds (bananas, oranges, litchis, unopened watermelons) are usually fine. We'll generally be eating as a group, so I'll steer us clear of places with low health standards.

WATER: In Delhi, Cherrapunji, and Kaziranga, only drink bottled water, and avoid drinks with ice. DO NOT PUT TAP WATER IN YOUR MOUTH FOR ANY REASON! Also, please refrain from sharing water bottles, as this can facilitate the transmission of various ailments (and this goes even if you're feeling fine!). Avoid swallowing water while brushing teeth and in the shower. 

The water in the villages of Nongriat and Shnongpdeng is potable, however bottled and filter water will also available.  

BUGS: While you should consult with your doctor as to specific medications to be taken to combat certain mosquito and other insect born diseases, it is also highly recommended that you have a ready supply of bug spray or anti-insect ointments. 

MOTION-SICKNESS: Anyone with motion sickness should have plenty of medication ready at the start of our trip. Riding in cars in India is always an adventure. In Delhi and in other cities there will be plenty of swerving from one side of the road to the other, and in Meghalaya there will be a lot of driving on long, rough, winding, mountain roads.

LEG INJURIES: Most of the terrain we'll be hiking in will be tough. Slopes and stairs and boulders will be what we'll have to deal with every day. Calf and knee injuries, along with debilitating soreness, will be a very real possibility on this trip. Therefore, play it safe: If you're legs are starting to feel like they might not make it through another hike, take a day off....nobody will judge you! Also, getting into shape before leaving will lessen the chances of getting injured on the trip itself.

Fishing on the river Umngot


The temperatures during most of our time in India will be chilly to moderately warm. Delhi will be quite cool in the mornings and evenings, as will Cherrapunji. Kaziranga will be warmer, but still pleasant. Nongriat will be the warmest place we stay, though even there the temperatures will get a little chilly at night. Shnongpdeng will get fairly warm during the day, but at night wind off of the Umngot River develops, making nights there fairly chilly.

Since we'll be visiting so many places, at a variety of altitudes, we will be experiencing a fairly large range of temperatures. For this reason, you should have both long and short sleeved shirts, along with comfortable long pants for hiking. 

Additionally, at some religious sites in Delhi you'll have to cover up, so scarfs, long sleeved shirts and long pants are necessary.

AGAIN, MAIL ME AT to book a seat or request more information. Get in touch soon as seats are limited. See you in India!

A typical view in Kaziranga: A herd of wild Elephants.

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