Temples, Tribes and Tigers of Central India

Temples, Tigers and Tribes of Central India

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 13 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


This tour combines visits to ancient temple cities with two outstanding wildlife sanctuaries at Bandhavgarh and Kanha in central India. Bandhavgarh is famous for its healthy population of Bengal tigers but it also has a wide range of other game including nilgai (blue bull), jungle cats, wild boar, hyenas and exotic birds. Kanha’s gorgeous forest also offers good chances of spotting the majestic tiger and other wildlife including leopards, Indian bison, deer and blackbuck, as well as a plethora of bird life. It is a stunningly beautiful park. You also visit the exquisite, small town of Orchha, with its magnificent and jungle-entangled palaces and temples, and Khajuraho famed for its erotic sculptures. Round off your journey with a visit to idyllic Bhoramdeo, a village beside an 11th Century temple complex in north-western Chhatisgarh, an area far off the beaten track and ideal for exploring the life of India’s aboriginal tribes.

Day 1 – Arrive Delhi

Arrive in Delhi, the capital of India, where you are met and transferred to your hotel. Overnight at Taj Hotel or similar. No meals


Old Delhi was the capital of Moghul India between the 12th and the 19th centuries. You will find here many mosques, monuments and forts dating from the Moghul period of India's history. The medieval atmosphere of the bazaars of Old Delhi contrasts sharply with the open, spacious streets of New Delhi, the majestically proportioned imperial city, created as the capital of India by the British.

Day 2 – Orchha

Travel by express train to Jhansi. On arrival in Jhansi you will be met and transferred by a short, but picturesque 18km road route to Orchha, a tiny, but richly historic village in the north of Madhya Pradesh, one-time bastion of the Bundela dynasty. Overnight Amar Mahal or similar. (B)


Its very name, meaning ‘Hidden Place’, is intriguingly seductive and its setting amidst dhak forest lends it an air of abandoned glory: during the 16th and 17th centuries, this was the capital of the Bundela dynasty who built a fort palace on a small island at a bend in the Betwa River, later followed by other magnificent fortifications, palaces and temples. The rulers here were characterised by their eccentricity and audacity: one Rudra Pratop, driving force behind much of the early sixteenth century building work, died wrestiling a cow from the clutches of a local tiger!  It is now a peaceful and easy-going place - prefect for relaxation and independent exploration of the scattered, but remarkable ruins. Its relative obscurity in the travelling consciousness is all the more extraordinary when you wander through beautifully preserved fresco-clad palaces in the late afternoon, long after other onlookers have trickled away.

Day 3 – Orchha

Today you start with a guided morning tour of Orchha. The huge monuments which once formed the capital of the Bundela kings now surround and dwarf, the small rural village of Orchha. The largest of these is the Palace complex, where the separate Raj Mahal and Jehangir Mahal boast a unique combination of Hindu & Muslim architecture, painted decorations, and tile work. You will also see the fantastic Chaturbhuj temple and the enormous cenotaphs by the river. In the afternoon, you are free to further explore the village on your own. Overnight at Amar Mahal or similar. (B)

Day 4 – Khajuraho

Drive from Orchha to Khajuraho, renowned for its temples which represent the finest art and architecture of medieval India. Every inch of the outside – and much of the inside – of these temples is covered by superb stone carvings in delicate, sable-coloured sandstone. The sculptures are sublime and sensuous at the same time, from the famous erotic art to the beautifully carved boar statue. You will have the chance to visit the Khajuraho temples on a guided afternoon tour. Overnight at Ramada Khajuraho. (B)


The splendour of the Hindu temples at Khajuraho is a sight to behold. They have been immaculately restored and are now classified as a UNESCO world heritage site. It is thought that the temples date from the 10th – 12th centuries from the Chandella dynasty and are prized for their exquisite intricacy, especially the temples in the Western group which are partly constructed with soft coloured sandstone making the temples particularly conducive to viewing in the gentler early morning or late afternoon light. Some temples feature erotic images which have been the cause of much debate between academics and historians to fully explain the content and meaning of the carvings; links to the nearby Tantric cults are a popular theory. There is no doubt however that Khajuraho is a site not to be missed for its incredible and unique artisanship.  

Day 5 – Bandhavgarh

Drive the fascinating road from Khajuraho to Bandhavgarh National Park (5h), crossing undulating, beautiful tree-clad scenery and skirting much of the preserved Madhya Pradesh landscape en route.  Bandhavparh is one of the best places in India to spot a tiger and also home to a wide range of other game such as nilgai, jungle cat, wild boar, hyenas.  It also boasts a plethora of birdlife which abounds throughout. This compact park with a core area of 105 sq km has the distinction of being the place in which the first white (albino) tiger was found. Overnight at Nature Heritage Resort or similar. (BD)

Bandhavgarh National Park

As is often the case in India, the origin of the national park has a darker past: it was a popular tiger hunting area for the local maharajas of Rewa, and this continued well into the 20th century.  However, as the largely forested areas in northern India, perfect for the big cats’ territories, were progressively felled and shooting of tigers for trophies continued, it became apparent that the Bengal tiger’s very existence was in doubt In this particular case, the maharajah donated the parkland to the state as a nature reserve and since then a healthy population of big cats has been nurtured. One of the principal National Parks of Madhya Pradesh, Bandhavgarh now has one of the highest densities of tigers of any park in India. Your chances of spotting this majestic animal are high here. The park consists of a mixture of grassland and rugged hilly terrain with sal tress prominent in the valleys and mixed forest at higher elevations. In addition to the healthy tiger population there is an array of other wildlife including leopard although these are very elusive. The park is also home to over 250 species of exotic bird, of which 138 are resident; amongst possible sightings are the scarce Indian Skimmers, Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Painted and Red Spurfowls, and the critically endangered Red-headed, Indian and White-backed Vultures.

Day 6 – Bandhavgarh

Morning and afternoon jeep safaris in Bandhavgarh National Park are escorted by a specialized naturalist for extensive wildlife viewing. Your day begins just before dawn with a wake-up call along with an invigorating cup of tea/coffee at the designated time. An open jeep awaits you to take you closer to the nature and, hopefully, to see the majestic tigers. Some neatly packed fruits are provided along with a bottle of mineral water for your  jungle safari. Overnight at Nature Heritage Resort or similar. (BLD)

Day 7- Kanha

You drive from Bandhavgarh to Kanha National Park. This is the original Kipling country, of which he wrote so vividly in his ‘Jungle Books’.  A similar abundance of wildlife species exists today in Kanha National Park, which is one of the largest sanctuaries in India covering an area of over 2,000 sq km. With its extensive grasslands and sal and bamboo forests, Kanha is often compared to Ngorongoro park in Tanzania. Ravines and hills make for eye-catching features, and undoubtedly Kanha's beauty is thrilling. The park is the only habitat of the rare hard-ground Barasingha deer (Cervus Duvaceli Branderi). It is also home to 21 other species of large mammals including a high density of tigers and an impressive bird list. Overnight at The Courtyard House, or similar. (BD)

Kanha National Park

Widely considered one of the most stunning wildlife reserves in India, ‘The Jewel of Kanha’ is a National Park covering around 940 square kilometres of grasslands, forests and meandering rivers and its beauty is utterly spellbinding. In addition the park is home to hundreds of species of birds and animals. For most the highlight of a visit to Kanha is the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the magnificent tiger. Sightings cannot be guaranteed but you have a reasonable chance of seeing them here: at the last census, 60 individuals were counted within the park. Thankfully poaching is largely under control here and the benefits are also seen elsewhere in the fauna on show: amongst the rich diversity of other wildlife on show are sloth bears and sambar deer which, as recently as the 1970s, were on the brink of extinction. There are also many species of birds to seek out, such as the endemic Green Avadavat, Red Spurfowl and Andaman Cuckooshrike, the Indian Pitta, Greater Racket tailed Drongo, Black Rumped flameback and Paradise Flycatcher. Heading out into the park in the cool of the morning, the mist hanging over the grasslands is a sight to behold, gently siphoning away to reveal the delights of the day’s nature watching.

Day 8 – Kanha

Today you will join a morning and afternoon open jeep safari in the various zones of Kanha National Park. Each excursion takes approximately three hours. The zone is allotted during the online gate entry booking. The preferred zone is subject to availability. Apart from tigers, you can hope to see leopards, Indian bison, sambhar, blackbuck, wild dogs and birds galore. Days in Kanha start early, with one game drive at dawn, watching the sun streak through the foggy forest and listening to the forest come alive. After lunch, you will experience another game drive in the hotter afternoon, prime time for animals to go looking for a drink of water. Overnight at The Courtyard House, or similar. (BLD)

Day 9 – Bhoramdeo

Drive from Kanha to Bhoramdeo, an isolated village in north-western Chhattisgarh. The Maikal Hills that surround the village are home to many species of central India's spectacular wildlife as well as to the indigenous Baigas and Gonds, whose tolas (villages) dot the countryside. Immediately demanding closer inspection at Bhoramdeo is the idiosyncratic and striking 11th-century temple complex, a miniature local Khajuraho of similar antiquity but rather more exclusive; only 5 minutes’ stroll from your accommodation, it has an evening puja that you are free to attend and experience the enthusiastic burst of bells, smells and fireworks. You stay for three nights in a peaceful, simple but very well-run rural retreat. Your stay will be at extremely comfortable farmhouse-style accommodation, set in idyllic gardens, with a backdrop of local wildlife and rural landscapes, with food prepared in Chhattisgarhi village style. Overnight at Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat (BLD)

Baiga and Gond Tribes

The Baiga and Gonds are indigenous to this region of central India.  Local legend has it that God created the Baiga from the womb of the earth and offered to make them kings, but they declined and, opting for a simpler life, asked God to give lordship to their neighbours, the Gonds.  God’s response was to order them to tend the earth and never forsake it; historically then, the two tribes peacefully coexisted, with the Baiga acting as spiritual healers, yet remaining in poverty while the Gond tribe prospered and thrived.  Indeed the modern day divide is still evident: the Gond tribe have enjoyed financial successes from their artwork sales, whilst the Baiga still live far more primitively in traditional huts and with little of the paraphernalia of modern life impinging on their traditional practices. Latterly, the Baiga have suffered greatly, owing to their eviction from their forest homeland to make way for the formation of the tiger sanctuary at Kanha. Displaced and in danger themselves of extinction, recent local efforts to reinvigorate Baiga traditions and embrace visitors through sharing of their ancient traditions and performance of ritual dances has had significant positive effects in re-establishing their cultural integrity.

Day 10 – Bhoramdeo

In the company of your local guide you will visit the villages around Bhoramdeo. You have the chance to spend an afternoon at a pottery village (trying your hand at the wheel or paddling the clay with your bare feet), a bamboo-craft centre, cow herders' villages and Agaria (blacksmith) villages. There are also many colourful weekly haats (tribal markets); with one falling locally on almost every day of the week, you will have the chance to visit at least one. Overnight at Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat. (BLD)         

Day 11 – Bhoramdeo

Today it is possible to take a short trek into the forested hills to explore the local wildlife. The hills around Bhoramdeo are also home to a profusion of forest belt birds, from parrots to red-wattled lapwings. Wildlife species that have been seen in the area include the wolf, nilgai, dhole, hyena, leopard, porcupine, jungle cat - and even tigers, although you will be deemed extremely fortunate to catch a rare glimpse here. Short, local cycle rides, arranged by the retreat, are also a good way to explore, and the area is safe, quiet and friendly, perfect for solo pottering around. Overnight at Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat. (BLD)

Day 12 – Bhoramdeo – Raipur – Delhi 

A three-hour drive takes you to Raipur airport, where you can board a flight back to Delhi. Overnight at a hotel close to Delhi airport. (B)

Day 13 – Depart

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight (B)

Arrival and departure transfers
All transport
Train tickets by Shatabdi Express from Delhi to Jhansi (A/C Chair car)
Flight from Raipur to Delhi (15kg checked baggage and 7kg hand baggage)
All accommodation on twin-share basis
Park entrance fees for excursions listed in the itinerary
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)

International flights
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance
Services, Meals and Drinks other than those mentioned in the itinerary
Laundry, telephone calls and expenditure of a personal nature
Entrance fees (unless specifically mentioned in the inclusions) and extra charges for
camera and video
Tips (please see the notes section regarding the tipping kitty)

Please note that you should also read the Country Notes in association with this itinerary for practical information about your trip and the destination you will be visiting.The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and Undiscovered Destinations.

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