Temples & Tribes of Odisha


  • Witness the most tribal regions of India
  • Engage with minority groups
  • Learn about the mythology behind the ladies with tattooed faces
  • Experience local tribal markets
  • Cruise on Chilika Lake

A tribute to the original spirit of discovery!

This unforgettable journey is crammed with quintessential India experiences; from train journeys whistling around hills to lively local markets. Follow in the footsteps of India’s ‘original people’, exploring the culture of the indigenous population and their ancient ways of living. Take a visit to the weekly local markets of the Bonda, Dongria Kondh,  Kutia, Mali and Pana tribes, considered to be some the most fascinating tribes remaining in India. Immerse yourself into the culture of a variety of indigenous groups as you learn why they resist modern technology and what is threatening their survival in the modern era.

Spend two nights living with locals in a community guest house, where you can help with the cooking, teaching the children or working in the rice paddies. Create unforgettable memories as you discover what it life is like living in the most basic conditions, before setting off to the coast to discover Odisha’s ancient history.

Cruise along tranquil Chilika Lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lake lagoon, where you will spend the night underneath the stars. Explore the sea swept temple town of Puri and marvel ancient India’s earliest temples, including the UNESCO World Heritage Konark Sun Temple.

Journey map

Fitness level



Day 1 - Arrival Visakhapatnam

Welcome to India! Upon arrival in Visakhapatnam, you will be greeted and assisted by our representative before being transferred to your hotel. Visakhapatnam is an important port city and industrial centre for the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, on the Bay of Bengal.

The city has a rich history stretching back to the 6th Century BC when it was considered to be part of the Kalinga Kingdom, ruling most of modern day Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. According to various archaeological sites in the area, the modern day city of Visakhapatnam was built around the 12th century by the Chola Dynasty. Over the next several centuries, control of the city would fluctuate between the Chola Dynasty and the Gajapati Kingdom as they fought back and forth for power, before being conquered by the Vijayanagara Empire in the 15th century. The Vijayanagara Empire would not stay in power for long, losing the city to the Mughals less than a century later. Colonisation would strike soon after, with the French and British both ruling over the region from the end of the 18th century. The British would remain in power for another 150 years, until India gained independence in 1947.

There are various archaeological sites and ancient Buddhist temples spread throughout the city including the Bavikonda stupas and the Thotlakonda temple complex, both dating back to the 3rd century BC.

The rest of the day is free for you explore the city, before returning to the hotel for dinner. (D)

Overnight stay at The Park, Visakhapatnam

Day 2 - Bentalbiri

After an early breakfast, begin your train journey north to the state of Odisha. Traversing spectacular scenery, the train winds around the hills of the Eastern Ghats separating Odisha & Andhra Pradesh. Pass through forested hills, across rivers & lush valleys into the tribal territory of Odisha.

After your train journey, you will be driven to Desia Nature Retreat where you will receive a village orientation by your indigenous hosts. This will be your first taste of tribal life in Odisha. Desia Nature Retreat is run and managed by a local team, employing local villagers to cook, clean, farm and maintain the property. In return for their work, the villagers receive a wage from the owners as well as being educated in topics like medicine, reading and agriculture.

There is not a lot of employment available in this area, so facilities like Desia Nature Retreat that do no exploit the villagers or their land and is important for their survival. (B,L,D)

Two nights stay at Desia Nature Retreat

Day 3 - Ondukadeli Market

Today, after breakfast at your hotel, you will be transferred to the Ondukadelli Market to witness the largest weekly gathering of the Bonda and Gaddava tribes.

The Bonda tribe are considered to be one the most fascinating of all the tribes remaining in India. The Bonda are known for their unique culture and traditions, and are identifiable by their distinctive clothing. Outsiders are not welcome to their village as it considered to be a place of religious significance, so the only time the Bonda tribe can be witnessed is during their weekly market.

The Bondas have fiercely resisted—perhaps more than any other tribal group—all attempts by the state to “develop” them. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the way their women dress, something now attributed to an episode in the Ramayana. They believe Sita, consort of Lord Rama (incarnation of Vishnu), was bathing at a pond in the Bonda hills. Seeing her naked, some Bonda women laughed. This earned her wrath and she cursed them to a lifetime of ignominy whereby they would remain naked and have their heads shaven. The Bonda women pleaded for mercy. Taking pity, Sita tore off a piece of her sari and gave it to them. This account explains why the Bonda women shave their heads and wear a tiny piece of cloth called ringa around their torso, and cover their upper body with strings of stunningly multicoloured beads.

It is estimated that their are only 6,000 members of the Bonda tribe remaining, with many of the younger generations opting for a more modern lifestyle.

This afternoon, enjoy lunch at Desia Nature Retreat before going on another adventure to the nearby Mali, Gaddava and Paroja villages. (B,L,D)

Day 4 - Kunduli Market

Today you will have another chance to immerse yourself into the tribal culture of the local villages. After breakfast at your hotel, you will be transferred to Kunduli to visit the largest weekly tribal market. The Kunduli Market is where you will find a variety of tribal groups coming together to trade a range of products. Feel free to roam through the market and sample some of the produce on sale, from local sweets to the homemade brew!

This afternoon, you will be transferred to your hotel in Goudaduda. Upon arrival here you will be greeted by your indigenous hosts before being given the opportunity to explore their handcrafted terracotta pottery. (B,L,D)

Three nights at Chandoori Sai Eco Retreat

Day 5 - Goudaduda

Today will be spent further exploring the unique tribal culture of the Paroja, Kondh & Mali people and villages that surround Goudaduda. Enjoy breakfast at the Eco Retreat before taking off on a half day hike through the surrounding hills.

This hike will take you through several tribal hamlets (small villages) and will present you with the opportunity to be immersed in their unique culture. Learn about their beliefs, traditions, customs and why so many of these tribal groups have resisted the growth of technology, preferring to live off the land rather than to adapt to new agricultural practices.

The remainder of the day is at your leisure. (B,L,D)

Day 6 - Goudaduda

Breakfast this morning will be served at you hotel before another day of hiking through and exploring the surrounding villages.

This afternoons hike will take you through several tribal hamlets before arriving at the village of the Harijan people. The Harijan people are not as tribal/primitive as the Bonda tribe or the tribes you have met at the Kunduli market, but provide an interesting insight into what happens when these once forgotten tribes adapt to modern technology. Later on, continue your hike to a neighbouring Kondh hilltop hamlet where the locals have prepared a traditional indigenous Dhemsa folk dance. Walking into the hamlet as dusk settles which creates a wonderful atmosphere amongst the local people, make sure you bring a camera for this picturesque opportunity. (B,L,D)

Day 7 - Kakiriguma

This morning, breakfast will be served at Chandoori Sai Eco Retreat, before you set out for another day of exploring the tribal life as you visit the weekly market at Kakiriguma. Before you leave, bid farewell to your gracious host and your new friends from the Goudaduda village.

Unlike previous days, where you have been driven to the weekly markets to witness the coming together of these unique tribal groups, today you will be dropped off at a tribal hamlet as you join the local potters on their walk to Kakiriguma. Mingle among the Pana, Kondh, Mali & semi-tribal community as they go about their weekly routine.

This evening you will be transferred to a foundation, ‘New Hope Community Guest House,’ responsible for improving education and health care in surrounding indigenous villages. Working in Odisha since 1985, New Hope initially began caring for and providing operations for persons with leprosy. The organisation and expertise has expanded to include monthly cataract surgeries, a school for disabled children, a HIV and elder-care facility. New Hope also trains indigenous community leaders in mother/child health, distributes birthing kits to reduce infant mortality, teaches micro-finance, savings and literacy, provides a self-sustaining agricultural plan and has built a safe home-base for indigenous communities persons who travel over the mountains with their market goods. (B,L,D)

Two night stay at New Hope Community Guest House

Day 8 - Muniguda

Today, after enjoying breakfast at your guest house, you will spend the day exploring and interacting with the Kutia & Desia Kondh communities. The women of the Desia Kondh community are identifiable by their distinctive facial tattoos.

The local people here believe in the practice of women from different clans tattooing their faces so that they can recognised by their dead ancestors.

This afternoon, return to the New Hope Community Guest House where you will have the opportunity to partake in a range of activities that will benefit the community, along with providing life-long memories. One activity you may want to join in is providing a non-formal educational night classes to the women of the Kondh tribes. Literacy rates can be below 5% amongst some of the more primitive tribal groups spread throughout Odisha, and with recent studies suggesting a direct correlation between literacy rates and health, the New Hope Community places this as high priority for the tribal groups. The result is that women now use their literacy to understand Mother & Child health cards. (B,L,D)

Day 9 - Gopalpur

This morning following breakfast, you will visit the vibrant Chatikona market where you will find the fascinating Dongria Kondh tribe. The Dongria Kondh tribe are distinguishable from the other tribes you have visited so far by their unique fascination with jewellery. The women wear numerous rings through their ears and three rings through their noses, while boys wear two rings through their nose.

Wonder through the market, sampling the homemade snacks and mingling with the local people. Watch as the Dongria Kondh fawn over fancy items and admire their countless hairpins, earrings and nose rings. The bright colours, erratic sounds and earthy smells of the market place will leave you with life long memories of the Chatikona market.

This afternoon embark on an epic road journey that takes you from the forest to the coast. Arrive in the in the eclectic colonial town of Gopalpur. After two nights at the New Hope Community Guest House, you will now have the chance to relax as you stay at 5 star Mayfair Beach Resort. (B)

Overnight stay at Mayfair Beach Resort

Day 10 - Chilika Lake

Today, after enjoying breakfast in your hotel, you will set out to explore Chilika Lake – Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon and Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. A vast lake along the eastern coast of Odisha with beautiful islands, flamingos wading in shallow waters and the air echoing with the sound of chirping birds that flew from as far as the Caspian Sea, Aral Sea and other parts of Mongolia, Central and South-East Asia.

Spot the illsuive Irrawady dolphins as they make playful appearances in the water. Abudnant with flora and fauna, Chilika Lake plays a vital role in supporting the livelihood of over a hundred thousand families that live in the region. Stroll through fishing villages, bask in the tropical sun and feast on fresh seafood. Enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Bay of Bengal and camp under the stars. Take a short boat ride across the lake to an island where your overnight facilities await. (B,L,D)

Overnight at Chilika Lake Eco Camp

Day 11 - Puri

This morning, enjoy breakfast on Chilika Lake as you watch the migratory birds take off for the day. From here you will be transferred via boat back to the mainland before you continue on to Puri. Famous throughout the Hindu world as Jagannath Dham, seat of the Lord of the Universe, Puri is thronged by spiritual travellers every year.

Puri is one of the major pilgrim centres for Hindus, where they can find the 12th century shrine of Lord Jagannath, one of the finest examples of Odishan architecture. Deeply set in the religious sentiments of of the Hindus, the 65 metre high shrine is not just a piece of wonderful architecture, rather the embodiment of the faith of millions of devotees.

Once you arrive in Puri, you will be taken on a short tour using a team of dedicated cycle rickshaw drivers. Being a cycle rickshaw driver is fraught with much insecurity and harassment, from the municipal authorities to the average passenger haggling over the last five rupees! We handpick our support crew by recognising committed workers and encouraging their services. This tour provides a basic framework for cycle rickshaw drivers to provide their service with dignity. The cycle rickshaw tour will take you through the old pilgrim route, taking in ashrams, Hindu monasteries, manuscript library and the impressive Jagannath temple. (B)

Two night stay at Hans Coco Palm Resort

Day 12 - Konark & Puri

This morning, after breakfast is served in your hotel, you will have time to explore Puri. Visit the Heritage Craft Village and meet village craftsmen skilled in the hereditary craft of traditional painting. Later on, take a short excursion to the city of Konark where you can find the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Sun Temple.

Built in the 13th century by King Narasimhadeva, the temple is designed in the shape of a colossal chariot with seven horses and twelve wheels, carrying the sun god, Surya, across the heavens. The name of Konark temple is an amalgamation of two words – Kona meaning corner and Arka meaning the Sun. Legends say that after killing the demon Gyasur, Lord Vishnu placed his belongings at several places across Odhisa to celebrate his victory. His conch went to Puri, Disc went to Bhubaneshwar and Mace in Jaipur, leaving his Lotus to be placed at Konark. (B)

Day 13 - Bhubaneswar

Today you will be transferred to Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha and referred to across India as the ‘City of Temples’. In the morning, you can join in on a walking tour through the Old City, visiting ancient temples, water tanks and witnessing street life. Bhubaneswar has a great historical significance as it was the scene of some of the major turning points in Indian and Buddhist history. The Great Kalinga War, which led to the miraculous transformation of the Emperor Ashoka, was fought along the bank of the river Dya on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar in 261 B.C. Today, there stands a Peace Pagoda with the Ashokan rock-edicts in memory of this great battle.

Later in the afternoon, visit the impressive Tribal Museum were tribal artefacts are collected and stored, in hopes of preserving their unique and fascinating culture for generations to come. You will also have the chance to visit the Jain Cave temples known as Khandagiri and Udayagiri. (B)

Overnight stay at Fortune Sishmo

Day 14 - Departure from Bhubaneswar

The morning is yours until it is time to transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

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What’s included

  • Return airport transfers
  • 13 nights accommodation
  • Services of an English speaking local guide
  • National park fees
  • Private transportation in 4×4 jeeps
  • Sightseeing as per the itinerary
  • Bottled water
  • International flights
  • Drinks unless otherwise mentioned
  • Visas
  • Travel Insurance
  • Tips
  • Inoculations
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Anything not mentioned in the itinerary

**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.

* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.

* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.

A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.