Tailor-Made Holiday

Central India - Nomadic Camping with Kaafila

13 days

from £5,635pp

This holiday ventures to the untouched heart of Central India. Kaafila offers sustainable camping in the most picturesque locations imaginable. Access this Old India with your own caravan. The luxurious tents and expert guides of Kaafila allow you a glimpse of an India that has elsewhere been submerged by the globalizing anonymity of the 21st century.

  • Spend time in  Chanderi, a truly magnificent medieval town, home to the most beautiful woven textiles in India
  • Visit the atmospheric forts of Kalinjar and Ahaibagh
  • Panna offers superb nature activities including exploration on foot and bycicle 
  • Witness the exotic sandstone temple carvings at the World Heritage Site of Khajuraho

Central India

Central India, encompassed almost entirely by the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, has perhaps more incredible surprises for a visitor than any of the other better known regions of India. Sheltering amongst its jungle covered hills and picturesque valleys are great brooding forts, astonishingly well preserved medieval cities, superb handicrafts, textiles and tribal art - layer upon layer of history stretching back to the dawn of human history. And best of all - virtually all of these treasures are unknown and safe from ‘development’, set in some of the most magnificent scenery in all of the subcontinent.

how does kaafila work?

The joy of a Kaafila holiday is nothing is set in stone - options are variable and personally designed to suit individual interests. Reaching the camp is an experience in itself. Drives meander through farmland, dense jungle, sparkling rivers, fields of wheat and mustard – a true delight for a keen photographer. Stopping for picnic lunches at imposing forts or idyllic villages, with their colourful inhabitants.

Kaafila is a semi nomadic, eco sensitive camp. The camp can accommodate up to eight people, in four tents, or available for exclusive use only. The camp will be dismantled after three nights stay  and moved on, by vehicle. The carefully thought through design  allows everything to pack away. Recommended minimum stay is three nights. 

where are the kaafila campsites and lodges?

Kalinjar - The campsite here is set at the edge of the Panna Tiger Reserve buffer zone and offers some superb nature hikes, fishing, cycling and photography opportunities in the idyllic little villages that dot the landscape. 

From here travel to Panna to the delightful Sarai at Toria hotel to explore the Panna Tiger Reserve and the world heritage temples of Khajuraho.

Chanderi - The campsite lies beyond a tiny hamlet, across a small stream patrolled by four species of kingfishers, small cormorants, egrets and herons. It is an idyllic spot that backs on to the forested hills. Time permitting you can do a short walk before returning for sundowners, bath and dinner.

"Luxury is the privilege of access" -  Sophy Roberts writing about Kaafila for Steppes Travel  -

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • International flights
  • Internal flights
  • All accommodation and meals as stated in the itinerary
  • All transfers

what is excluded

  • Travel insurance
  • Gratuities


Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Fly London to Delhi overnight

Day 2

Half a Day to Explore Old Delhi
A lifetime experience in the streets of Delhi is waiting for you. This grand tour of Old Delhi in Rickshaw specially modified for convenience and safety of tourists having cushioned seas, belts, holding bars,driven by well-groomed porters. Pass through the vibrant bazaars that sit at the foot of the Jama Masjid, arguably the most famous place of Muslim worship in India.
Here, watch vendors cook up delicious street-side delicacies, admire as bicycle mechanics service Delhi's innumerable two-wheeled cycles and stand aside as children race through the crowds.
This will prove to be a memorable rickshaw ride through the streets of Old Delhi. Leave the rickshaw at Khari Baoli and walk through the spice markets. Learn about the history, traditions and cultures behind these street specialities ranging from two hundred year old sweet shops to the Paratha Wallah - the street that specialises in flat breads.

Blaring horns and the babble of its many inhabitants often drown out the fact that there is more to Delhi than the chaos on its busy streets. It may be one of the world's largest metropolises, but architectural wonders - new and old - fill the city, hidden beneath Delhi's urban sprawl.

Mughal treasures, including the Red Fort and Jama Masjid, are complemented by more recent additions to Delhi's architectural heritage, such as the stunning Lotus and Akshardham Temples.

Meanwhile, contemporary Delhi thrives in Connaught Place, which - with its colonially-designed buildings - is the most westernised part of the centre. Globalisation is in evidence, with brand names splashed across every storefront.

You will be staying at Claridges Hotel

Day 3

Fly Delhi to Khajuraho

Often referred to as the 'Kama Sutra Temple', Khajuraho is famed for the erotic carvings that adorn its beautiful Hindu and Jain temples. Split into three distinct groups of buildings, Khajuraho contains some of the finest temple art in the world. Although only 10% of the friezes illustrate sexual acts, it is these explicit sculptures that garner most attention, perhaps for the imaginative scenarios that they depict.

Built during the 10th and 11th centuries, these exotic Chandela-era temples were lost to the jungle after the decline of the Chandela dynasty. By the time of their rediscovery in the 19th century, just 22 of the original 85 temples remained.

Kaafila - Transfer by Road from Airport to Kalinjar Camp
On arrival the drive to camp is approximately two hours. The drive is lovely. The first part passes through farmlands flanked by the Vindhya hills to the sparkling Ken river with the densely forested hills of the Panna Tiger Reserve climbing away from the river. You drive through the reserve, the road switch-backing past some spectacular view points to the town of Panna - once famous for its emerald and diamond mines.

Once through Panna, the road once again enters dense jungle dropping in tight loops to the lush valley sheltering amidst the forested shoulders of the Panna Tiger Reserve buffer zone. As you drop down into the valley, fields of wheat and mustard stretching away in swatches of vivid green and yellow to the edge of the slopes you are transported suddenly into the remote and timeless world of the old India - stunningly beautiful, serene and completely unique. This is the India that Kaafila has been set up to access.

The campsite lies beyond a tiny hamlet, across a small stream patrolled by four species of kingfishers, small cormorants, egrets and herons. It is an idyllic spot that backs on to the forested hills. Time permitting you can do a short walk before returning for sundowners, bath and dinner.

You will be staying at Kaafila Camp

Day 4

Kalinjar Fort
The campsite is about an hour from one of India's greatest hill forts - Kalinjar. Once considered the most strategically important fort in Central India - and indeed the gateway to India's rich and rugged heartland - Kalinjar is dramatically set on the top of a vast curving escarpment of the northern Vindhyan Range. Its history is lost in time for well before it became a bastion of power, this was the abode of ascetics drawn to its powerful brooding and isolated location, cut off from the world by tiger haunted jungle. Kalinjar's settled history can definitely be traced to the time of the Imperial Gupta's of the 4th Century AD as evidenced by the wealth of fine Gupta period sculpture - much of it abandoned in careless neglect amongst the cyclopean ruins of the temples and palaces that cover the vast area of the fort. As dynasty succeeded dynasty, Hindus, Muslims , Delhi Sultans, Mughal Emperors and Bundela Rajputs, Kalinjar became enriched with layer upon layer of new construction - temples, mosques, shrines and palaces embellished with water tanks and springs. What is remarkable is that even the iconoclastic Muslim invaders perhaps influenced by the sheer artistic virtuosity of the sculpture and architecture, refrained from damaging Kalinjar's incredible heritage. And yet this fort today stands isolated, forgotten and decaying picturesquely in its jungle fastness. The Hindu religious artefacts pertain primarily to the God Shiva in all his various guises. Here you will see one of the most beautiful pieces of Indian sculpture anywhere - the head of Shiva serene and intensely spiritual.

It is said that the name Kalinjar means where 'Shiva conquered Death and defined Time'. But the fort itself appears condemned to neglect. Ironically it is this very neglect that provides us with a fascinating and quiet day of exploration amongst the ruins; of stunning scenery, photography and walking.

A picnic lunch will be provided in a quite lovely corner of the fort before returning to camp

You will be staying at Kaafila Camp

Day 5

The Fort of Ajaigarh
The fort of Ajaigarh - another atmospheric and fascinating hill fort - is located even closer than Kalinjar and offers a wonderful and invigorating morning walk rewarded with some fine views and beautiful old temples and sculpture set picturesquely in the middle of dense teak forests where there is every chance of seeing tracks of leopards. The town of Ajaigarh situated at the foot of the hill is absolutely charming and the old quarter is full of old houses and the court is situated in the old palace. The idyllic little villages in the plains with their friendly and colourful inhabitants are a treasure trove for photographers.

You will be staying at Kaafila Camp

Day 6

Kalinjar Camp to Panna
Depart camp before breakfast driving back to Panna. Stop at the interesting 'Scottish' mansion that belongs to Rani Divya Singh and her husband Raja Keshav Pratap Singh. Divya is a scion of the ruling family of Panna and Keshav is a descendant of one of the land-owning aristocracy. Here take breakfast with these charming and interesting people with their insights of the history of the region as well as the present since both of them are deeply involved in local politics. After a couple of hours here drive about 45 minutes to the lovely Sarai at Toria hotel situated picturesquely on the banks of the pristine Ken River just downstream of where it emerges from the forested hills of the Panna Tiger Reserve.

Game Drive in Panna
In the afternoon you will go out on a game drive into this extremely beautiful park which has witnessed the most successful tiger re-introduction programme and now boats a small but growing tiger population. In addition to these Panna has excellent numbers of leopards, wild dogs, wolf, striped hyena, sloth bears, crocodiles and the full range of herbivores - spotted deer, sambar, wild boar, nilgai antelope, four-horned antelope, chinkara gazelle and a host of fascinating smaller mammals. The bird life is pretty spectacular as well.

You will be staying at Sarai at Toria

Day 7

Morning and Afternoon Game Drives
Rise early this morning to enter Panna National Park by jeep with an accompanying English speaking naturalist. Experience the sun rising and the jungle waking in the early morning light. Return to the lodge for breakfast and a rest.

A beautiful combination of rocky hills and ravines, covered by teak, bamboo and sal forests; the Panna National Park is split from south-to-north by the Ken River. Characterised by extensive plateaux and gorges, the park is renowned for its thriving tiger population.

Tiger numbers within the park are still increasing, following their reintroduction to the area, and Panna is regarded as a significant case study on tiger conservation. Other fauna found here includes, hyenas, wild dogs, sambar deer, rusty-spotted cats and over 200 species of birds.

Tour of Khajuraho
Spend the afternoon doing a guided tour with the guide from the Sarai at Toria. The temples are built mostly of a fine sand stone from Panna and Ajaigarh, though a few were built of granite. The temples here are compact and tall, raised on a high platform, with an ambulatory path around them with no enclosure wall. The Khajuraho Temples represent one of the finest surviving examples of the splendid architecture and exuberant and fine sculpture of the period immediately prior to the arrival of the Turko-Afghans in the North. The superb detail, grace and beauty of the figures and the frankly sensuous and even erotic nature of the densely packed bas-relief friezes along the exteriors of the temples and their platforms provides a fascinating window into the life and times, fashions and foibles of aristocratic Hindu India around the 10th and 11th centuries AD. Life was clearly lived to the full and this vast complex of temples, of which only a handful survives bears witness to the wealth that even a relatively obscure kingdom of central India commanded. Deservedly these temples, surrounded by gardens, have been declared as World Heritage Monuments.

You will be staying at Sarai at Toria

Day 8

Drive from Panna to Chanderi Camp
Today is a fascinating day as you drive south through the delightful country-side of Bundelkhand through the lush but untouched heart of Central India. Passing through the crowded town of Chhatarpur on a quiet but excellent road. Detour to visit the extraordinary palace of Bijawar with it's lavishly mirror encrusted rooms. This depends on the presence of the owner. The main route heads west towards Lalitpur and the old Bundela capital of Tikamgarh. In the cold weather the farms and forests we pass through are full of vibrant colours. The region is densely punctuated with irrigation and percolation tanks which gives the landscape a wonderful feel of tranquil prosperity.

Stop for picnic lunch at the very imposing Baldeogarh Fort which occupies a craggy outcrop on the edge of a large lake. Continue past Tikamgarh through Lalitpur - along a battered section of road before regaining the excellent roads of the state of Madhya Pradesh. By late afternoon reach the historic town of Chanderi and our campsite in a tranquil and beautiful location.

You will be staying at Kaafila Camp

Day 9

Chanderi Town
Chanderi is one of the many unknown gems of India. Protected by its hill-top citadel, the town clusters around the base still enclosed within its old walls although the newer developments have spilled well beyond. Globalising 21st century India is tragically unmindful of it's architectural heritage but as you enter the walled town of Chanderi you find a haven of medieval architecture still in everyday use - old mansions, temples, mosques, shrines, ceremonial gateways and bustling bazaars. Inevitably it is congested but wonderfully evocative. Over the next two days we will explore the town of Chanderi, visiting some beautiful structures like the Jama Masjid or Friday Mosque, the looms of the skilled weavers who create the famous Chanderi textiles, the many and varied monuments that litter the landscape around the town redolent of it's colourful and eventful history - like the tomb of the tragic princess Shahzadi begum, the imposing remains of what was once the seven-storied Koshak Mahal palace, the prehistoric rock paintings of Nanaun on the banks of the lovely Urr or Urvanshi River - and of course the quiet country roads and forests which provide wonderful opportunities to explore quietly on foot and by cycle.

Chanderi is a truly magnificent medieval town virtually unknown to tourists.

You will be staying at Kaafila Camp

Day 10

Guided Walking and Cycling around Chanderi
Continue our exploration of Chanderi and its fascinating surrounds with our specialist guide - with the option of cycling and walking always available. Everywhere the day's programme will be designed to suit your interests and your preference on a day-by-day basis. Nothing is fixed and the options are varied.

You will be staying at Kaafila Camp

Day 11

Road and Train journey from Kaafila Chanderi to Agra

After a relaxed morning drive north on an excellent road to Jhansi - two hours drive away - from where you can explore the wonderful town of Orchha. Later board the Shatabdi Express north to visit Agra .

Often considered synonymous with the Taj Mahal, historic Agra is in fact bursting with a variety of Mughal treasures. Whilst its pièce de résistance is undoubtedly this iridescent-white tribute to love, the city was once the capital of the Mughal Empire and its Mughal legacy survives through the magnificent structures that dot the area. A victim of its own success, Agra is plagued by wallahs, touts, guides and souvenir salesmen in a manner that can be quite overwhelming. Despite this, the city's wondrous sights make it completely unmissable and the bedlam on the streets fades away once the magnificence of the Taj takes a hold.

Afternoon visit to the Taj Mahal
Visit the Taj Mahal with your local guide. The Taj Mahal, meaning ‘crown of palaces', is a white marble mausoleum built by the great Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal when she passed away in 1630. Work for this great tomb began in 1631 and it took the efforts of 20,000 workers and almost 20 years of masterly craftsmanship to complete this grand monument whose marble dome is 35 metres high.

You will be staying at Oberoi Amarvilas

Day 12

Explore Agra Fort
Explore Agra Fort. This huge, double-walled, red sandstone structure was built by Emperor Akbar in the 16th century and has been used by occupying armies ever since. Stroll through the fort and examine Akbar's simple rooms, his son Jehangir's more decorated ones, and finally the exquisitely rebuilt rooms of his grandsons. These private and public rooms are coated in intricately sculpted white marble, in the style of the Taj Mahal. Afterwards, visit local craftsmen to see how the exquisitely precise 'pietra dura' inlay work is still done today.

Travel from Arga to Delhi by road

Return to Delhi by car today, a journey of approximately three hours. Enroute you will stop at the magnificent deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri. A complex of forts, palaces and mosques that were abandoned due to the scarcity of water.

A day use room will be available for wash and change near the airport

Day 13

Fly Delhi to London


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

Oberoi Amarvilas

Oberoi Amarvilas

Amarvilas is the latest addition to the Oberoi chain of deluxe hotels....

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Claridges Hotel

Claridges Hotel

Built in 1952, The Claridges remains one of New Delhi’s most iconic hotels....

View Accommodation

Sarai at Toria

Sarai at Toria

Sarai at Toria 's uniquely designed accommodation is situated on a beautiful riverside site, close to Khajuraho and Panna National Park in Madhya Pradesh....

View Accommodation

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

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"We asked for a rather particular kind of Indian holiday. You delivered it in full. Highlights? Honestly, each day was a highlight in itself. "

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

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