Kumbh Mela Expedition
January 9 - 17, 2025 | India | $7500
THIS EXPEDITION HAS ONLY 2 MORE SEATS AVAILABLE!
Welcome to a place where the human past is still alive. Welcome to Kumbh Mela Prayagraj, the world’s largest gathering of humans, unfolding on the banks of the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mystical Sarasvati River for 45 days, kicking off in January 2025.
For years I have been playing with the thought, to host a photographic expedition to this largest human congregation on Earth, that takes place at an interval of every 12 years. The last edition was in 2013, with 120 million visitors, and during the next edition in January 2025 a small and intimate group can join me in exploring this unique event in history through a photographic expedition like no other.
- Dates: January 9-17, 2025
- Expedition starts/ends in: Delhi, India
- Type: Festival exploration on foot
- Physical difficulty: Easy
- Price: $ 7500 per person (based on twin sharing / double sharing accommodation)
- Deposit payment: $ 2500 to be paid upon booking (to hold your seat), 120 days prior to departure the remaining $ 5000 will have to be paid
- No single supplement available
- Group size: Min 7, max 11 (2 more seats available)
- Experience level: Anyone is welcome, from beginners to professionals
- Above price is incl VAT
- Make sure to read the Terms & Conditions before booking
- Read the full day-to-day itinerary by scrolling down
Watch this video for a first impression!
To get an impression of what you can expect of this unique event in history, watch this incredible short video first before proceeding the full itinerary below.
For more than a decade I have been traveling to India. After more than 20 individual assignments on the Indian subcontinent, I decided that I would love to share the thrilling experience of Kumbh Mela 2025 with a small intimate group of likelinded people.
After 3 months of meticulous preparation I managed to build an incredible once-in-a-lifetime itinerary. For a period of 9 days we will go head first into Indian craziness, again! With a massive 7 days on ground on the festival site.
Where will be staying?
Experiencing & photographing this festival in the best possible way is really all about access. This access comes in the first place in the form of the best possible accommodation on the festival grounds. Secondly, there’s access to the best possible guides in the business, thirdly access to the most special akhara’s (cults), and lastly access to me :) I will be the glue that puts it all together.
The Kumbh area is huge, in fact 35 square miles of dry riverbed. Expectations are 150 million visitors, let that sink in for a minute. But don’t worry, our camp is literally ‘the only camp’ right in the middle of the main action. Therefore the amount of time you will spend walking around will be much less than with any other photography expedition. Also, you will never miss the first and last hour of the day, with its magical light because our camp is located right in the heart of the festival, next to a long line of Naga Akharas, the residency of the austere Naga Babas.
With all ‘quality lodging’ sold out years in advance, it’s truly amazing I managed to secure 10 executive twin tents in the most central camp on the entire festival.
The camp will be our base for 7 days and is located on holy temple grounds in the middle of the Kumbh. Whereas the majority of the tourists will have to travel in and out every day, missing the best light, we will be staying in the middle of the action. It’s also, with a distance the most comfortable camp, which means it allows you to escape the crazy festival ground and enjoy all the comfort you need twice a day. In between shooting windows we will find creativity and inspiration amongst each other in communal sessions in camp. There will be fresh and tasty vegetarian food available 3 times a day in camp.
As you meanwhile know about my expeditions, any itinerary is subject to change. Together with my outstanding guiding team, I will make daily decisions based on the actual circumstances, the weather, the events happening on the festival grounds, and sudden occasions that cross our path. I will make sure you are being treated every single day with a truly unique experience. Below is an indication of how our days will look like:
Day 1: Arrival in Delhi
After everybody arrived at Delhi International Airport, we will gather on January 9 in the afternoon in our 5 star Delhi hotel, where we will kick-off the expedition with a welcome dinner.
Day 2: Arrival in Allahabad
Early in the morning we get transferred to Delhi Airport, where we board our flight to Allahabad, the home of the Kumbh Mela 2025. After a welcoming aarti at camp, we will embark on an exploratory afternoon stroll to discover the festival grounds in the direct vicinity of camp, to get a good first orientation of the entire grounds. Later we will check into our amazing rooms to rest for whats ahead of us.
Day 3 & 4: Exploring the cults and meeting the first Sadhu’s
On both days, We will spend the morning on foot split up in 2 or 3 small groups exploring the 11 comprehensive and unique Akharas or Cults around the camp. It is possible to include a boat trip to Sangam confluence, which will be decided last-minute. The afternoon, we will spend interacting with Sadhu’s, private encounters pre-arranged especially for our expedition by our guiding team. A session takes about 2 hours and we try to fit in 2 sessions per afternoon to account for a wide variety of different Sadhu’s. We will spend the rest of our time exploring the festival grounds. It will be an amazing first introduction to Kumbh Mela.
Day 5: Experiencing Paush Purnima Snan
Today is Paush Purnima Snan, an important bathing day decided by the seers of the 13 Akharas of the country. It will be a spectacle and we will spend all day experiencing it. It also serves as a good practice for what awaits us tomorrow!
Day 6 & 7: Bathing time!
Today and tomorrow is Makar Sankranti, one of the most significant bathing dates of the entire festival and the biggest religious bathing event in the entire world. Under the guidance of our guiding team, we will experience and document every part of it. We will start this day at 3am (in the middle of the night) with a big procession of millions of people towards the river. It will be complete rock & roll today in which chaos rules, therefore operating in small groups will be hard. This means on day 6 you will be out on your own, embrace it, live it! It will be an absolute once in a lifetime experience.
On the morning of day 7, the second day of Makar Sankranti, there will be another early rise to explore the bathing chaos. It will be less hectic than yesterday, but we will still disappear into the chaos, sometimes in small groups, sometimes alone. In the afternoon we move away from the river, to seek some more intimate encounters again, and there’s space for all participants to fill the gaps of their story by exploring on foot.
Day 8: Returning to Delhi
Our last morning at the Kumbh, at leisure, individually making some last and final rounds on the festival grounds to finish your story. In the afternoon we will be dropped in Allahabad Airport to board our flight to Delhi. On arrival we will check in to our 5 star hote.
Day 9: Returning home
In the morning we all will be dropped to the airport to board our flights home.
NOTE: This journey is an ‘expedition’, so above itinerary is the plan. The actual journey may change depending on the weather, the road conditions, the wellbeing of the group members or other events beyond our control. Or simply if new exciting opportunities present themselves. But don’t worry, myself, Namgyal and the full TUTC team will do everything to ensure you will get the best possible experience.
Included in the expedition
- 1 night at 5-star Delhi hotel on arrival (to be defined) based on B&B
- 6 nights at a Luxury Tent at the Festival ground
- 1 night at 5-star Delhi hotel on departure based on B&B
- Domestic air travel Delhi - Allahabad - Delhi
- All accommodation based on twin / double sharing
- Butler Service in our festival camp
- 2 Private guides exclusive to our group (3rd guide on request when needed if we split in 3 groups
- All domestic airport transfers (Delhi & Allahabad)
- Full board in the festival camp incl all meals, snacks, tea & coffee and soft beverages*
- 8 Private interactive sessions with Sadhu’s in small groups
- Several boat trips to bathing area’s and Sangam confluence
- Photographic lectures and image review sessions by Pie Aerts
- 1-on-1 tuition in the field
- Panoramic deck from camp overlooking the entire festival ground
*Due to all camps being situated on monastery grounds, our camp has a zero alcohol policy. We count on your understanding.
Excluded in the expedition
- International flight tickets to and from Delhi
- Travel & cancellation insurance
- Tips & gratuities for staff in camps and guides (all private encounters on the festival ground will be compensated by us)
- Welcome dinner in Delhi
- Any additional excursions, not mentioned in the itinerary above
- Expenses of personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls
More information about the festival
This highly sacred event showcases India’s rich tapestry of traditions, drawing pilgrims and photographers alike to witness its profound extravaganza.
The festival is mostly marked by spiritual cleansing through ritual dips in the holy waters, but it is also a celebration of community commerce with numerous fairs, education, religious courses by saints, mass feedings of monks and the poor, and a wide range of entertainment spectacle and vibrant cultural display. From the spiritual dips at sunrise to the ethereal evenings illuminated by a sea of diya’s, together with my excellent local guiding team, I will steer you in experiencing and documenting your own story. You will witness millions of pilgrims cleanse their souls in the holy waters and - amidst the vibrant chaos - you will have intimate private encounters with Sadhu’s and firsthand experience.
Testimonials of previous participants
As you probably know, I have been hosting expeditions to Africa and India for some years now. After each expedition I am asking participants to write a short testimonial, below you find some words written by participants of my most recent expedition to Ladakh in September ‘23.
But first, to get you in the right mood, here’s a wonderful video testimonial created by Yash, one of my previous guests on an expedition to Kenya, watch the full video to get an impression of what’s it like to join one of my expeditions.
Macklin (USA) - Pie’s expedition to Ladakh was one of the peak travel experiences of my life. The level of deep access that we had to the local communities, and the diverse cultures we experienced, were something I had only previously dreamed about. Going on the trip with Pie also felt like being with a lifelong friend. His attention to the details and care for the project, helped me capture the best images of my life. I’m already trying to get a spot on the next one!
Alex (Canada) - Pie’s Ladakh Expedition was undoubtedly one of the most remarkable travel experiences ever. Our crew was a bunch of adventure junkies like me, so right from the start, we clicked like old friends. The most extraordinary aspect of this expedition was the exclusive access to such unique photographic opportunities. Being able to immerse ourselves in personal and intimate settings with the local people and monks was an incredible privilege. From sipping tea with monks in ancient monasteries to participating in traditional ceremonies, I felt deeply connected to the Ladakhi culture. The landscapes and scenes we encountered were a photographer’s dream, and each moment was a potential work of art. Also, the food and stunning accommodation choices provided by Pie elevated the entire experience, offering comfort and luxury amidst Ladakh’s rugged beauty. This was a truly unforgettable journey, and I am immensely grateful for the memories and lasting friendships it has given me. It’s an experience that I will treasure for a lifetime.
Paola (USA) - Where to begin? I’ve just returned from what can only be described as a journey of a lifetime. It’s hard to find the right words to capture the profound beauty and experiences I encountered in Ladakh, India. I can honestly say I haven’t stopped smiling since I returned. If I had to rate the entire adventure, without a doubt, it’s a perfect 10. Every aspect of the trip was meticulously planned, leaving no room for disappointment. The places we explored were like something out of a dream, each more breathtaking than the last. The people I met along the way became a part of the unforgettable memories we created together. The accommodations provided were a perfect blend of comfort and immersion in the local culture. It’s rare to find such a balance, and Pie made sure we experienced it firsthand. His attention to detail and commitment to our well-being made every moment of the journey special. What truly sets Pie apart is his contagious energy. It’s a positive force that brought our group together and made every day an adventure to remember. His passion for the region, its culture, and its people is both inspiring and infectious, in the best way possible. Ladakh will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Jose (USA) - I’ve always dreamt of joining one of Pie’s expeditions. When the opportunity finally arrived, I eagerly seized it, and it did not disappoint. From the meticulous attention to detail in Pie’s itineraries to the swift and meticulous handling of unexpected situations, Pie and his ground crew were undoubtedly the best in the business. As for me, the Ladakh expedition was every bit the adventure it promised to be. With a team of 8 photographers I had never met before, we embarked on a journey into the vast and breathtaking landscape, immersed in the rich tapestry of Ladakhi culture. I never imagined that I would return with not only incredible photos but also 8 new friends who shared the same passion for adventure. Pie’s expeditions are about more than just capturing stunning images; they’re about forging lasting friendships over weeks filled with laughter, tears of joy, and unforgettable memories. I would not hesitate to jump on another expedition with Pie.
Pooja (USA) - Ladakh holds a special place in my heart; you witness the power of its spirit through every majestic landscape and every touching interaction with its warm-hearted residents. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to have experienced it through the guidance of Pie, Namgyal, TUTC and their teams. Pie, not only an exceptional storyteller but also a true connector, brought together an incredible group of individuals who shared their passions and aspirations for creating impactful photographic art. I learned so much during this trip and I’m excited to apply my newfound sources of inspiration to my business and way of life. If you are seeking an adventure that will challenge, teach, and inspire you, this is it!
Heather (USA) - This was not my first safari, but it was going to be the first time to Africa for my father, who is 82 years young. He had waited many decades for the stars to line up, for this opportunity to arise, and had high hopes of seeing all that could be seen, but realized it was a big ask. But not for Pie - this trip surpassed any and all expectations. Honestly, absolutely nothing could be improved. It became a running joke — everyday Pie would ask my father what he wanted to see the next day, and low and behold, the request would be fulfilled. Pie’s resources, connections and his ability to bring together a small group of strangers into a harmonious family are undeniable. I have been on many group travel trips in my lifetime, but never have the dynamics of all, worked so well together. This was a trip of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to go back.
Do I need any photography experience?
Nope, not at all. Everybody is welcome. Beginners and professionals. Young and old. In fact, a diverse group always makes up for a lot of fun, because the main idea of my expeditions is all about interaction and learning from each other. I’m more than happy to explain you the basics of how to use your camera, but we can also have a deeper conversation about how to grow your personal brand as a visual artist, or how to find your voice. Or about music. art or sports :) So please don’t hesitate if you have never used a camera before, I’m there to help. But also don’t hesitate if you want to fine-tune your professional skills, I’m sure I can help with that too.
What type of gear do I need?
As soon as you have confirmed your booking, we will share an extensive list of recommended gear items that you would need for this expedition. However, don’t stress, any camera will work, it all depends on how you use it. We offer a custom advice for every level, from amateurs and beginners to full professional photographers.
Can I cancel my seat when I change my mind?
Read the Terms & Conditions for more info.
Is there an option to book a private room?
No. On this expedition there’s no single supplement. All rooms are based on twin sharing unless you book as a couple, we will of course offer you double sharing. As soon as the group is complete, we will make a roomplan taking into account personal preferences.
Will you advise what documents to organize in order to travel?
Of course. We will send you a full briefing before the trip on which steps you need to take in order to travel.
Pie Aerts is a Dutch documentary and wildlife photographer with a sincere interest in human/wildlife conflict stories. Through his lens, he examines the intricate relationship between animals, humans and nature and, as we become increasingly distant from each other and ourselves, he uses photography to search for the cause of this disconnect. He believes art can be an incredibly powerful tool in restoring that lost connection and therefore founded Prints for Wildlife in march 2020. Since it’s inception 2.1 million dollars have been raised of which 100% has been donated to African Parks Network. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 Pie spend more than 60 weeks in Kenya, visualising his personal relationship with the Kenyan landscape. Pie serves as a Canon EMEA ambassador, Gitzo Ambassador and as Hahnemühle Ambassador.