Explore the highlights of Southern India, from Chennai to Kochi on this 14-day tour. Visit some of the most intricate and beautiful UNESCO world heritage temples of Southern India and uncover the delights of tropical Kerala in India's deep south. Visit the former hill station of Munnar and its sprawling tea plantations, spot elephants in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and spend a night aboard a houseboat, gliding along the tranquil, palm fringed backwaters.
Welcome to Chennai
Sunday. Welcome to Southern India! On arrival at Chennai airport you are met and transferred to our hotel. The rest of today is free to explore the city at leisure before meeting the group and guide at the hotel at 18:00 for a Welcome meeting.
Chennai - Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry. Say goodbye to Chennai this morning as we travel to the French colonial city of Pondicherry. French rule lasted here until 1954 and the influence is still clear in the city’s architecture.
En route visit Mahabalipuram - the beautiful 7th century Shore Temple, so-named because of its location on the shore of the Bay of Bengal. Continue to the world’s largest bas-relief carving, Arjuna’s Penance and the incredible Five Rathas. This UNESCO-listed site is made up of five different temples, all carved individually from separate rocks. The temples lay hidden under sand until the British rediscovered them 200 years ago.
Overnight: Pondicherry | Breakfast
Pondicherry. Today we explore the highlights of Pondicherry including the Sri Aurobindo Ashram spiritual community and Pondicherry Beach, with it's beautiful golden sand and lapping waves. Finally, we explore the striking Sacred Heart Basilica, a famous Christian pilgrimage site. Enjoy the rest of your day at leisure.
Overnight: Pondicherry | Breakfast
Temples and Tanjore
Pondicherry - Tanjore. Leaving Pondicherry today, we travel to the vibrant city of Tanjore (Thanjavur). We discover the ancient, fortified town with a guided tour exploring Tanjore's glorious history dating back more than 1,500 years. Take in the enormous Brihadishwara Temple. This temple is over 1000 years old and the dome on top is thought to have been hauled up in a similar way to the construction of the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
Overnight: Tanjore | Breakfast
Tanjore - Chettinad. Today we travel to Chettinad which renowned across India for its unique spectacular combination of flavorful cuisine, yet few venture to this sleepy, tranquil village. Explore the crumbling Chettinad Palace and the famous tile factory in Athangudi, where your guide will explain how the renowned handmade terracotta tiles of Chettinad are crafted and readied.
Overnight: Chettinad | Breakfast, Dinner
Madurai sightseeing & Evening Aarti Ceremony
Chettinad – Madurai. Departing Chettinad we continue onwards to Madurai, where we enjoy a half day guided tour taking in the Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal. This grand palace is known for the giant circular pillars in its courtyard and dates back to the 17th century. We continue to the famous rock cut temple of Thirupparankunram Murugan. According to a famous Hindu legend, this is where Murugan slayed the demon Surapadman. Finally, we join an Aarti prayer ceremony at the Meenakshi Temple. The ceremony involves the lighting of candles and songs being sung in praise of the gods.
Overnight: Madurai | Breakfast
Munnar Tea Plantations
Madurai - Munnar. Leaving Madurai today we travel to the picturesque former hill station of Munnar where we spend the next two nights. Today we take a guided walk through a local tea plantation and visit a local market. The remainder of day 7 and day 8 is spent at your own leisure. You may wish to visit the nearby Blossom Park and enjoy cycling or boating in the stunning surrounds.
Overnight: Munnar | Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 2
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Munnar - Periyar. A drive south to Periyar, South India’s most popular Wildlife Sanctuary and home to bison, antelopes, sambar, wild boar, birds and even the odd tiger! Kumily, close to the sanctuary and where we’ll stay, is a pretty little town dotted with small spice and handicraft shops. There is plenty to do in and around Periyar, so we leave the choice to you to enjoy the remainder of the day at your own leisure.
Overnight: Kumily | Breakfast
Boating on Lake Periyar
Periyar. Today we enjoy an included boat ride on Lake Periyar to spot herds of wild elephants. The rest of the day is at your own leisure to explore on your own. You can opt for an optional visit to explore the spice plantation or enjoy a kalaripayattu dance performance.
Overnight: Kumily | Breakfast
Periyar - Alleppey - Keralan backwaters. Today we leave Periyar and take a scenic drive to Alleppey. Here we board our private rice boat for a voyage through the famous Kerala backwaters. Our rice-boat takes us sedately along the enchanting palm-fringed backwaters, covering a distance of some 20 kms, during which time the boat glides past local villages and fascinating scenes of everyday rural life. Watch a beautiful sunset over the backwaters and enjoy tasty meals (starting with lunch) prepared by the on-board chef using fresh local produce.
Overnight: Deluxe rice boat | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Keralan Backwaters - Kumarakom. On the morning of day 12 we disembark our rice boat at Kumarakom - a village spread over a cluster of islands on Lake Vembanad. Enjoy two days relaxing or exploring Kumarakom at leisure. Perhaps take a boat ride on the lake or visit the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. The sanctuary is home to many rare bird species and is an important stopover for migratory birds in the winter (Nov-May).
Overnight: Kumarakom | Breakfast
Kumarakom – Kochi. Formerly a princely state, Kochi is also fondly referred to as “The Queen of the Arabian Sea”. Upon arrival spend the rest of the day is at leisure to explore Kochi on own. This evening you can opt for an optional tour to watch an entertaining and traditional Kathakali dance show. Kathakali performers are known for their elaborate costumes and make up and they always put on a fantastic show.
Overnight: Kochi | Breakfast
Saturday. Our Indian adventure comes to an end today with an included departure transfer to Kochi airport.
PREFER A PRIVATE TOUR OR TO EXTEND YOUR STAY?
• This tour can be arranged exclusively for you and your family or friends on a private basis, by paying the private tour supplement. Contact us for details.
• Extend your stay in this vibrant country, view our selection of add-ons and short stays.
• For information about visas, top travel tips, best time to travel and much more, browse our dedicated travel guide.
Prices & Dates
Departure dates marked with a 'G' are operating. All departure dates from 1 Apr 2023 are guaranteed to operate when there are 2 persons booked on the tour. Prior to this date a departure is guaranteed with 4 persons. 'Twin Share' prices are per person when there are 2 people sharing a room. 'Single Room' prices are applicable to solo travellers or anyone wanting the privacy of a single room.
The hotels listed below are ones which we frequently use on this tour. We reserve the right to substitute these hotels to ones of a similar standard.
Hotel GRT Grand, Chennai
In the heart of Chennai, the GRT Grand is a luxurious hotel with excellent amenities. Guest rooms feature some fantastic comforts including jetted baths, free Wi-Fi internet and state of the art LCD TVs. The hotel also boasts 3 delicious restaurants and an on site full service spa and indoor pool. Well located close to the Ramee Shopping Mall SDAT Tennis Stadium.
Hotel Atithi, Pondicherry
With its great selection of facilities, this modern hotel has marked itself one of the finest hotels in Pondicherry. Each room is fully equipped with all the essential amenities, with the added perks of 24-hour room service and free WiFi. Guests can enjoy the in-house gym, rejuvenating spa and an outdoor pool offering amazing views over the city. There are plenty of options when it comes to dining, with a lounge bar, two multi-cuisine restaurants and a fun-filled rooftop bar. If that wasn’t enough, Hotel Atithi is also well-located close to many of the top attractions in this heritage city.
Hotel Sangam, Thanjavur
Set among the historic temples of Thanjavur, Hotel Sangam offers you a peaceful and comfortable stay. Its guestrooms are spacious and feature modern interiors with large windows allowing for plenty of natural light. Enjoy local and international cuisine at the Thillana Restaurant, where you’ll find both guests and locals alike, or opt for a light snack and cool beer in the Layam Bar. An outdoor pool serves the perfect place to kick back and relax after a day of sightseeing. And you can always expect a warm greeting from staff, who are more than happy to share their knowledge of the area.
Chidambara Vilas, Chettinad
Chidambara Vilas is a heritage property tucked away in the rustic Chettinad region, renowned worldwide for its famous Chettinad cuisine. The culture, heritage and opulence of the beautiful heritage hotel takes you to the bygone era. The property offers 25 guest rooms, recreating the ambience of authentic Chettiar lifestyles reflected in its furnishings and with modern day comfort's such as air-conditioning. The property also features a swimming pool, the perfect spot to relax and recharge in a quiet atmosphere.
JC Residency, Madurai
The JC Residency is ideally located in a serene part of Madurai, offering Heritage styling throughout the hotel. Guest rooms feature contemporary decor and generous space and modern facilities including LCD TV, high speed Wi-Fi connectivity, electronic safes and well-equipped bathrooms. Hotel facilities also include an outdoor swimming pool and gym.
Eastend Munnar, Munnar
The Eastend Munnar is a quaint resort set in landscaped gardens in the heart of Munnar town. The modern rooms are well-sized with a neutral palette of warm woods, creams and touches of gold. Guests can climb to the Tree Hut for panoramic views of the surrounding hills or underground to 'The Cave', which contains various rock-cut reliefs. The multi-cuisine restaurant provides a menu covering Chinese, continental and Indian dishes.
The Elephant Court, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Located on 4 acres of land, the Elephant Court is a grand hotel decked out in cooling teak wood. Guest rooms are beautifully appointed with earthy hues of brown and pale green set off by crisp cotton sheets. Dining options include local specialities and international cuisine, all served in the restaurant with beautiful views of the swimming pool and surrounding area. A trip to the beautiful rooftop curio shop to pick up some souvenirs is a must. The accommodation is well located close to the Thekaddy forests.
Deluxe Houseboat, Alleppey
There are few things as serene and tranquil as floating along the Keralan backwaters in the comfort of a luxurious houseboat. Deluxe houseboats are elegantly furnished, with up to four bedrooms, equipped with modern en suites, an open lounge, dining area and a deck to relax and admire the beautiful views of the lush green palms and rice paddies. Air conditioning operates in the bedrooms between 9pm to 6am only. The cruises are full board, with tasty meals freshly prepared by the onboard chef.
Eastend Lakesong, Kumarakom
Nestled among the serene backwaters of Kumarakom, Eastend Lakesong comprises of 8 acres of facility packed leisure land. Guests sleep in villas and cottages, which are all well furnished with colourful interiors and comfortable beds. The onsite restaurants offer an excellent selection of local and international cuisine. Why not treat yourself to a relaxing massage at the Ayurveda on site Spa? It is the perfect way to unwind after a long day of exploring in the fierce Indian heat.
The Killians Boutique Hotel, Kochi
The Killians Boutique Hotel is a symbol of boutique elegance and comfort set along the shores of the Arabian Sea. Inspired by Portuguese, Dutch and Indian architectural styles both old and new, the hotel offers three types of themed rooms, each offering something different but all offering modern conveniences including internet access, mini bars and flat screen TV. A delicious spread of dishes is provided in the hotel's restaurant with yoga sessions offered alongside holistic treatments at the Ayurvedic Spa.
At a Glance
Excellent adventure holiday. Rather a lot of temples in the first week and lots of travelling. The second week much relaxed and very enjoyable. The guide was excellent and obviously passionate about his country. Imparted lots of knowledge and went out of his way to ensure all requests were addressed and went beyond what was expected. A real gentleman.”