Discover the highlights of Southern India, from Chennai to Kochi. Visit some of the most intricate and beautiful Hindu temples of Southern India and uncover the delights of tropical Kerala in India's deep south. Visit UNESCO world heritage temples and spend a night aboard a houseboat, gliding along the tranquil, palm fringed backwaters.
Chennai - Mahabalipuram. Saturday. Welcome to Southern India! On arrival at Chennai Airport you’ll be transferred to our hotel in Mahabalipuram, where the rest of the day is at leisure. You may wish to visit the gravity-defying Krishna’s Butterball. This giant boulder is perched precariously at the top of a slope and looks like it could roll down at any moment - yet it has remained here for 1,200 years.
This morning we meet our guide and group for a Welcome meeting at 8:00, then travel to Kanchipuram and discover some of its impressive temples, dedicated to the gods Shiva and Vishnu. We then return to Mahabalipuram for a guided tour of its highlights. Discover 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: Mahabalipuram | Breakfast
Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry. Say goodbye to Mahabalipuram 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. Enjoy a tour of highlights including Pondicherry Beach and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram spiritual community. Finally, we explore the striking Sacred Heart Basilica, a famous Christian pilgrimage site.
Overnight: Pondicherry | Breakfast
Pondicherry - Tanjore. Leaving Pondicherry today, we travel to the vibrant city of Tanjore, stopping at several temple sites en route. Discover the impressive Natraja Temple in Chidambaram, one of the oldest temples in Southern India. Later, visit the UNESCO-listed Airavateswara Temple, a popular Hindu pilgrimage destination. On arrival in Tanjore the evening is free to explore at leisure. Perhaps go shopping for Tanjore’s famous authentic bobblehead dolls, which make excellent souvenirs.
Overnight: Tanjore | Breakfast
Tanjore - Madurai. Enjoy a guided tour of Tanjore today, an ancient fortified town with a glorious history dating back more than 1500 years. Explore highlights including the enormous Brihadishwara Temple. This temple is over 1,000 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.
Later, we drive to Madurai and 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
Enjoy a half day guided tour of Madurai today and take in 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 return to Meenakshi Temple to appreciate the magnificent site for a second time. We then explore the bustling local bazaar before this evening is at leisure.
Overnight: Madurai | Breakfast
Madurai - Trichy - Kochi. Today we travel to Trichy to explore some more stunning temples, starting with Sri Ranganathaswamy. Located on an island, this is one of the most famous temples in Southern India. We also visit the imposing Rock Fort Temple, perched on a hill overlooking the city. The Pallavas first built a temple here, before the Nayaks recognised its strategic position and transformed it into a fortress. Our final visit is to Sri Jambukeswarar Temple, before we board the night train to Kochi.
Overnight: Overnight Train | Breakfast
On arrival in Kochi this morning you’ll be transferred to our hotel, before the rest of the day is free to explore. You may wish to wander down Princess Street and appreciate the Dutch, Portuguese and British influence on display. This evening we 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.
Kochi - Munnar. Enjoy a guided tour of historic Fort Kochi today, the old part of the city. We see the famous Chinese fishing nets and explore narrow, winding streets. Visit St Francis’ Church and see the Parsi Synagogue - the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth. After our tour we travel to the picturesque former hill station of Munnar, surrounded by sprawling tea plantations.
On day 10 we take a guided stroll through a local tea plantation and visit a local market, before the rest of the day is free to relax as you please. You may wish to visit nearby Blossom Park and enjoy cycling or boating in your stunning surroundings.
Overnight: Munnar | Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 2
Munnar - Alleppey - Keralan backwaters. Today we leave Munnar and take a scenic drive to Alleppey. Here we board our deluxe private rice boat for a voyage through the famous Kerala backwaters. This is a chain of rivers, lakes and lagoons that run parallel to the Arabian Sea and are surrounded by lush forests. We sail past palm trees and local villages, before enjoying sunset and a delicious dinner onboard.
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 x 2
Kumarakom - Kochi. Friday. Our South India adventure comes to an end today. We travel back to Kochi this morning and there is an included departure transfer to the airport.
Please note: Flights from Kochi should depart after 2pm.
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.
MGM Eastwood , Mahabalipuram
Sprawled across 3 acres of lush landscaped gardens and swaying palm fronds, this resort features quaint pathways leading to its spacious guestrooms. Once inside, you’ll find the rooms are well-equipped with modern amenities, including free WiFi and 24-hour room service. Other dining options include the Virundhu Restaurant, which offers all-day dining on a selection of continental, Indian and Oriental fare. The azure blue swimming pool is also particularly inviting and the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon cooling off.
Hotel Mamalla Heritage, Mahabalipuram
Located a stone’s throw away from Mahabalipuram’s Temples, the Hotel Mamalla Heritage offers the perfect location for exploring the towns highlights. Each air-conditioned guest room features a TV, en-suite facilities and 24-hour room service. Guests can enjoy a dip in the swimming pool before sampling some local delicacies in the onsite restaurant.
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.
GRT Regency, Madurai
The GRT Regency is a modern, tastefully designed hotel with comfortable rooms that have been elegantly decorated with just a splash of colour. The hotel has extensive business and conferencing facilities as well as a modern gym and health centre to ensure that visitors want for nothing during their stay. Dining options are allow guests to choose from a range of different cuisines including traditional Indian and international. The hotel is only 2 km from the city centre and 3 km from the railway station.
Casino Hotel, Kochi
Casino Hotel is a modern hotel located on Willingdon island, set in tropical gardens it is a beautiful blend of art deco and colonial Indian architectural styles. With a large pool and and spacious comfortable rooms this hotel offers a fantastic experience when in Kochi. Casino Hotel boasts 2 restaurants, a 24-hour health club as well as free wifi in public areas.
Clouds Valley Leisure Hotel, Munnar
Set in the valley of the Kennan Devan Hills, the Clouds Valley Leisure Hotel is a contemporary accommodation. Guest rooms are bright and spacious with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. Rooms are also all en suite, have modern amenities and comfortable beds. The hotel benefits from an onsite restaurant that serves up a tasty selection of both Indian and South Indian food as well as Chinese and European dishes.
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.
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.”