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A Journey through South India

24 days from £3985 per person

Distinct to the north, exotic South India is a melting pot of cultures and religion. Starting in historic Kochi, join the Nilgiri Mountain Railway to Ooty then on to the wonderful coffee plantation retreat of Tranquil. Visit the sandalwood city of Mysore then fly to Tamil Nadu - a land of dusty plains and spectacular temple cities. Travelling south from Chennai, visit the staggering temple complexes at Mahabalipuram, Chidambaram, Tanjore, Swamimalai and Madurai before returning to Kerala, stopping on the way in Munnar, for a private houseboat cruise on the backwaters before relaxing beside the palm fringed Keralan coast.

Route: Kochi – Coimbatore – Ooty – Sultans Battery – Mysore – Chennai – Pondicherry – Tanjore – Madurai – Munnar – Alleppey – Keralan Backwaters – Mararikulam

Itinerary Highlights

The former French colony of Pondicherry retains much of its Gallic charm. Visit the Aurobindo Ashram and Church of Our Lady of the Angels which has a painting gifted by Napoleon III.

The ancient city of Tanjore is home to one of the most impressive monuments of South India – the monumental Brihadisvara Temple. A thousand years old, the temple’s vimana is the tallest in India.

2500 year-old Tamil city Madurai’s skyline is dominated by several Hindu temples including the astonishing Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple, richly decorated with fascinating and colourful carvings.

Itinerary: A Journey through South India

Today depart the UK on the Emirates flight to Dubai. (N)
Arrive into Dubai and connect onto the Emirates flight to Kochi. Founded by Vasco-da-Gama in 1502, Kochi quickly developed into a principle port and the centre of the spice trade on the Malabar Coast. A picturesque town of tumble-down buildings, vibrant bougainvillea and a languid palm-fringed harbour, Portuguese, Dutch and British settlers have all influenced this charming city. (N)
Accommodation in Kochi: Arches Hotel (or similar)
Upgrade option: Malabar House
Alternative upgrade option: Brunton Boatyard Hotel
Today explore Fort Kochi with your guide. Starting on foot, begin the day at the church of St Francis, the oldest European church in India, then walk to the town's waterfront—site of the iconic Chinese fishing nets and the many fish stalls that sell the catch. Later visit Mattancherry Palace, which was built by the Portuguese in 1557 as a gift to the Raja of Kochi, and the town's fine synagogue. The area here is also known for its many antique and curio shops. End the day with a sunset cruise around the bustling harbour. (B)
Accommodation in Kochi: Arches Hotel (or similar)
Upgrade option: Malabar House
Alternative upgrade option: Brunton Boatyard Hotel
At leisure this morning to further enjoy Kochi before leaving in the afternoon for the drive to Coimbatore. Known for cotton manufacturing, Coimbatore commands a strategic location between the plains of Tamil Nadu, the plateaus of Mysore and the coastal ports of Kerala. Coimbatore is also close to Mettupalayam, the starting point of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway to Ooty. (B)
Accommodation in Coimbatore: Vivanta by Taj – Surya (or similar)
This morning transfer by car to Mettupalayam Railway Station in good time to catch the Nilgiri Mountain Railway train to Ooty. Travelling a distance of 26 miles, this spectacular journey encounters 16 tunnels and crosses 250 bridges. One of the steepest lines in Asia, the views and scenery are breathtaking. Ooty once enticed the British to escape the summer heat of the plains and, later today, visit the well-maintained botanical gardens. (B/D)
Accommodation in Ooty: Savoy Hotel (or similar)
After breakfast leave Ooty and drive to Sultan's Battery, a small town in the Western Ghats and the centre of a region which produces some of India's finest coffee, cardamom and vanilla. (B/L/D)
Accommodation in Sultan’s Berry: Amaryllis (or similar)
Upgrade option: Tranquil (or similar)
Today enjoy Amaryllis and the surrounding local area. Swim in the beautiful pool or relax with a good book. The bird watching at Amaryllis is excellent and, for the more energetic, there are walking trails. (B/L/D)
Accommodation in Sultan’s Berry: Amaryllis (or similar)
Upgrade option: Tranquil (or similar)
Leaving Sultan's Battery, drive to pretty Mysore. In the afternoon take a two hour specialist heritage walk in the city which starts at the Town Hall, visits the Devaraja Market and ends at the Jagan Mohan Palace. During the walk the guide will share various stories from Mysore's past and there will also be a chance to taste ‘Mysore Pak’, the city's famous sweet. (B)
Accommodation in Mysore: Gitanjali Homestay (or similar)
Upgrade option: Royal Orchid Metropole Hotel (or similar)
Today explore Mysore with your guide starting at Chamundi Hill, site of the Chamundeswari Temple and famous Nandi Bull. From here continue to the vast City Palace. Re-built by Henry Irwin during 1897 in an Indo-Saracenic style, the palace contains extraordinary wall paintings, stained glass work and inlaid doors. In the afternoon leave the city and visit the temple complex at Somnathpur including the exquisite Keshava Vishnu temple, one of the finest in India, and over 700 years old. (B)
Accommodation in Mysore: Gitanjali Homestay (or similar)
Upgrade option: Royal Orchid Metropole Hotel (or similar)
This morning leave Mysore and visit Srirangapatnam where Tipu Sultan was killed in battle against an East India Company army including Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington. Later continue to Bangalore Airport and fly to Chennai. One of India's largest cities, Chennai remains a principle port and a major gateway to the south and retains an elegant colonial heritage. (B)
Accommodation in Chennai: ITC Grand Chola (or similar)
Upgrade option: Taj Coromandel (or similar)
This morning take a guided heritage walk through the historic heart of the city and discover colonial Madras through the buildings the British left behind. St Mary’s (1678), the first Anglican church east of Suez, and the homes of Clive and Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) stand rather neglected within the ramparts of old Fort St George (now a museum). They recall the East India Company, just as the later raj is epitomised in the mixture of neo-classical and Indo-Saracenic administrative buildings, banks and railway stations. Later in the afternoon take a further guided walk through the bustling bazaar of George Town. Walk through the by lanes, where plenty of history, mythology and folklore intertwine to give you a true glimpse of living India teeming with life and spilling over with colour, noise and exuberance. (B)
Accommodation in Chennai: ITC Grand Chola (or similar)
Upgrade option: Taj Coromandel (or similar)
Today leave Chennai and drive south to the former French colony of Pondicherry stopping en-route in Mahabalipuram to visit the beach-side temple complex – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Pondicherry explore the town which still retains its typically French atmosphere. (B)
Accommodation in Pondicherry: Maison Perumal (or similar)
Leave Pondicherry this morning and drive Chidambaram to see the Nataraja Temple complex and then continue to nearby Gangaikondacholapuram, which is renowned for its Chola temple art and was part of a hydraulic lay-out that seems to anticipate Cambodia’s Angkor. From here continue to Tanjore. Situated in the lush green delta of the Kaveri River Tanjore is a pretty town and home to one of the most impressive monuments of South India – the Brihadisvara Temple. (B)
Accommodation in Tanjore: Ideal River View Resort (or similar)
Upgrade option: Svatma (or similar)
This morning explore Tanjore and the surrounding area starting your day at the spectacular Brihadisvara Temple which was constructed between 1003 and 1010 AD by the Chola King Rajaraja I. Later drive to Kumbakonam, visit the 1,200 year old Nagesvara Swami Temple then continue to the Sarangapani Temple, one of the largest in Kumbakonam with a 44 metre tall gopuram. End the day at the nearby town of Swamimalai which has a renowned school teaching the art and craft of making bronze idols. (B)
Accommodation in Tanjore: Ideal River View Resort (or similar)
Upgrade option: Svatma (or similar)
After an early breakfast head to Trichy which is dominated by its Rock Fort and, after visiting the Rock’s temple, continue to Srirangam – a religious complex spread over an island in the nearby Cauvery River. Leaving Trichy drive south to Madurai, a hub of learning and pilgrimage for many centuries. A centre for Tamil culture, the main attraction of this crowded but vibrant pilgrimage centre is the famous Sri Meenakshi temple complex located in the heart of the city. (B)
Accommodation in Madurai: Gateway Hotel Pasumalai (or similar)
Upgrade option: Heritage Madurai Resort (or similar)
Start the day with a morning visit to the Thirumalai Nayaka Palace then make your way to the impressive 17th century Sri Meenakshi temple. An exact contemporary of the Taj Mahal in Agra, this exceptional temple complex dominates the old city and is instantly recognisable. With its nine gopurams, profusion of multi-coloured images, flower sellers, musicians and a decorated temple elephant, the temple is a hive of activity from dawn until late into the night. (B)
Accommodation in Madurai: Gateway Hotel Pasumalai (or similar)
Upgrade option: Heritage Madurai Resort (or similar)
After breakfast leave Madurai and continue by road to the Munnar. Situated in a part of the Western Ghats known as the High Ranges, Munnar is home to some of the world’s highest tea-growing estates. Being 1524m above sea level the ascent up to the town is punctuated with spectacular scenery, sandalwood forests and tea plantations. (B)
Accommodation in Munnar: Windermere Estate (or similar)
Today explore Munnar. Visit Christ Church which was built in 1910 and has fine stained glass windows, the local Tea Museum or the Munnar Supply Association, the oldest department store in the area that has been a feature of the town now for over one hundred years. Another place of interest is the town market which comes to life in the evenings. Alternatively, Munnar and the surrounding countryside of the Western Ghats is also perfect for walkers with excellent treks and hikes. (B/D)
Accommodation in Munnar: Windermere Estate (or similar)
This morning leave Munnar and continue towards the Keralan backwaters to join a private Houseboat for a two night cruise. Authentic and comfortable, all meals are cooked on board and the boat is staffed with a captain, a deck hand and a cook. Spend the remainder of day cruising the beautiful and peaceful backwaters. (B/L/D)
Accommodation: private Houseboat
At leisure. The backwaters consist of a network of lakes, coconut shaded canals and estuaries—tiled and thatched cottages bright with hibiscus dot the embankments and the cantilevered Chinese fishing nets hang over the water's edge. Witness local life with children swimming and playing in the water, women attending to their daily chores and men fishing from their canoes. (B/L/D)
Accommodation: private Houseboat
After breakfast leave your houseboat and travel the short distance to Mararikulam where you will stay for three nights close to Marari Beach. (B)
Accommodation in Mararikulam: Marari Villas 
Alternative accommodation: Xandari Pearl
Upgrade option: Marari Beach Resort (or similar)
At leisure to relax and enjoy the Marari Beach Resort. (B)
Accommodation in Mararikulam: Marari Villas 
Alternative accommodation: Xandari Pearl
Upgrade option: Marari Beach Resort (or similar)
Today transfer back to Kochi Airport to catch the Emirates flight to Dubai. On your arrival connect onto the onwards Emirates flight to the UK. (B)
**KEY: N = No meals, B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner

What To Do Next?

We design unique, tailor-made holiday itineraries to suit you, by combining your ideas with our knowledge and experience. Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, or if you require some advice, please call us or complete the enquiry form online for a quotation.

What's included

  • International flights from the UK
  • Domestic flights
  • Train travel as specified
  • Private car with English speaking driver
  • Sightseeing with local English speaking guides
  • Wildlife viewing with local naturalist
  • Hotel accommodation and taxes

What's not included

  • Cost of visas
  • Travel Insurance
  • Expenses of a personal nature

Guide to Price

The above price is based on two people travelling together and sharing accommodation in low season. The price is only a guide and can vary according to selected airlines, hotels and date of travel. If you wish to travel with your family, friends or on your own we will be very happy to assist you with your arrangements.

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