A Journey through South India
23 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 for a private houseboat cruise on the backwaters before relaxing beside the palm fringed Keralan coast.
Also known as Cochin, Kochi has been an important spice trading port for centuries with resulting Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and British influences in architecture and culture.
Situated around 930 metres above the coast, Sultans Battery has pleasant weather year round, a relaxed atmosphere, great views and a climate suited to growing coffee and spices.
2500 year-old Tamil city Madurai’s skyline is dominated by several Hindu temples including the Meenakshi Amman Temple, richly decorated with fascinating, colourful carvings.
Day 1 Depart the UK
Today depart the UK on the Emirates flight to Dubai. (N)
Day 2 Arrive Kochi
Arrive into Dubai and connect onto the Emirates flight to Kochi. Once in Kochi stay for two nights at the Arches Hotel. Alternatively upgrade to the Malabar House or the Brunton Boatyard Hotel. 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)
Day 3 Kochi
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)
Day 4 Kochi to Coimbatore – 200kms
At leisure this morning to further enjoy Kochi before leaving in the afternoon for the drive to Coimbatore for an overnight stay at the Vivanta by Taj – Surya. 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)
Day 5 Coimbatore to Mettupalayam – 35kms
Mettupalayam to Ooty – by train
This morning transfer by car to Mettupalayam Railway Station in good time to catch the Nilgiri Mountain Railway train to Ooty to stay overnight at the Savoy Hotel. 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)
Day 6 Ooty to Sultans Battery – 160kms
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. Stay for two nights at charming Amaryllis - a delightful homestay with spectacular views. Alternatively upgrade to Tranquil, a secluded 70 year old plantation bungalow on the Kuppamudi Coffee Estate. (B/L/D)
Day 7 Sultans Battery
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)
Day 8 Sultans Battery to Mysore – 125kms
Leaving Sultan's Battery, drive to pretty Mysore and stay for two nights at the Gitanjali Homestay. Alternatively upgrade to the Royal Orchid Metropole Hotel. 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)
Day 9 Mysore
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)
Day 10 Mysore to Bangalore – 190kms
Bangalore to Chennai – by air
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 for a two night stay at the ITC Grand Chola. Alternatively upgrade to the Taj Coromandel. 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)
Day 11 Chennai
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)
Day 12 Chennai to Pondicherry – 170kms
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 stay overnight at the Maison Perumal and later explore the town which still retains its typically French atmosphere. (B)
Day 13 Pondicherry to Tanjore – 170kms
via Chidambaram and Gangaikondacholapuram
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 and stay for two nights at Ideal River View Resort or upgrade to Svatma. 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)
Day 14 Tanjore
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)
Day 15 Tanjore to Madurai – 180kms
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. Stay for two nights at the Gateway Hotel Pasumalai or upgrade to the Madurai Heritage. (B)
Day 16 Madurai
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)
Day 17 Madurai to Periyar - 150kms
After breakfast leave Madurai and continue by road to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary set in the Cardamom Hills on the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Stay overnight at Shalimar Spice Garden. Alternatively upgrade to Spice Village or the Niraanaya Retreats Cardamon Club. Later visit a tea estate and spice plantation. (B)
Day 18 Periyar to Alleppey – 160kms
Today take an early morning guided forest walk in the reserve. Later leave Periyar 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)
Day 19 Keralan Backwaters
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)
Day 20 Alleppey to Mararikulam – 15kms
After breakfast leave your houseboat and travel the short distance to Mararikulam where you will stay for three nights at the Marari Villas or Xandari Pearl. Alternatively upgrade to the Marari Beach Resort which is set in twenty-five acres of coconut groves and has grounds leading down to the beach. (B)
Day 21 Mararikulam
Day 22 Mararikulam
At leisure to relax and enjoy the Marari Beach Resort. (B)
Day 23 Mararikulam to Kochi – 65 kms
Kochi to the UK
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
- 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 price above is a guide and can vary according to selected airlines, hotels and season. If you wish to travel alone we will be very happy to assist you with your arrangements and will provide a proposal on request
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