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Southern India

Trip type: 
Cultural
Adventure level: 
2. Gentle
Max group size: 
12
Avg user rating: 
5
Asia, India | 16 days
Trip code: 
HHSS
What's included: 

Transport - Train, Private vehicle, 4x4 Safari Vehicle, Ferry, Auto rickshaw, Bus, Overnight sleeper train, Boat

Accommodation - Hotels (11nts), jungle resort (1nt), homestay (1nt), overnight train (1nt).

Meals - 5 breakfasts, 3 lunch & 3 dinners.

Trip Highlights: 
Experience island life on a homestay in the Kerala backwaters
Cycle around the fishing village of Mamallapuram
Be awed by Mysore's ornate Maharaja's Palace
Safari into the wilds of Mudumalai National Park
see full itinerary >>

Trip Highlights: 
Experience island life on a homestay in the Kerala backwaters
Cycle around the fishing village of Mamallapuram
Be awed by Mysore's ornate Maharaja's Palace
Safari into the wilds of Mudumalai National Park
see full itinerary >>
What's included: 

Transport - Train, Private vehicle, 4x4 Safari Vehicle, Ferry, Auto rickshaw, Bus, Overnight sleeper train, Boat

Accommodation - Hotels (11nts), jungle resort (1nt), homestay (1nt), overnight train (1nt).

Meals - 5 breakfasts, 3 lunch & 3 dinners.

Trip Overview: 

Lush and tropical, southern India is inspiring and delightful. Beneath the green shade of a coastal paradise, meet the locals in their fishing villages and tribal homes. Join them in the bazaars, on buses and boats or even on pilgrimage in Madurai. Southern India's spirituality, mist-clad Nilgiri ranges, friendly people and wild animal sanctuaries make it a fascinating part of the country to explore.

Itinerary: 
Day
1-3
Kochi

Kochi

Take an overnight flight - on arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

Namaste! Welcome to India.

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 2.

You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Spread over several islands, Kochi is a fascinating place full of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English influences.

Head out to explore the major sights of Fort Cochin and visit the spice bazaars and antique shops. The best way to get around the islands is by using the ferry network.

Visit the Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese in the middle of the 16th century. It was taken over by the Dutch in 1663, who added some improvements before presenting it to the Rajas of Cochin.

Be part of a Kathakali dance performance. This classical dance is a highly charged and powerful drama that combines devotion and physical virtuosity with symbolic storytelling to produce one of the most impressive and vibrant forms of theatre in the world. It requires lengthy and rigorous training to attain complete control of the body and sensitivity to emotion so as to be able to render all its nuances through facial expressions and hand gestures.

Included Activities

  • Kochi - Fort Kochi sightseeing
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance

Optional Activities

  • Kochi - Jewish Synagogue - INR5

Accommodation

Hotel (2 nts)

 

Day
4/5

Ootacamund

Catch a train to Coimbatore (approx 3.5 hrs).

Travel by private vehicle to Ootacamund (approx 4 hrs).

Ootacamund was the British hill station known as Snooty Ooty and it was here the game of snooker was named, if not invented.

Take a ride on the famous toy train - be sure to get a window seat.

Visit a tea garden in nearby Coonoor.

Stroll around the Botanical Gardens, home to over 650 species of plants and trees.

Included Activities

  • Ooty - Tea factory visit and toy train ride

Optional Activities

  • Ooty - Botanical Gardens - INR30
  • Ooty - Boating on lake - INR150

Accommodation

Resort (2 nts)

Day
6
Mudumalai National Park

Mudumalai National Park

Continue on by private vehicles to Masinagudi (approx 2 hrs).

Set against the picturesque backdrop of the enchanting Nilgiris with their mist-covered peaks, Mudumalai National Park was once the Mysore Maharaja's private hunting ground. It was brought under Project Tiger in 1974 and is one of the best game sanctuaries in India to observe and photograph wildlife in close proximity. Some animals you may see here include tigers, leopards, elephants, sloth bears, sambars and spotted deer. There's also an amazing variety of birdlife, some of the most notable birds being the heron, stork, egret, kite, falcon, peafowl, woodpecker, drongo and warbler.

On our arrival at the foot of the Nilgiris (Blue Mountains), embark on a short wildlife-spotting safari in the Mudumalai National Park.

Our family-run accommodation in Masinagudi is dormitory style.

Included Activities

  • Madumalai - Wildlife safari

Accommodation

Jungle resort (1 nt)

Day
7/8
Mysore

Mysore

Travel by private vehicle through the scenic Karnataka plains to Mysore (approx 3 hrs).

Stop en route to enjoy a biryani lunch with our local friend Raju and his family.

Mysore is an easygoing town with a pleasant climate, perfect for wandering around on foot.

Your leader will take you out to get your bearings.

A visit to Mysore isn't complete without a look around Mysore Palace. One of the most ornate palaces in India, its interior is a riot of colour, mosaics and mirrors.

Visit the Keshava Temple in Somnathpur - a stunning example of Hoysala temple architecture (approx 1 hr from Mysore).

You have plenty of time to explore the surrounding countryside, so head out and climb Chamundi Hill - site of the Sri Chamundeswari Temple, which is dedicated to Goddess Durga.

Catch an overnight train to Chennai (approx 11 hrs). Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned, a great way to travel long distances and still get maximum time in each place. Beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided but some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Please note you may be sharing with locals in a same/mixed gender situation.

Included Activities

  • Mysore - Home cooked lunch & family visit
  • Mysore - Maharaja's Palace
  • Mysore - Keshava Temple
  • Mysore - Chamundi Hill temple

Optional Activities

  • Mysore - Cinema - INR100
  • Mysore - Palm Reading - INR350
  • Mysore - Tipu Mausoleum - INR500

Accommodation

Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)

 

Day
9
Mahabalapuram

Mahabalapuram

Arrive in Chennai and take private vehicles along the scenic East Coast Road to the laidback beaches of Mamallapuram (approx 2 hrs).

Mamallapuram is a scenic fishing village.

Embark on a bicycle tour, visiting the World Heritage-listed 7th-century Shore Temple and the massive bas-relief rock carving known as Arjuna's Penance.

There's also time to inspect the numerous mandapams (carved pillars in front of temples), watch stone carvers at work, see the fishing fleet or simply relax at a beachside restaurant.

Included Activities

  • Mamallapuram - Cycling tour
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple

Accommodation

Hotel (1 nt)

 

Day
10

Pondicherry

Travel by private vehicle through a landscape of palm trees and rice paddies, visiting Auroville en route to Pondicherry (approx 5 hrs).

Auroville is an amazing experiment in international living. Made up of 80 rural settlements and home to over 1,500 residents, more than half of whom are foreign nationals, this living project dedicated to human unity also houses the world's largest solid crystal.

Once a French colony, there are still reminders of French influence in Pondicherry's architecture, the wide town squares and even in the policemen's uniforms.

Take a walking tour and visit the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the local temples and the old French quarter.

Included Activities

  • Pondicherry - Auroville
  • Pondicherry - Walking tour and Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Accommodation

Hotel (1 nt)

 

Day
11
Madurai

Madurai

Take a local taxi to the railway station at Villapuram (approx 40 mins).

Board a train to the temple city of Madurai (approx 6 hrs).

Crammed full of bazaars, pilgrims, cycle-rickshaws, beggars and street markets, Madurai showcases southern India at its colourful and lively best.

Visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple, which lies at the heart of the city. This ancient, still active temple is a labyrinth of lamp-lit corridors which lead to shrines where some mysterious and interesting rituals are performed.

Visit the moving Gandhi Memorial Museum, which displays the blood-stained dhoti he wore when he was assassinated, along with an impressive and detailed account of the country's struggle for independence.

Included Activities

  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple

Optional Activities

  • Madurai - Gandhi Museum - Free

Accommodation

Hotel (1 nt)

 

Day
12/13
Periyar National Park

Periyar National Park

Travel by public bus along a winding road to the spice plantation town of Thekkady and Periyar National Park (approx 5 hrs).

Set high in the ranges of the Western Ghats is the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. This wildlife sanctuary surrounds a picturesque lake, formed by the building of a dam in 1895, which meanders around the contours of the wooded hills and provides a permanent source of water for the local wildlife. Though it's a tiger reserve, tourists come here to view the Indian elephants in the act of ablution and playfulness by the lake.

In the evening, enjoy a tour around a local spice plantation and a delicious meal prepared by the owner's family.

Venture into the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary for a guided nature walk in the hope of glimpsing sambar, bison, elephant, spotted deer, tiger and leopard.

Included Activities

  • Periyar - Spice farm tour & dinner
  • Periyar - National Park wildlife walk

Optional Activities

  • Periyar - Lake boat tour - INR650

Accommodation

Hotel (2 nts)

 

Day
14
Kerala Backwaters Homestay

Kerala Backwaters Homestay

Travelling by private vehicle, head for the backwaters of Kerala (approx 4.5 hrs). It's a great ride through plantations of rubber, tea and coffee to the boarding point for our boats.

Crossing the backwaters, head to an island village to stay with local families (approx 1 hour).

In the late afternoon, you explore the island with a local English-speaking guide or your homestay host to observe the different facets of local life - this is a great chance to meet and talk with the people who live here. Strolling under palm trees and weaving in between the rice fields that cover the island, you have a chance to learn about the lifestyles of the locals.

Take a leisurely pole boat ride around the lake and enjoy the outstanding scenery.

Accommodation is on a multishare basis and all the families live within a few hundred metres of each other, with at least one person in the family speaking a reasonable standard of English. Food is traditional Keralan home cooking.

Included Activities

  • Backwaters - Pole Boat Ride
  • Backwaters - Guided walk

Accommodation

Homestay (1 nt)

 

Day
15
Kochi

Kochi

Get up early and start your day to the sound of bird songs, before crossing the backwaters by private boat to Alleppey (approx 1.5 hrs), and a local bus to Kochi (approx 2 hrs). The rest of the day is free for some last-minute sightseeing or shopping.

Accommodation

Hotel (1 nt)

 

Day
16

Tour Ends

Your adventure ends today and you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home.

 

Mudumalai National Park

Set against the picturesque backdrop of the enchanting Nilgiris with their mist-covered peaks, Mudumalai National Park was once the Mysore Maharaja's private hunting ground. It was brought under Project Tiger in 1974 and is one of the best game sanctuaries in India to observe and photograph wildlife in close proximity. Some animals you may see here include tigers, leopards, elephants, sloth bears, sambars and spotted deer. There's also an amazing variety of birdlife, some of the most notable birds being the heron, stork, egret, kite, falcon, peafowl, woodpecker, drongo and warbler.

Ootacamund

Ride the famous Ootacamund toy train through rolling plantations and learn the secret of making the perfect brew at a tea garden. Ootacamund was the British hill station known as Snooty Ooty and it was here the game of snooker was named, if not invented.

Mysore

A visit to Mysore isn't complete without a look around Mysore Palace, once belonging to the Maharaja. One of the most ornate palaces in India, its interior is a riot of colour, mosaics and mirrors. Travel to the Keshava Temple - a stunning example of Hoysala temple architecture.

Our Southern India trip is just one of our many India tours. To find out more visit our India holidays page.