Places Visited: Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Tanjore, Madurai, Periyar, Kumarakom, Alleppey, Cochin
Covering some of the finest sights of the southern-most states of India, our Southern Explorer tour commences with the atmospheric temple towns of Tamil Nadu. In seafront Mahabalipuram, see the stunning bas-relief and the ancient Shore Temple. After an overnight stop in the uniquely French town of Pondicherry, drive to Tanjore to see another UNESCO World Heritage site, the Brihadeeshwara Temple.
Continue southwest to visit the vibrant and bustling Meenakshi temple at Madurai before crossing over into the Western Ghats at Periyar in Kerala. Take a boat ride on tranquil Lake Periyar and spend a night under the stars, in a rice boat, on the picturesque backwaters. Colonial Fort Kochi is the final stop before heading home.
- Group Size 4 -16 people
- Internal Travel Arrival & departure transfers. Internal travel by road
- Accompanying Guide English-speaking guides. Accompanying tour escort when minimum group size achieved
- Accommodation 12 nights
- Meal Plan Breakfast daily. Lunch on days 3, 4, 5, 10. Dinner on days 1, 10
Itinerary for Southern Explorer
Greeted on arrival in Chennai and transfer to the Ideal Beach Resort at Mahabalipuram or similar for two nights. The remainder of the day is at leisure to relax on the beach. A welcome dinner is arranged at a local restaurant.
Morning sightseeing of Mahabalipuram includes a visit to the ancient Shore Temple and the impressive rock carvings and reliefs from the mythological Indian epic known as the Mahabharata. The afternoon is at leisure with the option of a city tour of Chennai, which can be arranged at a supplement.
Drive South on the pretty East Coast Highway to the former French colony of Pondicherry (3 hours). Explore the colonial buildings, statues and churches on foot. Spend the night at the Windflower Resort or similar on the outskirts of the city.
A day’s drive inland to Tanjore (6 hours), via Darasuram, home of the UNESCO World Heritage Airavetisvara Temple. Stay at the Ideal River View resort, set in pretty gardens, for two nights.
Today is a full day of sightseeing in Thanjavur, including a visit the Brihadeeshwara Temple complex: its 62m high tower is the tallest of its kind in India. Also enjoy a traditional Tamil thali lunch.
Drive to the town of Madurai (4-5 hours), to visit the stunning Meenakshi Temple complex with its vast colourfully carved gopuram (towers) and bustling bazaars. Stay overnight at the GRT Regency hotel or similar.
Madurai, Periyar National Park
In the morning, take a leisurely drive, across state borders, into ‘God’s Own Country’, Kerala. Arrive in the village of Kumily (4-5 hours), a base to visit Periyar National Park, by early afternoon, for two nights’ at the Cardamom County resort or similar.
Periyar National Park
This morning take a walk in Periyar Nature Reserve with tribal trackers, in search of wildlife. In the afternoon, visit a spice plantation which offers an interesting insight into how various spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon are grown, cultivated and processed.
Periyar National Park, Kumarakom
Today we descend through the Western Ghats towards Kumarakom (4 hours), a sleepy village on the shores of Lake Vembanad, for an overnight stay at the Zuri Kumarakom Resort or similar. The afternoon is at leisure.
Late morning, board a rice boat for an overnight cruise on Lake Vembanad and the backwaters:- a region that, not only shelters some unique animal and bird life, but also lush paddy fields which are referred to as the ‘Rice Bowl of Kerala’. This is one of the few places in the world where farming is done below sea level.
Depart after breakfast for Cochin (2 hours). Check-in at the Killians Boutique Hotel or similar for two nights. In the evening, take a sunset cruise on the harbour, a signature Cochin experience for views of the landmark Chinese fishing nets.
Spend the morning taking in the sights of historic Fort Cochin. Explore the colonial streets, the Dutch Palace, with its murals of the Ramayana, the Jewish Synagogue and St Francis, the oldest church in India. In the evening, attend a Kathakali performance, a traditional dance drama in which the dancers wear elaborate costumes and make up.
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
Group Tour 13 days from £1699 per person
✓ 12 nights accommodation
✓ Arrival & departure transfers. Internal travel by road
✓ English-speaking guides. Accompanying tour escort when minimum group size achieved
✓ Breakfast daily. Lunch on days 3, 4, 5, 10. Dinner on days 1, 10
✓ Entrance fees at monuments. Escorted walks in Periyar
Holiday Extensions for this tour
India: Southern Explorer - Ooty & Mysore
6 days, 5 nights from £765 per person
Single supplement £ 395 per personview itinerary
A long drive (6-7 hours) from the coast, through paddy fields and up to Hillgrove for a two night stay at the Kurumba Village Resort.
A day to relax in your pretty surroundings with options for a tribal village visit, bird watching excursions or walking.
In the morning, take the Nilgiri Mountain railway to Ooty, through scenic villages and beautiful mountain landscapes. Journey onward by car to Mysore (4-5 hours) and spend two nights at the Radisson Blu Hotel.
A full day of sightseeing in Mysore commences with a visit to Srirangapatnam to see Tipu Sultan’s Palace. Drive up into the Chamundi hills for stunning views of the surrounding area and a visit to the monolithic Nandi Bull. Spend time at the grand Mysore Palace and visit the colourful Devaraja market.
A morning drive (4-5 hours) to Bangalore: a city that is popularly known as the IT hub of India. The afternoon is at leisure. Stay at the Fortune Hotel or similar for one night.
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
Places and Experiences in this tour
Thousands of years before the British first landed on the Coromandel Coast, merchants’ ships were setting sail from a city further south to ports as far afield as the Malacca Stra...
Puducherry, also known as Pondicherry or Pondi, a half-day’s drive south of Mamallapuram, served as France’s principal stronghold on the Coromandel during the Carnatic Wars of the...
The Kaveri (Cauvery) Delta of central Tamil Nadu was the heartland of the mighty Chola Dynasty, whose towering temples stand as south India’s defining monuments. One of the greate...
For sheer visual impact, no Hindu temple in South India can match the magnificence of the Meenakshi-Sundeshwarar in Madurai. The gigantic, multi-coloured gopura towers of the ‘Fis...
Periyar National Park
High in the hills of inland Kerala, the famous Periyar National Park hugs the border with Tamil Nadu. Its focal point is a convoluted reservoir on whose muddy shores herds of elep...
Between Cochin and the town of Alleppey (Alappuzha) on the low-lying coastal strip of central Kerala stretches a vast, shimmering saltwater lagoon known as Vembanad Lake. Surround...
Kumarakom Backwaters and Bird Sanctuary
Kumarakom, a tiny village located between the shores of Vembanad Lake the largest of Kerala’s backwaters and a vast 200-square-kilometre lagoon provides an idyllic setting for rel...
Up until the 1980s, large barges made of oiled jackwood and canopies of plaited palm leaves were used throughout the Kuttinad region of Kerala to transport rice and other produce ...
For centuries the hub of India’s spice and tea trade, Fort Cochin occupies the northern tip of a peninsula dividing the mouth of the Vembanad Lake from the Arabian Sea. Its low-ri...
Hindu pilgrims descend in their largest numbers on the temple at Kaniyakumari during the full-moon phase of April, when it’s possible to see the setting sun and rising moon on the...
Huge, 300-metre cliffs of sheer red sandstone protect the north walls of Bidar fort, where the Deccan’s pre-eminent dynasty, the Bahmanis, sited their capital in the 15th century....
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