Southern India is more than just a place. It's an escape. What else do you expect from the home of Ayurvedic massage? Peregrine has a long history of travel in India. We love opening people's eyes to the colour, the chaos, the flavours and the infectious buzz in places like Delhi, Jaipur and Mumbai. But often people are most surprised by the calm, tranquil waters and laidback lifestyle on offer in the south.
Andrew has just returned from Peregrine's Treasures of South India trip. We asked him to quickly list the three things that come to mind when he thinks of the destination. "Food, food and food" was his response.
"If you've ever travelled through Rajasthan or the north of India, you'll have tried a lot of creamy dishes with a smoky, tandoori-type flavour," he said.
"But as soon as you hit the south you realise what a massive difference there is. It's hard to describe the flavours, but it's like they are brighter. There's a lot of chillis and also a lot of coconut due to the climate. Don't even get me started on the seafood!"
You'll fall in love with the laidback atmosphere of the smaller coastal towns, like Pondicherry, or "Pondy" as Andrew referred to it.
"Pondy is such a great place to unwind. It's an old French Colonial capital, with wide streets lined with shady trees. It's great because you hardly get hassled at all. Everyone is just going about their business, and it's great to feel like you are blending in with local life rather than being a novelty," he said.
Then there's the wonderful history of Kochi (Cochin), where you can visit what is said to be India's oldest church. "St Francis church is beautiful. It is an ancient European church built in 1503 and it's incredible to see this style of church in the middle of a coastal town in southern India," Andrew said.
One of the highlights of this trip is the cruise along the maze of Kerala's backwaters. It's a chance to see how life is played out here as you meander past. There are women washing and chatting, men fishing and children playing with a backdrop of villages, paddy fields and coconut palms spread out before you.
"For me, the Kerala cruise summed up the southern Indian experience," Andrew said.
"The houseboat was so relaxing. I got to eat fresh seafood, feel the cool breeze from the water on my face, watch the sun go down from the deck and really let this place get under my skin."
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