Days
15
Price from
£1,640GBP

Explore the beaches, bazaars and backwaters of Southern India, from Chennai to Kovalam

Travel to India and embark on this classic southern India tour from Chennai to Kovalam Beach. Lush, tropical southern India is charming, captivating and hospitable. Discover a thousand shades of green and share smiles with the friendly local people. Experience the culture, religion and history of this region in its small rural towns, quaint fishing villages and scented spice plantations. This is a fabulous part of India includes Kerala and follows the road less travelled - without sacrificing too many creature comforts.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:
From 1st January 2017 this trip will decrease in length from 15 to 14 days, removing one day in Chennai. There are no other major changes to the itinerary.


Start
Chennai, India
Finish
Trivandrum, India
Country
India
Style
Peregrine
Code
PIES
Physical rating
Traveller’s rating
83 reviews
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Discover a different side to India on east to west coast trip that takes in beaches and temples, hidden waterways and jungle, and rolling tea-covered mountains and spice plantations

  • Chennai is a flurry of ordered chaos, but find peace at the magnificent Kapaleeshwarar Temple at its centre

  • Explore the beautiful seaside town of Puducherry, a mix of idyllic and contemporary lifestyle

  • Feel the weight of history and learn about the man who dedicated his life to the independence of India at The National Gandhi Museum

  • Track footprints in search of wild elephants in the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Ferry-hop between the islands of Fort Kochi to discover palaces, temples and Portuguese architecture at every turn

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip now drives by private vehicle on Day 5 for approximately 5 hours after negative past traveller feedback about the train journey.

  • There are some long travel days on this departure, which can be tiresome but offer a quintessential Indian experience.

  • The drive to Munnar on Day 9 is on windy roads into the mountains. Motion sickness can be an issue for some, but the scenery is stunning and regular stops will be made to break up your journey.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 May 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Welcome to Chennai, India. You will be met on arrival at the airport and transferred to your hotel. This adventure will begin with an important group meeting at 6 pm when we'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you arrive in Chennai with free time to spare, take the chance to walk around India’s fourth largest city and perhaps visit the local marketplaces and temples. In the evening, maybe join your fellow travellers for dinner.
Accommodation
  • My Fortune Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today you will join your leader for a walking tour of Chennai, formerly Madras and the first major settlement of the East India Company in 1639. While it is hot and busy, the city is considered to by orderly and efficient by Indian standards. One of the stops will be the Government Museum to learn more about the history of Chennai, then on to one of the city's most impressive sites - the Kapileswar Temple. This ornate building, with its multi-coloured gateway and pillared pavilions, is dedicated to Shiva and was build around the 7th Century. Take some time to wander the streets and soak up the lively atmosphere from the markets and temples, and in the evening perhaps head out for some delicious Chennai cuisine such as Chettinad pepper chicken or ven pongal (spicy lentils and rice).
Accommodation
  • My Fortune Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chennai - Kapileshwar Temple
  • Chennai - Government Museum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning you will leave the city behind and drive along the scenic East Coast Road (approximately 2 hours) to the fishing town of Mamallapuram, home to sprawling, relaxed beaches. Visit the 8th-century Shore Temple and its mandapams (carved pillars) and watch locals pay their respects to the deity Shiva. Later in the afternoon continue the drive to Pondicherry (approximately 3 hours) where your evening is free.
Accommodation
  • The Promenade Hotel or Similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you will visit Auroville, which sits just outside Pondicherry and is an experimental township dedicated to the concept of human unity. With more than 80 rural settlements and home to over 1,500 residents, half of the town’s population are foreign nationals. Auroville is also home to the world’s largest solid crystal, which you can examine. Back in Pondicherry you'll take a walking tour to see local temples, the French Quarter and the spiritual community of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, one of the most affluent and most popular ashrams for tourists and ex-pats alike. You’ll see evidence of French colonial influence in Pondicherry's architecture, sprawling town squares and even in the uniforms of the police. The city is also a duty free zone, reputed for its quality leather and hand crafted paper products. You'll notice the French influence of the area extends to the European feel of the shopping.
Accommodation
  • The Promenade Hotel or Similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Pondicherry - Auroville
  • Pondicherry - Walking Tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today continue by private a/c vehicle to Madurai. Its a six hour journey and will take up most of the day. there are plenty of bathroom and chai stops along the way. After arriving in the city, maybe head out on a guided orientation walk of the local area. Madurai’s recorded history dates back to third-century BC and has a fascinating story, with your guide being able to help you understand it. Venture out in the evening for some authentic Indian food.
Accommodation
  • Germanus Hotel or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
From 1 May 2016 this trip travels between Puducheer
Continue your walking exploration of Madurai today, wandering the tailors markets and bazaars before visiting the Sri Meenakshi Temple in the city’s centre. Still in use today, this ancient temple is a maze of lamp-lit corridors leading to shrines where traditional rituals take place. Take a trip to the National Gandhi Museum, dedicated to the life and achievements of the 'Father of the Nation' and the leader of India's fight for independence. This evening is free for you to use as you wish.
Accommodation
  • Germanus Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
  • Madurai - Gandhi Museum
  • Madurai - Walking tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Travel into the countryside this morning as you drive past rubber and pineapple plantations to Thekkady (approximately 4 hours). Thekkady is the gateway to Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve, perched high in the ranges of the Western Ghats. The sanctuary surrounds a picturesque lake, which was formed as result of a dam that was built in 1895. It ambles through the contours of the wooded hills, and is a permanent source of water for local wildlife. This afternoon, take a tour of a local spice plantation before sitting down to a delicious meal prepared by the owner’s family.
Accommodation
  • The Peppervine Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Periyar - Spice farm tour & dinner
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
This morning, take a guided nature walk in the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Wildlife encounters are never guaranteed, but if luck is on your side you may see some Indian elephants, tigers or gaur - the world's largest species of buffalo. You are more likely to see Bonnet macaques who are often found near the entrance to the reserve, or the Malabar giant squirrel, a species native to India. In your free time, you can enjoy an ayurvedic massage (optional) or attend an exciting demonstration of Indian martial arts (kalaripayattu) at the Kadathanadan Kalari Centre.
Accommodation
  • The Peppervine Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Periyar Green Walk - Guided Nature Walk
Optional Activities
  • Periyar NP - Ayurvedic Massage - INR700
  • Periyar NP - Kalaripayattu (Indian Martial Art) performance - INR200
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
please note the optional Ayurvedic massage price starts at INR700. The range is INR700 to INR4000
This morning drive north to Munnar (approximately 4 hours), an old British Hill Station cradled in a picturesque valley. At 1,525 metres above sea level, there’s likely to be dramatic drop in temperature here so be sure to pack warm clothing. You'll take a tour of a nearby tea garden where you can soak up the luscious green surrounds and, if its erratic scheduling allows, you will visit the tea museum. Relax for the evening in your accommodation in the mountain resort.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Eastend or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Munnar - Tea Garden visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning take a guided walk around the lush hills of Munnar, India’s largest tea-growing region, which still retains some of its colonial charm from when it was a favourite summer retreat of the British. In the afternoon, journey out to the scenic Mattupetty Dam where you can take an optional motorboat ride. The town of Mattupetty is known for its Indo-Swiss livestock project devoted to cattle development. Your evening is then free.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Eastend or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Munnar - Mattupetty Dam
  • Munnar - Town Walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning, drive from the tea covered hills to Kochi (approximately 5 hours). Cochin, as it was formerly known, is spread over several islands and is a melting pot of Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and British influences. If you decide to island hop, the ferry network is the best way to get around the town’s numerous islands. On arrival, you will explore the antique shops and spice bazaars, visit Fort Kochi and see the Chinese fishing nets that line the coast. You will also stop at the Dutch Palace (Mattancherry Palace), which was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese and later claimed by the Dutch in 1663. The Dutch improved upon the existing palace before presenting it to the rajas of Cochin. Maybe use your free evening to wander down the beach at sunset.

Accommodation
  • Hotel Killian or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi sightseeing walk
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you will visit the Paradesi Synagogue, the oldest existing Jewish synagogue in India, built in 1568. There is then the opportunity to take an optional excursion to Vypeen Island, one of the most densely populated islands in Kochi. In the early evening you will also witness a Kathakali dance performance, a classical, powerful, and dramatic dance style that combines symbolic storytelling with physical technique. It is one of the most vibrant and extraordinary theatre forms in the world, and requires incredible commitment and rigorous training physically, as well as incredible emotional sensitivity to properly express the nuances of expression required.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Killian or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kochi - Jewish Synagogue
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Drive to the backwaters of Kerala this morning (approximately 3 hours) and discover Alleppey’s sleepy, palm-shaded waterways. Once a significant trading port, the town is now famed for the long ‘snake boats’ races that take place in August every year. Alleppey is a common starting point for journeys through the backwaters. Tonight, you'll sleep on a traditional Kettuvallam (houseboat). These floating cottages have western toilets, private bedrooms, a dining area and sundeck for you to relax on.
Accommodation
  • Pikadly Houseboat or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
A morning drive takes you to Kovalam via the capital of Kerala, Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) (approximately 4 hours). Kovalam was once a quiet coastal village known for its export of fresh fish and coconuts, but is now one of India’s most popular beach resorts. If you have free time, explore the old signalling station of Anchuthengu Fort or the 16th-century Koyikkal Palace. Your evening is then free to do as you wish. Perhaps head out with the group for a farewell meal.
Accommodation
  • Uday Samudra Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kovalam - Walking Tour
Optional Activities
  • Kovalam - Anchuthengu Fort - INR50
  • Kovalam - Koyikkal Palace - INR50
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today, your Essence of South India adventure ends after breakfast and you’re free to leave the accommodation at any time. The nearest airport is Trivandrum and your leader can assist you in arranging a transfer.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

14 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners

Transport

Boat, Private vehicle

Accommodation

Comfortable hotel, Houseboat

Included Activities

  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
  • Chennai - Kapileshwar Temple
  • Chennai - Government Museum
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
  • Pondicherry - Auroville
  • Pondicherry - Walking Tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
  • Madurai - Gandhi Museum
  • Madurai - Walking tour
  • Periyar - Spice farm tour & dinner
  • Periyar Green Walk - Guided Nature Walk
  • Munnar - Tea Garden visit
  • Munnar - Mattupetty Dam
  • Munnar - Town Walk
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi sightseeing walk
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Kochi - Jewish Synagogue
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
  • Kovalam - Walking Tour

Reviews

Our Essence of South India trips score an average of 4.53 out of 5 based on 83 reviews in the last year.

Essence of South India, November 2016

Danny Crowther

Essence of South India, November 2016

Janice Reid

Dates & availability

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Important notes

IMPORTANT INFORMATION:
Indian authorities have announced that all 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes will be withdrawn from circulation. ATMs will not operate on 9-10 November 2016.
Until new notes are issued, you should not accept any denomination higher than 100 rupees (around AUD 2)
Please ensure you receive change from any purchases in 100 rupee notes or smaller.

A single supplement is available for this trip and is applicable for all nights on tour.

Essential Trip Information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.