Days
15
Price from
$4,162NZD

Discover the charms of India on this 15-day adventure from Chennai to Kovalam

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

INDEPENDENT JOURNEYS
Independent travel, without the stress. Peregrine’s Independent Journeys are a range of Peregrine's best-selling group tours, available for 1-3 people. They depart on any day and are accompanied by a Peregrine guide in each location and 24/7 support from the local Peregrine office. For more information click here.

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
Kovalam, India
Country
India
Style
Independent Journeys
Code
PIESJ
Physical rating
Traveller’s rating
2 reviews
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 3

Why we love this trip

  • 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 and follows the road less travelled - without sacrificing too many creature comforts.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip travels by train on Day 5 for approximately 6 hours, but entertaining chaiwalas (tea vendors), food vendors and conversations with locals make this a rewarding 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

Upon arrival you will be collected at the airport by one of our transfer representatives.
Chennai, formerly Madras, is the fourth largest city in India. It was the first major settlement of the East India Company in 1639.
While it is exceptionally hot, and forever abuzz with activity and noise, Chennai is comparatively orderly; by Indian standards, it is considered to be quite efficient.
The Government Museum is an excellent place to develop an understanding of the history of the city.
Simply wandering the streets, exploring the lively local markets and beautiful temples is another lovely way to wile away the day.
Accommodation
  • My Fortune Hotel or similar (2 nights)
Included Activities
  • Chennai - Kapileshwar Temple
  • Chennai - Government Museum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (1)
From Chennai, you will escape the busy city and head for the sprawling, laidback beaches of Mamallapuram. You will drive along the scenic East Coast Road for two hours to reach this scenic fishing village.
You might like to visit the Shore Temple, or see the abundant mandapams (carved pillars in front of temples).
Later this afternoon continue on to Puducherry where you spend two nights (approx. 3 hours)
Accommodation
  • The Promenade Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
  • Pondicherry - Auroville
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
You will drive on to Pondicherry today, briefly stopping at Auroville to experience an incredible experiment in international living (driving time: approx 3 hours)
Auroville is home to 1,500 residents across 80 rural settlements. Half of the population are foreign nationals, and the purpose of the settlement is human unity. Auroville is also known for housing the world’s largest solid crystal.
You will continue on your journey to reach the united territories of Pondicherry. This region is distinctively French. It is charming and romantic, replete with a Hotel de Ville, French consulate and a police force dressed in traditional red kepis hats and belts.
Pondicherry also houses the famous Sri Aurobind Ashram. It was founded by Sri Aurobindo in 1926, and has become one of the most popular ashrams for tourists and ex-pats alike. It is also one of the most affluent in India.
Pondicherry is a duty free zone, reputed for its quality leather and hand crafted paper products, you will notice the French influence of the area extends to the European feel of the shopping.
You will wander through the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and also explore some local temples and the old French quarter.
Accommodation
  • The Promenade Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Pondicherry - Walking Tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you will take an afternoon train to Madurai. This six-hour journey will be in air-conditioned comfort, with western toilets available to ensure your trip is enjoyable.
Fascinating ancient temples and heritage sites punctuate Madurai’s landscape, with the city’s recorded history dating back to the 3rd century BC.
You will wander the tailors markets and bazaars before visiting the Sri Meenakshi Temple, which lies at the heart of the city. Still active today, this ancient temple is a maze of lamp-lit corridors. The corridors lead to shrines where mysterious rituals take place.
A visit to the National Gandhi Museum will expose you to the life and achievements of the 'Father of the Nation'; a wonderful chance to learn about the remarkable man behind India's fight for independence.
Accommodation
  • Germanus Hotel or similar (2 nights)
Included Activities
  • Madurai - Walking tour
  • Madurai - Aayiram Kaal Mandapam
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
  • Madurai - Gandhi Museum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (2)
  • Dinner (1)
Today you will drive to Thekkady, passing flourishing rubber and pineapple plantations (approximately 4 hours). Thekkady is the gateway to Periyar National Park (Periyar Tiger Reserve), which is perched high in the ranges of the Western Ghats.
The sanctuary surrounds a beautiful lake. The lake 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.
A guided nature walk in the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary will offer you the chance to experience the wilderness and maybe glimpse some wildlife. Wildlife encounters are never guaranteed, but if luck is on your side you may see some Indian elephants 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.
Next, you will be taken on a tour of a local spice plantation before sitting down to a delicious meal prepared by the owner’s family.
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.
Included Activities
  • Periyar - Spice farm tour & dinner
  • Periyar Green Walk - Guided Nature Walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (2)
You will be driven to Munnar today (approximately 4 hours). Munnar is an old British hill station that is cradled in a picturesque valley. Sitting higher up at 1525 metres (4575 feet) you will notice a dramatic drop in temperature here, so be sure to pack appropriate clothing to accommodate this.
You will visit a nearby tea garden, where you can bask in the luscious, green surrounds, and if the erratic scheduling of the museum allows, you will visit the tea museum.
Next you will journey out to Mattupetti Dam, a town known for its Indo-Swiss livestock project. It is situated 13 kilometres from Munnar and sits 1700 metres above sea level.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Eastend or similar (2 nights)
Included Activities
  • Munnar - Mattupetty Dam
  • Munnar - Tea Garden visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (2)
After your stay in the hills, you drive on to Kochi (approximately 5-6 hours). Kochi, formerly known as Cochin, is spread over several islands, and is known for its melting pot of influences, from Chinese and Portuguese to Dutch and English. The ferry network is the best way to explore the area.
You will explore the wonderful antique shops and spice bazaars, as well the sights of Fort Cochin such as the Chinese fishing nets.
You will also visit 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.
In the Mattancherry area, you also visit the Paradesi Synagogue, the oldest existing Jewish synagogue in India, built in 1568.
Next up, time for an optional excursion to Vypeen Island, it is one of the group of islands that collectively forms Kochi.
In the early evening you will also have the opportunity to witness a Kathakali dance performance, a classical, powerful, and dramatic dance style that combines symbolic storytelling with physical virtuosity. 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 Killians or similar (2 nights)
Included Activities
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Kochi - Jewish Synagogue
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (2)
From the sanctuary, you will drive downhill to the backwaters of Kerala (approximately 3 hours).
Discover Kerala’s beloved hidden treasure in Alleppey’s sleepy, palm-shaded backwaters. Previously a significant trading port, Alleppey is now famed for its snake boat races (in August). It is the most common starting point for most journeys through the backwaters, and hosts a music festival in December each year.
Tonight you sleep on a traditional Kettuvallam (houseboat), these floating cottages have western toilets, private bedrooms, dining area and sundeck.
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). The journey takes approximately 4 hours.
Kovalam used to be quiet coastal village known only for its export of fresh fish and coconuts. It was discovered 30 years ago and was transformed from obscurity to one of the most popular beaches in India.
You will visit one of the most ancient temples in south India, the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. The majority of its devotees are women and as a result it is often described as 'Sabarimala of the Women'.
Your trip ends in Kovalam after breakfast on Day 15. The final day will be free, allowing you to leave your accommodation and embark upon your onward travel at leisure. The nearest airport is Trivandrum. Your tour guide can assist you with arranging a transfer to the airport. These are not included, but can also be booked through us or your travel agent.
Accommodation
  • Uday Sumundra or similar (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kovalam - Anchuthengu Fort - INR50
  • Kovalam - Koyikkal Palace - INR50
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (2)

Meals

14 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners

Transport

Boat, Private vehicle

Accommodation

Hotel (7 nights), Houseboat (1 night), Resort (6 nights)

Included Activities

  • Chennai - Kapileshwar Temple
  • Chennai - Government Museum
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
  • Pondicherry - Auroville
  • Pondicherry - Walking Tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram
  • Madurai - Walking tour
  • Madurai - Aayiram Kaal Mandapam
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
  • Madurai - Gandhi Museum
  • Periyar - Spice farm tour & dinner
  • Periyar Green Walk - Guided Nature Walk
  • Munnar - Mattupetty Dam
  • Munnar - Tea Garden visit
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Kochi - Jewish Synagogue

Reviews

Our Essence of South India - Independent Journey trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 2 reviews in the last year.

Essence of South India - Independent Journey, February 2016

Prudence Sky

Essence of South India - Independent Journey, December 2015

Priscilla Adey

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Important notes

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2016:
From 1st May 2016 this trip will spend 2 nights in Pondicherry. We will still visit Mamallapuram on a day trip. All sites and activities will continue to be included.

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.