15 days

Essence of South India

Essence of South India

British East India Company trading post town of Chennai

Cochin's diverse history

Train travel - a quintessentially Indian experience

Trip rating
  • Travel to India and embark on this Classic Kerala tour from Kochi 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 and Classic Kerala follows the road less travelled - without sacrificing too many creature comforts.

    Why we love it

    • 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.


    Day 1-2 - Chennai

    • Upon arrival you will be collected at the airport by one of our transfer representatives. Your Indian adventure will begin with an important meeting at 6pm. You will find details of the meeting venue at the hotel reception.

    • Keep in mind that you will need your next of kin and insurance details with you at this meeting.
    • 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.

    Pride Hotel or similar

    Day 3 - Mamallapuram

    • 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). You can also watch stone carvers, see the fishing fleet, or just unwind and absorb the atmosphere of the town in a beachside restaurant.

    Sea Breeze Hotel or similar

    Day 4 - Pondicherry

    • You will drive on to Pondicherry today, briefly stopping at Auroville to experience an incredible experiment in international living (driving time, approximately 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.
    Hotel Atithi or similar

    Day 5-6 - Madurai

    • Your adventure will continue today when you board an afternoon train to Madurai. This six-hour journey will be in air-conditioned comfort, with a dining carriage and 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 learning opportunity.

    Germanus Hotel or similar

    Day 7-8 - Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

    • Today you will drive to Periyar (approximately 4 hours). Here you will visit the Periyar National Park and 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.
    • The reserve is an excellent place to see Indian elephants partaking in their daily ablutions and play by the lake, and proves one of the reserve’s greatest attractions.
    • Next you will be taken on a tour of a local spice plantation before sitting down to a delicious evening meal prepared by the owner’s family.
    • A guided nature walk through the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary will offer you the chance to glimpse sambar, bison, elephant, spotted deer, tiger, and leopard.
    Rangerwood Hotel or similar

    Day 9-10 - Munnar

    • 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 1,525m (4,575 ft) you will notice a dramatic drop in temperature here; 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 13km from Munnar and sits 1700m above sea level.

    Deshadan Mountain Resort or similar

    Day 11-12 - Kochi

    • After blissing out in Kerala, you will drive on to Kochi (approximately 2 hours). Kochi is spread over several islands, and is known for its melting pot of influences, from Chinese and Portuguese to Dutch and English.

    • You will explore the wonderful antique shops, and spice bazaars as well the sights of Fort Cochin. The ferry network is the best way to explore the area.
    • You will have the opportunity to be part of 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.
    • You will also visit the Dutch Palace, which was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese and conquered by the Dutch in 1663. The Dutch improved upon the existing palace before presenting it to the Rajas of Cochin.
    • Using the local ferries, you will visit spice bazaars and antique shop-lined streets of the region, and also the wonderfully restored Mattancherry Palace
    • You can also see one of the oldest existing Jeweish synagogues in India, which was built in 1568.

    Grand Hotel or similar

    Day 13 - Alleppey

    • 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.
    Pikadly Houseboat or similar

    Day 14-15 - Trivandrum/Kovalam Beach

    • In the morning you will drive to Trivandrum (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.
    • The final day will be free, allowing you to leave your accommodation and embark upon your onward travel at leisure.
    • Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
    Sagara Beach Resort
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • The services of Peregrine’s expert English-speaking local tour leader throughout the tour and local guides at some sites.
    • Authentic accommodation includes: 12 nights comfortable hotels, 1 night Heritage Property, 1 night resort
    • Arrival transfer.
    • Meals: 14 breakfasts
    • Sightseeing and entrance fees including: UNESCO World Heritage-listed site of Mamallapuram including the rock-cut temples, giant frieze and Shore Temple, Spice farm tour & dinner in Periyar
    • Sightseeing and entrance fees including: Madurai including Meenakshi Temple; Kochi including Fort Cochin and St Francis Church, Pole boat ride on the Backwaters
    • Stroll the French colonial promenades of Pondicherry.
    • Boat cruise around Kochi harbour.
    • Jungle walk in Periyar National Park.
    • Free time to explore Mamallapuram, Madurai, Kochi, Mysore and Chennai.

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Airport departure taxes
    • Airport departure transfer
    • Visas
    • Insurance
    • Other meals including lunches and dinners
    • Any optional tours and activities during free time
    • Excess baggage charges
    • Tips
    • Items of a personal nature
    • Camera fees (some places that we visit charge additional fees if you are entering with a camera or camcorder - your city guide will advise on these and they can be paid for locally)
  • Map Itinerary

  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

    At the end of each trip, we ask our travellers to provide feedback. We publish the positive, negative and neutral feedback on this page to give you an overall idea of what to expect on this trip.

    Essence of South India

    Patricia - New Zealand, 1 Jan, 1970
    Overall Rating

    Very diverse and interesting travels covering both east and west coasts, plus interior of south India. 'Total Holidays' and the bus transport companies were of a very professional standard,with excellent drivers.The hotels were of a varying standard but I realise that this was often due to lack of choice; however all were clean and well serviced.

    Essence of South India

    karen - Canada, 28 Jan, 2014
    Overall Rating

    Trip was fantastic, no issues what so ever!

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PIES
Group size 4 - 16
Start City: Chennai
End City: Kovalam
Style: Small Group

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