During this truly unforgettable tour of southern India, we visit the cities, temples and tea plantations of the Tamil Nadu region before heading to Kerala. We explore the captivating city of Kochi, relax on Kerala's beaches and cruise through the backwaters of Vambanad Lake.
We depart London Heathrow for our overnight flight to Bangalore, travelling via Abu Dhabi. Arriving on Day 2, we transfer by coach to Mysuru, and enjoy an afternoon at leisure to settle in to our surroundings.
It is here we enjoy a full-day tour on Day 3, exploring the cultural icons of the city, such as St Philomena's Church, a large neo-Gothic cathedral inspired by the iconic Cologne Cathedral in Germany, and Mysore Palace, a beautiful and intricately decorated building that boasts Hindu, Muslim, Gothic, and Rajput architectural influences.
We pause for lunch before we continue our tour, and visit Chanmundi Hills, a local market, and the Bull Temple, which features a gigantic 16-foot granite statue of a bull.
This morning we travel by coach to Ooty, where we stay for two nights. After we check in, you are free for an afternoon at leisure. On Day 5, we visit the Botanical Garden, with its vibrant displays planted in typical English-style terraced beds, a reminder of the region's colonial influences and St. Stephens Church. We enjoy lunch at a local restaurant during the day.
On Day 6 we travel by toy train to Conoor where we enjoy a tour of this enchanting Indian town, before we visit a local tea factory. Throughout Tamil Nadu, isolated colonial mansions stare out across lush tea plantations which cover the hillsides, and tea production is the region's main industry. The mountainous area has been producing tea for more than 100 years and is known for its distinctive dark, aromatic varieties.
Later, we board the UNESCO-listed Nilgiri Mountain Railway, one of the world's steepest operational rack-and-pinion railways. The steam-hauled service takes us up the hillside through verdant forests to Mettupalayam where we board a coach to Coimbatore for and overnight stay.
Today we transfer by coach to Coimbatore, from where we board the train to the truly captivating city of Kochi. We discover Kochi on a guided tour on Day 8. Sometimes known as the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea', Kochi is a fascinating city to explore.
Our tour includes the St Francis Church in Fort Kochi. We also visit the Dutch Palace - built by the Portuguese in 1555, then renovated and extended by the Dutch in 1663.
This evening, we are treated to a Kathakali Dance performance. Kathakali is the traditional dance-drama of Kerala, which combines bright colourful costumes, ornate headwear, very deliberate and ritualistic dance movements, and live music. The drama is full of emotion and involves some of the most intense facial expressions you may ever see.
On Day 9, we enjoy a guided tour of the Jewish Synagogue, home to an array of treasures including The Great Scrolls of the Old Testament, before transfering to Alleppey, where we board a kettuvallam, or houseboat, for a scenic cruise discovering Kerala's naturally idyllic backwaters. Constructed using traditional methods and materials, these incredible boats were once used to shuttle goods between Cochin and Kuttanad, and could carry up to 30 tonnes of cargo, including exotic spices and rice.
We begin at Vembanad Lake, the largest lagoon in the region, which maintains its quiet and calm feel. As we glide serenely through the bewildering maze of canals and channels, we enjoy lunch and an evening tea on board. We disembark at Kumarakom, where we stay at the Coconut Lagoon. On Day 10, we continue to Thekkady, where your afternoon is free.
Today's excursion takes us to an aromatic spice plantation, where we enjoy a guided walking tour, uncovering the secrets of southern India's spices. This afternoon we head to Lake Periyar, a stunning lake in a large wildlife sanctuary, for a cruise across its peaceful waters.
On Day 12 our tour takes us to Madurai, where this evening we venture out to the Meenakshi Temple. Here, we are invited to watch a 'puja', religious ceremony. Each day here, the priests symbolically bathe, dress, and feed the statue of the god Shiva, and this evening we witness the final puja of the day, as Shiva is put to bed alongside his wife, the goddess Meenakshi, for whom the temple is named.
We take a guided coach tour of Madurai on Day 13, which includes the impressive 17th-century Thirumalai Nayak Palace, an oppulent building filled with stunning carvings and umerous pillars. This impressive structure was once considered to be one of the most incredible buildings in India, however it was ruined over 400 years due to war and neglect. The building was eventually restored in the 19th century, and although it is a truly mesmerising building, it hasn't maintained its former glory. We also visit the Gandhi Memorial Museum, which tells of the history and life of one of India's most famous men.
After breakfast today, we take an internal flight to Chennai, formerly known as Madras. This afternoon, we take a sightseeing tour, including some of the city's colonial heritage, seen in the architecture that remains.
The city was the 17th century French colonial capital, and today it boasts a rich blend of French-Tamil culture and the hustle and bustle of a modern Indian city. Tuk tuks whizz by, driving on both sides of the road as the weave their way through pedestrians, cars, and hundreds of beeping motorbikes. The smell of street food fills the air; an inviting combination of both Tamil and Creole cuisine.
Some sights that we see on our tour include the Regional Railway Museum, a drive past the British buildings, a visit to a Madras War Cemetery along with Marina Beach, San Thome Cathedral Basilica & Kapaleeshwar Temple.
There is an optional excursion this morning to Mamallapuram, known for its UNESCO-listed temples (payable locally). Otherwise, enjoy the day at leisure, before we transfer to the airport for our flight to London, where we arrive on Day 16.
Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Enhancing your tour
British Citizens require a visa to enter India. We can help you with visa applications up to 21 days before departure - please see the Visa section of 'Things You Should Know' for further details.
This tour may be suitable for reduced mobility passengers, please call for further information.
Join us on this truly unforgettable tour of Southern India, visit cities, temples and tea plantations.