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Discover Southern India and Kerala

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4.5 stars(8 reviews)
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Unforgettable Southern India awaits, a land of serene backwaters, ancient temples and fragrant tea plantations.

You are viewing the 2023 itinerary. Select your departure year
20232024
16 days From £2,295 £2,195 per person
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2023 Tour code: GCJ23

About the tour

During this unforgettable tour of Southern India, we visit the cities, temples and tea plantations of the Tamil Nadu region before heading to Kerala. Here, we explore the captivating city of Kochi, relax on Kerala's beaches and cruise through the scenic backwaters of Vambanad Lake.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - London and Bengaluru

After meeting at London Heathrow, we depart on our overnight flight to Bengaluru, travelling via Dubai.

Day 2 - Mysuru

Arriving in India, we transfer by coach to Mysuru for two nights. On arrival, there's time to settle in and unwind after our journey.

Day 3 - Discovering Mysuru

We enjoy a full-day's guided tour, exploring the cultural icons of Mysuru such as St Philomena's Church, a large neo-Gothic cathedral inspired by Cologne Cathedral in Germany, and Mysuru Palace, a beautiful and intricately decorated building that boasts Hindu, Muslim, Gothic and Rajput architectural influences. We continue to Srirangapatna, known for its temples and forts and as the site of a major battle between the British and Tipu Sultan, before pausing for lunch and making our way to the local market of Chamundi Hills. Our last visit is to the unique Bull Temple, which features a gigantic 16-foot granite statue of a bull.

Day 4 - Ooty

We travel to Ooty by coach, where we stay for two nights. Your afternoon is free to start sightseeing, and the town's scenic setting amid the Blue Mountains, or 'Nilgiris', means you're surrounded by the sight of forested foothills and verdant, tiered tea plantations. Nicknamed the 'Queen of Hill Stations', Ooty is a picturesque paradise for nature lovers so why not make your way to one of the nearby lakes for a relaxing cruise or visit the local honey and bee museum?

Day 5 - Exploring Ooty

Our first excursion of the day is to Ooty's popular botanical gardens, home to vibrant displays of over 650 different types of flora planted in typical English-style terraced beds. Alongside beautiful native flowers, there are a number of water features and sculptures to admire. Continuing to Doddabetta Peak, the highest peak in the Nilgiris, we enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and reserve forests before stopping for lunch at a local restaurant and making a visit to St Stephen's Church, known for its colourful depiction of 'The Last Supper'.

Day 6 - Nilgiri Mountain Railway

Taking the local toy train to Conoor, we enjoy a tour of this enchanting town before visiting a local tea factory. Across the Nilgiris, isolated colonial mansions dot hillside tea plantations, a reminder of the region's main industry. This mountainous area has been producing tea for more than 100 years, in particular a variety known for its distinctively dark colour and strong aroma. We sit down to lunch at a local restaurant before boarding the UNESCO-listed Nilgiri Mountain Railway, one of the world's steepest operational rack-and pinion railways. The steam-hauled service takes us through forest-covered hills to Mettupalayam, where we board a coach to Coimbatore for an overnight stay

Day 7 - To Kochi

Following a free morning, we catch the train to the captivating city of Kochi for two nights. 

Day 8 - Guided tour of Kochi

Sometimes known as the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea', Kochi is a fascinating destination to experience, and our tour today includes the St Francis Church in Fort Kochi. One of the earliest European churches, this is where Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, was originally buried before his body was carried back to Lisbon. We also visit the Dutch Palace - built by the Portuguese in 1555 then renovated and extended by the Dutch in 1663 - and get an insight into the daily life of local people at the Dhobi Khana, a sprawling open-air laundry where hundreds of clothes are washed every day and hung out to dry. In the evening, we're treated to a Kathakali dance performance. Kathakali is the traditional dance-drama of Kerala and combines bright colourful costumes and ornate headdresses with ritualistic dance movement, all set to a soundtrack of traditional music played by local musicians.

Day 9 - Kerala and its backwaters

We enjoy a guided tour of the Jewish Synagogue this morning, home to an array of treasures including The Great Scrolls of the Old Testament, before transferring to Alleppey. Here, we board a houseboat, or kettuvallam, for a scenic cruise through Kerala's naturally idyllic backwaters. Constructed using traditional materials, these incredible boats were once used to shuttle goods, including exotic spices and rice, between Cochin and Kuttanad, and could carry up to 30 tonnes of cargo. We begin at Vembanad Lake, the longest lake in India, gliding serenely through a bewildering maze of canals and channels. We disembark at Kumarakom for an overnight stay.

Day 10 - To Thekkady

We transfer to Thekkady for two nights, enjoying a relaxed afternoon to settle in on arrival.

Day 11 - Thekkady

Today's excursion takes us to an aromatic spice plantation, where we enjoy a guided walking tour that helps us uncover the secrets of Southern India's flavoursome spices. A destination that's grown and exported some of the world's most popular and fragrant spices, such as ginger, garlic, cardamom, vanilla, pepper, cinnamon and clove, we learn about how each one is cultivated and cared for, enjoying the opportunity to stock up on some authentic seasonings for our spice cupboards back home. In the afternoon, we head to Lake Periyar, a stunning body of water set in a large wildlife sanctuary, for a cruise across its peaceful waters.

Day 12 - Madurai

Travelling to Madurai for two nights, we visit a nearby village inhabited by artisans who specialise in sculpting aesthetic idols and puppets out of clay. During our time here, we get to see age-old crafting methods in action and enjoy the chance to purchase some treasured mementos.

Day 13 - Guided tour of Madurai

We take a guided tour of Madurai that includes the impressive 17th-century Thirumalai Nayak Palace and the Gandhi Memorial Museum. A frenetic yet ancient city located on the Vaigai River within the state of Tamil Nadu, Madurai's skyline is dominated by 14 colourful gopurams, or gateway towers, of the Meenakshi Amman Temple. Covered in bright carvings of Hindu gods, this Dravidian-style temple has been a major pilgrimage site for centuries. Afterwards, we make our way to the Meenakshi Temple to watch the 'puja', a traditional Hindu ritual of offering prayers. Each day the priests symbolically bathe, dress and feed an idol of God Shiva, and we get to see the final puja of the day as Shiva is put to bed alongside his wife, Goddess Meenakshi, to whom the temple is dedicated.

Day 14 - Chennai

We take an internal flight to Chennai for the night, a city once known as Madras and a metropolis within the Bay of Bengal. An important port during the colonial era, Chennai's architecture and culture bear pronounced Portuguese, Dutch, French and British influences, while also being rooted in more local aesthetics. We explore the San Thome Cathedral Basilica, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, the Kapaleeshwarar Temple, and the Madras War Cemetery on Marina Beach. We also pay a visit to the city's flower market in George Town, soaking up a myriad of colours and fragrances.

Day 15 - Mamallapuram

There's an optional excursion this morning to Mamallapuram, known for its UNESCO-listed temples and monuments built by the Pallava dynasty in the 7th and 8th centuries. The seafront Shore Temple consists of three ornate granite shrines, while Krishna's Butter Ball is a massive boulder balanced on a small hill near the Ganesha Ratha stone temple. Otherwise, enjoy a free day before we transfer to the airport for our flight, via Dubai, to London Heathrow.

Day 16 - London

We land in the UK this morning and our adventures in Southern India come to an end.

Additional information

Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.

Departure times

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.

Visa requirements
Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotels

Hotel Taj Coromandel, Chennai

Hotel Taj Coromandel, Chennai

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Vivanta Coimbatore, Coimbatore

Vivanta Coimbatore, Coimbatore

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Taj Malabar Resort & Spa, Kochi

Taj Malabar Resort & Spa, Kochi

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Coconut Lagoon

Coconut Lagoon, Kumarakom

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The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai, Madurai

The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai, Madurai

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Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Mysore

Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Mysore, Mysuru

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Fortune Sullivan Court

Fortune Sullivan Court, Ooty

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Spice Village, Thekkady

Spice Village, Thekkady

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Train

Nilgiri Mountain Railway

Enhance your holiday

Upgrades

Flight upgrades
London Hotels
UK rail connections

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Mumbai

Reviews

4.5 stars4.5 / 5 · 8 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (5)
  2. 4 stars
    (2)
  3. 3 stars
    (1)
  4. 2 stars
    (0)
  5. 1 star
    (0)

Jan Fereday Smith

5 stars

Submitted 24/Oct

A fantastic and full on tour. A well organised and enjoyable tour with nice hotels by coach and rail..

Collected by Trustpilot

John

5 stars

Submitted 23/Oct

Amazing. Small group with big visa issues This was a fabulous holiday with luxury accommodation all round, apart from two hotels at Ooty and the Taj Gateway, which had great promise but fell a little short of the others in terms of the very highs standards of the best. In all cases, however, the attentiveness of staff and the food were first class throughout. A highlight of the trip was the toy train journey down the mountains from Ooty. The scenery was simply jaw dropping. Sadly, the booked second class carriage on the second part of the trip, meant that our larger European frames had to be shoe-horned into seats just big enough for children or small people. Had it not been for the scenery, this very uncomfortable trip would have been purgatory. Overall, this was a fantastic trip, marred only by the stress and hugely difficult process for getting a visa. This was not, however, anything to do with Great Rail Journeys so we cannot mark the holiday down for it.

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Mrs P Emmett

5 stars

Submitted 19 Apr 2019

Very well planned itinerary with lots of interesting places and happenings.

Collected by Great Rail Journeys

Mr B Whittingham

4 stars

Submitted 18 Apr 2019

A thoroughly enjoyable tour from start to finish

Collected by Great Rail Journeys

Mrs S Britton

4 stars

Submitted 18 Dec 2018

Very enjoyable but a lot of travelling. Good to great hotels.

Collected by Great Rail Journeys

Mr J Edwards

3 stars

Submitted 18 Dec 2018

Too many churches and museums visited, no free time. When it said afternoon free,it did not happen. We loved the hotels and the temple visits. Not terribly keen on our English guide, he was a headmaster und you felt you were on a school trip. He also got easily flustered and a bit bad tempered even though our group was not a difficult one.

Collected by Great Rail Journeys

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Discover Southern India and Kerala

Unforgettable Southern India awaits, a land of serene backwaters, ancient temples and fragrant tea plantations.

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