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Kerala & Exotic Southern India

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Join us on this truly unforgettable tour of Southern India, visit cities, temples and tea plantations.

You are viewing the 2020 itinerary. Select your departure year
20202021
16 daysFrom £2,595 per person

2020 Tour code: GCJ20

About the tour

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.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Days 1-3 - To Mysuru via Bengaluru

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.

Includes
  • Scheduled flights
Mysore Royal Palace
Days 4-6 - The Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Ooty

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.

Includes
  • The Nilgiri Mountain Railway
  • Guided tour of Ooty
Ooty
Days 7-8 - Kochi

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.

Includes
  • Kochi
  • Kathakali dance performance
Kochi
Days 9-10 - A houseboat cruise

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.

Kerala Houseboat
Days 11-13 - Kerala’s spices and Madurai

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.

Includes
  • Excursions
  • Thanjavur
  • Madurai
Madurai
Day 14 - To Chennai

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.

Chennai
Days 15-16 - Return to London

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.

Includes
  • Scheduled flights
Mamallapuram

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

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Jungle Villa Resort

Jungle Villa Resort, Chitwan

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Vivanta Coimbatore, Coimbatore

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Taj Malabar Resort & Spa, Kochi

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Coconut Lagoon, Kumarakom

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The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai, Madurai

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Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Mysore, Mysuru

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Taj Savoy Hotel, Ooty

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Spice Village, Thekkady

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Train

Nilgiri Mountain Railway

Enhance your holiday

Upgrades

London Hotels
UK rail connections

Extend your holiday

Mumbai

Reviews

89% of travellers would recommend this tour

Based on 9 verified reviews

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Mrs P Emmett

Submitted 19/04/2019

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

Mr B Whittingham

Submitted 18/04/2019

A thoroughly enjoyable tour from start to finish

Anonymous

Submitted 18/04/2019

We thoroughly enjoyed the trip. The hotels were first class and the tour Manager excellent

Mrs S Britton

Submitted 18/12/2018

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

Ms A Jardine

Submitted 13/11/2018

Well organised, friendly and approachable tour manager, knowledgable local guide, great hotels, fabulous food and lots of different locations.

Anonymous

Submitted 13/11/2018

It exceeded our expectations

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