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Kerala & Exotic Southern India

(Tour code: GCJ17)Join us on this truly unforgettable tour of Southern India, visit cities, temples and tea plantations.

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.

Tour Highlights
  • Chennai (formerly known as Madras)
  • Puducherry and Trichy
  • Madurai and Coimbatore
  • The Nilgiri Mountain Railway
  • Ooty
  • Kochi
  • Mararikulam
  • Kerala backwaters cruise
  • Kathakali dance performance
What’s Included (Full details)
  • Indian rail travel
  • Breakfast Every Day
    Evening Meals
    13 Nights' Accommodation
  • All Transfers Included
    Selected Porterage
  • Return Scheduled Flights
    Upgrades Available

Itinerary & Map

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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.

Chennai
Days 1-2

Fly to Chennai

We depart London Heathrow for our overnight flight to the city of Chennai (formerly known as Madras). 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 they 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. After transferring to our hotel, we discover the sights of Chennai on a guided sightseeing tour, including a visit to Fort St George and the Government Museum.

Includes:
  • Scheduled flights
  • Day 2 - Chennai City Tour
Trichy Gangaikonda Temple
Days 3-5

Puducherry , Trichy and Thanjavur

Today we travel to the port of Mamallapuram, where a short tour shows off some of the town's wonderful Dravidian architecture. After lunch at the Chariot Beach Resort, we continue to Puducherry, a fascinating French Colonial city, where we spend the next two nights at the Palais de Mahe. Famed as the setting for the novel 'The Life of Pi', Puducherry boasts a number of cultural attractions, including the Auroville Ashram and Matrimandir - the Temple of the Mother - which we explore during a guided tour on Day 4. On Day 5 we explore Trichy, a city where ancient history and modernity provide a charming contrast. The city is home to two extraordinary temples, one of which overlooks Trichy from its position perched high above the city. After enjoying lunch together at a local hotel, we transfer to Thanjavur, formerly known as Tanjore, where we stay for the night.

Includes:
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Excursions
Madurai Meenakshi
Days 6-7

Madurai and Coimbatore

Our day begins with a guided sightseeing tour of Thanjavur, including the UNESCO-listed Brahadeeswara Temple, before we transfer by coach to Madurai. After time to settle into our hotel, we venture out to the Meenakshi Temple this evening, where we are invited to watch a 'puja', or religious ceremony. Each day the priests here 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. On Day 7 we take a guided tour of Madurai which includes the impressive 17th-century Thirumalai Nayak Palace and the Gandhi Memorial Museum. After the tour, we continue by coach to Coimbatore, where we stay for the night.

Includes:
  • Excursions
  • Day 6 - Breakfast, dinner
  • Day 7 - Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Ooty
Days 8-9

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Ooty

We have an early start today as we travel by coach to Mettupalayam, where 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 Coonoor, where we visit a delightful local tea plantation. 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. After lunch in Coonoor, we continue by rail to Ooty, where we check in to the Hotel Taj Savoy, which enjoys excellent views from its hill-station setting. On Day 9 we enjoy a guided tour of Ooty, visiting the Botanical Garden, with its vibrant displays planted in typical English-style terraced beds, a reminder of the region's colonial influences, St Stephen's Church, and the Tea Factory, which provides a fascinating insight into historical and contemporary tea production. We enjoy lunch today at a local restaurant.

Includes:
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Day 8 - The Nilgiri Mountain Railway
  • Day 9 - Guided tour of Ooty
Kochi
Days 10-11

To Kochi via Coimbatore

Today we transfer by coach to Coimbatore, from where we board the train to the truly captivating city of Kochi. Day 11 begins with an excursion to Kumbalangi Village, where we learn about traditional fishing and farming techniques, from crab farming to weaving coconut leaves into thatch. After lunch in a local restaurant, we return to Kochi for a guided tour. Sometimes known as the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea', Kochi is a fascinating city to discover, and we do so after lunch today on a guided tour. Our tour includes the Jewish Synagogue, home to an array of treasures including The Great Scrolls of the Old Testament and the St Francis Church in Fort Kochi. We also visit the Dutch Palace - built by the Portugese and presented to the Raja of Kochi 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:
  • Excursions
  • Day 10 - Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Day 11 - Breakfast, dinner
Houseboat
Days 12-13

Mararikulam and a houseboat cruise

Today we transfer to Mararikulam by coach, pausing en-route to visit the International Coir Museum. Coir is a fibre made from coconut husks, and has been an essential manufacturing material Kerala for centuries, used for a wide variety of purposes, from making brushes to coir ropes used to secure traditional kettuvallam, or houseboats, together. After time to explore this unique museum, we continue to Mararikulam, where we stay at the Marari Beach Resort for the next three nights. On arrival, you are free to enjoy Mararikulam at leisure. The resort is far-removed from the usual hustle and bustle of India - there are no crowds, no traffic and almost no connection with the outside world. The incredibly inviting sandy beach separates the sea from the palm tree forests and provides a picture-postcard place to relax and soak up the scenery. On Day 13 we travel to Alleppey, where we board a kettuvallam, or houseboat, for an scenic cruise discovering Kerala's naturally idyllic backwaters. Constructed using traditional methods and materials, these incredible boats were once used to shuttle goods between Kochi 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 evening tea on board. Later we return to Mararikulam.

Includes:
  • Breakfast, Dinner
  • Houseboat cruise
  • International Coir Museum
Kerala
Day 14

A Kerala cooking demonstration

Today is spent at leisure, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of Mararikulam. At lunch time, we are treated to a delightful cooking demonstration, where talented local chefs will show us how to create authentic Keralan cuisine. Kerala is known as the 'Land of Spices', and its full-flavoured recipes reflect the wide range of fresh ingredients and delicious local flavours available here. After the demonstration, we enjoy lunch together in the hotel. The rest of your day is free to enjoy as you wish.

Includes:
  • Breakfast, Lunch
  • Free Day
  • Cooking demonstration
Flying home
Day 15

To Kochi and home

After breakfast we transfer to Kochi airport for our return flight to London, travelling via Dubai. On arrival in London, your tour concludes.

Includes:
  • Scheduled flights
  • Breakfast, Dinner
  • Excursion
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