South India Explored - 19 Nights Discovery

kerala and south india

Start in Kochi (Cochin) and end in Kovalam! With the discovery tour South India Explored, you have a 19 day tour package taking you through Kochi (Cochin), India and 18 other destinations in India. South India Explored includes accommodation in a hotel as well as an expert guide, meals, transport.

Itinerary

  • Start Cochin.

    Those on the group flight will arrive in Cochin in the afternoon and transfer to the hotel. Those who have made their own flight arrangements will join us at the start hotel. Set on the Malabar, or Pepper Coast, Cochin (Kochi) is one of South Indias most interesting towns and is believed to have been the first European settlement in India. Rich in history despite recent growth it retains a relaxed, quiet atmosphere. Narrow spits of land and coconut covered islands jut out into the wide, almost enclosed bay whose neck is lined with the famous Chinese fishing nets. In the afternoon there will be a full trip briefing by your leader.? *Comfortable Hotel*

  • Explore historic spice port.

    Today we do a sightseeing tour of Fort Cochin and Mattancherry, where most of the historic buildings are located amongst the narrow streets. The Portuguese Vasco de Gama landed here in 1498 and began trading with the Raja of Cochin. The Mattancherry Palace was built by the Portuguese in the mid 1500s and then was largely rebuilt by its second occupants, the Dutch. Built in traditional Keralan style the wooden architecture and wall paintings of scenes from the Ramayana are still well preserved. Jewish settlers first arrived in Cochin in 587BC and a synagogue dating from the late 1500s still stands in Fort Cochin. Although now there are only about half a dozen Jewish families, the synagogue is a real gem and the individual hand painted 18th century blue ceramic Cantonese floor tiles are evidence of past trading with China. St Francis Church is where Vasco de Gama died in 1524 and the building reflects the new European influence in the area. The Santa Cruz Cathedral is close by and was originally used as a warehouse by the British. The Chinese fishing nets line the entrance to the harbour and were introduced by the Chinese in the late 14th century. ?In the evening there is the option to see a Kathakali dance performance. *Comfortable Hotel*

  • Climb through Nilgiri Hills to Ooty.

    A long but scenic journey today as we leave the coast and make our way inland into the Niligiri Hills. We leave Kerala and catch the Express train from Cochin to Pallakad (approx. 2.5hrs). We then drive through forested hillsides to Coimbatore (approx. 4-5 hrs drive). The ghat journey up to Coonoor is one of the most scenic in South India giving superb views of the plains below and magnificent groves of the tall, slender areca nut palm trees line the road. Passing through the small hill station of Coonoor we continue winding our way through lush tea and coffee plantations to Ooty, where we stay for the next two nights.? *Standard Hotel*

  • Relax, walk, ride or ride the miniature steam railway.

    Ootacamund, or Snooty Ooty is queen of the southern hill stations and was a refuge for British officials and tea planters in Southern India. At 2,286m, the climate is much cooler and evenings in winter can be quite chilly.? Today we have a tour of various parts of Ooty including Dobetta Peak which at 2,638m is the second highest in the Western Ghats. From the top on a clear day we can see as far as the Mysore Plateau. A visit to the Botanical Gardens is relaxing and rewarding with? 1,000 varieties of plants, shrubs and trees including orchids, ferns and alpines set amidst beautiful lawns.? We will also visit a tea factory for a guided tour.? ?A major attraction in Ooty is the narrow gauge steam Blue Mountain Railway from Coonoor to Ooty. There is time today to take this optional one-hour train journey (please be aware that this isnt always possible if the weather is bad or if there are technical problems with the train).? Your leader will provide details and make bookings for those who would like to experience this delightful trip.? *Standard Hotel*

  • To Mysore through Mudmalai and Bandipur N.P.

    In and around MysoreA beautiful drive of about five hours winds down the eastern side of the Niligiri Hills back to the plains. We drive through the Mudumalai and Bandipur National Parks as we cross the border from Tamil Nadu and into Karnataka. We may spot deer, elephant and monkeys on our journey. Just before we enter Mysore we will visit Chaumundi Hill where there is a temple dedicated to Durga. On the road up to the temple there is a giant stone Nandi bull carved in 1659. We arrive in Mysore in the late afternoon and spend two nights here. *Comfortable Hotel*

  • Explore palaces and temples of Mysore.

    Mysore is the city of royal palaces, sandalwood and the manufacture of incense sticks; it is the former capital of the princely state and is Karnatakas second largest city. Today we have a sightseeing tour of Mysore and its surroundings. Just outside of Mysore is Srirangapatnam the capital of Haider Ali and his famous son, Tipu Sultan. Tipus famous battles against both the French and the British are depicted in the murals of his delightful summer palace. Ruins of the fort and the Gumbaz, the family mausoleums are also here. Returning to Mysore we spend the afternoon exploring the beautifully restored City Palace. Designed by Henry Irwin and built in 1897, it is a remarkable building with domes, arches and colonnades of carved pillars and shiny marble floors. The stained glass, wall paintings, ivory inlaid doors and ornate golden throne are all remarkable. The rest of the day is free to wander round the bazaar. *Comfortable Hotel*

  • Mysore colonial and market tour; afternoon train to Chennai arriving in the evening.

    This morning we take a drive around the city to see some of its colonial past in a number of historic buildings including the Silver Jubilee Clock Tower, Government House, Wellington Lodge, Lalitha Mahal Palace and St Philomena?s Cathedral. Where possible we will get off the bus in order to take photographs and a walk around. We will then head to the lively Devaraja Market for a guided walking tour. This market dates back to the 18th century and we will find traders selling traditional items such as flower garlands, fragrant spices and conical piles of kumkum which is used for the bindi dots worn in the centre of the forehead. This is said to be where the sixth chakra or seat of concealed wisdom is found. The scent of flowers and spices permeate the air and pyramids of fruits and vegetables make for some very colourful photographs. We will have lunch in Mysore before boarding the afternoon express train to Chennai. This journey from one side of southern India to the other will include some picturesque scenery and small villages. We arrive in Chennai in the evening and transfer straight to our hotel. *Standard Hotel*

  • Tour of Chennai; visit St Thomas Church; on to coastal Mahabalipuram

    Formerly known as Madras, Chennai is the state capital of Tamil Nadu and also South Indias commercial and cultural hub.? It is a garden city; a mix of old and new with colonial buildings and modern high-rises sharing the skyline. Fort St George was Britains first bastion in India and the area known as George Town was where the cloth for the British East India Companys textile trade was manufactured.? We take a tour of the colonial areas and then head south to visit the Cathedral of St Thomas.? This impressive Gothic structure is said to mark the final resting place of St Thomas the Apostle.? Behind the Cathedral is a tranquil tomb where a Relic of St Thomas a tiny bone fragment is housed, with the rest of his mortal remains said to reside in Italy.? We continue driving along the Coromondel coast for around 1.5hrs to the small seaside town of Mahabalipuram.? We stay here for 2 nights and in addition to exploring its magnificent World Heritage listed temples there is time to relax after the busy last few days.? *Standard Hotel*

  • Tour of? World Heritage Mahabalipuram temples; free afternoon

    This part of Tamil Nadu has a language over 2,000 years old and poetry dating back to before the birth of Christ. It also boasts some of the most remarkable temple architecture in India, and with a living tradition of music and dance, is culturally very rich. In the morning we visit the rock cut caves and temples at Mahabalupuram. Occupying a stunning position on a rocky outcrop between the beach and a lagoon, the port was made famous by the Pallava dynasty in the 7th century. There are numerous cave temples, monolithic carved shrines in the shape of chariots, stone temples and relief sculptured rock panels all dating back to the 7th century. Carving in stone is still a living art here and we will see stonemasons chipping away from dawn till dusk along the busy roadside, practicing the skills that flourished centuries ago.? The afternoon is free to walk along the beach and explore the small town with its many craft and souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants.? *Standard Hotel*

  • Drive to French colonial?Pondicherry?via Vedantangal Bird Sanctuary.

    This morning we head inland for 52km to the Vedantangal Bird Sanctuary, an important breeding ground for water birds. Cormorants, egrets, herons, storks, ibises and pelicans come here to breed and nest for about six months from November to March. At the height of the breeding season in December and January there can be up to 3000 birds here. Please note the sanctuary is not open at certain times of the year due to low water levels which means few birds may be seen.? We plan departure dates during times when the sanctuary should be open, however, if there has been insufficient rain we may be advised during a tour that it is closed.? Your leader will have up to date information and will advise if a visit is not possible.? Our final destination today is Pondicherry with its elegant mansions, tree-lined avenues and French colonial atmosphere.? A short orientation walk of around 2-3 hours will introduce you to Pondys Tamil and French Quarters and its long sea front promenade. After the tour there is free time to explore the easy grid pattern of streets in search of more of the hidden Gems this town has to offer. There are plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants to tempt you.? *Comfortable Hotel*

  • Drive to historic Thanjavur through the fertile Kaveri Delta.

    In and around ThanjavurOur journey today will take us through the fertile Kaveri Delta or the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu to the historic city of Thanjavur, or Tanjore. (approx. 5 hours) Starting in the 9th century and continuing for almost 1,000 years Thanjavur was the capital of three powerful dynasties, the Cholas, Nayakas and Marathas. Two famous monuments that capture these times are the magnificent Chola Brihadishvara temple and the Royal Palace dating to the Nayakas and Marathas periods.? *Standard Hotel*

  • Explore Thanjavur temple and palace; on to Madurai.

    This morning we visit the beautiful 16th century Royal Palace which houses an interesting library as well as the Rajaraja Museum which has a collection of magnificent Chola bronzes. Thanjavur is most famous for the stunning Brihadisvara Temple, a World Heritage Site, and one of the great monuments of southern India. The temple is the achievement of the Chola King, Rajaraja I, who was a great patron of the arts. It is built mainly from granite and has outstanding inscriptions and sculptures of Shiva, Vishnu and Durga.? Later today we will drive to Madurai passing through granite mountain ranges. (approx. 4 hours) Spread along the banks of the rocky bed of the Vaigai River stands the bustling city of Madurai, where we spend two nights. *Comfortable Hotel* *?*

  • Morning visit to Meenakshi AmmanTemple then free time.

    Madurai is one of Tamil cultures most vital centres and the temple and bazaar are at the heart of this vibrant and colourful city. The most famous sight in Madurai is the Meenakshi Amman Temple, an outstanding example of Vijaynagar architecture. Built between the 16th and 18th centuries, it is a hive of activity and the scene of an almost continuous religious festival. The temples nine towering gopurams stand out with their colourful stucco images of gods, goddesses and animals. There are about 4,000 granite sculptures on the lower levels and numerous pillared temple halls surrounding the Golden Lotus Tank. The main temple is dedicated to Meenakshi, the fish-eyed goddess and the consort of Shiva. One of the spectacular parts of the complex is the 16th century Thousand Pillared Hall with exquisitely carved columns and sculptured ceiling depicting a wheel showing the 60 Tamil years. We also visit the Thirumalai Nayaka Palace, which was built in 1636 in Indo-Mughal style by the Nayak dynasty. The bazaars are colourful and lively and Madurai is a great place to take a cycle rickshaw ride. The town is also renowned for its silk and cotton. *Comfortable Hotel* /?/

  • Westward to Kerala and Periyar National Park.

    We drive westwards and enter the state of Kerala today. Nicknamed Gods own country, it is the southernmost state of India. High levels of education and healthcare have given Kerala an enviable reputation elsewhere in India and its unique balance of Hindu, Muslim and Christian sets it apart from its neighbouring states. The journey takes about four hours through lush countryside to Thekaddy and the Periyar National Park. Set on the attractive Periyar lakeside the wildlife park is known for its elephants, sambar, wild boar and barking deer. This afternoon we take a walking tour of a spice garden with our informative local guide. Coffee, tea, rubber, cardamom and pepper are just some of the local crops found in this area. To add to your experience in Theddaky there are some optional activities on offer.? These are subject to availability and may not be bookable on every trip. Your leader will advise you of the options which are available.? These include a cooking demonstration/dinner in a local home, Ayurvedic Massages and Martial Arts Show.?(Please see the Extra Expenses and spending money section of these trip notes for approximate prices) *Standard Hotel*

  • Jungle walk in Periyar National Park; optional afternoon boat trip.

    An early start for a guided nature walk with an experienced ranger in Periyar National Park. Before starting out we are shown how to put on our leech socks to help protect our feet and legs.? A short crossing of the lake on a small bamboo raft brings us to thick forest where our ranger will point out the local flora and fauna as we follow a route through majestic trees.? From time to time we walk alongside the lake where there are beautiful views of this lush national park. We cannot guarantee the birds and animals will cooperate but the park is home to elephant, otter, wild pig and buffalo. There is also an abundance of bird life - kingfishers, storks and hornbills are the most commonly spotted. In the afternoon there is an optional boat ride on the lake which affords more wonderful views and a second chance to hopefully spot birds and wildlife.? Early in the tour your leader will ask who would like to do the boat ride option so that they can ensure tickets are booked.? (Please see the optional excursions section of these trip notes for approximate price) *Standard Hotel*

  • To Alleppey; board houseboats for backwater cruise and overnight.

    In and around AlleppeyWe start out early for the drive to Alleppey (approx. 5 hours) to ensure we are boarding our houseboats in time for lunch.? Lunch is served in the dining area on deck and then it is time to kick back and enjoy the stunning scenery of the tranquil backwaters. This cruise is one of the real highlights of the trip - these enchanting houseboats, built of Anjili wood and bamboo were the traditional method for transporting goods for hundreds of years. Now they have been decorated and made into cosy cruise boats. The network of rivers, streams, lagoons and canals occupy the alluvial plain between the Western Ghats and the Indian Ocean. As our boat meanders through areas of lush tropical vegetation we have the opportunity to view not only the prolific bird life but also gain a differing perspective on village life. The cruise takes us around the lake and along palm-fringed waterways where coconut fibre and cashews are loaded on to dugouts. In the evening the boat is anchored in the lake close to one of the small local villages where you can get out for a stroll during sunset. In the evening the group comes together on one houseboat to enjoy a traditional Keralan dinner. All the houseboats are comfortably equipped and one boat has between 3 and 5 twin or double bedded rooms with small bathroom. There is a cook and boat driver and assistants for each boat.? *Houseboat*

  • Disembark houseboat and drive on to Kovalam coastal resort.

    In and around KovalamFollowing a short cruise and breakfast we disembark from our houseboats and drive along the scenic Malabar Coast to Kovalam (approx. 5hrs). Until the 1960s this was just a sleepy fishing village but then it was added to the hippy trail because of its beautiful beach and crystal clear waters.? Today there are both luxury and budget resorts, cafes and stalls selling various handicrafts. Despite the increase in its popularity is still retains its relaxed charm. On arrival there is free time for an easy walk from the hotel down to the sheltered bay of Lighthouse beach.? *Comfortable Hotel*

  • Free day in Kovalam or optional visit to Kanyakumari the southernmost tip of India.

    A free day to enjoy the idyllic soft sandy beaches, warm clear waters and wide views of the ocean horizon that Kovalam has to offer. If you are keen on another sightseeing day then there is the option to travel down to Kanyakumari.? This is the end point of India where 3 oceans meet, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.? This small town is believed to be the abode of Kumari a Goddess who is supposed to have done penance here so that she could marry Shiva. Her temple Kumari Amman is a popular pilgrimage centre on the seashore.? On the way if it is open you will stop to visit the old wooden palace at Padmanabhapuram which was the capital city of the Hindu?rulers of Travancore.? This is a marvellous building with fantastic woodcarvings, and there is the Hindu temple at Suchindran with its amazing stone carvings. This trip can be booked and paid for locally - please note it is a very long day and the road conditions are not very good. (See the Extra Expenses and spending money section of these trip notes for approximate prices.) *Comfortable Hotel*

  • End Kovalam.

    Those on the flight inclusive package will transfer to Trivandrum airport early this morning for the daytime flight back to London. Land Only arrangements will finish after breakfast and check-out from the hotel.

Inclusion

  • GST on total package
  • Accomodation in a well appointed room
  • Meals as per hotel plan and ones mentioned in itinerary
  • All transfers and sightseeing as per the itinerary in an air-conditioned vehicle (except in the hills when the air-conditioner will be switched off)
  • All toll taxes, parking fees and driver allowances
  • All applicable hotel taxes

Exclusion

  • Anything not mentioned under ‘Package Inclusions??:tm:
  • All personal expenses, optional tours and extra meals
  • Camera fees, alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages
  • Vehicle service on leisure days for sightseeing not included in the itinerary
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Tips, laundry and phone calls

Location

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