Lush and tropical, southern India is inspiring and delightful. Beneath the green shade of a coastal paradise, meet with locals in their fishing villages and tribal homes. Join them in the bazaars, on buses and boats or even on pilgrimage in Madurai. From iconic cultural sights like the Maharaja’s Palace in Mysore to French-infused Pondicherry and the vast landscape of Periyar – southern India’s spirituality, friendly people and wild animal sanctuaries make it a fascinating part of the country to explore.
Day 1: Kochi
Your Southern Indian adventure starts today in Kochi. Explore with one of our Urban Adventures, or wander down to the shore and seek out the huge Chinese fishing nets dotted along the coast of Fort Cochin.
Day 2: Kochi
This morning, explore Kochi on an orientation tour. Board a local ferry to Mattancherry and drop by the Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century before it was renovated and presented to the Rajas of Cochin by the Dutch. In the evening, experience a Kathakali performance dance. (B)
Day 3: Conoor
Most of today is spent travelling. Catch a train to Coimbatore, before travelling by private vehicle to Ootacamund (often referred to as ‘Snooty Ooty’). Stretch your legs exploring the town’s Hindu temples or stroll through what almost feels like English countryside. (B, D)
Day 4: Conoor
Today board Ooty’s famous toy train for a ride along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. In nearby Conoor, visit a tea plantation to learn about the history of tea production. Spend the rest of the day exploring Ooty’s Botanical Gardens, or embrace your romantic side with a boat ride on the lake.
Day 5: Mudumalai National Park
Take a private vehicle for the short drive to Masinagudi National Park today. Embark on a short safari in search of tigers, leopards, elephants, sloth bears, sambars, spotted deer and much more. There’s also an amazing variety of birdlife in the park. (L, D)
Day 6: Mysore
Travel by private vehicle across the scenic Karnataka plains to Mysore, stopping to share a biryani lunch with our local friend Raju and his family. Your leader will provide an orientation tour of easy-going Mysore for you to get your bearings, pointing out Mysore Palace. (B, L)
Day 7: Mysore
This morning head out of Mysore and climb Chamundi Hill to the Sri Chamundeswari Temple, dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Durga. Continue on to the Keshava Temple in the small town of Somnathpur, an excellent example of Hoysala architecture. Tonight take an eleven-hour overnight sleeper train to Chennai.
Day 8: Mamallapuram
After arriving in Chennai, take a private vehicle along the scenic East Coast Road to Mamallapuram. Explore this ancient seaport town by bicycle, paying a visit to the 7th-century Shore Temple and the enormous bas-relief rock carving known as Arjuna’s Penance.
Day 9: Pondicherry
Travel by private vehicle through palm trees and rice paddies to Puducherry (or Pondicherry), with a stopover at Auroville. On arrival in Puducherry, join a group walking tour to see local temples, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the French Quarter.
Day 10: Madurai
Take a taxi to the railway station at Villapuram and board a train to the temple city of Madurai. Madurai’s Tamil roots stretch back 2,500 years, making it one of the oldest cities in India. Wander the lamp-lit labyrinth of the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple, dedicated to the Lord Shiva and goddess Meenakshi.
Day 11: Periyar National Park
This morning, travel by public bus along a winding road to the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. High in the ranges of the Western Ghats, the park is set among stunning scenery and is the most popular wildlife sanctuary in Southern India. In the evening, enjoy a tour of a local spice plantation and a delicious meal prepared by the plantation owner’s family.
Day 12: Periyar National Park
Venture back into the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary today for a guided nature walk (you’ll be provided with leech-proof socks). Be on the lookout for bison, wild boar, elephants, spotted deer and tigers.
Day 13: Kerala Backwaters
Travelling by private vehicle, pass through rubber, tea and coffee plantations on the way to the backwaters of Kerala. Board a boat to cross to the island village where you’ll stay with a local family tonight. In the late afternoon, explore the island with a local English-speaking guide or your homestay host. In the evening, share stories and a traditional home-cooked Keralan meal with your host family. (L, D)
Day 14: Kochi
Wake early, before crossing the backwaters by private boat to Alleppey. From here, take a local bus back to Kochi. The rest of the day is free for some last-minute sightseeing or shopping. (B)
Day 15: Kochi
There are no activities planned for the final day. You’re able to depart the accommodation at any time. (B)
Meals: 5 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners
Transport: 4×4 Safari Vehicle, Auto rickshaw, Boat, Bus, Cycle rickshaw, Ferry, Overnight sleeper train, Private vehicle, Train
Accommodation: Homestay (1 night), Hotel (9 nights), Jungle resort (1 night), Overnight sleeper train (1 night), Resort (2 nights)
Images courtesy of IntrepidGroup