- 28th November 2019
- 6th December 2019
- 30th March 2020
- 10th April 2020
- 11th September 2020
- 18th September 2020
- 2nd October 2020
- 9th October 2020
- 16th October 2020
- 30th October 2020
- Airport transfers to the hotel in Chennai
- Breakfast daily
- All travel and activities as advised
Please note: This itinerary is valid for departures for November and December departures, slight changes for 2020 departures
Day 1: Chennai
Welcome to Chennai, India. On arrival at the airport, you will be transferred to your hotel. Your Indian adventure begins with an important group meeting at 6.00pm. If you arrive in Chennai with free time to spare, perhaps visit the local marketplaces and temples. In the evening, maybe head out for dinner with your fellow travellers.
Day 2: Mamallapuram – Auroville - Pondicherry
From Chennai, drive along the scenic East Coast Road to the fishing village of Mamallapuram. Take a guided tour around the town’s laidback beaches and temples, keeping an eye out for the sculptures and carvings dotted around the place. Visit the incredible 8th-century Shore Temple and its mandapams (carved pillars) to pay your respects to the deity Shiva. Drive on to the living project of Auroville. This intriguing experimental township, founded in 1968, has more than 80 rural settlements some 1,500 residents, around half of whom are foreign nationals. Auroville is also home to the world’s largest solid crystal, which you can examine. Continue onto Puducherry (Pondicherry) in the late afternoon where your evening is then free. Today's drive should take around three hours in total.
- Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
- Mamallapuram local guide
- Auroville - Experimental township
Day 3: Pondicherry
Explore Pondicherry, which was under French rule until 1954, and the European style of the town extends from beautiful colonial architecture right down to the uniforms of the police. Enjoy a walking tour to see local temples, the French Quarter and the spiritual community of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The rest of the day and evening is free.
- Puducherry - Walking tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Day 4: Thanjavur
Head to Tanjavar (approximately 5 hours). Visit the World Heritage-listed Brihadeeswarar Temple, an awesome, thousand-year-old Hindu marvel. Dedicated to Shiva, its one of the largest temples in India and was completed in 1010. Keep an eye out for the sacred bull, carved from a single piece of granite measuring around 5 x 4 metres.
- Thanjavur - Brihadeeswara Temple
Day 5: Karaikudi
Drive to Karaikudi today (approximately 2.5 hours). Take a walk around the village after checking in and get a taste of village life. Visit some havelis (mansions), whose grandiose architecture will no doubt impress. Be sure to sample some spicy Chettinad cuisine while you're here.
- Karaikudi - Havelis
- Karaikudi - Village walk
Day 6: Madurai
Continue on to Madurai (approximately 2 hours). Here you will wander through the colourful markets and bazaars, then visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple in the city’s centre. Still in use today, this ancient temple is a maze of lamp-lit corridors leading to shrines where traditional rituals take place. You might also like to explore the National Gandhi Museum (optional), dedicated to the life and achievements of the 'Father of the Nation' and the leader of India's fight for independence. Your evening is then free to spend as you please.
- Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple guided tour
- Madurai - Walking tour
- Optional Activities
- Madurai - Gandhi Museum - Free
Day 7: Madurai
Enjoy a day of free time in Madurai. Perhaps visit the Art Museum to see a superb collection of carvings, check out the Tirumalai Nayak Palace or simply relax over endless cups of chai.
Day 8: Periyar
Drive through rubber and pineapple plantations to Thekkady and explore the Periyar National Park, perched lakeside in the ranges of the Western Ghats. The sanctuary surrounds a picturesque lake, which was formed as result of a dam that was built in 1895. It ambles through the contours of the wooded hills, and is a permanent source of water for local wildlife. This afternoon, take a tour of a local spice plantation. If you have time, perhaps attend a demonstration of Indian martial arts (kalaripayattu) at the Kadathanadan Kalari Centre.
- Periyar - Spice plantation visit
- Special Information
- Please note that Kerala is officially a dry state, with alcohol sales and consumption limited to bars in 5 star hotels.
Day 9: Periyar
In the morning, take a guided nature walk in the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary (approximately 3 hours). Encounters with animals in the wild are never guaranteed, and this is more of a jungle walk than an animal spotting tour, but look out for tiger tracks, spotted deer, or gaur – the world's largest species of buffalo. In the afternoon, unwind with an optional ayurvedic massage or just relax in this scenic setting.
- Periyar - Guided nature walk
- Special Information
- The usual route is the Green Zone walk in the National Park. Tigers are extremely rare and shy in Periyar. It is however a lovely walk, the local guides are villagers who have lived in the area for generations and are very knowledgable of the areas flora and fauna. Bring water, we start early but it gets very hot and humid later in the morning. Leech socks will be provided as this is one critter that we often do spot!
Day 10: Kochi
In the morning, drive to Kochi, aka Cochin (approximately 7-8 hours). This place is a veritable melting pot of Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and British influences. Use your free time to get out on the water by local ferry, or wander down the beach at sunset.
Day 11: Kochi
Visit the Dutch Palace (Mattancherry Palace), which was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese before the Dutch renovated it. Then check out the oldest functioning Jewish synagogue in India, the Paradesi Synagogue. In the evening witness a classic Kathakali performance, a dramatic dance that combines storytelling with physical technique.
- Kochi - Fort Kochi walk
- Kochi - Kathakali performance
- Kochi - Jewish Synagogue
- Kochi - Dutch Palace
Day 12: Kerala Backwaters - Kumarakom
Discover sleepy Kumarakom in the backwaters of Kerala. Drive from Kochi to Kumarkon to our resort along the riverside. Take a short backwaters cruise before heading out on a village walk. This is a great chance to meet and talk with the people who live in the backwaters, stroll under palm trees and weave in between the rice fields in this tranquil landscape.
- Kumarakom - Backwaters boating excursion
- Kumarakom - Village walk
Day 13: Kovalam
In the morning, drive to Kovalam (approximately 4 hours) via Kerala’s capital, Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram). Kovalam was once a quiet coastal village known for its export of fresh fish and coconuts, but is now one of India’s more popular beach resorts. Visit the ancient temple of Attukal Bhagavathy in the afternoon. If you have free time, explore the old signalling station of Anchuthengu Fort or the 16th-century Koyikkal Palace. Your evening is then free to do as you wish.
Day 14: Kovalam
Enjoy free time today. You might like feast on some delicious seafood, check out Anchuthengu Fort, wander around the village or relax on the beach. Perhaps head out with the group for a farewell meal together tonight.
- Kovalam - Walking tour
- Optional Activities
- Kovalam - Anchuthengu Fort - INR50
- Kovalam - Koyikkal Palace - INR50
Day 15: Kovalam
Your trip comes to an end after breakfast and you’re free to leave the accommodation at any time.
The hotel accommodation on this trip is in air-conditioned rooms. Some areas of India experience daily load shedding. This is where the power may be turned off at certain times of the day and usually occurs for a few hours in the early afternoon. Most hotel properties have a restaurant or cafe serving local meals. Many restaurants and hotels do not serve alcohol for religious reasons or due to local laws.
Showers at some hotels only have hot water at peak times (usually morning and evening). Outside of these times you may need to speak to reception to obtain hot water.
- International flights
- Personal travel insurance
- Spending money