Discover a different side to India on east to west coast trip that takes in beaches and temples, hidden waterways and jungle, and rolling tea-covered mountains and spice plantations. Chennai is a flurry of ordered chaos, but find peace at the magnificent Kapaleeshwarar Temple at its centre. Explore the beautiful seaside town of Puducherry, a mix of idyllic and contemporary lifestyle. Feel the weight of history and learn about the man who dedicated his life to the independence of India at The National Gandhi Museum
Travel to India and embark on this classic southern India tour from Chennai to Kovalam Beach. Lush, tropical southern India is charming, captivating and hospitable. Discover a thousand shades of green and share smiles with the friendly local people. Experience the culture, religion and history of this region in its small rural towns, quaint fishing villages and scented spice plantations. This is a fabulous part of India includes Kerala and follows the road less travelled – without sacrificing too many creature comforts.
Independent travel, without the stress. Peregrine’s Independent Journeys are a range of Peregrine’s best-selling group tours, available for 1-3 people. They depart on any day and are accompanied by a Peregrine guide in each location and 24/7 support from the local Peregrine office.
TRIP CHANGES FOR 2018:
From 1st January 2018 this trip will no longer be available as an Independent Journey. See our Essence of South India (PIES) for the small group version of this trip.
Breakfast Included: 13 Lunches Included: 1 Lunches Included: 1
Welcome to Chennai, India. You will be met on arrival at the airport and transferred to your hotel. This adventure will begin with an important group meeting at 6 pm when we'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you arrive in Chennai with free time to spare, take the chance to walk around India’s fourth largest city and perhaps visit the local marketplaces and temples. In the evening, maybe join your fellow travellers for dinner.
This morning you will leave the city behind and drive along the scenic East Coast Road (approximately 2 hours) to the fishing town of Mamallapuram, home to sprawling, relaxed beaches. Visit the 8th-century Shore Temple and its mandapams (carved pillars) and watch locals pay their respects to the deity Shiva. Later in the afternoon continue the drive to Pondicherry (approximately 3 hours) where your evening is free.
Today you will visit Auroville, which sits just outside Pondicherry and is an experimental township dedicated to the concept of human unity. With more than 80 rural settlements and home to over 1,500 residents, half of the town’s population are foreign nationals. Auroville is also home to the world’s largest solid crystal, which you can examine. Back in Pondicherry you'll take a walking tour to see local temples, the French Quarter and the spiritual community of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, one of the most affluent and most popular ashrams for tourists and ex-pats alike. You’ll see evidence of French colonial influence in Pondicherry's architecture, sprawling town squares and even in the uniforms of the police. The city is also a duty free zone, reputed for its quality leather and hand crafted paper products. You'll notice the French influence of the area extends to the European feel of the shopping
Today continue by private a/c vehicle to Madurai. Its a six hour journey and will take up most of the day. there are plenty of bathroom and chai stops along the way. After arriving in the city, maybe head out on a guided orientation walk of the local area. Madurai’s recorded history dates back to third-century BC and has a fascinating story, with your guide being able to help you understand it. Venture out in the evening for some authentic Indian food.
Continue your walking exploration of Madurai today, wandering the tailors markets and bazaars before visiting 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. Take a trip to the National Gandhi Museum, dedicated to the life and achievements of the 'Father of the Nation' and the leader of India's fight for independence. This evening is free for you to use as you wish.
Thekkady/Periyar National Park
Travel into the countryside this morning as you drive past rubber and pineapple plantations to Thekkady (approximately 4 hours). Thekkady is the gateway to Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve, perched high 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
Thekkady/Periyar National Park
This morning, take a guided nature walk in the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Wildlife encounters are never guaranteed, but if luck is on your side you may see some Indian elephants, tigers or gaur - the world's largest species of buffalo. You are more likely to see Bonnet macaques who are often found near the entrance to the reserve, or the Malabar giant squirrel, a species native to India. In your free time, you can enjoy an ayurvedic massage (optional) or attend an exciting demonstration of Indian martial arts (kalaripayattu) at the Kadathanadan Kalari Centre.
This morning drive north to Munnar (approximately 4 hours), an old British Hill Station cradled in a picturesque valley. At 1,525 metres above sea level, there’s likely to be dramatic drop in temperature here so be sure to pack warm clothing. You'll take a tour of a nearby tea garden where you can soak up the luscious green surrounds and, if its erratic scheduling allows, you will visit the tea museum. Relax for the evening in your accommodation in the mountain resort.
This morning take a guided walk around the lush hills of Munnar, India’s largest tea-growing region, which still retains some of its colonial charm from when it was a favourite summer retreat of the British. In the afternoon, journey out to the scenic Mattupetty Dam where you can take an optional motorboat ride. The town of Mattupetty is known for its Indo-Swiss livestock project devoted to cattle development. Your evening is then free.
In the morning, drive from the tea covered hills to Kochi (approximately 5 hours). Cochin, as it was formerly known, is spread over several islands and is a melting pot of Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and British influences. If you decide to island hop, the ferry network is the best way to get around the town’s numerous islands. On arrival, you will explore the antique shops and spice bazaars, visit Fort Kochi and see the Chinese fishing nets that line the coast. You will also stop at the Dutch Palace (Mattancherry Palace), which was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese and later claimed by the Dutch in 1663. The Dutch improved upon the existing palace before presenting it to the rajas of Cochin. Maybe use your free evening to wander down the beach at sunset.
Today you will visit the Paradesi Synagogue, the oldest existing Jewish synagogue in India, built in 1568. There is then the opportunity to take an optional excursion to Vypeen Island, one of the most densely populated islands in Kochi. In the early evening you will also witness a Kathakali dance performance, a classical, powerful, and dramatic dance style that combines symbolic storytelling with physical technique. It is one of the most vibrant and extraordinary theatre forms in the world, and requires incredible commitment and rigorous training physically, as well as incredible emotional sensitivity to properly express the nuances of expression required.
Alappuzha (Alleppey) Kerala Backwaters
Drive to the backwaters of Kerala this morning (approximately 3 hours) and discover Alleppey’s sleepy, palm-shaded waterways. Once a significant trading port, the town is now famed for the long ‘snake boats’ races that take place in August every year. Alleppey is a common starting point for journeys through the backwaters. Tonight, you'll sleep on a traditional Kettuvallam (houseboat). These floating cottages have western toilets, private bedrooms, a dining area and sundeck for you to relax on.