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.
Breakfast Included: 13 Lunches Included: 1 Dinner 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). On arrival the rest of 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 1500 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. Return to Pondicherry for a walking tour to see local temples, the French Quarter and the spiritual community of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Evidence of the French colonial period is everywhere – the architecture, sprawling town squares and even in the police uniforms.
Today, continue by private vehicle to Madurai (6 hours), with plenty of bathroom and chai stops along the way. After arriving in the city in the late afternoon, head out on a short orientation walk of the local area to get your bearings. The rest of the day is free.
Continue your walking exploration of Madurai today. Take guided wanders through the Tailor's Market, the local bazaars and the Sri Meenakshi Temple. Still in use today, this ancient temple is a maze of lamp-lit corridors leading to shrines where traditional rituals take place. Next is 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.
Travel to countryside Thekkady by private vehicle on a roughly 4-hour drive past rubber and pineapple plantations. Thekkady is the gateway to Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve, perched high in the ranges of the Western Ghats. 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. Look out for tiger tracks, spotted deer, Indian elephants or gaur – the world's largest species of buffalo. You are most likely to encounter Bonnet macaques and the Malabar giant squirrel, a species native to India. The rest of your day is free, but you might want to unwind with an optinoal ayurvedic massage 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 1525 metres above sea level, there’s likely to be dramatic drop in temperature here, so have your jacket ready! Take a tour of a nearby tea garden on arrival, where you can soak up the luscious green surrounds. There may be an opportunity to visit the tea museum, though opening hours are irregular so this cannot be guaranteed. This evening, relax at your mountain resort.
Munnar – Mattupetty Dam
This morning take a guided walk around the lush hills of Munnar, India’s largest tea-growing region and favourite summer retreat during the British Colonial era. In the afternoon, journey out to the scenic Mattupetty Dam where you can take an optional motorboat ride. Return to Munnar for a free evening.
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. On arrival, take some time to relax after a long drive. In the early evening you will enjoy a Kathakali dance performance. This classical dance style combines symbolic storytelling with physical technique. It is one of the most vibrant and extraordinary theatre forms in the world and proficiency requires incredible commitment and rigorous training.
Today, 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. Continue to the Paradesi Synagogue, the oldest existing Jewish synagogue in India, built in 1568. The rest of your day is free.
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 boat’ races that take place in August every year. Tonight, you'll sleep on a traditional Kettuvallam (houseboat). These floating cottages have western toilets, private bedrooms, a dining area and open deck where you can relax.