Elephant in Periyar

12 day itinerary

Southern India with Kerala and Tamil Nadu Tour

Evocative culture and sleepy charm

Discover the charm of Southern India. In Tamil Nadu, visit the diverse city of Chennai (previously Madras), often called the cultural capital of India, namely for its traditions and heritage. See lively Madurai, the Athens of the East, on the banks of the River Vaigai, then visit the former French colony of Pondicherry, set on the Bay of Bengal. Travel into Kerala for a land of backwaters and beaches. Enjoy a houseboat cruise, discover spice plantations, and take a nature walk through a beautiful wildlife sanctuary. This exceptional tour offers true diversity, from history and culture to tranquillity and nature.

Our Experts Recommend:
  • Chennai and Fort St. George
  • Former capital of Pondicherry
  • Madurai's temples and palaces
  • Periyar gardens and wildlife
  • Allepey lakeside resort
  • Houseboat day cruise
  • Cochin's fort and harbour

Sample Itinerary Summary

We can tailor any part of this itinerary or create a new one just for you.

Duration
12 days
Guide Price
£1,259 per person
Price based on
Based on 24 September 19, meal basis as per itinerary.
Our guide price gives you an idea of pricing which will vary depending on exchange rates, accommodation, duration, dates, airline and cabin class.
Destination Breakdown
  • Chennai
    2 nights
  • Pondicherry
    1 night
  • Kumbakonam
    1 night
  • Madurai
    2 nights
  • Periyar
    1 night
  • Allepey
    2 nights
  • 2 nights
Options
Private basis, Escorted
Included
  • Accommodation as detailed in twin or double bed with private facilities (alternative but similar hotels may be used at certain times of year).
  • Meals included as detailed.
  • Air-conditioned transport.
  • Services of a qualified English-speaking local guide.
  • Airport assistance and transfers.
  • All site entrance fees while touring as appropriate.
Not included
  • International flights from the UK
  • Visa fees
  • Airport departure taxes
  • Beverages during meals
  • Tips for the driver/guide
  • Optional excursions

Itinerary Breakdown

Arrive into Chennai, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel for a two night stay. The first day will be spent at your own pace.

Begin your second day with breakfast, and then enjoy a city tour of Chennai. Visit Fort St.George, completed in 1653, and home to St Mary's, the first church consecrated on Indian soil.

The National Art Gallery has many excellent bronzes, including the god Shiva in the cosmic dance pose. Visit the Government Museum, (closed Fridays), contains sculptures produced by the Dravidian dynasties. Drive along the Marina, an elegant promenade, to the old Indian section of Mylapore. Visit San Thome Basilica - the culmination of the enduring legend of Thomas Didymus, the apostle who doubted and who is believed to have preached on Mylapore's shores. A visit to Mylapore Temple and the Victoria Technical Institute is also on today's itinerary.

Overnight in Chennai for two nights.

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • Park Hyatt Chennai or similar

Travel to Pondicherry (2-3 hours drive), and enjoy a tour of this former capital of India's French territories. Landmarks include the Raj Nivas, residence of the Lt. Governor of Pondicherry - a handsome 200-year-old building facing Government Park's fountains and sculptures.
The Pondicherry Museum has an outstanding collection of artifacts from the French Indian past. The church of Notre Dame des Anges, built around 1865, has a rare oil painting of Our Lady of the Assumption, a gift from Napoleon III. Visit Aurobindo Ashram, which in addition to practising yoga, provides scope for construction, farming and shoe-making for its followers from all over the world. Auroville, an extension of the ashram, is a voluntary commune with futuristic architecture where around 800 people from 28 nations live. It looks like a city of the future as its architecture is the result of diverse experiments in building materials, techniques and styles.

Overnight in Pondicherry.

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • GRT Sunway or similar

Travel to Kumbakonam via Chidambaram (3-4 hours drive). Chidambaram Temple is a sprawling ancient temple renowned for its architecture, encompassing the complete pose sequences of the classical South Indian Bharat Natyam dance, from which originated the revived dance in its present popular form.

Later continue the drive to Kumbakonam. Upon arrival check in to hotel.

Overnight Accommodation

  • Mantra Veppathur or similar

Travel to Madurai (4-5 hours drive). Stop in Thanjavur (Tanjore), famous for the Brihadeeswara Temple. It's exquisitely sculpted gopuram towers lead to a vast courtyard, and the main temple with its many sculptures and Chola frescoes. The Palace, and remains of the fort that surround it, can still be seen. Members of the former royal family of Thanjavur still occupy some apartments in the inner recesses, but the Palace is now mainly used as an art gallery. Continue to the historical town of Trichy for a tour. The town was, for a period, the capital of the Chola rulers. The 90-metre-high Rock Fort dominates the landscape with fine views of the city. At its summit is a Ganesha Temple, a popular place of worship despite the steep climb of 434 steps. Visit the island of Srirangam across the River Kaveri, three miles away. The temple here is practically a town in itself, with several streets within its one square mile. Visitors can wonder around most parts of the temple freely.

Later continue the drive to Madurai.

On day six, embark on a morning sightseeing of Madurai visiting the Great Meenaskhi Temple dedicated to the consort of Lord Shiva with its gopurams (towers) rising high above the surrounding township.Later visit the Tirumala Nayak Palace - a gracious building in the Indo-Saracenic style, famous for the stucco work on its domes and arches. Early risers can visit the local flower market, at its peak in the morning hours.This evening visit the temple once again to see the closing ceremony in which the idol of Lord Shiva is shifted in temple of Goddess Parvati (non-Hindus not permitted in sanctum of temple).

Overnight for two nights in Madurai. 

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • GRT Regency or similar

After breakfast leave for Periyar (4.5 hours drive). At 1,000 metres above sea level, this is a rich spice growing area - 95 percent of the pepper in India is produced here. When Vasco de Gama landed at the Malabar Coast in 1498 AD, pepper was exported against the equal weight of gold, so pepper became known as black gold. Later, visit a spice garden to see varieties such as cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, clove, vanilla, ginger, tea and coffee. You may also visit the local spice market.

Overnight in Periyar.

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • The Elephant Court or similar

Enjoy a morning guided nature walk (3-4 hours) in Periyar wildlife sanctuary, an excellent opportunity to watch birds, butterflies and other wildlife. The trails often pass through evergreen and deciduous forests interspersed with marshy grasslands. The group will be accompanied by a trained tribal guide.

Later drive to Kumarakom (4 hours drive), on the banks of the famous Vembanad Lake. The lake, with its majestic canals, streams and distributes along its banks, weave an intricate and enchantingly beautiful labyrinth.

Today take a houseboat cruise across the backwaters, and enjoy lunch on board. The houseboat cruises through the intricate maze of backwaters, with its serene beauty and simple charm. Enjoy the Keralan countryside at its best - feast your eyes on an array of coconut trees and endless paddy fields. You will also get a chance to take a small stroll through some villages and interact with the locals. After your cruise, return to your resort hotel.

Overnight for two nights in Kumarakom.

Overnight Accommodation

  • Backwater Ripples or similar

This morning travel to Cochin (Kochi), approximately two hours away. This evening witness a Kathakali dance performance. Enjoy India's most spectacular dance drama based on stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The dancers are elaborately made-up with paint and masks, accompanied by drummers and musicians.

The following morning, enjoy a sightseeing tour of Kochi visits the Dutch Palace and the Jewish Synagogue (both closed on Fridays and Saturdays), St Francis Church and the Santa Cruz Basilica. While travelling along the coastline, at the Harbour's mouth see the unique fishing nets introduced by the Chinese traders in the 14th Century and still in use today. The tour ends in the Fort Kochi area, where you can walk through the historical Dutch and Portuguese buildings. Some parts of the nearly 500-year-old fort are amazingly well preserved. This afternoon is at leisure, perhaps for a visit to a local market.

Overnight in Cochin for two nights.

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • Crowne Plaza or similar

Spend the day at leisure, before your transfer to the airport for your onward journey. Speak to one of our destination specialists to discuss your options for either extending your stay in Cochin or transferring to a nearby beach resort, and embrace the relaxing beaches and Indian hospitality.