From Chennai to Kovalam, see the best of evocative South India

Travel to India and embark on this classic southern Indian tour through Kerala from Chennai to Kovalam Beach. Discover a thousand shades of green, indulge in some of the continent’s freshest food, and share smiles with the friendly local people in this lush, tropical part of the country. Experience the culture, religion and history of this region and discover its small rural towns, quaint fishing villages and scented spice plantations. Follow the road less travelled through south India without sacrificing too many creature comforts.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:
From 1st January 2017 this trip will spend one less day in Chennai and no longer visit Munnar. This is to allow us to visit the new destinations of Tanjavur (Tanjore) where we explore the Brihadishwara Temple, and Karaikudi, where we will enjoy a village walk. More details to follow in coming months, with the itinerary outlined below:
1 Chennai
2 Pondicherry
3 Pondicherry
4 Tanjavur
5 Karaikudi
6 Madurai
7 Madurai
8 Periyar
9 Periyar
10 Kochi
11 Kochi
12 Kerala Backwaters
13 Kovalam
14 Kovalam
15 Depart

Start
Chennai, India
Finish
Kovalam, India
Countries
India
Themes
Explorer
Code
HHKS
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
262kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Amid the ordered chaos of Chennai, find tranquillity upon visiting the magnificent Kapaleeshwarar Temple at its centre
  • With its idyllic lifestyle and contemporary feel, Puducherry is a beautiful seaside town to explore
  • Learn about the man who dedicated his life to the independence of India at The National Gandhi Museum
  • Track footprints in search of wild elephants in the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
  • The rolling hills and chai gardens of Munnar are a tea lover’s dream
  • Ferry-hop between the islands of Fort Kochi to discover palaces, temples and Portuguese architecture at every turn

Itinerary

Welcome to Chennai, India. On arrival at the airport, head to the hotel via transfer. Your Indian adventure will begin with an important group meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. If you arrive in Chennai with free time to spare, wander around India’s fourth largest city and perhaps visit the local marketplaces and temples. In the evening, maybe head out for dinner with your fellow travellers.

Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
After breakfast head out for an included trip to Chennai’s Kapaleeshwarar Temple. With its multi-coloured gateway and pillared pavilions, this is one of India’s most impressive sights. Move onto the Government Museum to learn more about the history of Chennai. Perhaps head out for some delicious Chennai cuisine in the evening, such as Chettinad pepper chicken or ven pongal (spicy lentils and rice).
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 8th-century Shore Temple and its mandapams (carved pillars) to pay your respects to the deity Shiva. Continue onto Puducherry in the afternoon where your evening is then free. Today's drive should take around three hours in total.
On the way to Puducherry, visit the living project of Auroville, dedicated to the concept of 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. Continue on your journey to reach the united territories of Puducherry. Upon arrival, take a walking tour to see local temples, the French Quarter and the spiritual community of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. You’ll see evidence of French colonial influence in Puducherry's architecture, sprawling town squares and even in the uniforms of the police. Puducherry 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's driving will take around three hours.
Today take a six-hour afternoon train to Madurai. The train will be air-conditioned with comfortable chairs and western-style toilets. On arrival, head out on a guided walking tour to see ancient temples and heritage sights of the city. 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.
Wander through the markets and bazaars of Madurai 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. Explore 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. Your evening is then free to do as you wish.
Today, take a four-hour drive to Thekkady through rubber and pineapple plantations. 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 before sitting down to a delicious meal prepared by the owner’s family. If you have time, perhaps attend a demonstration of Indian martial arts (kalaripayattu) at the Kadathanadan Kalari Centre.
In the morning, take a guided nature walk in the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Encounters with animals in the wild are never guaranteed, but look out for tigers, spotted deer, Indian elephants 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.

Notes: Leech socks will provided for the nature walk around the wildlife sanctuary.
In the morning drive to Munnar, which should take around four hours. Munnar is on 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. 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. Indians are the highest consumers of tea in the world and the second highest exporters after China. Visit a nearby tea garden and the Tea Museum to get your fill of this delicacy. 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 to Kochi, which should take around five hours. Cochin, as it’s more commonly known, 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, visit the region of Fort Kochi and explore its antique shops and spice bazaars. The Chinese fishing nets lining the coast can be seen in full operation early in the morning. Use your free evening to wander down the beach at sunset.
In the morning 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.
Drive to the backwaters of Kerala this morning and discover sleepy Alappuzha, which should take around three hours in total. Once a significant trading port, the town is now famed for the long ‘snake boats’ races that take place in August every year. Alappuzha 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.
In the morning, take a four-hour drive to Kovalam 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. Perhaps head out with the group for a farewell meal.
Today, your Classic South India adventure ends after breakfast and you’re free to leave the accommodation at any time. The nearest airport is Trivandrum - your tour leader can assist you in arranging a transfer. If you’d like to book a transfer before travelling to India, please let your agent know.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
14 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners
Transport
Boat, Private vehicle, Train
Accommodation
Hotel (13 nights), Houseboat (1 night)
Included activities
  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
  • Chennai - Kapileshwar Temple
  • Chennai - Government Museum
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
  • Pondicherry - Auroville
  • Pondicherry - Walking Tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
  • Madurai - Gandhi Museum
  • Madurai - Walking tour
  • Periyar - Spice farm tour & dinner
  • Periyar - Guided Nature Walk
  • Munnar - Tea Garden visit
  • Munnar - Mattupetty Dam
  • Munnar - Town Walk
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi sightseeing
  • Tour
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Kochi - Jewish Synagogue
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
  • Kovalam - Attukal Bhagavathy Temple
  • Kovalam - Walking Tour

Dates

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip. See under the Single Traveller section of your Trip Notes for more information.
2. An airport arrival transfer is included. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Classic South India trips score an average of 4.76 out of 5 based on 25 reviews in the last year.

Classic South India , February 2016

Classic South India , February 2016