Explore the beaches and backwaters of southern India

Unplug from everyday routine and head to the beaches and backwaters of southern India. Explore the lush landscapes, intriguing religions, exotic bazaars and incredible contrasts of this region. Jump on and off local transport, go rural through backwater coconut groves and fishing villages, and discover the heart of the subcontinent. See ancient ruins and stunning temples, eat spicy curries and drink luscious lassis. Join the bustle of city streets and at the end of it all unwind on the beautiful beaches of Goa.

Trivandrum, India
Goa, India
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12
Carbon offset
262kg pp per trip


  • Admire the magnificent Maharaja's Palace of Mysore
  • Boat the backwaters in Kerala
  • Get a taste of a beach holiday in Goa
  • Experience the strange landscape of Hampi
  • See the Shore Temple of Mamallapuram
  • Uncover charming places to visit in Kochi
  • Try yoga in Varkala
  • Visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai


This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2015 - 31 December 2015

Welcome to India. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Afterwards, go on an orientation walk with your guide around Trivandrum. Note: 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). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception as soon as possible.
In the morning, head up the coast for around two hours to the town of Varkala. Once settled into your hotel, use some free time to explore the Keralan coast, which is home to some of India’s most pristine beaches. Soaring cliffs protect Varkala’s sandy bay and, depending on the time of year, dolphins can be spotted from high up on the rocks. In the evening, maybe head into town to one of the numerous restaurants serving fresh, local seafood.
Enjoy a free day in Varkala. This is a great place to sit back and relax, but if you want to get active there are plenty of water activities on offer, such as surfing and windsurfing. Even though this is a popular destination for Indian tourists, the beaches are quiet and laid-back. If you have time, perhaps rent a scooter and ride through fishing villages to Varkala Light House.
Today take a local three-hour train along the Keralan coastline to Alappuzha (Alleppey). Once an important trading port and now famous for the annual 'Snake Boat Race’ in August, Alappuzha is the starting point for most journeys into the backwaters. An auto rickshaw will take you from the train station to the boat boarding point. Explore the backwaters in a pole boat, before heading to an island village for an overnight homestay with a local family. Your guide will take you on a walk around the village and introduce you to the local community. Note: Accommodation is on a multi-share basis. All the families in the community live within a few hundred metres of each other, with at least one person in each family speaking a reasonable standard of English. Food is traditional Keralan home-cooking.
In the morning cross the backwaters by private boat back to Alappuzha. The group will then take a local two-hour bus to Kochi, arriving around midday. Once there, go on an orientation walk around the Fort Cochin area, where you’ll be staying for the next two nights. In the evening, there’s the option to attend a classic Kathakali dance performance at 5 pm.
Today, head to the Mattancherry part of Fort Cochin to explore the old Jewish quarter, synagogue and Dutch Palace (Kochi Palace) on a guided walking tour. The tour takes around three hours, with the rest of the day free to do as you wish. Why not join one of our Urban Adventures day tours, such as Fort Cochin by Bike, Home Cooked Kochi or Kochi Food and Culture Tour. Please check with your leader in advance if you’d like to book one of these trips.
In the morning travel to Periyar National Park, which should take around four hours. Once settled into the hotel, head out on a tour of a local spice farm, sampling cardamom, pepper, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. In the evening, sit down with owner of the farm and their family for an authentic Indian dinner.
After breakfast, enjoy a free day with an optional walk around Periyar National Park. Be on the look out for tigers and other wildlife such as bison, wild boar, elephants and spotted deer. Set high in the ranges of the Western Ghats, this wildlife sanctuary surrounds a picturesque lake formed by the building of a dam in 1895. If you’re lucky, you might even see Indian elephants bathe playfully in the lake.
In the morning, take a local bus to Madurai (approximately 3-4 hours). This buzzy city is crammed full of bazaars, pilgrims and cycle-rickshaws. After a walking tour to see the sights, perhaps visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple. This ancient temple is still in use and features a labyrinth of lamp-lit corridors leading to shrines.
Today is a free day in Madurai. Perhaps head to the Ghandi Museum to learn about the man who fought for India’s independence or wander through the 1,000 pillars of Aayiram Kaal Mandapam. This is also a great opportunity to haggle with vendors at the bazaars and the tailors' market. In the evening, take an overnight sleeper train to Mysore (approximately seven hours). Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned, and beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided (although some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Please note that you may be sharing with locals of the same or opposite gender.
In the morning, board a local bus from the train station to your hotel in Mysore. Mysore is an easy-going town with a pleasant climate. Go on an orientation walk, checking out the ornate Mysore Palace along the way. There’s also the option to visit the Keshava Temple in Somnathpur, which is a stunning example of Hoysala architecture. The temple is a one-hour drive out of town. If your visit falls on a Sunday or public holiday, take a trip to Mysore Temple in the evening to see it illuminated (7 pm – 7.45 pm).
Today is a free day in Mysore, with plenty of optional activities to keep you busy. Perhaps explore the countryside surrounding Mysore. Climb up Chamundi Hill to the Sri Chamundeswari Temple at the top, which is dedicated to the goddess Durga. At 7 pm board an overnight 10-hour train to Hampi via northern Karnataka.
In the morning, arrive into Hampi and cross the river to your guesthouse by canoe. Hampi is a temple town situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Once you’re settled in, make an optional visit to the architectural masterpiece of Vittala Temple. This 16th-century temple contains mandapas (pillared pavilions), a pool, a palace and the popular stone chariot, which according to Hindu mythology was the vehicle of the Lord Vishnu.
After breakfast, explore the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire and the huge boulders on the outskirts of town. Use the rest of the day to explore. In the early evening, drive for around three hours by private vehicle to Hubli, where you’ll board an overnight nine-hour train to Goa.
Once the train arrives in Goa, head to the hotel and check in. Brimming with Portuguese influences and famous for the sandy beaches lining its coast, Goa is a fascinating region in India's southwest. The day is free to do what you like. Perhaps relax on the beach, sip a cocktail at a local bar or go for a final dinner in the evening with the rest of the travel group.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you’re able to depart the accommodation at any time. Goa is a great place to end the trip – if you can, we recommend staying on for a couple of nights to relax and explore.
View trip notes to read full itinerary


1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 2 dinners
Guesthouse (2 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hotel (5 nights), Overnight sleeper train (3 nights), Resort (2 nights)
Included activities
  • Backwaters - Village walk
  • Kerala Backwaters - Pole Boat Ride
  • Madurai - Walking tour
  • Periyar - Spice farm tour & dinner


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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.

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.

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South India Unplugged , October 2015

South India Unplugged , October 2015