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.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Chennai, India
Finish
Kovalam, India
Country
India
Style
Comfort
Theme
Explorer
Code
HHKS
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • 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

  • Ferry-hop between the islands of Fort Kochi to discover palaces, temples and Portuguese architecture at every turn

Is this trip right for you?

  • We’ll be visiting multiple temples during the trip so it’s important to wear appropriate clothing that covers the arms, legs and shoulders.

  • Southern India can get very hot during the summer so remember to bring lots of water and a variety of clothing. Wearing layers is one of the best ways to tackle the heat.

  • As we'll be walking through varying terrain in national parks, comfortable walking shoes are essential.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2017 to 31 December 2017. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2018 - 31 December 2018

Welcome to Chennai, India. On arrival at the airport, you will be transferred to your hotel. Your Indian adventure begins 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 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. If you arrive in Chennai with free time to spare, perhaps visit the local marketplaces and temples. In the evening, maybe head out for dinner with your fellow travellers.
Included Activities
  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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 incredible 8th-century Shore Temple and its mandapams (carved pillars) to pay your respects to the deity Shiva.  Drive on to the living project of Auroville. This intriguing experimental township, founded in 1968, has more than 80 rural settlements some 1,500 residents, around half of whom are foreign nationals. Auroville is also home to the world’s largest solid crystal, which you can examine.
Continue onto Puducherry in the late afternoon where your evening is then free. Today's drive should take around three hours in total.
Included Activities
  • Puducherry - Walking tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
  • Mamallapuram local guide
  • Auroville - Experimental township
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Explore the united territories of Puducherry (formerly known as Pondicherry). This town was under French rule until 1954, and the European style of the town extends from beautiful colonial architecture right down to the uniforms of the police. On arrival, enjoy a walking tour to see local temples, the French Quarter and the spiritual community of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. In free time afterwards, perhaps do some shopping, or simply stroll around and enjoy the lovely atmosphere.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Head to Tanjavar (approximately 5 hours). Visit the World Heritage-listed Brihadeeswarar Temple, an awesome, thousand-year-old Hindu marvel.
Dedicated to Shiva, its one of the largest temples in India and was completed in 1010. Keep an eye out for the sacred bull, carved from a single peice of granite measuring around 5 x 4 metres.
Included Activities
  • Thanjavur Temple - guided tour
  • Thanjavur - Brihadeeswara Temple
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Drive to the town of Karaikudi today (approximately 2.5 hours). Take an orientation walk around the village when you arrive. You will also visit some traditional havelis (mansions), whose grandiose architecture is sure to impress. Be sure to sample some spicy Chettinad cuisine while you're here.
Included Activities
  • Karaikudi - Havelis
  • Karaikudi - Village walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Continue to Maderai (approximately 2 hours). Here you will wander through the colourful markets and bazaars, then visit 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. You might also like to explore the National Gandhi Museum (optional), 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 spend as you please.
Included Activities
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple guided tour
  • Madurai - Walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi 1000 Pillar Entrance - INR50
  • Madurai - Gandhi Museum - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a day of free time in Madurai. Perhaps visit the Art Museum to see a superb collection of carvings, check out the Tirumalai Nayak Palace or simply relax over a cup of the local chai. 
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Drive through rubber and pineapple plantations to Thekkady and explore the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve, perched lakeside 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. If you have time, perhaps attend a demonstration of Indian martial arts (kalaripayattu) at the Kadathanadan Kalari Centre.
Included Activities
  • Periyar - Spice plantation visit
Optional Activities
  • Periyar NP - Ayurvedic Massage - INR700
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning, take a guided nature walk in the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary (approximately 3 hours). Encounters with animals in the wild are never guaranteed, and this is more of a jungle walk than an animal spotting tour, but look out for tiger tracks, 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.
Included Activities
  • Periyar - National Park
  • Periyar - Guided nature walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
The nature walk usually is the Green Zone walk in the National Park.
Tigers are extremely rare and shy in Periyar. It is however a lovely walk, the local guides are villagers who have lived in the area for generations and are very knowledegable of the areas flora and fauna.
Bring water, we start early but it gets very hot and humid later in the morning
In the morning, drive to Kochi, aka Cochin. This place is a veritable 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. 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.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Please note that Kerala is officially a dry state, with alcohol sales and consumption limited to bars in 5 star hotels.
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.

Included Activities
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi walk
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
  • Kochi - Jewish Synagogue
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Discover sleepy Kumarakom in the backwaters of Kerala. Drive from Kochi to Kumarkon to our resort along the riverside. Take a short backwaters cruise before heading out on a village walk.
Your guide will take you on a walk around the local village and introduce you to members of the community. This is a great chance to meet and talk with the people who live in the backwaters. Strolling under palm trees and weaving in between the rice fields that cover the island, learn about their lifestyles.
Included Activities
  • Kumarakom - Village walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning, drive to Kovalam (approximately 4 hours) 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.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy free time today. You might like feast on some delicious seafood, check out Anchuthengu Fort, wander around the village or relax on the beach. 
Included Activities
  • Kovalam - Walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Kovalam - Anchuthengu Fort - INR50
  • Kovalam - Koyikkal Palace - INR50
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Your trip comes to an end 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.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

14 breakfasts, 1 lunch

Transport

Private minibus, Private vehicle

Accommodation

Hotel (14 nights)

Included activities

  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
  • Puducherry - Walking tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
  • Mamallapuram local guide
  • Auroville - Experimental township
  • Thanjavur Temple - guided tour
  • Thanjavur - Brihadeeswara Temple
  • Karaikudi - Havelis
  • Karaikudi - Village walk
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple guided tour
  • Madurai - Walking tour
  • Periyar - Spice plantation visit
  • Periyar - National Park
  • Periyar - Guided nature walk
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi walk
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
  • Kochi - Jewish Synagogue
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Tour
  • Kumarakom - Village walk
  • Kovalam - Walking tour

Dates & availability

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Important notes

A single supplement is available on this trip and is available for all nights on tour.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides 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.

Reviews

Our Classic South India trips score an average of 4.76 out of 5 based on 50 reviews in the last year.

Classic South India, April 2017

Carole Griffin

Classic South India, April 2017

Ali Schofield