Map of Premium South India including India

Discover the soul of southern India, from Chennai to Kochi.

Swaying palm trees, rolling emerald hills and tranquil backwaters make up the lush surface of southern India, but dig a little deeper and discover a land of charismatic people, ancient religion and cherished cuisine. This 13-day Premium adventure will take you into the home of a local family, down the French-inspired streets of Puducherry, through the maze of food stalls in Madurai and into the wilderness of the Periyar National Park, all with the passionate guidance of a local leader.


Start
Chennai, India
Finish
Kochi, India
Destination
India
Style
Premium
Theme
Explorer
Code
HHPS
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

premium accommodation

Our best accommodation and highest level of service.

premium experiences

Unusual, exceptional and authentic on-trip experiences.

premium knowledge

Led by our most experienced and highest rated local leaders.

  • Find out what makes Indian cuisine so special during a food tour in Madurai, a home-cooked meal with a local family, a fragrant lunch at a spice plantation and an ayurvedic cooking demonstration and dinner.

  • Discover India’s old-world and new-age religions during tours of ancient temples and a visit to the modern spiritual community of Auroville.

  • Witness a fusion of influences in the stunning former French colony of Puducherry, and see touches of a Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and British past in the exuberantly multicultural Kochi.

  • Experience a thousand shades of green as you tour a scenic tea plantation in Munnar and track footprints in search of wild elephants in the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.

  • Enjoy accommodation like no other – a beautiful converted houseboat on the Kerala backwaters and a suave heritage hotel in Kochi are your feature stays for this adventure.

Is this trip right for you?

  • There are a number of long travel days on this trip. Some journeys take up to six hours, but are a great opportunity to get to know locals, fellow travellers and the diverse scenery.

  • The drive to Munnar on Day 8 is on windy roads into the mountains. Motion sickness can be an issue for some, but the scenery is stunning and regular stops will be made to break up your journey.

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

Itinerary

Welcome to India! Your adventure begins in Chennai, India’s cultural heart and fourth largest city. You will be met on arrival at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Meet your fellow travellers and experienced group leader for an important 6pm welcome meeting. If you arrive in Chennai with time to spare, you may like to pay a visit to the colourful market stalls of the Georgetown Bazaar. After your meeting, join your leader and group for a welcome dinner at Chennai’s first chain restaurant, serving up an iconic array of south Indian vegetarian dishes like idly, dosa and poori. It’s never hard to find something fantastic to eat in south India, the only challenge is deciding what to order. Luckily your leader is on hand to help you navigate the flavour-filled menu.
Accommodation
  • Lemon Tree Hotel Guindy or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
  • Chennai - Welcome dinner
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Special Information
The arrival transfer is only valid if arriving on Day 1 or if you have booked pre-trip accommodation through us. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or at a minimum 14 days prior to travel, as we may not be able to confirm a request made within 14 days of travel. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at the welcome meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
This morning you will leave the city behind and drive along the scenic East Coast Road 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 Puducherry. A French colony until 1954, the old parts of town retain a distinctly European feel. Leafy boulevards are lined with colonial-style houses and trendy boutiques – this place has a certain je ne sais quoi. On arrival, the rest of your evening is free to explore. Puducherry has a varied food scene with traditional Indian and classic French influences. Be sure to ask your leader for some tips on where to grab a fabulous meal.
Accommodation
  • The Residency Towers Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temples guided tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Today’s total driving time is approximately 5 hours.
Today you will visit the famous Auroville, an experimental township just outside Puducherry 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, then make a visit to the spiritual community of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Return to Puducherry for a walking tour to see local temples and the charming French Quarter. Stroll past mustard coloured buildings draped with vibrant bougainvillea as your leader shares stories of the revolutionaries, generals and kings who once walked these streets. Stop by the pastel pink Church of Notre Dame, perhaps even more gorgeous than its Parisian counterpart. Evidence of the French colonial period is everywhere – the architecture, sprawling town squares and even in the police uniforms. The evening is free for further explorations.
Accommodation
  • The Residency Towers Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Auroville - Experimental township
  • Puducherry - Leader-led French Quarter walking tour
  • Puducherry - Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today, continue to the city of Madurai, with plenty of chai stops along the way. Arrive in the late afternoon and head out on a short orientation walk to get acquainted with one of India’s oldest cities. Once you’ve got your bearings, join your leader on a trip for the taste buds – a tantalising tour of the city’s Tamil cuisine. Madurai is bursting with street food stalls, family-owned restaurants and plenty of regional delicacies – your leader will show you the dishes that aren’t on the tourist menus. Have a taste of mutton dosa or some fish gravy as your leader regales you with stories of centuries-old recipes and the passionate people who make them. Round off the night with some Jigarthanda; Madurai’s most celebrated dessert is a delicious and refreshing blend of condensed milk, almond gum and ice cream.
Accommodation
  • Heritage Madurai or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Madurai - Leader-led street food tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Today’s total driving time is approximately 6 hours.
Continue your walking exploration of Madurai today. Your leader will guide you 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. Stop by the extravagant Thirumalai Nayak Palace, built in the 17th-century by King Tirumala Nayaka. This evening you’ll have the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Tamil culture when you join a local family for a traditional home cooked dinner. Chat with the family about their lives and try some more wonderful dishes such as chettinad chicken, egg paratha and vegetable korma.
Accommodation
  • Heritage Madurai or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi 1000 Pillar
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
  • Madurai - Gandhi Museum
  • Madurai - Leader-led walking tour
  • Madurai - Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace
  • Madurai - Local family visit and home-cooked Tamil dinner
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Make your way to the countryside town of Thekkady, driving past pineapple and rubber plantations on the way. Thekkady is the gateway to Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve, perched high in the ranges of the Western Ghats. Stop off at a spice plantation where you’ll speak with a local expert and taste, smell and learn about the brilliant array of spices that colour and flavour India’s famed cuisine. Put your new knowledge to good use as you sit down to a flavoursome lunch made with spices from the plantation. The evening is yours to enjoy in Thekkady. Perhaps wander the shops selling fragrant spices and organic tea, or relax in the palm fringed pool at your resort.
Accommodation
  • The Elephant Court Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Thekkady - Expert-guided spice plantation visit and lunch
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Special Information
Today’s total driving time is approximately 4 hours.
This morning, take a guided nature walk in the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Your expert guide will help you look for tiger tracks, spotted deer, Indian elephants and 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. After an exciting morning of wildlife spotting, the rest of your afternoon is free. You may want to unwind with an optional ayurvedic massage. In the evening, attend an exciting demonstration of kalarippayattu at the Kadathanadan Kalari Centre. Originating in Kerala, kalarippayattu is believed to be the oldest surviving martial art in India. Watching high-energy fighters leap several feet into the air is a truly thrilling sight.
Accommodation
  • The Elephant Court Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Periyar - Kalaripayattu (Indian Martial Art) performance
  • Periyar - Guided nature walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning drive north to Munnar, 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! Munnar is one of India’s most important hubs for tea trade, and the rolling emerald hills that surround the town are an unforgettable sight. On arrival, take a tour of the tea plantation, where a resident expert will guide you through the steps of the tea making process. Follow narrow pathways and visit the workers picking the best tea leaves, learn how these leaves are transformed into the world’s most popular beverage, and sample some of the different varieties. 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.
Accommodation
  • Mountain Club or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Munnar - Tea plantation
  • Munnar - Tea Museum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Today’s total driving time is approximately 4 hours.
This morning, take a guided walk around the lush hills of Munnar, often shrouded in ethereal clouds. Be sure to have your camera ready as the beautiful landscape unfolds in front of you. Learn how Munnar’s cool temperatures made the region a favourite summer retreat during the British Colonial era. In the afternoon, journey out to the scenic Mattupetty Dam where you’ll find a beautiful man-made lake and spectacular views of the surrounding valleys. Here you’ll have the chance to take an optional motorboat ride around the lake. After some time to appreciate the stunning scenery, return to Munnar for an evening at leisure.
Accommodation
  • Mountain Club or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Munnar - Mattupetty Dam
  • Munnar - Leader-led town walking tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Drive to the backwaters of Kerala this morning 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. Kerala’s backwaters were once busy with passing kettuvallams; large wooden boats used to transport rice and spices. Today these traditional vessels have been transformed into magnificent houseboats, offering guests the incredible opportunity to explore the lagoons in total comfort, as you will during your feature stay for the evening. Conversions are made using traditional and natural materials – bamboo becomes roofing, coir mats are turned into flooring and beds are carefully crafted from the wood of coconut trees. These floating cottages share the comforts of a first-rate hotel, including western toilets, private bedrooms, a dining area and open deck where you can watch the world go by. Sit back for a truly unforgettable evening floating through the dreamy waters of rural Kerala.
Accommodation
  • Pickadaley Houseboat (Feature Stay) or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Today’s total driving time is approximately 4 hours. Please note that Kerala is officially a dry state, with alcohol sales and consumption limited to bars in 5 star hotels.
Enjoy a peaceful morning at the Kerala waters before driving to Kochi in the afternoon. Cochin, as it was formerly known, is spread over several islands and is a melting pot of Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and British influences. Join your leader on an orientation walk to learn how these influences manifest in the city’s architecture, restaurants and daily life. In the afternoon, take some time out to enjoy the city – perhaps head to lively Princess street and kick back with a cup of coffee. Tonight you’ll have the special opportunity to watch a Kathakali dance performance. Kathakali is a classical Indian dance with roots in Kerala, combining 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. Your feature stay accommodation for the evening is at the sophisticated Dutch Bungalow. This heritage hotel has been standing proud since 1668 and retains the traditional charm of days gone by. Enjoy stylish rooms circling a serene pool and an excellent in-house restaurant.
Accommodation
  • Dutch Bungalow Heritage Hotel (feature stay) or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Today’s total driving time is approximately 1.5 hours.
Today you will explore the antique shops and spice bazaars of Kochi – your leader will show you how to haggle with the best of them. Visit the delightful Fort Kochi area and stop by the famous Chinese fishing nets – perhaps Kochi’s most photographed sight. Make a visit to the Mattancherry Palace, built in the 16th-century by the Portuguese and later claimed by the Dutch. Continue to the Paradesi Synagogue, the oldest existing Jewish synagogue in India. In the early evening you will meet with an ayurvedic doctor, a practitioner who uses ancient holistic techniques to promote a balance of body and mind, resulting in overall health and wellbeing. Learn all about Satvik Bhojan, the ayurvedic diet, and take part in a cooking demonstration followed by dinner using the methods and recipes discussed.
Accommodation
  • Dutch Bungalow Heritage Hotel (feature stay) or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kochi - Jewish Synagogue
  • Kochi - Ferry to Mattancherry
  • Kochi - Leader-led Fort Kochi walking tour
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Kochi - Ayurveda-inspired dinner
  • Kochi - Converstation with an expert on Satvik Bhojan (Ayurvedic food)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Your adventure comes to an end after breakfast this morning. Additional nights in Kochi and an airport transfer to Cochin International airport can be booked in advance.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

12 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 4 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle, Ferry

Accommodation

Hotel (9 nights), Houseboat Feature Stay (1 night), Kochi Feature Stay (2 nights)

Included activities

  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
  • Chennai - Welcome dinner
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temples guided tour
  • Auroville - Experimental township
  • Puducherry - Leader-led French Quarter walking tour
  • Puducherry - Sri Aurobindo Ashram
  • Madurai - Leader-led street food tour
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi 1000 Pillar
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
  • Madurai - Gandhi Museum
  • Madurai - Leader-led walking tour
  • Madurai - Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace
  • Madurai - Local family visit and home-cooked Tamil dinner
  • Thekkady - Expert-guided spice plantation visit and lunch
  • Periyar - Kalaripayattu (Indian Martial Art) performance
  • Periyar - Guided nature walk
  • Munnar - Tea plantation
  • Munnar - Tea Museum
  • Munnar - Mattupetty Dam
  • Munnar - Leader-led town walking tour
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
  • Kochi - Jewish Synagogue
  • Kochi - Ferry to Mattancherry
  • Kochi - Leader-led Fort Kochi walking tour
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Kochi - Ayurveda-inspired dinner
  • Kochi - Converstation with an expert on Satvik Bhojan (Ayurvedic food)

Premium Inclusions

  • Arrival airport transfer
  • Tipping for accommodation, activities and transport
  • Luggage transfer
  • Daily breakfast and signature local meal experiences
  • 24/7 on-ground support

Dates & availability

Trip departures are unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our Premium South India trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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Important notes

Travellers on Intrepid trips are required to produce proof of full vaccination against COVID-19. Read details here.

1. A complimentary airport arrival transfer is included; valid if you are arriving on Day 1 or if you have booked pre-tour accommodation through us. You must provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel.
2. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement applies to all nights of your trip and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.

Essential trip information

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