Travel to the cultural and scenic highlights of southern India.

Lush and tropical, southern India is inspiring and delightful. Beneath the green shade of a coastal paradise, meet with locals in their fishing villages and tribal homes. Join them in the bazaars, on buses and boats or even on pilgrimage in Madurai. From cultural sights like the Maharaja's Palace in Mysore to French-influenced Puducherry and the vast landscape of Periyar, southern India's spirituality, friendly people and wild animal sanctuaries make it a fascinating part of the country to explore.


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

Why you'll love this trip

  • Discover the waterfalls, tea plantations and spice markets of South India’s Western Ghats, a jungle-clad mountain range older than the Himalaya and one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.

  • Known as the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’, Kochi is a fascinating blend of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English influences, and is best explored by ferry.

  • Step back in time among the iridescent hills of the very British ‘Snooty Ooty’ – home of snooker and the charming Nilgiri toy train.

  • Search for elusive wildlife, including elephants, sloths and birds on safari around one of the best places in India to observe nature up close – Periyar National Park.

  • Experience a unique way of life with a family homestay and home-cooked meals in the idyllic backwaters of Kerala.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip is packed full of sights and experiences, including many main highlights of southern India along with plenty of insights into local life. There is an extensive amount of travel and a number of single night stays to ensure you can fit as much as possible.

  • This adventure uses a variety of transport options, including train and bus travel for up to 8 hours. There is also an included overnight sleeper train from Mysore to Mamallapuram, so be sure to have a book, some podcasts and you best travel games ready.

  • Sleeper trains a quintessential Indian experience and a great way to travel long distances while still getting maximum time in each place. With the experience can come some unpredictability – there are occasional delays or even cancellations. 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. See the Transport section of the Essential Trip Information for more detail about train travel in India or this guide for more about train travel around the world: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/overnight-train-travel-around-...

  • Up in the Western Ghats it can be surprisingly cool at night, especially in winter. Check weather reports before you go to help with your packing, and remember too to bring modest clothing (ie. pants or skirts that go below the knees and tops that cover your arms) for our visits to religious sites in particular.

  • Part of travelling with Intrepid means respecting local cultures and sensibilities. That way you get the most out of your interactions with local people and environments. You’ll be visiting a few temples throughout your adventure, so please ensure that you’re dressed appropriately with legs and shoulders covered.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020.
View the 2019 itinerary
Your Indian adventure starts today in Kochi with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive into Kochi early, there are plenty of things to see and do. Once an important spice-trading centre, Kochi has been under Portuguese, Dutch and British rule at various times throughout history. Explore with one of our Urban Adventures or wander down to the shore and seek out the huge Chinese fishing nets dotted along the coast of Fort Cochin.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
This morning, take on Kochi with a leader-led orientation tour. Board a local ferry to Mattancherry and drop by the Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century before it was renovated and presented to the Rajas of Cochin by the Dutch. Pay an optional visit to Paradesi Synagogue – the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth and home to many rare antiques. Then amble around the spice bazaars and antique stores of Fort Cochin. In the evening, experience a Kathakali performance. This Keralan dance is an ornately costumed display of storytelling, requiring complete control of the body.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi walk
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
Optional Activities
  • Kochi - Jewish Synagogue - INR5
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Buckle up, because most of today is spent travelling. Catch a 3.5-hour train to Coimbatore, before travelling by private vehicle to Ootacamund (approximately 4 hours). Often referred to as ‘Snooty Ooty’, it was here that the game of snooker was named and arguably invented. Stretch your legs exploring the town’s Hindu temples or stroll through what almost feels like English countryside. Ooty is pleasantly mild in the summer but can get cold in winter, so make sure you come prepared with adequate clothing. You’ll stay in nearby Conoor, where dinner is included at your accommodation tonight.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Today, board Ooty’s renowned toy train for a ride along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Be sure to get a window seat for great views over the lush countryside. In nearby Conoor, visit a tea plantation to learn about the history of tea production. Spend the rest of the day exploring Ooty’s Botanical Gardens, which are home to over 650 species of plants and trees. Alternatively, get a little bit romantic with a boat ride on the lake.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ooty - Nilgiri Mountain Railway & Tea Plantation visit
Optional Activities
  • Ooty - Botanical Gardens - INR50
  • Ooty - Boat ride - INR200
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a private vehicle for the short drive to Masinagudi today. Set against the backdrop of the Nilgiri mountains, Mudumalai National Park was once the Mysore Maharaja's private hunting ground. In 1974 it was brought under Project Tiger and is now one of the best game sanctuaries in India to observe wildlife in close proximity. Embark on a short safari in search of tigers, leopards, elephants, sloth bears, sambars, spotted deer and much more. There's also an amazing variety of birdlife in the park. Tonight’s family-run accommodation in Masinagudi is mixed gender dormitory style with a common bathroom. This dorm room is only open to your group.
Accommodation
  • Jungle Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Travel by private vehicle across the scenic Karnataka plains to Mysore, stopping to share a biryani lunch with local host Raju and his family. Mysore is an easy-going town with a pleasant climate, perfect for wandering around on foot. Your leader will provide an orientation walk for you to get your bearings. A visit to Mysore is incomplete without a look around Mysore Palace. One of the most ornate palaces in India, its interior is full of colour, mosaics and mirrors.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mysore - Home cooked lunch & family visit
  • Mysore - Maharaja's Palace
  • Mysore - City walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
This morning, head out of Mysore and climb Chamundi Hill to the Sri Chamundeswari Temple, dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Durga. Continue on to the Keshava Temple in the small town of Somnathpur – an excellent example of Hoysala architecture. You’ll also have some time to pay an optional visit to Tipu Sultan’s mausoleum in Srirangapatna, or instead, return to Mysore for a palm reading or to catch a film at the local cinema. Tonight, board an 11-hour overnight sleeper train to Chennai.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mysore - Keshava Temple
  • Mysore - Chamundi Hill & Temple
Optional Activities
  • Mysore - Cinema - INR100
  • Mysore - Tipu Sultan's Mausoleum - INR500
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Part of travelling with Intrepid means respecting local cultures and sensibilities. That way you get the most out of your interactions with local people and environments. You’ll be visiting a few temples today, so please ensure that you’re dressed appropriately with legs and shoulders covered.

Sleeper trains in India are clean and air-conditioned, and beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided (although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Please also note that on the sleeper train you may be sharing with locals of the same or opposite gender.
After arriving in Chennai, take a private vehicle along the scenic East Coast Road to Mamallapuram. Explore this ancient seaport town by bicycle, paying a visit to the seventh-century Shore Temple and the enormous bas-relief rock carving, known as Arjuna's Penance. There will also be time to inspect the town’s numerous mandapams (pillared temple pavilions), watch local stonemasons at work or to just to kick back and relax at a beachside restaurant.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mamallapuram - Cycling tour
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel by private vehicle for 5 hours through palm trees and rice paddies to Puducherry. On arrival, head out with your group and leader on a walking tour to see local temples, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the French Quarter. Once a French colony, you’ll see evidence of French influence in Puducherry's architecture, its wide town squares and even in the uniforms of the police!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Puducherry - Walking tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Transfer by taxi to the railway station at Villapuram and board a train to the temple city of Madurai (approximately 6 hours). Madurai’s Tamil roots stretch back 2500 years, making it one of the oldest cities in India. Wander the lamp-lit labyrinth of the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple, dedicated to the Lord Shiva and goddess Meenakshi. Visit the Gandhi Memorial Museum, which displays a detailed account of India’s struggle for independence along with the bloodstained dhoti the famous leader wore when he was assassinated.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
Optional Activities
  • Madurai - Gandhi Museum - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Part of travelling with Intrepid means respecting local cultures and sensibilities. That way you get the most out of your interactions with local people and environments. You’ll be visiting some temples today, so please ensure that you’re dressed appropriately with legs and shoulders covered. Also, please respect local guidelines and rules, including no cameras or photography.
This morning, travel by private vehicle along a winding road to the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. High in the ranges of the Western Ghats, the park is set among stunning scenery and is the most popular wildlife sanctuary in Southern India. Both today and tomorrow, you’ll get to explore the national park on foot and will understand why Periyar is a popular wilderness sanctuary because of its lush surrounds. In the evening, enjoy a tour of a local spice plantation.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Periyar - Spice plantation visit
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Venture back into the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary today for a guided nature walk. Encounters with animals in the wild are never guaranteed, and this is more of a jungle walk than an animal spotting tour, but do 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 at your accommodation, or just relax in this scenic setting with a drink in hand.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Periyar - National Park
  • Periyar - Guided nature walk
Optional Activities
  • Periyar - Boat trip - INR650
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Please note that the nature walk is usually the Green Zone walk in the Periyar National Park. Even though this park is a Tiger Reserve, tigers are extremely rare and shy in Periyar. Your nature walk is nonetheless a fascinating experience, as the local guides are villagers who have lived in the area for generations and are very knowledgeable of the flora and fauna of the area.

Temperatures and humidity can be high in southern India, especially when walking around sites like the Periyar. Be prepared by taking plenty of drink breaks and wearing appropriate skin protection. Your nature walk will start early, but it does get quite hot and humid in the late morning.
Travelling by private vehicle, pass through rubber, tea and coffee plantations on the way to the backwaters of Kerala. Board a boat to cross to the island village where you’ll stay with a local family tonight. In the late afternoon, explore the island with a local English-speaking guide, and sometimes your homestay host! This is great chance to meet locals and learn more about their unique way of life. Take a leisurely punt boat ride around the waterways and enjoy the scenery. In the evening, share stories and a traditional home-cooked Keralan meal with your host family.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kerala Backwaters - Pole boat ride
  • Kerala Backwaters - Village walk
Meals Included
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
In Kerala, a homestay is similar to a local guesthouse where the family usually live on site. Accommodation is twin share, with a private bathroom. Delicious local meals are cooked in-house by your hosts.
Wake early, before crossing the backwaters by private boat to Alleppey. From here, take a 2-hour local bus back to Kochi. The rest of the day is free for you to choose your own adventure. Perhaps you’d like to stroll down Princess Street for a spot of shopping, or book yourself into a southern Indian cooking class – your group leader will have some other recommendations, so be sure to ask them. Tonight, why not gather together with your group and have a night out at a local restaurant. Whatever you do, be sure to snack on a pazhampori (fried fritter of banana or plantain) while you explore the city.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
With no activities planned for the today, you are able to leave the accommodation at any time.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

5 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners

Transport

Auto rickshaw, Boat, Bus, Cycle rickshaw, Ferry, Overnight sleeper train, Private vehicle, Train

Accommodation

Homestay (1 night), Hotel (11 nights), Jungle lodge (1 nights), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night)

Included activities

  • Kochi - Fort Kochi walk
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
  • Ooty - Nilgiri Mountain Railway & Tea Plantation visit
  • Mysore - Home cooked lunch & family visit
  • Mysore - Maharaja's Palace
  • Mysore - City walk
  • Mysore - Keshava Temple
  • Mysore - Chamundi Hill & Temple
  • Mamallapuram - Cycling tour
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
  • Puducherry - Walking tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
  • Periyar - Spice plantation visit
  • Periyar - National Park
  • Periyar - Guided nature walk
  • Kerala Backwaters - Pole boat ride
  • Kerala Backwaters - Village walk

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement is available for this trip and is applicable for all nights on tour with the exception of Day 5 in Mudumalai National Park and the overnight train on Day 7.

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.

View Essential Trip Information

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