Southern India from coast to coast in style
Travel through southern India with a little extra comfort and style, whilst
visiting some of the worlds most colourful and enriching destinations.
This trip takes in the verdant surroundings of Ooty and Coonoor, the wildlife
of Bandipur National Park, typical temple architecture at Kanchipuram, the
hill stations and Toy Train of the Nilgiri Hills and the tropical coastline,
backwaters and beaches of the Malabar Coast. All this is enhanced by southern
India’s legendary warmth, charm and mouth-watering local cuisine.
* Explore the old spice town of Cochin
* Verdant scenery and wildlife
* Ancient architecture and temples
* Cruise the backwaters on a houseboat
Day 1 Depart London.
Flights usually depart London in the evening.
Day 2 Arrive Chennai; transfer to beachside town of Mahabalipuram.
On arrival in Chennai those on group flight arrangements will be transferred
to our hotel in Mahabalipuram (approx. 1.5 – 2 hrs drive, 60km). Those
clients not travelling on the group flight make their own way to the hotel.
The rest of the day is free to relax.
Day 3 Visit ancient Dravidian sites, including Shore Temple.
This part of Tamil Nadu was once known as the Coromandel Coast. It has a
language over 2,000 years old and poetry dating back to before the birth of
Christ. It also boasts some of the most remarkable temple architecture in
India, and with a living tradition of music and dance, is culturally very
rich. In the morning we visit the rock cut caves and temples at
Mahabalipuram. Occupying a stunning position on a rocky outcrop between the
beach and a lagoon, the port was made famous by the Pallava dynasty in the
7th century. There are numerous cave temples, monolithic carved shrines in
the shape of chariots, stone temples and relief sculptured rock panels all
dating back to the 7th century. Carving in stone is still a living art here
and we will see stonemasons chipping away from dawn till dusk along the busy
roadside, practising the skills that flourished centuries ago. The afternoon
is free to enjoy the beach and local area.
Day 4 Return to Chennai via the temples at Kanchipuram.
In the morning we drive to Kanchipuram, one of Hinduism’s seven most sacred
cities, ‘the Golden City of a Thousand Temples’. Dating from the early Chola
dynasty in the second century there are still about 70 temples in the town.
We visit some of the most impressive, including the Ekambaresvara Temple with
its Thousand Pillared Hall and the Kailasanatha Temple, considered to be the
most beautiful of the town’s temples (please note some temples remain closed
from 11:3015:30). Later in the day we drive to Chennai. (Total driving
time approx. 2 to 3 hrs, 70km)
Day 5 Express train to Mysore; transfer to hotel.
In the early morning we take the express train to Mysore via Bangalore
(approx. 7 hrs). We arrive at lunch time and transfer to our hotel.
Day 6 Sightseeing including Mysore Palace and Srirangapatna.
Mysore is the city of royal palaces, sandalwood and the manufacture of
incense sticks; it is the former capital of the princely state and is
Karnataka’s second largest city. Today we have a sightseeing tour of Mysore
and its surroundings. Just outside of Mysore is Srirangapatnam the capital of
Haider Ali and his famous son, Tipu Sultan. Tipus’ famous battles against
both the French and the British are depicted in the murals on the walls of
his delightful summer palace. Ruins of the Fort and the Gumbaz, the family
mausoleums are also here. Returning to Mysore we spend the afternoon
exploring the beautifully restored City Palace. Designed by Henry Irwin and
built in 1897, it is a remarkable building with domes, arches and colonnades
of carved pillars and shiny marble floors. The stained glass, wall paintings,
ivory inlaid doors and ornate golden throne are all remarkable. The rest of
the day is free to wander round the bazaar.
Day 7 Drive to Bandipur N.P.; afternoon jungle safari.
Today we drive to Bandipur National Park (80km, approx. 2 to 3 hrs), in the
afternoon we take a jungle safari. The park stretches over 874 square
kilometers, protecting the wildlife of Karnataka, hopefully you will see Gaur
(Indian bison), wild elephant and Sambars.
Day 8 Drive to Coonoor via botanical gardens of Ooty.
If possible this morning there will be an optional visit to an elephant
feeding centre, we then drive to Ooty (80km, approx. 2 to 3 hrs drive) in the
state of Tamil Nadu. Ootacamund (2286m), or ‘Snooty Ooty’ is queen of the
southern hill stations and was a refuge for British Officials and tea
planters in Southern India. We will visit the Botanical Gardens which contain
over 1,000 varieties of plants, shrubs and trees including orchids, ferns and
alpines set amidst beautiful lawns. There should also be time to visit the
nearby St. Stephen’s church or wander around the bazaar and maybe try some of
the locally made chocolate before driving down to Coonoor where our hotel is
located (17km, approx. 30 mins drive).
Day 9 Explore Coonoor; optional walk through tea plantations or ‘Toy Train’ ride.
This could be Ooty’s twin, but Coonoor with its distinctive charm is
different. Mist-clad Nilgiri hills, the bright green of the tea estates
contrasting sharply against the red poinsettias and quaint bungalows that
speak stories of what this was. It was once home to the Coons tribe, and
possibly that’s where the name comes from. Famous for its verdant
surroundings and for a variety of wildflowers and birds today is free to soak
up the atmosphere of this hill station, possibly taking a walk through tree
plantations or ride the famous toy train (Nilgiri Mountain Railway), one of
the oldest mountain railways in India and a UNESCO World heritage site. From
Coonoor to Ooty is a delightful one-hour train journey (please be aware that
this isn’t always possible if there are bad weather conditions or if they
have technical problems with the train).
Day 10 Transfer from Coonoor to Cochin.
A long drive today (265km, approx. 8 to 10 hrs) as we leave the Niligiri
Hills and drive towards the coast. We leave Tamil Nadu and enter Kerala; the
road winds down through forested hillsides and this journey is one of the
most scenic in South India giving superb views of the plains below. Late in
the afternoon we arrive in Cochin (Kochi) which is set on the Malabar, or
‘Pepper Coast’, and is one of South India’s most interesting towns and is
believed to have been the first European settlement in India. Rich in history
despite recent growth it retains a relaxed, quiet atmosphere. Narrow spits of
land and coconut covered islands jut out into the wide, almost enclosed bay
whose neck is lined with the famous Chinese fishing nets.
Day 11 Boat tour of Cochin harbour; explore historic spice port.
In the morning we tour the harbour area by boat and explore Fort Kochi,
believed to be the earliest European settlement in India, founded by the
Portuguese in 1503. There will be a guided tour of the Mattancherry Palace
built by the Portuguese as a gift for the Raja of Kochi, the Jewish synagogue
dating from 1568 and St Francis church. The afternoon is free for individual
sightseeing. Most people choose to return to Fort Kochi by ferry and wander
around its fascinating streets. A very pleasant lunch of ‘fish and chips’ is
available by the shore. You can buy your fish directly from the fisherman and
have it cooked at one of the many adjacent cafes.
Drive to Alleppey and board houseboat for backwater cruise.
We head for Alleppey (65km, approx.1 to 2 hrs drive) to board our deluxe
houseboats for an overnight stay. We board around noon and begin our cruise
along the backwaters of Kerala. This is one of the highlights of the trip –
these enchanting houseboats, built of Anjili wood and bamboo were the
traditional method of transport of goods for hundreds of years. Now they have
been decorated and made into comfortable cruise boats. The network of rivers,
streams, lagoons and canals occupies the alluvial plain between the Western
Ghats and the Indian Ocean. As our boat meanders through areas of lush
tropical vegetation we have the opportunity to view not only the prolific
bird life but also gain a differing perspective on village life. The cruise
takes us along shallow, palm-fringed canals where coconut fibre and cashews
are loaded on to dugouts. In the evening the boat is anchored in the
backwaters and we can watch the sunset over the rice paddies. All the
houseboats are comfortably equipped and have 2 or 3 twin bedded rooms with
bathrooms. There is a cook and boat driver and assistants for each boat and
the food served is traditional Keralan fare using local produce. No trip to
Kerala would be complete without the wonderful experience of the backwaters
aboard these traditional Keralite vessels.
Day 13 Transfer to Varkala; free time to relax on beach.
This morning we leave our houseboat and drive along the scenic Malabar Coast
to laid back Varkala with its coffee bars and yoga schools perched along its
cliff-top (120km, approx. 3 – 4 hrs drive). The afternoon is free to relax on
the beach or by the pool.
Day 14 Free day.
Today is a free day, you can choose to relax by the pool, stroll along the
two beaches or wander around the shops. There are a wide variety of beach
shack restaurants for lunch, which serve excellent seafood. Try some of the
Tandoori dishes – the clay ovens give a more authentic taste to breads and
Day 15 Fly to London.
Those on the flight inclusive package will depart early this morning, from
Trivandrum airport, for the daytime flight back to London; those on Land Only
arrangements will finish after check-out from the hotel.