Tailor-Made Holiday

A journey through Tamil Nadu and Kerala

From Chennai in the east to Cochin in the west

17 days

from £4,435pp

This holiday itinerary offers you the most comprehensive, contrasting and experience-led journey across Southern India.

It takes you from the city of Chennai (Madras), the gateway to the cultural south, through spectacular Tamil temple towns and cool, tea-covered hills before finally reaching the laid-back, tropical paradise of Kerala on the south-west coast.

  • Experience the bohemian-chic of old town Pondicherry, a former French colony.
  • Visit temple towns like Kumbakonam, Darasuram, Tanjore and Madurai, all with their own distinct style and prominence.
  • Enter Chettinadu, an age-old trading region to explore the opulent mansions built by the traders who lived here at the peak of their wealth.
  • Leaving the dry plains of central Tamil Nadu, journey up into the green and glorious tea-clad Western Ghats (hills).
  • Take a cruise on the Keralan backwaters and spend a few days relaxing at Marari Beach.

Chennai

The capital of Tamil Nadu and fourth largest city in India, Chennai is rapidly modernising and worth spending a day exploring. With the introduction of luxury hotels and contemporary boutiques and restaurants alongside some exceptional temples like those found at Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram, Chennai offers the visitor an essential introduction to Southern India.

Pondicherry

Coming from Chennai, Pondicherry is a breath of fresh air. A former French colony, the town has a distinctly French aesthetic with quiet, clean, shady cobbled streets, lined with colonial style houses. Visit Sri Aurobindo Ashram which focusses on integral yoga as 'the path towards a supramental consciousness which will divinise human nature'! Pondicherry itself is easy to navigate although we highly recommend taking a guided walking tour of this ususual, south Indian town.

Tamil Nadu Temples

Each town has temples distinct from the other, built in the inimitable style of the ancient King who had commissioned them. There are more than 30,000 temples in Tamil Nadu, each temple not just a place of worship, but a place for social gatherings, education and celebration, a place where the artisans skill was show-cased. Visit Tanjore, capital of the Cholas and the Nayaks and once an important centre for classical arts and music. Tanjore has 93 temples, the most impressive of these is Gangaikondacholapuram. You also visit Kumbakonam and Chidambaram.

Chettinadu

In contrast to the many temples of Tamil Nadu, Chettinadu is a total surprise. In the early 19th century, wealthy traders settled here and built themselves opulent mansions, with no expense spared. Over time, with the collapse in trade, these beautiful houses were abandoned and left to ruin. Many have been sold off piece by piece, however today a few still remain and are well worth visiting. The architecture and design is quite exquisite and the town of Karaikudi is a treasure trove of antiques shops. The region is also well-known throughout India for its exceptional cuisine.

Madurai

Madurai is an eminent religious and cultural centre in India. The most prominent structure is that of the Meenakshi Temple dating back between the 12th and the 18th century. Its enormous towers, gaily coloured statues and magnificent sculptures have become recognised the world over as the face of the temples of Tamil Nadu.

Munnar

Leaving the flat plains of Madurai, the journey continues up into the Western Ghats, a line of hills that separates Tamil Nadu from its neighbour, Kerala. The rather splendid scenery and cooler climes are extremely attractive and a welcome contrast from the dusty roads and towns below. Munnar offers excellent walking options and the opportunity to learn about tea production in the area.

Cochin

Descending from the hills, the journey brings you to Cochin. Set on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas, linked by a network of ferries and bridges, the ancient water city of Cochin (Kochi) reflects the eclecticism of Kerala perfectly. With its rich past and bustling present, it has been the business hub of the region for centuries. Cochin is the oldest European settlement in India, with an amazing blend of architectural styles making it a delightful place to stay.

The influence of Chinese, Jews, Arabs and Europeans is evident throughout Cochin and its people, with colonial houses sitting alongside Chinese fishing nets and an ancient synagogue. Cochin is an attractive city with serene back-waters, lagoons overhung with feathery coconut palms and picturesque islands.

Backwaters & Beach

During your time in Kerala, visit villages, markets, cruise on small canals, watch unusual, traditional dance displays, eat a whole new type of Indian cuisine, learn about the many influences that have shaped this colourful region and rest and relax on its golden beaches.

 

 

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • International flights
  • Internal flights
  • All accommodation and meals as stated in the itinerary
  • All transfers

what is excluded

  • Gratuities

PLEASE NOTE THE ABOVE FLIGHT COST IS A SUGGESTED FROM PRICE. FLIGHT COSTS WILL BE CONFIRMED AT TIME OF BOOKING. ALL FLIGHTS ARE ATOL PROTECTED.

Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Fly London to Dubai

Day 2

Fly Dubai to Chennai


On the east coast, Chennai, formerly Madras, was the first British settlement in India in 1640. Today Chennai is the capital of Tamil Nadu and the fourth largest city in India.

Many travellers only spend a short amount of time passing through Chennai. When in town don't miss the sunset stroll along Marina Beach. Explore the neighbourhood of Mylapore, home to South Indian art and religious traditions such as Kapaleeshwarar Temple and Ramakrishna Math. The city, and more noticeably the people, will grow on you. Over recent years glamour has arrived in the shape of luxury hotels, boutiques and classy contemporary restaurants.


Visit Chennai
After your have had a rest and freshened up visit Chennai with a guide, visiting Fort St. George, George Town Wholesale area and Marina Beach.


Visit Kanchipuram
Once the Pallava capital and is now regarded as one of India's seven sacred cities. Dotted with ornately carved ancient temples, the town is also famed for its hand-woven silk fabrics, which are among the best in the country.


You will be staying at The Leela Palace Chennai, Bed & Breakfast

Day 3

Drive from Chennai to Pondicherry


Stop off at Mahabalipuram en route. A drive time of around four and a half hours.


Coming from Chennai or the inland temple towns of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry is a breath of fresh air. A former French colony, the town has a distinctly French aesthetic with quiet, clean, shady cobbled streets, lined with colonial style houses.


You will be staying at Palais de Mahe, Bed & Breakfast

Day 4

Auroville Visit
Visit the experimental township of Auroville. The town has been inhabited and built by like minded individuals, their focus on peace and harmony is reflected in their architectural designs, the way they live their lives and the study programmes they promote. Members of the unusal Auroville community have gathered from all corners of the world, each with a collective mindset.


Walking Tour of Pondicherry
The old sea front of Beach Road is the start of a lovely morning stroll through this former French Colony. En route there are several elaborate Catholic churches and a 19th century botanical gardens. In addition to Le Club, arguably the best French restaurant in India, Pondicherry has French speaking rickshaw drivers and Vietnamese restaurants.

Drive from Pondicherry to Tanjore (Road Journey)


Thanjavur, formerly Tanjore, is in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is an importanct centre for South Indian religion, art and architecture. With a plethora of temples and a Royal Palace the city is rich in culture.


You will be staying at Svatma, Bed & Breakfast

Day 5

Excursion to the Brihadeeswarar Temple
The UNESCO-listed Brihadeeswarar Temple is wonderful and bext explored early morning or later in the afternoon when the light is softer and the temperature cooler.


You will be staying at Svatma, Bed & Breakfast

Day 6

Drive from Tanjore to Karaikudi (Road Journey)


You will be staying at Visalam, Bed & Breakfast

Day 7

Half Day Sightseeing Tour of Chettinad
Explore the surrounding Chettinad region, with its attractive mansions and houses. Known for its rich culture, cuisine, art and architecture, this region is a fascinating - yet rarely visited - part of the country. The area's buildings are particularly notable and their colourful architectural style is unique to the towns and villages of Chettinad.


Antique Market Tour
Although the Chettiyars left Karaikudi, their wonderful antiques, which once filled their enormous mansions, now fill the many antique shops which line a street close to the Muneeswaran Temple. The dusty shelves busting with collectables, furniture, clocks and cookwares are a dream for those that love shopping.


You will be staying at Visalam, Bed & Breakfast

Day 8

Drive from Karaikudi to Madurai (Road Journey)


Madurai, built on the banks of the Vaigai River, is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu and was once the capital of the Pandya dynasty (7th to 13th century AD). Known as the Temple City and one of India's most sacred pilgrimage centres, Madurai was laid out in accordance with an ancient temple custom whereby the Great Temple dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi was placed at its centre. Considered to be the finest of its kind in Tamil Nadu, this Great Temple's towering gopurams are covered in a riot of gaily painted, dancing and cavorting gods and goddesses. A visit to experience the pujas, processions, music and singing in its numerous pillared halls is a highlight to any trip to South India. Tiny shrines and temples dot the streets and there are wonderful bustling markets. The city is always full of pilgrims and festivals take place throughout the year.


Evening at Sri Meenakshi Temple
Visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple Complex and observe the extraordinary 'going to bed' ceremony. Every night, the image of Shiva leaves his shrine and is carried to join his consort, Parvati, only to return the following morning.


You will be staying at Heritage Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 9

Drive from Madurai to Munnar (Road Journey)


Munnar is a popular colonial retreat at an altitude of 1,524 metres.The tea plantations around Munnar thrive due to the cool climate , which provides a welcome relieft from the heat of the plains. The surrounding hills are covered in a dense carpet of tea and are home to some fo the highest tea estates in the world . A short guided stroll or a longer walk through the plantations are a must do, which allows interaction with local tea pickers. The Rajamala National Park is 15 kilometres to the northwest, and is home to the worlds rarest goat, the nilgiri tahr. Munnar is easily accessible from Cochin and shows a different side to coastal Kerala. The town itself is faded but the landscape on the doorstep is perfect for trekking, rafting or adventure sports, or for admiring over a quiet cup of tea.


You will be staying at Windermere Estate, Bed & Breakfast

Day 10

Half Day Sightseeing Tour
Spend time exploring Munnar and the surrounding area, accompanied by a guide. Highlights include a local tea factory, a nearby waterfall and the Eravikulam National Park. There are also plenty of walks in the area ranging from an hour to several hours.


You will be staying at Windermere Estate, Bed & Breakfast

Day 11

Drive from Munnar to Cochin (Road Journey)


Set on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas, linked by a network of ferries and bridges, the ancient water city of Cochin (Kochi) reflects the eclecticism of Kerala perfectly. With its rich past and bustling present, it has been the business hub of the region for centuries. Cochin is the oldest European settlement in India, with an amazing blend of architectural styles making it a delightful place to stay.

The influence of Chinese, Jews, Arabs and Europeans is evident throughout Cochin and its people, with colonial houses sitting alongside Chinese fishing nets and an ancient synagogue. Cochin is an attractive city with serene back-waters, lagoons overhung with feathery coconut palms and picturesque islands.

It's always fun to ride on one of the local ferries and visit the wonderful spice markets. Cochin also stages performances of Kathakali, a classical Keralan art.


You will be staying at Malabar House Residency, Bed & Breakfast

Day 12

Half Day City Tour
A city of peninsulas and islands with a mainland centre, Cochin has a magnificent natural harbour, almost in the middle of the city, created by the underwater Malabar mudbanks that ensure calm waters. Visit the famous Chinese fishing nets, Mattancherry Palace and the Jewish Synagogue.


Evening Kathakali Dance Performance
Witness a spectacular Kathakali dance drama, a Keralan art form that dates back to the 17th century. These performances are famed for their elaborate costumes and colourful makeup.


You will be staying at Malabar House Residency, Bed & Breakfast

Day 13

Drive from Cochin to Kumarakom (Road Journey)


Located on the shore of Lake Vembanad, Kerala's largest lake, is an unhurried backwater with a good share of top end accommodations. In the vicinity is the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, a five-hectare site of a former rubber plantation now home to domestic and migratory birds. A couple of days spent land based on Lake Vembanad is relaxing, with spa facilities, extensive grounds and attractive swimming and dining options. Sunset cruises, rice barges and village walks can be arranged from your chosen hotel.


You will be staying at Coconut Lagoon, Bed & Breakfast

Day 14

Day to spend at leisure or participate in activities on offer at Coconut Lagoon.


You will be staying at Coconut Lagoon, Bed & Breakfast

Day 15

Traditional Houseboat Cruise
Cruise the palm-fringed backwaters of Kerala on board a private Kettuvallam, a traditional thatched houseboat typical to Kerala. Board your boat and cruise along the backwaters, travelling down canals dotted with houses, paddy fields and temples. Lunch, Indian tea and snacks are served on board.

Travel from Kumarakom to Alleppey (Boat Journey)

Drive from Alleppey to Mararikulam (Road Journey)


The small fishing village of Mararikulam is only 14 kilometres from Alleppey and just over an hour south of Cochin. It is the perfect place to relax after a tour of Kerala, or when disembarking from your rice barge experience on the backwaters. Marari Beach has a limited selection of hotels, however there are a number of handpicked villa type properties here alongside boutique hotels and Marari Beach Hotel.


You will be staying at Marari Beach Resort, Bed & Breakfast

Day 16

At leisure.


You will be staying at Marari Beach Resort, Bed & Breakfast

Day 17

Drive from Mararikulam to Cochin (Road Journey)

Fly Cochin to Cochin

Fly Cochin to London

Accommodation

Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

Malabar House Residency

Malabar House Residency

The Malabar House Residency is a pretty, boutique hotel with just 17 rooms and suites....

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Visalam

Visalam

Visalam heritage hotel, set in a converted mansion with original woodwork and art deco artefacts, is located in the small village of Karaikudi in Tamil Nadu....

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Marari Beach Resort

Marari Beach Resort

Sprawled expansively across 25 acres of land, Marari Resort is separated from the sea by a windbreak of stretching palms....

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Coconut Lagoon

Coconut Lagoon

This traditional-style, eco-friendly hotel promising complete escapism....

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Heritage Hotel

Heritage Hotel

Heritage Madurai is a tranquil, low-rise resort, originally designed by Geoffrey Bawa, in his tropical modernism-style and blends the inside with the outside....

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Windermere Estate

Windermere Estate

Once the summer resort of the British Government in South India and set at the confluence of three mountain streams, Windermere is a 60-acre Cardamom Plantation known for its excellent hospitality....

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Palais de Mahe

Palais de Mahe

Palais de Mahe is an elegant, chic hotel a short distance from the beach in Pondicherry....

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Svatma

Svatma

Svatma is a hotel with a difference in that it really aims to immerse its guests into Tamil culture....

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Destination Experts

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Charlotte Lawton, Sales Consultant

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Joe Parkes, Travel Expert

"It was extremely helpful to work in conjunction with Joe and his much more up to date knowledge of India and arrive at an itinerary which we were happy with. We enjoyed the whole trip and probably what made it special for us was the fact that all the arrangements worked so well and we really didn’t have to worry about anything at all. Even when we decided to make a small change it was dealt with efficiently and promptly. We can't think of anything that would have made our trip more enjoyable."

"The service from start to finish has been excellent. Joe was very quick to respond to any queries and put together an excellent itinerary at short notice."

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

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