Tailor-Made Holiday

India - Magical South India

Stay in CGH Earth properties on an indepth tour of Southern India

16 days

from £4,525pp

Travel through the south of India on this exceptional tour crafted by CGH Earth. Stay in unique properties and experience the best of Southern India. 

  • Stay in a range of 'best in class', boutique and heritage hotels
  • Participate in deeply engaging experiences so you feel involved and not an onlooker
  • Visit enormous temples, historical feats of engineering that have survived through numerous conflicts
  • For those who enjoy their food, Southern India excels on every level.

During this tour experience the changing cultures of South India. Begin at the unique monolithic stone temples of Mamallapuram before continuing to the former French colony of Pondicherry, where the French influence is still apparent in the culture and architecture of the city. From there, travel inland through the state of Tamil Nadu to witness some of the finest temple architecture in the world. Make a stop in the villages of Chettinad to experience the slow life of the country side, before climbing into the ever green mountains of the Nilgiri Range. Learn about the origin of pepper and other spices, take a walk in Periyar national park and lunch with a tribal king. The journey continues towards the coast and the amazing array of inland canals that crisscross the landscape, a unique world known as the Backwaters. From there reach the lively harbour city of Cochin to explore its multi cultural identity. The tour ends on the beach of Marari, a place to relax, recharge and reflect.

Who are CGH Earth?

A family run company where every experience rests on a set of non-negotiable core values.

  • Environmental sensitivity - They do their best to minimise their impact on the natural environment and to give something back to the ecosystems around them.
  • Including and benefitting the local community - To CGH Earth this is a matter of more than just providing employment. The local community is respected and understood and decisions shared. 
  • Adopting the local ethos - They believe in a participative ethos that draws both inspiration and wisdom from the cultures that surround them.

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

  • Travel insurance
  • Gratuities


Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Fly London to Dubai

Day 2

Fly Dubai to Chennai

Drive from Chennai to Mahabalipuram (Road Journey)

Travel by private car and driver.

Have a leisurely stroll along the beach to the local village and back.

You will be staying at Radisson Blu Temple Bay

Day 3

Morning visit of Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram is one of the oldest cities in India and is known for its various stone carved monuments and ancient temples. Mahabalipuram, located in Tamilnadu was a port town during the 1st Century to 140 AD and was ruled by the ancient Pallava dynasty. The groups of monuments located here have also been deemed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Visit Arjuna's Penance, the cave and shore temples and Pancha Rathas. Also visit the school of sculpture where you see exhibits of stone, wood and metal. Lunch will be taken at a local restaurant before continuing the drive along the coast to Pondicherry, a drive of approximately two hours.

Drive from Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry (Road Journey)

Travel by private car and driver.

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

Day 4

Tour of Pondicherry
Early start this morning with a tour of Pondicherry with a local rickshaw driver, who will show you his city from his perspective. Return for a late breakfast to the hotel. At lunch time, borrow a bicycle or a rickshaw from the hotel and go to Baker street for a french influenced lunch at one of the eateries reminicant of bygone colonial area.

In the afternoon join a story teller for a heritage walk through the history of Pondicherry and cultural diversity of the city. Stop by at the Aurobindo ashram and stroll to the lively Tamil quarters. Breathe in the unparalleled fusion of cultural diversity. Experience Hindu faith at the Ganesh Temple and the many colours and smells of Goubert Market. Return to the hotel for the evening.

Suggestion - take an evening stroll along the corniche, an area where traffic is banned in the evenings.

You will be staying at Palais de Mahe

Day 5

Drive from Pondicherry to Tanjore (Road Journey)

Travel by private car and driver.

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.

Afternoon visit of Tanjore
Later in the afternoon visit an atelier where artists craft the Veena, one of the oldest music instruments of South India used in their classical music. The Brihadeshwar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, was built by King Rajaraja I in the 11th century. The temple is most famous due to its uniqueness as among the greatest architectural achievements of the subcontinent.This architectural masterpiece has been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You will be staying at Svatma

Day 6

Drive from Tanjore to Karaikudi (Road Journey)

Travel by private car and driver.

After lunch join a cooking class followed by a walk to the local village.

You will be staying at Visalam

Day 7

Explore the Spice Market
Chettinad is known for its culinary delicacies so this morning take a walk through the spice market to learn about the ingredients used in popular local dishes. The food is spicy, with a standard full meal consisting of cooked lentils, Brinjal curry, drumstick sambar, ghee flavoured rice, and sweet meats like payasam and paal paniyaram.

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.

You will be staying at Visalam

Day 8

Drive from Karaikudi to Madurai (Road Journey)

Travel by private car and driver.

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.

Meenakshi Temple
Madurai is synonymous with Meenakshi Temple, which is one of the biggest temple complexes in India and a significant symbol for the Tamils. The gopurams (gateway towers) that surround the temple are known for their stucco work, with the southern tower being the tallest at 52m. Exquisite sculptures, there are thought to be 33,000 in all - are found throughout the temple complex.

Drive from Madurai to Thekkady (Road Journey)

Travel by private car and driver.

Nestling amongst the lush Cardamom Hills, Thekkady is the gateway to Periyar National Park, one of India's largest reserves. Wild elephants, Indian bison, monkeys and even the elusive tiger are just a few of the park's residents. Thekkady itself was founded on the local spice trade, and visitors can take a trip to working pepper, nutmeg and cardamom farms found around the area, or take a hike through the picturesque tea plantations.

You will be staying at Spice Village

Day 9

Day in Periyar Park
This is one of the great community based initiatives involving the native tribal community. This full day excursion takes guests on a walk of about two hours deep into the National Park. Part of the walk involves boarding a Bamboo raft to reach the more remote areas of the lake and park. This particular excursion gets you up close and personal with the flora and fauna in the park.

You will be staying at Spice Village

Day 10

Lunch with the King
Travel deep into the inner settlements of the village Kovilamala. Kovilamala is inhabited by the tribal community Mannan. The Mannan community has a unique culture and rituals whereby they elect themselves a tribal king and the village is their kingdom. This community is the only tribal community in Kerala that has a king, and one of the only two such tribes in India. The current king is Raman Raja Mannan who was elected in March 2012.

You will be staying at Spice Village

Day 11

Drive from Thekkady to Kumarakom (Road Journey)

Travel by private car and driver.

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

Day 12

'God of Small Things' Tour
Visit Aymanam Village, which takes you to the setting for the famous book 'God of Small Things'. Once there, you will see the House of Estha, Paradise pickles, History House, the church and Meenachil River. Afterwards a traditional lunch will be hosted.

You will be staying at Coconut Lagoon

Day 13

Drive from Kumarakom to Cochin (Road Journey)

Travel by private car and driver.

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.

Half Day Walking Tour of Fort Cochin
Fort Kochi, rich in Portuguese and Dutch heritage sites, is a delightful place to explore on foot. Start at the famous Chinese fishing nets, still used by Kochi fisherman today. Next, visit St Francis Church, the oldest European church in India, and the magnificent architecture and murals of Santa Cruz Basilica, one the largest and most impressive churches in India. End with the stunning murals of Mattancherry Palace and Pardesi Synagogue, the oldest active synagogue in South India.

Evening Harbour Cruise
During this sunset cruise on Cochin harbour admire the seaside views of the Fort Cochin, Bolgatty Island, Willingdon Island, the shipyard and the impressive Chinese fishing nets. Though no food and drinks are available on board, you are welcome to bring your own snacks.

You will be staying at Brunton Boatyard

Day 14

Drive from Cochin to Mararikulam (Road Journey)

Travel by private car and driver.

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

Day 15

Rise early to watch the local fisherman bring in their catch on the beach. Day at leisure.

You will be staying at Marari Beach Resort

Day 16

Drive from Mararikulam to Cochin (Road Journey)

Travel by private car and driver.

Fly Cochin to Dubai

Fly Dubai to London


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

Brunton Boatyard

Brunton Boatyard

Brunton Boatyard is an elegant colonial-style hotel with distinguished decor, a fantastic outdoor pool and an excellent selection of restaurants....

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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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Spice Village

Spice Village

Spice Village is a collection of individual cottages set in a landscaped spice garden in Thekkady, close to Periyar Wildlife Reserve....

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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 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."

"A pleasure to deal with Joe. Efficient, helpful, knowledgeable and fun!"

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Kate Hitchen, Travel Expert

"Kate was calm and bent over backwards to accommodate my jitters about going to Kashmir in the light of tighter FCO guidelines just a few days before our departure. She was absolutely correct in advising against what I thought we should do. Several times during the holiday we said that, 'Kate was dead right about that!'."

"We asked for a rather particular kind of Indian holiday. You delivered it in full. Highlights? Honestly, each day was a highlight in itself. "

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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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