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Grand Tour of Southern India

Duration:
24 days / 23 nights
Destinations:
Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Ooty, Pondicherry, Tanjore, Chettinad, Madurai, Munnar, Coimbatore, Mysore, Hassan, Kabini, Calicut, Cochin, Alleppey, Mararikulam
Price Guide:
  • £2535 in low season
  • £2745 in high season

 

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Overview

This 24-day private tour of Southern India journeys through the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Starting on the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu you will then venture inland visiting temples and monuments, a former French colony, rustic towns, local markets and farmlands en route. From there you travel to the spectacular Ghat mountain range visiting the mist-clad tea plantations and majestic mountains of Munnar and Ooty. Take in the panoramic views as you drive to Karnataka to see the astonishing palaces, colourful markets, intricately carved temples and wildlife reserves. Then it's on to Kerala for the colonial port town of Cochin and the tranquil backwaters with overnight accommodation on your very own houseboat before a relaxing stay at the serene Mararikulam beach - a fitting finale to this extraordinary journey.

Tour of Southern India Itinerary

This epic tour of southern India includes the following highlights:

  • Afternoon sightseeing tour of Chennai
  • Mahabalipuram world heritage site tour
  • Full day tour of Pondicherry
  • Nataraja and Airavatesvara Temple tours
  • Visit Brihadisvara Temple with its 62m high tower
  • See the expert craft people at Chettinad
  • Temple town of Madurai tour
  • Munnar tea plantation and tea museum visit
  • Escorted trek in the Letchmi Hills
  • Nilgiri Hill train journey
  • Statue of Gomateshwara visit
  • Chamundi Hills and Nandi Bull Statue visit
  • Full day sightseeing in Mysore including city tour and visit to Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
  • Visit the Hoysala Temples world heritage site
  • Game drives in Nagarhole National Park to look for tigers and wild elephants
  • Visit Kumbalangi model fishing village followed by a delicious home-cooked meal
  • Sightseeing tour of Fort Cochin & Mattancherry
  • Traditional Kathakali Dance Performance
  • Sunset cruise on Vembanad Lake
  • Overnight stay on a private houseboat cruising the Alleppey backwaters
  • Day of leisure on Mararikulam Beach

Please remember all our private tours are designed to meet your exact requirements, and this tour itinerary is just an example to help inspire you.

Grand Tour of Southern India - 24 Days / 23 Nights

This grand tour of Southern India gives you the chance to experience and enjoy the very essence of the region including 'must see' sites and little known gems, from beautiful beach-side towns to its national parks. Expert guides will assist you on a trek through the beautiful Letchmi Hills and help you to unlock the beauty behind the Meenakshi Amman Temple. You will also have the chance to stay overnight in beautiful hotels, with a couple of days of independent relaxation and town exploring too.

Please remember all our private tours are designed to meet your exact requirements, and this tour itinerary is just an example to help inspire you.

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Day 1 - Arrive in Chennai

The first stop on your South India tour is Chennai, the thriving capital of the Southern state of Tamil Nadu and a rich storehouse of Southern culture and tradition. On arrival at Chennai International Airport you will be met by your Authentic India Tours representative and transferred to your hotel.

In the afternoon you will embark upon a discovery tour of Chennai. Highlights of the tour include the ancient Shiva temple of Kapaleeshwar, Fort St. George and San Thome Basilica, which is said to have been built over the tomb of Thomas the Apostle.

End the day with a visit to Marina beach, a 13km stretch of sand and sea. It’s a popular hangout spot for the locals and is perfect for an evening promenade

Accommodation: Grand Hotel by GRT
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Day 2 - Chennai to Mahabalipuram

After breakfast we drive along the coast to visit the Mahabalipuram, a laid back beachside town where the ancient and the modern rub shoulders.

Here you will find a UNESCO heritage site of 7th and 8th century monuments and temples. Marvel at the chariot shaped temples (rathas) and amazing cave temples, carved deep into the rock.

The intricately carved Shore Temple, which overlooks the Bay of Bengal, is a perfect place to watch the sun set.

Approximate travel time and distance: 2 hours, 70 kms

Accommodation: Ideal Beach Resort
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 3 - Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry

Enjoy the morning drive to the former French colony of Pondicherry. This is a town brimming with unique experiences, from the famous Sri Aurobindo Ashram to miles of beautiful sandy beaches.

You can visit the striking Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple to meet their resident elephant, Lakshmi. Here you will earn a blessing in exchange for a donation of a few rupees or a banana, which she will accept with her trunk. Later we will visit a handmade paper-making unit and Pondicherry museum, to learn about the city’s fascinating colonial history.

Explore the historic French Quarter with its wide cobbled streets and some of the best restaurants in South India, offering a scintillating fusion of French and Indian cuisines.

Approximate travel time and distance: 2 hours, 100 kms

Accommodation: Dune Mansion Calve
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 4 - Pondicherry - Chidambaram - Darasuram - Tanjore

We leave the coast today and start our inland journey to Tanjore. No trip to India is complete without a visit to some temples, and today you will have an opportunity to see some of South India’s finest.

En-route there is an opportunity to visit Chidambaram, renowned for its Nataraja Temple complex, spread over 40 acres of land. The temple represents a fine example of Tamil Nadu’s unique Dravidian architecture.

You will continue to Darasuram, home of the ornate Airavatesvara Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Approximate travel time and distance: 5 hours, 190 kms

Accommodation: Ideal River View Resort
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 5 - Tanjore to Chettinad

Spend the morning on a sightseeing tour of Tanjore. Marvel at the Brihadeeswarar Temple, with its 62 metre high sandstone tower ornately decorated in religious carvings. You will also visit the bronze museum and the fascinating bronze idol making units.

We later depart for Chettinad, the homeland of the Chettiyars. This community of merchants grew prosperous trading in Southeast Asia in the 19th and 20th centuries, and spared no expense building their homes in Chettinad. Upon arrival in Chettinad, spend the day at your leisure. Stroll the shady streets admiring the vast palatial mansions. Indulge in some retail therapy at the local market and take time to sample the delicious Chettinad cuisine.

Your accommodation tonight is the Chettinadu Mansion one of the largest Chettinad mansions which been historically preserved.

Approximate travel time and distance: 2 hours, 100 kms

Accommodation: The Chettinadu Mansion
Meals included: Breakfast

 

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Day 6 - Chettinad

Today you can soak up the sights and sounds of Chettinad and explore palatial mansions decorated in Burmese teak and Italian marble.

Visit the Arraynar shrine of Kothadi, decorated in terracotta figures, and some of the best local markets in South India.

There is  also the chance to visit the Athangudi handmade tile-making unit to see expert craftspeople at work, alongside a traditional sari weaving centre. Why not then go in search of some souvenirs to take back home. You can find some unique antiques at the market on Muneeswaran Koil Street in Karaikudi. Shopkeepers are friendly and happy to chat about the rich history of their wares, most of them from local Chettiar homes.

Accommodation: The Chettinadu Mansion
Meals included: Breakfast

 

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Day 7 - Chettinad to Madurai

Today your journey takes you to the exotic city of Madurai, a beautiful town set against the backdrop of the 14 colourful gopurams (gateway towers) of Meenakshi Amman Temple. You will have the chance to marvel at the multi-tiered, technicolour wonder covered in bright carvings of mythical figures. The Dravidian-style temple is a major pilgrimage site, and our guide will help you unravel its mysteries.

In the evening you will visit the Thirumalai Nayak Palace and the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple. Upon entering the temple, notice the colourful textile and crafts stalls around the Pudhu Mandapam with diligent tailors at their sewing machines. 

Approximate travel time and distance: 2 hours, 90 kms

Accommodation: GRT Regency
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 8 - Madurai to Munnar

Today you venture to the captivating tea county of Munnar, a popular summer retreat for colonial settlers generations ago.

Located in the Western Ghats mountain range at 1,532m above sea level, the cool air is infused with an intoxicating blend of scents from the nearby spice plantations and indigenous sandalwood forests.

In the evening, there’s a plantation walk around the estate, where you will learn about the history, cultivation and processing of tea, as well as soaking up the incredible biodiversity the estate has to offer.

Approximate travel time and distance: 5 hours, 160 kms

Accommodation: Ambady Estate
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 9 - Munnar

You will have the entire day free to enjoy Munnar.

There is the option of a guided trek in the Letchmi Hills. Enjoy walking through hills carpeted in emerald-green tea plantations to a ridge which offers a glorious view of the Western Ghats, craggy blue silhouettes, their peaks often veiled in mist. On clearer days you can see Anaimudi, the highest peak in South India, and the spectacular Idukki dam.

Another option is to explore the Eravikulam National Park with an expert local guide. If you are lucky, you might spot the endangered Nilgiri ibex or one of the local species of giant squirrel. In the afternoon you can visit the tea museum and factory, and gain a fascinating insight into the region’s tea production, from crop-picking to flavour adjustment.

Accommodation: Ambady Estate
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 10 - Munnar to Coimbatore

Your journey today is a scenic drive from Munnar to Coimbatore, passing sandalwood forests, mountains, and the lime green paddy fields of Marayoor. As we descend through the Western Ghats you can take in the lush green surroundings, and stop to admire a gushing waterfall or two.

After this beautiful drive we reach Coimbatore, a city that brims with life.

Approximate travel time and distance: 5 hours, 160 kms

Accommodation: The Residency Towers
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 11 - Coimbatore - Mettupalayam - Ooty

For many people, this is the highlight of their holiday in India, a journey on the famous Niligiri Hill Train.

This heritage ‘toy train’ will take you to the hill station of Ooty across quaint bridges and through small hillside tunnels. You will pass by undulating green hills and shady forests.  At Ooty Railway Station you will be met by your driver and taken to your hotel. 

Ooty is a popular hill station, also known as the ‘Scotland of India’ because of its clear lakes, refreshing climate and manicured gardens. It is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful locations in South India and the perfect place for an afternoon of exploring.

Approximate travel time and distance: 60 mins, 35 kms

Accommodation: Taj Savoy
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 12 - Ooty to Mysore

After breakfast you will travel to Mysore, a city with a rich cultural heritage, which is located at the foot of the Chamundi hills. In the afternoon your tour continues with a short drive into the Chamundi Hills, where you will be able to get a panoramic view of the city and see the Nandi Bull – a huge statue carved from stone.

Any trip to India should include some souvenir shopping and Mysore is famous for its colourful silks. These can be purchased from shops around the city, including the Government Silk Factory. Centuries old Devaraja Market provides another unique shopping experience. It’s a smorgasbord for the senses, with the sounds of hundreds of shoppers, the smells of fragrant flowers, and vivid cones of coloured dyes.

Approximate travel time and distance: 3 hours, 120 kms

Accommodation: Radisson Blu Plaza
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 13 - Mysore

Once the capital of the Ancient Kingdom of Mysore, Mysore has been bestowed with the nickname ‘City of Palaces’. The most magnificent of these is Mysore Palace, an architectural marvel of domed turrets and intricately carved marble pillars. Following your visit to the palace, we drive to the Sri Rangapattanam district to see the Tipu Sultan’s spectacular Summer Palace and the high-walled ruins of the Tipu Sultan’s Fort. 

In the afternoon you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city with a trip to the famous Rangathittu Bird Sanctuary. Enjoy a rowing boat cruise along the River Cauvery, where you will see hundreds of birds roosting on the rocks, gliding across the water, or fishing for food. Expect to see sleek black cormorants, river terns and black crowned night herons.

Accommodation: Radisson Blu Plaza
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 14 - Mysore to Hassan

After breakfast you will be driven to Hassan, a city steeped in history and heritage. It was at the height of its glory during the rule of the Hoysala Empire between the 10th and 14th centuries. Here you will discover Hoysala temples, as well as ancient Jain monuments. It’s the perfect base to explore several important Hoysala temples in and around the area, like Belur and Halebidu.

En route we visit the impressive 57 foot high Gomateshwara statue on Vindyagiri Hill. This monolithic statue commands a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

Approximate travel time and distance: 3 hours, 150 kms

Accommodation: Hoysala Village
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 15 - Hassan

Today your day will be packed with the fascinating history of the Hoysala Empire as you visit the heritage towns of Belur and Halabidu.

First, you will visit Belur, a UNESCO world heritage site. Here you will be amazed by the intricate carvings and statues of the Chennakeshava and Veeranrayana Temples, which should be top of any South Indian temples to visit.

This is followed by a visit to Halabidu, the regal capital of the Hoysala Empire in the 12th Century. You will have the chance to admire the ornate Hoysaleswara Temple, before returning to the Holsaya Village for a second night.

Accommodation: Hoysala Village
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 16 - Hassan to Kabini

The next couple of days is a real treat for nature lovers. After breakfast, you travel to Nagarhole National Park, which is amongst the most popular national parks in India. It’s an area of lush forest threaded by the Kabini River and backwaters, which provides water for hundreds of different animals. Here you can spot wild elephants and sometimes even a tiger.

In the afternoon, explore a forest track in a jeep, looking out for animals hidden in the undergrowth, before taking a motor boat or canoe ride across the reservoir. You will spend the night in a luxury safari lodge, giving you the opportunity to pamper yourself whilst surrounded by nature.

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 hours, 160 kms

Accommodation: Kaav Safari Lodge
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 17 - Kabini

Spend the day at one with nature in the national park.

An early morning game drive is recommended, as the animals are most active at this time of day. You will be travelling in an open-top vehicle, so make sure you bring something warm to wear. Look out for elephants, tigers, spotted deer, mongoose, peacocks and jungle fowl.

In the afternoon there’s a chance for a second expedition with an expert local naturalist, so make sure you pack sunscreen and a hat.

Accommodation: Kaav Safari Lodge
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
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Day 18 - Kabini to Calicut

This morning is your last chance for another game drive with a local wildlife expert and the opportunity to see one of the many wonderful animals that inhabit the park.

You then travel to the city of Calicut, located on South India’s Malabar Coast. On the way you will stop at Beypore Port, where there is a shipbuilding yard famed for its traditional construction of the Uru, an Arabian trading vessel. This method of construction dates back almost 1,500 years, and the craftsmanship of the workers here is exceptional. Upon arrival in Calicut, you have an afternoon of leisure. We recommend indulging in the local pastime of watching the sun set on Calicut beach.

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 - 5 hours, 140 kms

Accommodation: Raviz Kadavu
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 19 - Calicut to Cochin

After breakfast you leave Calicut and head for the thriving port city of Cochin. Cochin is a dizzying array of cultures, religions and nationalities, first ruled by the Portuguese, and then taken over by the Dutch and the British. This multicultural heritage is reflected in the city’s diverse architecture.

In the evening you will enjoy a traditional Kathakali performance, a dance famed for its athletic movements, colourful costumes and make-up. It’s worth arriving early to experience the dancers’ elaborate make-up preparation. 

Approximate travel time and distance: 5 - 6 hours, 180 kms

Accommodation: Hotel Fort House
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 20 - Cochin

Today you will visit Kumbalangi, a picturesque model fishing village. Here you will witness traditional activities such as crab farming, fishing, pottery and making coir ropes from coconut husk.

These activities are followed by a delicious home-cooked Keralan lunch, enjoyed in an idyllic backwater setting.

You will return to Cochin to spend the afternoon strolling down the sleepy lanes and cobbled streets of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, a district famed for its jumble of antique shops. Visit the Jewish Synagogue and St Francis Church, the oldest European church built in India. Wander through the rooms of Mattancherry Palace, gazing at the colourfully painted murals depicting the Ramayana, an ancient epic poem.

Accommodation: Hotel Fort House
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 21 - Cochin to Alleppey

After breakfast you will leave the bustling city of Cochin for the small village of Alleppey in the heart of the Kerala backwaters, nicknamed the ‘Venice of the East’, due to its intricate network of canals.

it’s time for a once in a lifetime experience – an overnight stay on a luxury houseboat. An on board cook will cater to your every need, serving up Keralan dishes infused with spices, aromatic curry leaves and fresh coconut. Each houseboat is fully crewed so all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the views. Keep an eye out for electric-blue kingfishers, snake birds and herons and catch a glimpse of village life on the backwaters. 

Approximate travel time and distance: 2 hours, 65 kms

Accommodation: Private Houseboat
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
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Day 22 - Alleppey to Mararikulam

After a leisurely breakfast, disembark from your houseboat at Alleppey Boat Jetty. You will be met by your driver and taken to the quaint village of Mararikulam, with its tranquil, unspoilt beaches.

Spend the day relaxing on the beach, soaking up the rays of golden sun.

Approximate travel time and distance: 45 mins, 25 kms

Accommodation: ABAD Turtle Beach Resort
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 23 - Mararikulam

Spend your final day relaxing on the beach, soaking up the serene surroundings.

Unwind in a hammock under a palm tree or indulge in massage. It's a time to reflect and leave South India feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

Accomodation: ABAD Turtle Beach Resort
Meals included : Breakfast
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Day 24 - Mararikulam - Cochin Departure

You will be picked up by your driver and transferred to Cochin International Airport in time for your flight home.

Approximate travel time and distance 2 hours and 30 minutes, 100 kms

Meals included : Breakfast

Accommodation

The accommodation on this Southern Indian tour is comprised of superior grade hotels. They have all been chosen for their excellent quality of service and their exceptional comfort levels, so you will feel right at home every stop along the way.

Grand by GRT, Chennai

Located in the heart of Chennai this hotel was stylishly refurbished in 2016 effortlessly fusing style and comfort together. With 133 rooms to choose from guests will enjoy spacious accommodation with modern interiors. A gym, pool and spa allows guests to relax while the themed bar, restaurant and 24 hour bistro offering fine Indian dining and multi-cuisine buffet will appease any appetite.

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Ideal Beach Resort, Mahabalipuram

Located along a privately maintained beach, Ideal Beach Resort offers the perfect getaway. Modern and spacious rooms are surrounded by 12 acres of beautiful greenery and scenic views. For total relaxation the Ayurveda spa is on hand with treatments and massages whilst the fitness room, games activities and outdoor pool ensures everyone will have an enjoyable time. Serving traditional Sri Lankan and Indian cuisine the restaurant caters for all taste buds.

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Dune Mansion Calve, Pondicherry

Dune Mansion Calve is a 150 year old Tamil mansion influenced by French and Baroque architecture. Fusing traditional design with modern touches, accommodation is simple and tasteful offering guests all the amenities they could need. With a commitment to the environment the hotel encourages an organic lifestyle. Located close to great shopping and beautiful architecture, Dune Mansion Calve is the perfect place to begin exploring Pondicherry.

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Ideal River View Resort, Tanjore

Located along the banks of the Cauvery River, Ideal River View Resort offers idyllic surroundings and modern rooms. Situated in close proximity to the array of cultural and geographical interests of Tanjore, the resort offers the best of both worlds, a quiet setting for a relaxing break yet still close enough to the city to enjoy the experiences it has to offer.

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Chettinadu Mansion, Chettinad

Steeped in history and carefully resorted to maintain the charm and tradition of life in days gone by, Chettinadu Mansion is a boutique hotel offering distinctive accommodation. With a feast of period style to admire, ranging from Italian marble floors, decorative pillars and ornately carved doors, the hotel fully embraces the concept of luxury accommodation. A swimming pool, massages and fine cuisine are just some of the things this unique hotel offers ensuring a memorable stay.

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GRT Regency, Madurai

Reflecting the tradition of its location, GRT Regency offers accommodation that retains the custom of local culture whilst following the latest trends.  The air conditioned rooms are modern and tastefully presented offering all day room service and ensuite facilities. The outdoor pool and fitness centre along with a location with great shopping experiences ensures visitors can enjoy it all. The multi cuisine restaurant means guests can enjoy a delightful combination of upmarket accommodation and fine dining.

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Ambady Estate, Munnar

Ambady Estate is located in the Western Ghats and covers 70 acres of beautiful land surrounded by the Parvathy Hills and Sahya rainforest. This unique plantation is ideal for nature lovers and offers a peaceful retreat. Capturing the essence of India and focussing on being at “one with nature”, you can enjoy natural organic produce in an environment created from locally sourced materials. Spacious cottages with modern bedrooms, living areas and private gardens make up the accommodation.

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The Residency Towers, Coimbatore

With easy access to transport links, Residency Towers merges tradition and modernity to offer all the comforts today's travellers would expect. Sleek modern rooms, a health and wellness spa and outdoor pool ensure a relaxing time while the English themed pub the 'Bike and Barrel', as well as the other bars and restaurants on site, offer the perfect environment to wind down at the end of the day.

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Taj Savoy, Ooty

Set in six acres of serene grounds just a short distance from the city centre is the Taj Savoy. With architecture and decor inspired by the colonial heritage of the city, the rooms are spacious, modern and offer all the amenities you could need. Spa facilities offering Ayurvedic massages and body therapies, a fitness centre and the sporting activities available on site offer various ways of relaxing after a busy day. 

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Radisson Blu Plaza, Mysore

Offering beautiful views of the Chamundi hills but with the convenience of the city centre this hotel is considered to be one of the best in Mysore. With chic rooms offering scenic outlooks and located next to Mysore zoo, a golf complex, excellent shopping facilities and its close proximity to Mysore Palace there really is something for everyone. Spring, the hotel restaurant, offers Indian and global cuisine with poolside seating.

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Hoysala Village, Hassan

Hoysala Village is a superior grade ethnic resort which offers every nature lover a paradise to enjoy. Located in the town of Hassan, referred to as the ‘land of the sunflower’, it is surrounded by farmland and greenery.  The comfortable rooms have been created to retain the local flavour.  This is a truly special resort which also has the benefit of a swimming pool.

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Kaav Safari Lodge, Kabini

Situated at the edge of a teeming jungle Kaav is a contemporary Eco-friendly boutique lodge surrounded by uninterrupted nature and an abundance of wildlife. A common lounge to interact with fellow guests, viewing lounge to admire nature’s beauty and Alfresco dining overlooking the pool and scenes beyond, add to the experience. Continuing the theme of ‘untamed glamour’ luxury rooms with balconies or glamping tents offer luxurious accommodation with private decks making this a truly unique place.

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Raviz Kadavu, Calicut

This traditional riverside resort situated along the banks of the Chaliyar River in Calicut (Kozhikode) is the epitome of luxury. Set amongst the coconut plantations and backwaters of Kerala, Raviz Kadavu offers spacious rooms and scenic views. The outdoor pool, fitness centre and spa provide the opportunity for ultimate relaxation and with al fresco dining at Garam, light bites at the sports bar Zirkon or the delicious cuisine on offer at Keraleeyam, you will be spoilt for choice!

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Fort House Hotel, Cochin

Close enough to enjoy the heritage monuments of Kerala but far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the city is Fort House Hotel. Air conditioned rooms built around tropical gardens and with lovely views of the backwaters provide the comfortable accommodation designed with the traditional architecture of Kerala in mind. The waterfront restaurant offering local cuisine with seafood specialities and Eastern European dishes caters for all tastes.

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Kerala Houseboat

Described as the 'Venice of the East', Allepey is a dreamland of interlinking canals and rivers and what better way to explore the exquisite Kerala backwaters than on a Houseboat? Offering an enchanting experience the houseboats are constructed from local and natural materials including bamboo, ropes and coconut fibre and are up to 120 feet long. With an onboard crew to cater to your needs you can sit back, relax and enjoy the cruise.

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ABAD Turtle Beach Resort, Mararikulam

Located next to Marari beach and near the local village of Mararikulam, Turtle Beach Resort offers an idyllic setting. Spacious, ensuite rooms including individual patios or balconies overlooking the picturesque gardens ensures a relaxing stay. With a beautiful butterfly garden, outdoor infinity pool and Ayurveda spa on site the serenity of the resort continues.

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Destinations

South India's wondrous sights - ancient monuments, inspiring temples and glorious beaches - line up alongside breathtaking wildlife, bustling cities and an overnight stay on your own private houseboat on this grand adventure. Below are some of the destinations you will explore on this tour.

Chennai, The Gateway to South India

A visit to Chennai is highly recommended if you choose to travel to India. Formally known as Madras, the capital of the Southern state of Tamil Nadu, Chennai is known as the ‘Gateway of Southern India’. The diverse range of activities and sight seeing opportunities on offer make this place the cultural hotbed of South India.

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Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)

This laid back beachside town is a place where ancient Indian landmarks and modern life rub shoulders. It has a collection of UNESCO designated temples, rock cut caves and one of the largest open-air rock reliefs in the world. The intricately carved Shore Temple, which overlooks the Bay of Bengal, is a perfect place to watch the sun set. Meanwhile, Othavadai Street is a popular traveller’s hangout spot, a place to grab a plate of Tibetan momos and a beer. Mahabalipuram is also a renowned surfing destination.

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Pondicherry (Puducherry)

Affectionately known as Pondy by locals, Pondicherry is a small city packed to the brim with unique experiences, from the famous Sri Aurobindo Ashram consisting of over 400 buildings across town to the gorgeous selection of white sandy beaches. The city earns its nickname ‘Paris of the East’ through White Town, the city’s historic French Quarter, with its distinct bougainvillea-draped yellow buildings and grid of wide cobbled streets.

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Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu

This inland town in Tamil Nadu is surrounded by sprawling countryside, yet its heart is at the Nataraja temple complex. It's beloved as one of the holiest of all Indian sites dedicated to the God Shiva, as well as remarkable for its intricate Dravidian architecture. In fact, all of Chidambaram is steeped in antiquity, while nature lovers can also tour the dense and enticing Pichavaram Mangrove Forest found close by.

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Darasuram home to the majestic Airavatesvara Temple

Darasuram in Tamil Nadu is home to countless examples of architecture and stonework from the Chola period. Of particular note is the majestic Airavatesvara Temple, whose columns and towers abound with intricate precision from a bygone era. Other temples nearby include Chakkarai and Kathyayene, and the town's bisected beautifully by the Arasalar River, on which locals have made their livelihood for generations. For contrast, the wider and mightier Kollidarm River lies further north, with boats bobbing along it in a colourful parade.

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Tanjore (Thanjavur)

Once the capital of the great Chola Empire, Tanjore is now a bustling modern city. However its historical legacy lives on its collection of Great Living Chola Temples, which are visited by tourists and pilgrims alike. The most renowned of these is Brihadeeswarar Temple, with sandstone towers ornately decorated in religious carvings. Another notable attraction is the Maratha Palace, constructed by the Narak and Maratha dynasties. It’s a compelling maze of rooms with brightly coloured frescos and shady, crumbling courtyards.

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Chettinadu

Chettinadu is a region in Tamil Nadu steeped in grandeur and history. It comprises of 75 villages, built in the 19th century by the Chettiar traders, who made their fortune in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. They spared no expense building thousands of mansions for their community boasting wide courtyards and palatial rooms furnished with Italian marble and Burmese teak. Chettinad is also known for its ornate temples, each of which has its own oorani, a water tank where lilies are grown for holy rituals.

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Madurai

Tamil Nadu’s inland city of Madurai is a treasure trove of personality and unique sights. Evidence of the city’s ancient character can be found in the records of trade links with the Romans dating back to the 4th Century BC. Today it offers some truly remarkable sights including the Thirumalai Nayak Palace and the Meenakshi Temple complex.

Known locally as the city that doesn't sleep it is also a shoppers paradise with bargains galore to be seized.

 

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Munnar

Standing at a heady 1,532m above sea level, the majestic town of Munnar is sure to captivate even the most sceptical visitor, just as it did the British colonial settlers generations ago when they visited each summer seeking reprieve from the heat of the Keralan valleys below. 

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Coimbatore (Kovai)

This city brims with life at all hours, yet it's still got plenty to see for nature lovers. The Anamalai Tiger Reserve is home to both the gorgeous striped cats and elephants, not to mention countless colourful birds. For a taste of serenity, there's also both Monkey Falls and Siruvani Falls to choose from, or you can immerse yourself in the rich history of textiles that first helped Coimbatore find its fortune. Don't miss a tour of the incredible Dhyanalinga Temple in the hills either.

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Mettupalayam

Tucked down at the base of the lush Nilgiri Hills, this rural community brims with life. That's thanks in part to the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, whose colourful locomotives weave their way through the back country. Mettupalayam itself is home to a railway station and a museum to the line's history, while more spiritual pursuits can be had at Vana Bathrakali Amman Temple. A trip out to Pillur Dam also gives you the chance to see how people work with the land and its waterways.

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Ooty

Merging Indian bustle with Hindu temples and charming gardens Ooty, also known as the “Queen of Hill Stations” is a popular hill resort located in the Nilgiri Hills (Blue Mountains) region of South India. Established in the 19th Century as headquarters for the Madras government the picturesque location was given the nickname “Snooty Ooty”. With its rolling hills, tea gardens and scenery lined with trees and views described as similar in looks to the English countryside, 

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Mysore (Mysuru)

Mysore is located a short drive or train ride from Bangalore. Known as the City of Palaces, it is famed for its royal heritage and ancient monuments. The Mysore Palace is the most famous and richly decorated of these, with Lalitha Mahal, in the east of the city, coming a close second. The ancient Sri Prasanna Krishna Swamy Temple is also a must visit, providing a taste of India’s rich cultural and religious traditions. Mysore is also the birthplace of Ashtanga yoga, and the city has a plethora of different yoga classes and luxury yoga retreats to try if you’re feeling adventurous.

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Hassan

Hassan is the place to be for lovers of history, heritage and old architecture in India, famed for its temples and ancient monuments. Many of the district’s temples were built between the 10th and 14th centuries, when the Hoysala dynasty ruled Karnataka, and are well known for their intricate carvings. Most of these temples are to be found in the scenic countryside of Hassan District. Hassan City itself is clean and modern, and pulls in crowds to see the Hasanamba temple, an important Hindu pilgrimage site.

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Kabini & Nagarhole National Park

Nagarhole National Park is the largest protected wildlife zone in Southern India, comprised of shady forests, rivers and bamboo thickets. It’s home to hundreds of different bird species, as well as the Bengal tiger, sloth bear, giant flying squirrel and much more. The Kabini river threads its way through the park, culminating in the Kabini backwaters, a tranquil network of waterways and lakes. The Kabini is one of the best places for wildlife spotting, as you can catch sight of animals drinking and bathing at the water’s edge.

Calicut (Kozhikode)

In the Middle Ages the coastal city of Calicut (Kozhikode) was known as the ‘City of Spices’, as it’s here that the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama first landed and established a spice trading route. Despite being suffused with history, the Calicut of today is a thriving modern metropolis with plenty of malls, restaurants and museums. Calicut also boasts several beaches, Calicut Beach and Kappad Beach, both of which are perfect for an evening promenade.

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Cochin (Kochi)

Cochin, also known as Kochi, is a port city located on an extensive network of waterways in the state of Cochin. It has been one of the primary gateways to the region for distant merchants and travellers since 1341. Cochin is a great place to start your Kerala holiday offering beautiful hotels, wonderful culture and architecture, friendly people and the opportunity for some retail therapy.

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Kerala Backwaters

Known as the ‘Venice of the East’, Alleppey is the gateway to the  Kerala backwaters, an intricate network of lakes and waterways. Here you’ll find thousands of houseboats, converted rice barges with distinctive curved roofs. Float along the backwaters on one of these luxury boats, gazing out onto the lime green paddy fields, coconut palms and tranquil villages that line the water’s edge. Watch the sun set on the water and fall asleep lulled by the gentle rocking motion of the boat.

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Mararikulam Beach

This village is known for the authentic and quiet Mararikulam beach lined by coconut trees. It’s aptly nicknamed the ‘secret beach’ and is a favorite of the Keralan beaches on offer among locals. Mararikulam also boasts the stunning Sree Mahadeva Temple, one of the oldest temples in India, and the only temple where the deities Shiva and Parvati sit facing each other.

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Pricing & Inclusions

Grand Tour of Southern India Price Guide

The price guide for this 24 day Grand Tour of Southern India is

  • £2535 in low season (May 2019 - September 2019 inclusive)
  • £2745 in high season (October 2018 - April 2019 inclusive)

Please be aware some hotels operate an additional peak pricing rate during busy times. This is normally from mid-December to mid-January. Please get in touch with your dates and we will be pleased to provide you with an accurate quote.

Prices vary depending on the number of people, length of tour, accommodation & season. Reductions are normally available for groups of three or more.

This is a private tour and can be tailor-made to meet your exact requirements.

Included with this tour of Southern India are the following:

  • Authentic India Tours meet & greet assistance on arrival
  • All internal transfers and sightseeing tours using an air-conditioned vehicle
  • Accommodation for 23 nights on twin sharing basis
  • Standard category rooms at all hotels unless otherwise mentioned
  • Meal plan: Kabini & Houseboat on full board; Bed & breakfast elsewhere
  • Kumbalangi village visit & lunch in Cochin
  • Tickets for Kathakali dance show in Cochin
  • English speaking guide for sightseeing tour of Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Tanjore, Madurai, Mysore, Hassan & Cochin
  • Guided day trek in Letchmi Hills Munnar
  • Game drives in Kabini
  • Mettupalayam - Ooty first-class train tickets
  • Entrances at all national parks, museums and monuments as per the itinerary
  • Mineral water on all days of travel

Price does not include:

  • International flight tickets
  • Travel insurance & Visa
  • Expenses of personal nature like laundry, tips, beverages etc
  • Meals other than mentioned in the above meal plan
  • Camera & video fees at national parks, museums & monuments

Prices mentioned above are per person based on two people sharing a twin room. The prices which were valid at the time of publication may be subject to change, based on your date of travel and local market fluctuations. You will be informed of any price differences prior to booking.

For a quote based on your dates of travel, any alternative accommodation or changes to this itinerary, please call us on 01792 315499 or email us at info@aitholidays.com