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Southern Splendour Group Tour

Duration:
13 days / 12 nights
Destinations:
Chennai, Pondicherry, Kumbakonam, Chettinad, Madurai, Periyar, Alleppey, Cochin
Price Guide:

The Southern Splendour group tour leaves Chennai as follows:

  • 6th October 2019 from £1850
  • 20th January 2020 from £1850
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Overview

Discover South Indian culture and heritage on this 13-day group tour. Take this fascinating trip from Chennai on the coastal plains of Tamil Nadu to the captivating port city of Cochin in Kerala. En-route you will discover world heritage sites, breathtaking architecture, vibrant temple ceremonies, lively bazaars, historic hill stations, enchanting wildlife and the famous palm-fringed Kerala backwaters.

  • Afternoon sightseeing tour of Chennai
  • Mahabalipuram world heritage site visit
  • Full day tour of Pondicherry
  • Nataraja and Airavatesvara Temple tours
  • Visit Brihadisvara Temple with its 62 m high tower
  • See the expert craft people at Chettinad
  • Tour of the wonderful temple town of Madurai
  • Spice garden visit
  • Trek in Periyar Tiger Reserve
  • Enjoy a Lake Periyar Boat Trip to see wildlife including Elephants
  • Sunset Cruise on Vembanad Lake
  • Overnight stay on a private houseboat cruising the Alleppey backwaters
  • Cochin sunset cruise
  • Sightseeing tour of Fort Cochin & Mattancherry
  • Traditional Kathakali dance performance

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

Southern Splendours - 13 Days / 12 Nights

Discover the highlights of Southern India on our group tour, where your expert guide will show you the real beauty of India, including the must see sights and some hidden gems away from the main tourist spots. You will explore the treasure trove of buildings and sculptures of Mahabalipuram, learn how spices are grown in the tranquil town of Periyar, and spot kingfishers from a private houseboat on Vembanad Lake.

Code: GRCHE001

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Day 1 - Arrive in Chennai

On arrival at Chennai International Airport you will be met by your Authentic India Tours representative, who will transfer you directly to your hotel.

You will spend the afternoon on a sightseeing tour of Chennai, where you discover 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.

Your evening will finish at the beautiful Marina beach, a 13km stretch of sand and sea. This will offer you the chance to enjoy an authentic Indian beach away from the main tourist traps.

Accommodation: Grand by GRT or similar
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Day 2 - Chennai - Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry

The next stop on your South India tour is the historic coastal town of Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO world heritage site, home to an amazing collection of 7th and 8th Century monuments and temples. Immerse yourself in a treasure trove of buildings and sculptures, including temples in the form of chariots (rathas), a giant open-air rock relief and the impressive, intricately decorated Shore Temple.

Later we drive south along the coast to the chic town of Pondicherry, a former French colony

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 hours, 170 kms

Accommodation: Hotel Palais De Mahe or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 3 - Pondicherry

Today you wake up in Pondicherry, a small town steeped in history and surrounded by miles of gorgeous sandy beaches. You will have the chance to meet Lakshmi the elephant at Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple, before visiting a handmade paper-making unit and Pondicherry museum, where you can have a glimpse at Pondicherry’s colonial past.

In the evening, wander through the cobbled streets of the historic French Quarter and treat yourself to a dish from one of the best restaurants in Southern India, offering a fusion of French and Indian delicacies.

Accommodation: Hotel Palais De Mahe or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 4 - Pondicherry to Kumbakonam

The next stage of your holiday in India takes you inland to the bustling temple town of Kumbakonam. En route there is an opportunity to visit Chidambaram, home to one of Tamil Nadu's Dravidian architectural highlights – the famous Nataraja Temple complex.

Our travels then continue on to Darasuram, where you will find the famous Indian landmark, the ornate Airavatesvara Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site. There will be plenty of time to explore Kumbakonam and its abundant, colourful temples.

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 hours, 160 kms

Accommodation: Mantra Koodam or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 5 - Kumbakonam via Tanjore to Chettinad

This morning we drive to the Chettinad region, stopping on the way in the historic town of Tanjore, famed for its Living Chola Temples. We also visit the Bronze Museum and Brihadeeshwara Temple, which has a 62 metre high sandstone tower ornately decorated in religious carvings.

Chettinad is the homeland of the Chettiars, a community of merchants who grew prosperous in the 19th century and spared no expense building huge palatial mansions upon their return. On your evening sightseeing tour you will be able to appreciate the unique Chettinad architectural style displayed in buildings such as the Raja’s Palace. then, experience the flavor of local life in a bustling, colourful market, and sample the distinctive Chettinad cuisine.

Approximate travel time and distance: 3 hours, 150 kms

Accommodation: Chidambaram Vilas or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 6 - Chettinad

Today we revisit Chettinad, exploring palatial mansions decorated in Burmese teak and Italian marble and the Arraynar shrine of Kothadi, lined with terracotta figures.

Later there is time to wander around some of the best local markets in South India. You will also have time to admire expert craftsmen at work at the Athangudi handmade tile making unit and the traditional saree weaving centre. Then discover unique antiques from local Chettiar homes at the market on Muneeswaran Koil Street in Karaikudi. This is the perfect opportunity to pick up some souvenirs to take back home.

Accommodation: Chidambaram Vilas or similar
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 your guide will help you to 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 or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 8 - Madurai to Periyar

The next destination on your Indian holiday is Periyar, a tranquil town located a kilometre above sea level and boasting the perfect natural environment for growing an array of spices including cardamom, cinnamon, pepper and vanilla.

In the afternoon you are free to explore the spice town or to lounge by the pool of your superior grade hotel. Spend the evening learning more about the spices grown in this region with a spice garden visit. Adventure lovers can also take advantage of the optional elephant ride at the plantation.

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 hours, 150 kms

Accommodation: Cardamom County or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 9 - Periyar

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is the perfect place to discover the delights of Indian wildlife. Rise early to stalk the Periyar Tiger Reserve on foot with a local tribal tracker, looking out for elusive tiger footprints, wild elephants and a wide selection of exotic birds.

Then, finish your day with a trip on the beautiful Lake Periyar. You will have the chance to spot elephants, bison and many more animals and birds from the comfort of your boat.

Accommodation: Cardamom County or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 10 - Periyar to Alleppey

Your morning drive takes you from Periyar to the picturesque village of Allepey known as ‘Venice of the East’ due to its network of narrow canals. From mountain vistas to paddy fields fringed with coconut palms, there are plenty photo opportunities.

After that 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 beautiful backwaters. 

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 hours, 150 kms

Accommodation: Air-Conditioned Deluxe Houseboat
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
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Day 11 - Alleppey to Cochin

After breakfast you leave the peace and quiet of the backwaters and head for the thriving port city of Cochin, the last stop of your India holiday.

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: 2 hours, 65 kms

Accommodation: Xandari Harbour or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 12 - Cochin

Today you get to explore Cochin a melting pot of cultures, religions and nationalities. You will see St Francis Church, which is the oldest European church in India, as well as the lavish 16th century Jewish Synagogue. Then you can explore the Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace due to its colonial influences. It also houses colourfully painted murals depicting the ancient Indian poem Ramayana. 

This afternoon you may wish to wander around the quaint cobbled streets which house a number of interesting antique shops. In the evening, enjoy a boat trip past Cochin’s island shores. As the sun sets, you will see the famous cantilevered fishing nets. It's fascinating to watch the fishermen skilfully dip the hammock-like nets into the water, silhouetted against the orange and pink sky.

Accommodation: Xandari Harbour or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 13 - Depart from Cochin

Today you will be picked up by your driver and transferred to Cochin International Airport to catch your flight home.

If you are lucky enough to have more time, why not try an extension to your tour at one of Kerala's beautiful beach resorts.

Approximate travel time and distance: 90 minutes, 40 kms

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation

This tour's accommodation comprises superior city centre and boutique hotels, an eco-friendly spice plantation resort and a private houseboat.

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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Palais De Mahe, Pondicherry

One of many heritage hotels in India, The Palais de Mahe is a French colonial style hotel that has been sympathetically designed reflecting the history and architecture of Pondicherry. Surrounded by the sophistication of the French quarter it offers accommodation decorated with classic period style and modern touches. Distinctive French features include arched doorways, high ceilings and roof beams. Guests can enjoy a courtyard pool, spa and beautiful location just a stroll away from the Bay of Bengal.

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Mantra Koodam, Kumbakonam

Mantra Koodam is a unique eco-friendly resort located along the banks of the Veera Choza and Cauvery rivers where a dedicated bridge for access offers a tranquil location. With the wellbeing and relaxation of its guests a main priority the resort offers a wellness spa overlooking river views. Accommodation of cottages and bungalows with rustic exteriors encased in beautiful gardens ensure a comfortable stay. Traditional meals are on offer consisting purely of healthy vegetarian cuisine.

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Chidambaram Vilas, Chettinad

Lovingly restored to offer visitors a real taste of Chettinad lifestyle and culture, Chidambaram Vilas has 25 rooms where traditional design is merged with the modern features travellers now expect.  Decorated with intricate designs, wood carvings and exquisite chandeliers this is opulence at its best. With dining experiences showcasing local ingredients and cuisine, a swimming pool and lounge area guests can really savor Chettinad in all its glory.

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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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Cardamom County, Periyar

Bordering the Periyar Tiger Reserve and boasting glorious views and scents of the surrounding spice plantations, Cardamom County is located in the mountains of the Periyar Forests. The beautifully presented cottages each have a private verandah or balcony and are built on different levels following the natural curves of the land. With a restaurant set in an open air terrace, gym, swimming pool and spa facilities, Cardamom County offers a truly relaxing break. It is also conveniently located close to the local town.

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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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Xandari Harbour, Cochin

The Xandari Harbour hotel enjoys a prime location overlooking the Cochin waterways and very close to all the attractions of Fort Kochi. The old warehouses which make up this hotel give it a wonderful local character. The rooms are lovely and spacious and feature all the modern facilities (apart from a TV) that a discerning traveller requires.

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Destinations

Tour through the heartland of Southern India, with stops along the way at some of the regions most picturesque cities and villages, including the coastal town of Pondicherry and historical Madurai. Below are more of the destinations you'll 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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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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Kumbakonam

This bustling temple town has a rich and compelling past. It houses 18 different Hindu temples, most dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. All the temples have brightly coloured, intricately carved gopurams, or towers. Kumbakonam was once known as the ‘Cambridge of India’, due to its prominence as a centre of European education and Hindu culture during the British Raj. You can still find a few examples of colonial architecture here, including the Town Hall.

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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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Periyar National Park (Thekkady)

If you've ever dreamed of seeing elephants roaming free, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary offers you the chance of experiencing these beautiful animals in the wild from the comfort of a covered boat or car tour, without disturbing their way of life.

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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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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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Dates, Pricing & Inclusions

Prices from £1850 based on hotels and dates shown below

The Southern Splendour small group tour departs from Chennai on the following dates:

  • 06th October 2019 from £1850
  • 20th January 2020 from £1850

Our tour operates with a minimum number of 4 and a maximum number of 16 travellers on this Southern Splendour group tour

Included with this tour are the following:

  • Authentic India Tours Meet & greet assistance on arrival
  • All transfers and sightseeing tours using an air-conditioned vehicle
  • English speaking tour escort for the entire tour
  • Accommodation for 12 nights on twin sharing basis
  • Standard category rooms at all hotels unless otherwise mentioned
  • Meal plan: Houseboat on full board; Bed & Breakfast elsewhere
  • Spice plantation tour in Periyar
  • Nature trek in Periyar Tiger Reserve
  • Tickets for boating on Lake Periyar
  • Sunset cruise by private motorboat along the Cochin harbour
  • Tickets for Kathakali dance show in Cochin
  • Entrances at all national parks, museums and monuments as per the itinerary
  • Mineral water on all days of travel

Cost does not include:

  • International flight tickets
  • Travel insurance & Visas
  • 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