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Southern Splendour Group Tour

Duration:
14 days / 13 nights
Destinations:
Chennai, Puducherry (Pondicherry) , Kumbakonam, Chettinad, Madurai, Periyar, Alleppey, Cochin
Price Guide:

Prices from £1995 per person.

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Overview

Discover South Indian culture and heritage on this 14 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

 

Southern Splendours - 14 Days / 13 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 which will take about 45 minutes.

After a period to settle in, it’s time to explore the fascinating city Chennai on a sightseeing tour where you’ll discover Fort St George, St Mary’s Cathedral and San Thome Basilica which is said to have been built over the tomb of Thomas the Apostle. Later you will visit the ancient Shiva temple of Kapaleeshwar during the evening ceremony time and experience the busy bazaars around the temple. This is followed by a welcome dinner hosted by your tour leader.

Accommodation: Grand by GRT or similar
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Day 2 - Chennai - Puducherry (Pondicherry)

After breakfast we take the coastal road to the historic fishing village of Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO world heritage site, and 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

After lunch, we proceed to the chic town of Puducherry, a former French colony. This evening, a cycle rickshaw ride through the French and Tamil quarters of the town is included. The lively nature and diversity of this colonial town and the delicious mix of food make for a memorable experience.

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 hours, 170 kms

Accommodation: The Residency Towers or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 3 - Puducherry

Today you wake up in Puducherry, 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 Puducherry museum, where you can have a glimpse at Puducherry'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: The Residency Towers or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 4 - Puducherry - Kumbakonam

The next stage of your adventure takes you inland to the bustling temple town of Kumbakonam.  On route you will visit Chidambaram, home to one of Tamil Nadu's Dravidian architectural highlights, the famous Nataraja Temple complex. We then continue to Darasuram, where you will find the famous Indian landmark, the ornate Airavatesvara Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site.

There will also be time to visit Swamimalai, and experience the brilliance of the bronze artists. Swamimalai is popularly known as the cradle of Chola bronze statues and stone sculptures. Here you can witness the traditional wax method of bronze casting which has been perfected over generations.

In the evening there will be 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. It has a very distinct character from the rest of Tamil Nadu and the style of cooking is unique to this area.

This evening you can discover the unique Chettinad architectural style displayed in its buildings, experience the flavour of local life in a bustling, colourful market and sample the Chettinad cuisine.

Approximate travel time and distance: 3 hours, 150 kms

Accommodation: The Bangala or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 6 - Chettinad

Today’s discovering tour of Chettinad will introduce you to wonderful old mansions exhibiting splendid art and architecture, the most famous of which being Chettinadu Raja’s Palace. This is followed by a tour of the Ayyanar shrine of Kothadi with the alignment of terracotta figures which have been offered to the village Deity.

Later there is time to wander around some of the best local markets in South India. You will also be able 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

In the evening there is a culinary demonstration to learn about Chettinad cuisine from the renowned chefs at The Bangala followed by dinner.

 

Accommodation: The Bangala or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 7 - Chettinad to Madurai

After breakfast, a short 2 hour journey will take you to the famous temple town of Madurai home to some fine examples of Dravidian architecture, and in particular, the stunning Meenakshi Temple complex with its colourfully carved gopuram.

This afternoon’s tour of the vast temple complex will give you time to marvel at this multi-tiered, technicolour wonder covered in bright carvings of mythical figures and to learn more about its history. You will also visit the imposing Thirumalai Nayak Palace, which was actually designed by an Italian architect.

Madurai is a thriving city and later this evening a rickshaw ride through the busy markets selling a whole host of items including utensils, textiles, jewellery and vegetables will be an invigorating experience.

Approximate travel time and distance: 2 hours, 90 kms

Accommodation: Courtyard by Marriott or similar
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 8 - Madurai to Periyar

Be prepared for a total change of scenery and pace of life today as we leave the flat lands of Tamil Nadu and head for Periyar in the Cardamom Hills of Kerala.  It will take around 4 hours to reach Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, a beautifully preserved area and home to a wide range of animals and birdlife.

This afternoon you will get your first taste of Periyar with a spice plantation tour led by an expert on spices and the local area. He will introduce you to the different spices grown such as pepper, cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and coffee.

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 hours, 150 kms

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

This morning you will be transferred to the boat landing point of Periyar Tiger Reserve for a wonderful adventure in touch with nature

The experience includes bamboo rafting where you can try your hand at navigating a raft across the famous Periyar Lake followed by a trek through some of the richest forest paths of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. This area is known for sightings of wildlife including elephants, Sambar deers and Indian bisons but nothing is guaranteed.

The rest of the day is at leisure to enjoy the hotel facilities including the gorgeous spa and swimming pool or maybe take part in some hotel activities. Alternatively enjoy some retail therapy in the nearby shops.

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

Today we leave the mountain region and travel past rubber and tea plantations to the picturesque village of Kumarakom, located on the south eastern shore of Vembanad Lake. There’s a tasty stop on route at a plantation bungalow in Kanjirapally where we are treated to a home cooked lunch

Kumarakom is an oasis of calm, hidden in the Kerala backwaters, a network of canals, lakes and coconut groves. The calm waters, verdant surroundings and abundant wildlife makes it the perfect spot to unwind. In the evening, simply relax and enjoy a sunset over Vembanad Lake, where birds gliding across the calm surface of the lake can be spotted. The Zuri hotel is known for its cultural programme and there’s usually a performance to be enjoyed.

Approximate travel time and distance: 3.5 hours, 121 kms

Accommodation: Zuri Kumarakom Resort & Spa
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 11 - Kumarakom to Alleppey

After a leisurely morning and just before lunch you will board your air conditioned, deluxe houseboat for an overnight cruise through the famous Kerala Backwaters. For many people this is the highlight of their holiday.

Your relaxing voyage will take you through the tranquil Kerala backwaters, gliding across Lake Vembanad, then along waterways passing low lying rice fields, churches, temples, schools and village life. Lunch, evening tea and dinner will be served on board by your own exclusive crew. At sunset the houseboat anchors to prevent getting tangled in the fishing nets. Experience a truly magical evening of being rocked gently whilst counting stars before finally going to bed. The air conditioning on board functions from 20:00 until 6:00.

Accommodation: Houseboat
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
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Day 12 - Alleppey to Cochin

This morning we suggest getting up early to enjoy breakfast taking in the fascinating backwater activity with people going to work and children going to school. Upon disembarking at Alleppey boat jetty you’ll be met by your guide and taken to the bustling cosmopolitan port of Cochin.

On this afternoon’s sightseeing tour of Fort Cochin & Mattancherry, you can explore remnants of Cochin’s multicultural past by visiting St Francis' Church and the local fish market. Later, proceed to Mattancherry to see the Jewish Synagogue and the Dutch Palace which houses murals depicting the Ramayana.

In the evening, you will witness a traditional Kathakali dance performance – we suggest arriving early if you want to experience the elaborate make-up preparation.

Approximate travel time and distance: 1 hour, 54 kms

Accommodation: Fragrant Natrue
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 13 - Cochin

This morning your tour includes a visit to the Kumbalanghi fishing village where you will experience traditional village activities such as catching fish, crab farming and coir making.

Following a home cooked lunch by the side of the backwaters you will be taken back to your hotel for some free time. You could relax and enjoy the hotel facilities such as the rooftop swimming pool, or maybe jump in a tuk tuk and explore the heritage quarter and pick up some last minute souveniers along Jew Street.

Another lovely memory will be this evening’s boat trip past Cochin’s waterfront. 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. To round off an action packed day you can enjoy an interactive Keralan cooking demonstration and a farewell dinner with a local family.

Accommodation: Fragrant Natrue
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 14 - Departure Cochin

In plenty of time you will be transferred to Cochin International Airport to board your return flight.

Approximate travel time and distance: 90 minutes, 40 kms

Meals included: Breakfast

 

Beach extension

If you would like to extend your holiday by staying 2 nights or more at the Mararikulam Beach please let us know.

Price starts from £340 per person for two nights on twin sharing at Xandari Pearl Marari Beach and £375 per person for two nights at Marari Beach Resort.

Please contact us for more details and to discuss your individual requirements

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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The Residency Towers, Puducherry

The Residency is ideally located near the heritage centre of Puducherry and within a mile of the beach and promenade. It offers the excellent level of service and the facilities you would expect from a modern superior hotel. 

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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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The Bangala, Chettinad

The Bangala was the first Heritage Hotel in Chettinad, built on a property that has been in the family for almost 100 years. Located in Karaikudi, in the heart of Chettinad, the Bangala is a family-run hotel that combines traditional Chettiar hospitality and modern amenities. The extensive property retains its Chettinad charm, with quaint gardens, old-style furniture, extensive verandahs, and is also equipped with a swimming pool, gym and massage center.

Renowned for its family kitchen, the Bangala is the ultimate destination for authentic Chettinad cuisine, with recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation, creating a dining experience that cannot be missed.

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Courtyard by Marriott, Madurai

Ideally located near the attractions of Madurai, the Courtyard by Marriot offers a haven of peace and tranquillity in this vibrant city. This superior hotel offers all the comfort and luxury you need with a choice of bars and restaurants, well appointed en-suite accommodation and excellent facilities such as a swimming pool, fitness centre and free high speed internet.

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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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The Zuri, Kumarakom

Situated the shores of the Vembanad Lake, The Zuri Kumarakom Resort and Spa offers spectacular views of the Kerala Backwaters. This gorgeous resort offers 5 star luxury from its fabulous spa treatments including Western and Oriental treatments to the 3 mouth-watering restaurants which offer tantalising cuisines. In terms of accommodation, The Zuri offer 3 different rooms and a presidential villa which boasts its own private pool and garden.

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Kerala Houseboat, Alleppey

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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Fragrant Nature, Cochin

Thought of as one of the most sought after hotels in South India, Fragrant Nature is located within the offices of the East India Company, a landmark building in Fort Kochi due to its distinctive facade and clock tower. This boutique style hotel offers modern rooms with harbour views, a gym and Ayurveda treatments whilst the roof top infinity pool delivers majestic views of the surrounding landscape.

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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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Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram)

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. Mamallapuram is also a renowned surfing destination.

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Puducherry (Pondicherry)

Affectionately known as Pondy by locals, Puducherry 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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Thanjavur (Tanjore)

Once the capital of the great Chola Empire, Thanjavur (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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Chettinad

Chettinad 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 (Tiger Reserve)

If you've ever dreamed of seeing elephants roaming free, Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve offers the chance of experiencing these beautiful animals in the wild on a walking trek or from the comfort of a covered boat without disturbing their way of life. Unfortunately tiger spottings are extremely rare.

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Kumarakom

Hidden in the backwaters off the South Eastern end of Vembanad Lake in Southern Kerala is the small village of Kumarakom. Calm waters, lush greenery and abundant wildlife ensure that this is the perfect spot for total relaxation. The area offers beautiful quality award winning hotels and is ideally located to enjoy the Kerala backwaters. 

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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

This Southern Splendour Group Tour is available from Chennai on the following dates (prices per person)

Travel Dates & Tour Prices
Travel Dates Cost Per Person on Twin / Double Sharing Basis Single Room Supplement
08 Nov 2020 - 21 Nov 2020 £1995 £850
29 Nov 2020 - 12 Dec 2020 £1995 £850
10 Jan 2021 - 23 Jan 2021 £1995 £850
31 Jan 2021 - 13 Feb 2021 £1995 £850
14 Feb 2021 - 27 Feb 2021 £1995 £850
14 Nov 2021 - 27 Nov 2021 £2150 £870
28 Nov 2021 - 11 Dec 2021 £2150 £870
30 Jan 2022 - 12 Feb 2022 £2160 £890
13 Feb 2022 - 26 Feb 2022 £2160 £890
20 Feb 2022 - 05 Mar 2022 £2160 £890

 

 

 

 

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

The prices quoted are without flights. If you would like us to arrange your flights, all the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. 

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 13 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

Authentic India Tours is a member of ATOL and can provide ATOL protected holidays with flights. We recommend the following flights for these tours.

Suggested Flight
Flight Flight Code Departing Arriving
British Airways BA 35 London Heathrow (LHR)
14:10
Chennai (MAA)
05:35
Qatar Airways QR 515 Kochi (COK)
09:30
Doha (DOH)
12:10

British Airways (operated by Qatar Airways)

BA 7015 Doha (DOH)
15:50
London Heathrow (LHR)
20:25
Call us for AIT specially negotiated flight fares

 

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.

Beach Extension

Extend your holiday by staying 2 nights or more at the Mararikulam Beach / Kovalam Beach.

Golden Triangle Extension

Fly to Delhi for a 7 days Golden Triangle Tour covering Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.

For more information or for a quote based on your dates of travel including flights or any extensions to this itinerary, please call us on 01792 315499 or email us at info@aitholidays.com