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Splendours of Southern India Tour

Duration:
14 days / 13 nights
Destinations:
Chennai, Pondicherry, Mahabalipuram, Kumbakonam, Chettinad, Madurai, Periyar, Kumarakom, Alleppey, Cochin
Price Guide:
  • £1625 in low season
  • £2185 in high season

based on two people travelling.

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Overview

The Splendours of Southern India Tour is a 14-day private tour from the coastal plains of Tamil Nadu to the coast of Kerala – God’s own country. It covers ancient temple towns, the hill stations of the Western Ghats, tranquil backwaters and the colonial port town of Cochin. World heritage sites, breathtaking architecture, historic towns, vibrant temple ceremonies, lively bazaars, enchanting wildlife and the palm-fringed backwaters are some of the things you will enjoy on this truly memorable journey.

Splendours of Southern India Tour Highlights

  • 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 metre 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
  • 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 Splendours of Southern India Tour is just an example to help inspire you.

 

Southern Splendours of India - 14 Days / 13 Nights

Discover the highlights of Southern India on this private tour, where our expert guides will show you the real beauty of India, including the must see sights and some hidden gems away from the main tourist spots. You’ll discover the treasure trove of buildings and sculptures of Mahabhalipuram, learn how spices are grown at the tranquil town of Periyar, and spot kingfishers from a private houseboat on Vembanad Lake.

Code: CHE001

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Day 1 - Arrive in Chennai

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

An afternoon of discovery awaits with a sightseeing tour of Chennai, where you will spend time at 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 day 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 Hotel by GRT
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Day 2 - Chennai - Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry

The next stop on your India adventure 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 you will be driven south along the coast to the chic town of Pondicherry, a former French colony.

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 hours, 170 kms

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

Today you will discover 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: Palais De Mahe
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 4 - Pondicherry to Kumbakonam

The next leg of your India adventure 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 a 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
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 5 - Kumbakonam via Tanjore to Chettinad

After breakfast you will drive to the Chettinad region, making a stop in the historic town of Tanjore, famed for its Living Chola Temples, some of the most renowned Indian landmarks. You will also stop at 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 through trading in Southeast Asia, 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. Experience the flavour of local life in a bustling and colourful market and sample the distinctive Chettinad cuisine.

Approximate travel time and distance: 3 hours, 150 kms

Accommodation: Visalam
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 6 - Chettinad

Today we discover Chettinad, exploring palatial mansions decorated in Burmese teak and Italian marble. You will visit the Arraynar shrine of Kothadi, lined with terracotta figures, and then visit some of the best local markets in South India.

You will 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: Visalam
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: Heritage Madurai
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 resort hotel. Spend the evening learning more about the spices grown in this region with a spice garden visit. Adventure lovers may want to take advantage of the optional elephant ride at the plantation.

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 hours, 150 kms

Accommodation: Spice Village
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 9 - Periyar

Periyar Tiger Reserve is the perfect place to discover the delights of Indian wildlife. Rise early to stalk the reserve on foot with a local tribal tracker, looking out for tiger prints in the soft ground, or a flash of golden fur in the distance

Then, finish your day with a trip over the beautiful Lake Periyar. From the comfort of your boat look out for elephants, bison and many more creatures enjoying their natural habitat.

Accommodation: Spice Village
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 10 - Periyar to Kumarakom

Your morning drive takes you from Periyar to the picturesque village of Kumarakom, located on the south-eastern shore of the Vembanad Lake. From mountain vistas to paddy fields fringed with coconut palms, there are plenty of places to stop for a photo.

Relax and appreciate the laid back pace of this beautiful village. The calm waters, verdant surroundings and abundant wildlife make it the perfect spot to unwind. In the evening enjoy a cruise on Vembanad Lake, where you’ll watch the sun set over the calm waters.

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 hours, 150 kms

Accommodation: Coconut Lagoon
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 11 - Kumarakom to Alleppey

Spend a laid back morning strolling around the lake or relaxing by the pool. 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 backwaters. 

In the morning you will find yourself in Alleppey, known as ‘Venice of the East’ due to its network of narrow canals.

Accommodation: One Bedroom Air-Conditioned Deluxe Houseboat
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
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Day 12 - 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 holidays.

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.

Approximate travel time and distance: 2 hours, 65 kms

Accommodation: Brunton Boatyard
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 13 - Cochin

The multicultural heritage of Cochin is present in the diverse architecture located around the city. Initially under Portuguese rule, this vibrant region was later taken over by the Dutch and the British.

Take a wander down the cobbled streets of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, a district famed for its vast array of antique shops. Visit the Jewish Synagogue and St Francis Church, the oldest European church built in India. Stop by Mattancherry Palace to gaze at the painted murals depicting the Ramayana, an ancient epic poem.

Spend the evening enjoying a traditional Kathakali performance, a dance famed for its athletic movements, colourful costumes and make-up.

Accommodation: Brunton Boatyard
Meals included: Breakfast
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Day 14 - Depart from Cochin

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

Approximate travel time and distance: 90 minutes and 45 kms

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation wise the Splendours of Southern India Tour offers a fantastic mix of charming villas and heritage properties, as well as a wonderful overnight on the Kerala backwaters in 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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Visalam, Chettinad

Visalam is a distinctive heritage house reflecting the character of Chettinad, a region famous for palatial homes and colourful culture. Sympathetically restored this grand heritage mansion has been preserved showcasing the original detail and character of the property. Guests will get a glimpse into the life of the Chettinad community of years gone by. The accommodation is decorated with traditional handmade tiles and furnishings, all of which add to this unique experience.

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Heritage Madurai, Madurai

Located on a 17 acre resort the Heritage Madurai offers spacious and elegant accommodation with large bathrooms and dedicated seating areas. The resort’s villas epitomize ultimate glamour and true indulgence with some taking luxury to the next level with their private sun decks and plunge pools. Serving Indian and international cuisine all tastes are catered for and guests can dine surrounded by ancient banyan trees while basking in the beauty of the setting.

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Spice Village, Periyar

Occupying a stunning position in the highlands of Thekkady, Spice Village is inspired by the dwellings of the Mannan Tribe. Using local materials rooms have thatched roofs made from elephant grass, perfect for keeping the temperature cool and allowing you to embrace the beauty of the natural surroundings. The Spice Village is a fine example of the Eco hotels on offer in India providing a unique back to nature experience combined with modern facilities.

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Coconut Lagoon, Kumarakom

The award-winning Coconut Lagoon is located in a charming cove in Kumarakon on the Vembanad Lake, offering a unique and delightful setting. A scenic boat ride from a private jetty to reach Coconut Lagoon will ensure you witness beautiful Kerala scenery and get a wonderful introduction to this captivating resort. No two rooms are the same, they are quirky and inspiring, offering guests an experience like no other.

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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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Brunton Boatyard, Cochin

Located in a former Victorian boatyard in the Fort Kochi district, the Brunton Boatyard Hotel overlooks a waterway. What once stood as the site of a boat manufacturing business belonging to Geo Brunton and Sons, the building has been lovingly restored to provide travellers with a glimpse into 19th Century life in Kochi, complete with tall ceilings and traditional low hanging fans. This is a truly beautiful colonial property in a fabulous location.

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Destinations

The Splendours of Southern India Tour stops at numerous top destinations, including the 'gateway to Southern India', Chennai, known as a cultural hub for classical music and sculptures, as well as the historical Pondicherry with its world renowned basilica. 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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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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Pricing & Inclusions

Price guide for this 14 day Southern India tour is:

  • £1625 in low season (May 2019 - September 2019 inclusive)
  • £2185 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 are the following:

  • Authentic India Tours meet & greet assistance on arrival
  • All transfers and sightseeing tours using air-conditioned car
  • 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
  • English speaking guide for sightseeing tour of Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Tanjore, Madurai & Cochin
  • 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