Tamil Nadu and Kerala: different languages, cuisine, temples, landscape – they could be different countries if they weren’t neighbouring states! This tour moves at a pace that allows you to fully appreciate their ancient and highly evolved cultures, as well as their natural beauty and laid back pace of life.
Each state in South India has a distinct historical background and cultural identity, with none more contrasting than the two southern most states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. However one thing that runs true through all of South India is the friendly and hospitable nature of the Tamils and Malayalis (people from Kerala).
Group size: max 15, av. 10.
Tempo: easy does it .
Included: accommodation, transport, local escort and local guides, two meals per day, entrances.
Accommodation: conventional and heritage hotels and resorts, 3 or 4/5 star depending on departure
Transport: 18 seater air-conditioned mini-coach
Notes: this is an action packed, activities-based trip that would suit families with teenagers
Combines with: ends in time for start of North Kerala and Karnataka Fixed Departure Tour
Day 1: Arrive Chennai – Mahabalipuram Arrive Chennai by domestic or international flight and transfer in the evening directly to Mahabalipuram, an hour south of Chennai. Mahabalipuram is famed for its World Heritage listed 7th century rock cut temples, including the world’s largest bass relief carving, the 29m x 9m frieze entitled ‘Arjuna’s Penance’.
Day 2: Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry Morning tour of the temples and carvings of Mahabalipuram with an expert local guide. Afternoon drive 2 hours to Pondicherry. Pondicherry has a heritage charm that isn't immediately obvious, but a stroll through the historic ‘French Quarter’ will help give you a feel for it. Evening free to enjoy the festival atmosphere of the promenade at sunset.
Day 3: Pondicherry Full day to enjoy Pondicherry, with a walking tour of the heritage quarter and working units, such as paper and incense making, of the Aurobindo ashram. Shopping is also a highlight of Pondicherry, with high-quality, French-influenced clothes and homewares a feature.
Day 4: Pondicherry – Tanjore After breakfast, begin 5 hour drive to Tanjore. The Brihadeeswara temple at Tanjore is not as well known as the Meenakshi temple in Madurai – but it should be! Differing greatly in design and appearance, this temple is significant for the height of the central tower and methods used to construct it. In the afternoon we visit the temple, art gallery and palace with a local guide.
Day 5: Tanjore – Madurai After a leisurely breakfast, begin the 5 hour drive to Madurai, visiting the Chettinad Mansion en route. Chettinad has a distinctive cuisine, which we will sample at one of the restored mansion here. After lunch continue on to Madurai; check in and evening free.
Day 6: Madurai Sightseeing of Madurai with local guide, including the fruit and vegetable market, the Gandhi museum, and the famous ‘fish-eyed goddess’ Meenakshi temple. The temple, which has twelve outer towers, decorated with literally hundreds of thousands of deities, plays a central role in the life of Madurai. Late afternoon free for shopping and personal activities, or take a walk through town with your guide and enjoy a cup of chai at a local tea stall.
Day 7: Madurai – Periyar Morning drive 4 hours to Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. The park is situated high in the Western Ghat mountain range, on the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Afternoon free for relaxing or shopping for spices in town.
Day 8: Periyar Today there are several activity options: spend time with working elephants, washing and feeding them and having a short ride; an energetic nature walk in the Wildlife Sanctuary with local naturalist guide; an even more energetic all day bamboo rafting excursion; or a visit to a tribal village, where you can get a feel for what life is like for India’s indigenous people. In the evening there is the option to see a Kalaripayyat demonstration, an ancient Keralan martial art.
Day 9: Periyar – Kottayam Late morning departure for the descent into the foothills of Kerala, stopping for a special lunch and plantation tour at a working spice and rubber plantation. Early afternoon arrival at Kottayam and your resort on the banks of the verdant Kerala backwaters. Afternoon free for a Yoga class, Ayurvedic massage, or option to visit the thriving town of Kottayam to see life in typical Keralan town – or just rest and relax in the peaceful surroundings of your hotel.
Day 10: Alleppey Backwaters – Cochin 1 hour drive to Alleppey for a heritage tour by the Conservation Society, describing the traditional activities of the local economy, and the preservation and restoration activities taking place in the area. In the afternoon board a kettuvallum, a rice barge converting into a luxury houseboat, for a cruise of the and lunch on the backwaters – this is many travellers’ favourite experience in South India. During the cruise there is the opportunity to stop and see small backwater villages and local industries at work. Late afternoon proceed 2 hours to Cochin.
Day 11: Cochin Morning tour of historic Fort Kochi, with its various European, Chinese and Jewish influences. Your sightseeing with local guide will include the famous Chinese fishing nets, the Dutch Palace and one of India’s last remaining Synagogues. Afternoon free for shopping or relaxing before evening viewing of a Kathakali dance performance, where the Hindu epics are played out by heavily made-up and elaborately dressed artists.
Day 12: Depart Cochin Morning visit the Hilltop Palace and museum, where a collection of sculptures, old coins and weaponry from the Cochin royal family are on display. In the afternoon/evening transfer to the airport for flights home or to Delhi for start of our Rajasthan tour.