The cuisine of Tamil Nadu and Kerala is quite unique and on this tour you will have ample opportunity to sample the full array of flavours on offer. You can eat at 'open kitchen' restaurants and take part in cooking classes. The best sights of south India are also included.
Day 1: On arrival in Chennai you'll be met and assisted with the transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Chennai.
Day 2: A day in Chennai with sightseeing including the historic Fort St George and Vivekananda House, as well as your first opportunity to sample a traditional Thali meal. This is the staple lunch of the vast majority of the population of Tamil Nadu and consists of a large selection of gravies, chutneys and condiments served with mountains of rice and an array of breads and rice-flour concoctions. Anna Lakshmi restaurant is one of the most famous eateries in Chennai- a great place to sample this fabulous food and meet some locals. Overnight in Chennai.
Day 3: Travel inland to the sacred temple city of Kanchipuram, before driving to the beachside town of Mahabalipuram. Its proximity to the rich fishing grounds of the Bay of Bengal and a number of excellent beachfront restaurants makes this a great place to sample seafood- you will be able to select your own fish and choose the way you would like it cooked. Overnight in Mahabalipuram.
Day 4: Today you can visit the cultural village at Dakshinachitra and later enjoy a sightseeing tour of Mahabalipuram taking in the UNESCO World Heritage listed monuments which are the highlights of this one-time trading port and dynastic capital. Mahabalipuram today is a sleepy town but the legacy of the past is rich and the temples and rock carvings here are outstanding for their craftsmanship and sheer beauty. Overnight in Mahabalipuram.
Day 5: Head south and drive to Pondicherry, a former French colony and as such quite different in atmosphere and culture to the surrounding areas. Although the French left Pondicherry more than half a century ago, the city retains a strong Gallic feel. Rooftop restaurants serving a variety of excellent continental dishes, superb bakeries and wonderful cafes are all testimony to the lasting continental influence. In the afternoon you will have time to explore the French Quarter on foot and later spend some time in the Tamil Quarter which is far more 'Indian' in feel and home to some superb shops and boutiques. Overnight in Pondicherry.
Day 6: Continue south and inland to Tanjore, site of one of south India's most spectacular temples. Tour the temple, palace and art gallery with a local guide and enjoy time by the pool at your hotel later in the day. Overnight in Tanjore.
Day 7: A short drive from Tanjore to the Chettinad district of Tamil Nadu which is famous for its ornate mansions and equally unique and spectacular cuisine. This will be your base for the next 2 Days with plenty of time to explore the villages, observe the local craft of tile making, visit the markets and even join in cooking a meal or two. While here you will stay in one of the spectacular 40,000 square foot homes owned by a local family. Overnight in Kannudakathan, Chettinad.
Day 8: Plenty of options for the day including a bullock cart ride around the village. You may like to have your future predicted by the rather unusual method known as 'parrot astrology' in which a specially trained parrot selects a card from a Tarot-like deck and this is then interpreted by the fortune teller. The unique cuisine of Chettinad is a major focus for visitors here- richer and including more meat than most Tamil food, the Chettinad style is famous throughout India with many restaurants the length of the country offering Chettinad dishes. But here at the source of the style you can experience this wonderful food in its purest form- spicy but not hot, with complex combinations of flavours making every dish distinct and unforgettable. Overnight in Kannudakathan, Chettinad.
Day 9: Madurai is the next stop on the itinerary- it is a mix of modern commercial centre and ancient pilgrimage site, melded together into a compelling whole. The emphasis of your time here is on the major sights- Meenakshi Temple and Tirumalai Nayak Palace but there will also be time to visit some of the multitude of bazaars and the flower and vegetable markets. Overnight in Madurai.
Day 10: eparting Madurai and heading west towards Kerala, you will drive through lush agricultural areas and the Spice Market at Theni which is one of the largest in South India. After a short but steep ascent of the Western Ghats, Periyar is reached by lunchtime. Spend time in the afternoon touring a spice garden and seeing the origin of many of the condiments we take for granted in our kitchens at home. Overnight in Periyar.
Day 11: Head back down the hills towards the Keralan midlands, reaching Kanjirapally for lunch. Your accommodation here will be at an estate bungalow on a plantation, and surrounded by planted areas of rubber, coffee, cocoa and vanilla. With delicious meals prepared from locally grown ingredients this is another culinary delight in a trip studded with them. Overnight in Kanjirapally.
Day 12: Descend from the hills to Alleppey and board a houseboat for an afternoon cruise with lunch on board. Enjoy the scenery as it slips by, and later disembark the boat for a night spent at a resort or homestay adjacent to the backwaters where you can enjoy wonderful Keralan food; overnight near Alleppey.
Day 13: Spend some time around your accommodation, exploring the region further, before heading back to the mainland and driving 2 hours to Fort Cochin, south India's most important trading port for more than 500 years. Here you can spend the afternoon on a guided tour of the historic areas of Fort Cochin and Mattancherry covering elements as diverse as India's oldest synagogue and attendant Jewish area (Jewtown), the Dutch Fort and St Francis Church- all testimony to the vast range of influences brought to bear on Cochin over the years. Overnight in Fort Cochin
Day 14: Morning visit to the fish market and later to the home of Mrs Nimmy Paul a renowned Keralan Chef. Enjoy a traditional "Sadhya" served on a banana leaf, an extensive meal usually served at weddings and other festivals. Nimmy will explain the traditions and history behind the dishes. During the afternoon Nimmy will lead a cooking demonstration in which you can participate in preparation of a special dinner. Overnight in Cochin.
Day 16: Free day in Cochin and evening transfer to the airport for departure.