Culinary Tour Of South India
This culinary tour across South India will help introduce you to the variety of cuisines across Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Most Indian restaurants around the world serve a hybrid of mostly North Indian cuisines, with Punjabi styles dominating. The food in the south of India is almost completely different. Traditionally there was no wheat in this part of the country, and almost everything was based around rice (in Tamil Nadu) and fish and coconut in Kerala. Things have evolved (consider,....
for example, that 500 years ago there were no tomatoes or potatoes outside South America) but the dishes you’ll eat in this part of India are truly unique. We’re sure you’ll love learning about the role of food in South Indian culture. And eating it as well!
Day 1 - Arrival in Chennai
You’ll be met on arrival in Chennai and assisted with the transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Chennai.
Day 2 - Chennai
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 Tamil 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, spices, chutneys and condiments served with mountains of rice and an array of breads and rice-flour concoctions, traditionally served on a banana leaf. 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 - Chennai – Kanchipuram – Mahabalipuram
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 make 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 - Mahabalipuram
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 - Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry
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, 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 - Pondicherry- Tanjore
Continue south and inland to Tanjore, site of one of south India's most spectacular temples. Visit the temple as the sun is setting for a truly unforgettable sight. Overnight in Tanjore.
Day 7 - Tanjore - Chettinad
Head to the village of Alangudi early in the morning for a 5-hour long tour-de-force of village walks! This is one of the best rural tourism initiatives we’ve found anywhere, and is a superb opportunity to explore a traditional way of life. At the end of 2-3 hours of walking, meeting people and seeing agricultural practices at close quarters, head to your hosts’ home for a cooking demonstration and lunch. Later drive around 2 hours 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 two day 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 Chettinad.
Day 8 - Chettinad
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 offering Chettinad dishes. But here at the source of the style you can experience this wonderful food in its purest form- spicy and delicious but not hot, with complex combinations of flavours making every dish distinct and unforgettable. Overnight in Chettinad.
Day 9 - Chettinad - Madurai
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. Our Madurai team offers a bespoke ‘food safari’ tour which many people regard as a highlight of their time in South India- visit local restaurants with one of our Madurai crew and sample the best food (street food is included as well) on offer in Madurai. Overnight in Madurai
Day 10 - Madurai – Periyar
Departing 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. Overnight in Periyar.
Day 11 - Periyar- Kanjirapally
Head back down the hills towards the Keralan midlands, reaching Kanjirapally for lunch. Kerala cooking includes lots of coconut and spices. 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 South Indian meals prepared from locally grown ingredients this is another culinary delight in a trip studded with them. Overnight in Kanjirapally.
Day 12 - Kanjirapally- Alleppey
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 - Alleppey - Cochin
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 Jewish area (Jew town), 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 - Cochin
Morning visit to the fish market and later to the home of Mrs. Nimmy Paul a renowned Keralan Chef. Enjoy a traditional Hindu food "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 15 - Cochin
Free day in Cochin and evening transfer to the airport for departure