"Animals in natural habitat, national parks, local communities, waterfalls and rivers....This trip has it all, god bless you India!"
Journey through India's sultry southern states on this exploratory three-week tour. Along the way, see some of the country’s finest architecture, from exquisite Hindu temples to elegant and grandiose colonial buildings, stay at charming old hill stations and visit magnificent Maharaja’s palaces. Indulge in some unparalleled wildlife watching at important nature reserves, explore the famous backwaters of Kerala by boat and spend a blissful couple of days relaxing on stunning golden beaches. Treat your taste buds with delicious regional dishes and appreciate the breath-taking scenery on this trip into India’s deep South.
Your unforgettable tour begins in the old port city of Kochi, where the smell of spices and tea hangs heavy in the air, and the streets are filled with rickety old bikes and colourful hand-painted trucks. Travel to Ootacamund, a hill station famed for its Botanical gardens, before venturing east into Karnataka to visit the majestic palaces of Mysore. Admire stunning temples at Belur and Halebid before taking the train to the bustling metropolis of Chennai. After a glimpse of modern life in India, Periyar National Park is a nature-lovers dream, whilst Thekkady’s spice markets provide a real sensory sensation! The tour concludes with an enchanting houseboat cruise along Kerala’s shimmering backwaters and a relaxing stay on Kovalam’s tropical beaches.
Active India Holidays are local operators and, as such, have seen first-hand the benefits that tourism can bring to some of India’s most remote regions. They understand that tourism often helps to alleviate poverty and develop communities and, as part of the global tourism industry, acknowledge that they too have a crucial role to play in providing commercial benefits and financial impetus in local communities. The company is conscious of both the negative and positive impacts its operations potentially have within sensitive environments and communities, particularly in the Himalayas where most of Active India’s trekking and adventure operations are conducted.
To ensure that they operate in as responsible a way as possible, Active India trains all of its tour leaders and support staff on sustainability practices. One example is their ‘Leave no Trace’ policy, which ensures that campsites and trails are left free from any waste. The company even extends this policy to include the waste left by travellers who have come before them, collecting and disposing of any extra rubbish in a safe manner. Active India hopes to contribute towards building a tourism industry that brings pleasure to travellers whilst also constructing a future for the local people and places that the industry depends on.
Arrival in Kochi: Arrive at Kochi’s international airport and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy a free day of relaxation or exploration!
Kochi: Visit Fort Kochi, thought to be the earliest European settlement in India. A sensory feast awaits, with busy streets full of colourful trucks and rickety bikes, and lime-washed warehouses brimming with the smells of spices and tea. Enjoy some afternoon sightseeing, with visits to the Mattancherry Palace (built as a gift for the Raja of Kochi by the Portuguese), the 16th century Jewish synagogue and St. Francis Church. Wander through the town’s bazaars and old harbour area and, in the evening, watch a classical Kathakali dance display (optional).
Kochi – Ootacamund: Leave Kerala behind you as you enter the state of Tamil Nadu. The road up to Coonoor is one of South India’s most scenic, winding up through forested hillsides to provide fantastic views of the lower plains. Known as ‘the Queen of Hill Stations’, Ootacamund is situated in the heart of the Nilgiri hills, surrounded by tumbling waterfalls, bubbling brooks and green tea gardens. Upon your arrival, check in to your hotel before exploring the beautiful surrounding area.
Ootacamund: Visit the Botanical Gardens, containing around 650 different species of plants and trees, before continuing to the Rose Garden. Spread over 10 acres, this beautiful terraced garden has India’s largest collection of rose species (around 3,600 varieties). Later, visit the man-made Ooty Lake and the district’s highest point, Doddabetta Peak. At an altitude of 2,623 metres, this is the best vantage point in the area!
Ootacamund – Mysore via Mudumalai and Bandipur: After breakfast, enjoy the scenic journey to Mysore. The route winds down through Nilgiri Hills back to the plains, and you’ll drive through the Mudumalai and Bandipur National Parks to cross the state border from Tamil Nadu to Karnataka. Along the way, there’s the chance you’ll spot deer, monkeys and elephants! Upon your arrival in Mysore, check in to your hotel before visiting the temple dedicated to Durga on top of Chaumundi Hill. As you take the road up to the temple, stop to admire the giant stone Nandi bull which was carved from one single piece of granite in 1659.
Mysore: Famed for its alluring temples and beautiful crafts, Mysore is the location for today’s sightseeing programme. Drive to Srirangapatna to visit Dariya Daulat, a palace located on a scenic river island. Return to Mysore to visit the Palace of the Maharaja (Emperor), where you’ll admire the harmonious blend of Hindu and Saracenic architecture in archways, domes, colonnades and sculptures.
Mysore – Hassan: Take a morning drive to Hassan, checking in to your hotel upon arrival. Next, enjoy an excursion to Belur and Halebid to explore their temples carved with scripts taken from Hindu mythology. Admire the statues of Hindu deities in the fantastically detailed Hoysalesvara Temple in Halebid before proceeding to the famous Chennakesava temple at Belur, renowned for its sculptures and architecture. Return to your hotel in Hassan for an evening of relaxation.
Hassan – Bangalore – Chennai: After breakfast, drive to Bangalore via Sravanabelagola, a holy city famous for its huge 18-metre Jain colossus. This statue of Gomateshwara, situated atop Vindhyagiri Hill, is said to be the world’s tallest and most elegant monolithic statue, and is visited daily by hundreds of pilgrims. Continue to Bangalore, Karnataka’s capital, where you’ll transfer to the railway station to board the train to Chennai. Arriving late in the evening, you’ll transfer immediately to your hotel.
Chennai – Mahabalipuram via Kanchipuram: After breakfast, take a sightseeing tour of India’s fourth-largest city, Chennai (formerly known as Madras). Visit the Kapaleeswarar Temple, the San Thom Cathedral and the National Art Gallery as you explore Tamil Nadu’s state capital. Next, drive to one of India’s seven holy cities, Kanchipuram, which is famed for its hand-woven silk sarees. Visit the exquisitely-carved Kailasanathar Temple and Kamakshi Amman Temple before driving to your hotel in Mahabalipuram for check-in.
Mahabalipuram: Take a sightseeing tour of Mahabalipuram, which was once the main port and naval base of the Pallava Kingdom. Note the simplicity of the rock carvings here, which have their origin in folk art. Visit the skilfully carved rock of Arjuna’s Penance, the world’s largest bas-relief sculpture, and ‘The Five Rathas’. These rock-cut monolithic temples have each been created in their own particular style, giving an interesting insight into the art of Dravidian temple construction. Finally, admire the beautiful 8th century Shore Temple, situated on the seashore of the Bay of Bengal.
Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry: Continue your tour in Pondicherry. With its grid-patterned streets and colonial buildings, the town still retains a strong sense of its former French identity. Check into the hotel and enjoy a relaxing lunch before doing some sightseeing in the town. Explore the Sree Aurobindo Ashram, the French Institute and Colony, the Museum and the Church.
Pondicherry – Thanjavur via Kumbakonam: Drive through the lush Kaveri Delta, an area of fertile paddy fields, to reach Thanjavur. En route stop by at Kumbakonam’s famous Darasuram Temple, a great example of 12th century Chola architecture. Continue to Thanjavur, known for its fantastic handicrafts and classical musical instruments, and check in to you hotel.
Thanjavur – Madurai: Pay a morning visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Brihadeeswarar Temple, which dates back to the 10th Century CE and is a brilliant example of Dravidian temple architecture. Proceed to the colourful city of Madurai, one of Tamil Nadu’s oldest and most interesting cities. Famed for its intricate temples, Madurai is a cultural centre with a rich heritage and history. Check in to your hotel and relax for the rest of the day.
Madurai: Visit Madurai’s most famous sight, the Meenakshi Temple. Built between the 16th and 18th centuries, it is one of India’s biggest temple-complexes. The surrounding gopurams are known for their colourful stucco images depicting Gods, Goddesses and various animals. Next, visit the Indo-Mughal style Thirumalai Nayaka Palace – this is the ideal place to experience Hindu culture as you explore the temples and bazaars right in the heart of the city. The evening is free for you to spend at your leisure.
Madurai – Thekkady: Re-enter the state of Kerala as you continue to Thekkady. The morning drive is truly breathtaking – climb through the Western Ghats mountain range and enjoy spectacular views across Tamil Nadu. Arrive in the lively village of Thekkady, where you’ll check into your hotel. The area is a centre for spice cultivation; after lunch, visit a spice garden as well as the bazaar, which has a plethora of shops selling vanilla, cardamom, peppercorns, chillies, turmeric and a host of other spices. A sensory sensation!
Thekkady (Periyar National Park): Depart early in the morning for a jungle walk in the Periyar National Park. Accompanied by forest guides, you’ll see a huge variety of birdlife including kingfishers, storks and horn-bills. Situated around a man-made lake, the park is one of South India’s largest. After the jungle walk, you’ll return to the hotel for breakfast. Later, take an optional boat trip on Periyar Lake and get up-close to nature with the opportunity to spot elephants, buffalo, otters and wild pigs! In the afternoon, you might decide to treat yourself to an Ayurvedic massage.
Periyar – Alleppey: Alleppey, also known as ‘The Venice of the East’, is the main centre for backwater cruises in Kerala. Driving to Alleppey after breakfast, you’ll board a houseboat to begin your cruise. Sail through the winding waterways, discovering a vast network of rivers, canals and lagoons. Enjoy fantastic bird-watching and admire the lush tropical vegetation that surrounds you from the comfort of your enchanting wood and bamboo houseboat. Observe village life on the shore from a unique perspective as you cruise leisurely through Kerala’s beautiful backwaters. Stay overnight in your houseboat in the middle of Vembanad Lake – an unforgettable experience.
Alleppey – Kovalam: After a relaxing and peaceful breakfast aboard the houseboat, you’ll disembark for today’s drive to Kovalam. Here, a rocky promontory on the coconut palm-fringed beach has created a beautifully calm bay of water – ideal for bathing!
Kovalam (optional day tour to Kanyakumari): As you come to the end of your tour, enjoy a free day of rest and relaxation to reflect on your unforgettable trip. Lie on the soft sandy beach and take a dip in the crystal-clear warm waters. Alternatively, take a day’s sightseeing tour of Kanyakumari, India’s southernmost tip. Here, the Indian Ocean meets the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. This trip also includes a visit to a fascinating old wooden palace as well as the Hindu Temple at Suchindram. A delightful end to your tour!
Tour Concludes: Check out of your hotel and transfer to Trivandrum’s international airport for your onward flight.
- The rate shown is a 'from' price per person (on a double sharing basis)
- Please note that supplement charges apply for departures between 20th December and 10th January
- Click 'Ask a Question' up above to speak to the operator directly about this tour's departure dates, availability and costs
- Refunds: 80% refund available until 30 days prior to check-in; 50% refund available 15 days prior to check-in; 25% refund available 6 days prior to check-in; within 5 days of check-in there will be no refund.
- 1 x night on a Houseboat
- Full board meals on the Houseboat
- Guided forest walk at Thekkady
- English speaking monument sightseeing guides at cities
- All land transport
- Government service tax as applicable
- Travel insurance
- Indian visa fees
- Any monument entrance fees
- Flights (domestic/international)
- Any optional activities or services not mentioned in inclusions
- Services of any professional English speaking tour leader/escort during the tour
- Miscellaneous expenses for tips, laundry, drinks, any medical emergencies and souvenirs etc.