"Nature at it's best, going from Bengal tigers and Indian elephants to cascading waterfalls and tropical vegetation - Classic South India has it all"
From exquisite temples and holy shrines to wildlife reserves and beautiful beaches, this classic South Indian tour gives you a vivid introduction to some of the region’s most stunning sights. The two-week itinerary takes you through the tropical southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, from the eastern Coromandel Coast to the Malabar Coast in the west. Visit quaint old hill stations in the lush green Western Ghats mountain range, marvel at picture-perfect palaces and discover the beautiful backwaters and winding waterways of Kerala. Before delving into the region’s natural heart, gain an insight into modern life in India as you explore Chennai, a bustling metropolis and one of the country’s biggest cities.
Visit ancient temples in the towns of Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram before journeying continuing by train through Bangalore to beautiful Mysore. Famed for its fine crafts including printed silks and inlaid furniture, it’s certainly no eyesore… Its spectacular Palace of the Maharaja, for instance, offers a delicate blend of Hindu and Saracenic architectural styles. Moving from man-made wonders to natural ones, you’ll enjoy an exhilarating wildlife safari at Bandipur National Park, before admiring the hill station scenery of green tea plantations and thick forests. Finally, take an enchanting cruise through Kerala’s charming backwaters before concluding your tour in the laid-back beach resort of Varkala.
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 Chennai: Arrive at Chennai’s international airport and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy a free day of relaxation or exploration!
Chennai – Mahabalipuram: After breakfast, take a sightseeing tour of India’s fourth-largest city, Chennai. Visit the Kapaleeswarar Temple, the San Thom Cathedral and the National Art Gallery as you explore Tamil Nadu’s state capital. Later, drive to Mahabalipuram and admire its beautiful Shore Temple. Note the simplicity of the rock carvings, which have an origin in folk art.
Mahabalipuram – Kanchipuram – Chennai: Visit five rock-cut monolithic temples in the morning. Each has been created in its own particular style, giving an interesting insight into the art of Dravidian temple construction. Visit the 8th century Shore Temple situated on the seashore of the Bay of Bengal, before driving to the ‘Golden City of One Thousand Temples’ – Kanchipuram. Visit the exquisitely-carved Kailasanathar Temple, and observe its numerous shrines. Finally, visit the Kamakshi Amman Temple before continuing your drive to Chennai.
Chennai – Bangalore – Mysore: After breakfast, leave early for the railway station where you’ll board the train to Bangalore. One of India’s main centres of commerce, Bangalore is the capital of Karnataka. Upon your arrival, you’ll board a vehicle to continue with a drive to Mysore. Arriving late in the evening, you’ll check into your hotel immediately.
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. Continuing your sightseeing tour, travel up Chaumundi Hill to visit a temple, passing by the giant granite Nandi bull en route.
Mysore – Bandipur: After breakfast, continue your trip with a visit to the stunning Bandipur National Park. One of India’s most popular reserves, Bandipur has a rich variety of flora and fauna and is a dedicated Tiger Reserve. In the afternoon, enjoy a jungle safari for some amazing wildlife-watching!
Bandipur – Coonoor via Ootacamund: Drive to the hill resort of Ootacamund (Ooty), in the state of Tamil Nadu. 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. Visit the Botanical Gardens, containing around 650 different species of plants and trees, before continuing to the Rose Garden. Spread over 10 acres, this garden has India’s largest collection of rose species (around 3,600 varieties). If there’s time, you might also visit the Ooty Lake or the Doddabetta Peak before driving to Coonoor.
Coonoor: Surrounded by tea plantations at an altitude of 1,839 metres, Coonoor is the second biggest hill station in the Nilgiris and is renowned for its lush green surroundings and abundance of wildflowers and birds. Explore the tea plantations by foot or, alternatively, take a ride on the famous toy train of The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of India’s oldest mountain railways.
Coonoor – Kochi: After an early breakfast, depart from Coonoor, and the state of Tamil Nadu, for a long drive to the picturesque state of Kerala. The drive is stunningly scenic, winding through forested hillsides and offering fantastic views of the plains below. In the late afternoon, arrive in Kochi, an old port city whose cosmopolitan character is reflected in its grand colonial buildings.
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. Immerse yourself in the town of Kochi, wandering through its bazaars and old harbour area. In the evening, take the opportunity to watch a classical Kathakali dance display (optional).
Kochi – Alleppey: After breakfast, take a short drive to ‘the Venice of the East’. Alleppey is the main centre for backwater cruises in Kerala and, upon your arrival, you’ll board a houseboat to begin such a 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 – Varkala: Enjoy a leisurely breakfast aboard your houseboat before embarking on a drive along the scenic Malabar coast. Arrive at tranquil Varkala, a famous beach resort, where you'll be greeted by yoga schools and clifftop coffee bars.
Varkala: Discover peaceful Varkala with visits to Papanasam Beach, Anjengo Fort and Janardhana Swami Temple. For lunch, enjoy excellent seafood or typical Indian cuisine at one of many beachside restaurants. Try a Tandoori dish; made in a clay oven, the breads and curries have a truly authentic and delicious taste.
Tour Concludes: Check out of your hotel and transfer to Trivandrum’s international airport to board your onward flight.
- The rate shown is a 'from' price per person (on a double sharing basis)
- 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.
- Breakfasts (and full board meals during the Houseboat stay)
- 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.