Southern India from coast to coast in style
Travel through southern India with a little extra comfort and style, whilst visiting some of the world’s most colourful and enriching destinations. This trip takes in the verdant surroundings of Ooty and Coonoor, the wildlife of Bandipur National Park, typical temple architecture at Kanchipuram, the hill stations and Toy Train of the Nilgiri Hills and the tropical coastline, backwaters and beaches of the Malabar Coast. All this is enhanced by southern India's legendary warmth, charm and mouth-watering local cuisine.
All breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 dinners included. India is famous for its food and there is ample chance to try various curries such as the familiar tandoori, biriyani and rogan josh. But there are other specialities and Western dishes available too. In addition there are wonderful desserts and excellent beers, soft drinks and Indian specialities such as lassi, a refreshing yoghurt drink. You should allow at least £15 (approx. US$20) per day for lunch and dinner. You can eat out very cheaply in India, but if you go to the more expensive restaurants most of the time, you will spend more than the suggested amount. If you are a vegetarian, India is probably one of the best destinations to travel to. Tea and soft drinks are very cheap. A large bottle of beer is approximately £3 (approx. US$4). Mineral water is available in 20ltr containers in the bus, so please bring a water bottle with you to refill. Please note that service in restaurants can be quite slow.
Flights usually depart London in the evening. **
On arrival in Chennai those on group flight arrangements will be transferred to our hotel in Mahabalipuram (approx. 1.5 - 2 hrs drive, 60km). Those clients not travelling on the group flight make their own way to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax. *Comfortable Hotel*
This part of Tamil Nadu was once known as the Coromandel Coast. It has a language over 2,000 years old and poetry dating back to before the birth of Christ. It also boasts some of the most remarkable temple architecture in India, and with a living tradition of music and dance, is culturally very rich. In the morning we visit the rock cut caves and temples at Mahabalipuram. Occupying a stunning position on a rocky outcrop between the beach and a lagoon, the port was made famous by the Pallava dynasty in the 7th century. There are numerous cave temples, monolithic carved shrines in the shape of chariots, stone temples and relief sculptured rock panels all dating back to the 7th century. Carving in stone is still a living art here and we will see stonemasons chipping away from dawn till dusk along the busy roadside, practising the skills that flourished centuries ago. The afternoon is free to enjoy the beach and local area. *Comfortable Hotel*
In the morning we drive to Kanchipuram, one of Hinduism's seven most sacred cities, 'the Golden City of a Thousand Temples'. Dating from the early Chola dynasty in the second century there are still about 70 temples in the town. We visit some of the most impressive, including the Ekambaresvara Temple with its Thousand Pillared Hall and the Kailasanatha Temple, considered to be the most beautiful of the town's temples (please note some temples remain closed from 11:30–15:30). Later in the day we drive to Chennai. (Total driving time approx. 2 to 3 hrs, 70km) *Comfortable Hotel*
In the early morning we take the express train to Mysore via Bangalore (approx. 7 hrs). We arrive at lunch time and transfer to our hotel. *Comfortable Hotel*
Mysore is the city of royal palaces, sandalwood and the manufacture of incense sticks; it is the former capital of the princely state and is Karnataka's second largest city. Today we have a sightseeing tour of Mysore and its surroundings. Just outside of Mysore is Srirangapatnam the capital of Haider Ali and his famous son, Tipu Sultan. Tipus' famous battles against both the French and the British are depicted in the murals on the walls of his delightful summer palace. Ruins of the Fort and the Gumbaz, the family mausoleums are also here. Returning to Mysore we spend the afternoon exploring the beautifully restored City Palace. Designed by Henry Irwin and built in 1897, it is a remarkable building with domes, arches and colonnades of carved pillars and shiny marble floors. The stained glass, wall paintings, ivory inlaid doors and ornate golden throne are all remarkable. The rest of the day is free to wander round the bazaar. *Comfortable Hotel*
Today we drive to Bandipur National Park (80km, approx. 2 to 3 hrs), in the afternoon we take a jungle safari. The park stretches over 874 square kilometers, protecting the wildlife of Karnataka, hopefully you will see Gaur (Indian bison), wild elephant and Sambars. *Comfortable Hotel*
If possible this morning there will be an optional visit to an elephant feeding centre, we then drive to Ooty (80km, approx. 2 to 3 hrs drive) in the state of Tamil Nadu. Ootacamund (2286m), or 'Snooty Ooty' is queen of the southern hill stations and was a refuge for British Officials and tea planters in Southern India. We will visit the Botanical Gardens which contain over 1,000 varieties of plants, shrubs and trees including orchids, ferns and alpines set amidst beautiful lawns. There should also be time to visit the nearby St. Stephen's church or wander around the bazaar and maybe try some of the locally made chocolate before driving down to Coonoor where our hotel is located (17km, approx. 30 mins drive). *Comfortable Hotel*
This could be Ooty's twin, but Coonoor with its distinctive charm is different. Mist-clad Nilgiri hills, the bright green of the tea estates contrasting sharply against the red poinsettias and quaint bungalows that speak stories of what this was. It was once home to the Coons tribe, and possibly that's where the name comes from. Famous for its verdant surroundings and for a variety of wildflowers and birds today is free to soak up the atmosphere of this hill station, possibly taking a walk through tree plantations or ride the famous toy train (Nilgiri Mountain Railway), one of the oldest mountain railways in India and a UNESCO World heritage site. From Coonoor to Ooty is a delightful one-hour train journey (please be aware that this isn't always possible if there are bad weather conditions or if they have technical problems with the train). *Comfortable Hotel*
A long drive today (265km, approx. 8 to 10 hrs) as we leave the Niligiri Hills and drive towards the coast. We leave Tamil Nadu and enter Kerala; the road winds down through forested hillsides and this journey is one of the most scenic in South India giving superb views of the plains below. Late in the afternoon we arrive in Cochin (Kochi) which is set on the Malabar, or 'Pepper Coast', and is one of South India's most interesting towns and is believed to have been the first European settlement in India. Rich in history despite recent growth it retains a relaxed, quiet atmosphere. Narrow spits of land and coconut covered islands jut out into the wide, almost enclosed bay whose neck is lined with the famous Chinese fishing nets. *Comfortable Hotel*
In the morning we tour the harbour area by boat and explore Fort Kochi, believed to be the earliest European settlement in India, founded by the Portuguese in 1503. There will be a guided tour of the Mattancherry Palace built by the Portuguese as a gift for the Raja of Kochi, the Jewish synagogue dating from 1568 and St Francis church. The afternoon is free for individual sightseeing. Most people choose to return to Fort Kochi by ferry and wander around its fascinating streets. A very pleasant lunch of 'fish and chips' is available by the shore. You can buy your fish directly from the fisherman and have it cooked at one of the many adjacent cafes. *Comfortable Hotel*
We head for Alleppey (65km, approx.1 to 2 hrs drive) to board our deluxe houseboats for an overnight stay. We board around noon and begin our cruise along the backwaters of Kerala. This is one of the highlights of the trip - these enchanting houseboats, built of Anjili wood and bamboo were the traditional method of transport of goods for hundreds of years. Now they have been decorated and made into comfortable cruise boats. The network of rivers, streams, lagoons and canals occupies the alluvial plain between the Western Ghats and the Indian Ocean. As our boat meanders through areas of lush tropical vegetation we have the opportunity to view not only the prolific bird life but also gain a differing perspective on village life. The cruise takes us along shallow, palm-fringed canals where coconut fibre and cashews are loaded on to dugouts. In the evening the boat is anchored in the backwaters and we can watch the sunset over the rice paddies. All the houseboats are comfortably equipped and have 2 or 3 twin bedded rooms with bathrooms. There is a cook and boat driver and assistants for each boat and the food served is traditional Keralan fare using local produce. No trip to Kerala would be complete without the wonderful experience of the backwaters aboard these traditional Keralite vessels. *Houseboat*
This morning we leave our houseboat and drive along the scenic Malabar Coast to laid back Varkala with its coffee bars and yoga schools perched along its cliff-top (120km, approx. 3 - 4 hrs drive). The afternoon is free to relax on the beach or by the pool. *Comfortable Hotel*
Today is a free day, you can choose to relax by the pool, stroll along the two beaches or wander around the shops. There are a wide variety of beach shack restaurants for lunch, which serve excellent seafood. Try some of the Tandoori dishes - the clay ovens give a more authentic taste to breads and curries. *Comfortable Hotel*
Those on the flight inclusive package will depart early this morning, from Trivandrum airport, for the daytime flight back to London; those on Land Only arrangements will finish after check-out from the hotel. **
* All breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 dinners included * All accommodation * Transfer for group flights
An amazing insight of Southern Indian life, culture, wildlife, transport, travel, beautiful beaches, luxury hotels, excellent food. Every day was a new adventure. My memories will always be of lovely, friendly, open hearted, colourful, vibrant people of this wonderfully diverse country.
A thoroughly enjoyable trip to South India using premium hotels and at a leisurely pace (although still plenty of early starts and not nearly as much free time as suggested in trip notes). I am generally reluctant to leave lengthy reviews of our Exodus trips as I complete the Exodus survey at conclusion of the trip and can't really be bothered repeating myself on an online review. However as I always read the reviews before booking an Exodus trip I now realise that I really should help other travellers by leaving my review. This trip starts at Chennai airport for those travelling on the group flights from London. After battling with Indian beaurocracy and queues at immigration there is then a 2-3 hour drive to Mahabalipuram where we stayed for 2 nights. The Chariot Beach Hotel was lovely although most Exodus rooms had a scenic view of the car park rather than sea view. Rather than spending the rest of the day relaxing our guide decided to take us sightseeing to view lighthouse and butterball before returning to the hotel for a group dinner. Day 2 was spent sightseeing in the morning with a short break in the afternoon at the hotel before more sightseeing then dinner at a local fish restaurant. Day 3 had a fairly early start for the journey back to Chennai via temples at Kanchipuram and a comfort break at a silk weaver/shop. We stopped for lunch at a roadside transport cafe and arrived back in Chennai late afternoon with time for a quick swim in the rooftop pool of JP Hotel. Day 4 started with a very early wake up call as we had a long train journey from Chennai to Mysore. The train journey took 7 hours but we were well looked after. The hotel provided a breakfast box then on the train we were served breakfast, mid morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack plus a bottle of water and free newspapers - British Rail take note! In Mysore we stayed at Windflower Resort & Spa for 2 nights. All the rooms were located around a stagnant pool and this was the only location on the trip where we suffered from insects in our rooms (a huge cockroach and lots of small insects) and disappointing food in the hotel restaurant. We did lots of sightseeing in Mysore and managed a short trip to the bazaar before meeting for dinner on Day 4 but didn't get any free time in Mysore on Day 5 as suggested in trip notes. Day 6 saw us travel from Mysore to Bandipur National Park for 1 night at Bandipur Jungle Lodge. The accommodation was fairly basic but nice and clean. We had a game drive late afternoon on Day 6 and then a further game drive on Day 7. Unfortunately our entire group was taken out in a large, noisy bus type vehicle and I'm sure that the size and noise of this scared all the animals away as we saw very few animals or birds during the two drives. The NP guides were quite poor at spotting wildlife - when birds were spotted it was usually by some of the group. We didn't see any elephants or tigers although were told that there had been previous sightings of both by previous groups. Several times we drove to particular points in the NP and were told that a tiger had been spotted there the previous week but clearly the tiger hadn't been told that we were coming and hadn't waited to see us. We left for Conoor after our morning game drive on Day 7. There was no opportunity to visit the elephant feeding station as mentioned in the trip notes and I can only assume that the second game drive put paid to this activity. The drive was interesting as we climbed up to the hill station and we were disappointed that the guide made no attempt to stop the bus at one of the many viewpoints to let us take photos of the view or the tea plantations. We stopped at a local fast food restaurant in Ooty for a late lunch on the way to Conoor but had no free time or opportunity for sightseeing before the bus left again for Conoor where we stayed at the Gateway hotel. On Day 8 our first stop was at a tea factory which also sold chocolate before the bus then took us down to Ooty and dropped us at the Botanical Gardens. We had time to walk round the gardens but I didn't feel that these were impressive and would happily have given this activity a miss. After the park it was time for lunch except that in order to get tickets for the Toy Train back to Conoor some of us had to queue with the guide for tickets. Once the tickets were eventually purchased there was then no time to go for lunch as Lukas insisted that we were all at the station by 1pm for the train. It was very disappointing that we had no time to visit St Stephen's church or wander round the bazaar and I'm not sure why we couldn't have got the later toy train back to Conoor which would have then given us a couple of hours to enjoy Ooty. On day 9 we had the long drive from Conoor to Cochin. I think everyone was dreading this long journey as previous reviews had commented on this but the updated trip notes did warn that it could take 8-10 hours and once we had made our way down the winding mountain road the main roads were busy but traffic flowed smoothly and, after a stop at a coffee cooperative cafe for lunch, we arrived at Cochin late afternoon to stay at another Gateway Hotel. The hotel gave us a complimentary harbour sunset cruise and then the group headed out for dinner using local Tuktuks for transportation. Day 10 started off with a sail across from the hotel to Fort Kochi where we were met by bus and taken sightseeing. Again the sightseeing took far longer than suggested in the trip notes so we had no free afternoon for individual sightseeing and certainly no opportunity to eat fish caught by the local fishermen. In the evening we were taken by bus back over to Fort Kochi to watch a local cultural show and then for a group meal at a local restaurant. On the way back to the hotel we happened to come upon a local festival with elephants, musicians and music which was a very noisy, colourful spectacle. On day 11 we drove from Cochin to Alleppey to board our houseboat. This was a very comfortable experience although the houseboat was not luxurious with threadbare towels and patched bedlinen but the food was of a high standard and airconditioning made things much more comfortable at night when the boat was moored. The backwater cruise finished after a short sail of an hour back to the boat mooring then we transferred by coach to Varkala, arriving late afternoon after stops for morning coffee and lunch so, once again, the free afternoon promised in the trip notes failed to materialise. We met up again as a group to walk along the clifftop path at sunset before eating dinner in a local restaurant. Day 13 was our final day together as a group and we all did our own thing. Some people took the opportunity to sunbathe at the hotel pool, others to shop for souvenirs at the numerous stalls that line the clifftop path. We met up as a group at sunset for our final group meal before all heading off in separate directions on Day 14.
We loved the tour, which was greatly enhanced by our fabulous leader San. Everyday was pretty much filled with varied activities, you must be prepared for some early starts and long journeys. Most lunches and evening meals were done as a group (optional), on the leaders recommendations, which were usually very good venues and excellent value for money. The standard of accommodation throughout was very good, sometimes exceptionally good. The local people were very friendly, polite and a joy to meet. We always felt safe, except the chaotic roads can be a challenge to your sanity!
The trip encapsulated the culture, landscape, scenery,architecture, cuisine, people of S.India, wildlife. So diverse, so enjoyable and comfortable accommodation at the end of a busy day.
A thoroughly memorable experience enhanced by an excellent guide and interesting fellow travellers
My wife and I chose this premium trip because we thought it would be a gentle introduction to India. We were not disappointed. The hotels were very comfortable; the food was good; the travelling was not too hard; and the towns, while busy, were manageable. Although most people remain poor, there was little "in your face" extreme poverty.
4th trip to India, bit of a different world in the South, probably go back North next time.
This trip offers a broad variety of experiences and a good introduction to the country for India virgins, without being too in your face or overwhelming.
We chose this trip because the itinerary was interesting and varied and it more than lived up to our expectations in every respect. We have been on lots of Exodus holidays and this was our first "Premium" holiday. It ranks as one of the best we've done.
An amazing trip giving you a wonderful taste of South India at a leasurly space but managing to pack in a wealth of experiences. The hotels were of very good standard and the choice of food available would cater for every palate. Simply an excellent trip with a wealth of experiences.
You will have the option to book your own flights independently with the operator.
|04-Nov-2018 for 14 Nights||Flight inclusive adult Flight Included||
|05-Nov-2018 for 13 Nights||Land only||
|13-Jan-2019 for 14 Nights||Flight inclusive adult Flight Included||
|14-Jan-2019 for 13 Nights||Land only||
|03-Feb-2019 for 14 Nights||Flight inclusive adult Flight Included||
|04-Feb-2019 for 13 Nights||Land only||
|07-Apr-2019 for 14 Nights||Flight inclusive adult Flight Included||
|08-Apr-2019 for 13 Nights||Land only||
|20-Oct-2019 for 14 Nights||Flight inclusive adult Flight Included||
|21-Oct-2019 for 13 Nights||Land only||
|03-Nov-2019 for 14 Nights||Flight inclusive adult Flight Included||
|04-Nov-2019 for 13 Nights||Land only||
|15-Dec-2019 for 14 Nights||Flight inclusive adult Flight Included||
|16-Dec-2019 for 13 Nights||Land only||
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