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    Kerala Backwaters
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    Colourful temples
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    Detailed carvings
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South India: Temples and Waterways


  • A car with a tick VIP door to door
  • A plate with a knife and fork Half board plus

Journey from coast to coast across South India

India’s tropical south offers a lush contrast to the sun-baked plains of the nation’s north. Look forward to immensely rewarding scenic journeys with views full of rich colour as you travel from the east coast to the west, revealing an unhurried pace of life. Marvel at the detailed carvings of rainbow-coloured Hindu temples, walk though fragrant spice plantations, and drink in the tropical scenery on a houseboat cruise on the tranquil, palm-fringed backwaters of Kerala. A highlight is sure to be South India’s fragrant and varied cuisine, from Kerala’s coconut-infused seafood to Tamil Nadu’s vegetarian dishes of delicious chutneys and condiments. This great value two-week tour is the perfect introduction to South India for both seasoned visitors to India and first-time travellers.

From temples to lush forests, every corner of southern India has something so unique and special, you’ll simply want to come back again!

Ellis Manning, Expert Holiday Creator


Hands shaking Included travel insurance

Bed14 nights in hotels and 1 in flight

Dinner plate29 meals: 14 breakfasts (B), 1 lunch (L) and 14 dinners (D)

PersonSaga tour manager


  • Return flights and transfers
  • Welcome drink reception
  • Porterage at all hotels
  • Tourist visa for full British citizens resident in the UK

MapIncluded excursions and visits

  • City tour of Chennai
  • Explore the monuments of Mahabalipuram
  • Visit Auroville Ashram
  • Tour historic Puducherry
  • Sightseeing in Thanjavur
  • Visit Madurai's flower market and temple
  • Walk in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and a spice garden
  • Cruise the Keralan backwaters by houseboat
  • Visit a Keralan village
  • Live Kathakali dance performance
  • Explore Kochi's old city

HeadphonesUse of audio headsets on guided tours

Flavours of southern India

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local culture and customs is by enjoying the local food. Delightfully diverse and full of spices and delicious flavours, Indian cuisine varies from region to region, with southern Indian dishes usually featuring rice, lentils and fresh coconut. Idlis (steamed rice cakes), dosa (rice pancakes) and kadala curry (a tasty chickpea curry) are all common dishes.

View Full Itinerary

Day 1 UK-Chennai

After taking your VIP door-to-door travel service to the airport, depart on your overnight flight to Chennai.

Day 2 Chennai

Ramakrishna Temple, Chennai

The city, formerly known as Madras – its name was changed in 1996 along with those of many Indian cities – lies on the Bay of Bengal and is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu.

Transfer to the 5-star Taj Connemara (4Q) in Chennai for an overnight stay. Settle in, then enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. D

Day 3 Chennai-Mahabalipuram

Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Chennai

See the highlights of Chennai on a city tour, starting at the Bronze Gallery in the Government Museum. The oldest buildings in the city date back to the 7th century, including the Hindu Kapaleeshwarar Temple, built in ornate Dravidian style. But there are numerous old colonial buildings that reflect the influence of the British up until 1947, including the Central Railway Station. The earlier English fortress – Fort St George – was built in 1644, the first such building in India.

After the tour, transfer to the ancient town of Mahabalipuram (35 miles, 90 minutes) for a two-night stay at the 4-star Taj Fisherman’s Cove Resort & Spa (4Q). B, D

Day 4 Mahabalipuram

Ancient temples at Mahabalipuram

Enjoy your first taste of southern India this morning as you visit this small town set on a peninsular between the Bay of Bengal and the Great Salt Lake.

Mahabalipuram is famous for its 7th and 8th-century temples established by the Pallava Dynasty. The Group of Monuments here, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, comprises the domed Shore Temple dedicated to Shiva and Lord Vishnu, and the ‘Ratha’ cave temples carved from rocks into the shape of chariots, or decorated with incredible bas reliefs. Spend this afternoon at leisure. B, D

Day 5 Mahabalipuram-Puducherry

Auroville Matri Mandir 'Mother'

Transfer to the fascinating former French colony of Puducherry, also known as Pondicherry (60 miles, two hours). Stop en route at the Auroville Ashram to see this ongoing experiment in human unity. This community, eight kilometres outside of Puducherry, was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa, 'the Mother', the former companion and spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo, the influential philosopher and yogi. The community was founded on a concept of human unity through diversity, and today the township has more than 2,000 residents.

Continue to Puducherry for a two-night stay at the 4-star The Residency (4Q). B, D

Day 6 Puducherry

Notre Dame des Anges in Pondicherry

Annexed by the French East India Company Puducherry was largely a French settlement until 1962. Enjoy an included tour of this historic town to admire quaint colonial buildings and boulevards, then take a rickshaw ride through the French and Indian Quarters. The French Quarter was built along the line of the coast on sand dunes. If the elegant, colonial-style buildings that line the wide streets look familiar, it's because it was used as a location for the movie The Life of Pi. As you pass through, admire the colourful yellow, peach and pink hues of the buildings. B, D

Day 7 Puducherry-Thanjavur

The Brihadeeswarar Temple has stood for over 1,000 years

Today, make the long journey to Thanjavur (134 miles, four hours and 30 minutes) pausing en route to see the impressive Chidambaram Temple.

Continue to Thanjavur, home to the Chola dynasty from the 9th-14th centuries, and known for its exquisite handicrafts. Enjoy an afternoon sightseeing tour to see the towering Brihadeeswarar Temple which is over a thousand years old. It ranks as one of the country's largest temples. You’ll also visit the UNESCO-listed Brihadeshwara Temple, completed in 1010 AD, and a beautiful example of Dravidian architecture. 

Stay overnight at the the 3-star Sangam Hotel (3Q). B, D

Day 8 Thanjavur-Madurai

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple

Take a scenic journey to Madurai (108 miles, three hours). En route, drive past the mighty Rock Fort at Trichy, which perches on an 270-foot rocky outcrop said to be older than the Himalayas. You'll visit the towering, eleven-tier Ranganathswamy Temple in Srirangam. It’s the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world.

Stay two nights at the 4-star Taj Madurai (4Q). B, D

Day 9 Madurai

Great Meenaskhi Temple, Madurai

Thrill your senses with an early morning visit to Madurai's colourful and fragrant flower market. The local jasmine – Madurai Maddi – has such a heady perfume that it has been granted a geographical indication mark to protect local growers, with some 490 tonnes grown here annually.

Later visit the Great Meenaskhi Temple, said to house 33,000 sculptures. This vast complex, which extends over 15 acres, dates back at least 2,000 years. Every evening the temple holds a noisy 45-minute closing ceremony which sees an idol of Lord Shiva being carried on a curtained litter to Meenakshi's's temple, and there placed in the inner sanctum with her to pass the night. Finally, explore the Tirumala Nayak Palace, an imposing edifice that encompasses both Dravidian and Rajput architecture. B, D

Day 10 Madurai-Periyar

Periyar lake

After breakfast depart on the long journey to Periyar (87 miles, three hours and 30 minutes), home to India's famous wildlife sanctuary, for a two-night stay at the 5-star Sarovar Poetree (3Q). B, D

Day 11 Periyar

Elephant bathing on southern banks of the Periyar River

Take a walk through Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, in the company of a naturalist, to learn about the rich biodiversity of the region. Head down to the lake to see the herds of elephants and bison who visit to drink. Once the hunting ground of kings, today the area is home to 35 species of mammal and serves as sanctuary to elephants and tigers – it is estimated that today there are just 40 tigers remaining in the 925-square-kilometre National Park. The area is also famous for its spice cultivation, notably cardamom, which you’ll discover on a visit to a spice garden later. B, D

Day 12 Periyar-Kumarakom

Backwaters of Kerala, Vembanad Lake

After breakfast enjoy a scenic journey to Kumarakom (76 miles, three hours and 30 minutes) for a two-night stay at the 4-star Coconut Lagoon (4Q). This heritage hotel sits on the shores of beautiful Vembanad lake and is only accessible by boat. This evocative area is chequered with paddy fields, and provides the perfect habitat for many species of native and migratory birds. B, D

Day 13 Kumarakom

Traditional Indian houseboat on Kerala backwaters

Step on board a Keralan houseboat – or kettuvallam – for a morning cruise around the backwaters, stopping at villages to explore. These giant craft were once used for transporting all manner of goods – rice, spices and passengers. Traditionally made of wood and coir rope – not a single nail is used in their construction – and coated with a resin made from boiled cashew-nut shells, many are still powered by a skilful chap equipped only with a long, stout bamboo pole. Today they are fitted out inside for the comfort of their passengers and equipped with all mod-cons. Relax, enjoy this extraordinary experience with lunch included on board, and absorb the magic of the Keralan backwaters. B, L, D

Day 14 Kumarakom-Kochi

The colourful costume of a Kathakali dancer

Depart for Kochi on the Arabian Sea (40 miles, 90 minutes) for a two-night stay at the the 4-star Crowne Plaza Kochi (4Q).

Tonight you'll be treated to a traditional Kathakali dance performance. This stylised form of dance-drama dates back to the 17th century, actors train for long years to perfect the specialist dance and acting techniques. Expect elaborate face make-up and dazzling costumes! B, D

Day 15 Kochi

Chinese fishing nets at Fort Cochin

This centuries-old cosmopolitan city attracted Arab, Phoenician and Chinese spice traders, and later the Dutch and British established colonies here. Take a heritage tour of Fort Kochi to see the St Francis Church, the Dutch Palace, the Jewish quarter and elaborate Chinese fishing nets, strung out along the peninsula. Look forward to a farewell dinner this evening. B, D

Day 16 Kochi-UK

Check out of your hotel after breakfast, and transfer to the airport for your return flight and included VIP door-to-door travel service home. B

South India: Temples and Waterways