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South India: Temples and Waterways


from £1,899 per person 15 2
Including optional travel insurance or a price reduction of £71 if not required
  • New New holiday
  • VIP travel service VIP door to door
  • Half Board Plus 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!

Kathy Vigolo, Expert Holiday Creator


14 nights in hotels and 1 in flight

31 meals: 14 breakfasts (B), 2 lunches (L) and 14 dinners

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

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 the locally rated 5-star Trident Hotel in Chennai for an overnight stay. The hotel is set within lush gardens and facilities include two restaurants, an outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre and spa (charges apply). There are 167 bedrooms each equipped with air-conditioning, a television, safe, complimentary Wi-Fi, tea and coffee-making facilities, and hairdryer. 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 for a two-night stay at the locally rated 4-star Radisson Blu Resort, Temple Bay. The hotel is set in 44 acres facing the Bay of Bengal, has 144 guest rooms and villas, and is less than two kilometres from the town's monuments and temples. As well as three restaurants and two bars, the hotel has a meandering pool, an infinity pool, two spas, and a pitch-and-putt golf course. Each air-conditioned room has a television, telephone, coffee-making facilities, minibar, and complimentary internet access. 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. 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 locally rated 4-star Hotel Atithi. Situated in the city while just a kilometre from the sea, the hotel’s facilities include two restaurants, bar, coffee shop, rooftop swimming pool, gym and spa (charges apply). Each of the 60 bedrooms is equipped with air-conditioning, television, telephone, safe, hairdryer, and free Wi-Fi. 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

Transfer to Thanjavur 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 locally rated 3-star Sangam Hotel. The hotel has a restaurant, a lounge bar, outdoor swimming pool, and a spa. All 54 air-conditioned rooms have a television, telephone, tea and coffee-making facilities, minibar (extra charge), a safe and a hairdryer. B, D

Day 8 Thanjavur-Madurai

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple

En route to Madurai, drive past the mighty Rock Fort at Trichy, which perches on an 83-metre 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, with the tower reaching 72 metres in height. Relax over an included lunch in a local restaurant.

Stay two nights at the locally rated 4-star Courtyard by Marriott Madurai. The hotel has a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, fitness centre and spa. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available. All 50 rooms have a television, telephone, tea and coffee-making facilities, and a safe. B, L, 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 for Periyar, home to India's famous wildlife sanctuary, for a two-night stay at the locally rated 5-star Elephant Court hotel.

Situated near Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary facilities at the hotel include a restaurant, coffee shop, swimming pool, fitness centre, and spa (charges apply). Each of the 65 rooms features air conditioning, a telephone, television, tea and coffee-making facilities, a safe, hairdryer and free Wi-Fi. 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 for a two-night stay at the locally rated 4-star Coconut Lagoon, a heritage hotel on the shores of beautiful Vembanad lake that 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.

The 52-room hotel has a swimming pool, an ayurvedic spa and guests stay in villas and bungalows dotted around the extensive grounds. The restaurant specialises in Keralan cuisine, there are many vegetarian options served with the locally-grown red rice and freshly caught fish features regularly on the menu. Head for the cocktail bar, or just hang out in a hammock and watch the sunset. All the air-conditioned bungalows are furnished individually and have a television, tea and coffee-making facilities, a hairdryer and a safe. 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 for a two-night stay at the the locally rated 4-star Crowne Plaza Kochi.

This large modern hotel has free Wi-Fi, two restaurants, a grill, coffee shop and a bar. There’s also a fitness centre, outdoor pool and a spa (treatments at extra charge). There are 269 rooms, all with a television, telephone, wired and wireless internet access, bathrobe, minibar and iron and ironing board.

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 door-to-door travel service home. B

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South India: Temples and Waterways


from £1,899 per person 15 2
Including optional travel insurance or a price reduction of £71 if not required