South India is a hot, steaming, colorful mix of untamed nature and mesmerizing culture. This tour will immerse you in some of the more exotic traditions of peninsula India: the art and temples of Tamil Nadu, the flavors and jungles of Kerala, and plenty of chill-out time on the backwaters and in the hills that permeate the region.

Highlights

  • Explore South India's finest Hindu temples
  • Relax in quaint Pondicherry, an ex-French colony
  • Get spiritual at Auroville, a UNESCO-listed ashram
  • Get close to nature in South India's national parks

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive Chennai Chennai
Day 2 Chennai to Mahabalipuram Mahabalipuram
Day 3 Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry Pondicherry
Day 4 Cooking class in Pondicherry Pondicherry
Day 5 Pondicherry to Auroville Pondicherry
Day 6 Pondicherry to Trichy Trichy
Day 7 Trichy to Tanjore to Madurai Madurai
Day 8 Madurai to Periyar National Park Periyar
Day 9 Spice plantations and performance in Periyar Periyar
Day 10 Periyar to mangroves at Kumarakom Kumarakom
Day 11 Backwater cruise of Kumarakom Kumarakom
Day 12 Kumarakom to Cochin Cochin
Day 13 Explore Cochin Cochin
Day 14 Cochin to Wayanad Wayanad
Day 15 Wildlife of Wayanad Wayanad
Day 16 Wayanad to Ooty Ooty
Day 17 Explore Ooty Ooty
Day 18 Ooty to Bangalore  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Chennai

Chennai
Kapaleeshwara temple, Chennai

Arrive in Chennai, the biggest city in South India. After settling into your hotel, take an easy trip to the San Thome Cathedral and the Kapaleeshwara temple, one of the most beautiful temples in India.

Day 2: Chennai to Mahabalipuram, with 7th-century temples

Caption
Caption

Drive south to Mahabalipuram today. This is a coastal village where you can discover magnificent statues along the beach dating from the 7th and 8th centuries when it was the major seaport of the Pallava Kingdom. This village has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, yet has a generally peaceful atmosphere.

Day 3: Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry, a French enclave

Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram

In the morning, head to Pondicherry, one of the finest destinations in South India. It's a rare French enclave in India because although Britain was the main colonial power in India, Pondicherry was a French settlement until 1954. Nowadays, it's a separate Union Territory, although it's surrounded by the large state of Tamil Nadu.

In the afternoon, take a bike ride along the coastline and check out the grand French colonial buildings on one side, and the sweeping sand and sea on the other.

Spend the night in a characterful boutique hotel.

Day 4: Cooking class in Pondicherry

Delicious food in Pondicherry

Today you get to try your hand at cooking some of the delicious South Indian food that you've been enjoying the past few days. Start by shopping for fresh local ingredients at the market, then cook up a storm for a fun-filled day.

Day 5: Pondicherry to Auroville, a spiritual retreat

Pondicherry
Pondicherry

Guided by local people, today you get a chance to explore the unique and fascinating city of Auroville, located 10 km from Pondicherry. It's an international and universal city built for men and women from all over the world to live in peace and progressive harmony. In 1966, UNESCO declared this project to be unique in the world.

One of the purposes of Auroville is to achieve the realization of human unity and to bring about an inner change in the individual. It also aims to be a model community, where constructive solutions to the difficulties faced by humanity can be found.

Return to Pondicherry and enjoy a free afternoon.

Day 6: Pondicherry to Trichy, a famous temple town

Trichy
Trichy

After breakfast, transfer to Trichy by road, a journey that will take you inland to the south-west. The city of Trichy was built around the famous temple Fort Rock, a spectacular monument perched on a huge rock that rises in the middle of the old town.

Day 7: Trichy to Tanjore to Madurai 

A woman worshipping a Ganesh statue at Tanjore
A woman worshipping a Ganesh statue at Tanjore

On the way to Madurai, you will discover the ancient city of Tanjore (also known as Thanjavur), one of India's most important religious centres, built in the 10th century and declared a UNESCO World Heritage. Continue to Madurai, one of the oldest cities in the world, where you will visit the amazing temple of Meenakshi Amman and the palace of Tirumalai.

Day 8: Madurai to Periyar National Park

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

Drive to Periyar, a small village in the mountains of Kerala. Periyar is surrounded by tea and spice plantations and is a must-visit spot, especially for nature lovers.

Day 9: Spice plantations and performance in Periyar

Tea plantations of Periyar
Tea plantations of Periyar

Take a boat ride at lake Periyar and tour Kerala’s finest coffee and spice plantations, such as cardamom, cinnamon, and pepper. Visit Connemara tea factory (around 45 minutes from Periyar), and afterward watch a Kalari display, a form of Keralite martial arts.

Day 10: Periyar to mangroves at Kumarakom

Kumarakom

Travel to Kumarakom, a mangrove paradise surrounded by green fields and coconut trees. Take a boat ride on Lake Vembanad and along the water channels that are full of flowers.

Day 11: Backwater cruise at Kumarakom

Kerala backwaters
Kerala backwaters

Taking a houseboat tour of the backwaters of Kerala is a highlight of any India trip. These boats were once used as rice transportation barges, and have now been kitted out comfortably for cruising. Discover local traditions such as toddy tapping and the lifestyle of the people who live by the canals. This is an unmissable cultural immersion experience.

Day 12: Kumarakom to Cochin 

Chinese fishing nets in Cochin
Chinese fishing nets in Cochin

Fort Cochin (part of Kochi city) is a melting pot of cultures, including Portuguese, Jewish, Dutch, Hindu and even Chinese heritage. Here you can see the iconic Chinese fishing nets, which have been used for centuries. Fort Cochin was founded in 1341 when a flood created a safe harbor for the city and turned it into a major commercial port on the Malabar Coast.

Day 13: Explore the diverse culture of Cochin

Fort Cochin
Fort Cochin

Explore Fort Cochin on foot, visiting Jewtown with the Pardesi Synagogue, Catholic Cathedrals, and the beautiful Chinese fishing nets (especially at sun down).

Day 14: Cochin to Wayanad, back to the hills

The hills of Wayanad
The hills of Wayanad

Drive to Pinangode, the small district headquarters of Wayanad. The site is at the foothills of the Vythiri range, with the majestic Chembra peak to the left and the Banasura/Kuruchermala to the right.  

Enjoy two nights in luxury tents at a coffee farm overlooking a tea plantation. The swift-flowing river is below, and an Adivasi (indigenous) community live on its banks. The property is full of diverse tree and bird species. A pair of Malabar Hornbills have now nested on the property — great for bird watchers!

Day 15: Wildlife of Wayanad

Tea plantations of Wayanad
Tea plantations of Wayanad

Explore wildlife in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. Rich in biodiversity, the sanctuary is an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It has been established with the specific objective of conserving the biological heritage of the region.

The sanctuary is rich in flora and fauna. The management lays emphasis on scientific conservation, with due consideration for the general lifestyle of the Adivasis and others who live in and around the forest.

Day 16: Wayanad to Ooty, a colonial-era hill station

Ooty
Ooty

Ooty, 'Queen of Hill Stations', is a mix of Indian bustle and Hindu temples, with beautiful gardens. The journey up here is very romantic and scenic.

Day 17: Explore Ooty town or take a hike

Nilgiri Hills
Nilgiri Hills

Day to explore in Ooty, or take a day hike in the Nilgiri Hills to see tea plantations, Adivasi communities, and stunning views of the green landscape.

Day 18: Ooty to Bangalore

Bangalore
Bangalore

As the largest hub in the area, transfer to Bangalore to take a flight elsewhere in India, fly home, or enjoy a few days in the city. Bangalore is known as the garden city because of its pretty parks and abundant greenery. It's also an affluent IT hub, so the modern comforts of this city attract many visitors.