The tour of Southern India covers the three most southerly states; Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, witnessing the contrasting scenery and cultural differences in each state.
The tour starts in Chennai in Tamil Nadu, located on the Eastern coast, then drive south to Pondicherry the former French department, the town is divided into two parts(Former French and Tamil), with delicious French influenced local cuisine. From here to the famous temple towns to visit the ancient Hindu temples open to non -Hindus and witness the fascinating ceremonies un -changed for centuries.
From Madurai travel over the scenic Western Ghat Mountains to Kerala, breaking the journey in Thekkady to visit Periyar National park. Descend the hills into Kerala to stay on the backwaters, a vast network of lakes and canals, Lake Vembanad is the longest lake in India, here you will stay in a home stay on a quiet backwater, here a canoe can be taken to explore the backwaters, this will provide a fascinating insight into Keralan rural life.
A short drive to Fort Cochin, Kerala’s second city, with many interesting historical buildings dating from the Dutch, Portuguese and British settlers, also a busy working harbour and Naval base. From Cochin to Dewalokham home stay in the countryside, this lovely property overlooks a river and has an organic spice farm. From Angamali a train journey to Coimbatore.
A night in Mettupalam before travelling on the famous hill train that ascends the Nilgiri Hills from Mettupalayam to Ooty. Leave the train in Coonoor, where the steam train finishes and spends two days in the scenic town of Coonoor surrounded by tea estates. The final destination is the city of Mysore, with the City Palace, the bustling Deveraja market and nearby fort and Summer palace at Siringapatnum. The city of Bangalore is four hours drive from Mysore with direct flights from the UK.
Met on arrival, depending on arrival time either transfer to The Trident hotel, located ten minutes from the airport . After breakfast leave for Pondicherry, the drive takes about three hours. You will pass the town of Mahabalipuram, famous for the Shore temple, a World heritage site.
Pondicherry is easy to explore on foot, visit the Joubert market in the Tamil quarter, also the churches and temples. There is a large public beach and esplanade with a Gandhi statue.
Stay at Palais de Mahe in the French quarter or Maison Perumal a small heritage property, both run by the excellent CGH earth Group, located in the Tamil quarter.
A day to explore Pondicherry, this charming town with the old French quarter and Tamil quarter is easily explored. I suggest a visit to the Joubert market, a noisy and bustling market. With good shops and restaurants serving delicious “Frindian” food.
Enjoy an early evening walk along the sea front when all the locals promenade, and visit the statue of Gandhi.
Pondicherry/Kumbakanom -Stay at Mantra Koodam a CGH property.
Drive to Kumbakanom through the countryside, Chidambaram can be visited en-route, the famous temple is run by a special Bhahmin sect who use fire to perform their pooja ceremonies. There are other several small country temples to visit on the way. Kumbakanom has eighteen temples within the town, this area was the centre of the Chola empire, many contain superb carvings from that era. There are also silk weavers in the main town, many still have the looms in their houses and can be visited. Mantra Koodam is located in the countryside on the banks of the river Veera Chooza. The cottages have been built in a traditional style around the gardens, there is a pool and cookery lessons.
Kumbakanom – Mantra Koodam, day to explore the nearby ancient temple towns.
Kumbakanom/Madurai -The Heritage Hotel.
The drive to Madurai takes about four/five hours via Tanjore, here visit the main Brihadisvara temple, a world heritage site, this is one of the most important temples in Southern India, the huge Nandi bull is washed with milk every fortnight. The 16th Century Palace-now partly in ruins, houses a museum with a superb collection of Chola bronzes and a whale skeleton! The library next door contains some fascinating ancient books and manuscripts. Continue to Madurai, here the famous Meenakshi temple is best visted early evening to witness the pooja ceremony. The Heritage is a centrally located hotel, Designed by the renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa in spacious grounds, with accommodation in cottages. . There is also the Gandhi museum here.
Madurai/Thekkady – Hills and Hues or Spice Village(CGH Property)
The drive to Thekkady is very scenic ascending the Western Ghat hills, Thekkady is a small town close to the entrance of Periyar national park.
Hills and Hues is located outside the town with superb views across into Tamil Nadu, the accommodation is in two storey cottages. Spice Village is situated just outside the town very close to the park entrance , accommodation is in individual cottages set amidst the delightful spice gardens.
There is an elephant camp called Elephant junction nearby if you wish to bath and ride an elephant, in the town they perform Kathekali dancing and martial arts at a small theatre.
Double room with breakfast.
Thekkady – early morning departure for a soft trek in Periyar park with a naturalist. Rest of day at leisure.
Thekkady/The Back waters – Here there is a choice of places to stay , for total peace and privacy we suggest Vismaya, for a decent resort Coconut lagoon part of CGH group. Four hours drive down through the Ghats . Vismaya is a Heritage building with just two rooms, overlooking the lake. The property is located at the Northern end of Lake Vembanad, nearer to Cochin.
Coconut Lagoon is located on an island, near Kottoyam. With Heritage style cottages set amidst the ample gardens overlooking the lake. Excellent Ayurvedic spa, resident naturalist and cookery lessons.
Allephey – day to relax and explore the backwaters.
Allephey/Cochin – The drive to Cochin takes about 2 ½ hours. Stay at Secret Garden located on Fort Cochin Island in a convenient central location, the heritage building is tucked away in a peaceful spot. Most of the rooms overlook the garden and pool. Or Old Harbour Hotel a charming heritage property near the Chinese fishing nets, with a garden and pool, excellent food, and interesting art. A half day sightseeing tour of Cochin is included.
Chinese Fishing Nets in Fort Cochin
Cochin – A day to explore Fort Cochin, With many heritage buildings, an ancient Christian church and spice warehouses Fort Cochin is a fascinating place. Take the local ferry across to Vypin or Ernakulam island and seeing the old wharf houses from the water.The Matancherry area of Fort Cochin has many interesting old spice warehouses that can be visited.
Cochin/Koduveli – Dewalokham. The drive takes about 2 hours, Dewalokham is a fully sustainable organic farm set on the banks of the river Kannadipuzha. This delightful home stay offers a chance to explore the surrounding countryside, walks in the tropical forests to a nearby waterfall, explore the beautiful organic spice garden. There is a small dairy herd and beehives. Cookery demonstrations are given each evening. Ayurveda and yoga are available on request, swimming pool and river swimming. The rooms are all spacious leading of a veranda on the first floor.
Dewalokham – Two days to relax and explore Dewalokham.
Take the train from Angamali to Coimbatore, the journey takes about four hours, you will be met at Coimbatore, stay one night in Coimbatore at the Residency, a modern business hotel near the station.
Western Ghat Hills
Coonoor – Mc Iver.
Early start to catch the train at 07.30 from Mettupalayam station.
The train ascends the Nilgiri hills from 326m to 2,193m over 31 bridges and 16 tunnels, the journey takes roughly 4 ½ hours, the section from Mettupalayam to Coonor is by steam.
Stay at the Taj Gateway, a heritage building near to the church, with charming gardens and a spa.
Or stay at Tea nest this is located outside the town on a tea estate, with 3 rooms surrounded by tea gardens.
Coonoor – Mc Iver, day to explore Coonoor and the tea gardens.
Coonoor/Mysore – Githanjali Homestay.
The scenic drive to Mysore takes about 3 hours descending the Ghats and passing through the Bandipur National park. Stay at Gitanjali farm home stay, this is located about ten minutes from the town in a peaceful spot looking towards Chamundi hill, the food is excellent, with homemade pickles and jams. The rooms are simply furnished and a lovely garden. 3 nights double room with breakfast.
Things to do in Mysore
Mysore is a busy town with many grand heritage buildings, the main City palace was built in 1897 by Henry Irwin, it is open to visitors every day, on Sunday night after 19.00 the palace is lit up, it looks even better than Harrods! The Deveraja market is well worth visiting. There is a small railway museum near to the station. The government silk factory is open to the public.
In the evening take a drive up Chamundi hill, there is a Hindu temple at the top, and a large Nandi bull with his own priest, the view of Mysore from the top is lovely, en route visit the Lalith Mahal Palace, built in 1931 for the Maharajahs non -vegetarian guests, it is now rather faded and run by the government tourist board, but has some fascinating rooms. A short drive from Mysore is the magnificently carved Kesava temple at Somnathapur, the drive from Srirangapatnam via Bannur is lovely passing a couple of lakes. Srirangapatnam is located 14ks north of Mysore, here on an island in the Cauvery river a major battle took place between Tipu Sultan and the British led by Colonel Wellesley, Tipu Sultan was killed on 4th May 1799, the remains of the fort can still be seen and the beautiful Summer Palace built in 1784 has some fine murals. Tipu Sultan is buried at the Gumbaz with his family. The Ranganathittu bird sanctuary is situated 2 km away from the fort; here boats can be hired to observe the birds and crocodiles.
Mysore – Githanjali. Two full days to explore the town and the nearby places of interest. A half day sightseeing tour of Mysore is included with a guide.
Please enquire for the current cost of this tour.