Spirit of South India

India

Culture

Temple towns of Tamil Nadu to backwaters of Kerala

14 days £2,195 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

Experience the diversity of South India on a journey from the towering temple towns of Tamil Nadu and the French colonial charm of Pondicherry through to the UNESCO-endorsed township of Auroville and the fragrant tea plantations of Ooty by toy train towards the soothing backwaters of Alleppey. En-route witness the rural towns of Kerala and Cochin`s importance in the spice trade with a fascinating walking tour. Throughout your South Indian odyssey, stay in heritage properties, cosy cottages and welcoming homestays, all the time savouring authentic South Indian cuisine and aromatic tea.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Intricately carved cave temples in Mahabalipuram
  • French colonial heritage in Pondicherry
  • Savour spicy Chettinad dishes
  • Travel by toy train in Ooty
  • Tea tasting experience in Coonoor
  • Alleppey, the "Venice of the East"
  • Sunset cruise on Cochin harbour

Places Visited

Mahabalipuram - Kanchipuram - Pondicherry - Chettinad - Tanjore - Madurai - Ooty - Ooty toy train - Palakkad - Alleppey - Cochin

What's Included

Airport transfers
Train ticket
Ground transport with driver
Accommodation
Breakfasts and some meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Activities as per itinerary
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Arrival

Arrive in Chennai, where you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to Mahabalipuram. In the evening enjoy a guided tour of Mahabalipuram. Overnight in Mahabalipuram.

Meal plan: n/a

Mahabalipuram/Mamallapuram, 50km south of Chennai, is a recognised beach destination on India’s east coast and is frequented by tourists throughout the year. The city is also famed for its stone sculpting industry. Thanks to the Pallava kingdom’s stonemasonry, Mahabalipuram holds some of the most outstanding examples of Dravidian art and architecture. One example is the rock-cut Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (a complex of 7th and 8th century religious monuments). The UNESCO site has 400 ancient monuments and temples, including the Shore Temple, which overlooks the Bay of Bengal, and one of the largest open-air rock reliefs, Descent of the Ganges. Carved on two monolithic rock boulders, it illustrates the story of the sacred and supernatural river Ganges forming in earth from heaven, led by the king Bhagiratha.
 


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Day 2 : Mahabalipuram - Kanchipuram - Mahabalipuram

After a relaxed breakfast proceed to Kanchipuram for a visit of the site. Return to Mahabalipuram for overnight.

Meal plan: Breakfast

In Hindu theology, Kanchipuram is one of the seven sacred cities. Nowadays it is best known for its hand-woven silk fabrics and saris. A holy pilgrimage site for Saivites and Vaishnavites, the city is home to 14 of the country's 108 holy temples dedicated to Vishnu.

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Day 3 : Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry

After breakfast continue to Pondicherry. The rest of the day is yours to explore this French era settlement. Overnight in Pondicherry.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Pondicherry, recently renamed 'Puducherry', is a former colonial French town tucked away in the Southeastern seaboard of India. Among its diverse attractions are a 32km-long coastline, palm-fringed beaches, backwaters, fishing villages, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the international city of Auroville, and the French boulevard town centre with its unique heritage.

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Day 4 : Pondicherry - Tanjore - Karaikudi

Depart Pondicherry for Karaikudi, the capital of Chettinad. Stop en route for a guided tour of Tanjore. Overnight in Karaikudi.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Tanjore is an important centre for South Indian religion, art and architecture. Most of the Great Living Chola Temples, which are UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, are situated in and around the city.

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Day 5 : Karaikudi (Chettinad)

Proceed on a guided tour of Karaikudi, covering the Chettinad Museum and a traditional tile factory to discover how the region's famous handmade terracotta tiles are made. Overnight in Karaikudi.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Chettinad cuisine is typically spicy and pungent, and consists  mainly  of non-vegetarian food. The dishes contain freshly ground masalas, and are often topped with a boiled egg, which is considered an essential part of a meal. They also use a variety of sun-dried meats and salted vegetables, reflecting the dry environment of the region. Meat dishes are restricted to fish, prawn, lobster, crab, chicken and lamb. People from this region do not eat beef and pork. Exciting Chettinar dishes include the fried murrell, a delicately-spice lamb dish, as well as robust curries with hints of fresh pepper and raw mango.

Chettinad is best known for its unique ancient temples. Tamil Nadu was once ruled by the Chola Dynasty (9-13th centuries), who constructed some of the most ornate temples in South India. Dedicated to various Hindu gods, these temples contain intricate life-sized carvings, beautiful murals and are a display of master craftsmanship.

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Day 6 : Karaikudi - Madurai

After breakfast you will be transferred to Madurai. In the evening proceed to Meenakshi temple to witness the evening ceremony. Overnight in Madurai.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Madurai is one of South India’s great temple towns. It was an important cultural and commercial centre in 550 AD. Sitting on the banks of the river Vaigai, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

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Day 7 : Madurai - Ooty

After breakfast, check out and drive to the hill station of Ooty. The rest of the day is free to enjoy at your leisure. Overnight in Ooty. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Situated in the Nilgiri hills, Udhagamandalam (Ooty), is known as the Queen of Hill Stations due to its jade-green valleys and picturesque mountains 2,240 metres above sea level. During colonial days it was a popular summer resort where soldiers like the 1st Duke of Wellington were sent to recuperate. Nowadays it serves as a popular hill resort and is renowned for its UNESCO protected mountain railway.
 


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Day 8 : Ooty - Coonoor - Ooty

Proceed on a guided tour of Ooty. Later, board the toy train to Coonoor. Upon arrival, you will enjoy a gourmet tea tasting experience designed to take you on a sensory journey through the myriad of aromas, flavours and colours of Nilgiri tea. Return to Ooty for overnight stay.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Built by the British in 1908, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway is a 1,000mm metre gauge railway in Tamil Nadu. Along its 28 mile track it negotiates 208 curves, 250 bridges and 16 tunnels. Relying on steam locomotives, it provides a typical steam train experience, passing tea estates, forested hillsides and mountain regions.

 


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Day 9 : Ooty - Palakkad

Transfer to Palakkad, where you will have the rest of the day to explore and relax at your leisure. Overnight in Palakkad.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Palakkad  is a large town in the state of Kerala whose name is thought to mean both 'dry lands' and 'forest'. Incredibly scenic and surrounded by small villages, Palakkad is home to the Palakkad Fort, the intricately-carved Jain temple and charming local markets full of exotic fruits and spices. The area is known for its paddy fields, rice cultivation and running several traditional festivals each year. Palakkad boasts lush tropical countryside and mouth-watering Keralan cuisine, with dishes such as coconut and tamarind chutneys served on banana leaves.  

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Day 10 : Palakkad - Alleppey

After breakfast depart for Alleppey. In the evening, witness a Kathakali performance under moonlight by the lake. Overnight in Alleppey.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Also known as the 'Venice of the East', Alleppey is a town with a large network of picturesque canals, backwaters, lagoons and beaches. In the past, Alleppey was one of the busiest trade centres along the Malabar coast.

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Day 11 : Alleppey

In the morning you will be given a walking tour of Alleppey. Later, board a house boat for a day cruise. Lunch will be cooked and served onboard. In the evening you will disembark and transfer to your homestay. Overnight in Alleppey.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 12 : Alleppey - Cochin

Depart Palakkad and transfer to Cochin. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy as you wish. Overnight in Cochin. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Cochin, the 'Queen on the Arabian Sea', is a major port city that was once a much-prized pawn for the English, Portuguese and Dutch due to its strategic location and prominence in the lucrative spice trade. This history of foreign colonies has resulted in a diverse culture, with European influences visible in much of Cochin's architecture and overall development, aiding it to become the commercial and industrial capital of Kerala. 

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Day 13 : Cochin

After breakfast proceed on a walking tour of Cochin, which will provide you with a glimpse of the city's rich history and heritage. Witness the mix of Dutch, English, Portuguese and Jewish influences that make the city such a unique place. In the evening enjoy a motor boat cruise at Cochin harbour. Overnight in Cochin.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 14 : Cochin - Departure

Transfer to Cochin airport to connect to your onward flight.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Extensions

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Kolkata & Sunderbans (6 days)

Discover colonial Kolkata and the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve

Indian Odyssey (29 days)

Experience the best of North and South India

Wildlife of Madagascar, India & Borneo (29 days)

Spot lemurs, tigers & orangutans

Highlights of the Subcontinent (22 days)

Discover iconic sights of India, Nepal & Bhutan

Wildlife of India & Borneo (21 days)

Get under the skin of Asia's two best wildlife spots.

Hill stations to the Himalayas (20 days)

Travel through the Himalayan foothills to Ladakh

Monks, Tribes & Rhinos (20 days)

Himalayan mountains, unseen tribes & amazing wildlife

Classic Bhutan & Assam Cruise (18 days)

Experience Bhutan's rich culture, colonial Kolkata and rural life in Assam

Essential India & China (17 days)

Visit the two most populous countries on Earth.

Textiles & Artisans of Gujarat & Rajasthan (16 days)

Nomadic tribes, traditional textiles, crafts & Mewar Festival

Essential India & Sri Lanka (16 days)

India's Golden Triangle & the best of Sri Lanka.

Glimpse of India & Nepal (16 days)

Golden Triangle and the Himalayas

Rajasthan Explorer (15 days)

Fort cities, rural villages & camel fair

Nagaland: Festival of the Headhunters (15 days)

Aoling Festival, wildlife in Assam & natural beauty of Manipur

Kerala Calling (15 days)

Tropical mountains, tea & spice plantations, and backwaters

Big Six of India (15 days)

Spot tigers, lions, leopards, buffalo, rhino & elephants

Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival (15 days)

Wildlife, tribes & rural life in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur

Taste of South India (15 days)

Experience the flavours and exotic spices of South India

Spirit of South India (14 days)

Temple towns of Tamil Nadu to backwaters of Kerala

Wildlife of North East India (14 days)

Diverse wildlife in Assam and the Sunderbans

Taj, Tigers & Temples (14 days)

An intoxicating immersion into India's diversity

Karnataka Odyssey (14 days)

Coffee farms, wildlife and stone temples

Tribes of North East India (14 days)

Remote tribal cultures in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam & Nagaland

Sacred India (14 days)

Uncover the religious diversity of India

Delicacies of North India (14 days)

Discover the huge diversity of North India's cuisine

Big Cats of India (14 days)

Experience the thrill of the Indian jungle ...

Treasures of Gujarat (14 days)

Villages, temples, salt flats & the world's last Asiatic lions

Kerala & Karnataka Explorer (14 days)

Idyllic backwaters, tropical forests & ancient temple towns

Heart of India (14 days)

Lucknow, Varanasi & the wonders of Madhya Pradesh

Tribal Orissa & Chhattisgarh (14 days)

Distinct tribal cultures, unique temples & traditional textiles

Kashmir and Ladakh Explorer (14 days)

Houseboats, Himalayas & Hemis Festival

Best of Bengal & Sikkim (14 days)

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Hidden Rajasthan (13 days)

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Markha Valley Trek (12 days)

Set foot in Ladakh's hidden Himalayan valleys

Glimpse of India (11 days)

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Classic Kerala (10 days)

Tea, spices, backwaters & beaches

Essential Rajasthan (10 days)

Discover the forts, palaces, villages and desert of Rajasthan

Living Bridges of Meghalaya (7 days)

Waterfalls, hills and living bridges in North East India

Reviews

I have been on 3 tailor made trips with Travel The Unknown and have found them to be knowledgeable and reliable. We`ve stayed in some wonderful places and have had some unusual and satisfying experiences that go beyond the standard tours.

Joan Edmunds (USA) , Tailormade India

Our trip with Travel the Unknown was excellent; the accommodation very varied and very comfortable, the driver exceptional and the guides very knowledgeable. We were looked after very well and felt extremely safe the whole trip. It was also extremely good value for money.

Susan Tongue , Spirit of South India

We went on the Spirit of South India Tour and had a great time on our honeymoon. There was a good variety of places visited and the hotels, drivers and guides were all very good. We would definitely recommend this tour.

Rachel , Spirit of South India, India

I would highly recommend Travel the Unknown to anyone visiting India. The service we received both prior to, during and following our travels was always timely and excellent. We were able to customize our trip to our liking and to enjoy a wide variety of activities. The guides in every location were outstanding! Honestly. Having travelled through much of the world I can truly say that we have never been more impressed with the quality of the guides arranged for us in each location, as well as the service we received. Similarly, the hotels were excellent and allowed us to live very comfortably while, at the same time, enjoy an authentic Indian experience. If you haven`t already booked your trip with Travel the Unknown, then either do so now....or at least give them a chance to show you what they can offer.

Tracey & Gary , Tailormade India

What an excellent service! Rahul adapted, extended and improved our trip so many times without a qualm and we ended up with the trip of a lifetime. The destinations are unusual and interesting but everything has been checked out by the team and works brilliantly. I can`t wait to do another trip.

Penelope Smith , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India

This is our second fabulous trip with Travel The Unknown and we were not disappointed. Rajasthan's vibrant colours of turbans and saris, the noise, the spicy aromas, the silence in the hot air balloon over rural Jaipur, the majestic forts and palaces of ancient times, sighting leopards in the wild, all far exceeded our expectations and the heritage homes and hotels we stayed in, whilst being of high standard in every way, still had a friendly family touch. Thanks so much to Rahul and the team for such a memorable trip. Six weeks on and we still can't stop talking about it. I can't wait for the next one!

John & Christine Gregory , Tailormade India

I thoroughly enjoyed my tailor made tour of northwestern and central India. Guides and accommodations were excellent and we saw as much of the area as could be packed into two weeks. I look forward to another tour with Travel the Unknown.

Mary Trubek (USA) , Tailormade India

Another fantastic trip with this company. WE really managed to get off the beaten track and have seen some amazing sights. Well put together. We will travel again with Travel the Unknown

Hazel & James Frost , Tailormade India

Wow, India is incredible and Travel The Unknown put together a trip that really showed the diverse nature of the country and cultures, from the busy capital Delhi to the splendour of the Taj Mahal and then off the main tourist trek with an overnight sleeper train to Varanasi on the Ganges, the Hindu religious capital with bathing , washing and cremations alongside the river - an astonishing experience. We then moved to the forgotten North East corner where there is a tribal culture in an area seemingly cut off from the rest of India. Our destination was the Living Root Bridges which are unique and remote. Just want to go back to India for more...

Ken Sankey , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

As always Travel The Unknown were exceptional in organising my trip to India. The guides for Meghalaya and the Golden Triangle were friendly, extremely helpful and very informative. The tour was busy but never felt rushed; the combination of Meghalaya and Golden Triangle giving quite a varied perspective of India.

Terry Cooper , Living Bridges of Meghalaya

Gotta say thanks to Travel The Unknown for organising my fascinating trip to a little-known area of the world. The scenery was fantastic, food was amazing, the guide was great and the living bridges were inspiring. An India not many get to see. Thanks again.

Stephen , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

The Living Root Bridges trip was our first time with Travel the Unknown and we would have no hesitation from booking with them again.

Andria & John Palmer , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India
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