Taste of South India

India

Culture | Culinary

Experience the flavours and exotic spices of South India

15 days £2,495 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

Start your culinary journey in the bustling city of Hyderabad renown for its heritage sites and mouthwatering biryani. Fly down to the temple town of Madurai then move on to Chettinad where expert chefs will have you serving up spicy dishes enjoyed in Tamil Nadu. Pluck and brew your own tea in Munnar, visit Thekkady's spice and pepper plantations, and sample fresh fish on board a rice barge on Kerala's backwaters. End your trip in the charming colonial town of Cochin, the centre of the spice trade.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Journey along the Spice Route
  • Savour spicy Chettinad dishes
  • Shop for local fruits and vegetables
  • Dine with Indian families
  • Stay in luxurious heritage properties
  • Munnar's verdant tea gardens
  • Spice plantation tour in Thekkady
  • Walking tour and cruise in Cochin
  • Sample Idli and Dosa dishes

Places Visited

Hyderabad - Chettinad - Madurai - Palakkad - Munnar - Alleppey - Cochin

What's Included

Airport transfers
Ground transport
Internal flight & train transport
Accommodation
Cooking classes with expert chefs
Sightseeing
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Breakfasts and some meals (as per itinerary)
Drivers and guides
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Hyderabad

Arrive into Hyderabad airport. You will be greeted by a Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. Freshen up and relax. In the afternoon, enjoy a guided sightseeing tour. Overnight in Hyderabad.

Meal plan: n/a

The twin city of Hyderabad-Secunderabad, the capital of the Andhra Pradesh state, combines both Islamic and Hindu influences. It  is an important centre of Islamic culture and  was planned in a grid pattern with enormous arches.  Hyderabad was founded in 1589 by Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah, but Secunderabad (located beyond the artificial Hussain Sagar Lake) was established by the British only in the early 1800’s. 

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Day 2 : Hyderabad

Today, you will go on a tour to discover Biriyani, the 'Food of the Kings' and enjoy a traditional meal. You will have the afternoon to spend at your leisure. Overnight in Hyderabad.

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Biriyani  is a mixed rice dish made with an abundance of spices and meat. It i s a key part of Indian cuisine that is enjoyed by everyone, from sultans to poor villagers. The 'Food of the Kings' tour explores the many regional and foreign influences that make the dish so special. You will wander your way through Hyderabad's many Biriyani hubs to see giant handis of fragrant rice and secret combinations of meats and spices.

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Day 3 : Hyderabad - Madurai - Chettinad

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for a short flight to Madurai. You will be met on arrival and transferred to the Sree Meenakshi Temple. Note, the temple is closed from 12:00-16:00. During this time the temple can only be seen from outside. Afterwards, drive to Chettinad and check in to your hotel. Evening free. Overnight in Chettinad. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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.

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 4 : Chettinad

After breakfast, set off to explore some of the ancient temples unique to Chettinad. Afterwards, join a local family for a traditional meal. You will get to interact with them and learn about Chettinad/Tamil culture. In the afternoon, attend a cooking demonstration and prepare local delicacies with the chef. Overnight in Chettinad.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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.

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Day 5 : Chettinad - Palakkad

Set off early for Palakkad in Kerala. Drive through towns, villages and lush tropical countryside. Stop off en-route for lunch. Arrive mid-afternoon and check in to the Tharavad Heritage Homestay (subject to availability). Rest or wander around the local village and countryside. In the evening, enjoy dinner with your hosts, who will serve up some mouthwatering Keralan dishes on banana leaves. Savour some of the delicious coconut and tamarind chutneys and chat about everything from food to culture! Overnight in Palakkad.
 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Tharavad Heritage Homestay has served as an ancestral home of the Kandath family for almost 200 years. It is set in the lush rice paddies of rural Kerala. Built using traditional construction methods, the most striking feature of the house is the frontal raised area ('Purathalum') with glorious carvings of elephants, snakes, fish and dragons in the corners.


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 6 : Palakkad

After breakfast, visit the local market to buy vegetables and spices. Go to a home where our hostess, an expert cook, will give a cooking class using the ingredients you've just bought. After cooking, you can enjoy the vegetarian sadya lunch served on banana leaves. Later in the day, visit the ancient fort of Hyder Ali and watch people making pottery. Finally, visit Kalpathy, one of the oldest settlements of the Tamil Brahmin people in Kerala. Learn about the history of this settlement and the Vedic traditions still practised there. Return to your hotel. Overnight in Palakkad.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 7 : Palakkad - Munnar

After breakfast, drive to the beautiful Munnar, known for its rolling green hills, and check in to your resort. You will have the afternoon to wander around the nearby tea plantations. Overnight in Munnar.

 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Munnar, located at 1,650m above sea-level, is the most breathtakingly-beautiful hill station on the Western Ghats. The area's pristine green valleys and mountains provide the perfect setting for anyone in search of peace and tranquility. Believed to mean ‘three rivers’, Munnar used to be the favourite summer resort of the British rulers during colonial days. It is the tea plantation capital of India and the local Eravikulam National Park, home to the endangered Nilgiri Tahr mountain goat, is a popular destination for visitors.

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Day 8 : Munnar

Enjoy a relaxed breakfast before going to the Talayar Tea Factory. Here, you will learn how to pick tea leaves (choose stems with a mother leaf and two leaf buds). While your tea leaves are drying in machines, you will go on a tour of the factory and you will get to mix your own tea followed by lunch. End the experience with a tea tasting. Overnight in Munnar.

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

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Day 9 : Munnar - Thekkady

After a leisurely breakfast, check out of your hotel and drive to Thekkady, the spice capital of India. Arrive at lunchtime to the beautiful Spice Village (subject to availability). This mini-village recreated in the lush tropical forest of Thekkady is a nature lover's paradise. You will be staying in traditionally constructed cottages with perfectly integrated modern comforts. You will have the afternoon free to explore the surroundings, do some bird-watching or take a nap. Overnight in Thekkady. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Centred around a large artificial lake, Thekkady is the location of the Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary -  one of India's largest wildlife sanctuaries, which spans across the entire district. Declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978, the sanctuary supports 62 species of mammals (many of which are rare and endangered) and 320 species of birds, as well as a host of reptiles, amphibians and fish. 

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Day 10 : Thekkady

After an early morning breakfast, set off for a boat ride on Lake Periyar. Look out for local wildlife (elephants, deer and sloth bears) that come to the lake for water. Afterwards, go for a two-hour jungle walk. In the afternoon, you will visit one of Thekkady's many spice plantations. Learn all about the spices that are grown here - pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and more. Return to your accommodation and rest of the afternoon free at leisure. Overnight in Thekkady.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 11 : Thekkady - Alleppey

After breakfast, drive to Alleppey. Stop en route at Kanjirapilly for lunch at a traditional Christian homestay. You can join your host in the kitchen as she prepares a mouthwatering South Indian platter of meat and vegetarian dishes. After lunch, take a walking tour of the owner’s spice and rubber plantations. Continue on to Alleppey. Overnight in Alleppey.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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 12 : Alleppey

Have a leisurely start to the day with a filling breakfast served outdoors by the lake. Later, board the houseboat for a ride through Kerala's enchanting backwaters. You will see various birdlife, rice barges and Chinese cantilever fishing nets. You can watch the onboard chef prepare a local fish dish - Karimeen (pearlspot) fry. In the early evening, return to your homestay and spend time with the local family, visit the nearby market or simply rest. Overnight in Alleppey.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 13 : Alleppey - Cochin

After breakfast, check out and drive to Cochin. You will have the afternoon to explore the beautiful surroundings of Cochin, after which you will go on a sunset cruise in Cochin harbour. 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 14 : Cochin

After breakfast, set off on a two-hour walking tour of Fort Cochin to wander its narrow lanes and discover its many colonial influences. For lunch you will be going somewhere very special. Our friend, Nimmy Paul, who has been featured in many Indian and international food magazines, is renowned for her unique South Indian recipes. She will lead a cooking class, followed by lunch, either in her garden or cosy home. After leaving Nimmy's, you will go on a food tour of Cochin, which will take you through some of the most popular eating places of the local community, where you will get to see Idli and 36 varieties of dosa. Overnight in Cochin.

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Idli is a soft and fluffy savoury cake made out of rice and steamed lentil batter. It is a traditional breakfast dish prepared by many south Indian families. As it is very healthy and easy to digest, it is an absolute staple food of southern cuisine. Perfect pairings for idli include any kind of chutney (coconut, tomato, tamarind or green chili mint) and sambar (a tangy lentil soup with vegetables).

Dosa is a thin long crepe made out of fermented rice and black lentil batter that can be stuffed with a wide variety of fillings, like spiced potatoes, green gram bean or masala curry. It is another staple of Keralan cuisine.


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Day 15 : Departure

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport at an appropriate time for your outbound flight. If you have a flight later in the day, you could spend time exploring more of Cochin or browsing the markets for handicrafts and wares. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Reviews

I just took the Food Tour of Kerala and Malabar Coast and it was purely unforgettable. The accommodation was superb as was the food and hospitality. I essentially came back feeling like a baby hippo - that should tell you you NEED to take this tour ASAP!

Anupy is the author of best-selling Indian cookery book - The Indian Slow Cooker - which is available for purchase on Amazon.

Anupy Singla Gupta , Taste of South India, India

An excellent introduction to South India. The itinerary was varied and interesting and the accommodation and food excellent. The real highlight for me was going to many places that were very much off the beaten track and getting the opportunity to meet local people in their homes, at local markets and cultural events.

Julie Hindmarch , Taste 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

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

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

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

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

Travel the Unknown put together an Itinerary in North East India - Living Root Bridges for me and a travelling companion. The accommodations, transportation, promptness of drivers, and knowledge of our guide was excellent. Easy booking from office and good pre trip information. Thanks TTU!

Christina Taft , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

This trip was my first time travelling with Travel The Unknown, but definitely not my last!

Lori Martin , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India

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

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
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