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South Indian Odyssey

Group Tour

19 Days From £3,925

Overview

Whether it’s your first, second or even third time to the Indian Subcontinent, if you haven’t yet been to South India, you are in for a real treat! This diverse and comprehensive trip across the cultural and historical landscapes of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala encompasses some of the country’s most authentic cultural experiences and offers a very different experience from that of the north.

Travelling from the shores of the Indian Ocean to the Arabian Sea, we will ...

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HIGHLIGHTS

At a glance

MEALS

18 x Breakfasts
18 x Lunches
16 x Dinners

TRANSPORT

On this tour we will use an overnight train, a houseboat, minibuses and rickshaws.

GROUP SIZE

Maximum: 12

CARBON CONTRIBUTIONS

A carbon-offsetting contribution to Eco Act for all bookings

EXPERT TEAM

The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate

ACCOMMODATION

All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary

ACCOMMODATION

As an overall ethos, wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip. On this particular trip we will be staying in some wonderful properties, as well as having the experience of spending two nights aboard a traditional houseboat and one night on an overnight train.  Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability.

ENTRANCE FEES

All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

FITNESS RATING

Low

FITNESS RATING

LOW: You should be comfortable walking around towns and cultural sites. May include some optional walks (typically 1-2hrs).

LOW/MODERATE: May be of a long duration and/or involve numerous border-crossings. May include easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-3hrs/day). You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle.

MODERATE: May include several easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-5hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle. Previous experience of similar trips helpful.

MODERATE/HIGH: May involve several days of moderate hiking (up to 3-6 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

VERY HIGH: May involve several days of moderate/strenuous trekking (up to 4-7 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a very fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

Map & Itinerary

Individual departures may vary so please refer to the information in the tour specific links in the Dates and Prices section below

South Indian Odyssey
EXPAND ALL ITINERARY DAYS
COLLAPSE ALL ITINERARY DAYS

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN CHENNAI (MADRAS) - TRANSFER TO MAHABALIPURAM

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN CHENNAI (MADRAS) - TRANSFER TO MAHABALIPURAM

The joining point of the trip will be at Chennai International Airport this morning, from where we will drive south along the shores of the Indian Ocean to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram. The once great port city of the Pallava dynasty, Mahabalipuram can trace its ancestry back to the 7th century and is home to some 40 different monuments and temples, including the magnificent Shore Temple, one of the oldest stone buildings in India. This afternoon we take in some of the highlights of the area.

Ideal Beach Resort or similar
Lunch, Dinner

DAY 2: MAHABALIPURAM

DAY 2: MAHABALIPURAM

After breakfast we drive out to the city of Kanchipuram, on the banks of the Vegavathy River. An ancient centre of learning and a city of great importance historically to the Buddhists, Jains and Hindus, Kanchipuram lay at the heart of the Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagar Empires. One of the seven holiest Hindu cities in India, it has long been known as the city of a thousand temples and is renowned today for its saris, which are considered amongst the finest in India. Indeed, legend has it that the weavers of Kanchipuram are descended from the master weavers of the gods themselves. We also pay a visit to the heritage village of Dakshinachitra before returning to Mahabalipuram for our second night.

Ideal Beach Resort or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 3: MAHALIPURAM - GINGEE - PONDICHERRY

DAY 3: MAHALIPURAM - GINGEE - PONDICHERRY

Heading inland slightly, we make for Tamil Nadu’s most spectacular fort at Gingee. Despite being protected by 20m thick walls in places, the fort was overrun on several occasions including in the 18th century by French and later British forces. We then head back to the coast to Pondicherry - a sophisticated city with strong French influences. Here you can sip a good French wine whilst looking out over the Indian Ocean. It is often referred to as the French Riviera of the East for its architecture and European ways, and as such provides a fascinating contrast to the rest of the state. On arrival we’ll take a short walk around town as well as an evening cycle rickshaw ride.

Maison Perumal or similar
Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 4: PONDICHERRY - KUMBAKONAM

DAY 4: PONDICHERRY - KUMBAKONAM

Departing Pondicherry, our journey takes us on to the pilgrimage city of Kumbakonam, a city that can date its origins back to the Sangam period of the 3rd century BC. En route we visit the Shiva temple of Chidambaram, as well as the 12th century Airavateswara Temple in Darasuram, a recognised World Heritage monument. Arriving in Kumbakonam later today we have a chance to explore this city of temples, a place renowned for its shrines and mathas (monasteries). There are some 188 Hindu temples within the city’s municipal limits, of which the Adi Kumbeswarar Temple is the oldest Shaiva (Shiva) shrine in the city.

Paradise Resort or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 5: KUMBAKONAM - KARAIKUDI (CHETTINADU)

DAY 5: KUMBAKONAM - KARAIKUDI (CHETTINADU)

Today we drive to the heritage town of Karaikudi, famous for its palatial limestone houses and its distinctive cuisine. The journey takes us via the superbly ornate Bridhadeswara Temple in Thanjavur, one of India’s most prized architectural sites. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage site “Great Living Chola Temples”, the granite temple dates back to the early years of the 11th century and boasts an impressive list of statistics. Its 66-metre-high temple tower is amongst the tallest of its kind anywhere in the world, whilst the Kumbam (the apex at the top of the temple) is carved from a single stone and weighs in at a hefty 80 tons. During archaeological digs at this impressive complex, many intricate bronze statues have been uncovered. The ancient art form of bronze statue making and gold painting continues today - a creative process that we will be able to see for ourselves at a short workshop.

Hotel Visalam or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 6: IN & AROUND CHETTINADU

DAY 6: IN & AROUND CHETTINADU

Surrounded by traditional villages, this region was once the homeland of the Nattukottai Chettiars, a prosperous banking and business community who left their stamp on the region in the form of a number of substantial mansions that still dot the landscape. We pay a visit to some of these 18th century palaces today; sumptuous creations in Italian marble and Burmese teak that were inspired by the grand houses of Europe. We also take time to explore a little of the traditional industry of the area, stopping to visit some Chettinadu cotton hand-looms and take a tour of the Aathangudi tile factory, whose beautiful designs and colours still hark back to a bygone age.

Hotel Visalam or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 7: KARAIKUDI (CHETTINADU) - MADURAI

DAY 7: KARAIKUDI (CHETTINADU) - MADURAI

Today we head into the cultural heartlands of the Tamil and Dravidian cultures. Our destination is the temple city of Madurai, a place that can trace its history back some 2,500 years. Laid out in the shape of a lotus along the flat, fertile plains of the Vaigai River valley, the city is built around the magnificent Sri Meenakshi Temple, a spectacular complex of towers, temples, courtyards and shrines that is considered one of India’s great cultural landmarks. We pay a visit to this spectacular 16th century temple today, as well as the Tirumalai Nayak Palace and Theppakulam. Later this evening we’ll enjoy an auto-rickshaw ride back to the temple to experience a traditional Puri ceremony.

Heritage Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 8: MADURAI - MYSORE (OVERNIGHT TRAIN)

DAY 8: MADURAI - MYSORE (OVERNIGHT TRAIN)

We will have time today to explore more of this most captivating of cities, home to the Gandhi Memorial Museum and a number of Hindu, Vishnu and Muslim temples and mosques. There will also be time to perhaps take a stroll through Madurai’s bustling streets, taking in some of its eclectic shops and bazaars, before heading to the railway station to take an overnight train all the way to Mysore in Karnataka.

Overnight Train
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9: MYSORE

DAY 9: MYSORE

This morning we arrive in Mysore, the stunning cultural capital of the Karnataka region, located at the base of the Chamundi Hills. Heading straight to our hotel, we have a little time to relax before an afternoon visit to the nearby town of Somanathapura, famed as the site of the 13th century Chennakesava Temple. Considered one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture in India, the temple was built at the height of the Hoysala Empire and is richly carved with friezes, sculptures and intricate images from the Indian epics.

Metropole Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 10: MYSORE

DAY 10: MYSORE

Long known for its festivals and palaces, Mysore can boast one of the most opulent and iconic buildings in southern India, the stunningly ornate Mysore Palace. Originally built in the 14th century, the palace of today is the result of a significant redesign by the British architect, Henry Irwin. A wonderful fusion of European and Indian influences, the palace is still the official residence of the Wodeyar dynasty, the royal family of Mysore. We take a walking tour around the city this morning, visiting the palace and the markets before driving out to the hills that surround the city. The Chamundi Hills are home to the impressive Sri Chamundeswari Temple and the sacred Nandi bull, one of the largest of its kind and carved from a single piece of rock. We’ll also stop off at the nearby impressive Srirangapatnam with its 18th century remains of Tipu Sultan’s fort, palace and mausoleum.

Metropole Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 11: MYSORE - KABINI

DAY 11: MYSORE - KABINI

Today’s journey takes us on to Kabini, our base on the edge of the Nagarahole National Park. This afternoon, once we have settled into our rooms, there will be the chance to head out on safari to spot some of the local wildlife that includes Asian Elephant, Samba Deer, Langur monkeys plus over 250 species of birds.

Kabini River Lodge or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 12: KABINI - CALICUT

DAY 12: KABINI - CALICUT

Before breakfast this morning we will embark on another safari in the Nagarahole National Park in the hope that we may see tiger or leopard, the two species of big cat that are resident in the park. Later we depart for Calicut, across the border in Kerala, an important trading centre and the place where Vasco de Gama first set foot on the Indian Subcontinent in 1498. This evening should be a tour highlight as we visit a kalari (a special Keralan gymnasium) to witness kalaripayattu, a distinct martial arts discipline dating back over 1500 years.

Kadavu Resort or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 13: CALICUT - CHERUTHURUTHY

DAY 13: CALICUT - CHERUTHURUTHY

Today we head south towards Cheruthuruthy on the Nila River. After a traditional lunch we will have the opportunity to meet some local artisans, including potters, weavers and toymakers. This evening there may be the opportunity to watch a performance of local folk song and dance.

River Retreat or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 14: CHERUTHURUTHY - KUMARAKOM

DAY 14: CHERUTHURUTHY - KUMARAKOM

We hope to make an early morning visit to a Kalamandalam – a performing arts centre - which prides itself on maintaining and teaching the great arts and traditions of Keralan society for which it is famed. We then drive south towards the famous Keralan backwaters and will spend the night in Kumarakum.

Backwater Ripples Resort or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAYS 15 - 16: KUMARAKOM - ALLEPPEY - BACKWATERS OF KERALA

DAYS 15 - 16: KUMARAKOM - ALLEPPEY - BACKWATERS OF KERALA

This morning we drive to Alleppey to take to the waters of this most beautiful and unique of landscapes. Boarding our traditional houseboats, we will spend the next two days cruising the waterways and channels that honeycomb the coastal plains running parallel to the Arabian Sea. A unique ecosystem that is home to a rich variety of aquatic life, the backwaters present us with a time-honoured image of an India long forgotten, where scattered villages survive amongst the labyrinthine channels much as they have for generations. Kettuvallams (Keralan houseboats) once negotiated these canals carrying rice, grain and even royalty through the backwaters. Today they provide us with an ideal way to appreciate the tranquillity and tradition of this part of southern India. We’ll pass isolated communities and gardens of hibiscus and vegetables, hop off the boats to visit interesting sights en route, and spend our evenings moored up besides the lapping shores of these idyllic backwaters. Having two nights aboard our private chartered houseboats enables us to venture further into the backwaters to catch a glimpse of life rarely seen by foreign visitors to Kerala.

Houseboat x 2 nights
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 17: ALLEPPEY - KOCHI (COCHIN)

DAY 17: ALLEPPEY - KOCHI (COCHIN)

Disembarking our boats this morning, we drive to Kochi, the glittering ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’. The oldest European settlement in India, Kochi is a vibrant mix of Arab, Chinese, European and Indian influences and home to the oldest church and synagogue in the country. Built on trade, the city began to prosper with the arrival of Jewish and Arab traders. With the later arrival of the Portuguese, and then the Dutch and English, Kochi went on to become a vibrant settlement, incorporating a rare fusion of European and Asian traditions and styles. This evening we will enjoy a sunset cruise on the harbour before learning to cook a traditional dinner with a local family.

Xandari Harbour Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 18: IN KOCHI (COCHIN)

DAY 18: IN KOCHI (COCHIN)

Today we will take a walking tour around the historic old streets of Fort Cochin and the red-tiled riverfront of Mattancherry, once the old capital’s main market area and the centre of the Malabar spice trade. The city is also famous for its Chinese fishing nets, as well as the Santa Cruz Basilica and the Church of St. Francis, where the body of Vasco de Gama was held before being returned to Portugal. Made from teak and bamboo, the huge cantilevered nets are a legacy of some of the earliest visitors to the Malabar Coast, whilst the 16th century Church of St. Francis has the distinction of being the oldest European church in India. After a free afternoon to enjoy some last minute retail therapy, we’ll enjoy our final dinner together tonight with a chance to reflect on our journey and experiences.

Xandari Harbour Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 19: TOUR ENDS IN KOCHI (COCHIN)

DAY 19: TOUR ENDS IN KOCHI (COCHIN)

The tour ends after breakfast at our hotel. Those on our suggested flights will make an early morning departure for the airport.

Breakfast

ACCOMMODATION USED ON THIS TOUR

Superior

Premium

Excellent standards without the big price tag

Superior

Premium

Excellent standards without the big price tag

Superior

Superior

Premium

Excellent standards without the big price tag

Accommodation displayed here should be taken as a guide only. *Please refer to the Detailed Itinerary of your individual departure for more information.

PRIVATE HOLIDAYS: DATES DON’T FIT?

All group tours can be taken on a private basis.

Additional Details

Responsible Travel

Responsible travel and sustainable tourism are fundamental ideas that Wild Frontiers has been committed to since our birth. It is our strong belief that these words should not be simply ‘tagged on’ to itineraries and websites but should be at the very core of each trip, and our adventures are therefore designed with the local people, culture and eco-system in mind. We believe that a successful trip not only delivers a unique and unsurpassable journey for our clients, but that it also benefits the peoples whose lands we are privileged to visit. For more information, please see our responsible travel page.

Supper with Neema & Tanjore

The best way to share stories and meet new people is over a plate of great food and a drink in hand. India is a diverse country, and this is reflected in the food. In Kochi, we will enjoy a cooking class at Neema’s home, which has been in the family for a hundred years. Supporting the local food industry in India not only maintains the cultural identity of India but connects cultures through the most ancient of pastimes, eating!

Bronze Workshop - Tanjore

Similarly, you will gain an insight into how the artisans of the past created bronze statues during a demonstration at a local workshop in Tanjore – still using ancient methods today. Visiting artisans not only provides income to them via providing the opportunity to sell their goods, but also ensures they are able to continue their craft and pass it onto future generations.

Getting There

If you would like us to send you a quote for the suggested tour flights or on any alternative flight that may suit you better, please let us know, noting that for our US clients, we will most likely refer you to one of our preferred partners. For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.

If you wish to arrange your own flights you are completely free to do so and in this case we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require. However please note that if you are planning on making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.

If you will be spending time in Chennai ahead of the tour, we can arrange for you to be picked up from our pre-tour accommodation to meet the rest of the group at the airport.

 

Flight Code Departing Arriving
EK 002 London Heathrow (LHR) 14:20 Dubai Airport (DXB) 00:20
EK 544 Dubai Airport (DXB) 02:45 Chennai Airport (MAA) 08:25
EK 531 Cochin Airport (COK) 10:30 Dubai Airport (DXB) 12:55
EK 003 Dubai Airport (DXB) 14:15 London Heathrow (LHR) 18:40

Visas

Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact our recommended visa agency, Travcour www.travcour.com 

For this tour UK passport holders currently require a visa for India.

Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements. 

Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.
 

Extensions

If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Or alternatively you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.

The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries.

Below is just a small sample of what you could do. Please contact the office for more details and to discuss your individual requirements.

Beach Extension

If time allows, why not spend an extra night or two on the Keralan beaches at the end of your tour? Allow 1-3 days.

Rest of India

If you want to explore the Indian subcontinent further then our tailor-made department can arrange anything for you from 1 week to 2 months. The possibilities are limitless but Rajasthan, Central India and the Ganges plains are just some ideas to get you started.

Governmental Travel Advice

Many governments issue advice which highlights potential hazards their citizens might experience when travelling abroad. We strongly suggest you refer to your country’s particular advisory site before booking and contact us if you have any queries or concerns. Click to follow links to the advice of the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or the US State Department.

Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective governments.

Key Information

CLIMATE

The climate in South India is tropical. In Kerala temperatures remain at about 30C all year round. The monsoon hits Kerala in June and lasts until September, and the area is best visited between November and May. Tamil Nadu, in the South West, is the hottest area of the country. Temperatures here hover at around 35C, increasing even further in May and June. The short but aggressive rainy season in Tamil Nadu runs from early October until early December, but that said the best time to visit the region is between October and March, when the climate becomes pleasantly cool.

IS THIS TRIP FOR ME?

It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. All our tours have a fitness rating as a guideline but you should check the day-by-day itinerary carefully. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office.

KEY ASPECTS TO CONSIDER

Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour, as many of the activities are optional. 

THE NATURE OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL

We feel that it’s worth pointing out that while we will always strive to stick as close to the stated itinerary as possible, it may be necessary from time to time to make changes to our itineraries or services (due to weather, political and religious influences etc.) and this can happen with little or no notice. This unpredictability can be one of the most exciting aspects of adventure travel and for many of our clients often leads to unexpected highlights as the tour-leader necessarily adapts the tour to the changing conditions. However we are aware that this lack of assuredness may not suit everyone. As such, with the greatest respect, if you are someone who needs to know that everything will happen exactly as planned, we would kindly suggest that perhaps our tours are not for you. Adventure travel can be infectious and once you’ve caught the bug, it is likely to never leave you, but especially if this is your first such tour we would strongly urge you to give us a call if you have any concerns whatsoever about your suitability for this trip.

TRAVELLING SOLO AND SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS

As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!

Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation, but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip.

On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you for all nights of the tour apart from the overnight train.

Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.
 

INSURANCE

Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. If you choose to purchase the Wild Frontiers bespoke policy through Travel & General (currently available to UK residents only) then please note for this trip the minimum required level of cover will be the Standard policy. Please see the Insurance section for more details.

General Information

TOUR PRICE

All our tours are priced on a land-only basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from your tour.

DEPOSIT

A £200 (or equivalent) deposit is required to confirm your booking.

PROTECTION FOR YOUR MONEY

For further details please see our travelling with peace of mind page

WILD MILES

This tour will earn you 10212 Wild Miles

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.

Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatory
Tips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documents
International Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UK
Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs

WILD FRONTIERS COMMUNITY

If you’re still not sure if this trip is right or just want to see get some different perspectives, then why not have a look at the wide variety of resources we have on our website? Browse our community section to read our blogs, watch videos and find out about our events. 

WHY WILD FRONTIERS?

We are frequently asked what makes Wild Frontiers different from other tour operators. Visit our Why Wild Frontiers page to find out.

INSPIRATION

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