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South India In Style

Days 1-2: Hyderabad

Day 1: Arriving in Hyderabad, you will be met at the airport by your driver and then escorted on to your hotel, the sumptuous Taj Fulaknuma Palace. An exquisite example of 19th-century elegance, this evening you will be invited to join the hotel's butlers on a heritage walk around the palace. Beginning at sunset, you'll wander through halls of Italian-Neoclassical design, filled with custom-made furnishings and lavish decorations, to provide a fascinating insight into the wealth and eventual fall of the once powerful Nizam of Hyderabad.

Day 2: Once the foremost centre of culture on the entire Indian subcontinent, Hyderabad was established by the Qutb Shahi dynasty in the latter years of the 16th century. A tour of the city today will take in its historic Golconda Fort and the Qutb Shahi Tombs, whose beautifully domed granite tombs and tranquil landscaped gardens provided the final resting place for seven of the dynasty's rulers. Once furnished with elegant carpets and chandeliers, these ancient mausoleums offer up some fine examples of exquisite colonnades and stucco embellishments. (B)

Days 3-5: Hyderabad - Hampi

Day 3: Transferring to the airport this morning you'll fly south to Hampi, home to the medieval ruins of the once great capital of the Vijayangara Empire. Between 1336 and 1565, this small town lay at the centre of a Hindu empire that was one of the largest in all India, once believed to rival that of Rome. On arrival at the airport you will be met and driven on to your hotel. (B,D)

Day 4: The temples and monuments of Hampi are considered amongst the finest examples of Dravidian architecture anywhere in southern India. Today you will enjoy a historic tour of some of its highlights, taking in a number of its suburbs (puras) and markets. You'll visit the renowned Vijaya Vitthala Temple, considered by many to represent the pinnacle of Indian temple architecture. You'll also take in the Royal Enclosure and stroll through the ruins of the Achyutaraya Temple, before enjoying the sight of the sunset over the scenic Tungabhadra River. (B,D)

Day 5: Heading out after breakfast, this morning you will visit the magnificent settings of Aihole, Pattadkal and Badami, considered to be the cradle of Indian temple architecture. Spanning nearly two thousand years of history, these ancient sites encompass an array of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monuments that date back as far as the 4th-century BC. Aihole alone is home to more than 120 temples, whilst Badami and Pattadakal are both major centres of historically important Chalukya monuments. (B,D)

Days 6-7: Hampi - Chikmagalur

Day 6: Your journey south continues into the foothills of the Western Ghats today, as you negotiate the long drive on to Chikmagalur. Famed for its coffee and its pleasant climate, the town lies close to the heights of Mullayanagiri, the highest peak in Karnataka. Arriving later this afternoon, the rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy at your own leisure. (B)

Day 7: Following an early breakfast, you'll drive out of Chikmagalur this morning and head for the ancient temples of Belur and Hale'beedu. Stunning examples of temple architecture from the Hoysala dynasty and filled with Hindu mythology, they stand as superb testaments to the glory of Hindu temple art. Returning to the hotel for lunch, this afternoon then sees you enjoying a trek to the summit of Mullayanagiri, to enjoy the spectacular views from the top of one of the highest peaks lying between the Himalayas and the Nilgris Mountains. (B)

Days 8-10: Chikmagalur - Kabini

Day 8: This morning you'll set off through the beautiful Indian countryside towards Kabini, paying a visit en route to Shravababelagola, one of the most important Jain pilgrimage sites anywhere in India. A climb up the 650 steps to the top provides a chance to see the monolithic Gommateshwara Statue, one of the largest free-standing statues in the world. From here you continue on to Kabini, arriving in time for lunch, before embarking on a naturalist tour with a sunset cruise. (B,D)

Day 9: Located on the edge of the River Kabini, in the heartland of the Kadu Kuruba tribe, Kabini borders both the Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks. Home to elusive tigers, leopards, elephants and over 250 species of birds, it will be the setting of an early morning safari in the company of your naturalist guide. This evening then provides an opportunity to make the most of a myriad of activities including coracle trips, bullock cart rides and an evening's nature trail walk. (B,L,D)

Day 10: After a chance for some early morning bird spotting you will head out to visit the local tribal village, to experience first hand a little of the culture and spirit of traditional Kabini. Later this afternoon you will then take a boat safari through the meandering waterways that flow between the rich landscapes of the national parks. This evening there will be a traditional Kadu Kuruba dance performance, followed by an enriching collection of local stories. (B)

Days 11-13: Kabini - Coorg

Day 11: Driving up into the lush hills of the Western Ghats this morning, the next leg of the journey sees you enjoying the misty hills and verdant forests around the old hill station of Coorg. Traditional home of the Kodava people, the area is rich in rice and coffee and the drive takes you through a serene landscape of undulating hills and quaint Indian villages. On arrival at the hotel later there will be time to relax and enjoy one of southern India's most scenic landscapes. (B,L,D)

Day 12: The day begins with a bird tour and a visit to the local village with your in-house naturalist. After breakfast you'll then head off to visit the nearby community at Bylekuppe, home to one of the largest Tibetan settlements in India. With several magnificent temples on show, it provides a unique insight into the rich cultural heritage of the Tibetans in southern India. Returning to the hotel for lunch, later you'll embark on an evening tour of the coffee and spice plantation. (B,L,D)

Day 13: Today's highlight is a visit to a traditional Ainmane, a 400-year-old ancestral building that belongs to the indigenous Kodava. Each Ainmane belongs to an okka (patrilineal clan) and it is here that the clan gather for special ceremonies and occasions. It also acts as a community museum, helping to enrich and nurture Kodava cultural heritage. After a traditional lunch you'll return to the hotel to relax, before soaking up the essence of Karnataka culture with an evening's programme of storytelling and dance. (B,L,D)

Days 14-17: Coorg - Neeleshwar

Day 14: Departing early this morning the drive on to Neeleshwar will take around five hours, stopping off along the way to break the journey with photo opportunities and snacks. Your destination is the Neeleshwar Hermitage, a luxurious tropical hideaway that nestles amongst palm groves beside the waters of the Arabian Sea. After checking in you will have time in the afternoon to enjoy this idyllic setting at your own pace. (B)

Day 15: A mix of activities are on the cards for today, beginning this morning with a visit to a local village. This afternoon has then been set aside to enjoy a culinary session with an experienced chef, before an evening of Theyyam culture (subject to availability). A ceremonial form of worship from the northern Malabar region of Kerala, Theyyam is a form of trance-ritual unique to the Malabar region and is traditionally performed in temples, usually in front of entire villages. (B)

Day 16: After a visit to a turtle hatchery this morning (subject to availability), you'll then take a cruise through the secluded backwaters, enjoying the traditional sights and sounds of Kerala as you soak up the views of the lush hills and rice paddies for the last time. This evening you can then relax by the beach and reflect on a journey of quite unsurpassed majesty. (B)

Day 17: Depart after breakfast and drive to Mangalore Airport, in time to connect with your onward flight. (B)

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