Experience wildlife, culture, and the Blue Mountains on this MTS-exclusive itinerary!
Travel with MTS on this exclusive journey into the birthplace of the subcontinent! Southern India may be well known for its enormous temples, elaborate palaces, and colonial heritage, but it is also one of the last bastions of unassimilated India, where a rapidly shrinking wilderness is home to three diverse ethnic groups and fabulous wildlife. The Nilgiris—the Blue Mountains of India—are a UNESCO-protected biosphere reserve encompassing several national parks and rare wildlife preserves. In these enchanting hills, you will experience ancient ways of life first-hand, and you will learn how these traditional people have influenced mainstream Indian culture.
This 11-day itinerary showcases the best of the region, from the glitz and glam of modern-day Bangalore, to the palace of the Maharaja at Mysore, before circumnavigating the culturally rich Blue Mountains. We’ve blended hiking, cultural encounters, wildlife and bird viewing with a little bit of luxury to give you the ultimate taste of South India. Our professional guides will provide you with both great cultural insight and expert nature interpretation to take you on an adventure unlike anything else you’ll ever experience.
We’ll spend our first two nights living like kings in Lalith Mahal Palace, built by the Maharaja of Mysore for his guests. We’ll visit the exquisite city of Mysore and make an offering at the temple to the city’s patron goddess. We’ll journey into the hills to Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary to enjoy incredible views of this ancient mountain range, a sunset jeep safari to look for birds and wildlife, and a folk performance by the Irula people. Purple sunbirds, fairy bluebirds, the great pied hornbill, and the paradise flycatcher wait to greet us along the banks of the River Moyar, and we’ll meet the Betta Kurumba people—the elephant herdsmen of Nilgiri Biosphere—and observe pachyderms taking their morning bath. We’ll hike the Nilgiris plateau to see grasslands, tea plantations, alpine lakes, and shola forests. The Toda Tribes will welcome us into their village of half-barrel-shaped homes, where we’ll learn more about their culture. We continue on by train to Ketti Valley to meet the farming people of Badaga and the Kota potters and metalworkers. We’ll train through splendid panorama on to Coonoor, visit the rainforest of Banangudi Shola to study this unique ecosystem, and hike up to see petroglyphs. On our last day, we’ll explore the ancient ruins of Mahabalipuram—a string of rock-cut monoliths and cave temples overlooking the Bay of Bengal.
South India is chock-full of hidden jewels. From exotic birds and animals to awe-inspiring landscapes and diverse cultures to learn from, this unique itinerary delivers memories and experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Hiking, cultural encounters, wildlife viewing
- Experience the vibrant cultures and diverse wildlife of South India’s Nilgiris biosphere reserve, on this MTS-exclusive itinerary—a truly unique adventure!
- Visit the exquisite palace of Mysore and live like a king for an overnight at the Lalith Mahal Palace
- Hike through grasslands with views of tea plantations, alpine lakes, and shola forests
- Ride a 19th-century train, stopping at villages to meet the Toda, Badaga, and Kota people, and learn about their cultures and connections to the land
- Explore the ancient ruins of Mahabalipuram and unwind at the beaches of Bay of Bengal in the deluxe Fishermans Cove beach resort
Duration: 11 days Start Location: Bangalore End Location: MahabalipuramDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrival in Bangalore
We will arrive in Bangalore in the late evening. Transfer to hotel for overnight. For early arrivals, we will take an evening drive to the pubs and fine dining restaurants in Bangalore to explore the trendier local fare.
Day 2 : Drive to Mysore
We will enjoy breakfast at the hotel, followed by program orientation and introduction. We will then drive approximately three hours across Canara country to a hillock where we hike for an hour on rural trails offering splendid views of River Cauvery winding through the scenic countryside. We stop for lunch in a temple and then drive to Srirangapatinam to explore the ruined fort of the legendary Tipu Sulta, who was martyred after fighting the British for many decades in the 18th century. We then continue to Mysore and check into our palace hotel. Set in a highland with imposing views, Lalith Mahal Palace was built by the Maharaja of Mysore for his important guests which included the British Viceroys. Our two nights stay in this famous hotel is a trip into the days of Royalty.
We have our welcome dinner in the ballroom, now converted into a gourmet restaurant with stunning Durbar (Courtroom) ambience of rich lace curtains and Jharokas. Lacquered brass bowls on each table, burnished silver, pictures of all the Kings in the Wadiyar Dynasty in malleable gold and service staff in ethnic attire all offer vivid montages of a bygone time. Tonight we will have the "MYSORE SILVER THALI" which brings together in several small bowls the finest array of South India's delicately spiced delights.
Day 3 : Mysore
After breakfast we drive up Chamundi, a hillock in the Deccan plateau, and commence our hike up a flight of steps leading to the temple on the summit. On the way we see a gigantic Nandi (bull carved on a monolithic rock) where pilgrims make offerings to this guardian diety. The one hour trail offers fantastic views of our palatial hotel set amidst villages and the colonial city of Mysore. Upon reaching the summit, we will visit the temple for a glimpse into Hindu rituals and ceremonies offered to the fearsome Godess of Mysore. After this we drive to the city to visit the famous Palace of Mysore, now a fabulous museum embellished with murals - reflecting grand impressions of 18th century Mysore when the Maharaja of this region was one of the wealthiest Indian kings. We return to the hotel for lunch.
This evening we drive to the city to explore the colorful Devaraj fruit and vegetable market followed by a walk down the crowded bazar and streets of this colonial town, ending at the home of a classical musician for a special performing arts session before having dinner in a restaurant. We return to the hotel for overnight.
Day 4 : Mysore to Mudumalai National Park
After an early breakfast we drive towards the Nilgiri Mountains,passing by many wildlife preserves before reaching Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary. We check into our lodge set in the foothills of the Sigur Range of mountains with wonderful views of the ancient mountain ranges. Early afternoon is free to indulge in the swimming pool fed by natural spring water. Later we set off on a sunset jeep ride towards the Sigur region looking for birds and wildlife. On our way back we visit hamlets of the Irula community - the nomadic gathering tribes of Nilgiris -observing their livelihood and understanding the challenges threatening their cultural identity. After an early dinner we are treated to a traditional folk performanceby the Irulas.
Day 5 : Mudumalai to Upper Nilgiri Plateau
At dawn we drive to the banks of River Moyar for a birding hike. This region is rich in tropical birds including mini-vets, purple sunbirds, fairy blue birds, great pied hornbill, malabar trogan and the paradise flycatcher. Our trail is in the vicinity of the Betta Kurumba Communities - the elephant herdsmen of Nilgiri Biosphere reserve and our timing is perfect to observe mahouts ride these magnificent pachyderms to the river for a morning bath.
We return for breakfast and then drive to Upper Nilgiri plateau, ascending 6000 feet. We reach our lodge called “Red Hills” overlooking tea estates, alpine lakes and perched on the fringes of Mukuruthi Wildlife Sanctuary. Optional hike to explore the tea estate.
Day 6 : Exploring Grassland Sanctuary
We proceed on a full day nature trail to explore the grasslands of upper nilgiris. The first few hours of the hike is a moderate climb ascending about 1000 feet before we reach the plateau of grasslands and shola forests (a dwarf forest endemic to this region). We hike to observe the Mukuruthi Peak, Kolaribetta Peak and scenic Western catchment region before returning to the lodge in the evening. Dinner and overnight in the lodge.
Day 7 : Hiking in Badaga Valley
After an early breakfast we get dropped in a village of Toda tribes. The Todas are a pastoral community, considered as the original inhabitants of this region. We visit their half barrel-shaped homes and learn about their culture before commencing our village to village hike. The first stretch of our hike is across a valley called “palada” (bowl) hiking past friendly farmers tending to their vegetable and potato plantations. The trail ends at a tribal research center which also sports a wonderful ethnic museum. We have lunch in the center and continue on our trail--this time into a wooded forest of eucalyptus and cedar. Our hike ends in a wonderful lodge located on the slopes of a scenic valley.
Day 8 : Hiking in Badaga Valley
A pr- breakfast optional hike takes us to Hanuman Peak offering stunning 360 degree views of Ketty Valley. After breakfast we hike to Lovedale station and ride a train to Ketti Valley. In Ketty we commence our hike to explore villages of the Badaga communities-- visiting homes, temples and community spaces of the agrarians of this region. Our hike ends in a hamlet of the Kota communities--the potter and metal workers of Nilgiris. We observe their unique architecture and have lunch in a natural setting before driving back to the railway station on time to connect our train to Coonoor. The one hour ride takes us across tunnels and a splendid panorama. In Coonoor we will visit the ancient locomotive workshop before checking into our hotel, Taj Coonoor.
Day 9 : Coonoor to Porivarai
This morning we drive to North Easter ridge on the Nilgiri Plateau. On our way we make two stops. The first is a one hour trail in a rainforest patch called Banangudi Shola to study the unique ecosystem of this region. The second is a hike onto the slopes of Mettupalayam to explore pre-historic rock art of stone age people who inhabited this region. We return to the hotel in the evening for dinner and well-deserved rest.
Day 10 : Coonoor to Mahabalipuram
After an early breakfast we drive to the airport and catch our flight to Chennai. On arrival in Chennai we drive to Kovalam Beach and check into our beach resort. Rest of the day free for your own activities.
Day 11 : Mahabalipuram
After breakfast we set off on a memorable hike to explore the ancient ruins of Mahabalipuram. Outstanding UNESCO World Heritage monuments--are a string of rock-cut monolith and cave temples spread across large terrain overlooking the Bay of Bengal. During the hike we learn about the evolution of temple architecture as our hike progresses along historical time lines. We return to the hotel for lunch and rest of the day is free for your own activities or to relax on the beach. Post dinner transfer to the airport to connect your onward flight home.
DATES: Best time to go: January Departures: No group departures scheduled.
$4,295 (12-15 members)
$120 internal airfare - subject to change
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.