Coast-to-coast culture, wildlife and architecture
There's always something fascinating to see in South India! Incredible living temples with centuries-old rituals, colorful festivals, lively bazaars, ancient World Heritage monuments, parks with exotic indigenous wildlife, old British hill stations, emerald-green rice paddies, tea plantations, and fragrant spice farms. it's a kaleidoscope of images that never stops spinning.
Our exploration of this magical destination includes a wealth of South India's artistic heritage, but you'll also discover the colonial history of the spice trade on the Malabar Coast, cruise in a comfortable houseboat on the picturesque backwaters of Kerala, and see rich wildlife in one of India's noted biosphere reserves. There is more magic in South India than you could ever imagine!
Our Private Adventures in India
This adventure in South India is designed to be taken as a stand-alone journey, or as part of an exploration of the entire country, combined with one of our North and Central India itineraries. We're more than happy to help you combine this with any of our other itineraries, assist with internal flights between destinations, to help make your dream of India become a reality!
7 days easy to moderate touring
- Explore southern India from coast to coast—from the spice trade of the Malabar Coast to the colonial influences on the Coromandel
- Game viewing at Periyar National Park—elephants, guar, and even the elusive tiger
- Visit Old Cochin and the temples of Madurai
- Float through the beautiful serene backwaters of Kerala, witnessing the everyday life of the local people fishing and farming
Duration: 7 days Start Location: Cochin End Location: ChennaiDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Cochin (Kochi)
Arrive in Cochin, India. Your guide or a representative will meet you outside the customs area at the airport. He or she will answer questions, brief you on the immediate arrangements, and escort you to your hotel. (We're holding rooms from 12 noon on Day 1.) The remainder of the day is free to rest and recover from your flight, or to explore Cochin, a spice trading port for more than a thousand years. In the evening, we'll attend a performance of the Kathakali, an elaborate Indian dance-drama.
Day 2 : Cochin
Cochin was originally settled by the Portuguese and boasts a natural harbor with lagoons, canals, and fishing hamlets. One of the three biggest ports on India's west coast, it is also an industrially developed area, with the coir industry of special importance (coir is a coarse fiber made from the husk of coconuts). Today we'll visit the Cochin Harbor Terminus; the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry, originally built by the Portuguese; Jewish Synagogue and Jew Town (the synagogue houses scrolls of the Old Testament); Fort Cochin area; St. Francis Church, the oldest European-built church in India (and where the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was first interred); and see a stretch of the coastline dotted with massive Chinese fishing nets (cheenavala), believed to have been introduced by traders from the court of Kublai Khan (this is the only place they are found outside of China).
Day 3 : Houseboat
After breakfast we drive through the Western Ghats to Kottayam, where we board private houseboats for a peaceful, scenic trip through the backwaters of Kerala. On this beautiful, serene waterway, we'll see the everyday life of the local people as we float along, and may come across schoolchildren and locals collecting mussels, fishing, farming rice paddies, and toddy tapping (collecting juice from the buds of palm trees or coconut flowers). The houseboats (called Kettuvallams) were traditionally used as grain barges to transport the rice harvested in the fertile fields alongside the Kerala backwaters. Nowadays they have been converted to accommodate tourists, with a sleeping area, bathrooms, dining area, and comfortable seating on the deck. Lunch and dinner are on board the boat, prepared by the accompanying staff. Overnight on board the boat in Vamband Lake.
Day 4 : Periyar National Park & Tiger Reserve
We'll disembark from the boats at Kavanatinkara, from which we have a 3- to 3½-hour drive to Periyar National Park. The road leaves the coastal plain, then winds into the Cardamon Hills, which form part of the great Western Ghats range that divide the Indian Ocean coast from the Deccan Plateau that covers most of the Indian interior. Also referred to as Thekkady, Periyar is about 300 square miles in area. At its core is a 5,500-hectare lake formed by the construction of a dam on the Periyar River in 1895. When this lake was created, it flooded 10 square miles of forest, and the trunks of many quasi-petrified trees still emerge from the water. Now these snags provide convenient perches for cormorants, kingfishers, and other water birds. Grasslands fringe the lakeshore; these and surrounding evergreen forests support a good population of elephant and gaur, as well as chital and sambar deer.
The park is a Project Tiger reserve, but tigers are rarely seen. While we might get lucky with tigers, as with leopard and dhole, we are pretty certain to see black langurs. The spectacular lion-tailed macaque also lives in the evergreen forest, as do the slow loris, but we'll need good luck to find these primates. Birding will be excellent. Game viewing at Periyar takes place primarily by boat, so we tend to see mostly the large mammals that utilize the lakeshore grasslands—namely, elephants and gaur.
Day 5 : Madurai
In the morning, we'll take a birding walk near our hotel. Late in the morning we'll drive to Madurai (a little over an hour), the oldest inhabited city on the Indian peninsula, and one of the country's oldest overall. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel. The remainder of the afternoon is free to rest.
Day 6 : Madurai
We'll depart on a full day sightseeing tour of the city, scenically located on the Vaigai River. Madurai was the seat of many important Tamil and Sultanate rulers and later became an important political center in the British-ruled Madras Presidency. The main attraction and focus of Madurai is the splendid temple dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi. Built over a period of a thousand years or more, the main shrine stands at the center of a colossal complex marked by four gateways that open the temple up in the four cardinal directions. These gateways are covered by a lavish baroque display of brightly painted stucco figures, including animals, mythical figures, and gods and goddesses.
The Meenakshi complex is perhaps the most important example of the Hindu temples as city and fortress, a model of architecture and urban planning that became common throughout the region over the last four hundred years. Other attractions of Madurai include the Nayak kings' palace and teeming bazaars. Madurai today continues to be an important handloom textile center.
Day 7 : Chennai – depart
Transfer to the airport in the late morning for the one-hour flight to Chennai (formerly Madras). Upon arrival, transfer to the airport hotel. The afternoon is free to relax before catching your flight home (you’ll have day rooms available at the hotel until 9:00 p.m.). Late evening transfer to airport for departure on homeward-bound flight, or combine this trip with one of our other adventures in India!
DATES: Best time to go: January - February, October - December Departures: Private departures are available on the dates of your choice, pending availability. Call us for details.
The Gateway Pasumalai Hotel
Escape the din of city life. Perched atop the Pasumalai hill, amid 62 acres of peaceful, landscaped gardens, The Gateway Hotel is the epitome of colonial architecture. Here you'll find a charmed spot to relax and take in picturesque views of the Temple City and the Kodai hills.
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.
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