From Kerala to Tamil Nadu
From 1118 $ per person
This tour provides a fascinating travel of discovery through Southern India in all its diversity. From Kerala to Tamil Nadu we shall visit some of the most outstanding historical sites in India - Kochi (Cochin), Madurai, Trichy, Tanjore and Mahabalipuram, as well as relaxing in Periyar National Park, on the backwaters and on the beaches of the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian sea.
We start off by visiting Kochi, a captivating port with a rich past which symbolises to perfection the eclecticism of Kerala.
At the crossroads of myriad ancient maritime trading routes, Kerala boasts great cultural wealth. Egyptians, Phoenicians, Chinese, Arabs, Portuguese and Dutch have successively called in at its ports.
But Kerala is not just about history. The immense variety of its natural scenery (mountainous jungle, flooded paddy fields, coconut and spice plantations, rugged coasts), its extremely rich fauna and flora, and its hospitable inhabitants all combine to make this one of the most appealing parts of India.
We first unwind on superb Marari beach and then on the backwaters, where the charm and comfort of the houseboats and the natural beauty of the area, with its canals, lakes and lagoons, make for a perfect combination. After this we set out to explore Periyar Park, and in particular Elephant Valley, with its lush vegetation.
We then move on to Tamil Nadu, where our focus will be on the cultural side, visiting temples and Indian bazaars. We shall also have the opportunity to explore Pondicherry, the former French trading post of the East Indies, with its old world charm, as well as the fishing villages and magnificent beach at Mahabalipuram.
Day 1 : Arrive in Kochi
Airport pickup and transfer to the island of Fort Kochi. Overnight in a delightful hotel.
Day 2: Kochi
Visit the town at your leisure. Kochi is an unlikely blend of medieval Portugal, the Netherlands and an English country village, with the tropical Malabar coast as a backdrop. Discover the oldest church in the country, winding streets lined with mosques and old Portuguese houses dating back 500 years, Chinese fishing nets, a sixteenth century synagogue, a palace built by the Portuguese. This is also the ideal place to see a Kathakali show. Overnight in hotel.
Day 3: Kochi - Malabar Coast : Marari beach [60 km - 1h30/2Hrs hour by road]
Drive to one of the most beautiful beaches on the Malabar coast. Check into hotel. Relax, swim and meet the many fishermen and their flimsy craft. Overnight in hotel.
Day 4 : Marari beach - Houseboat on the backwaters [16 km - 30 to 45 min by road]
After a warm welcome on board by the crew, composed of captain, cook and cabin boy, we set out on a traditional houseboat. We explore the canals, lagoons and Lake Vembanad and enjoy the serenity of these peaceful waters. Imagine yourself in a tropical Venice, where water takes the place of roads. Boats are constantly coming and going, propelled by the boatmen who push off from the bottom with long bamboo poles. On the banks you will see old houses made of teak, mahogany and rosewood and villages bright with hibiscus and bougainvillea, not to mention shimmering paddy fields and endless coconut palms. Meal and night afloat (double bedroom with bathroom) Full board.
Day 5 : Houseboat on the backwaters - Periyar [140km - 4/5 hours by road]
We leave the backwaters behind to explore the mountainous region of the Western Ghats where we will be going as far as the Periyar National Reserve, on the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Check into hotel. Afternoon exploration of Periyar reserve. A range of activities are possible: boat trips on the lake, elephant rides through the spice plantations, jeep tours or hiking in the jungle. Bamboo rafting is available for the more adventurous or you can also relax with an ayurvedic massage in the hotel (not included in the price, to be arranged at the time with the hotel). Overnight in hotel.
Day 6 : Periyar - Kodaikanal (Elephant Valley) [115 km - 3-4 hours by road]
We follow small winding mountain roads through beautiful lush countryside to Kodaikanal. We then continue on until we get to a wild area straight out of Paradise, called Elephant Valley, with an eco-lodge surrounded by jungle, coffee plantations, waterfalls, traditional villages and wild animals , including elephants. Check into and spend night in eco-lodge.
Day 7: Elephant Valley
Day to relax and explore the surrounding countryside and wildlife. The eco-lodge offers a range of activities ( to be arranged at the time with the hotel): walk through coffee plantations, hike to the waterfalls, horse riding, yoga and meditation. Overnight in eco-lodge.
Day 8 : Elephant Valley - Madurai [130 km -2-3 hours by road]
Heading south-east, we leave the mountains of the Western Ghats for the wide fertile plain ofTamil Nadu. Arrive at the great holy city of Madurai. Check into hotel for overnight stay.
Day 9: Madurai
Madurai is the cultural capital of the Tamul region and an important site in Hinduism. It is one of the oldest cities of southern India and also one of the holiest, as can be seen from the impressive number of devotees and sadhus. We visit the vast holy complex of Meenakshi, one of the most animated temples in Southern India as well as the palace of the Nayaks and the market, with its labyrinth of bustling lanes. Overnight in hotel.
Day 10: Madurai - Chettinad [100 km - 2 hours by road]
Heading north, we visit the Chettinad region, including the temple of Sri Gokarneshwara, the imposing fortress of Tirumayam and the grand Chettinad palace. Check into and spend night in hotel.
Day 11 : Chettinad - Thanjavur [100km - 2 hours by road]
We take the road to Thanjavur, where we visit the Brihadishwara temple, a jewel of Chola temple architecture, as well as the Palace. Tour local markets. Overnight in hotel.
Day 12: Thanjavur - Trichy - Thanjavur [120km - 3 hours by road]
Excursion to the town of Trichy, home to two extraordinary temples. Visit Rock Fort Temple and Siringam temple. Return to Thanjavur. Night in hotel.
Day 13 : Thanjavur - Pondicherry [210 km - 5-6 hours by road]
Leave for Pondicherry, stopping off en route at Chidambaram and the superb temple of Nataraja , dedicated to Shiva and one of the best examples of Dravidian architecture. Continue on to Gangakondacholapuram, where we visit the temple of Brihadishwara, and Dharasuram to see the temple of Airatesvara, a superb example of 12th century Chola architecture. Reach Pondicherry where we check into the hotel and stay the night.
Day 14 : Pondicherry
Visit this town where the French influence is still apparent in its architecture, especially on the seafront and the French Quarter. Night in hotel.
Day 15 : Pondicherry - Mahabalipuram - Chennai [160 km - 3 ½ hours by road]
Leave for Chennai. En route see the relief carving depicting the descent of the Ganges and the magnificent temples at the edge of the sea. Opportunity to swim. Continue on to Chennai and transfer to airport, depending on the timing of your flight. Shanti Travel says ’au revoir’.