Discovery of Southern India

17 Days, from AU $3,267

Meenakshi Temple, Madurai

Brihadeeswarar Temple, Tanjore

Chinese fishing nets, Cochin

Houseboat on the backwaters near Alleppey

Discover the highlights of Southern India on this epic 17 day adventure. Visit St George’s Fort in Chennai, the first stronghold of the British colony in India. Marvel at India's largest temples in Trichy and Madurai. Spot India’s iconic wildlife as you cruise through the Thekkady wildlife sanctuary and relax on board a luxury houseboat in the stunning Kerala backwaters.

Suggested Itinerary

Day 1: Chennai

On arrival into Chennai (formerly known as Madras), meet with your guide and transfer to your hotel for check-in. Enjoy free time for the remainder of the day.

Chennai is the fourth largest city in India and was the site of the East India Company's first settlement. Today Chennai is the cultural centre of Southern India and has become a major centre of commerce. Palm trees mingle with modern buildings forming an interesting contrast of the old and the new. The colonial influence can be seen in the architecture of the older buildings throughout the city.

Day 2: Chennai to Mahabalipuram

This morning, set off on a tour of Chennai with your guide. Chennai is a typical Indian city and is the capital of Tamil Nadu. Madras was the first settlement of the British in India, the cathedral and the Fort of St. George is a reminder of the city's British past. Regardless of this the city has retained it's true Indian spirit.

Visit Marina Beach, which runs from Fort St. George in the north for 13km south to Besant Nagar making it the longest urban beach in India. The beach can attract up to 50,000 visitors a day in holiday periods. Look around Fort St. George from where Robert Clive started the expansion of British rule in India. The fort is now the house of State Parliament. Also located within the ramparts of the fort is St. Mary's Church, the oldest Anglican Church in Asia, constructed in 1680.

Further along Marina Beach see the San Thome Cathedral where lie the remains of St. Thomas, Christ's apostle and the earliest Christian missionary in Asia. Your final stop is the colourful Kapaleeswarar Temple, devoted to Lord Shiva, where you have an opportunity to observe various rituals of Hinduism.

This afternoon drive to the ancient port town of Mahabalipuram. On arrival check in at the hotel and enjoy time at leisure for the evening.

Day 3: Mahabalipuram

This morning visit Kanchipuram, known as the "Golden City of Temples". Kanchipuram is one of the seven main sacred cities of India and is a major centre of Hindu worship and Tamil history. Of the original 1000 temples there are still about 125 left spread out across the city. Many of them are the work of the later Cholas and of the Vijaynagar kings. Kanchipuram is believed to give eternal happiness to those who visit.

In the afternoon take a tour of Mahabalipuram. Built by the Pallava king Mahendra Varman, Mahabalipuram was a seaport used to connect his empire with Southeast Asia. Here you will see many sculptures and temples of typical South Indian architectural design. Among them are the Five Radhas , a group of monolithic monuments and animal figures carved out of solid rock. You will also see the world famous Shore Temple, the sole survivor of seven such temples, and the huge fresco 'The Penance of Bhagirath'. The sculptures in Mahabalipuram are unique in their depictions of day to day life, unlike most other places in India where sculptures are heavily focused on gods and goddesses.

Return to your hotel and enjoy time at leisure for the rest of the day.

Day 4: Mahabalipuram to Tanjore

This morning you will depart Mahabalipuram for Tanjore, a journey of approximately 7 hours.

Tanjore was once the capital of Chola Kings and is an important centre of South Indian religion, art and architecture. Most of the remaining great Chola temples are in or around Tanjore, most notably the Brihadeeswarar temple in the centre of the city. It is also an important agricultural hub and is known as the "rice bowl of Tamil Nadu".

Enjoy free time for the evening, your guide can provide you with dining recommendations.

Day 5: Tanjore to Trichy

This morning visit the remarkable Brihadeeswarar Temple. Built in 1010, this is Indian's largest temple and one of the country's most treasured architectural sites. With a dome carved from a single piece of granite weighting over 80 tonnes, this magnificent temple is now a UNESCO World Heritage Monument.

In the afternoon depart Tanjore for nearby Trichy.

Situated on the banks of the river Cauvery, Tiruchirappalli or Trichy is famous for its rich cultural and splendid architectural heritage and the town represents a fine blend of traditional and modern life. Your tour will take you to the spectacular temple at Srirangam. Set on an island in the Cauvery River, within seven concentric walled Courtyards, the Sri Ranganathaswami Temple is one of the largest temple complexes in all of India and is considered the largest, functioning Hindu temple in the world.

Enjoy time at leisure for the evening.

Day 6: Trichy - Madurai

After breakfast depart on the 4 hour drive for Madurai. On arrival check in to your hotel and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.

Madurai is situated on the banks of the Vaigai River and is a bustling city packed with pilgrims, businessmen, bullock carts and legions of rickshaw wallahs. Its narrow, overcrowded streets seem to be bursting at the seams with activity. It is southern India's oldest centre of pilgrimage and learning and is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu. Madurai was the capital of the Pandyan Empire until the 14th century and is one of the oldest cities in India.

Day 7: Madurai

On this mornings tour of Madurai visit the Meenakshi temple, another of the largest temple complexes in India. It is a rectangular, twin shrine with the southern temple dedicated to Meenakshi, the consort of Shiva, and the other to Shiva. It is Madurai's greatest landmark, a city within a city. The complex includes a bazaar that bustles from dawn to nightfall. The high point of the Meenakshi temple is the "Hall of a Thousand Pillars", built in the 16th century it is as great a work of structural engineering as it is of art.

Also visit the palace of Tirumala Nayak which is an example of the architectural mastery of the Nayaks - a blend of Hindu and Saracen architecture. In its heyday the original structure was 4 times the size of what still stands today and was considered one of the wonders of southern India.

This evening return to the Meenakshi temple to witness the unique Hindu Aarti ceremony.

Day 8: Thekkady

After breakfast depart on the 6 hour drive for Thekkady. Located on the Tamil Nadu and Kerala state border, this region is known as the Spice Village of India for its vast spice and tea gardens. The road winds through mountains, descending through a carpet of tea bushes, estates of tall rubber trees and gardens of coffee, cardamom and pepper. The aroma of spices fills the air.

This afternoon visit the Thekkady Wildlife Sanctuary. Declared a Tiger reserve in 1978, Thekkady provides visitors with excellent opportunities to view the local wildlife. Take a motor launch on the convoluted waterways and look out for sightings of Elephants, Bison, Deer and occasionally a Tiger. All manner of flora and fauna flourish in this tropical habitat making it one of the premiere reserves in Southern India.

Day 9: Thekkady to Kumarakom

After breakfast depart Thekkady for Kumarakom, a journey of approximately 5 hours.

The state of Kerala is known for its numerous canals and waterways and its verdant forests and mangrove swamps. Set in one of the most idyllic locations in Kerala, Kumarakom is a tranquil, tiny settlement nestled in the backwaters between the waterways of the Bird Sanctuary around Vembanad Lake.

Enjoy free time for the remainder of the day, maybe take a boat trip on the lake looking out for wildlife or enjoy an ayurvedic massage. Kerala offers a variety of therapeutic massages which are both relaxing and healing and are indigenous to this region.

Day 10: Alleppey

Transfer by small boat to the main jetty where you will embark your house boat. Cruise through the narrow lakes and canals of the Kerala backwaters towards Alleppey.

The coastal town of Alleppey on the Arabian sea is called "the Venice of the East" for the numerous canals that meander through the town. The town hosts the annual event of snake boat racing during August and it is also well known for its cashew nuts.

The backwaters in Kerala are a network of around 1500kms of canals, both manmade and natural, 38 rivers and 5 big lakes extending from one end of Kerala to the other. Before the advent of modern transportation methods; bridges, ferries and trucks, the most commonly used cargo transportation method through the backwaters was by Kettuvalloms (stitched boats). Kettuvalloms, or houseboats, were used in the early days for the transportation of goods from the isolated interior villages to the towns. Gradually as the Kettuvalloms became replaced they were relegated to neglect and decay. Recently, tourism has seen Kettuvalloms become popular again as a fabulous way to explore the fascinating beauty of the backwaters.

Curiously enough, not a single nail is used in the construction of Kettuvalloms, it takes great skill and meticulousness from the artisans who construct these giant vessels by tying huge planks of jack wood together. Modified to meet today's requirements, the Kettuvalloms are comfortably furnished and are extremely eco friendly. Every boat is manned by a crew with a cook, guide and oarsman.

Day 11: Alleppey to Cochin

After breakfast disembark in Allepey and take the short drive to Cochin, enjoy time at leisure for the afternoon.

Cochin is known as the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea' due to its natural harbour being one of the sea's finest ports. The city is made up of islands connected to Ernakulum on the mainland by bridges and it perfectly reflects the eclecticism of Kerala. This quaint town has seen historic visits from sea faring traders from countries such as Portugal and China, all bringing with them their different cultures that make up Cochin's unique fabric.

This evening witness the famous South Indian classical dance - Kathakali. The origins of India's most spectacular dance/drama go back 500 years to a time when open-air performances were held in temple courtyards in the villages. Kathalkali isn't simply another form of dancing, it incorporates elements of yoga and ayurveda. All the props are fashioned from natural materials, powdered minerals and the sap of trees for the bright facial make-up, the beaten bark of certain trees dyed with fruits and spices for wigs and coconut oil for the paint around the eyes.

Day 12: Cochin

This morning, leave for a half day tour of Cochin. Visit the Jewish Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth. The synagogue is located in an area called "Jew Town", which is also one of the centres of the spice trade in this region. You will also visit the ancient Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1557. This palace was presented to the ruler of Cochin as a gesture of goodwill. The Palace's alternative name "Dutch Palace" resulted from substantial renovations by the Dutch after 1663. The most important feature of the palace is the astonishing murals that adorn some of the palace rooms depicting scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharta and Puranic legends connected with Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Kumara and Durga.

Another stop is made at the St. Francis Church, the oldest European built church in India. The church was constructed in 1503 by the Portuguese Franciscan Friars who accompanied the expedition led by the famed Vasco de Gama, the first European to reach India by sailing around Africa. Vasco de Gama died in Cochin in 1524 and was buried here for 14 years before his remains were transferred to Lisbon. His tombstone can be seen inside the church.

Enjoy the afternoon at leisure for your own exploration.

Day 13: Bangalore and Hassan

This morning transfer to Cochin airport for your flight to Bangalore.

After arriving in Bangalore take a tour of the cities main sites such as the Cubbon Park, Bull Temple and Vidhana Soudha.

In the heart of the city is the Cubbon Park. This beautiful 300 acre park was built by Lieutenant General Sir Mark Cubbon in 1864. The Vidhan Soudha and many Greco-colonial style buildings of the British era, such as the public library and the high court, are located here.

Vidhana Soudha is an imposing granite structure with a total area of over 5,00,000 sq ft. It houses the secretariat, the state legislature and several government offices. The huge carved doors of the cabinet are made of pure sandalwood .

Bull Temple is one of the oldest temples typical of the Dravidian style of architecture. Built by Kempe Gowda, the sacred bull, carved out of a single boulder, is 6.1 metres long and 4.6 metres high.

After the city tour drive to Hassan, approximately 5½ hours. Upon arrival check into the hotel, the rest of the evening is free to relax.

Hassan derives its name from the Goddess Haasanamba, who is the main deity of the region. The city was founded during the Hoysala Dynasty which ruled the region from the 11th to the 14th century. During the peak in their reign the Hoysalas ruled most of Southern India.

Day 14: Hassan

This morning after breakfast take a half day excursion to Belur and Halebid.

Belur is a quaint hamlet 38kms from Hassan, it is located on the banks of the river Yagachi. It was once the capital of the Hoysala Empire and is renown for its exquisite temples. The Chennakeshava Temple is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture, taking 103 years to complete, the facade of the temple is filled with intricate sculptures and friezes with no surfaces left blank. Elephants, episodes from the epics and sensuous dancers are all there, awe inspiring in their intricate workmanship.

Continue on to Halebid. The temples of Halebid, like those of Belur, bear testimony to the rich, cultural heritage of this region. The Hoysaleswara Temple, dating back to the 12th century, is astounding for its wealth of sculptural details. The walls of the temple are covered with an endless variety of gods and goddesses, animals, birds and dancing girls yet no two facets of the temple are the same. This magnificent temple, guarded by a Nandi Bull, was never completed despite 86 years of labour.

Return to Hassan for an evening at leisure.

Day 15: Hassan to Mysore

This morning head off on the 3 hour drive to Mysore. Mysore is the cultural capital of Karnataka state and served as the capital of the Kingdom of Mysore for nearly 6 centuries from 1399 - 1947. The city is renown for its palaces and the festivities that take place here during the 10 day festival of Dasara which falls in September or October.

Enjoy the rest of the day is at leisure.

Day 16: Mysore

After breakfast head out with your guide for a half day city tour of Mysore.

Visit the Mysore Palace, also known as the Amba Vilas Palace. The beautiful profile of this walled Indo Saracenic palace, which blends together Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic styles, graces the city's skyline. An earlier palace burnt down in 1897 and the present one was completed in 1912. Inside it's a kaleidoscope of stained glass and mirrors, carved wooden doors and mosaic floors.

Take a walk around the beautiful palace gardens before returning to you hotel. Take the afternoon at leisure to relax.

Day 17: Mysore to Bangalore

After breakfast set off on the drive to Bangalore airport, stopping en-route to visit Srirangapatnam.

Srirangapatnam is the island fortress of the legendary warrior king Tipu Sultan. Inside the fortress is Tipu's mosque with its twin minarets, the Wellesley Bridge and the dungeons where British officers were once imprisoned. Equally impressive is the ornate white-domed Gumbaz, an imposing structure with doors of ebony inlaid with ivory and lacquered with Tipu's tiger-striped emblem. About 1km to the east of the fort is Tipu's Summer Palace, known as the Daria Daulat Bagh, which is set amidst a lovely garden.

Continue on to Bangalore airport to board your departure flight.

Personalise Your Trip

Phone now to discuss options to personalise your itinerary.

Travel Styles

All Get About Asia trips have been designed to make sure you have an unforgettable travel experience. We have developed several trip styles to cater for our diverse range of travellers. Read what your ideal Get About Asia experience might look like here.

Standard:from AU $3,267
Superior:from AU $3,640
Deluxe:from AU $4,200

All GetAboutAsia prices are based on twin share and depend on availability and season. All our itineraries can be customised including international flights and extra nights. For questions or further information, Enquire Now!

Important Information

Accommodation:

Hotels/lodges each night of the itinerary (excluding your departure day).

Inclusions:

• Accommodation on bed and breakfast basis at all places except on board the houseboat where lunch and dinner is also included
• All transfers, sightseeing's & excursions by air-conditioned vehicle
• Deluxe house boat 
• Services of  English speaking professional local guide during the city tours
• Entrances fees as per the above program
• Kathakali dance show in Kochi 
• Pooja Ceremony at Meenakashi Temple in Madurai  
• Porterage at airports and hotels  
• All currently applicable entrances at the monuments. Camera fees will be extra

Notes:

This trip package includes 1 internal flight (Cochin - Bangalore) which retails at about 200AUD.

Visas for India
All nationalities need to apply for an Indian visa in advance. Give yourself at least 4 weeks.

The Indian Government has advised that from December 2014, all visa applicants will need to be physically present at a visa application centre, by appointment, to submit their applications and biometric data, including fingerprints and facial imagery.

ALL Australian travellers to India will need to personally attend their nearest consulate to complete their visa formalities. There is NO visa on arrival in India for all nationalities. Indian visas CANNOT be obtained in Nepal.

Price Dependent:

Availability of accommodation and season.

Trip Information

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"Thought we should let you know that we are really happy at the Gateway Hotel. The staff are very service orientated and friendly. At checkin we were offered a choice of two rooms which was nice. The same applies to all the accommodation we have had so far - we have been happy with the standard and service provided. Our guides and drivers are excellent and go above and beyond." — John and Viv Cumming, Sydney, April 2018

"We absolutely fell in love with India and we will be going back. Travelling through India and having such knowledgeable guides accessible made us feel like we were in living history. Of course the people and the food were fantastic. Everything is taken care of and there was constant follow up from local office to make sure we were happy. Once we got used to the idea, we loved having a private driver - This is the best way of seeing Rajasthan! You see so much on the roads in between destinations and have the flexibility to stop and try street foods and take photos wherever along the way. The Lalit chain was very good for a big corporate chain. They upgraded us twice as we stayed with them 3 times, so this might be a useful strategy for other clients." — Mr and Mrs Raymond, Adelaide, February 2018

"This was one of the best holidays I ever had and I am so happy that I went. Munnar was lovely, the mountains are picturesque in Kerala. My driver made me feel safe and secure and I never once felt scared or alone even though I was travelling by myself. I would recommend this holiday to anyone." — Mari Ellen, Melbourne, August 2016

"I especially loved the cruise on the backwaters of Alleppey and going to a village which was like the 'Venice of Kerala' - accessible by small boat. Other highlights were the Snake Boat Race; the cool mountain area and tea plantations of Munnar. We were able to make adjustments to the recommended tour to suit our needs, including later- than- usual starting times each morning. I loved it and would certainly recommend this trip to others." — Gaye and Neville, Kew VIC, August 2016

"The trip we had in India was just the best - A fascinating country with a great history. The architects engineers and astronomers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries really open your eyes. The road from Delhi to Agra had me on the edge of the seat, absolutely great, the driver was fantastic and could not have looked after us better when I got sick. A wonderful holiday, nine days just a little short. Thank you very much for putting it together" — Mr and Mrs Alderson , Bandiana VIC , November 2015

"My tour guides were marvellous, the representative that met me at the airport was an absolute delight, the gifts were a lovely touch. It was a pleasure to have guides that you could chat to and have a laugh. Again the tour guide for Best of southern India was a treasure, very informative, relaxed very easy to get along with and willing to do options with us during our free time. The highlights for me were the homestays, in Kalpetta (Villa Wayanard) l could have stayed there for awhile, clean, relaxing and great food. The trip to the waterfall and village was a favourite for me. To me India is not a holiday as such but an in-creditable experience, and if l was younger l would go back. " — Lynda, Farmborough Heights NSW, September 2018

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