Covering some of the finest sights of the southern-most states of India, our Southern Explorer tour commences with the atmospheric temple towns of Tamil Nadu. In seafront Mahabalipuram, see the stunning bas-relief and the ancient Shore Temple. After an overnight stop in the uniquely French town of Pondicherry, drive to Tanjore to see another UNESCO World Heritage site, the Brihadeeshwara Temple.Continue southwest to visit the vibrant and bustling Meenakshi temple at Madurai before crossing over into the Western Ghats at Periyar in Kerala. Take a boat ride on tranquil Lake Periyar and spend a night under the stars, in a rice boat, on the picturesque backwaters. Colonial Fort Kochi is the final stop before heading home.
Day 1 Chennai, Mahabalipuram
Greeted on arrival in Chennai and transfer to the Ideal Beach Resort at Mahabalipuram or similar for two nights. The remainder of the day is at leisure to relax on the beach. A welcome dinner is arranged at a local restaurant.
Day 2 Mahabalipuram
Morning sightseeing of Mahabalipuram includes a visit to the ancient Shore Temple and the impressive rock carvings and reliefs from the mythological Indian epic known as the Mahabharata. The afternoon is at leisure with the option of a city tour of Chennai, which can be arranged at a supplement.
Day 3 Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry
Drive South on the pretty East Coast Highway to the former French colony of Pondicherry (3 hours). Explore the colonial buildings, statues and churches on foot. Spend the night at the Windflower Resort or similar on the outskirts of the city.
Day 4 Pondicherry, Tanjore
A day’s drive inland to Tanjore (6 hours), via Darasuram, home of the UNESCO World Heritage Airavetisvara Temple. Stay at the Ideal River View resort, set in pretty gardens, for two nights.
Day 5 Tanjore
Today is a full day of sightseeing in Thanjavur, including a visit the Brihadeeshwara Temple complex: its 62m high tower is the tallest of its kind in India. Also enjoy a traditional Tamil thali lunch.
Day 6 Tanjore, Madurai
Drive to the town of Madurai (4-5 hours), to visit the stunning Meenakshi Temple complex with its vast colourfully carved gopuram (towers) and bustling bazaars. Stay overnight at the GRT Regency hotel or similar.
Day 7 Madurai, Periyar National Park
In the morning, take a leisurely drive, across state borders, into ‘God’s Own Country’, Kerala. Arrive in the village of Kumily (4-5 hours), a base to visit Periyar National Park, by early afternoon, for two nights’ at the Cardamom County resort or similar.
Day 8 Periyar National Park
This morning take a walk in Periyar Nature Reserve with tribal trackers, in search of wildlife. In the afternoon, visit a spice plantation which offers an interesting insight into how various spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon are grown, cultivated and processed.
Day 9 Periyar National Park, Kumarakom
Today we descend through the Western Ghats towards Kumarakom (4 hours), a sleepy village on the shores of Lake Vembanad, for an overnight stay at the Zuri Kumarakom Resort or similar. The afternoon is at leisure.
Day 10 Kumarakom, Riceboat
Late morning, board a rice boat for an overnight cruise on Lake Vembanad and the backwaters:- a region that, not only shelters some unique animal and bird life, but also lush paddy fields which are referred to as the ‘Rice Bowl of Kerala’. This is one of the few places in the world where farming is done below sea level.
Day 11 Cochin
Depart after breakfast for Cochin (2 hours). Check-in at the Killians Boutique Hotel or similar for two nights. In the evening, take a sunset cruise on the harbour, a signature Cochin experience for views of the landmark Chinese fishing nets.
Day 12 Cochin
Spend the morning taking in the sights of historic Fort Cochin. Explore the colonial streets, the Dutch Palace, with its murals of the Ramayana, the Jewish Synagogue and St Francis, the oldest church in India. In the evening, attend a Kathakali performance, a traditional dance drama in which the dancers wear elaborate costumes and make up.
Day 13 Cochin
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
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