Itinerary & Map
We often have multiple itineraries so please check to see which itinerary is suitable for you, by selecting the relevant tab.
A fusion of modernity and tradition, the vibrant colours of India are truly captivating. Be at one with bustling cities, surrender to the simplicity of villages and be touched by the spirituality of this land. A journey through India is enriching, inspiring and unforgettable.
Our trip starts in Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka State. Bangalore is the centre of India's high-tech industry and is also known for its green spaces. Former Royal residences include the 19th Century Bangalore Palace, which is modelled on England's Windsor Castle.
The Pride Hotel - Breakfast included
This morning we head towards Mysore through the scenic Karnataka plains. We will stop en route to have a locally made biryani lunch with our local friend Raju and his family.
Mysore is one of India's most attractive towns. Unlike some of India's biggest cities it feels quite manageable in size, and it's beautiful buildings are packed full of history. The Maharajah’s Palace, the Lalitha Mahal (Summer Palace) and Shri Chamarajendra art gallery are all definitely worth a visit.
Historically the town was the capital of the mighty Maharaja kingdom of Mysore, ruled by the same family from 1399 until 1947. There was a brief period where the throne was usurped by one of the most colourful of Indian rulers, Hyder Ali and then by his famous son Tipu Sultan. Today the city is the state capital and one of the centres of the silk trade. It's well laid out with wide streets and many gardens, making it a pleasant place to wander around. It is also one of the major incense manufacturers in India - some call it "The Sandalwood City" and you will find yourself enveloped by the aromas of sandalwood, jasmine, rose and musk.
A visit to Mysore isn't complete without a look around Mysore Palace. One of the most ornate palaces in India, its interior is a riot of colour, mosaics and mirrors.Your leader will take you out to get your bearings.
Sandesh The Prince Hotel - Breakfast included
You have plenty of time to explore the surrounding countryside, so head out and climb Chamundi Hill - site of the Sri Chamundeswari Temple, which is dedicated to Goddess Durga.
This morning after breakfast we travel about an hour to the Keshava Temple in Somnathpur and then we climb Chamundi Hill which features an ancient stone stairway of 1,008 steps leading to its summit. Approximately halfway up is the statue of bull Nandi, the vahana, or "vehicle" of Lord Shiva, which is 4.9m tall and 7.6m long and carved out of a single piece of black granite.
Catch an overnight train to Chennai (approx 11 hrs). Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned, a great way to travel long distances and still get maximum time in each place. Beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided but some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Please note you may be sharing with locals in a same/mixed gender situation.
Overnight sleeper train
After alighting the train in Chennai we head along the scenic East Coast Road to Mamallapuram. Embark on a bicycle tour, visiting the World Heritage-listed 7th-century Shore Temple and the massive bas-relief rock carving known as Arjuna's Penance.
There's also time to inspect the numerous mandapams (carved pillars in front of temples), watch stone carvers at work, see the fishing fleet or simply relax at a beachside restaurant. We'll make a visit to the famous Shore Temple.
Hotel Atithi - Breakfast included
A former French colony, Pondicherry (now Puducherry) has a distinct French feel while retaining its Indian roots, making it one of India's more surprising and delightful cities. Take a walking tour and visit the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the local temples and the old French quarter.
Hotel Atithi or similar including breakfast
This morning we continue our journey westward by train to Madurai, a city with an illustrious history. The journey usually takes around 6 hours and we should arrive at our hotel around lunch time, however road conditions on this journey may mean the time taken is longer.
Madurai is the largest of what are collectively known as ‘The Temple Towns’. South India’s temple architecture is very different to that of the north, but these are iconic structures in their own right. On the northern plains, temples are graced with slim sikaras (towers) whereas here in the south immense gopurams (gateways) carved with thousands of painted Hindu gods are the most striking elements of the Dravidian temples.
Meenakshi temple is no exception - inside is a maze of halls, pillared cloisters and sanctuaries - all of which seem to be decorated with a profusion of murals, carvings and inscriptions. The heady fragrance of incense is everywhere, as is the chanting of priests whose deities are garlanded with colourful flowers. Outside the temple complex the streets are no less enthralling and seem to resemble one huge bazaar with hawkers, stalls and even the occasional passing elephant! Every morning Shiva is taken from his resting place with Meenakshi to the main temple shrine and returned in the evening with great ritual.
Tonight, after an afternoon’s exploration, we should have the chance to visit the Meenakshi temple to witness the daily ceremony of ‘Putting Shiva to Bed’. We’ll return to our hotel by cycle or auto rickshaw.
The following day is set aside for us to choose your own activities. We might choose to laze by the hotel pool, or if we’re feeling more energetic, take an auto rickshaw to the impressive Thirumalai Nayak Palace. Built in Indo-Mhugal style, the Palace was restored by the British in the 19th century and retains some beautiful examples of Tamil decoration.
Alternatively we may decide to venture further afield, with a visit to Trichy. The focus of Trichy is the towering Rock Fort Temple. We make our way to the entrance and from there climb the 400 plus steps past several shrines onto a rock plateau. From the plateau there are stunning views over the city, coconut palms and paddy field patchwork of the Cauvery River plains. Back down the steps and we can make our way to the old town where the labyrinth of narrow, 18th century streets are lined with craft workshops and small textile shops.
Germanus Hotel - Breakfast Included
Periyar National Park
We cross from Tamil Nadu into Kerala and drive the five or so hours to Periyar National Park, one of the main wildlife sanctuaries of southern India and one of the countries largest. Situated in the Cardamom Hills region of the Western Ghats, the park covers 777 square kilometres, at an altitude of between 914 and 1,828m. At its centre lies a large artificial lake, built by the British in 1895 to supply water to the region around Madurai and over 15 square kilometres in area.
In 1973 the park became part of Project Tiger in an effort to save this wonderful animal from extinction. The park has a rich variety of wildlife - both mammals and birds. We would indeed be lucky to see the elusive tiger and leopard - both of which inhabit the forest, but should certainly see sambar, chital, otter, wild boar and gaur along with a rich variety of birdlife (and the odd leech!). In addition, wild elephants are often seen in the park.
We'll have some free time to relax and get used to the sounds of the wildlife in the park and we will have an interesting tour of a spice plantation and included dinner. The next day we’ll continue our exploration of the park on foot in a small group; this is one of the few wildlife parks in which visitors are able to walk (minimum age for walk is 12 years old). We make regular stops to watch for elephant and gaur, as well as monkeys and birds.
Ambadi Hotel - Breakfast included
This morning after breakfast we say goodbye to Periyar and head south to Kochi for the next leg of our adventure. This is quite a travel day and the journey will take 5 to 5 1/2 hours on good roads and there are plenty of places to stop and stretch your legs before we arrive at our hotel in Kochi for the night.
Grand Hotel - Breakfast included
This morning we descend from the hills and make the three hour drive to Alleppey. Here we board a houseboat to begin a cruise through the complex system of beautiful lagoons and canals known as the ‘Malabar Backwaters’. These waterways are the principal means of communication and trade for scores of homes and villages. Along the banks, at jetties and ferry stops, there's often a wonderful array of produce ready for market - sacks of cashews are piled high next to coconuts.
This morning transfer to Kollam railway station and catch the train to Trivandrum (2hrs). Approximately 25 minutes drive from Trivandrum lies your accommodation for the next two nights at Kovalam Beach. We’re free to spend your time here lazing on the beach or by the hotel pool. Alternatively we could have a traditional ayurvedic massage, where oils extracted from plants with medicinal properties are worked into the head, arms, shoulders and back – a perfect trip end for parents. Or what about making a full day journey to the very south of India, to Kanyakumari and look south towards Antarctica! You can explore locally on foot and sometimes bikes can be found to rent out.On our last evening the Group Leader will no doubt organise a traditional ‘last supper’.
Sagara Beach Reosrt - Swimming pool - Breakfast included
The trip ends today after breakfast and you are free to arrive at any time.