Kerala and the Southern Highlights


This fascinating tour will entice even the most widely travelled individual. Southern India is very different from the north, providing stark contrasts between spices, food, cultures and climate.

Places Visited

Australia - Chennai (3N) - Bangalore (1N) - Hassan (1N) - Mysore (1N) - Coonoor (2N) - Munnar (1N) - Periyar (2N) - Houseboat (1N) - Kumarakom (1N) - Kochi (2N) - Australia

Day 1: Australia to Chennai
Fly with Singapore Airlines to Chennai for a three night stay.
Day 1: Australia to Chennai
Day 2: Chennai
Enjoy a city tour of Chennai, the former British trading post previously known as Madras. See Marina Beach, the second longest beach in the world and visit Fort St. George and St. Mary’s Church. Later this afternoon continue to the Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva,‘the destroyer’.
Day 2: Chennai
Day 3: Chennai – Kanchipuram & Mamallapuram
This morning you will travel to Kanchipuram and visit a number of local temples. Continue to the 7th century port city of Mamallapuram. Discover the rock-cut temples, including the Shore Temple, and see recently discovered archaeological excavations and artefacts. The Shore Temple stands elegantly overlooking the sea, illustrating the beauty of Pallava. It is small in size but has high quality carvings. Built in the 8th century, it’s the earliest significant free-standing stone temple in Tamil Nadu. Return to Chennai this afternoon.
Day 3: Chennai – Kanchipuram & Mamallapuram
Day 4: Chennai to Bangalore
Rise early this morning and catch the Shatabdi Express train to Bangalore, often referred to as South India’s ‘garden city’. Tour the city, including a visit to the Bull Temple and Vidhana Soudha (Legislature Building). The Bull Temple is dedicated to Nandi Bull, the vehicle of Lord Shiva and is among the oldest temples in the city. The idol of Nandi Bull is said to have been carved out of a single rock.
Day 4: Chennai to Bangalore
Day 5: Bangalore to Hassan
This morning, head west to Hassan where you will explore the Sravanabelagola Temple and have the opportunity to climb to the top. Continue to the famous temples of Belur and Halebid. The Belur temples are some of the finest examples of Hoysala workmanship.
Day 5: Bangalore to Hassan
Day 6: Hassan to Mysore
Travel south to Mysore, stopping en route at Srirangapatna Fort. Later, visit the Maharaja’s Palace and drive up to Chamundi Hills, where you will see the Sri Chamundeshwari Temple and the Nandi Bull Statue. Tonight you will enjoy a traditional cooking demonstration hosted by a local family.
Day 6: Hassan to Mysore
Day 7: Mysore to Coonoor
Head to the hills and drive to Coonoor. Located at an altitude of 1,850m above sea level, Coonoor is the second largest hill station in the Nilgiri Hills. The evening is at your leisure to relax or take an optional walk around the hill station.
Day 7: Mysore to Coonoor
Day 8: Coonoor – Ooty
This morning take the Toy Train to the hill station of Ooty where you will visit the botanical gardens. Ooty is affectionately known as the Queen of Hill Stations. It is picturesque, green and home to coffee and tea plantations. You may wish to take a walk to a nearby village to gain an insight into the lives of the local people.
Day 8: Coonoor – Ooty
Day 9: Coonoor to Munnar
Continue the descent from the highlands as you travel to Munnar, the favoured summer resort of British rulers in the colonial days. Endless tea plantations, untouched valleys and mountains are to be found here.
Day 9: Coonoor to Munnar
Day 10: Munnar to Thekkady
Visit a local tea plantation and the Tata Tea Museum, which displays the evolution of tea production in the region. Later drive to Thekkady, home of Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary.
Day 10: Munnar to Thekkady
Day 11: Thekkady – Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary
Set high in the ranges of the Western Ghats, Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is home to great scenic beauty and rich biodiversity. Take an early morning walk through the sanctuary before visiting a local spice village and market. This evening watch a Kalaripayattu performance, a traditional form of martial arts.
Day 11: Thekkady – Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary
Day 12: Thekkady to Pallathuruthy
Drive to Pallathuruthy to board your overnight houseboat to Alleppey. The houseboats are converted from traditional rice barges and are known as ‘kettuvallams’. Enjoy the enchanting waters and panoramic views of rural life along the banks. A cruise along the palm-fringed waterways of Kerala will be a memorable experience, passing ancient Chinese fishing nets, lush rice paddies, local villages, temples and coconut groves. Enjoy a dinner of traditional Keralan cuisine, known for its use of coconut, tamarind and spices.
Day 12: Thekkady to Pallathuruthy
Day 13: Alleppey to Kumarakom
Disembark your houseboat in Alleppey and drive to Kumarakom, home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Stop en route at a local market and coir factory, where craftsmen use the fibres obtained from the husk of a coconut.
Day 13: Alleppey to Kumarakom
Day 14: Kumarakom to Kochi
Drive to Kochi and later this afternoon visit Kumbalangi integrated Tourism Village, built to highlight the fisher-folk way of life in the region.
Day 14: Kumarakom to Kochi
Day 15: Kochi
Tour the sites of Kochi starting with a visit to St. Francis Church and the Santa Cruz Basilica. Visit the historic Jewish Synagogue, local markets and see the unique cantilevered Chinese fishing nets. This evening watch a traditional Kathakali dance performance.
Day 15: Kochi
Day 16: Depart Kochi
Enjoy a free morning to spend at your leisure. After a late check-out, you will be transferred to Kochi airport to board your overnight flight to Australia.
Day 16: Depart Kochi
Day 17: Arrive Australia
Arrive home today.

Tour prices are per person, twin share

2016

2017

Additional Price Information:

Single Hotel room and Houseboat Cabin Option from $1,415
Land Only (Chennai to Kochi), 16 days from $4,165 per person (includes tipping)
Darwin passengers may require a stopover in Singapore at an additional cost
Above prices include airline fuel surcharge and tipping. Subject to change
Tour availability is updated each Monday. While every effort is made to ensure availability status is current, it is advisable to contact our reservations department on 1300 318 203. Limited seats denotes 4 seats or less available.

A visa is required by all nationalities. A single entry visa should be arranged in advance of travel. Unlike many other tour operators, we include your entry visa in the price of our tour for Australian passport holders. We handle the entire visa process – all you need to do is fill out the form and send your passport to us. We are always on hand to help you with any questions or queries you might have when completing the form. 

Phone Calls
International and domestic calls can be made from your hotel room. It’s a good idea to check call costs with hotel staff or your local guide before making calls, as this can be expensive. A service charge may also be involved. To call Australia – the international access code is 00, followed by the country code 61, then the local area code (omitting the first 0), then the number.
 
Mobile Phones
Mobile phones are quite popular in India and you will find high quality coverage. India has active roaming agreements with most of the service providers. Please make sure you are aware of associated costs and have activated your international roaming prior to departure.
 
Internet & Email
Internet cafes can be found in all major cities and even in some small towns. This is often the easiest and cheapest way to stay in touch. Most hotels have a business centre with internet access, but at a slightly higher rate. Some hotels may have wifi which usually comes at an additional cost and may only be available in hotel lobbies. 

Tipping is an expected element in the tourism industry today and India is no exception. Many passengers are often uncertain of how much to tip so we have established a tipping system whereby every passenger gives a set amount to the National Escort who will distribute the amount appropriately. On multi-country tips, this amount will be paid in stages on arrival in each country. If there is no National Escort, you will need to give your money to your Local Guides and tipping amounts for each city will be shown in your final itinerary. The amount for the kitty is calculated for each tour depending on the length, group size, and services used during the trip.
 
We will indicate the tipping amounts in your final documents for guidance.

Shopping can be fun and entertaining, especially in local markets all over India where souvenirs can be purchased for next to nothing. However all passengers must realise that the authenticity and value of goods is always questionable.
If the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is! Some shopping is made up of copied brand items and reproduced antiques.
 
In keeping with most people’s interest whilst on holiday, your tour will include a reasonable number of opportunities in local shops and government factories. This may vary depending on local conditions, and should never interfere with your itinerary’s included sightseeing.
 
Each region has its own specialty; a traditional handicraft perfected by the locals over centuries, a climate that encourages rich spices to grow, or a type of wood, stone or precious jewel in abundance nearby. Textiles are a popular souvenir, including silk brocades from Varanasi in the north or Kanchipuram in the south, tie-dyed cottons from all over Rajasthan, saris, hand woven Tibetan carpets from Darjeeling or Dharamshala, or the woollen shawls pashminas of Kashmir and Ladakh.
 
There is also the heavy and elaborate silverwork of Rajasthan, “spring picked” tea from the hill stations, and the spices, wooden carvings or facemasks of Kerala.
 
If you prefer set prices, head to the government-run shops, usually called “cottage industries” or “emporium” which sells quality but reasonably priced goods. The more up market tourist shops will also have fixed prices. Markets, street stalls, and local shops can be noisy, crowded, and confronting, but this remains one of the most rewarding experiences of travelling in India. If your itinerary includes some free time and you would like to go shopping, ask either your National Escort/Guide or the hotel staff for advice on how to best get there. They should be able to tell you if you need a taxi or a rickshaw, how much you should pay for the journey and provide you verbal or written directions to give to the driver. Remember to take a hotel business card with you to find your way back!

The cost of all meals is included in your group tour cost. Breakfast is served in the hotel and includes a combination of western and local dishes. As traditional in this region, lunch and dinner are served in a banquet style, so you can try the variety of specialty dishes. The amount of food served is more than ample for the whole group.
 
We aim to cater to the tastes of the majority of people so dishes are not too spicy or unusual in their taste. One of the great myths about India is that the food is of poor quality and always hot and spicy. This is definitely not the case! In fact, North Indian dishes whilst often very rich and indeed spicy don’t contain as much chilli as South Indian dishes. Indian cuisine is predominately vegetarian; however more meat (chicken and lamb) dishes are available in the North. On our group tours, we use a variety of local and hotel restaurants, which provide variety in both the dishes and methods of cooking. If you like Indian food from home, you will have no problems with the real Indian food as it is similar, only more flavoursome. You’ll love it; though don’t expect to lose weight on your holiday, Indians love to eat and eat big. In tourist centres, some restaurants and hotels may also serve western dishes to provide variety. You may also prefer to bring comforts like cereal, biscuits, muesli bars and tea/coffee from home.
 
Drinks will be at each tour member’s own expense. Beer is widely available and cheap. Wine lovers should remember that western style wine is very expensive to import into India, so is not stocked except by upmarket restaurants. Bottled drinking water, soft drinks, and fruit juices are also widely available – remember that you should only have ice, fruit juices, or lassies (yoghurt based sweet or salty drinks) from a trusted restaurant; where they will use boiled or bottled water to prepare ice and drinks.
 
Tea is very popular and Indians simply love visiting the many street stalls which brew chai (also known as masala), a sweet, spiced tea brewed with boiling milk. Hotels will usually serve tea and instant coffee at breakfast or other meals – you can usually request the chai or masala style tea as well.
Packed meals: On some days, your National Escort/Guide may arrange for a simple, packed meal for your group. It may be a matter of schedule (on long driving days), hygiene (on train journeys), or your location (in remote areas) and we ask you to bear this in mind. Although this is not a full meal, most of our passengers seem to enjoy this change from the large portions and more elaborate banquets enjoyed most days.

Also Available

Tailor Your Tour

If you like most of the itinerary which we have suggested but you'd like to change the route and the accommodation, speak to our specialist Tailormade team, who can build your perfect itinerary based around where you would like to go, what you would like to see and how much you'd like to spend. Just call us on 1300 318 203 and we'll help plan your dream holiday.


Why Book This Tour?

This tour is suitable for those with a reasonable amount of time and who are interested in travelling to the main sights of southern India. This tour includes travel on train, by road and a night on a houseboat, all of which will give a different perspective on the beautiful and exotic landscape of southern India.

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