Southern India Trip Notes

At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.

  • Trip code : IHHSS
  • Trip length : 15 Days
  • Trip starts in : Kochi, India
  • Trip ends in : Kochi, India
  • Maximum group size : 12
  • Ages : Min 15
  • Meals : 5 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners
  • Accommodation : Homestay (1 nt), Hotel (11 nts), Jungle resort (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
  • Transport : 4x4 Safari Vehicle, Auto rickshaw, Boat, Bus, Ferry, Overnight sleeper train, Private vehicle, Train

daily-itinerary1

Day
1-2

Kochi

Namaste! Welcome to India.

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.

Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Spread over several islands, Kochi is a fascinating place full of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English influences.

Head out to explore the major sights of Fort Cochin and visit the spice bazaars and antique shops. The best way to get around the islands is by using the ferry network.

Visit the Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese in the middle of the 16th century. It was taken over by the Dutch in 1663, who added some improvements before presenting it to the Rajas of Cochin.

Be part of a Kathakali dance performance. This classical dance is a highly charged and powerful drama that combines devotion and physical virtuosity with symbolic storytelling to produce one of the most impressive and vibrant forms of theatre in the world. It requires lengthy and rigorous training to attain complete control of the body and sensitivity to emotion so as to be able to render all its nuances through facial expressions and hand gestures.

Accommodation: Kaliveedu Lodge or similar (2 nts)

Day
3-4

Ootacamund

Catch a train to Coimbatore (approx 3.5 hrs).

Travel by private vehicle to Ootacamund (approx 4 hrs).

Ootacamund was the British hill station known as Snooty Ooty and it was here the game of snooker was named, if not invented.

Take a ride on the famous toy train - be sure to get a window seat.

Visit a tea garden in nearby Coonoor.

Stroll around the Botanical Gardens, home to over 650 species of plants and trees.

Accommodation: Elk Hill Hotel or similar (2 nts)

Day
5

Mudumalai National Park

Continue on by private vehicles to Masinagudi (approx 2 hrs).

Set against the picturesque backdrop of the enchanting Nilgiris with their mist-covered peaks, Mudumalai National Park was once the Mysore Maharaja's private hunting ground. It was brought under Project Tiger in 1974 and is one of the best game sanctuaries in India to observe and photograph wildlife in close proximity. Some animals you may see here include tigers, leopards, elephants, sloth bears, sambars and spotted deer. There's also an amazing variety of birdlife, some of the most notable birds being the heron, stork, egret, kite, falcon, peafowl, woodpecker, drongo and warbler.

On our arrival at the foot of the Nilgiris (Blue Mountains), embark on a short wildlife-spotting safari in the Mudumalai National Park.

Our family-run accommodation in Masinagudi is dormitory style.

Accommodation: Jungle Retreat or similar (1 nt)

Day
6-7

Mysore

Travel by private vehicle through the scenic Karnataka plains to Mysore (approx 3 hrs).

Stop en route to enjoy a biryani lunch with our local friend Raju and his family.

Mysore is an easygoing town with a pleasant climate, perfect for wandering around on foot.

Your leader will take you out to get your bearings.

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.

Visit the Keshava Temple in Somnathpur - a stunning example of Hoysala temple architecture (approx 1 hr from Mysore).

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.

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.

Accommodation: KVC International Hotel or similar (1 nt), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 nt)

Day
8

Mamallapuram

Arrive in Chennai and take private vehicles along the scenic East Coast Road to the laidback beaches of Mamallapuram (approx 2 hrs).

Mamallapuram is a scenic fishing village.

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.

Accommodation: Hotel Mahabs or similar (1 nt)

Day
9

Pondicherry

Travel by private vehicle through a landscape of palm trees and rice paddies, visiting Auroville en route to Pondicherry (approx 5 hrs).

Auroville is an amazing experiment in international living. Made up of 80 rural settlements and home to over 1,500 residents, more than half of whom are foreign nationals, this living project dedicated to human unity also houses the world's largest solid crystal.

Once a French colony, there are still reminders of French influence in Pondicherry's architecture, the wide town squares and even in the policemen's uniforms.

Take a walking tour and visit the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the local temples and the old French quarter.

Accommodation: Surguru Hotel or similar (1 nt)

Day
10

Madurai

Take a local taxi to the railway station at Villapuram (approx 40 mins).

Board a train to the temple city of Madurai (approx 6 hrs).

Crammed full of bazaars, pilgrims, cycle-rickshaws, beggars and street markets, Madurai showcases southern India at its colourful and lively best.

Visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple, which lies at the heart of the city. This ancient, still active temple is a labyrinth of lamp-lit corridors which lead to shrines where some mysterious and interesting rituals are performed.

Visit the moving Gandhi Memorial Museum, which displays the blood-stained dhoti he wore when he was assassinated, along with an impressive and detailed account of the country's struggle for independence.

Accommodation: Madurai Residency or similar (1 nt)

Day
11-12

Periyar National Park

Travel by public bus along a winding road to the spice plantation town of Thekkady and Periyar National Park (approx 5 hrs).

Set high in the ranges of the Western Ghats is the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. This wildlife sanctuary surrounds a picturesque lake, formed by the building of a dam in 1895, which meanders around the contours of the wooded hills and provides a permanent source of water for the local wildlife. Though it's a tiger reserve, tourists come here to view the Indian elephants in the act of ablution and playfulness by the lake.

In the evening, enjoy a tour around a local spice plantation and a delicious meal prepared by the owner's family.

Venture into the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary for a guided nature walk in the hope of glimpsing sambar, bison, elephant, spotted deer, tiger and leopard.

Accommodation: Ambadi Hotel or similar (2 nts)

Day
13

Kerala Backwaters Homestay

Travelling by private vehicle, head for the backwaters of Kerala (approx 4.5 hrs). It's a great ride through plantations of rubber, tea and coffee to the boarding point for our boats.

Crossing the backwaters, head to an island village to stay with local families (approx 1 hour).

In the late afternoon, we explore the island with a local English-speaking guide or your homestay host to observe the different facets of local life - this is a great chance to meet and talk with the people who live here. Strolling under palm trees and weaving in between the rice fields that cover the island, we have a chance to learn about the lifestyles of the locals.

Take a leisurely pole boat ride around the lake and enjoy the outstanding scenery.

Accommodation is on a multishare basis and all the families live within a few hundred metres of each other, with at least one person in the family speaking a reasonable standard of English. Food is traditional Keralan home cooking.

Accommodation: Homestay or similar (1 nt)

Day
14-15

Kochi

Get up early and start your day to the sound of bird songs, before crossing the backwaters by private boat to Alleppey (approx 1.5 hrs), and a local bus to Kochi (approx 2 hrs). The rest of the day is free for some last-minute sightseeing or shopping.

There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

Accommodation: Kaliveedu Lodge or similar (1 nt)

included1

  • Backwaters - Guided walk
  • Backwaters - Pole Boat Ride
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi sightseeing
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
  • Mamallapuram - Cycling tour
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
  • Mysore - Chamundi Hill temple
  • Mysore - Home cooked lunch & family visit
  • Mysore - Keshava Temple
  • Mysore - Maharaja's Palace
  • Ooty - Tea factory visit and toy train ride
  • Periyar - National Park wildlife walk
  • Periyar - Spice farm tour & dinner
  • Pondicherry - Auroville
  • Pondicherry - Walking tour and Sri Aurobindo Ashram

optional-extras

  • Kochi - Jewish Synagogue - INR5
  • Ooty - Botanical Gardens - INR30
  • Ooty - Boating on lake - INR200
  • Mysore - Cinema - INR100
  • Mysore - Palm Reading - INR350
  • Mysore - Tipu Mausoleum - INR500
  • Madurai - Gandhi Museum - Free
  • Periyar - Lake boat tour - INR650

not-included1

International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.

tripgrade1

Standard

For those of you who dream of experiencing a location in depth and comfort but are mindful of budget. Ideal for those that enjoy the quirkier side of a destination without roughing it. Join inquisitive travellers of all ages for an fun, informative experience.

Style Facts

  • Comfortable tourist class hotels
  • Family Homestays
  • Private and local transport
  • More inclusions than Basic tours
  • Fully trained and experienced leaders

Discovery

Discovery tours are all about exploring & experiencing the world with like-minded people, dipping your toe beneath the usual tourist surface & discovering the real essence of a region. They are genuinely innovative, exciting & imaginative tours that offer that little bit more to travellers.

This tour is operated by our partners Intrepid.

visa1

A necessary bugbear of adventure travel, visas can appear complicated, costly and confusing to apply for. Imaginative Traveller recommend applying for visas with a professional visa service who can guide you though the process and take care of lodging and collecting your passport with multiple embassies, so we have teamed up with The Visa Machine.

The Visa Machine ‘live and breathe’ visas and have the expertise to provide current and accurate information and arrange the correct visas for your trip, quickly and at a good price.

Please click here for more information

health-and-fitness

All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.

Money1

Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping.

travel-insurance

You must have extensive travel insurance as a condition of booking with us, and without evidence of a valid policy you won’t be allowed to start your trip. Please click here for more information

responsible-travel1

Responsible tourism is at the heart of Imaginative Traveller. For 20 years we have taken customers to places around the world in social and environmentally responsible manner, ensuring everyone involved respects and maintains the natural and often delicate balance of the destination.

As travellers ourselves we are well aware of the impact that tourism can have and whilst economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, it should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment. It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit. We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.

We believe giving something back is essential. We therefore work with our customers and the people we visit to ensure the benefits go directly to contribute to local cultures and environmental conservation. This is not only good the communities we visit but it also gives our travellers more enriched adventures.

For further information about responsible travel please click here.

other-important-information

FESTIVALS IN INDIA
Please note travelling during major festivals such as Holi and Diwali can, at times, cause disruption the the published itinerary. Please see the 'Safety' section for more details.

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