Southern India Family Holiday

From £1160 for 14 days
Trip Overview
Rich in diversity, language, culture and religion, India is fuelled by the energy of some 1.25 billion people, a place where the air is warm and sweet from countless sticks of incense, and the cries of street vendors sound day and night. Explore the south and feast on biryani with a local family on the Karnataka Plains, discover myriad temples in Mysore, Puducherry and Madurai, and seek out tigers and leopards in Periyar National Park. Ride tuk-tuks, drive and take a sleeper train as you criss-cross the country, and then swap it all for the serene glide of a houseboat on the Kerala backwaters. You will encounter incredible sights, sounds and people, and leave with a heart full of experiences and memories on this southern India family adventure.
Essential Info
Starts: Bangalore
Ends: Kovalam
Ages: Min 5
Theme: Family
Trip Code: IHHFR
Countries visited: India
What's Included


12 Breakfasts included
3 Lunches included
2 Dinners included


Overnight sleeper train,Private Bus


Hotel (11 nts),Overnight boat (1 nt)

Trip Highlights
-You haven’t really been to a movie until you’ve watched a Bollywood blockbuster in an old-school Indian cinema!
-Cruise around the Malabar backwaters on board a traditional Keralan houseboat, complete with carpets – have fun with locals, and maybe try your hand at fishing
-Race each other up the 1,008 stone steps to the summit of Chamundi Hill, and check out the imposing statue of ‘Nandi’ the bull
-Experience an adventurous sleepover on an Indian train – mix with the locals, play games, enjoy the fabulous hospitality, and watch the colourful landscape fly by as the chai wallah walks down the aisle singing about his tea
-Get back to nature as you safari for rare animals in Periyar National Park – a prize for the one that spots the tiger or leopard!
Dates & Availability
Start date
End date
Price GBP

Unfortunately, there are no departures available for this adventure.

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Itinerary & Notes
Day 1 - Bangalore
Namaste! Welcome to India. 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. Your adventure will usually begin with a welcome meeting in the joining hotel. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception as soon as possible. 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. Your trip starts in Bengaluru (aka Bangalore), the capital of Karnataka State. Bangalore is the centre of India's high-tech industry but is also known for its abundance of parks and green spaces. If you arrive early and you have the time (and a hankering for adventure and excitement) then the Wonderla Amusement Park will deliver the goods. Or you could spend an afternoon visiting one of the many local green parks or lakes, or former Royal residences like the 19th century Bangalore Palace, which was modelled on England's Windsor Castle. Today your leader will take you on a quick orientation walk around the city.

Additional Activities

Orientation Walk - Bangalore
Included in Price
Day 2 - Mysore
This morning, travel across the undulating Karnataka plains to Mysore (approximately 3 hours). You’ll stop en route to have a memorable 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. There’s plenty to see, so take an orientation walk with your leader to get your bearings. The town was once the capital of the might Mysore Maharaja kingdom, pretty much ruled by the same family from 1399 until 1947. Today it's the state capital and a silk trade centre. It’s well laid out, with wide streets and many gardens, making it a pleasant place to wander around. It’s 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. Tonight you could enjoy the unforgettable experience of a Bollywood movie at a local cinema.

Additional Activities

Mysore - Maharaja's Palace
Included in Price
Mysore - Orientation Walk
Included in Price
Mysore - Keshava Temple
Included in Price
Mysore - Home cooked lunch & family visit
Included in Price
Day 3 - Mysore
This morning after breakfast, travel about an hour to the small town Somnathpur and its intricate Keshava Temple, which is an excellent example of Hoysala architecture. The ornate temple’s outerwalls are bedecked with intricate designs, and the stonework throughout is stunning. For a better look at the surrounding countryside, you’ll then walk the 1,008 ancient stone steps to the summit of Chamundi Hill – site of the Sri Chamundeswari Temple, which is dedicated to Goddess Durga. Stop halfway to look at the huge statue of the bull Nandi. This vahana, or ‘vehicle’, of Lord Shiva is 4.9 metres tall and 7.6 metres long and carved out of a single piece of black granite. Later you’ll catch and overnight train heading directly east to the coast and Chennai (approximately 11 hours). Trains are an integral park of Indian life and a true adventure. On a sleepover like no other, 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.

Additional Activities

Mysore - Chamundi Hill & Temple
Included in Price
Day 4 - Pondicherry
After alighting the train in Chennai, drive along the scenic East Coast Road to the fishing village of Mamallapuram, home to sprawling, relaxed beaches (approximately 2 hours). When you arrive, saddle up for a bicycle tour, visiting the World Heritage-listed 7th-century Shore Temple – a magnificent rock cut building that over looks the sea – and the massive bas-relief rock carving known as Arjuna's Penance, which is one of India’s greatest ancient art works. There's time to inspect the numerous mandapams (carved pillars in front of temples), watch locals pay their respects to the deity Shiva, or lookout at the fishing fleet. The stone carving tradition from the 9th century continues to this day, with the sound on hammers and chisels still filling the air. You can admire the handiwork of the numerous talented masons that line the streets, and when you’re keen to slow the pace, perhaps simply relax at a laid-back shorefront restaurant, or at the wide stretch of beach. Then continue onto Puducherry (approximately 3 hours), where your evening is then free.

Additional Activities

Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
Included in Price
Included in Price
Day 5 - Pondicherry
The united territories of Pondicherry (now Puducherry) are unmistakeably and charmingly French, complete with a Hotel de Ville, French consulate and police who wear red “kepis” hats and belts. The city is also a duty free zone, reputed for its quality leather and hand crafted paper products. You'll notice the French influence of the area extends to the European feel of the shopping, and it’s a great place to satisfy any croissant cravings! Puducherry still retains its Indian roots though, making it one of India's more surprising and delightful cities. Explore the shorefront city on a guided walking tour to see local temples, the French Quarter and the spiritual community of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, one of the most affluent and most popular ashrams for tourists and ex-pats alike. The rest of the day is free for your own exploration. Perhaps try out one of the city's French-infused restaurants, visit the Museum or Joan of Arc statue, try a yoga class, relax on the beach, or admire the Franco-Tamil architecture of the charming city centre.

Additional Activities

Pondicherry - Walking Tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Included in Price
Day 6 - 7 - Madurai
Hop back on the rails today for a train ride westward to Madurai, a city with an illustrious past (approximately 6 hours). Arrive at your accommodation around lunchtime. Madurai is the largest of what are collectively known as ‘The Temple Towns’ – town’s full of temples! 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), but here in the south, immense gopurams (gateways) carved with thousands of painted Hindu gods are the most striking elements of the Dravidian temples. In the afternoon head out to explore this scenic city, full of temples, markets and even the occasional passing elephant! Walk the intricate halls and sanctuaries of Meenakshi Amman Temple – the heady fragrance of incense is everywhere, as is the chanting of priests whose deities are garlanded with colourful flowers. Then take a look at Pudhu Mandapa’s Thousand Pillared Hall, Art Museum and shrines. In the evening, return to Meenakshi and follow along as an icon of Shiva is ‘put to bed’ – held up in the air and taken on a frenetic, joyous procession to the shrine. Return to your hotel by cycle or auto rickshaw. Day 7 is set aside for you to choose your own activities – as much or as little as you like. You might choose to laze by the hotel pool, or if you'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, maybe get further out of town with a visit to Trichy. The focus of Trichy is the towering Rock Fort Temple. Here you can make your way to the entrance and then 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. Retrace your path back down the steps and make your way to the old town, where the labyrinth of narrow 18th century streets are lined with craft workshops and small textile shops – perfect for shopping for trinkets and keepsakes.

Additional Activities

Madurai - Aayiram Kaal Mandapam
Included in Price
Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
Included in Price
Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple guided tour
Included in Price
Cycle Rickshaw Ride in Madurai
Included in Price
Day 8 - 9 - Periyar National Park
This morning cross from Tamil Nadu to Kerala, driving into the countryside along a winding road past rubber and pineapple plantations and thick jungle to the spice plantation town of Thekkady (approximately 5 hours). Thekkady is the gateway to Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. Periyar is one of the main wildlife sanctuaries of southern India and one of the countries largest. Perched high in the Cardamom Hills region of the Western Ghats, in 1973 the park became part of Project Tiger in an effort to save this wonderful animal from extinction. You’ll have some free time to relax and get used to the sounds of the wildlife in the park before exploring the local area. This region is well known for its spice growing, so this evening prepare for a fragrant tour of a spice plantation and discover local ginger, cardamom, vanilla, pepper, cinnamon, clove and more. Finish up the day testing your taste buds on an included dinner, which will use many of the spices you’ve seen today. On the morning of Day 9, venture into the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary for a guided nature walk, with hopes to encounter the park’s rich variety of wildlife. The sanctuary surrounds a picturesque lake, which was formed as result of a dam that was built in 1895. It ambles through the contours of the wooded hills and is a permanent source of water for local wildlife. Wildlife encounters are never guaranteed, but if luck is on your side you may see some elephants, deer, tigers, leopards or gaur – the world's largest species of buffalo. You're more likely to see Bonnet macaques (who are often found near the entrance to the reserve), the Malabar giant squirrel (a species native to India), and of course the odd leech! Notes: Leech socks will provided for the nature walk around the wildlife sanctuary.

Additional Activities

Periyar - Spice farm tour & dinner
Included in Price
Periyar Green Walk - Guided Nature Walk
Included in Price
Day 10 - Kochi
This morning after breakfast, say goodbye to Periyar and head south to Kochi for the next leg of your adventure. This is quite a travel day, and the journey will take 5-5.5 hours on good roads. There’ll be plenty of places to stop and stretch your legs before you arrive at your hotel in Kochi for the night. Cochin, as it’s more commonly known, is a melting pot of Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and British influences. If there’s any time when you arrive, you could hop on one of the ferries that cruise between the island to visit Fort Kochi and explore its antique shops and spice bazaars. In the evening you can wander down the beach at sunset, seek out the best coconut curry in town, or perhaps witness a Kathakali dance performance. This is a classical, powerful and dramatic dance style that combines symbolic storytelling with physical technique. It is one of the most vibrant and extraordinary theatre forms in the world, and requires incredible commitment and rigorous training physically, as well as incredible emotional sensitivity to properly express the nuances of expression required.

Additional Activities

Kochi - Dutch Palace
Included in Price
Kochi - Fort Kochi sightseeing walk
Included in Price
Kochi - Jewish Synagogue
Included in Price
Kochi - Kathakali performance
Included in Price
Day 11 - Alleppey
This morning, descend from the hills and make the three-hour drive to Alleppey (Alappuzha). Once a significant trading port, the town is now famed for the long ‘snake boats’ races that take place in August every year. Here you will board a typical Keralan houseboat to cruise through the complex system of beautiful lagoons and canals known as the ‘Malabar Backwaters’. The backwaters are best explored by boat as life revolves around the water here – children often learn to swim before they can walk and they row boats before they ride a bike. 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, with sacks of cashews piled high next to coconuts. Meander down the waterways, try your hand at fishing, and just lay back and enjoy this unique landscape.
Day 12 - 14 - Kovalam
Swap the water for the road today as we drive to Kovalam this morning (approximately 5-6 hours). When you arrive, you’ll transfer to your accommodation for the next two nights at Kovalam Beach (approximately 45 minutes). Here you’ll get a slice of some royally sanctioned paradise – Kovalam was once a quiet coastal village known for its export of fresh fish and coconuts, but it was developed and promoted by the Godavarma Raja, who fell in love with its beauty when honeymooning here in 1934. Move from sun lounger, to beach, to hotel pool, and back again, perhaps squeezing in a traditional ayurvedic massage. Oils extracted from plants with medicinal properties are worked into the head, arms, shoulders and back – a perfect trip end for parents! If you’re keen to explore, there’s plenty to do in and around this coconut tree-ringed spot: the nearby town of Vinhinjam has a wide array of Hindu temples and churches; maybe hire bicycles and explore the streets, or take a traditional wooden boat ride out on the bay to go snorkelling. Or what about making a full day journey to the very south of India, to Kanyakumari, and look south towards Antarctica! Enjoy a traditional farewell dinner with the group on your last evening, and your family adventure concludes on the morning of Day 14. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
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