Itinerary Highlights
  • Explore Pondicherry, Cochin and Tanjore with their trading heritage and beautiful temples and palaces
  • Experience the beauty of southern India with its spice gardens, beaches and coconut groves, and the Backwaters of Kerala
  • As well as private tours with drivers and cookery classes, you'll also have access to our additional services such as local Concierges and our phone app

Contact one of our India specialists + 44 (0) 20 3958 6120

CALM AND SIMPLICITY IN SOUTHERN INDIA

Mahabalipuram is a laid-back village with a lovely atmosphere and a distinctive temple on the beach - the Shore Temple. Once you've explored Mahabalipuram, it's time to go to Pondicherry. This ancient colonial city has a lot to offer travellers, and the White Town in particular is a charming French Colonial sea side area that mixes cultures, with cafes alongside religious sites. A little further on, you are caught up in the debauchery of colourful statuettes on the gopurams of Trichy, by Shiva dancing on the stones of the temples of Tanjore and by the splendour of the palatial mansions of Chettinad's rich merchant-bankers.
We walk through the golden rice field landscapes; the hills planted with tea and coffee; and the gardens of rubber, pepper and vanilla. Slow down and enjoy a slower pace of life on the backwaters of Kerala on a gentle meandering old rice barge. In Cochin, a former trading post that has held on to some of the Portuguese and Dutch culture of its past, is full of cobblestone alleyways, houses with sloping roofs and triangular pediments on the churches, all laid out against the backdrop of the tropical coast of Malabar.

YOUR TRIP

To ensure you're looked after throughout your trip and are able to focus on enjoying yourself, a private driver accompanies you throughout your journey and you have the contact details of our local Concierge who can be reached at any time. We have selected your accommodation for its ambience and the quality of the hospitality it offers to its guests, whether it's a beachfront cottage in Mahabalipuram and Mararikulam on the coast of Malabar; a bungalow in the middle of the jungle facing the rice fields in Tanjore; a Chettiar merchant's palace in Chettinad; an elegant rice, bamboo and coconut barge on the backwaters; colonial homes in Pondicherry and Cochin. Visits are private and accompanied by the guides. As far as the essential temple tours are concerned, from Tanjore to Trichy we have added a trip to a fish market at dawn, when the boats come in; a walk in Pondicherry with a local; a puja ceremony at the temple; a cooking class with Shyama - we love her smiling hospitality, and the flavour of the dishes she cooks; a private visit to a spice plantation with its owner and a private cruise on the Kerala canals.

Route

Everything is 100% tailored to you
DAY 1

Flight to Madras

Overnight flight, arriving the next day.

DAY 2

Madras - Mahabalipuram

Meet your driver and head to Mahabalipuram, where you'll spend the night in a beachfront cottage surrounded by lush vegetation.

DAY 3

Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry

Included in your itinerary - A private visit to the fish market . At dawn, you will witness the return of night fishermen to the beach, then the bustle and the auction at the market. Also planned: a private visit to Mahabalipuram, a port from which, in the seventh century, Indian civilisation was exported to the Far East, from Ceylon to Java. The Five Ratha - small monolithic temples - are fine examples of the religious architecture of the time. The eighth century Shoreline Temple is one of the oldest built shrines in southern India. But the most impressive monument is the large pink granite bas-relief representing the descent of the heavenly Ganges to earth.
Optional - Bicycles to see the temples on two wheels.
Then on to Pondicherry. Two nights' accommodation in the heart of the ancient English city, in a vast 19th-century mansion with a contemporary wing.

DAY 4

Pondicherry

Included in the itinerary - A private cooking class. Massala, turmeric, ginger, cumin, garlic, chilli peppers... a local family welcomes you to their house to try your hand at cooking some family recipes - thali served on a banana leaf, dhal of coral lentils or tamarind-scented rhasam - which you can then enjoy together in a cosy atmosphere. Then, stroll through Pondicherry. As you walk around this city, take in the sleepy squares where pink laurels grow; villas with wooden shutters, identical to the houses in Aix-en-Provence; churches built by missionaries and street names with European names such as 'rue Saint-Louis' and 'rue de la Marine'. You walk through the Tamil city, its streets lined with traditional houses with colonnades and atrium; its market, stalls overflowing with crabs, lobsters and groupers, coconuts and cashews. You will visit the Ashram of Sri Aurobindo, headed until 1973 by The Mother, founder of Auroville.
Optional - Travel six miles north of Pondicherry to visit Auroville, an city dreamed up by Mirra Alfassa, 'The Mother', an English citizen and spiritual companion of Sri Aurobindo.

DAY 5

Pondicherry - Tanjore

Drive to Tanjore. Your accommodation for two nights is in a cottage nestled in a green garden on a bank of the Vennar, tributary of the Cauvery River, in a landscape of jungle and rice fields. It's a quiet and cosy cottage.
Included in the itinerary - A private visit to Gangaikondacho-Lapuram, Kumbakonam and Darasuram. In the former capital of the Chola Empire - Gangaikondacho-Lapuram - only the UNESCO World Heritage site of Rajendreshvara remains. The gopurams (towers) of this monumental sculptured temple dominate the landscape. Drive to Kumbakonam to visit Darasuram and the temple of Airatesvara, a superb testimony to mid-12th-century Chola architecture..

DAY 6

Tanjore

Included in the itinerary - A private visit to the temples of Trichy and Tanjore. Visit the temple town of Srirangam in Trichy, where you can climb the Rock Fort Temple, perched atop a rock and offering spectacular views of the Kaveri Valley. The most famous temple in Tanjore, Brihadishvara is a UNESCO-listed temple dedicated to the god Shiva, and is perhaps the most dazzling in India with its high pyramid tower. You will also visit the Royal Palace, a splendid building that houses a fine collection of bronzes.
Optional - A private yoga session at the Chola Temple in Brihadesvara, dedicated to the god Shiva.

DAY 7

Tanjore - Chettinad

Road to the unspoilt Chettinad region, along winding roads between lush green fields and rice paddies. You will stay overnight in an old palatial house, built in 1905 and restored as an eight-room guest house by two English architects, who wanted to highlight the region's unique heritage, which is a blend of Tamil and Western architecture. Interior courtyards, a monumental veranda decorated with marble columns and a spacious banquet hall topped off with intricate carving.

DAY 8

Chettinad Madurai

What to see and do - To further your knowledge of Chettinad heritage, go behind the doors of the palatial houses; built in the 19th and 20th centuries, they symbolise the prosperity of the community of the Chettiars of Nattukotatai caste of merchants.
Drive to Madurai, where you'll spend the night in a modern, comfortable, central hotel.
Included in the itinerary - A private visit and puja at Sri Meenakshi Temple. The temple - which is dedicated to Meenakshi, wife of Shiva - is a masterpiece of Dravidian architecture and one of India's most important active temples. It is an underground city, completely enclosed and yet living - young priests make offerings or bless the pilgrims praying to Ganesh. At dusk, you will attend a puja, an offertory ceremony held every evening during which the bronze statue of Shiva is taken to his wife Meenakshi's temple room.
Optional - A wedding ceremony at the temple.

DAYS 9 & 10

Madurai - Periyar

The road to Periyar, through the golden landscape of rice fields, lush hills and a jungle full of wild elephants. Your accommodation for two nights is in a luxurious hotel, nestled in a wooded park, close to Periyar National Park. We love the warm and caring welcome, and the small cabin where you can sip tea.
Included in the itinerary - A private visit to a spice plantation. Southern India's is famous for its tea fields and spice plantations. Guided by the owner, you will discover cardamom, pepper, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla plantations, before ending your tour with a tasty lunch.

DAY 11

Periyar - Kerala's backwaters

Included in the itinerary - The road through mountainous landscapes, tea farms and rubber plantations. Board an elegant cashew resin coconut fibre kettuvallam, once used to carry rice and spices, for a cruise through a network of lagoons, canals and lakes which stretch into the lowlands along the coast. A unique and well-managed ecosystem where rice is cultivated and fish are caught. On board, life is surprisingly comfortable and you can enjoy watching the everyday life of the Backwaters: it's as though time has stood still. Overnight.

DAYS 12 & 13

Backwaters - Mararikulam

Included in your itinerary - Private motor boat on the canals, south of Allepey. Take the route through the network of canals lined with coconut trees. Watch as day-to-day village life passes you by, whether it's the farmers tending to their cattle, gardeners looking after their harvest or youngsters playing in the street.
Take a quick drive to the small village of Mararikulam, on the coast of Malabar, to see colourful houses, white sandy beaches and enormous coconut groves. You'll be staying for two nights in a hotel nestled in a coconut grove overlooking the shore. The bungalows, inspired by traditional fishing houses, are protected by a line of palm trees. The walls are lime-washed, the bathrooms open to the sky and the roofs are of braided palm - they offer protection from the sun while allowing the sea breeze to enter.
What to do and experience - Meet the returning fishing boats - visit the butterfly garden and delight in their constant, silent and colourful activity - discover the village and its small shops by bicycle - treat yourself to an Ayurvedic treatment, which originates in the region - sip a glass of freshly-squeezed fruit juice with your feet in the sand, by the sea, at night.

DAY 14

Mararikulam - Cochin

Drive north along the coast to reach Cochin. You'll spend the night in a beautiful saffron-fronted building built at the turn of the last century by wealthy merchants from Goa, which was home to a British spice export company. Surrounded by English gardens, planted with guavas, avocados, jackfruit and cinnamon, the house has been restored in a fusion of Portuguese, Dutch, Victorian and Indian styles. The colourful suites bear the names of the Indian Ocean tea and spice trading ports: Cochin, Zanzibar, Muscat, Malacca, Goa, Kolkata.
Included in the itinerary - A private visit to Cochin. Houses with steep roofs and triangular church pediments: you can feel the Portuguese and Dutch influences, all against the backdrop of the tropical coast of Malabar. In the Jewish quarter, wander through cobblestone alleyways, passing old merchants' houses and warehouses - it's like a stroll through time. The tour concludes with an aperitif at Old Light House Bristow, whose terrace opens out over the Arabian Sea. Sip a glass of sparkling wine as the sun sets.

DAY 15

Cochin - Return flight

Private transfer to the airport and catch your flight home.

A la carte

THE AUROVILLE COMMUNITY ACCOMPANIED BY AN AUROVILLEAN

Travel six miles north of Pondicherry to Auroville, a community founded in 1968 by The Mother (Mirra Alfassa, English, 1878-1973), a disciple of the Hindu philosopher Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950). Around the 'peaceful zone' where the Matrimandir meditation sphere stands, there is a green industrial zone, a residential zone, an international zone and a cultural zone. Architect Roger Anger (1923-2008) worked on this UNESCO-supported project and developed designs combining modernism and organicism. The city now has 1,500 Aurovilians from 30 countries.
Option

YOGA IN CHOLATIME

The large Chola temples are Hindu shrines built by the Chola dynasty in the 11th and 12th centuries. Practise yoga in the Brihadesvara Temple in Tanjore, a beautiful example of Dravidian architecture, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most dazzling temples in the country.
Option

MARRIAGE CEREMONY AT THE TEMPLE

Want to renew your vows? We will organise a wedding ceremony for you at the temple in Madurai: a silk sari, jewellery and flowers in the hair for the bride, a dothi and kurtha for the groom. The key stage of the ceremony is the tali: the man ties the tali, blessed by the priest, around his wife's neck, in three knots, thus sealing the union.
Optional

A FEW MORE DAYS? NIP OFF TO THE MALDIVES

What better way to extend your journey than a trip to the turquoise waters and clear light of the Maldives? After the temples, elephants and the rickshaws, it's time to fly to one of the dream islands of the archipelago. The sun loungers await, facing the sea, positioned just where the shadow of the coconut trees cools the white sand. Enjoy swimming, snorkelling, relaxation, spa treatments and dinner in the soft evening air.
Option

A Rough Idea of Price

Dependent on season, accommodation and activities
The estimated cost for this trip is £4,300 to £5,300 per person. This trip is tailor-made to your exact specifications so prices will fluctuate. The cost varies according to several factors, including the level of service,
  • Flight to Madras and return from Cochin on a scheduled flight
  • Airline taxes and fuel surcharge
  • Private transfers included in the itinerary
  • Private air-conditioned vehicle with a driver for 14 days
  • Overnight stay in Mahabalipuram in a double room, breakfast included
  • Two-night stay in Pondicherry in a double room, breakfast included
  • Two-night stay in Tanjore in a double room, breakfast included
  • Overnight stay in Chettinad in a double room, breakfast included
  • Overnight stay in Madurai in a double room, breakfast included
  • Two-night stay in Periyar in a double room, breakfast included
  • Overnight stay aboard a Ketuvallom in the Backwaters, a double cabin and full board
  • Two-night stay in Mararikulam in a double room, breakfast included
  • Overnight stay in Cochin in a double room, breakfast included
  • Visit to Mahabalipuram Fish Market, with private a guide
  • Half day tour of Mahabalipuram, with private a guide
  • A private cooking class at home, with the owner
  • Half day tour of Pondicherry with a local a guide
  • Visit to Tanjore and Trichy temples with a private a guide
  • Day trip to Gangaikondacholapuram, Kumbakonam and Darasuram, with a private guide
  • A Puja Ceremony at Sri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, with a private guide
  • A private visit to a spice plantation with its owner and lunch in Periyar
  • Private motor boat in the Kerala Canals
  • Half day tour of Cochin, with a private guide
  • Drinks at dusk in Cochin
  • Use of a local mobile phone
  • Our local Concierge service
  • A few of the benefits of travelling with us
    Get in touch
    Our experts have the inside track on the destinations they sell and will tailor-make a holiday to your unique requirements.
    Contact one of our India specialists