South Indian Odyssey    *alt*

18 days, from £3395
Wild Frontiers
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Description

Whether it's your first, second or even third time to the Indian Subcontinent, if you haven't yet been to South India, you are in for a real treat! This diverse and comprehensive trip across the cultural and historical landscapes of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala encompasses some of the country's most authentic cultural experiences and offers a very different experience from that of the north.

Travelling from the shores of the Indian Ocean to the Arabian Sea, we will have a chance to explore UNESCO Heritage sites and ancient temple shrines, experience Tamil culture first-hand and enjoy the stunning beauty of the Western Ghats and the Malabar Coast. We will also visit the historic splendours of Madurai, Mysore and Cochin, and explore the majestic landscapes of the Backwaters aboard a traditional Keralan houseboat for two nights.

This truly is a journey of remarkable contrasts, exploring one of India's most fascinating regions.

For further information about the region, read our handy guide to South India.

Highlights:

- Visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Mahabalipuram and the living Chola temples at Airavateswara & Bridhadeswara
- Discover the traditional villages and palatial mansions of Chettinadu
- Discover Madurai - the heart of the Tamil and Dravidian cultures
- Explore the Keralan Backwaters for two nights by traditional houseboat
- Visit Kochi's (Cochin) atmospheric harbour and Mysore's stunning palace complex

Tour Includes:

- Full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides and drivers
- 17 breakfasts, 17 lunches, 15 dinners (typically in local restaurants where viable)
- Drinking water throughout
- All transport (minibuses, trains, boats and rickshaws).
- 17 nights' accommodation (14 in hotels, 2 in houseboats & 1 on board an overnight train)
- All entrance fees, sightseeing, excursions and activities as per the itinerary
- A carbon-offsetting contribution to Carbon Clear (if booking international flights through WF office)
ALL OUR SMALL GROUP TOURS HAVE NO LOCAL PAYMENTS, HIDDEN EXTRAS OR COMPULSORY SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS

Itinerary


 Day 1: Tour Starts In Chennai (Madras) - Transfer To Mahabalipuram

This morning from where we will drive south, along the shores of the Indian Ocean to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram.


 Day 2: In & Around Mahabalipuram

After breakfast we drive out to the city of Kanchipuram, on the banks of the Vegavathy River. An ancient centre of learning and a city of great importance historically to the Buddhists, Jains and Hindus.


 Day 3: Mahalipuram - Gingee - Pondicherry

Heading inland slightly we make for Tamil Nadu's most spectacular fort at Gingee. We then head back to the coast to Pondicherry - a sophisticated city with strong French influences.


 Day 4: Pondicherry - Kumbakonam

Departing Pondicherry our journey continues to the pilgrimage city of Kumbakonam, a city that can date its origins back to the Sangam period of the 3rd century BC.


 Days 5-6: Kumbakonam - Karaikudi (Chettinadu)


 Day 5: Today we drive to the heritage town of Karaikudi, famous for its palatial limestone houses and its distinctive cuisine. The journey takes us via the superbly ornate Bridhadeswara Temple in Thanjavur, one of India's most prized architectural sites. Day 6: We pay a visit to some of the 18th century palaces today; sumptuous creations in Italian marble and Burmese teak that were inspired by the grand houses of Europe. We also take time to explore a little of the traditional industry of the area.



 Day 7: Karaikudi (Chettinadu) - Madurai

Today we head into the cultural heartlands of theTamil and Dravidian cultures. Our destination is the temple city of Madurai, a place that can trace its history back some 2,500 years.


 Days 8-10: Madurai - Mysore (Overnight Train)


 Day 8: We have time today to explore a little more of this captivating city which is home to the Gandhi Memorial Museum and a number of Hindu, Vishnu and Muslim temples and mosques.This evening we'll take the overnight train to Mysore. Day 9: Today we'lll explore the stunning cultural capital of the Karnataka region, located at the base of the Chamundi Hills. Day 10: Long known for its festivals and palaces, Mysore can boast one of the most opulent and iconic buildings in southern India, the Mysore Palace.We take a walking tour around the city this morning, before driving out to the hills.



 Day 11: Mysore - Kabini

Today's journey takes us on to Kabini, our base on the edge of the Nagarahole National Park. Here we'll head out on safari to spot some of the local wildlife that includes Asian Elephant, Samba Deer, Langur Monkeys plus over 250 species of birds.


 Day 12: Kabini - Cheruthuruthy

Before breakfast we will embark on another safari in the Nagarahole NP before departing for Cheruthuruthy located on the Nila River. This afternoon we will have the opportunity to meet some local artisans, including potters, weavers and toymakers.


 Day 13: Cheruthuruthy - Kumarakum

We hope to make an early morning visit to a Kalamandalam - a performing arts centre - which prides itself on maintaining and teaching the great arts and traditions of Keralan society for which it's famed. We then drive south for the night in Kumarakum.


 Days 14-15: Kumarakum - Allepey -Backwaters of Kerala


 Day 14: From Alleppey, we take to the waters of this most beautiful and unique andscape. Boarding a traditional houseboat we will spend today and tomorrow cruising the waterways and channels that honeycomb the coastal plains. Day 15: Today we will have the chance to further explore the backwaters and meet some of the local villagers.



 Days 16-18: Allepey - Kochi (Cochin)


 Day 16: Today we drive to Kochi, the glittering 'Queen of the Arabian Sea' and oldest European settlement in India, Here we'll experience a vibrant mix of cultural influences and the oldest church and the oldest synagogue in the country. Day 17: A walking tour of the city takes in the historic old streets around Fort Cochin and the red-tiled riverfront of Mattancherry, once the old capital's main market area and the centre of the Malabar spice trade. Day 18: Our tour ends this morning in Kochi.