Unplug from everyday routine and head to the beaches and backwaters of southern India. Explore the lush landscapes, intriguing religions, exotic bazaars and incredible contrasts of this region. Jump on and off local transport, go rural through backwater coconut groves and fishing villages, and discover the heart of the subcontinent. See ancient ruins and stunning temples, eat spicy curries and drink luscious lassis. Join the bustle of city streets and at the end of it all unwind on the beautiful beaches of Goa.
* Explore the beautiful south of India and dive into some authentic southern Indian cuisine
* A homestay with a local family is a special experience, especially in the serene backwaters of Kerala
* Wander through Periyar National Park on the lookout for wildlife
* The city of Madurai showcases southern India at its liveliest. Explore the city's bazaars and discover the colourful, intricately carved Sri Meenakshi Temple
* Visit the World Heritage-listed Virupaksha Temple in Hampi, a spectacular monument surrounded by ruins
* Golden beaches and age-old fishing villages make Goa one of India's most popular retreats ' and the perfect last stop on your adventure
➕ Day 1 Trivandrum
Welcome to India. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. 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. Afterwards, take a walk around Trivandrum and join an optional group dinner.
➕ Day 2 Varkala
In the morning, head up the coast by private vehicle for around two hours to the town of Varkala. Once settled into your hotel, use the free time to explore the Keralan coast, which is home to some of India's most pristine beaches. Soaring cliffs protect Varkala's sandy bay and, depending on the time of year, dolphins can be spotted from high up on the rocks. In the evening, maybe head into town to one of the numerous restaurants serving fresh, local seafood.
➕ Day 3 Varkala
Enjoy a free day in Varkala. This is a great place to sit back and relax, but if you want to get active there are plenty of water activities on offer, such as surfing and windsurfing. Even though this is a popular destination for Indian tourists, the beaches are quiet and laid-back. Take the rest of the day to relax, before the rest of South India beckons.
➕ Day 4 Kerala Backwaters
Today take a local three-hour train along the Keralan coastline to Alappuzha (Alleppey). Once an important trading port and now famous for the annual 'Snake Boat Race' in August, Alappuzha is the starting point for most journeys into the backwaters. An auto rickshaw will take you from the train station to the boat boarding point. Explore the backwaters in a pole boat, before heading to an island village for an overnight homestay with a local family. Your guide will take you on a walk around the village and introduce you to the local community.
➕ Day 5 Kochi
In the morning cross the backwaters by private boat back to Alappuzha. The group will then take a local two-hour bus to Kochi, arriving around midday. Once there, go for a walk around the Fort Cochin area, where you'll be staying for the next two nights. In the early evening, there's the option to attend a classic Kathakali dance performance.
➕ Day 6 Kochi
Today, head to the Mattancherry part of Fort Cochin to explore the old Jewish quarter, synagogue and Dutch Palace (Kochi Palace) on a guided walking tour. The tour takes around three hours, with the rest of the day free to do as you wish. Why not join one of our Urban Adventures day tours, such as Fort Kochi by Bike or Home Cooked Kochi. Please check with your leader in advance if you'd like to book one of these trips.
➕ Day 7 Periyar
In the morning travel to Periyar National Park by private vehicle, which should take around four hours. Once settled into the hotel, head out on a tour of a local spice farm, sampling cardamom, pepper, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.
➕ Day 8 Periyar
After breakfast, enjoy a free day with an optional walk around Periyar National Park. Be on the look out for tigers and other wildlife such as bison, wild boar, elephants and spotted deer. Set high in the ranges of the Western Ghats, this wildlife sanctuary surrounds a picturesque lake formed by the building of a dam in 1895. If you're lucky, you might even see Indian elephants bathe playfully in the lake.
➕ Day 9 Madurai
In the morning, take a local bus to Madurai (approximately 3-4 hours). This buzzy city is crammed full of bazaars, pilgrims and cycle-rickshaws. After a walking tour to see the sights, perhaps visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple. This ancient temple is still in use and features a labyrinth of lamp-lit corridors leading to shrines.
➕ Day 10 Madurai - Overnight train
Today is a free day in Madurai. Perhaps head to the Gandhi Museum to learn about the man who fought for India's independence or wander through the 1,000 pillars of Aayiram Kaal Mandapam. This is also a great opportunity to haggle with vendors at the bazaars and the tailors' market. In the evening, take an overnight sleeper train to Mysore. The journey is approximately 14 hour so you may want to bring some extra snacks.
➕ Day 11 Mysore
On arrival, transfer to your hotel in Mysore. Mysore is an easy-going town with a pleasant climate. Go on walk, checking out the ornate Mysore Palace along the way. There's also the option to visit the Keshava Temple in Somnathpur, which is a stunning example of Hoysala architecture. The temple is a one-hour drive out of town.
➕ Day 12 Mysore - Overnight train
Today is a free day in Mysore, with plenty of optional activities to keep you busy. Perhaps explore the countryside surrounding Mysore. Climb up Chamundi Hill to the Sri Chamundeswari Temple at the top, which is dedicated to the goddess Durga. At around 7 pm board a 10-hour overnight train to Hampi.
➕ Day 13 Hampi
In the morning, arrive into Hampi and cross the river to your guesthouse by canoe. Hampi is a temple town situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Once you're settled in, make an optional visit to the architectural masterpiece of Vittala Temple. This 16th-century temple contains mandapas (pillared pavilions), a pool, a palace and the popular stone chariot, which according to Hindu mythology was the vehicle of the Lord Vishnu.
➕ Day 14 Hampi - Overnight train
After breakfast, explore the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire and the huge boulders on the outskirts of town. In the early evening, drive for around three hours by private vehicle to Hubli, where you'll board an overnight nine-hour train to Goa.
➕ Day 15 Goa
Once the train arrives in Goa, head to the hotel and check in. Brimming with Portuguese influences and famous for the sandy beaches lining its coast, Goa is a fascinating region in India's southwest. The day is free to do what you like. Perhaps relax on the beach, sip a cocktail at a local bar or go for a final dinner in the evening with the rest of the travel group.
➕ Day 16 Goa
There are no activities planned for the final day and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time. Goa is a great place to end the trip ' if you can, we recommend staying on for a couple of nights to relax and explore.
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