Southern India's Coastal Route: Tamil Nadu to Kerala

Southern India's Coastal Route: Tamil Nadu to Kerala


Southern India's Coastal Route: Tamil Nadu to Kerala

15 Days Starting in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India and ending in United Kingdom

Visiting: Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Puducherry, Thanjavur, Chettinadu, Madurai, Kumily, Periyar National Park, Kumarakom, Kochi, ሀመር።

Tour operator:

Riviera Travel

Tour code:


Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Age range:


Special diets catered:


Tour operated in:

Art, Cultural, History

This tour is no longer available

Tour Overview

Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala: Discover their remarkable cities, thought-provoking temples and astonishing natural wonders.

Less familiar than the north, visiting the south of India is an incredible journey of discovery: we'll see amazing thousand-year old rock-cut and granite temples, intricately carved, rising to over 200ft high, packed with pilgrims and devotees and remarkable forts, mansions and churches from British, French, Dutch and Portuguese colonial periods. We'll sail on converted rice barges through the tranquil backwaters of Kerala and walk through fragrant spice plantations and pristine tropical forests of the Western Ghats. Staying in colonial hotels, lakeside bungalows, thatched cottages and hundred-year old original traders' mansions and we'll experience a cuisine and hospitality renowned throughout India. All blended together; this outstanding eclectic mix will ignite your imagination.

Southern India and specifically the vast states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, are worlds away from New Delhi, Agra or Rajasthan. It's much more laid back here, slower paced and a simpler way of life. There are no deserts here and lush fertile land yields plentiful harvests of rice and every sort of tropical fruit. In the higher elevations of the Malabar Hills in the Western Ghats, the altitude and temperature are perfect for every type of spice - the 'black gold' of 500 years ago was not oil but pepper from these very hills. Vast fortunes were made and lost, battles and campaigns were fought and colonies founded just to control the spice trade. We'll stay in Kumily, at 2,600ft, markedly cooler than the plains below, with its lush spice plantations and Kerala's best-known Nature Reserve, Periyar, where we'll explore the enchanting forest during a fascinating walk with a naturalist guide.

The great temple cities of Tanjore and Madurai are quite unique - there is nothing like them anywhere else in India. The astonishing craftsmanship and sheer scale of these temples is extraordinary. But the real beauty here is that they are not mere tourist attractions; they are working Hindu shrines, many locals visit daily and many more travel great distances. You'll see young people and families, from every walk of life, coming to pay their respects.

In Chennai, we'll visit Fort St George, the British fortification where Clive of India first rose to prominence from a lowly clerk with no military training, to a Major-General securing India for the East India Company and ultimately the British Crown. The fascinating museum houses some of his letters, period military uniforms, cannons and arms.


  • Visit Chennai’s Fort St George, where Clive of India began his glittering career

  • Tour of elegant Pondicherry, a French colonial outpost until 1954

  • See the breathtaking Meenakshi Amman Temple of Madurai, southern India’s greatest cultural icon, plus enjoy a tuk tuk ride and explore the bustling markets

  • Cruise overnight the picturesque backwaters and canals of Kerala on a houseboat

  • Visit to Periyar National Park and enjoy a nature walk through primeval virgin forest

  • See the extraordinary World Heritage Site of Tanjore’s Brihadeeswara Temple

  • Visit Cochin on the Malabar Coast, India’s first European colony, settled by the Portuguese, Dutch and finally, the British

  • Explore the fascinating Chettinad region, visiting and staying in one of its extraordinary traders’ mansions

  • Visit a 500-acre spice plantation high up in the stunning Western Ghats to learn how the most popular spices are grown


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Day 1

Location: Chennai

Meals Included: No Meals

Take your overnight flight to Chennai (Madras) via Muscat.

Day 2

Location: Chennai

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals Included: No Meals

On arrival we transfer to the hotel.

Day 3

Location: Mahabalipuram

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

This morning your immersion in one of the world’s oldest cultures commences by discovering Chennai’s bustling streets, passing numerous Victorian-era buildings and the famous Marine Beach, with its fish market and multi-coloured long wooden fishing boats drawn up on the sand, before arriving at the very centre of colonial Madras, Fort St George.

This was one of the most vital outposts of the British Empire – its first in India, the home of Clive of India for many years and the military base for numerous wars against the French. Continuing south we soon arrive at Mahabalipuram, a port which traded with Rome in ancient times. Its huge 7th century temples have been carved remarkably from vast granite monoliths and are now UNESCO World Heritage sites. Dinner is included this evening. (B, D)

Day 4

Location: Puducherry

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

After breakfast we travel south to Pondicherry and on arrival have a walking tour of the beautiful old French colonial centre of ‘Pondy’. Both its architecture and ambience are very different from any other Indian town.

There’s a sleepy, almost Mediterranean air here, with bougainvillea-clad walls and mustard-yellow coloured neo-classical villas. We’ll see the impressive Governor’s residence, the former site of the French fort designed by the French military architect, Vauban – there is even a Hotel de Ville! Dinner is included this evening. (B, D)

Day 5

Location: Thanjavur

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

We continue our journey south to Tanjore, with a two-night stay at the three-star superior Ideal River View Hotel with breakfast. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the tranquil surroundings and palm-shaded pool. Lunch is included today. (B, L)

Day 6

Location: Thanjavur

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast

Tanjore was the capital of the ancient Chola Empire and is mainly known for its extraordinary Brihadeeswara Temple, the template for all in southern India. Standing over 200ft tall, its main tower is covered with an intricately-carved ochre-coloured facade which glows in the morning light. A working temple for over a thousand years, surrounded by colonnaded halls and a fortified wall, it is a testament to the power and wealth of the Chola Empire which at sunset seems to give off a red hue. Tanjore is also noted for its fine metalwork and the nearby Royal Palace’s art gallery houses a fascinating array of bronze sculptures. (B)

Day 7

Location: Chettinadu

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

We drive to the nearby Chettinad region, which you are sure to love. Undiscovered, it’s a revelation, the real rural India of small farming communities. Dinner is included this evening sampling some of the region’s unique cuisine, served on a banana leaf. (B, D)

Day 8

Location: Madurai

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast

After breakfast we’ll explore this undiscovered region, visiting other remarkable mansions, seeing the local Maharaja’s palace, plus local handicrafts. A fascinating visit is to a tile workshop, where each piece is delicately handmade and decorated, whilst saris are still woven to age-old local designs on traditional wooden handlooms.

In the afternoon we drive to Madurai for one of the tour’s real highlights: the Meenakshi Amman Temple. This is the southern India’s Taj Mahal, a complex shrine of courtyards, vast pillared halls, a sacred lake and no less than twelve gateway towers completely covered with thousands of brightly-painted stucco carvings. Madurai was already an ancient city well before Chennai was even founded, trading spices with the ancient Romans. It is considered to be Tamil Nadu’s spiritual and cultural heart.

This afternoon we take tuk-tuks to visit the temple at dusk, exploring its busy traditional markets full of impossibly laden stalls and tailors rattling away at their ancient Singer sewing machines! (B)

Day 9

Location: Kumily

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning we re-visit the temple in daylight plus tour the nearby Nayak Palace, with its vast throne-room and ceremonial courtyard. Then drive west towards the distant outlines of the Western Ghats, the mountain range and border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The road zig-zags through lush forest with fleeting glimpses of verdant valleys below then crossing the border, we arrive at Kumily, surrounded by spice plantations and the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. (B)

Day 10

Location: Periyar National Park

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast

Rising early, with a tropical dawn chorus ringing in our ears we enter the wildlife sanctuary for a guided nature walk through the tall stands of teak, bamboo, wild fig and beautiful jacaranda trees. The reserve has a small population of rarely seen tigers, however, as the reserve’s core surrounds a large lake, the birdlife is absolutely excellent, with over 260 species recorded, including hornbills, parakeets, kingfishers, eagles, kites and flycatchers. You may also be lucky enough to spot a Malabar giant squirrel or a lion-tailed macaque.

After returning to the hotel for a late breakfast, the day is at leisure until our afternoon visit to one of the numerous local spice plantations where our guide explains the uses, medicinal and culinary, of pepper, cloves, curry leaves, cardamom, vanilla, turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon and a host of others. (B)

Day 11

Location: Periyar National Park

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning we leave the hills of Periyar behind us descending towards the Kerlan coast, passing the almost carpet-like tea plantations en route to discover the enchanting Keralan backwaters.  We experience an overnight stay on a Kerala Houseboat. Leaving from nearby Alleppey, each houseboat accommodates six to eight guests plus three crew who prepare a delightful and typical Keralan lunch and dinner on board. It’s a wonderful way to travel, passing paddy fields, coconut palms and colourful local houses – watch out for the plentiful birdlife, children walking (or rowing!) back from school, people washing their clothes, pots and pans and even themselves in the narrow waterways. (B, L, D)

Day 12

Location: Kumarakom

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast

After a dawn awakening, mesmerised by the stillness with the sights and sounds of the backwater, after breakfast we depart the Kerala houseboat and drive to to Kumarakom.  The rest of the day is at leisure and early evening we enjoy a sunset boat cruise on Lake Vembanad, one of India’s largest lakes and wetland eco systems home to an array of birds, animal and plant life. (B)

Day 13

Location: Kumarakom

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast

For early morning bird enthusiasts there is the opportunity to go bird watching and take a village walk. The rest of the day is free to enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of this unique location. (B)

Day 14

Location: Kochi

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning we leave Coconut Lagoon for the short drive to Cochin, the Malabar Coast’s most historic port, traditionally from where India’s invaluable spices were shipped to Europe. The city’s oldest quarter is Fort Cochin, a fascinating maze of narrow alleyways and large merchants’ houses, whilst the nearby bazaar district of Mattancherry has the Dutch Palace and the subcontinent’s oldest synagogue. The iconic sight in Cochin is the famed Chinese fishing nets, vast cantilevered contraptions that still work to this day. (B)

Day 15

Location: ሀመር።

Meals Included: Breakfast

Fly home to the UK via Muscat, arriving later the same day. (B)

Day 16

Fly home to the UK, arriving later the same day.

What's Included

  • The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single occupancy rooms are available at the relevant supplement. The price includes: Scheduled flights to Chennai and from Cochin via Muscat All transfers Guided visits to Fort St George in Chennai, temples at Mahabalipuram, Tanjore, and Madurai Guided tour of Pondicherry and Chettinadu region, walking tour of a spice plantation and Periyar nature walk, and a city tour of Cochin Overnight-cruise on the Kerala backwaters by houseboat Connecting flights Hotel porterage of one item of luggage per person The services our experiened and insightful tour manager throughout

  • Accommodation

    Hand-picked 3 to 4-star accommodation

  • Airport Transfers at Destination

  • All Domestic Transportation (including internal flights)

  • Entrance Fees

  • Local Taxes

  • Meals

    Daily breakfast & 6 meals

What's Not Included

Check out our Q&As

  • Are the local guides on the tour English speaking?


  • Are all entrance fees included in the price?


  • Are all the relevant entry visa’s included in the price of the tour?


  • Are airport transfers included in this tour?


  • Are children permitted to take part in the tour?


  • Are flights included in this tour?


  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    For almost 40 years

  • I have reduced mobility; can I still travel?

    We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to contact us to discuss these concerns

  • Do I require travel insurance?

    It is a condition of booking that you carry suitable travel insurance.

  • What is my luggage allowance?

    You will receive details of your luggage allowance with your final travel documents, which are sent approximately 10 days prior to your date of departure.

Reviews of this operator

David Clarke (Google Reviewer)  

This review is for the...


This review is for the italian Lake Como trip Aug 1-8 Wow what a trip. Riviera from start to finish were excellent the booking and help line answering questions were very good and clear. The travel booklet you get is laid out that it is simple to read and follow with step by step info from booking in to flights to meeting the guides. Our guide Matt Purse was just the best guide and real credit to Riviera with his knowledge and straight forward approach to running the trips. Matt kept us informed and told us all the sort of info you want to know without going over the top....This chap should teach other reps ..thank you so much. The coaches they use are all clean and well equipped with usb chargers and have aircon. The places chosen to visit were well researched even down to where coaches park or drop you off. The Bernina Express was the highlight for our family and matts photo tip was welcomed. The only down point was the hotel,a little dated and evening meal in main restuarant was a bit of a let down. I think we were lucky with our room on level 7 and with balcony as the walls are very thin and noise travels. We would book again with riviera

Barbara Shillaker (Google Reviewer)  

I have been on three...


I have been on three trips with Riviera Travel so far, with two more booked during 2024. Highly recommended. Excellent tour guides. Great program of visits. Great hotels used.

Mrs Bodnarec (Google Reviewer)  

Thankyou Riviera and all the...


Thankyou Riviera and all the staff on the William Wordsworth Danube River cruise. My husband and i have just travelled on the Danube to celebrate my husbands 60th and we had such a lovely experience. We were younger than most of the travellers but we met so many lovely people so this wasnt a problem. The staff were so lovely and professional. The service we experienced was so high. The boat was beautiful, the food amazing and the excursions were informative and well managed. I would definately recommend riviera as a company. In fact we are now considering their Japan holiday.

Valerie Pascoe  

We would go again in a heartbeat


Oh my goodness, what a relief it was to actually get away! Full marks to all at Riviera for keeping us up to date before our trip and for the help so cheerfully and patiently given with the extra admin that Covid brought our way. We felt totally safe with the measures taken on board, thank you very much for this. Without exception, Staff were fantastic and our every need was attended to. The additional Covid testing ran smoothly, organised by our Riviera Reps. The guided tours were most interesting: the guides very knowledgeable and more importantly, interesting to listen to. We loved this trip and would do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you again Riviera, you were FAB!

Chris Wilson (Google Reviewer)  

Second escorted tour with this...


Second escorted tour with this company. Did 5 days in Iceland tour. Everything went smoothly, excellent tour guide, Per. Extremely knowledgeable and interesting guy. Very friendly too. Highly recommend. Just let down by the room given at the hotel, but I guess the travel company doesn't have control over this.

Kathryn Jurin, GB  

Riviera South Africa tour - awesome


Riviera have amazing holidays and tours to choose from. The one we chose was South Africa and wow! It turned out to be our best trip ever - incredible memories we will never forget. We’ve been all over the world which was because of all our experiences, this one was awesome. The organisation of the holiday, the guide and the travel was e cells that. The choice of hotels, meals, restaurants, trips was absolutely fantastic - very good quality and character - nothing bland or boring! The Riviera guide was permanently with us along with a South Africa guide and they were both extremely friendly, professional, informative and you could ask any questions you want! I would massively recommend this holiday/trip and when you’ve experienced it, you realise how reasonable the price is. We reflect on this trip a lot and thank you Riviera for giving us such a wonderful experience.

Barry, GB  

Rhine Christmas markets cruise


Just completed a 5 day trip on the Rhine. Our first river cruise and a tester for future cruises. The boat was well appointed and the cabin and public areas were spotlessly clean. The staff were attentive and contributed to the very relaxed atmosphere on the boat. The quality of the food surpassed that which we have experiened on sea cruises in recent years. I have written little because it was a faultless experience. We have booked a further cruise (in France) on the basis of our experience.

Christine Hardy (Google Reviewer)  

Although most people seem to...


Although most people seem to book and pay for their holidays online, because we live close by we prefer to make a personal visit. In my opinion if they are offering this as an option they should be better equipped to accommodate visits in person. We have not been on our river cruise yet, so can't comment on that yet.

Rob Steele (Google Reviewer)  

My 3rd Riviera trip within...


My 3rd Riviera trip within a year and I wasn't disappointed 😁 This time it was This trip, although not cheap, it really offers exceptional value for money as you see a lot of Tamil Nadu and Kerela, stay in fantastic hotels, excellent breakfasts every day as well as some lunches and dinners also included. George Bareham, our "Tour Manager" was brilliant, very professional, but also friendly and diligent. Satheeshan, our local guide was helpful and picked me up antibiotics when I got ill, he was a nice chap, if (for my taste) went on a bit and used 20 words when 1 would suffice. Mr Sweeny, our coach driver was fantastic,really professional and an exceptionally good driver. His assistant, Murgon wad a delight, always smiling and attentive. This is a full on trip, early morning starts and quite a packed itinerary, but still leaving time to laze around some brilliant hotel swimming pools. Only a couple of suggestions to improve the holiday. More shopping time in Cochin and change carriers from Etihad who, unfortunately aren't the excellent airline they used to be. But, will I use Riviera Travel again - Yes 😁

Barbara Parkes (Google Reviewer)  

Presently in Croatia staying at...


Presently in Croatia staying at Arauana Hotel, supposedly a 4 star property, but wouldn't give it any star rating. Rooms are small and dirty. Wallpaper blistering. Meals served in a shed like lean-to. Food like warm, greasy and always self service. Second holiday with Riviera this year and neither at standard advertised. Have travelled with them previously and everything was fine, but standards have really dropped. Have booked a holiday with them next year and now dreading it. Certainly don't provide the standard advertised. We have never stayed in such a hovel and have visited youngsters in back packers accommodation which was far better than this supposedly 4 star accommodation. There are no indoor bars or lounges only a shed as a so called restaurant. Absolutely disgusting. Won't be boking with them again

Book with Confidence

  • Low Deposit

    Riviera Travel requires a minimum deposit of 500 GBP per person or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 75 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of riviera travel charges.

    Up to 75 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 74 days before tour starts: Forfeit 50% of booking price.

    At 60 days before tour starts: Forfeit 70% of booking price.

    At 30 days before tour starts: Forfeit 90% of booking price.

    At 14 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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