South Indian Odyssey

South Indian Odyssey

66 Views
19 Days From

$5244

$5008

South Indian Odyssey

19 Days Starting in CHENNAI and ending in KOCHI

Visiting: Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Gingee, Puducherry, Kumbakonam, Karaikudi, Chettinadu, Madurai, Mysuru, Kabini, Kozhikode, Cheruthuruthi, Kumarakom, Alappuzha, Kerala Backwaters, Kochi

Tour operator:

Wild Frontiers

Tour code:

SIO

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 12

Physical rating:

Low, Low

Age range:

1-99

Special diets catered:

Vegetarians, Please contact Wild Frontiers with any specific dietary requirements

Tour operated in:
English
Private Available:

Request A Private Tour

From:
$5244
$5008 Exclusive Tourhub Members Discount: -$236

NB: Prices correct on 20-May-2024 but subject to change.

This tour is no longer available, please see similar tours below or send an enquiry

Tour Overview

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.

Highlights

  • Experience the contrast between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, via train, houseboat, minibus and rickshaw

  • Cruise along Kerala’s famous Backwaters on a traditional Kettuvallam and see traditional rural life

  • Watch Kalaripayattu, a 1500-year-old martial art, at Calicut, Kerala

  • Search for Asian elephants and tigers on safaris in Nagarhole National Park

  • Visit the temples of Mahabalipuram, Madurai and the Great Living Chola Temples at Airavateswara & Bridhadeswara

  • Discover the different colonial influences on the coastal towns of Pondicherry and Kochi

Itinerary

Expand All

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

Location: Chennai, Mahabalipuram

Accommodation: Resort

Accommodation Name: Ideal Beach Resort or similar

Meals Included: Lunch, Dinner

The joining point of the trip will be at Chennai International Airport this morning, from where we will drive south along the shores of the Indian Ocean to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram. The once great port city of the Pallava dynasty, Mahabalipuram can trace its ancestry back to the 7th century and is home to some 40 different monuments and temples, including the magnificent Shore Temple, one of the oldest stone buildings in India. This afternoon we take in some of the highlights of the area.

Day 2 : Mahabalipuram

Location: Mahabalipuram

Accommodation: Resort

Accommodation Name: Ideal Beach Resort or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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, Kanchipuram lay at the heart of the Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagar Empires. One of the seven holiest Hindu cities in India, it has long been known as the city of a thousand temples and is renowned today for its saris, which are considered amongst the finest in India. Indeed, legend has it that the weavers of Kanchipuram are descended from the master weavers of the gods themselves. We also pay a visit to the heritage village of Dakshinachitra before returning to Mahabalipuram for our second night.

Day 3 : Mahalipuram - Gingee - Pondicherry

Location: Mahabalipuram, Gingee, Puducherry

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Maison Perumal or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Heading inland slightly, we make for Tamil Nadu’s most spectacular fort at Gingee. Despite being protected by 20m thick walls in places, the fort was overrun on several occasions including in the 18th century by French and later British forces. We then head back to the coast to Pondicherry - a sophisticated city with strong French influences. Here you can sip a good French wine whilst looking out over the Indian Ocean. It is often referred to as the French Riviera of the East for its architecture and European ways, and as such provides a fascinating contrast to the rest of the state. On arrival we’ll take a short walk around town as well as an evening cycle rickshaw ride.

Day 4 : Pondicherry - Kumbakonam

Location: Puducherry, Kumbakonam

Accommodation: Resort

Accommodation Name: Paradise Resort or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Departing Pondicherry, our journey takes us on to the pilgrimage city of Kumbakonam, a city that can date its origins back to the Sangam period of the 3rd century BC. En route we visit the Shiva temple of Chidambaram, as well as the 12th century Airavateswara Temple in Darasuram, a recognised World Heritage monument. Arriving in Kumbakonam later today we have a chance to explore this city of temples, a place renowned for its shrines and mathas (monasteries). There are some 188 Hindu temples within the city’s municipal limits, of which the Adi Kumbeswarar Temple is the oldest Shaiva (Shiva) shrine in the city.

Day 5 : Kumbakonam - Karaikudi (Chettinadu)

Location: Kumbakonam, Karaikudi

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Chidambara Vilas or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage site “Great Living Chola Temples”, the granite temple dates back to the early years of the 11th century and boasts an impressive list of statistics. Its 66-metre-high temple tower is amongst the tallest of its kind anywhere in the world, whilst the Kumbam (the apex at the top of the temple) is carved from a single stone and weighs in at a hefty 80 tons. During archaeological digs at this impressive complex, many intricate bronze statues have been uncovered. The ancient art form of bronze statue making and gold painting continues today - a creative process that we will be able to see for ourselves at a short workshop.

Day 6 : In & Around Chettinadu

Location: Chettinadu

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Chidambara Vilas or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Surrounded by traditional villages, this region was once the homeland of the Nattukottai Chettiars, a prosperous banking and business community who left their stamp on the region in the form of a number of substantial mansions that still dot the landscape. We pay a visit to some of these 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, stopping to visit some Chettinadu cotton hand-looms and take a tour of the Aathangudi tile factory, whose beautiful designs and colours still hark back to a bygone age.

Day 7 : Karaikudi (Chettinadu) - Madurai

Location: Karaikudi, Madurai

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Heritage or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we head into the cultural heartlands of the Tamil and Dravidian cultures. Our destination is the temple city of Madurai, a place that can trace its history back some 2,500 years. Laid out in the shape of a lotus along the flat, fertile plains of the Vaigai River valley, the city is built around the magnificent Sri Meenakshi Temple, a spectacular complex of towers, temples, courtyards and shrines that is considered one of India’s great cultural landmarks. We pay a visit to this spectacular 16th century temple today, as well as the Tirumalai Nayak Palace and Theppakulam. Later this evening we’ll enjoy an auto-rickshaw ride back to the temple to experience a traditional Puri ceremony.

Day 8 : Madurai - Mysore (Overnight Train)

Location: Madurai, Mysuru

Accommodation: Overnight Train

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

We will have time today to explore more of this most captivating of cities, home to the Gandhi Memorial Museum and a number of Hindu, Vishnu and Muslim temples and mosques. There will also be time to perhaps take a stroll through Madurai’s bustling streets, taking in some of its eclectic shops and bazaars, before heading to the railway station to take an overnight train all the way to Mysore in Karnataka.

Day 9 : Mysore

Location: Mysuru

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Metropole or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning we arrive in Mysore, the stunning cultural capital of the Karnataka region, located at the base of the Chamundi Hills. Heading straight to our hotel, we have a little time to relax before an afternoon visit to the nearby town of Somanathapura, famed as the site of the 13th century Chennakesava Temple. Considered one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture in India, the temple was built at the height of the Hoysala Empire and is richly carved with friezes, sculptures and intricate images from the Indian epics.

Day 10 : Mysore

Location: Mysuru

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Metropole or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Long known for its festivals and palaces, Mysore can boast one of the most opulent and iconic buildings in southern India, the stunningly ornate Mysore Palace. Originally built in the 14th century, the palace of today is the result of a significant redesign by the British architect, Henry Irwin. A wonderful fusion of European and Indian influences, the palace is still the official residence of the Wodeyar dynasty, the royal family of Mysore. We take a walking tour around the city this morning, visiting the palace and the markets before driving out to the hills that surround the city. The Chamundi Hills are home to the impressive Sri Chamundeswari Temple and the sacred Nandi bull, one of the largest of its kind and carved from a single piece of rock. We’ll also stop off at the nearby impressive Srirangapatnam with its 18th century remains of Tipu Sultan’s fort, palace and mausoleum.

Day 11 : Mysore - Kabini

Location: Mysuru, Kabini

Accommodation: Lodge

Accommodation Name: Kabini River Lodge or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today’s journey takes us on to Kabini, our base on the edge of the Nagarahole National Park. This afternoon, once we have settled into our rooms, there will be the chance to 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 - Calicut

Location: Kabini, Kozhikode

Accommodation: Resort

Accommodation Name: Kadavu Resort or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Before breakfast this morning we will embark on another safari in the Nagarahole National Park in the hope that we may see tiger or leopard, the two species of big cat that are resident in the park. Later we depart for Calicut, across the border in Kerala, an important trading centre and the place where Vasco de Gama first set foot on the Indian Subcontinent in 1498. This evening should be a tour highlight as we visit a kalari (a special Keralan gymnasium) to witness kalaripayattu, a distinct martial arts discipline dating back over 1500 years.

Day 13 : Calicut - Cheruthuruthy

Location: Kozhikode, Cheruthuruthi

Accommodation: River Retreat or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we head south towards Cheruthuruthy on the Nila River. After a traditional lunch we will have the opportunity to meet some local artisans, including potters, weavers and toymakers. This evening there may be the opportunity to watch a performance of local folk song and dance.

Day 14 : Cheruthuruthy - Kumarakom

Location: Cheruthuruthi, Kumarakom

Accommodation: Resort

Accommodation Name: Backwater Ripples Resort or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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 is famed. We then drive south towards the famous Keralan backwaters and will spend the night in Kumarakum.

Day 15 : Kumarakom - Alleppey - Backwaters Of Kerala

Location: Kumarakom, Alappuzha, Kerala Backwaters

Accommodation: Houseboat x 2 nights

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning we drive to Alleppey to take to the waters of this most beautiful and unique of landscapes. Boarding our traditional houseboats, we will spend the next two days cruising the waterways and channels that honeycomb the coastal plains running parallel to the Arabian Sea. A unique ecosystem that is home to a rich variety of aquatic life, the backwaters present us with a time-honoured image of an India long forgotten, where scattered villages survive amongst the labyrinthine channels much as they have for generations. Kettuvallams (Keralan houseboats) once negotiated these canals carrying rice, grain and even royalty through the backwaters. Today they provide us with an ideal way to appreciate the tranquillity and tradition of this part of southern India. We’ll pass isolated communities and gardens of hibiscus and vegetables, hop off the boats to visit interesting sights en route, and spend our evenings moored up besides the lapping shores of these idyllic backwaters. Having two nights aboard our private chartered houseboats enables us to venture further into the backwaters to catch a glimpse of life rarely seen by foreign visitors to Kerala.

Day 17 : Alleppey - Kochi (Cochin)

Location: Alappuzha, Kochi

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Xandari Harbour or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Disembarking our boats this morning, we drive to Kochi, the glittering ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’. The oldest European settlement in India, Kochi is a vibrant mix of Arab, Chinese, European and Indian influences and home to the oldest church and synagogue in the country. Built on trade, the city began to prosper with the arrival of Jewish and Arab traders. With the later arrival of the Portuguese, and then the Dutch and English, Kochi went on to become a vibrant settlement, incorporating a rare fusion of European and Asian traditions and styles. This evening we will enjoy a sunset cruise on the harbour before learning to cook a traditional dinner with a local family.

Day 18 : In Kochi (Cochin)

Location: Kochi

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Xandari Harbour or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we will take a walking tour around the historic old streets of 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. The city is also famous for its Chinese fishing nets, as well as the Santa Cruz Basilica and the Church of St. Francis, where the body of Vasco de Gama was held before being returned to Portugal. Made from teak and bamboo, the huge cantilevered nets are a legacy of some of the earliest visitors to the Malabar Coast, whilst the 16th century Church of St. Francis has the distinction of being the oldest European church in India. After a free afternoon to enjoy some last minute retail therapy, we’ll enjoy our final dinner together tonight with a chance to reflect on our journey and experiences.

Day 19 : Tour Ends In Kochi (Cochin)

Location: Kochi

Meals Included: Breakfast

The tour ends after breakfast at our hotel. Those on our suggested flights will make an early morning departure for the airport.

What's Included

  • MEALS

    18 x Breakfasts, 18 x Lunches, 16 x Dinners

  • TRANSPORT

    On this tour we will use an overnight train, a houseboat, minibuses and rickshaws.

  • GROUP SIZE

    Maximum: 12

  • CARBON CONTRIBUTIONS

    Contributions to carbon offset & tree planting projects for all bookings

  • EXPERT TEAM

    The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate

  • ACCOMMODATION

    All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary

  • ENTRANCE FEES

    All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

  • FITNESS RATING

    Low

What's Not Included

We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour
ationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatoryTips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documentsInternational .Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UKAirport .Transfers: We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flights.Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs

Visas

Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact our recommended visa agency, Travcour www.travcour.com 

For this tour UK passport holders currently require a visa for India.

Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements. 

Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.
 

Key Aspects to Consider

Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour, as many of the activities are optional. 

Check out our Q&As

  • Are airport transfers included in this tour?

    We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flights

  • Do you require a visa for this holiday?

    For this tour UK passport holders currently require a visa for India.

    Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

  • Are the local guides on the tour English speaking?

    Yes

  • What is the maximum group size?

    12

  • What policies are in place for Covid-19?

    We have a complete Covid-19 hub here: https://www.wildfrontierstravel.com/en_GB/covid-hub

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    Over 70% of passengers on our group tours are solo adventurers. Unlike many tour operators, we don’t believe in charging solo travellers a premium, so if you are happy to share a room with a fellow traveller of the same sex, you will pay exactly the same as a couple..Occasionally you may even end up with your own room. You can travel as a single traveller on any of our holidays, from our escorte

  • Will the accommodation included meet local health and safety regulations?

    Yes

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    Since 2002

  • Do I need to be double-vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel with you?

    In most cases, yes. Not only are many destinations making double-vaccination a requirement of entry to the country and/or access to restaurants, museums etc., but additionally on all our group tours for the foreseeable future, for everyone’s peace of mind, we are asking that all clients be double vaccinated.

Reviews from travellers on this tour

Brenda Setchell  

Brenda Setchell

This was our first trip with Wild Frontiers and we

This was our first trip with Wild Frontiers and we are now converts!

Richard and Ros Hanlon  

Richard and Ros Hanlon

What a joy to experience the lives of other people

What a joy to experience the lives of other people in wild and distant places so far unspoilt by the Western World.

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1 Dates & Availability

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Tuesday - Saturday

Oct 28, 2025 - Nov 15, 2025
$5244 $5008

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Book with Confidence

  • Free Date Changes

    Wild Frontiers allows you to make 2 free date changes, as long as the change is made at least 90 days before the start of the tour.

  • Low Deposit

    Wild Frontiers requires a minimum deposit of 200 GBP per person or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 70 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of wild frontiers charges.

    Up to 71 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 51 days before tour starts: Forfeit 50% of booking price.

    At 30 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

  • Wild Frontiers' COVID Promise

    You will have the right to transfer without any transfer fee, from any of our trips at ANY time if your trip is not Covid Viable (see below).*
    We will not ask you to pay your final balance if your trip is not yet Covid Viable.
    If your trip is not Covid Viable, by 30 days prior to departure at the latest, we will cancel your holiday and you can either transfer your funds to another departure or have a refund.**


    We will only consider a trip Covid Viable*** if pre-departure it meets all of the following criteria:

    There is no national lockdown or ban on foreign travel for the period when your trip is due to depart.
    Destinations on the tour must not be on the UK’s Red List. ****
    No destinations visited on the tour have in place any significant COVID-19 restrictions for travellers.
    Tourist visas (if required) are available.
    There is reliable airline access to/from the start/end of the trip.
    Following an assessment by both Wild Frontiers and our local partners we are confident that your trip is able to run in both a safe and enjoyable manner.*****




    ** If you were originally booked to travel before 30 April 2020 and transferred to a later date, or if you have a tailor-made booking, there may be some irrecoverable costs which we cannot refund. Please speak to us and we will be able to advise you if this is the case for your booking.
    ***Since our HQ is in London, Covid Viable status for our Group Tours will be assessed on UK-based travellers. However we are fully aware that many of our clients live in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and beyond. As such, when we deem a trip to now be Covid Viable, everyone booked will have a chance to review their own personal situation before deciding whether or not to remain booked on the trip. Anyone wishing to, will have the option to transfer without fees to another trip at this time. For tailor made bookings, we may also able to consider additional countries’ travel advice when deciding if a trip is Viable. Please discuss this with us at the time of booking.
    **** This relates to bookings from UK clients only. We may operate trips to destinations which the British FCDO advise against travel for Covid reasons. If this is the case, anyone wishing to will have the option to cancel with a refund or transfer to another trip. In some cases we may choose to offer a tour to a Red destination but these will be at both clients’ and Wild Frontiers’ discretion and will be subject to alternative conditions to be discussed on an ad hoc basis.
    *****If a destination, that we have deemed to be Covid Viable, subsequently fails any aspect of the criteria for two consecutive weeks, you will have the right under our Covid Promise to transfer without any fees.

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