Kerala and the Southern Highlights

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This fascinating tour will entice even the most widely travelled individual. Southern India is very different from the north, providing stark contrasts between spices, food, cultures and climate.

Places Visited

New Zealand - Chennai - Mamallapuram (2N) - Chennai (1N) - Bangalore (1N) - - Mysore (1N) - Coonoor (2N) - Munnar (1N) - Thekkady (2N) - Kochi (2N) - Houseboat (1N) - Kovalam (2N) - New Zealand

Day 1-2: New Zealand to Chennai
Fly to Chennai and transfer to the coastal town of Mamallapuram for a two-night stay. Depending on airlines schedules, you may depart and/or arrive on Day 2
Day 1-2: New Zealand to Chennai
Day 3: Discover Mamallapuram
Take a tour of the fascinating 7th and 8th-century rock carvings including the magnificent Shore Temple and the impressive Varaha Cave.
Day 3: Discover Mamallapuram
Day 4: Chennai City
Return to Chennai, once Madras, the city was developed as a British trading post and so is home to a number of colonial sights. A city tour begins at the 13 kilometre Marina Beach before a stop at Fort St. George, established by the East India Company, and the British built St. Mary’s Church. The final stop is the colourful Shiva Kapaleeswarar Temple.
Day 4: Chennai City
Day 5: Chennai to Bangalore
Rise early to catch the Shatabdi Express to the garden city of Bangalore. Take an afternoon city tour to see the Bull Temple, Tipu Sultan’s Palace and Vidhana Soudha.
Day 5: Chennai to Bangalore
Day 6: Mysore
Head to Mysore, stopping at Srirangapatna Fort en route. Visit the magnificent Maharaja’s Palace and drive up to Chamundi Hill to admire the 12th-century Sri Chamundeshwari Temple and Nandi Bull. Tonight, enjoy a traditional cooking demonstration hosted by a local family.
Day 6: Mysore
Day 7: Coonoor Hill Station
Journey up into the cool climes of the Western Ghats to the beautiful hill station of Coonoor. Relax and appreciate the peace and natural splendour of this quaint town.
Day 7: Coonoor Hill Station
Day 8: Ooty Narrow Gauge Railway
All aboard the miniature, narrow gauge ‘Toy Train’ to Ooty, nicknamed the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’. Upon arrival you’ll visit the botanical gardens and walk up to a small village where you’ll be able to gain insight into the lives of the local people, as well as getting incredible views back over Ooty.
Day 8: Ooty Narrow Gauge Railway
Day 9: Travel to Coimbatore
Descending from the highlands there are a plethora of spectacular panoramas to admire as you travel to Coimbatore. Spend the afternoon exploring this cosmopolitan city including an impressive Jain Temple, St. Michael Xavier Church and Athar Jamid, the city's oldest mosque.
Day 9: Travel to Coimbatore
Day 10: Munnar
Travel to Munnar, a hill station enveloped by lush tea plantations. In the afternoon visit a tea plantation and the Tata Tea Museum.
Day 10:  Munnar
Day 11: Travel to Thekkady
Today explore Eravikulam National Park where you will have the opportunity to spot the local wildlife (closed Feb-Apr, an alternative light trek will be available). Continue your journey to Thekkady, home of Periyar National Park and its wildlife sanctuary.
Day 11: Travel to Thekkady
Day 12: Periyar Wildlife Reserve
Though designated a Tiger Reserve in 1978, the Periyar Wildlife Reserve is best known for its elephants. Take a walk through the reserve, keeping an eye out for its resident elephant population, as well as wild dogs, barking deer, mouse deer and the elusive Bengal Tiger. Visit a spice village and browse a local market before enjoying a traditional Kalaripayattu (martial art) show this evening.
Day 12: Periyar Wildlife Reserve
Day 13: Drive to Kochi
Travel to the coastal town of Kochi. This evening enjoy an exuberant Kathakali dance performance..
Day 13: Drive to Kochi
Day 14: Explore Kochi
Take a full day tour of Kochi. Start at St Francis Church, the first European church built in India, before a visit to Santa Cruz Basilica, where you can get excellent views of Chinese fishing nets. Finish by admiring the synagogue in the heart of the Jewish Quarter and a stroll around the nearby markets.
Day 14: Explore Kochi
Day 15: Backwaters Cruising
Travel to Kumarakom, stopping en route at Kumbalangi, a village created to highlight the lifestyle of fisher-folk in the area. Later board your houseboat a converted rice barge, known as a Kettuvallam. Sit back and watch life on the water and the surrounding, untouched wilderness as you cruise unhurriedly along the canals. A delicious dinner of traditional cuisine will be served on board and you’ll spend a comfortable night on the water.
Day 15: Backwaters Cruising
Day 16: Discover Trivandrum
Take breakfast on your boat before disembarking and heading for the beach town of Kovalam. Stop on the way in Kerala's capital Trivandrum to discover the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the Observatory and Sri Chitra Art Gallery.
Day 16: Discover Trivandrum
Day 17: Relax in Kovalam
This morning take a walking tour of the town and visit the lighthouse. The rest of the day is yours to relax, or head to the beach, until a farewell dinner this evening.
Day 17: Relax in Kovalam
Day 18: Depart Kovalam to New Zealand
Enjoy a free morning to spend at your leisure. After a late check-out, you will be transferred to Kochi airport to board your overnight flight to New Zealand.
Day 18: Depart Kovalam to New Zealand
Day 19: Arrive New Zealand
Arrive New Zealand

Also Available

Tailor Your Tour

If you like most of the itinerary which we have suggested but you'd like to change the route and the accommodation, speak to our specialist Tailormade team, who can build your perfect itinerary based around where you would like to go, what you would like to see and how much you'd like to spend. Just call us on 0800 936 3998 and we'll help plan your dream holiday.

Tour prices are per person, twin share departing Auckland. Regional departures available on request. Additional charges: Tipping is payable on arrival in destination (see Additional Price Information below).

Additional Price Information:


Single supplement from $1,520
Land Only (Chennai to Trivandrum), 17 days from $4,680 per person twin share
Additional charges: Tipping - US$96 per person (subject to change) payable on arrival.
Tour availability is updated each Monday. While every effort is made to ensure availability status is current, it is advisable to contact our reservations department on 0800 936 3998. Limited seats denotes 4 seats or less available.

A visa is required by all nationalities. A single entry visa should be arranged in advance of travel.
Unlike many other tour operators, we include your entry visas in the price of our tour. We handle the entire visa process – all you need to do is fill out the form and send your passport to us. We are always on hand to help you with any questions or queries you might have when completing the form. 

Phone Calls
International and domestic calls can be made from your hotel room. It’s a good idea to check call costs with hotel staff or your local guide before making calls, as this can be expensive. A service charge may also be involved. To call New Zealand – the international access code is 00, followed by the country code 64, then the local area code (omitting the first 0), then the number.
 
Mobile Phones
Mobile phones are quite popular in India and you will find high quality coverage. India has active roaming agreements with most of the service providers. Please make sure you are aware of associated costs and have activated your international roaming prior to departure.
 
Internet & Email
Internet cafes can be found in all major cities and even in some small towns. This is often the easiest and cheapest way to stay in touch. Most hotels have a business centre with internet access, but at a slightly higher rate. Some hotels may have wifi which usually comes at an additional cost and may only be available in hotel lobbies. 

Tipping is an expected element in the tourism industry today and India is no exception. Many passengers are often uncertain of how much to tip so we have established a tipping system whereby every passenger gives a set amount to the National Escort who will distribute the amount appropriately. On multi-country tips, this amount will be paid in stages on arrival in each country. If there is no National Escort, you will need to give your money to your Local Guides and tipping amounts for each city will be shown in your final itinerary. The amount for the kitty is calculated for each tour depending on the length, group size, and services used during the trip.
 
We will indicate the tipping amounts in your final documents for guidance.

Shopping can be fun and entertaining, especially in local markets all over India where souvenirs can be purchased for next to nothing. However all passengers must realise that the authenticity and value of goods is always questionable.
If the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is! Some shopping is made up of copied brand items and reproduced antiques.
 
In keeping with most people’s interest whilst on holiday, your tour will include a reasonable number of opportunities in local shops and government factories. This may vary depending on local conditions, and should never interfere with your itinerary’s included sightseeing.
 
Each region has its own specialty; a traditional handicraft perfected by the locals over centuries, a climate that encourages rich spices to grow, or a type of wood, stone or precious jewel in abundance nearby. Textiles are a popular souvenir, including silk brocades from Varanasi in the north or Kanchipuram in the south, tie-dyed cottons from all over Rajasthan, saris, hand woven Tibetan carpets from Darjeeling or Dharamshala, or the woollen shawls pashminas of Kashmir and Ladakh.
 
There is also the heavy and elaborate silverwork of Rajasthan, “spring picked” tea from the hill stations, and the spices, wooden carvings or facemasks of Kerala.
 
If you prefer set prices, head to the government-run shops, usually called “cottage industries” or “emporium” which sells quality but reasonably priced goods. The more up market tourist shops will also have fixed prices. Markets, street stalls, and local shops can be noisy, crowded, and confronting, but this remains one of the most rewarding experiences of travelling in India. If your itinerary includes some free time and you would like to go shopping, ask either your National Escort/Guide or the hotel staff for advice on how to best get there. They should be able to tell you if you need a taxi or a rickshaw, how much you should pay for the journey and provide you verbal or written directions to give to the driver. Remember to take a hotel business card with you to find your way back!

The cost of all meals is included in your group tour cost. Breakfast is served in the hotel and includes a combination of western and local dishes. As traditional in this region, lunch and dinner are served in a banquet style, so you can try the variety of specialty dishes. The amount of food served is more than ample for the whole group.
 
We aim to cater to the tastes of the majority of people so dishes are not too spicy or unusual in their taste. One of the great myths about India is that the food is of poor quality and always hot and spicy. This is definitely not the case! In fact, North Indian dishes whilst often very rich and indeed spicy don’t contain as much chilli as South Indian dishes. Indian cuisine is predominately vegetarian; however more meat (chicken and lamb) dishes are available in the North. On our group tours, we use a variety of local and hotel restaurants, which provide variety in both the dishes and methods of cooking. If you like Indian food from home, you will have no problems with the real Indian food as it is similar, only more flavoursome. You’ll love it; though don’t expect to lose weight on your holiday, Indians love to eat and eat big. In tourist centres, some restaurants and hotels may also serve western dishes to provide variety. You may also prefer to bring comforts like cereal, biscuits, muesli bars and tea/coffee from home.
 
Drinks will be at each tour member’s own expense. Beer is widely available and cheap. Wine lovers should remember that western style wine is very expensive to import into India, so is not stocked except by upmarket restaurants. Bottled drinking water, soft drinks, and fruit juices are also widely available – remember that you should only have ice, fruit juices, or lassies (yoghurt based sweet or salty drinks) from a trusted restaurant; where they will use boiled or bottled water to prepare ice and drinks.
 
Tea is very popular and Indians simply love visiting the many street stalls which brew chai (also known as masala), a sweet, spiced tea brewed with boiling milk. Hotels will usually serve tea and instant coffee at breakfast or other meals – you can usually request the chai or masala style tea as well.
Packed meals: On some days, your National Escort/Guide may arrange for a simple, packed meal for your group. It may be a matter of schedule (on long driving days), hygiene (on train journeys), or your location (in remote areas) and we ask you to bear this in mind. Although this is not a full meal, most of our passengers seem to enjoy this change from the large portions and more elaborate banquets enjoyed most days.

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Why Book This Tour?

Southern India offers an intensely tropical and laid-back experience compared to the North. Travel from its stunning hill stations to the tranquil backwaters on this in-depth journey

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