India: The Beautiful South - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2020)

Immerse yourself in India’s more spiritual side on this journey through the relaxed southern states of the sub-continent.

Journey Overview

Immerse yourself in India’s more spiritual side on this journey through the relaxed southern states of the sub-continent. Prized for millennia for its aromatic spices and natural beauty, the south remains a feast for the senses, with fragrant cuisines, friendly people, and fascinating cultures. Bask in the colour and movement of bustling, sophisticated cities, sleepy fishing villages, tropical coastlines, and lush hinterlands. You’ll be astonished by the Pallava sculptures and towering Chola temples of Tamil Nadu, enchanted by the colonial charms of Puducherry, and lulled by the tranquil backwaters of Kerala, in an India still largely undisturbed by tourism.

Journey Highlights

  • Explore historic Chennai, the cultural, culinary and artistic hub of Southern India
  • Marvel at the extensive cave temples and life-size bas-relief sculptures of Mahabalipuram
  • Wander through charming Puducherry, with its notes of colonial France
  • Join 45 nations at Auroville, the New Age community founded in the 1960s that still attracts devotees the world over
  • Admire the distinctive architecture of Chettinad and taste its subtle and aromatic cuisine
  • Enter a world of tea, from plant to pour, amidst the plantations of Munnar
  • Attend dinner at the stylish home of dancer-turned-designer Vasanty Manet with local entertainment
  • Soak up the colonial charms of the colourful port city of Kochi, Queen of the Arabian Sea

Journey Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Chennai.

Welcome to Chennai (formerly Madras) and transfer to your hotel.
Taj Coromandel

Day 2: Chennai | Colonial Madras.

Discover colonial Madras through the buildings left behind by the British. Then zigzag your way through the bustling bylanes of vibrant Georgetown with your guide pointing out the fresh produce, local everyday commodities, colourful market stalls pausing along the way to taste handpicked street food treats. Finish the day at Marina Beach at sunset, before a welcome dinner held tonight in the hotel’s award-winning Southern Spice restaurant.
Taj Coromandel | Meals: BLD

Day 3: Mahabalipuram | World Heritage Wonders.

Travel south to the ancient Pallava capital of Mahabalipuram, site of the UNESCO World Heritage listed cave temples, bas-relief sculptures, pillared halls carved out of the rocky hillside and the delightful shore temple. After a lunch of southern Indian delicacies, head to Puducherry and your hotel in the French Quarter.
Palais de Mahe | Meals: BLD

Days 4-5: Puducherry | French Flavours & Spiritualists.

Exploring ‘Pondy’ on foot, start in the French Quarter admiring the wide shady streets, colonial architecture and soft pastel-colours. Pause at Sri Aurobindo Ashram which influences much of the city. Founded by the Indian philosopher, yogi, guru, poet and nationalist Sri Aurobindo in 1926, it is home today to 1,200 devotees from around the world. The main building houses the mortal remains of Aurobindo and his spiritual collaborator, ‘the Mother’ in a marble mausoleum. The nearby New Age community of Auroville, founded in 1968 also attracts devotees of Sri Aurobindo from over 45 nations and you have a chance to wander through the site and visit Mohanam Cultural Centre which is preserving the rich cultural heritage of South India. During your stay, you are invited for dinner into the stylish home of dancer-turned-designer Vasanty Manet with local entertainment.
Palais de Mahe | Meals: BD (Day 4); B (Day 5)

Day 6: Thanjavur | Nataraja Temple.

Drive further south to Thanjavur (formerly Tanjore), the ancient Chola capital, stopping on the way in Chidambaram to visit the vibrant Nataraja Temple, famed for its bronze dancing Shiva. Observe the daily Brahmin rituals at shrines throughout the 40-acre complex.
Svatma | Meals: BLD

Day 7: Thanjavur | Dravidian Temple Architecture.

Spend some time today admiring the 11th century Brihadisvara Temple, one of India’s most spectacular. Seek out its elaborate stucco sculptures, shrines and statues and the exquisite Chola frescoes. Later, stroll through the 14th century Tanjore Palace built for Maratha royalty and meet artisans who craft the melodious veena, a musical instrument carved from a single piece of jackwood.

Watch master painters at work perfecting the classical Thanjavur style and bronze sculptors whose techniques have changed little since the Chola period.
Svatma | Meals: B

Day 8: Karaikudi | Chettinad Cuisine and Culture.

Journey on to the Chettinad region, home to a prosperous banking and business community and a remarkable cuisine, one of Tamil Nadu’s most famous. Take a bull cart to lunch where you’ll savour the subtle and aromatic local flavours followed by a visit to a tile factory and a weaving centre to admire soft cotton sarees before continuing to Madurai.
The Gateway Pasumalai | Meals: BLD

Day 9: Madurai | Design Your Day.

Step out into vibrant Madurai, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Famous for temples built in the Dravidian style, Madurai is also home to a maze of markets and museums. This afternoon, choose between two Design Your Day activities:

  • Visit a Potter’s village and discover mystifying stories from the potters who breathe life into mud structures.
  • Head out on a food trail, experiencing Madurai’s lively food scene experiencing some of its recorded history that spans two millennia.

This evening travel like a local by tuk tuk to a Hindu prayer ceremony (‘aarti’) at the 12th century Meenakshi Temple, a multi-tiered, dazzling wonder, heaving with carved mythical figures and devout pilgrims.
The Gateway Pasumalai | Meals: B

Day 10: Munnar | Western Ghats.

Your journey continues into Kerala and the lush Western Ghats where your old-world plantation retreat is located. Stroll around the estate with an expert naturalist who will identify the local flora and fauna.
Windermere Estate | Meals: BLD

Day 11: Munnar | Tea Immersion.

Discover a world of tea today as you witness the complete process from leaf plucking and processing to packaging and pouring. Visit the tea gardens, see the plantation workers and their villages, taste the various grades at the Lockhart Tea Factory established in 1879, and enjoy the opportunity to ‘make your own brew’. Afterwards enjoy some lively conversation with the planter’s family over high tea in the hotel.
Windermere Estate | Meals: BLD

Day 12: Periyar River | Forests & Farming.

Drive through scenic forest into the countryside rubber trees grow and spices are cultivated. Visit local farms and meet the friendly villagers, stop by a community school and a forest temple for a glimpse into hill station life. After lunch, continue the drive to Kochi (formerly Cochin), known as the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’. This evening motor around the harbour and soak up the sunset.
Brunton Boatyard | Meals: BL

Day 13: Kochi | Oldest European Settlement in India.

Spend the morning exploring this charming port town on the Malabar Coast where you discover an intriguing mix of cultural influences. Visit one of the oldest Jewish synagogues in India, decorated with blue ceramic Chinese tiles and surrounded by an aromatic spice market and the boutiques of Jewtown. See the story of the Ramayana depicted in the wonderful murals at charming Mattancherry Palace (Dutch Palace) and visit St. Francis Church, both of which were erected by the Portuguese in the 16th century. On the harbour shore, see the cantilevered fishing nets brought from southern China by traders – a testament to the centuries old link between these regions.

This afternoon is at leisure before absorbing Kerala’s Hindu culture at a Kathakali performance, one of the oldest dance forms in the area. See the elaborate make-up process before the show, then watch this unforgettable art form combining classical dance, theatre, opera and pantomime.
Brunton Boatyard | Meals: B

Day 14: Kochi | Design Your Day.

Today, personalise your travel experience with a selection of Design Your Day adventures.

  • Meet local cook and food consultant, Nimmy, who shares her Syrian Christian heritage through homecooked food.
  • Tour the city with a local expert who shares the heritage and history of the Malabar Coast through its temples, mosques, palaces and museums.
  • A day in the Backwaters. Cycle to a market to taste local fruits and delicacies, cruise leisurely down palm-lined canals, lunch on typical Keralan fare with a local family and the impressive craftsmanship of local boat builders.

Return to Kerala in time for a farewell seafood dinner.
Brunton Boatyard | Meals: BD

Day 15: Kochi.

Transfer to the airport for your departure flight.
Meals: B

Journey Details

Maximum Group Size: 18

Departures are guaranteed to operate with a minimum of 2 guests.

Tour inclusions

All accommodation as detailed on a double/ twin share basis with private facilities; meals as specified; bottled water during transfers and touring; airport welcome; assistance with luggage and group transportation by private air-conditioned vehicle; services of English speaking A&K Resident Tour Director; economy flights only if specified as included in itinerary, all entrance fees, planning, handling, operational and communication charges, all tipping.

Tour Exclusions

International flights not specified as included, visas, insurance coverage of personal loss, injury, illness or damages incurred during your trip; items of a purely personal nature such as drinks, laundry, dry cleaning, internet, fax or phone charges; transfers, sightseeing or meals not specified in itinerary; excess baggage charges

Tailor Made Travel with A&K

If scheduled departure dates don’t work for you, or you would prefer to travel privately, talk to your A&K travel specialist or your travel agent about creating the perfect bespoke journey for your, or a small group.  

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Taj Coromandel, Chennai

India: The Beautiful South - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2020)

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Palais de Mahe, Puducherry

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The Gateway Pasumalai, Madurai

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A haven from the bustling city below, The Gateway offers a colonial styled hotel set in 62 acres of tranquil manicured gardens. With well ... Read more

The Windermere Estate, South India

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At 1600 metres above sea level the views from The Windermere Estate are stunning, look out to endless tea plantations against the backdro ... Read more

Brunton Boatyard, Kochi

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Although a new building, this hotel perfectly echoes the Dutch and Portuguese colonial architecture of old Fort Kochi. With lime-washed w ... Read more

Dates & Prices

Journey Dates & Prices

Prices are per person, based on double occupancy

Jan 20, 2021 - Feb 3, 2021
Price AU$9,790pp Single Supplement AU$3,590 Internal Air (From) AU$0 Availability Available Enquire

Availability shown here is updated weekly and indicative only. Availability on any product or journey shown here is not specific to a category of travel and may not denote availability at the cheapest ‘From’ price. For real time availability, talk to your travel agent or call Abercrombie & Kent on 1300 851 800.


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