India: The Beautiful South - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

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
  • Join a local chef in Puducherry for a market visit and cooking lesson
  • Join 45 nations at Auroville, the New Age community founded in the 1960s that still attracts devotees the world over
  • Experience an evening Aarti ceremony at Meenakshi Temple with a local guide
  • Enter a world of tea, from plant to pour, amidst the plantations of Munnar
  • Watch the colourful port city of Kochi come to life with an expert guide
  • Typically features a small group size of 10–12 guests
Itinerary

Journey Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Chennai

Arrive in Chennai to a warm A&K welcome and transfer to your hotel. Chennai, (formerly Madras), the capital of spectacular Tamil Nadu, plays the unique role as keeper of South Indian artistic, religious and culinary traditions.

Among Chennai’s greatest assets are its people, infectiously enthusiastic about their home town. Recent years have thrown in a new layer of cosmopolitan glamour: luxe hotels, sparkling boutiques, quirky cafes, and smart contemporary restaurants – but the best of Chennai remains its old soul.

The rest of the day is yours to explore at leisure. Chennai is a place with many museums and temples to explore, and you might decide to savour deliciously authentic South Indian delicacies or take a sunset saunter along Marina Beach – the world's second-longest urban beach.
Taj Connemara

Day 2: Chennai | Colonial Madras

After breakfast meet your Resident Tour Director for a briefing along with your fellow travellers.

Take a walking tour and 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, famed mulberry silk, local everyday commodities, and 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.
Taj Connemara | Meals: BLD

Day 3: Mahabalipuram | World Heritage Wonders

Today, travel south to the heritage listed Pallava capital of Mahabalipuram. Visit Bhagiratha's Penance, a bas-relief sculpted over enormous rocks depicting life-size figures of animals, gods and saints, all watching the holy Ganges River flow from the Himalaya. Then, stop at the Shore Temple, surrounded by gardens and the site of some remarkable seaside monuments including the 7th century open-air Tamil art museum whose displays reflect the heritage of the Sangam era.

After a lunch of southern Indian delicacies, head to Puducherry and your hotel in the French Quarter.

Puducherry, known affectionately as Pondy, is one of India's most tranquil cities and was a location in Ang Li's film 'Life of Pi'. Established as the headquarters of the French East India Company in 1674, it is awash with yellow and white houses and colourful bougainvillea. This afternoon, take a wander through the 18th century French Quarter which is full of colonial mansions, tree-lined bicycle routes, parks, cafés and boutiques.
Palais de Mahe | Meals: BLD

Day 4: Puducherry | French Flavours & Spiritualists

Today you'll be exploring 'Pondy' on foot, starting 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.

This afternoon is your own to explore this captivating city. Pop in to one of the many beautiful boutiques, wander down the tree-lined lanes or track down the perfect afternoon treat at a colourful café.

This evening visit the local market under the guidance of a local chef, where greengrocers, fisherfolk and fruit vendors display their wares under colourful canopies, learning how to pick the best produce and what secrets lie behind the perfect Indian cuisine.

Back at the hotel, join the kitchen staff in preparing your dinner which, as per tradition, is served in the kitchen for you.
Palais de Mahe | Meals: BD

Day 5: Puducherry | The Legend of Auroville

Today you will travel to the nearby community of Auroville, renowned for their unique approach to life. This experimental, New Age community, designed by architect Roger Anger, was founded in 1968 and attracts devotees from over 45 nations who come to follow the teachings of the great Indian philosopher and long-time resident Sri Aurobindo. Particularly impressive is the Matrimandir, a huge golden globe used as a meditation centre.

Later, visit Mohanam Cultural Centre, created by a group of young men from the villages surrounding Auroville, designed to bridge the gap between the old and the young, traditional and modern. Cultural events and festivals are conducted here throughout the year, aiming to protect and preserve the rich cultural heritage of South India.

The rest of the day is your own to explore, or relax in your hotel.
Palais de Mahe | Meals: B

Day 6: Thanjavur | Nataraja Temple

Today you will drive further south to Thanjavur (formerly Tanjore). The capital of the great Chola empire, it is home to the magnificent temple, the Brihadishvara, commissioned in the early 11th century by King Rajaraja I. Many other temples and shrines were added over hundreds of years, making Thanjavur one of the most important and most visited historical sites in India today. On the way, stop 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.

Enjoy lunch in Kumbakonam before arriving in Thanjavur and settling into your hotel, with dinner at the restaurant.
Svatma Thanjavur | 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 bursting with captivating art, royal artefacts, and many intriguing curiosities. Meet artisans who craft the melodious veena, a musical instrument carved from a single piece of jackwood.

Afterwards, be mesmerised as you watch master painters at work perfecting the classical Thanjavur style, and bronze sculptors whose techniques have changed little since the Chola period.
Svatma Thanjavur | Meals: B

Day 8: Karaikudi | Chettinad Cuisine and Culture

Today, journey on to the Chettinad region, home to a prosperous banking and business community and a remarkable local cuisine, one of Tamil Nadu's most famous.

Ride like a local, taking a bull cart to lunch where you'll savour the subtle and aromatic local flavours followed by a visit to a tile factory to marvel at the colourful materials and a weaving centre to admire soft cotton sarees before continuing to Madurai.

This evening, enjoy a sundowner on the magnificent Moon Deck overlooking Madurai city followed by dinner.

Madurai is an energetic, ancient city on the Vaigai River, with its skyline dominated by the 14 colourful gopurams (gateway towers) of Meenakshi Amman Temple. Covered in bright carvings of Hindu gods, the Dravidian-style temple is a major pilgrimage site, with millions attending the processions and ceremonies of April's Chithirai Festival celebrating Meenakshi and Lord Vishnu.
The Gateway Pasumalai, Madurai | Meals: BLD

Day 9: Madurai | Design Your Day

Today you will 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, yours to explore as you wish.

This afternoon, choose your own adventure with a variety of Design Your Day activities: 

  • Discover spectacular handcrafted wares on the potter's trail
    Pay a visit to a potter's village, and watch villagers turn creators as their hands fashion mud dolls and observe their artistic skill as they wield paint brushes to bring to life the finest of details. Try your hand at this traditional skill, regaled as you work by the artists with stories of the long-held traditions of this remarkable region. Afterwards, soak in the peace and calm of a nearby lotus pool.
  • Tantalise your tastebuds on a food trail 
    Head out on a food trail, experiencing Madurai's lively food scene and its varying history that spans two millennia. Eat your way through the culinary legacy of this incredible region, led by a local guide as they entertain you with the stories behind many of the traditional culinary trends. This tour will fill both your mind and your stomach.
  • Take a deep dive into history on a Once upon a Madurai tour 
    Join a local expert on a walk through the ancient city of Madurai, and be mesmerised by her stories; stories that span the length of time – some set a millennia ago and some of a more recent vintage; stories that zigzag the obscure lines separating history and myth; stories that take you behind the scenes for a glimpse into the city’s heart.

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 with a local expert guide.
The Gateway Pasumalai, Madurai | Meals: B

Day 10: Munnar | Western Ghats

After breakfast, travel overland to Munnar, checking in to your accommodation on arrival. Munnar is a city surrounded by rolling hills, carpeted in emerald green tea plantations. A former resort for the British Raj elite, the plantations were established in the late 19th century. A haven for lovers of flora and fauna, the Eravikulam National Park, is home to the endangered mountain goat Nilgiri tahr, and boasts the Lakkam Waterfalls, hiking trails and the impressive Anamudi Peak, rising up 2,695 metres. Your journey takes you into the Western Ghats, a lush mountain range that rises parallel to India's Arabian Sea coast. 

Enjoy a sumptuous lunch at your hotel, with the afternoon at leisure. 

This evening, enjoy a walk through the Windermere cardamom plantation. The two-hour exploration will showcase the beautiful evergreen trees and foliage (the result of cardamom's need for restrained sunlight). Keep an eye out for giant squirrels, admire a variety of trees, flowers and plants, and be enchanted by babbling streams. You will be led by expert naturalists from the region, who will share their local knowledge of the mountains and fascinating stories of the flora and fauna around you. 
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 try your hand at this traditional art, with the opportunity to make your own brew. 

Following your tea immersion, you will be guided to the nearby village, exploring the beauty of regional life. Witness cattle grazing in the meadows and admire the houses amidst the hills covered in the iconic rolling tea plantations.

This evening enjoy some lively conversation, and gain an in-depth understanding of life on the plantation over high tea with the planter's family in the hotel.
Windermere Estate | Meals: BLD

Day 12: Periyar River | Forests & Waterways

This morning, drive through the countryside, spotting the masses of impressive rubber trees and with the aroma of cultivated spices filling the air, to Kochi (formerly Cochin).

After lunch with your group, the afternoon is yours to explore. Set on a magnificent estuary, serene Kochi has been drawing traders, explorers and travellers to its shores for over 600 years. The region hosts an intriguing mix of giant Chinese fishing nets, a 450-year-old synagogue, ancient mosques, Portuguese and Dutch-era houses and the crumbling remains of the British Raj. It's also an important centre for Keralan arts (traditional and contemporary) and a standout place to see Kathakali (classical Indian dance) and kalarippayat (an Indian martial art).

This evening, motor around the harbour and soak up the sunset. Breathe in the glorious sea air and keep your eyes peeled for a dolphin or two.
Brunton Boatyard | Meals: BL

Day 13: Kochi | Oldest European Settlement in India

Today, watch Kochi come to life with the aid of a local guide, when you catch the early morning sea traffic as the local fisherfolks set off to cast their nets. Get a peek into the massive seafood auction and witness the morning hustle as the fisherfolk haggle over their prized catch.

As you observe, you`ll catch the locals at their daily fitness regime – a walk along the coastline, a gym by the beach or yoga on the sands. Savour a cup of tea at a local Chaikadda, after which you will visit a soviet era communist reading room.

Later, ride the local ferry to Ernakulam to further your live action market experience. End your tour with a visit to the local temple Eernakulatappan, and savour some fresh South Indian breakfast.

After breakfast, 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 styles in the area. Witness the elaborate make-up process of the performers 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, choose your own adventure with a selection of Design Your Day activities:

  • Embark on an exploration of the Kerala backwaters  
    Begin with a leisurely walk through the village, admiring the lush green paddy fields and the houses of the local people, built in many different styles. Then, cycle to a market to taste local fruits and delicacies, before a leisurely cruise down palm-lined canals, lunching on typical Keralan fare with a local family and marvelling at the impressive craftsmanship of local boat builders.
  • Savour flavourful fare on a culinary trail 
    Meet Keralan local Nimmy, and be amazed as she demonstrates her flare for traditional Kerala home recipes and works with you to bring your own delicious dishes to life. Feast on some of the delicious treats during your included lunch. Nimmy has worked as a professional cookery instructor for over 20 years, and her culinary prowess is well regarded.
  • Immerse yourself in local history on a Muziris cultural tour 
    Embark on a guided Muziris tour, an introduction to the many faiths and history of the Malabar Coast. Visit the Old Synagogue, before exploring the Paliam Palace Museum, once the residence of the prime ministers to the Rajas of Kochi. Discover the Cheraman Juma Masjid, the first mosque in India, then explore a colourful and vibrant local bazaar, the Hindu temple Kodungalloor Bhagavathi, and wander through the archaeological Pattanam Museum with a last stop at the Kottakavu Church.

Return to your hotel in time for a farewell seafood dinner with your travel companions.
Brunton Boatyard | Meals: BD

Day 15: Kochi

Today, your A&K arrangements come to an end, and you are transferred 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 with private facilities
  • Meals as specified in itinerary, including welcome and farewell dinners
  • Services of English speaking A&K Resident Tour Director
  • Airport welcome
  • Porterage
  • Group transportation by private air-conditioned vehicle
  • Bottled water during transfers and touring
  • Wine & beer during lunches and dinners (selected by Resident Tour Director)
  • All entrance fees
  • Planning, handling, operational and communication charges
  • All tipping

Tour Exclusions

  • International flights to the tour start point and from the tour end point
  • Visas and other border fees
  • Insurance coverage of personal loss, injury, illness or damages incurred during your trip
  • Items of a purely personal nature such as drinks (unless specified), 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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Accommodation

Accommodation

Taj Connemara, Chennai

India: The Beautiful South - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

As Chennai’s only heritage hotel, Taj Connemara is an absolute standout. As the presidency of Madras became the metropolitan of Chennai, ... Read more

Palais de Mahe, Puducherry

India: The Beautiful South - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

A freshly crafted gem in the heart of Puducherry’s French Quarter, Palais de Mahe combines the flavours of Southern India with French fla ... Read more

Svatma Thanjavur

India: The Beautiful South - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

The Svatma experience is designed as a voyage to discover the mind. Experience this magical journey by indulging in the luxury of leisure ... Read more

The Gateway Pasumalai, Madurai

India: The Beautiful South - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

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

India: The Beautiful South - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

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

India: The Beautiful South - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

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

Sep 15, 2021 - Sep 29, 2021
Price AU$8,770pp Single Supplement AU$2,495 Internal Air (From) AU$0 Availability Available Enquire
Oct 20, 2021 - Nov 3, 2021
Price AU$10,345pp Single Supplement AU$4,035 Internal Air (From) AU$0 Availability Available Enquire
Nov 24, 2021 - Dec 8, 2021
Price AU$10,345pp Single Supplement AU$4,035 Internal Air (From) AU$0 Availability Available Enquire
Jan 26, 2022 - Feb 9, 2022
Price AU$10,345pp Single Supplement AU$4,035 Internal Air (From) AU$0 Availability Available Enquire
Mar 9, 2022 - Mar 23, 2022
Price AU$10,345pp Single Supplement AU$4,035 Internal Air (From) AU$0 Availability Available Enquire