This trip across south India includes many of its highlights and combines the rich cultural and architectural history of Tamil Nadu with exploration and relaxation in tropical Kerala. Beginning on the eastern Coramandel coast, visit the ancient rock carvings at Mahabalipuram before heading south to the former French enclave of Pondicherry. The towns of Tanjore and Trichy boast magnificent temples to visit while further west the abandoned palaces and mansions of Chettinad's merchant classes make for atmospheric exploration. Crossing the border into Kerala you can enjoy life on a coffee plantation before spending some time on the unique Backwaters. The trip ends in Cochin where you can savour its multi-cultural architecture and restaurants on the western coast.
DAY 1 - MAHABALIPURAM On arrival this morning you will be taken to Mahabalipuram. In the afternoon you will explore the Unesco World Heritage site of Mahabalipuram, its stunning Shore Temple and other great architectural wonders.
DAY 2 - PONDICHERRY After driving to the former French enclave of Pondicherry you will take a guided tour of the colonial quarter. Later you will visit Auroville - a unique international township dedicated to alternative living. A short video explains more about the Mother and her ideas before you pay a visit to its unique meditation chamber, the Matrimandir.
DAY 3 - TANJORE En route between Pondicherry and Tanjore there are several interesting temple towns which you be may interested to stop and visit along the way. On arrival in Tanjore a drink at the outdoor restaurant to watch the sun set over the river makes a perfect end to the day.
DAY 4 -TANJORE The main highlight in Tanjore is the 'big temple' which attracts a huge number of Hindu worshippers on a daily basis. The town itself has some interesting local markets which you can also explore with your guide.
DAY 5 - CHETTINAD En route to Chettinad today you will stop to explore Trichy. The Rock Temple here is reached by climbing over 400 steps. The spectacular views across the Cauvery Delta make the climb worth the effort!
DAY 6 - CHETTINAD Chettinad is one of the lesser visited parts of south India. The Chettiars were once wealthy merchants and bankers and built themselves extravagant mansions. Today you will visit the palace and see some of the many abandoned mansion houses. Further exploration of the area will reveal fabulous pottery and local artisans making tiles that can be seen in the palace and mansion houses.
DAY 7 - MADURAI Drive from Chettinad to Madurai. The Sri Meenakshi temple complex dominates the city and at times it seems that the whole population of the city is inside the temple or crowding into the many market stalls that surround it. You might like to return to the temple in the evening for the deities' 'Going to Bed' ceremony.
DAY 8- KERALA
You might like to rise early today to visit the bustling fruit and flower markes before continuing your journey and crossing the Western Ghats into Kerala. The scenery changes dramatically and becomes lush and tropical. Plenty of stops can be made during the long drive to the coffee estate where you will spend the next couple of nights.
DAY 9- KOTTAYAM
A full day to explore the estate on foot or hire a bicycle and visit a local village. Alternatively, a day with an elephant or an excursion to the Christian town of Kottayam can be arranged on request.
DAY 10 - THE BACKWATERS A short drive brings you to the Backwaters where you will spend the night in a homestay on the waters edge. Its a wonderful place to relax, enjoy your surroundings, eat superb Keralan dishes produced with the organic vegetables grown on the farm, or read a book.
You will make the short transfer to Alleppey to board your converted rice barge in time for lunch. The afternoon is spent slowly cruising along the many waterways to enjoy the the scenery and local life passing by.
DAY 12 - COCHIN Disembark your rice barge after breakfast and drive to Cochin. An important trading post for hundreds of years, Fort Cochin is oozing with history and is a real melting pot of religions and cultures. Highlights of the city tour include the Mattancherry Palace, the Jewish Synagogue, St. Mary's Church and Jew Town.
DAY 13 - COCHIN Today you will visit nearby Kumbalanghi village where a number of traditional fishing and farming practices are still employed. The afternoon is at leisure - maybe an opportunity to pick up some last minute gifts or souvenirs in Cochin.
DAY 14 - DEPART COCHIN
An early start today in order to catch your flight back to home the same day.