1. Tucking into the perfect fish curry in Mamallapuram
  2. Watching boules on the green in ‘Pondy’
  3. Exploring Tamil Nadu's grand Dravidian temples
  4. Sipping tea in Munnar, high up in the Western Ghats
  5. Cruising Kerala’s backwaters from a private houseboat

Day 1: Chennai to Mamallapuram

After landing in Chennai, travel down the Coromandel Coast to the seaside temple town of Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) – home to a cluster of World Heritage-listed sites, a thriving fishing industry and some of India’s best seafood. Overnight at Ideal Beach Resort.

Day 2: Mamallapuram

Travel inland to Kanchipuram, the ancient capital of the Pallava dynasty, before returning to Mamallapuram and exploring its stone-carved monuments – namely the Shore Temple, the Five Rathas and Arjuna’s Penance. Overnight at Ideal Beach Resort.

Day 3: Mamallapuram to Puducherry

Head further south to Puducherry (Pondicherry), stopping at Auroville – an experimental community dedicated to peace and unity – en route. Later, visit the equally intriguing Sri Aurobindo Ashram before roaming ‘Pondy’s’ delightful French Quarter on foot. Overnight at The Promenade.

Day 4: Puducherry to Kumbakonam

Travel down to Chidambaram, whose Shiva Nataraja-dedicated complex is one of Tamil Nadu’s temple highlights. Proceed to Gangaikondacholapuram’s 11th-century Shiva temple before taking in Darasuram’s Airavateshwara Temple en route to Kumbakonam. Overnight at Paradise Resort.

Day 5: Kumbakonam to Tiruchirappalli

Begin a day trip at Thanjavur’s (Tanjore’s) iconic Brihadishwara Temple – perhaps the greatest monument left behind by the Chola dynasty – before visiting Srirangam’s Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, located on an island in the River Cauvery a little way north of  Tiruchirappalli (Trichy). Overnight at Paradise Resort.

Day 6: Kumbakonam to Madurai

Proceed south-west to Madurai, one of India’s oldest cities, ahead of visiting its great Meenakshi Amman Temple – arguably South India’s primary man-made attraction. Later, visit the tailors ‘market’ of Puthu Mandapam. Overnight at GRT Regency.

Day 7: Madurai to Munnar

Leave Tamil Nadu behind for the Keralan border, high up in the lush Western Ghats. Continue to Munnar, the region’s tea-growing capital, spending the rest of the afternoon at a working tea plantation. Overnight at Ambady Estate.

Day 8: Munnar to Alappuzha

Continue west towards Alappuzha, better known as Alleppey, before arriving at its pristine backwaters. The rest of the day – and night – is spent relaxing on a private kettuvallam, or houseboat, exploring the waterways and watching out for kingfishers and turtles. Overnight on a River Escapes houseboat.

Day 9: Alappuzha to Fort Cochin

Travel up the coast to Kochi (Cochin), specifically the historic peninsula town of Fort Cochin – famous for its Chinese fishing nets, Portuguese architecture and Dutch cemetery. In the evening, enjoy a Kathakali performance, a traditional drama form noted for its actors’ colourful make-up. Overnight at Poovath Heritage.

Day 10: Fort Cochin

Spend the day exploring the pretty streets of Fort Cochin and its surroundings – namely the 16th century Paradesi Synagogue, St Francis – India’s oldest European church – and the Portuguese Mattancherry Palace. The day culminates with a harbour cruise. Overnight at Poovath Heritage.

Day 11: Fort Cochin

Transfer to Cochin International Airport for your international return flight home.

Activities to consider

  • Visiting a bronze idol-making workshop in Kumbakonam
  • Experiencing local village life during an excursion near Kumbakonam
  • Learning how to make traditional snacks or sweets in Kumbakonam
  • Travelling through rural Tamil Nadu on a bullock cart
  • Indulging in a full-body Ayurvedic massage
  • Crab catching in Kumbalanghi, a few kilometres south of Kochi
  • Learning how to cook Syrian-Christian Keralan cuisine
  • Discovering how to operate Chinese fishing nets near Fort Cochin

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