Selected departures March to November 2012
You'll love this tour if you like:
- Fascinatingly different cultures
- Exotic temples
- Unusual accommodation - on board a Backwaters houseboat
- Superb ethnic cuisine
- Scenic railways - the charming Nilgiris Express in Ooty
This wonderful 14 day tour takes us to southern India and the states of Tamil Nadu in the east travelling west to Kerala. This area is very green and fertile and sights en-route include hill stations, tea plantations, ancient forts, temples, churches, palaces, backwater canals and lakes, where we stay on houseboats and wonderful coastal scenery and towns.
No visit to India is complete without travelling by train and we include a journey aboard the Shatabdi Express from Channai to Mysore. Tour highlights include Chennai, the temples at Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram, Mysore with its Maharajah's Palace and Ooty, known as "Queen of the Hill Stations." The second half of the tour takes in the tea hill station of Munnar, Kumarakom, a night on a houseboat on the fabled backwaters, and the fascinating city of Cochin (also known as Kochi) on the Arabian Sea, famed for its Chinese fishing nets - in use for centuries.
Day by day itinerary
Fly from Gatwick to Dubai and overnight to Chennai.
On arrival transfer to the hotel to rest and freshen up before an afternoon city tour of Chennai. Formerly known as Madras and the state capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai is a conglomeration of overgrown villages with a distinctive character. Our tour includes the ancient Fort St George, which dates back to 1653. Today it is filled with historic sights including St Mary's Church, the very first church to be consecrated on Indian soil. Visit the National Art Gallery & Government Museum that displays objects of art typical of the old Dravidian dynasties. Don't miss the Bronze section which houses a superb collection dating back centuries. The most famous artefact is the Nataraja, God Shiva, in the cosmic dance pose. Our afternoon also includes San Thome Basilica - St Thomas, the Apostle is said to be buried here - and a drive along the Marina to visit Mylapore Temple showcasing the architectural splendour of the Dravidian period.
Excursion to Kanchipuram & Mahabalipuram. Kanchipuram, located 71km southwest of Chennai, is one of India's most spectacular temple cities. There are some 125 shrines, all of which are centuries old, with some dating back to 200BC. Kanchipuram's other claim to fame is its silk, renowned for more than four centuries. The process involves a unique system of weavers producing saris based on designs created centuries ago but now improvised. Afternoon visit to Mahabalipuram, an open-air museum of sculpture in living rock. The best known landmark of Mahabalipuram is the Shore Temple, which has stood by the sea for 12 centuries. The piece de resistance at the museum is the world's largest bas-relief measuring 27m x 9m. Drive out to Dakshina Chitra, a heritage centre offering authentic insights into the lifestyles of the diverse people of South India. Traditional craftsmen demonstrate their artistry in the reconstructed period settings of 19th century streets, homes and workshops.
Transfer to Chennai railway station for the Shatabadi Express to Mysore. Assistance will be provided at the railway station. (Breakfast on board) On arrival you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. Afternoon city tour of Mysore, including the Maharaja's Palace, a synthesis of Hindu and Muslim styles - gateways, domes, arches, turrets, colonnades and sculpture are all here in magnificent profusion. Later visit Chamundi Hill, named after the Royal Family's patron goddess and the site of a summer palace, an ancient temple and the 16-foot Nandi (Siva's bull) carved out of a single huge boulder.
Excursion to Srirangapatnam and Somnathpur. Srirangapatnam was the capital of the Mysore Rajas from 1610 to 1799. Here we visit the ruins of Tipu's fort, the summer pleasure palace and the Gumbaz, his mausoleum, before going on to visit Somnathpur Temple, dedicated to Lord Kashava, whose shrine is considered to be a highly evolved specimen of the Hoysala school. Rest of the day at leisure.
Drive to Ooty (approx. 5 hours), also known as the "Queen of hill stations" and the capital of Nilgiris district.
Enjoy a miniature train ride on a ratchet and pinion track meandering through the green hills of Ooty to Conoor. Return to Ooty by road. Afternoon city tour of Ooty, including St Stephen's Church and the Botanical Gardens.
Early morning drive to Munnar (approx 7 hours). This beautiful hill station is popular for its cool climate, tea plantations with colonial bungalows, tea factories, wildlife sanctuaries and many lakes. On arrival transfer to the hotel and the rest of the day at leisure to enjoy the hotel facilities.
Visit to the Tea Museum. This is the country's first ever tea musuem; located at KDHP's Nullatanni estate in Munnar. The aim of the tea museum is to depict the growth of this old tea plantation, dating back to the 19th century: from the rudimentary tea roller to the present fully automated tea factory of Madupatty. It also gives firsthand knowledge about tea processing. Later we visit the Mattupetty Dam, 13km from Munnar, situated at an altitude of 1700m. Enjoy the panoramic views of the dam surrounded by wooden hills and tea plantations. Rest of the day at leisure.
Drive to Kumarokom (approx 5 hours). On arrival check into hotel and rest of the day is at leaisure to enjoy the hotel facilities.
Morning drive towards Alleppey jetty (approx 1.5 hours) with a visit en route to the Coir Factory: coir is manufactured out of coir yarn spun from coir fibre extracted from the outer cover of coconuts also known as "Cocosnucifera" grown widely in the coastal regions of the country. Here you see the fasinating process of making coir and products such as mats, rugs and carpets in production in this area since 1859. Afternoon arrive at Alleppey jetty and board your comfortable air-conditioned houseboat (sleeping a total of 2-6 persons in rooms of max 2 occupants each ith private facilities) for an overnight stay. Enjoy a cruise on the fabled back waters - a unique web of lakes, lagoons, canals and rivers. Kettuvallams were primarily used for transporting paddy and other goods and are now an integral part of Kerala's tourism. Glide along the tranquil backwaters rightly called the Venice of the East. The included lunch and dinner comprising typical Keralan cuisine is cooked on board the houseboat.
Disembark the houseboat at Alleppey jetty and proceed onwards to Cochin (approx 1.5 hours). Transfer to hotel. Heralded as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, Kochi has been an important spice trading centre on the Arabian Sea coast since the 14th Century. Cochin (also known as Kochi) was the site of the first European colonial settlement in India. Rest of the day at leisure.
City tour of Cochin. Highlights include the Mattancherry Dutch Palace, built by the Portugese, St Francis Church, the oldest European Church in India, the Chinese Fishing Nets, unique to this part of Kerala and living symbols of centuries old Chinese influence on this coast, the Jewish Synagogue and a Tuk Tuk ride! In the evening you will see a Kathakali Dance show at a local theatre.
Transfer to Cochin airport (approx. 2 hours) for return flight to the UK via Dubai.
NB: Exact order of itinerary may vary according to local conditions and tour manager's discretion. Driving timings given are direct driving times and do not include time allowed for stops, visits, meals etc. Timings are very provisional and can vary enormously in India according to local conditions. Some of the distances involved on this tour are considerable and will involve several early starts and long days, so please bear this in mind when considering this tour.
- Return scheduled flights with Emirates from London Gatwick overnight to Chennai returning from Cochin (LHR, Birmingham and Manchester also available subject to availability)
- 12 nights' accommodation on bed and breakfast basis at 3/4 star hotels (including 1 night on a houseboat), based on shared occupancy of a twin room
- Lunch and dinner on board the houseboat
- Transfers, trains and full touring itinerary as detailed in the itinerary
- English-speaking tour manager throughout your stay in India
- Single room supplement
- Holiday insurance
- Meals other than those stated
- Porterage and gratuities
- Items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls etc
|Available Departures||From||Single Supplement||Board Basis|
|14-Mar-2012||£1,599||£550||Bed and Breakfast|
|28-Mar-2012||£1,599||£550||Bed and Breakfast|
|14-Nov-2012||£1,649||£550||Bed and Breakfast|
|28-Nov-2012||£1,649||£550||Bed and Breakfast|