Periyar boat trip and guided nature walk; Mysore's Maharaja's Palace; Srirengapatnam--island fortress, ancient history; Belur & Halebid: exquisitely carved temples; Bangalore & Hassan: modern & traditional; Overnight houseboat cruise on canals of Kerala


Dates & Prices

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Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.

Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Sat 04 Mar 2017Fri 17 Mar 2017 $2690 USD

Optional Single Supplement: $760 USD (number of singles limited).

Tour Overview

Southern India is one of the hottest out-of-the-way destinations this year. The southern states offer a rich heritage ethnically and culturally distinct from that of northern India. Palm-fringed seashores, fertile rice fields, upland tropical forests, intricately carved temples and calm ocean lagoons complete the picture. A fun and relaxing overnight houseboat journey along the picturesque backwaters of Kerala, the best in Indian temple art at Mahabalipuram, and the spectacular Maharaja's Palace in Mysore are just some of the highlights of this exciting and educational trip.

Regions visited: South Asia
Countries visited: India

Full Itinerary

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Day 1 Arrival in Kochi (Cochin)
Today we arrive in Kochi and transfer to the hotel.

The history of European involvement in Kochi, from the early sixteenth century onwards, is dominated by the aggression of, successively, the Portuguese, Dutch and British, competing in their desire to control the port and its lucrative spice trade. From 1800, the state of Cochin was part of the British Madras Presidency; from 1812 until Independence in 1947, its administration was the responsibility of a series of diwans, or financial ministers. In the 1920s, the British expanded the port to make it suitable for modern ocean-going ships; extensive dredging created Willingdon Island, between Ernakulam and Fort Cochin.

Overnight in Kochi.

Meal plan: Dinner

Day 2 Kochi: City Tour
Today we have a tour of Kochi, including: Chinese fishing nets. A legacy of one of the earliest visitor to the Malabar coast, these nets are unmistakable as one enters the harbour. Records show that they were first erected between AD 1350 and 1450. Constructed out of teak wood and bamboo poles, they work on the principle of balance. The best place to watch is from Vasco Da Gama square, a narrow promenade that parallels the beach with little stalls that serve fresh seafood, tender coconuts and so on.

Santa Cruz Basilica: Built by the Portuguese, the church was elevated to a Cathedral by Pope Paul IV in 1558. Spared by the Dutch conqueror of Cochin who destroyed many Catholic buildings in 1663, it later fell into the hands of the British who demolished it when they took over Cochin in 1795. For almost a 100 years there was no church on the site until Bishop Dom Gomez Vereira commissioned a new building in 1887.

Also at Mattancherry is the Jewish Synagogue built in 1568 AD by the prosperous Jewish trading community whose links with Kerala begin in Kodungallor (Cranganore) in the north of the state. This is the oldest synagogue in India. It was partially destroyed in the war of 1662 and rebuilt by the Dutch. In the mid-18th century the clock tower was added and the floors paved with exquisite hand-painted blue willow tiles from China.

Overnight in Kochi.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 3 Kochi - Alappuzha - Kerala Houseboat Cruise
Today we drive to Alappuzha (Alleppey), known as the "Venice of the East", situated on the Vembanad Lake, the longest lake in India. A maze of canals and a network of bridges give this busy commercial town its descriptive sobriquet. Alleppey is known for its "coir", the retted fibre of the coconut husk, and black pepper.

Today we board our houseboat for a very special Kerala delight -- a slow boat through its forests and palm-shaded canals. We take a leisurely cruise on the beautiful backwaters, enjoying the magnificent scenery along the waterways and stopping to admire what history and religion have left along the way.

THE HOUSEBOAT will be approx 60 feet long and 13 feet wide in the middle. There are comfortable beds, and traditional lanterns. There will be a sundeck for daytime relaxation. The boats are made of local natural fibres that truly echo the villagers' harmony with the natural surroundings. As your oarsman slowly and silently propels us along the backwaters, we will enjoy the magnificent scenery along the waterways. We will stop to view working villages and witness locals fishing, swimming, crafting, and bathing (most boats will have an oarsman though some will be motorized with a silencer on the motor). The houseboats have the provision for air-conditioning, but most travellers do not care for the all-night gasoline engine noise required to run the units. Most find that the peace and quiet, and comfort provided by a fan, are preferred. NOTE: Single cabins are NOT available on the houseboat. Single supplements reflect sharing for this one night.

Overnight houseboat cruise.

Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 4 Alappuzha - Periyar National Park
Today we travel to the Periyar National Park (travel time +/- 4 hours), a lower lying part of the mountain range where tropical rainforest still holds its own in. On the way we will stop at a working rubber plantation to see traditional rubber tapping techniques and have lunch made with local organically grown vegetables. On arrival in Periyar we check in to our hotel and have an evening boat ride for a relaxing tour of the park. With luck, there are many animals to see, including herds of elephants, bison and packs of wild boar that roam through the woods and parade along the shores of the lake just before sunrise and sunset.

You can also see different species of apes. The golden langur monkey that lives here is rarely seen in the rest of India. Other animals in Periyar are otters and porcupines. Water turtles can often be seen sunning themselves on the pieces of wood that stick out of the water.

Overnight in Thekkady.

Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 5 Periyar National Park
Early this morning we take a guided jungle walk at the Periyar Tiger Reserve / National Park. This easy walk is very interesting and (with luck!) gives you the chance to see wildlife at a very close distance. If you are lucky you may even spot the rarely sighted leopards and tigers.

Later we return to the hotel and set off for a guided plantation tour at the outskirts of town. You will be taken to a large plantation garden to demonstrate the processing of many varieties of spices, tea and coffee.

Overnight in Thekkady.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 6 Periyar - Madurai
After breakfast we drive to Madurai (+/- 4 hours). On arrival we have a tour of Madurai visiting the Sri Meenakshi Temple where thousands of priests and worshippers come daily. People are blessed by the temple elephant and astrologists read the stars and hands. You can also get your fortune read by parrots that pick tarot cards out of a pile. All the believers bathe themselves in the temple baths. The temple houses a thousand pillared hall, one of its major attractions. In the evening sermons are held within the walls of the temple and concerts are often given in honour of the gods.

Optional: Later you might choose to participate in a local rickshaw tour. Over the years the local rickshaw wallas have been trained to show clients the town of Madurai in their cycle rickshaws to earn a living. This tour takes you to the local oil mill run with cattle, the local vessel merchants and many interesting sites.

Overnight in Madurai.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 7 Madurai - Chennai - Mahabalipuram
We have a morning flight from Madurai to Chennai. On arrival we drive to Mahabalipuram via the silk weaving center at Kanchipuram. After a visit to Kanchipuram, we continue to our seaside hotel at Mahabalipuram. Afternoon at poolside for kids. Adults can visit Mahabalipuram monuments (optional for the youngsters).

The temples and carvings of Mahabalipuram date back to the 7th century. They stand out because of their simplicity and the fact that they also depict many scenes from the every-day life of every-day people. It is now recognized as the site of some of the greatest architectural and sculptural achievements in India.

Overnight in Mahabalipuram.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 8 Mahabalipuram - Chennai - Bangalore
We have a morning free to enjoy the pool. Late morning we drive to Chennai (Madras) followed by Chennai sightseeing.

Our sightseeing of Chennai includes a visit to Fort St George, once a stronghold of the British; St Mary's Church, the oldest Anglican church in India; the San Thome Cathedral where the remains of St Thomas the Apostle are believed to have been buried; the Mylapore Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and the Light House which is the only one of its kind in the world to be located on top of a High Court. We drive along the Marina, the thirteen kilometre-long beach which, with its shining white sands, aqua blue sea and violet lights at night, is the pride of Chennai.

Evening fast train to Bangalore.

Overnight in Bangalore.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 9 Bangalore - Belur & Halebid - Hassan
Today we travel to Hassan via Belur and Halebid. Belur and Halebid were both capitals of The Medieval Hoysala kings who built the exquisitely carved temples in the 12th & 13th centuries. Belur is famous for its Hoysala architecture; the Temple of Lord Channakeshava is embellished with carving that has few equals in the world. It took 103 years to complete and you can see why. The facade of the temple is filled with intricate sculptures and friezes with no portion left blank.

Halebid was the seat of the Hoysala Kingdom; its great Hoyaleswara Temple was built in the typical Hoysala style architecture. The temple, dating back to the 12th century, is astounding for its wealth of sculptural details. The walls of the temple are covered with an endless variety of gods and goddesses, animals, birds and dancing girls. Yet no two facets of the temple are the same. This magnificent temple--guarded by a Nandi Bull--was never completed, despite 86 years of labour.

We continue to Hassan.

Overnight in Hassan.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 10 Hassan - Mysore
After breakfast we drive to Mysore (+/- 3 hours). Our sightseeing of this princely town will include the famous "Palace of Mysore," once the residence of Wodeyar Kings and one of the largest of its kind in India. Built in 1912 in the Indo Saracenic style, this palace has a grandeur that is unmatched. We will visit the "Jayachamsrajendra Art Gallery" housed in the Jaganmohan Palace. This gallery has a collection of exquisite paintings dating back to 1875.

Overnight in Mysore.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 11 Mysore & Srirangapatna
The fruit and flower market of Mysore is the best in south India. We also hope to visit rosewood carving and incense-stick-making workshops.

Then we drive to "Chamumdi Hill Temple" at a height of 1062 m (3,500 ft). The 2000-year-old temple is dedicated to Goddess Chamundi. A seven storey, 40m high tower dominates the temple. Today we also drive to Srirangapatna to visit Tipu Sultan's Palace, Mausoleum, and the fort area.

Overnight in Mysore.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 12 Mysore - Bangalore
We have an early departure for our drive to Bangalore (210 km / 130 mi). We check in to our hotel in Bangalore and depart on a tour of this cosmopolitan capital of Karnataka.

Bangalore is called the Garden City for its delicate blossoms and greenery that impart a unique beauty to this lovely city. The weather is the city's best feature, with pleasant summers and bearable winters. Bangalore, which literally means the 'town of baked beans', was founded by Kempe Gowda, a chieftain of the Vijayanagar Empire, around the 16th century. He built four towers in four directions to specify its boundaries.

Today we tour Bangalore, visiting the Lal Bagh which has a variety of old trees, fountains, lotus pools, terraces and an assortment of tropical herbs and subtropical herbs. We also see the government buildings and the Maharaja's Palace.

Overnight in Bangalore.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 13 Bangalore
Today we have a a quick drive past Lalbagh Gardens and Legislature to visit ISKCON Krishna temple, one of the largest temples built in modern times. Here we learn about the midday meal scheme -- a mammoth free lunch plan that provides free lunch to over 200,000 poor children in Bangalore district. Our Tour Leader uses his/her local contact to give you a presentation on the success of this plan and will make efforts show you the massive kitchen which is custom built to feed thousands of children.

Overnight in Bangalore.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 14 Departure
We have an evening departure from Bangalore.


Meal plan: Breakfast

Tour Map

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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.

Hotel List

The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.

St Mark's Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Bengaluru
Country: India

St. Mark’s Hotel is located in the heart of Bangalore, the Garden city of India. The hotel has 95 smart
... comfortable rooms with WI-FI internet, attached bath & shower, direct dial telephones, individually controlled air-conditioning, 2 channel hi-fi music and cable color TV.

Read More.

Hotel Regaalis

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Mysore
Country: India

Regaalis is located in the heart of the royal garden city of sightseeing spots, both historical and scenic. This luxury
... in Mysore is a sprawling complex on 3 acres of lush green landscape and its majestic edifice of grace and grandeur is a tribute to modern architecture.

Read More.

Fort Heritage Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Kochi
Country: India

First propelled into prominence in the year 600BC,Kerala became the refuge of the Jews, a trading partner with the Egyptians
... Chinese in 300BC and a colony of the Dutch in the 15th century and the British in the 18th century. The hub of spice trade and the most convenient port of call in the southern peninsula, Kochi enjoys its sobriquet as the Queen of the Arabian Sea.
Read More.

Hoysala Village

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Hassan
Country: India

Hoysala Village Resort is a lovely hotel set in beautiful landscaped grounds. The food is great and the service is
... and very personal. The rooms are immaculately clean. It makes a great base for exploring the temples at Halebid and Belur.

Read More.

Trip Information

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Family pricing: Age 12 and under at time of travel 30% off land price, based on sharing with 2 adults; sharing with 1 adult 15% off

Breakfast and dinner are included daily, one lunch. Evening meals on tour will be taken mostly at hotels. In India, most restaurants of an international standard are associated with hotels. In some locales we endeavour to break up the buffet dinners with a meal at a local restaurant but, overall, the imperatives of hygiene and quality dictate hotel meals. All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees are included for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for drivers, restaurant staff, porters, local guides. Airport transfers for land & air customers arriving / departing on tour dates.


Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), international (if applicable) air taxes, visa fees, and any excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on shopping, not included meals, visas.

Seasonality and Weather

For most of the country, Nov-March is (by far) the best time to visit. During those months, temperatures range from 65-95 F/19-37 C in the south. March-June is dry and exceedingly hot (85-110 F/30-44 C), and June-Oct is monsoon time (20-80 in/50-200 cm of rain will fall in one season). While conditions can vary widely, you must be prepared for some sticky heat.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Suitability: Age 10 and up. Ground transport via private air-conditioned motor coach and air-conditioned day train. The tour is not physically strenuous though it is busy; you must be prepared for some early starts, be steady on your feet, and be able to endure some heat and long days. We have numerous walking tours and visit several sites that are LARGE with steps and uneven surfaces. Porters are available at hotels but you must be able to manage with your baggage from time to time.


Accommodation in air-conditioned 3 star hotels. Hotel properties are mostly modern and Western style. Some are older, character properties with simpler rooms and perhaps no elevators. The hotels indicated on our itinerary reflect our preferred properties in each location. On average they can be considered the equivalent of a North American 3-star, though in some more remote areas (ie, Periyar), and at some heritage properties, there is no official star rating. Some properties have swimming pools. Single rooms are limited and possibly smaller than twins. Laundry services at most hotels for a modest cost. Porters are generally available (see 'Inclusions').

THE HOUSEBOAT will be approx 60 feet long and 13 feet wide in the middle. There are comfortable beds, and traditional lanterns, a sundeck for daytime relaxation. Some of the houseboats have the provision for air-conditioning, but most travellers do not care for the all-night gasoline engine noise required to run the units. Most people find that the peace and quiet, and comfort provided by a fan, are preferred. NOTE: Single cabins are NOT available on the houseboat. Single supplements reflect sharing for this one night.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader throughout, local drivers, local guides at various locations.

Group Size

10-18 (plus Tour Leader)