South India & the backwaters of Kerala

14 Days - Escorted Tour

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An outstandingly comprehensive tour of India’s southern states, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, discovering their remark cities, thought-provoking temples and astonishing natural wonders

Inclusions

  • The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Scheduled flights to Chennai and from Cochin via Colombo; all transfers; twelve nights accommodation in three, four and five-star hotels with breakfast; five meals; guided visits to Fort St George in Chennai, temples at Mahabalipuram, Tanjore and Madurai, guided tour of Pondicherry and Chettinadu region, walking tour of a spice plantation and Periyar nature walk, day-cruise on the Kerala backwaters by houseboat, city tour of Cochin; porterage of one item of luggage per person; the services of a Riviera tour manager
  • NOT INCLUDED: India visa,
  • ​All British passport holders require a visa for India. Please ensure that you have at least two empty pages in your passport and that your passport is valid for a minimum of 190 days from the time of submitting your visa application. At the time of departure you will be able to travel as long as both the passport and the visa are valid.
  • India visas: Single entry tourist visas cost £80 per person, plus a £10.20 service charge and a £2 consular fee and can be applied for in person or by post.
  • Personal applications: to apply for an Indian visa please visit http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk where you can apply, pay online and schedule an appointment to submityour application in person at your nearest centre, dependent on your home address.
  • Postal applications: you must either apply and pay online, print off the completed application form, payment confirmation and submit by post; or alternatively, you may apply online, print off the completed application and submit along with payment by postal order. Personal cheques are NOT accepted. In both cases you must submit your passport along with a self addressed stamped envelope and two, 2” passport photos to: Indian Visa application Centre (WEST LONDON), The Visa Centre, First Floor - Part A Block, 50 Salisbury Road, Hounslow, TW4 6JQ
  • Please note handwritten applications are no longer accepted. Full details of costs, application form and addresses can be found on http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk, email: info.in@vfshelpline.com or tel: 0905 7570045 (calls cost 95p per minute). Visa fees are subject to change without notice and non-refundable.
  • Health Matters
  • Whilst the travelling schedule shall pose no problems for people of any age in normal physical health, we would point out that in visiting a number of historical sites, paths may be uneven and uphill and we often enjoy walking tours of the main sights. Therefore this holiday may not be suitable for clients of greatly impaired mobility. In the tropics temperatures and humidity levels will also be quite high for most of the year. Please consult your GP regarding the appropriate inoculations required for India at least a month before departure.
  • To make the most of your trip, we recommend you check the Foreign Office website at www.fco.gov.uk/travel

Itinerary

Day 1

on your overnight flight to Chennai (Madras) via Colombo or Dubai.

Day 2

After arrival you transfer to the excellent four-star Taj Coromandel hotel for one night with breakfast with the afternoon at leisure to relax after your flight.

Day 3

This morning your immersion in one of the world’s oldest cultures commences by discovering Chennai’s bustling streets, passing numerous Victorian-era buildings and the famous Marine Beach, with its fish market and multi-coloured long wooden fishing boats drawn up on the sand, before arriving at the very centre of colonial Madras, Fort St George. This was one of the most vital outposts of the British Empire. Driving south we soon arrive at Mahabalipuram, an ancient port once trading with the Romans. We reach Pondicherry late afternoon staying one night at the four-star Le Pondi Resort with breakfast.

Day 4

After breakfast we have a walking tour of the beautiful old French colonial centre of ‘Pondy’. Both its architecture and ambience are very different from any other Indian town. We’ll see the impressive Governor’s residence, the Botanical Gardens, the former site of the French fort designed by the French military architect, Vauban – there is even a Hotel de Ville! This afternoon we continue our journey south to Tanjore and an overnight stay at the relaxing three-star superior Ideal River View Hotel with breakfast.

Day 5

Capital of the ancient Chola Empire, Tanjore is mainly known for its extraordinary Brihadeeswara Temple, the template for all in southern India. It is a testament to the power and wealth of the Chola Empire with an intricately-carved ochre-coloured facade which glows in the morning light. This afternoon we drive to the nearby Chettinad region which you are sure to love. Undiscovered, it’s a revelation, the real rural India of small farming communities where we’ll stay in a beautifully restored Chettinad mansion, the Chidambara Vilas for two nights with breakfast.

Day 6

After breakfast we’ll explore this undiscovered region, visiting other remarkable mansions, seeing the local Maharaja’s palace plus local handicrafts. A fascinating visit is to a tile workshop, where each piece is delicately handmade and decorated, whilst saris are still woven to age-old local designs on traditional wooden handlooms. We’ll also sample some of the region’s unique cuisine, served on a banana leaf. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to relax by the hotel’s pool.

Day 7

Today we drive to Madurai for one of the tour’s real highlights: the Meenakshi Amman Temple. This is the southern India’s Taj Mahal, a complex shrine of courtyards, vast pillared halls, a sacred lake and no less than twelve gateway towers completely covered with thousands of brightly-painted stucco carvings. This afternoon we take a tuk-tuk visiting the temple at dusk, exploring its busy traditional markets full of impossibly laden stalls and tailors rattling away at their ancient Singer sewing machines! Our hotel is the four-star Taj Gateway Pasumalai, wonderfully located on a quiet hilltop above Madurai.

Day 8

8 This morning we re-visit the temple in daylight plus tour the nearby Nayak Palace, with its vast throne-room and ceremonial courtyard. Then drive west towards the distant outlines of the Western Ghats, the mountain range and border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The road zig-zags through lush forest with fleeting glimpses of verdant valleys below then crossing the border, we arrive at Kumily, surrounded by spice plantations and the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Our hotel for the next two nights is the charming four-star Spice Village with breakfast.

Day 9

Rising early, with a tropical dawn chorus in our ears (listen out for the howler monkeys!), we enter the wildlife sanctuary for a guided nature walk. The reserve has a small population of rarely seen tigers; however, as the reserve’s core surrounds a large lake, the birdlife is absolutely excellent, with over 260 species recorded. You may also be lucky enough to spot a Malabar giant squirrel or a lion-tailed macaque. After returning to the hotel for a late breakfast, the day is at leisure until our afternoon visit to one of the numerous local spice plantations, with guided tour.

Day 10

This morning we leave the hills of Periyar behind us descending towards the Keralan coast, passing the almost carpet-like tea plantations en route. We stay at Kumarakom, at the four-star superior Coconut Lagoon, accessible only by boat through one of the many canals here. Occupying a prime lakefront position, the hotel’s grounds are a huge 33 acres, so it never feels crowded. There’s plenty of hammocks dotted about, a beautiful pool surrounded by swaying palms and an excellent spa centre. The rest of the day is free to enjoy the tranquility and explore your home for the next three nights.

Accommodation

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