Travel Advice and Information for Existing Bookings

Southern India and the Backwaters of Kerala

Selected departures from January to March & September to November 2023

Experience more with so much included

  • Visit Chennai’s Fort St George, where Clive of India began his glittering career
  • Tour of elegant Pondicherry, a French colonial outpost until 1954
  • See the breathtaking Meenakshi Amman Temple of Madurai, southern India’s greatest cultural icon, plus enjoy a tuk tuk ride and explore the bustling markets
  • Cruise overnight the picturesque backwaters and canals of Kerala on a houseboat
  • Visit to Periyar National Park and enjoy a nature walk through primeval virgin forest
  • See the extraordinary World Heritage Site of Tanjore’s Brihadeeswara Temple
  • Visit Cochin on the Malabar Coast, India’s first European colony, settled by the Portuguese, Dutch and finally, the British
  • Explore the fascinating Chettinad region, visiting and staying in one of its extraordinary traders’ mansions
  • Visit a 500-acre spice plantation high up in the stunning Western Ghats to learn how the most popular spices are grown
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At a Glance
Hand-picked 3 to 4-star accommodation
Return flights from London
Programme of daily tours & visits
Daily breakfast & 6 meals
The services of our experienced tour manager
Checked Luggage


Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala: Discover their remarkable cities, thought-provoking temples and astonishing natural wonders.

Less familiar than the north, visiting the south of India is an incredible journey of discovery: we’ll see amazing thousand-year old rock-cut and granite temples, intricately carved, rising to over 200ft high, packed with pilgrims and devotees and remarkable forts, mansions and churches from British, French, Dutch and Portuguese colonial periods. We’ll sail on converted rice barges through the tranquil backwaters of Kerala and walk through fragrant spice plantations and pristine tropical forests of the Western Ghats. Staying in colonial hotels, lakeside bungalows, thatched cottages and hundred-year old original traders’ mansions and we’ll experience a cuisine and hospitality renowned throughout India. All blended together; this outstanding eclectic mix will ignite your imagination.

Southern India and specifically the vast states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, are worlds away from New Delhi, Agra or Rajasthan. It’s much more laid back here, slower paced and a simpler way of life. There are no deserts here and lush fertile land yields plentiful harvests of rice and every sort of tropical fruit. In the higher elevations of the Malabar Hills in the Western Ghats, the altitude and temperature are perfect for every type of spice - the ‘black gold’ of 500 years ago was not oil but pepper from these very hills. Vast fortunes were made and lost, battles and campaigns were fought and colonies founded just to control the spice trade. We’ll stay in Kumily, at 2,600ft, markedly cooler than the plains below, with its lush spice plantations and Kerala’s best-known Nature Reserve, Periyar, where we’ll explore the enchanting forest during a fascinating walk with a naturalist guide.

The great temple cities of Tanjore and Madurai are quite unique - there is nothing like them anywhere else in India. The astonishing craftsmanship and sheer scale of these temples is extraordinary. But the real beauty here is that they are not mere tourist attractions; they are working Hindu shrines, many locals visit daily and many more travel great distances. You’ll see young people and families, from every walk of life, coming to pay their respects.

In Chennai, we’ll visit Fort St George, the British fortification where Clive of India first rose to prominence from a lowly clerk with no military training, to a Major-General securing India for the East India Company and ultimately the British Crown. The fascinating museum houses some of his letters, period military uniforms, cannons and arms.

We’ll also explore one of the least visited but most intriguing regions of Tamil Nadu - the Chettinadu. Originally home to the Chettiars, financiers and traders par excellence, they amassed vast wealth trading in raw materials with Burma and South East Asia. Using their profits to build opulent, flamboyantly coloured 60-room mansions housing their extended families, the beauty of these unique houses has recently been rediscovered and great efforts have been made to preserve their remarkable legacy.

The setting of the novel and film ‘The Life of Pi’, visiting Pondicherry is like stepping back in time. One of India’s few French colonial outposts, it was one of the major centres of military operations against the British. Changing hands several times during various wars, the French subsequently stayed, although nothing remains of the impressive fortifications – all were demolished. Independent since 1954, what remains is an elegant, quiet, tree-lined slice of the Cote d’Azur transplanted to sub-tropical India. Palm-fringed Kerala has the highest literacy rate of any Indian state and thus is one of the most affluent too. Its greatest natural assets are the 900kms of waterways known as the backwaters, creating a watery world of tranquil palm-shaded canals, with mats of water hyacinths lazily floating by and paddy fields stretching as far as the eye can see. Gliding gently in a typical Keralan houseboat all local life is there to be enjoyed: fishermen casting their nets from tiny wooden canoes, sari-clad women washing clothes, while kingfishers and darters look out for an easy meal. Cochin is the main city here, Portuguese in the 16th century, it was the first European colony in India. We’ll see St Francis church, India’s first, where Vasco da Gama was originally buried plus Cochin’s most iconic sight, the famous Chinese fishing nets– huge wooden cantilevered structures, operated by just four men as they are lowered and raised from the waters below.

Southern Indian cuisine displays a marked difference too; Tamil Nadu is known for the huge variety of its vegetarian dishes, different chutneys and pickles, whilst in Kerala, coconut, seafood and bananas feature heavily. Whatever your tastes, the food of the south is a revelation and completely different to what often passes for Indian cuisine at home.

In short, perhaps the greatest allure of India is that we feel it with all our senses: from the unbelievably luminescent saris of every hue and description, to the noisy excitement of the markets, the heady aromas of the spices, the delicate flavour of a dosa with a hot sambar soup. Azure skies above crown the lushest of greenery below, all reflected in the Keralan backwaters. Every day brings a myriad of new discoveries on this outstanding tour.

Your Itinerary

Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala

Price Includes

The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single occupancy rooms are available at the relevant supplement. The price includes:

  • Scheduled flights to Chennai and from Cochin via Muscat
  • All transfers
  • 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, and a city tour of Cochin
  • Overnight-cruise on the Kerala backwaters by houseboat
  • Connecting flights
  • Hotel porterage of one item of luggage per person
  • The services our experiened and insightful tour manager throughout

Classic Tours Information

Along with your experienced and knowledgeable tour manager and local experts, you’ll discover so much on our award-winning Classic tours, offering the best value for money way for you to explore the world.

Our tour managers have been rated as the best in the business for their knowledge and experience and will go above and beyond to ensure every aspect of your holiday runs smoothly – so all you need to worry about is your packing.

Useful Information

Fact File

  • Currency: Indian Rupee
  • Flight time: Approx.  11 hrs 50 mins (outboud) and 13 hrs 15 mins (inbound)
  • Languages: Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu
  • Time zone: GMT+5.5
  • Country: India

Visa Information

Along with a valid passport, UK citizens must have a visa in order to travel to India. For the most up-to-date passport and visa information visit https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india/entry-requirements

Tourist e-visa cost is US$25 per person (if date of entry is from April to June) or $10 per person (if date of entry is from July to March). Full details of how and when to apply will be sent with your booking confirmation.

We are unable to accept responsibility if you are unable to travel because you have not complied with any passport/entry/immigration requirements.

Please note that visa costs may be subject to change.

Connecting Flights

Flights with Oman Air from London Heathrow or Manchester will connect in Muscat on both the outbound and inbound journeys. 

Please contact us if you would like timings and/or further information on the connecting flights. All flight details will be listed in your booking confirmation. 


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.


We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.

Transfer Times

All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us

Arrival airport First hotel location Transfer time Final hotel location Departure airport Transfer time
Chennai International Airport Chennai 45 mins Cochin Cochin International Airport 1 hr 15 mins

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