You’ll visit the extraordinary city of Cochin with its palace and synagogue, before arriving at another ultimate – a cruise through the beautiful backwaters of Kerala in a traditional houseboat. That’s followed by a stay on a working plantation and then you’ll experience the religious enlightenment of Madurai - Tamil Nadu’s temple town - and the ancient capital of Tanjore. At Pondicherry you walk along French-style boulevards and stay in an old Dutch fortress at Covelong.
London – Bangalore
Depart on an afternoon flight from London Heathrow to Bangalore, arriving early the next morning.
You’ll be met upon arrival in Bangalore and driven to Mysore; a journey of around three hours. Along the way you’ll take in the impressive island fortress of Srirangapatna – the capital of Hyder Ali that includes a beautifully painted summer palace and family mausoleum.
In Mysore itself you’ll embark on a wonderful sightseeing tour that embraces Amber Vilas, with its stained glass, avenues of carved pillars and huge inlaid doors. You’ll visit Jaganmohan Palace, famed for its Indian miniatures, before driving up to the huge monolith Nandi Bull and the panoramic views from the top of Chamundi Hill. In the afternoon, you’ll tour the Hoysala temple at Somnathpur, set in a cloistered courtyard and featuring six horizontal friezes depicting epic stories involving geese, hippogryphs, cavalry and elephants.
Stay: Two nights in a superior room at Radisson Blu Plaza Mysore.
Nagarhole National Park
A two hour drive through verdant countryside brings you to Nagarhole National Park. Your safari will give you the chance to photograph game in the soft evening light and birds as they fly in to roost.
You’ll be staying at a key wildlife resort on the banks of the magnificent Kabini River, so you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy water safaris and venture into the forests of India to be at one with its indigenous nature and wildlife. You’ll also be conveniently close to Rajiv Gandhi National Park, offering a wide diversity of wildlife and more than 300 species of bird. So, in the two parks, you can expect to see Indian elephants, tigers, leopard, Asiatic wild dogs, bonnet macaques, sloth bear, striped hyenas, gaur, sambar, wild pigs, Indian porcupines and pangolin.
Stay: Two nights in a waterfront veranda room at the Serai Kabini.
Now it’s time for tea. You’ll be driven through luxuriant uphill countryside to a plantation resort close to Sultan’s Battery in the heart of the Western Ghats. You’ll be staying in a secluded tea plantation surrounded by tranquil countryside, rolling hills, tropical jungle and tea, coffee and cardamom plantations. The air is cool and fragrant and the temperature – and atmosphere – is perfect for relaxing. You’ll also enjoy a private tour of a coffee estate and trek to the enthralling Edakal Caves.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Tranquil Plantation Resort.
Kozhikode – Cochin
Today a photogenic, three hour drive takes you to Kozhikode Station for your luxury train ride to Cochin, where you’ll be staying in a 300 year old Dutch-style residence in the middle of historic Fort Cochin. It’s the ideal place to relax, enjoy facilities like a swimming pool and spa and explore the quaint old streets and sights of Cochin. You’ll find the town actually stands on several islands and promontories and features destinations like the synagogue at Jew Town, the Dutch Palace and the huge Chinese fishing nets – controlled by weights and levers – that line the northern shore of the fort. St. Francis – India’s first European church – was the original resting place of Vasco da Gama and is not to be missed.
Stay: Two nights in a garden view room at The Old Harbour Hotel.
Today a new adventure is yours. You’ll be driven to Alleppey, a market town famous for its canals. You’ll board a traditional houseboat and cruise through Kerala’s beautiful network of backwaters, canals and lagoons. You’ll sail along the coast in parts, as well as through tropical jungles of palms and fruit trees, vibrant green paddy fields and untouched waterside villages. And along the way you’ll see churches, temples, villages and Chinese cantilevered fishing nets, and you’ll be treated to wonderful Keralan feasts freshly cooked on board by leading chefs.
Stay: One night in an air conditioned, one bedroom houseboat.
Disembark from your houseboat and drive off to the picturesque village of Puthenkayal, in the heart of Kerala’s backwaters. Here you’ll have a chance to experience staying on a farm standing on a private reclaimed 750 acre island. This is a working plantation, growing coconuts, nutmeg and coffee, making it a fascinating place to stay – especially as the family, who have owned the farm for generations, will be your hosts whilst you learn the workings of the farm, go on birdwatching expeditions, take romantic sunset cruises along the canals or simply relax and watch river life from the peace of your cottage veranda. If you’re a walker, a stroll round the island’s outer dyke is not to be missed, whilst cyclists can explore coconut groves, paddy fields, canal banks and villages.
Stay: Two nights in a waterfront villa at Philipkutty’s Farm.
Paradisa Plantation Retreat
It seems the higher you travel the more beautiful the countryside becomes. At your next plantation retreat you’ll be surrounded by coffee, spice and tea plantations, on the slopes of the Cardamom Hills. Here you’ll be able to trek through the resort’s plantation to learn about the cultivation of coffee, cardamom, cloves and pepper and watch the harvest (depending on the season) or visit nearby tea plantations and factories. Even taking a simple picnic is a special pleasure in such scenic countryside.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at Paradisa Plantation Hotel.
Leaving the tranquillity of Kerala you now travel to Madurai, Tamil Nadu’s second largest city. With a history stretching back to 550 AD, Madurai has many religious and historic landmarks – according to legend Lord Shiva performed sixty-four wonders called Thiruvilaiyadals here. A sightseeing tour will show you the town’s living temples which form a major religious centre, attracting more than 10,000 pilgrims and tourists each day. You’ll see Shree Meenakshi, in the heart of Madurai, today one of the largest and most important temples in India.
Stay: Two nights in an executive room at The Gateway.
Now you take a drive into the heart of Tamil culture and art. Tanjore was once the ancient capital of the Chola kings and today is dominated by the Brihadeshwara Temple with its huge gopurams surrounded by fortified walls and a moat. You’ll have time to wander around the old town, losing yourself in the atmosphere – and its maze of winding streets and alleys. At the centre you’ll come across the extensive ruins of the palace of the Nayaks of Madurai – a brilliant discovery. Your sightseeing tour will show you even more wonders and take you around the World Heritage listed temple.
Stay: Two nights at Svatma.
The next morning you’ll be driven Pondicherry; an interesting journey that takes about four hours. In the afternoon you’ll have ample time to immerse yourself in Pondicherry, and you’ll find the town is a melting pot of cultures. It’s known for its restaurants, the best of which serve tantalising cuisine that combines French and Tamil flavours, served with homely warmth. As you’ll discover on your city tour, the French/Tamil theme continues with broad avenues, imposing churches and European-style public buildings. The Tamil flavour returns when you visit the bustling Indian market with its extravagant colours and exotic fragrances, and in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, founded by Sri Aurobindo Ghose. In the afternoon you drive off to Covelong.
Stay: One night in a standard room at Hotel Maison Perumal
Covelong is an enchanting three hour drive away and gives you the opportunity to stay in a unique spot. Once a Dutch fortress, your hotel is poised on Fisherman’s Cove and is now widely regarded as one of the finest beach resorts in Southern India. Expect ultimate relaxation on a palm-lined beach featuring fine sand, a warm sea and hot sun. You’ll experience new levels of pampering, complemented by outstanding cuisine that explores the nuances of the finest Indian and international dishes.
Stay: Two nights in a superior charm sea view room at Vivanta by Taj at Fisherman’s Cove
Chennai – London
An early morning flight from Chennai takes you directly to London, arriving shortly after midday local time.