South India holiday

Description of South India holiday

The Caravanserai’s of Ancient South India were established to facilitate the barter of spices, precious jewels and silk between the Kingdoms of the Cholas, Pandyas, Vijaynagars and the Nations of Europe in the West.

From the 4th century Spice Trade of Madurai, the Silk Traders of Chettinad and Kanchipuram to the Naval and sea trading might of the Cholas and Pandyas, Tamil Nadu has been, for centuries, the trading partner to the Greeks, the Arabs and Mughals of the Middle East and North, the Dutch, the French and finally the British.

Our 15-day cultural tour of this astoundingly historic state is akin to the Traders’ Caravanserai from the centuries of yore. We take you through these ancient trading cities and towns with the hope of unwrapping the culture, architectural splendour and rich history of this powerful and progressive Dravidian State.

Price includes: Accommodation (5 star/eco where possible), transportation, entry fees, guide charges, camera fees, road/toll taxes & soft drinks (water, tea coffee, juices).

Please note: I would be delighted to telephone you to discuss your individual travel arrangements, so please leave your telephone number when you complete the online enquiry form.

Day-by-day itinerary

Day 1:You arrive in Chennai where you proceed to Mamallapuram, once the ancient naval seaport and capital of the Pallava Kings in the 7th century. We use this as base for travel around the region over these next few days. We spend the afternoon of the first day visiting a Heritage Village allowing you to dwell among re-creations of traditional houses, sample the cuisines and experience the art, crafts and dances of the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.
Day 2-3:We spend these next two days exploring the city of Chennai, formerly known as Madras. Madras has come a long way from being a group of villages amidst palm fringed paddy fields before the British, to a modern, yet diversely cultural capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu.
Day 4:We spend this day exploring the magnificent rock cut caves and stone carved temples of Mamallapuram. While in Mamallapuram, we also interact with the local stone carvers and visit the Sculpture Museum that displays their work in stone, metal, brass and wood. We spend the afternoon visiting a bird sanctuary, home to upto 30,000 water birds, both migratory and resident.
Day 5:We spend day 5 in the ancient temple and silk town of Kanchipuram. The first half of the day we spend exploring the town’s oldest temple complexes from the 7th and 8th centuries, built by the last great Pallava Kings. We tour the silk weaving industry in the afternoon, the village it supports and generally gaining an insight into the process of manufacturing the famous Kanchipuram Silk Saree; tempting your wardrobe in the process.
Day 6:Proceeding further south, we make base at the former French colony of Pondicherry for the next three days. We spend the afternoon visiting Auroville or “The City of Dawn” as envisioned by its creators. We peek into the lifestyle of a community that hails from all over the world living and working in peace and harmony for the past 40 years. We also visit the Matri Mandir, a meditation center and the highlight of the visit to Auroville.
Day 7:Pondicherry is best experienced walking or on a bicycle. Keeping this in mind, we spend our second day exploring this city; the confluence of its colonial past with today’s progress, the Aurobindo Ashram and its influence on the city’s citizens, their lifestyle, arts and crafts.
Day 8:Moving west of the city, we travel to the historic military town of Gingee on our last day in the state of Pondicherry. Gingee was the military fortification of the great Vijaynagar Kings of Hampi during the 15th and 16th centuries. Here we give you an insight into this remarkable feat of military engineering that spreads over three mountain tops in the shape of a triangle and covering a distance of 1.5 kilometers in one direction alone.
Day 9:We head further south to the heart of Tamilnadu, using this ancient capital of the Chola Kings at Thanjavur as base for the next four days. Stopping en-route at the sacred town of Chidambaram, we get to experience how often history and mythology are interlinked in religion. We visit the 9th century Chola Nataraja Temple; where Shiva is believed to have performed the “Tandava Nritya”; the ancient representation of the Bharatanatyam dance form as is known today.
Day 10:We spend the next day in Thanjavur exploring this town. Tanjore, as it gets referred to sometimes, is a veritable treasure store of history and architectural marvels. We feel that true justice to this ancient Chola kingdom is only done if one spends the whole day exploring it.
Day 11:Our exploration of temples continues on the third day with a visit to a 12th century Chola temple located north-east of Thanjavur. We proceed to the town of Swamimalai where we experience first-hand the 5000-year old tradition of Lost Wax Bronze casting and interact with the sculptors who keep this ancient vedic craft form alive today.
Day 12:Our last day in Thanjavur involves a drive to the east coast. Here we explore the former Danish East India Company’s port of entry to India during the 17th and 18th centuries and the fort that survives until this day. We spend the day exploring this well restored and immaculately maintained fort complex which sits on the serene Bay of Bengal which gives this place its name; Tranquebar or Tarangambadi – “The place of the Singing Waves.”
Day 13:Proceeding further south and inland into Tamilnadu, we arrive at the ancient town of Chettinad – the ancestral land of the Chettiars. The Chettiars were astute businessmen who traveled through Europe and Asia making fortunes through trade. This wealth they poured back into ornate and lavishly styled mansions here in Chettinad. We attempt at experiencing a part of that bygone lifestyle by living in a perfectly restored Chettinad mansion homestay. We not only sample the unique cuisine but explore the town’s history and culture.
Day 14:We spend the near end of our journey at this famed temple city of Madurai which for centuries has been the repository of Tamil literature and knowledge. The prosperity of the city flourished under the Pandya Kings owing to the trade of spices and silks with Rome and China during the 7th through 13th centuries. We visit the Meenakshi temple complex; a tribute by the Pandyas to the culture and religion of this ancient literary city, spending the rest of the day at leisure.
Day 15:No journey through India can be capped without a train ride. We end your trip with us with one such ride that sees you through from Madurai to the Malabar coastal port city of Cochin.

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

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Departure information

This trip can be tailormade at a time to suit you and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary
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Accepted
Holiday type

Travelling with a local operator

This holiday is operated by a company based in the holiday destination and they will be able to provide expert local knowledge. They will be able to tailor make your holiday to suit your requirements not only concerning the dates of travel but also typically the standard of accommodation, and thus price. It is rare for local operators to be able to help with the booking of your flights.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: South India holiday

This operator was created with the vision to run and manage a business that would offer our guests traveling to India an extremely personal form of travel, shared with members of the family.

We are based in the Nilgiri Hills of TamilNadu situated in the forested Western Ghats. These forested hills used to be home to the Toda tribes of the Nilgiris whose art consists of traditional garments spun from fibers and natural fruit and berry dyes sourced from the surrounding forests. With development, the tribes were forced out of their forest dwellings and were ‘rehabilitated’ in villages outside. However this drastic change in their life, threatened the very art that defined their identity and the means to the only livelihood they knew. Being a part of the local community here in the Nilgiris, we took it up to make sure this art form doesn’t die out like the ancient Toda lifestyle sadly has. We further their art today by sourcing all their products from their Community Center and encourage all our guests visiting us here in the Nilgiris to buy some artifact as a gesture of support towards the Toda lifestyle.

We support of the local village ‘tea shops’ along our routes and the use of only local gasoline sourced from Indian Oil Wells and distributed by Indian Gas Stations. We use the local tribal guides on our teks. Their dedication and knowledge with regards to the forests is commendable and we make sure we give back with some monetary help after every trek and also in kind by supplying them with trekking shoes or clothes that we know they could use.

As long serving members of the Nilgiri Wildlife & Environmental Association (a local affiliate of the World Wildlife Fund), we had actively campaigned to halt the process of timber logging or for that matter clearing of natural forests for any reason whatsoever. As an organisation we represented our case in the Supreme Court, India's Highest Judicial Body, and received a decree that placed a blanket ban on any form of logging in natural forests in the Nilgiri Hills.

We have procured land on which, as a family we currently have planted 350-saplings with a 99% success rate. In addition, we sponsor the trees on lands owned by the forest department where over these years they have afforested with over 100,000 saplings, in this case with a 97% success rate.

Today we have seen a rise in the bird species that thrived in these rain-forested areas. Within our property itself we have seen an addition of close to twenty-five bird species. we actively encourage our guests to plant and own a tree or tree saplings of their choice. As of date, our guests have planted over 125 tree saplings of which all have survived. We keep our guests involved in this experience by emailing them progress photos of their sapling/saplings.

By contributing regularly to a Blind Orphan Childrens Home in a nearby town, we attempt to give these children back a life affected by blindness.

Reviews of South India holiday

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 23 May 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


So many great memories but perhaps the pick was the day we spent visiting temples in Kumbakonam. We had an engaging and knowledgeable guide who really brought things to life. Two days cycling through the hills of the Western Ghats comes a close second and loads of things came a close third...

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Don't be shy about asking questions and changing itineraries. Rajat is so flexible and will come up with a fantastic itinerary to suit whatever it is you are interested in.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


In general yes. The majority of hotels picked out by Rajat had strong environmental credentials and a number filtered their own water so we got through far less plastic bottles than on previous visits to India.
On occasion, drivers or guides took us to western hotels for tea/lunch etc but once we explained that we'd prefer to go to places that locals might eat/drink, they were happy to do that.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


The holiday was fantastic. There isn't anything we could fault, I wouldn't hesitate in recommending the company to anyone. The organisation, attentiveness and flexibility to suit our preferences was second to none.

Reviewed on 07 Apr 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Kerala was incredible from start to finish. As we came to each destination the only word that fit was ' paradise'

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Take the chance with smaller hotels and homestay. It means you get to see more of everyday Kerala.

Also make sure you experience auyurvedic massage.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Local owners, sustainable whenever possible

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Amazing

Reviewed on 22 Mar 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


We have lots of wonderful memories from our first trip to India through Kerala. The warmth of hospitality and friendliness of everyone we met; the guides and driver who looked after us; the colours; the delicious foods; the varying scenery; the various villages we drove or walked through; the bird life; the homestays - but a highlight would be the two day trek in the Nilgiri hills, walking along the edge of Meespulimala with a our very knowledgeable and friendly guide Abid. Also including the walk through the beautiful patterned tea plantations. The refreshing ginger sodas!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Definitely stay in home stays or small guest houses. The camp facilities at Rhodo Valley and Anaerangal were both fine. Say 'yes' to all experiences offered. A good way to see the smaller canals of the back waters and village life on them is to canoe, or be canoed, along the waters.

Our agent Rajat couldn't have been more helpful.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, in part: Learning about the way of life from local people and tipping them for their help whenever possible. Using the canoe on the backwaters rather than the rice boats (no fuel discharge into the waters). Eating locally produced and resourced produce especially the fish. Being able to leave 'house' tips for everyone. Purchasing locally made gifts.
A bigger impact would be to somehow help with the enormity of the litter problem in this beautiful part of the world. There seemed to be no public facilities for disposing of litter including the every present plastic bottle - not a public bin to be seen anywhere.


4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


A holiday to suit a wide age range. Safe, friendly and we were able to learn so much about the culture of Kerala. One of the best holidays. 10/10

Reviewed on 08 Feb 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Tamil Nadu temples in all their glory: amazingly intricate stone carvings from 7th - 15th century, pillared halls, colourful gopurams, intense devotion by throngs of people. Highlight of all these was probably the Airatesvara temple in Darasuram (from around 1150). Also stunning were the bronze statues in Thanjavur and in Chennai museums. We did several walks with an Indian outfit and liked both the various guides and the trails themselves, esp. the visit to the Ptter's Village (Villachery, near Madurai). Our Indian travel agent, Rajat, was excellent in helping us plan our trip, and while we were there, keeping in regular touch, providing local guides and an excellent chauffeur (Shiva) throughout.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


This was not a set holiday, but tailor-made to suit our interests (temples, arts, crafts) and wishes. The key tip I would give others is that travelling is much more arduous than I expected. The roads are mainly narrow, potholed and dusty, trains (even an express) are slow and not very comfortable (even first class aircon), we did not try buses but we saw how overfull they were. Originally it had seemed a ridiculous luxury to have a private, aircon car, but I am very glad we did. Food-wise, my tip is to eat where the locals do (it was easy because we ate vegetarian): tasty, fresh and cheap.


3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, because our travel agent had local drivers and guides, stayed in locally owned guest houses/hotels, ate local foods, bought souvenirs from co-ops and government stores. We only did drink bottled water though.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was marvellous, but physically more challenging than I had expected.

Reviewed on 12 Feb 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Riding on the elephant and seeing some crocodiles within a few feet, also the
accommodation was interesting, and beautiful, we wished we had stayed longer in some of them, especially the ones in the countryside. We would not of missed Mysore it was lovely, seeing the silk factory and visiting someone's house for a recital on an earthenware pot was amazing.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Stay as long as you can, it will be too short. We had three weeks and wished it was longer.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The local people we met were lovely so friendly and welcoming and yes the places we stayed employed local people and the drivers were great. We hope that the wildlife conservation in India will look after the many animals that live there and seeing them in the wild was brilliant.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was fantastic and we hope to repeat it in a couple of years time, hopefully sooner.

Reviewed on 11 Feb 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The whole holiday was memorable beyond expectation but if I have to chose one element that was most memorable it's the organiser Ravi Kumar and his wonderful family at Aakriti who treated me like a loved family member. Ravi put together a fantastic cooking tour that covered different elements of South India and introduced me to many warm and lovely Indian people.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Because you won't have to buy anything except souvenirs, make sure you have plenty of small currency for tips; 100, 50, 20 and 10 Ruppe notes. There are lots of people you will want to tip.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The holiday was organised by an Indian travel company and all interaction was with Indian people so only benefited local people. There was an emphasis on the conservation of India's beautiful natural resources.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


The holiday was completely wonderful in every way.

Reviewed on 07 Mar 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


We spent 10 days visiting parts of Kerala - Kochi, Munnar, Thekkady and the Backwaters. Kerala is a very interesting microcosm of India, a state of 35 million, with a mixture of hindus, muslims, catholics, a strong marxist minority, coastal areas, rugged highlands, tea and rubber plantations, a range of spices, lots of other agricultural products. It was fascinating to experience a little part of this remarkable mixture. The visit to the backwaters - which included 24 hours on our boat - was particularly worthwhile. This is an area of lakes, rivers and small canals quite unlike any other we have visited.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


First, book through this operator and its director, Rajat Kumar: very knowledgeable, very competent and very efficient. He was able to understand the kind of holiday we were looking for, and to make proposals for our stay which reflected our interests. Second, do not rush: there is lots to see in Kerala, and if you try to do too much in too short a period, you would be wasting your time and money.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


I find this kind of question to be rather silly: what is really meant by "benefitting local people" and minimizing impacts on the environment". In order to truly minimise impact, the journey should not have been undertaken at all. Aside from the airplane journey, we also had a car, which polluted the environment, but which also gave employment to our chauffeur, and was thereby presumably useful. Properly managed, the tourism industry as a whole can have several beneficial economic and social effects (local employment, local demand for local products, better understanding of cultures etc)and likewise if not managed properly can have several harmful effects (outflow of foreign exchange, distortions in the labour market through payment of high wages, import of food and other consumerables, etc). For our holiday in Kerala, we saw no necessary harmful effects, but that is frankly a very superficial comment.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Most enjoyable. Very well organised, thanks to the tour operator and Mr. Kumar. A rich cultural experience.

Reviewed on 10 Nov 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


There were many facets - sharing the Diwali Festival during a homestay at Aakriti. The choice of hotels and the mixture of interests including an overnight journey on a train.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


The holiday was excellent in fitting a considerable amount of South India into 3 weeks. Check the itinerary to make sure it can be quite hectic at times.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes - local guides and drivers - the majority of hotels were eco concious with more effort than the commercial attitude of leave you towels if you do not want them washed.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Excellent - the only reason I did not do 5 stars is I went to the Galapogas Isles and China a few years earlier.

Reviewed on 11 Jan 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Probably seeing Tigers which from what I read is not easy, we saw 4 different ones in Bandavgarh National Park, we found South West India much different from the North much greener possibly more relaxed and I have to comment that the food "Everywhere" was excellent.

We were never harrassed or felt under pressure from locals everyone is very friendly. It took a while to finalize our trip details but it was worth the effort and our tour operator and guide was outstanding and everything went according to schedule which on a 21 day trip was an outstanding feat.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


You need stamina we travelled in a reasonable good car for 10 days or so and it begins to loose its romance after too long so brake the trip up. Don't be afraid to wander around and get a feel for the places you visit it will make the adventure a little bit more special.

Watch out for hotel ratings and website pictures they sometimes do not match reality

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Difficult to say, all tours guides hotels etc were provided by locals so probably yes in one sense, we did do a lot of travelling and not sure if that in itself is environmentally friendly but such is life, So it did benefit the local communities we visited and we come home with a much better understanding of the people and their history and culture (and food :)

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I think 4/5 reflects our holiday perfectly, we got out of the holiday what we wanted and with the help of our guide Rajat and the team we had some great adventures and lots of wonderful memories and pictures.

Reviewed on 25 Nov 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Being in a bronze idol factory in Swamimalai. Here, was the evidence of the 700 year old tradition for us to see. Unchanged techniques and skills that took no note of Western health and safety standards. We reached Swamimalai early one morning, having travelled from the Homestay, partly by overnight train and partly by skilfully driven vehicle. Not only were we taken to the Coimbature Station to catch the 3:15am train, but Rajat and Ravi insisted on waiting for the train to arrive, and made sure we were settled and comfortable and wouldn't leave until the train left.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


This tour company, tailormade holiday specialists for India are sincere and honest people, who I would recommend to book and arrange your holiday. I would add, though that if you are unfamiliar with your nominated area that you spend plenty of your own preplanning time finding out as much as possible about the districts that you plan to visit. In this way enough time can be put aside to visit the forest reserves and possible wildlife as well as the tea plantations, markets and the hill train.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


The time that we spent with a mahout and his elephant was unforgettable. We also felt that the people at Serenity were particularly gracious. The staff and owners at Phillip Kutty's farm were extremely good. Swamimalai, there was always friendliness and welcome, particularly in the kitchen and dining room. We enjoyed the local musicians' playing. The food that was prepared was fresh and local. We shopped at Fab India, where we purchased clothes that were ethically produced from handloomed fabrics and sewn by Indians.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I found Rajat was flexible with solving unexpected accommodation problems efficiently and he regularly checked by phone or email to make sure everything was continuing to run smoothly.

Reviewed on 13 May 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


My friend and I recently spent a wonderful month in India. The trip, completely organised by this tour operator, a travel company owned and run by the Kumar family, comprised 2 weeks in North India taking in the Golden Triangle and Amritsar, and 2 weeks in South India including 1 week at the family homestay in the Nilgiris, clearly the highlight of the trip. The Kumar family is so easy to interact with. While at the homestay Ravi, Renu, Rupa, Rajat and Mugdha gave us their utmost attention from breathtakingly beautiful breakfasts right through to evenings full of remarkable food, animated discussions, fun and laughter.

Every step of the trip went very smoothly and having English speaking guides and drivers made the whole experience very personal. Often the local guides enriched our experiences as they espoused more than mere information, passionately imparting their knowledge and opinions. I can truly recommend seeing India this way.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


This tour operator can organise travel in other parts India so tell them if you are planning to travel elsewhere in the country. They have a wide network of contacts and take great care in customising your trip. It was exciting and comforting to communicate directly with Lalith and Rajat as “people in the know” in India rather than dealing with a “blanket” travel agent from my end. Little surprises in our itinerary such as a tonga ride in Mumbai proved this point. We wouldn’t have known to ask for something like this! Also, be honest about your budget. You will surprised what can be achieved! Lalith provided a mix of 3 – 5 star accommodation to fit in with our budget. By using this “mix” he was able to give us some really great experiences which shouldn’t be missed such as the heritage Khandela Havelli in Jaipur. At all times ask their advice and take on their suggestions.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


This operator is a locally owned and run business and utilises other Indian owned/run travel services and local guides. The company proudly operates on an ethic that supports local businesses and organisations.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


This tour operator is a highly professional but personal travel service. Lalith, the original organiser was just simply marvellous. Nothing was too much trouble, and when the trip had to be rescheduled Lalith reorganised the changes happily and efficiently. Rajat maintained contact throughout our trip to ensure our safety, satisfaction and comfort at all times. Overall we had the “holiday of a lifetime”. We can’t wait to return and when we do we will be asking this operator to once again look after all arrangements for us.

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