South India small group tour

“With an eclectic menu of hiking, heritage, hill stations and houseboats in the states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, no wonder this trip is 21 days long instead of usual 14.”

Highlights

Cochin | Hiking in Nilgiri Hills | Mudumalai National Park | Blue Mountain Railway in Niligiri Hills | Mudumalai National Park | Bandipur National Park | Mysore | Sacred city of Sravanabelago | Chennai | Mahabalipuram beach | Coromandal coast, Tamil Nadu | Pondicherry | Madurai | Periyar National Park | Houseboat on Kerala backwaters

Description of South India small group tour

A three week South India tour by water, rail and road gives you every chance to interact with local people and really take in the sights as you travel from Cochin to Kovalam with plenty of organised sightseeing and leisurely free time along the way.

This region of southern India ticks at a much slower pace to the frenetic energy associated with the cities to the north of the country and if you’re looking to tour South India and learn to relax and unwind as nature dictates then this is definitely an eclectic itinerary worth investigating further.

From hillside railways and colonial properties to the palaces and temples of Mysore and Bangalore, to travel South India is to understand the heritage of the country as a whole with some of India’s finest food adding to the natural attraction of scenic backwaters and traditional trading posts.

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

01273 823 700

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17 Dec 2016
£ 2599
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07 Jan 2017
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30 Dec 2017
£ 2429
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10 Feb 2018
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17 Feb 2018
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10 Mar 2018
£ 2269
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24 Mar 2018
£ 2349
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31 Mar 2018
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06 Oct 2018
£ 2349
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15 Dec 2018
£ 2899
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29 Dec 2018
£ 2579
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Our top tip:
Go for the optional day trip to Kanyakumari, on India’s southern tip – the place where three oceans meet.
Trip type:
Small group with max. 16 people. Minimum age 16
Solos:
Solo travellers welcome. Surcharge for single rooms.
Accomm:
Mostly standard privately owned hotels, with one night on houseboat.
Included:
Flight, all accommodation, breakfasts, lunch and dinner on one day only.
Meals:
Breakfasts included. Allow £15/day for other meals.
Vouchers
Accepted
Holiday type

Small group holiday

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: South India small group tour

Environment

Accommodation & Meals
This trip sees you spend most nights in hotels and one night on a houseboat. You will notice that our hotels employ locally and use local produce from markets in the area wherever possible. The hotels are waste and energy conscious and have their own policies like asking guests to turn off the power when leaving a room in order to save electricity. Where meals are not supplied, our group leaders always encourage people to try local restaurants and street food vendors. They can make recommendations which will help boost small businesses and celebrate local specialties. There will even be instances where clients can see the food being made themselves e.g. chicken and veg biryani in Mysore, fresh seafood dishes in Cochin, Masala Chai, Dosa, Iddly etc.

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Community

Local Craft & Culture
We are keen to encourage guests to engage with the culture of Southern India and to purchase local crafts and services where possible. Your local guide will be able to recommend the best of the area’s colourful and vibrant markets and small businesses and through our commerce, tourist wealth is more evenly distributed. Cochin and Periyar are famous for the spice shops & antique items, Ooty for different kinds of tea and coffee, Mysore is famous for silk, perfumes and incense sticks and Madurai for silk and tailor made cloths. There are locally crafted gifts and souvenirs available by most of the landmarks we visit, and your guides will be able to advise you on which to buy and which to avoid. For example, some bangles and other decorative items on sale may claim to be made of ivory - we are against the popularisation of this kind of product and make a point of including a warning in the briefing.

Charity
For years we have been involved in campaigning for tiger conservation in Bandhavgarh. In late summer 2014 we teamed up with The Corbett Foundation, an Indian charity dedicated to conservation-oriented research. They have proved instrumental in enabling us to get the funds to where they are needed. Through this we have now completed the building of a community hall at Tala Village, solar pumps in the park for wildlife and staff in the dry season, bio gas plants and smart stoves for villagers and provided the salary for 2 full time teachers at the government school. Our work in India continues to be of great significance and most recently we have been able to purchase a 4 wheel drive medical vehicle and pay for outreach medical support.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

Reviews of South India small group tour

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 24 Mar 2015 by

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


The most memorable were - Staying on the houseboat on the Kerala backwaters, the rickshaw ride through Madurai, dipping my feet in the Indian Ocean at the southern most tip of India, eating curry with my fingers off a banana leaf and the cookery lesson at Peryar. The most exciting was getting separated from the rest of the group on the hike through the tea plantations at Munnar!! Luckily our
leader found us!!

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


Go on all the optional trips that are provided

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


The holiday must have benefitted local people as a large population must be dependant upon tourism - we had several bird watching boat trips!

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


Excellent - our Leader organised the tour brilliantly & explained the local culture - he booked restaurants, optional trips & money changing etc which reduced any stress we might have had deciding where to go.
The only slight criticism I would have was that we were taken as a group into various shops where we were hounded by the shop assistants to buy things which had the opposite effect on most of us!!

Reviewed on 22 Feb 2015 by

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


Mysore, Madurai, Chennai Government Museum, Mahabalipuram, Kerala Backwaters (houseboat trip), Pondicherry Market (we went there by ourselves), Martial Arts at Kumily

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


Be prepared to spend a high proportion of your holiday in the coach and take little exercise. Time to yourself is rather limited, eg time to interact with the locals. We had a group of 16, which meant that everything took longer, eg service at meal times.

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


It's hard to say that such vast coach travelling is environmentally friendly. Rubbish was tippped by our boatmen onto banks and into the water on our boat trip. On the other hand our own guide and driver behaved impeccably, and we provided employment for a large number of people.

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


It would have been excellent with less coach travel and fewer people in the group than 16.

Reviewed on 05 May 2014 by

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


It was to see at last places that were high on my bucket list. My trip was South India Explored.

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


Do not expect to feel immersed in India. You will stay at tourist hotels and be driven from one tourist site to the next in a very large tourist bus. You will not stay in Fort Cochin, nor see the architectural gems of Chennai. The houseboats at Alleppey are too large to explore the smaller canals. In fact we were moored for the night on a deserted spit of land on which it was impossible to walk. Do not expect a beach hotel in Kovalam;ours was set well above the beach with a lot of steps to climb up and down in sweat-inducing temperatures.

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


I most certainly did not. I was ashamed to be part of a tour that travelled in such a huge bus, and stayed in large impersonal commercial hotels, often part of chains. There was absolutely no attempt to reduce environmental impact or support conservation.

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


I was extremely disappointed. I had expected a tour that would compare with a tour in Peru that I had appreciated very much, and previous Indian tours with another oeprator. I expected the tour leader and local guides to have extensive knowledge of local culture and be able to answer my questions. This was not the case at all.

Read the operator's response here:

Please accept our delayed response your feedback but I have been waiting to speak to the leader and also gather some information on all the hotels we use on this trip. I have to say that 11 of the 14 nights are in privately owned properties and whilst 3 nights are in chain hotels they are the only ones we deem suitable in those locations and of a standard that meets our requirements on Both health and safety grounds and compliance with local regulations. I have personally stayed in some of them including the one in Kovalam which is a 5 minute walk from the beach , we have used this property for a while and people have highlighted how they prefer being away from the noise of the beach in the evening. You have raised a number of other aspects which we have investigated. India always evokes many different responses and people wish to see it in so many different ways. We have changed this itinerary based on feedback in the past , we removed the full day in Chennai as clients did not enjoy it but some want longer and indeed this trip has a very high review score of over 4 but does highlight a lot of time is spent travelling just due to the nature of southern India and getting between the major sites with limited infrastructure.

Local leaders play a vital role in our business and I am sorry to hear that yours did not meet your expectations which I have relayed to our Leader manager in the UK and we will be monitoring further feedback on his performance but also ascertain how we can assist him and improve his knowledge and communication with clients.

The vehicle you used was clearly very large but sadly the only one available at the time to accommodate your group but we do use 16 seater vehicles on this trip.

Whilst I appreciate that this trip disappointed you I hope that you have some fond memories of Southern India and rest assured we strive to improve our services globally and value your input and feedback.

Andrew Appleyard

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