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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Into the heart of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu

By Chloe Holcroft
India Travel Expert for Alfred&

Ancient kingdom capitals, hidden mountain retreats and laid-back coastal stays come together in this all-encompassing trip through India’s scenic south. Embark on a tiger safari in the grasslands, ride a classic toy train through the Western Ghats and hear about the colonial influences that have shaped this part of the world on an 18-day adventure through two of the country’s most fascinating states.

Places

Length
18 days
Best months to go
September to April
Guide price range
£3,570 - £3,860pp
including international flights

Top Experiences
Itinerary Highlights

Bandipur

Encounters with tigers, leopards and elephants in Bandipur

As you go deeper and deeper into the forest, you start to feel like you’re in a special place...

Ooty

Puffing through the Nilgiris on a historic toy train

There’s always something to see on both sides of the line and you’ve plenty of time to look at it as the train goes so slowly...

Mahabalipuram

Meet the locals on a gentle cycle through Mahabalipuram's villages

Most people only think of temples when they come here, but this is a wonderfully authentic way to see another side of the area...

Day by day
Itinerary in detail

1

Arrival in Bangalore

On arrival in Bangalore, you’ll be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is free to enjoy in this culture-filled, tech-forward city, known as India’s Silicon Valley. Wander its gardens and royal residences on your own terms – don’t miss the 19th-century Bangalore Palace, modelled on Windsor Castle – or opt for an afternoon SoBa Walk to explore the city’s south side. This elegant neighbourhood was once the city’s intellectual centre and a renowned haunt for the city’s rich and famous. Overnight at Taj West End (or similar).

Things to do:

2

Bangalore & Mysore

Dig a little deeper into Bangalore this morning with an optional excursion tracing the history of the city’s rulers, or venture into the Nandi Hills for lunch at a local vineyard. Later, you’ll be driven to the city of Mysore in the southwest of Karnataka. This heritage-rich city was the capital of the Kingdom of Mysore from 1399 to 1947 and is home to several historic sites. Especially unmissable is the Devaraja Market – a vibrant bazaar where spices, silk and sandalwood have been traded for centuries. Settle in at your hotel for the evening, choose to learn the ins and outs of South Indian cuisine with a local family. Overnight at Royal Orchid Metropole (or similar).

Things to do:

3

Mysore

You’ll have a full day in Mysore today, beginning with an included tour of the city. You’ll visit the market to sample local delicacies such as Mysore Pak – a sweet treat made with chickpea flour and ghee – and learn more about the lives of the maharajas. This afternoon, take in the city at your own pace or choose from several optional experiences including a private yoga session, a workshop with a classical musician and a visit to a local silk factory to learn more about Mysore sarees. Overnight at Royal Orchid Metropole (or similar).

Things to do:

4

Mysore & Bandipur

Trade in city life for nature this morning and delve into the jungle as you head towards Bandipur National Park. The park is home to one of the country’s largest populations of endangered tigers – protected under various conservation initiatives – as well as Asian elephants, bison, spotted deer and more, many of which you may even glimpse right from your room. Overnight at The Serai Bandipur (or similar).

Things to do:

5

Bandipur

Get up bright and early this morning for an experience you’re unlikely to forget – a jungle jeep safari in search of the elusive tiger. Along the way you might see a sloth lurking in the forest or a langur monkey swinging from the trees, and keep your eyes peeled for the rare Indian pangolin too. Afterwards, head back to the lodge to relax in these lush surroundings before embarking on a second game drive in the afternoon. Overnight at The Serai Bandipur (or similar).

Things to do:

6

Bandipur & Ooty

Bid farewell to the tigers today as you head into the heart of the mountains. Your first stop is Ooty, ‘Queen of the Hill Stations’, perched 2,240m above sea level in the Nilgiris (or Blue Mountains, named for their hazy bluish tint). This was another summer retreat for the British thanks to its year-round pleasant climate and postcard-pretty scenery, with woodlands, tea plantations and eucalyptus trees covering the slopes. Spend the day relaxing in these peaceful surroundings from your hotel, which began life as a school in 1829. Overnight at Savoy Ooty (or similar).

Things to do:

7

Ooty & Pollachi

After breakfast, you’ll be driven to Ooty station for a true bucket-list experience – a ride on a classic toy train. Ride this heritage railway past forested hills, deep gorges and tea plantations to reach Coonoor, where you’ll be met by your driver and transferred to Pollachi. This tucked-away town in the state of Tamil Nadu is known for its agriculture. Cane sugar, coconuts and livestock are all traded here, with palm forests, rivers and waterfalls peppering the landscapes. Your stay for the night is a peaceful house set on a coconut farm overlooking the mountains, where you’ll enjoy a traditional Chettinad dinner this evening. Overnight at By The Riverside (or similar).

Things to do:

8

Pollachi & Madurai

Head further south today to reach the city of Madurai. Set on the banks of the Vaigai River, this picturesque spot has been a bustling market town since at least the second century BC and was the centre of power for several dynasties. It’s also long been considered a seat of divinity, with temples scattered across its streets. Among them is the Meenakshi Temple, known for its brightly coloured sculptures and multi-tiered towers. On arrival you’ll have time to take in the city or relax at the hotel. Overnight at Heritage Madurai (or similar).

Things to do:

9

Madurai

Delve into the history of Madurai today with an optional tour taking in its ancient myths and stories or uncover another side to the city with a culinary tour. Alternatively venture out to see its temples, and markets on your own terms. Unmissable is Meenakshi Temple, known for its brightly coloured sculptures and multi-tiered towers, and the pillared Thirumalai Nayak Palace, built by a 17th-century king. Overnight at Heritage Madurai (or similar).

Things to do:

10

Madurai & Rameshwaram

Leave the myths of Madurai behind this morning as you head to Rameshwaram, set on Pamban Island just off the mainland and one of India’s holiest sites. Discover the myriad cultural sites that stud the town independently or opt for a full-day city tour to uncover its history. Tonight, you’ll be staying at a local guest house owned by a kitesurfer who fell in love with the region. Overnight at Kathadi Homestay (or similar).

Things to do:

11

Rameshwaram & Chettinad

The cultural explorations continue this morning with a visit to the region of Chettinad, spread across 75 villages dating back several centuries. This is one of South India’s best-known spots thanks to its opulent architecture and exceptional food, with marble-built relics in blue, green, and violet scattering the region. Sample local cuisine with an optional Chettinadu cooking lesson or take it easy at your hotel, an Art Deco mansion built by a Chettiar merchant. Overnight at Visalam (or similar).

Things to do:

12

Chettinad & Tanjore

Move on to Tanjore (or Thanjavur) this morning to discover another part of Tamil Nadu, considered the ‘city of temples’. Here you’ll find the Brihadishvara Temple, a UNESCO-listed structure dating to the 11th century, as well as an elaborate royal palace. The day is yours to enjoy. Overnight at Svatma (or similar).

Things to do:

13

Tanjore & Pondicherry

You’ll be driven to the Bay of Bengal today to reach Pondicherry, a laid-back seaside town that was once the capital of French colonies in India. Today the influence is felt in everything from the cuisine to the architecture – best-seen in the historic French quarter, where bougainvillea-clad villas line leafy streets. The day is free to enjoy; you might choose to try your hand at Creole cuisine with an optional cooking workshop, or head to the beach for some well-earned downtime. Overnight at Palais De Mahé (or similar).

Things to do:

14

Pondicherry

You’ll have a full day in Pondicherry today with several fascinating experiences to choose from. Explore the French Quarter on a guided heritage walk or see the town on two wheels, passing the Tamil Quarter, Muslim Quarter and various historic sites by bike. If you fancy venturing further afield, an optional tour will take you to the village of Kizhur to see farmers, brick-makers, and a local potter at work, with the chance to have a go at clay sculpting yourself. Overnight at Palais De Mahé (or similar).

Things to do:

15

Pondicherry & Mahabalipuram

Travel to Mahabalipuram this morning. Sandwiched between the bay and the Great Salt Lake, this beachside town has been a centre of stone carving for at least 1,400 years. Head out to admire its rock-cut temples, monolithic shrines and other historic monuments or check out the beach, now a hotspot for surfers. Overnight at Taj Fisherman's Cove (or similar).

Things to do:

16

Mahabalipuram

Rural villages surround Mahabalipuram and today you’ll get the chance to visit some of them on an included half-day cycling tour with local expert Bani. You’ll pass lush paddy fields and colourful village temples, thatched farmer’s huts, and rural cattle herders as you get a glimpse into rural life. Along the way you’ll visit a coconut grove and stop at artisanal workshops to learn more about wood and stone carving. The rest of the day is free to enjoy as you wish. Overnight at Taj Fisherman's Cove (or similar).

Things to do:

17

Mahabalipuram & Chennai

Your final stop is Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, formerly known as Madras. Once a seaport for the East India Trading Company, the city blends Portuguese, Dutch, French and British influences with Tamil culture and is considered the gateway to South India. At its heart is the Mylapore district, the city’s cultural hub with a history dating back 2,000 years, where tuk tuks meander past temples, churches, and other 17th-century relics. See it with a local on an optional Peacock Trail tour or try your hand at the ancient Bharatnatyam dance form with a local teacher. Alternatively wander the streets at your own pace as you make the most of your final day in this captivating region. Overnight at Taj Connemara (or similar).

Things to do:

18

Chennai & Departure

Your tour ends today. You’ll be transferred to Chennai airport for your flight home or onward travel.

Another stop?

Extensions

Extensions

Holiday Budget
Guide price information

Low Season

01 Apr - 30 Sep

£3,570

High Season

01 Jan - 31 Mar, 01 Oct - 31 Dec

£3,860

Alfred & Chloe Holcroft

A seasoned traveller, Chloe Holcroft loves India for its distinctive regional cuisine, contrasting cultures and British-tinged history. Chloe has travelled from the Himalayan heights of Pelling to Cochin on the southern coast and has further plans to explore this mammoth country. Chloe counts one of her travel highlights in India as sipping loose-leaf tea at Glenburn Tea Estate while watching the clouds part to reveal views of the Himalayas.

Plan your holiday withAlfred&

Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Malcolm, who's travelled extensively in India. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember.

Freephone an expert 01306 744 656