This itinerary is a great introduction to some of the best spots in South India. Discover rich colonial history in captivating towns and cities, escape the crowds in quaint countryside, explore unspoilt temples and stay overnight on a houseboat in the tranquil Kerala backwaters.

12nights INDEPENDENT TOUR

Suggested route & duration

12 nights from Chennai to Kochi (Cochin)

Chennai: 2 nights

Puducherry (Pondicherry): 2 nights

Thanjavur (Tanjore): 2 nights

Madurai: 2 nights

Thekkady: 2 nights

Alleppey: 1 night

Kochi: 1 night

About this independent tour

This is a private itinerary including a car and driver and local English-speaking tour guides for sightseeing. The itinerary is completely flexible, so you can choose your own number of nights, change accommodation, add excursions and extend your holiday.

Recommended highlights

CHENNAI Tamil Nadu’s coastal capital, is known as the ‘Gateway to South India’ and your first stop on your coast to coast journey. You'll visit key sites on a full-day city tour, including the British colonial bastion of Fort St. George, the famous natural urban beach known as Marina Beach and St. Mary's Church also known as the 'Westminster Abbey of the East'.

PUDUCHERRY Continue by road to this quirky town, a former French colonial settlement until 1954 and in more recent times the setting for the successful British TV series, 'The Real Marigold Hotel'. Take a breather and meditate quietly in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram spiritual community before exploring the French Quarter to trully appreciate the mix of French and Mediterranean influences with a very Indian feel. Stay at the charming Palais de Mahé, a retreat at the heart of Puducherry’s French Quarter, near the waterfront, shopping and restaurants.

THANJAVUR This city is important for being a centre of religion, but is also famous for its art and architecture. On a half-day tour you'll visit UNESCO World Heritage Monuments - Great Living Chola Temples -, see some of the unique artworks in which materials such as gold foil, lace and semiprecious stones are used to embellish paintings, and visit the majestic Vijayanagar Fort.

MADURAI En-route to Madurai, stop at Tiruchirappalli (universally called Trichy). Now a busy city, it was once a capital of the early Cholas and has maintained its importance throughout history and is home to the Rock Fort Temple. Continue to Madurai, Tamil Nadu’s oldest city, dating back over 2,500 years. You'll take a morning visit to the colourful Meenakshi Temple before returning to the centre of the city to visit Thirumalai Nayak Palace which blends Dravidian and Islamic architectural styles.

THEKKADY Head west to Thekkady, famous for its dense forests and green landscapes and gateway to Periyar National Park. In order to experience the forest and its wildlife, you'll embark on a soft trek along some of the national park's nature trails accompanied by a trained tribal guide. This area is also famous for its spice plantations and no visit would be complete without a plantation tour and the opportunity to learn about the use of spice in Keralan cuisine.

ALLEPPEY This Keralan gem is one of the most picturesque areas on this itinerary and you'll find that cruising along the famous backwaters on a houseboat may well be one of the highlights of your trip. After boarding, you'll wind your way through the maze of waterways as you enjoy this truly relaxing way to travel.

KOCHI Finish your itinerary in colourful and multicultural Kochi. Visit the rather understated Dutch Palace and Jewish Synagogue, both remnants of Kochi's colonial history before heading down to the waterfront in Fort Cochin to witness the iconic Chinese fishing nets.

Tailor your tour

We’ve crafted this itinerary based on our own experiences and our customers’ feedback. It’s fully flexible, so talk to us and we can create your perfect trip. We would recommend you have two nights in most of the places on this itinerary, giving you a full day in many. However, if you have more time, we’ve got plenty of suggestions on how you could extend your holiday, like staying on for a little more time in Kochi at the end of your trip, exploring more of the Kerala backwaters with a trip to Kumarakom, or continuing south to Kovalam for a Keralan beach extension.

For those that would like to experience the contrasts between north and south India, perhaps fly into Delhi and visit the exciting destinations on the Golden Triangle, you could even include Ranthambore National Park for the chance to spot a tiger.

There is so much to see in India and we are happy to tailor an itinerary to exactly complement your interests, style and highlights, whether you want to stay in the opulent luxury of Oberoi hotels, take part in a cooking class or explore the colonial heritage.