South India Explored

20 days
from
£1,549
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Leisurely
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Trip code: 
AIS
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailormade Adventures
Activity:
Culture
Min age:
16
Group size:
4–16

Explore the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka

A region of great charm, southern India offers travellers beautiful cities, colonial hill stations, colourful temples, a relaxed lifestyle, attractive scenery and some of the best food in India. The major cities of the south were once princely capitals of the maharajas, and their magnificent remains contrast dramatically with the cool, mist-shrouded hill stations established by the British Raj. The natural scenery is also immensely rewarding; forest-clad hills slope down to a shoreline of shady lagoons, wooded islands, ancient spice ports and sandy beaches. This is an exceptionally varied and interesting trip and gives a comprehensive view of the whole of South India.

Highlights

  • Explore the old spice town of Cochin
  • Marvel at the beautiful palace in Mysore 
  • Madurai's magnificently carved Sri Meenakshi Temple 
  • Cruise the Keralan backwaters on a traditional houseboat 

Key information

  • 18 nights hotels, 1 night houseboat 
  • Group normally 4 to 16, plus local leader. Min. age 16 yrs
  • Travel by air-conditioned private bus and train
  • Diwali Festival departure available

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 1 dinner included
  • All accommodation
  • Transfer for group flights

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Visas and vaccinations
  • Single supplement
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

Cochin
to
Kovalam
  • Day 1

    Start Cochin.

    Those on the group flight will arrive in Cochin in the afternoon and transfer to the hotel. Those who have made their own flight arrangements will join us at the start hotel. Set on the Malabar, or 'Pepper Coast', Cochin (Kochi) is one of South India's most interesting towns and is believed to have been the first European settlement in India. Rich in history despite recent growth it retains a relaxed, quiet atmosphere. Narrow spits of land and coconut covered islands jut out into the wide, almost enclosed bay whose neck is lined with the famous Chinese fishing nets. In the afternoon there will be a full trip briefing by your leader. 
    Comfortable Hotel

  • Day 2

    Explore historic spice port.

    Today we do a sightseeing tour of Fort Cochin and Mattancherry, where most of the historic buildings are located amongst the narrow streets. The Portuguese Vasco de Gama landed here in 1498 and began trading with the Raja of Cochin. The Mattancherry Palace was built by the Portuguese in the mid 1500's and then was largely rebuilt by its second occupants, the Dutch. Built in traditional Keralan style the wooden architecture and wall paintings of scenes from the Ramayana are still well preserved. Jewish settlers first arrived in Cochin in 587BC and a synagogue dating from the late 1500's still stands in Fort Cochin. Although now there are only about half a dozen Jewish families, the synagogue is a real gem and the individual hand painted 18th century blue ceramic Cantonese floor tiles are evidence of past trading with China. St Francis Church is where Vasco de Gama died in 1524 and the building reflects the new European influence in the area. The Santa Cruz Cathedral is close by and was originally used as a warehouse by the British. The Chinese fishing nets line the entrance to the harbour and were introduced by the Chinese in the late 14th century.  In the evening there is the option to see a Kathakali dance performance.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    Climb through Nilgiri Hills to Ooty.

    A long but scenic journey today as we leave the coast and make our way inland into the Niligiri Hills. We leave Kerala and catch the Express train from Cochin to Pallakad (approx. 2.5hrs). We then drive through forested hillsides to Coimbatore (approx. 4-5 hrs drive). The ghat journey up to Coonoor is one of the most scenic in South India giving superb views of the plains below and magnificent groves of the tall, slender areca nut palm trees line the road. Passing through the small hill station of Coonoor we continue winding our way through lush tea and coffee plantations to Ooty, where we stay for the next two nights. 
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Relax, walk, or ride the miniature steam railway.

    Ootacamund, or 'Snooty Ooty' is queen of the southern hill stations and was a refuge for British officials and tea planters in Southern India. At 2,286m, the climate is much cooler and evenings in winter can be quite chilly.  Today we have a tour of various parts of Ooty including Dobetta Peak which at 2,638m is the second highest in the Western Ghats. From the top on a clear day we can see as far as the Mysore Plateau. A visit to the Botanical Gardens is relaxing and rewarding with  1,000 varieties of plants, shrubs and trees including orchids, ferns and alpines set amidst beautiful lawns.  We will also visit a tea factory for a guided tour.   A major attraction in Ooty is the narrow gauge steam Blue Mountain Railway from Coonoor to Ooty. There is time today to take this optional one-hour train journey (please be aware that this isn't always possible if the weather is bad or if there are technical problems with the train).  Your leader will provide details and make bookings for those who would like to experience this delightful trip. 
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    To Mysore through Mudmalai and Bandipur N.P.

    A beautiful drive of about five hours winds down the eastern side of the Niligiri Hills back to the plains. We drive through the Mudumalai and Bandipur National Parks as we cross the border from Tamil Nadu and into Karnataka. We may spot deer, elephant and monkeys on our journey. Just before we enter Mysore we will visit Chaumundi Hill where there is a temple dedicated to Durga. On the road up to the temple there is a giant stone Nandi bull carved in 1659. We arrive in Mysore in the late afternoon and spend two nights here.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Explore palaces and temples of Mysore.

    Mysore is the city of royal palaces, sandalwood and the manufacture of incense sticks; it is the former capital of the princely state and is Karnataka's second largest city. Today we have a sightseeing tour of Mysore and its surroundings. Just outside of Mysore is Srirangapatnam the capital of Haider Ali and his famous son, Tipu Sultan. Tipu's famous battles against both the French and the British are depicted in the murals of his delightful summer palace. Ruins of the fort and the Gumbaz, the family mausoleums are also here. Returning to Mysore we spend the afternoon exploring the beautifully restored City Palace. Designed by Henry Irwin and built in 1897, it is a remarkable building with domes, arches and colonnades of carved pillars and shiny marble floors. The stained glass, wall paintings, ivory inlaid doors and ornate golden throne are all remarkable. The rest of the day is free to wander round the bazaar.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    To Hassan via Halebid, Belur and Sravanabelagola temples.

    We leave early for the 1.5 hour drive to Sravanabelagola, a city sacred to the Jains. Standing on Vindhyagiri Hill, is the 17m high statue of Gommateshwara. Erected in the 10th century it represents the saintly prince Bahubali. Nearly 700 steps carved in the granite hill lead to the statue. The carved statue captures the tranquillity of much Buddhist and Jain art. The site is visited by hundreds of pilgrims daily. (Please note that climbing up to the statue is quite demanding as there are 700 steps to walk up in bare feet and it can be very hot. We recommend you take a pair of old socks for the temple visits. If you feel the climb is too much there will be the option to sit and wait and have a cup of tea). We have a typical Jain lunch in one of the many road side cafes (dhabas) in the town. After lunch there is the option to visit another Jain temple built on a rock on the opposite side of town. We then visit the temples at Belur and Halebid. Belur and Helebid were the centre of the great Hoysala dynasty, who ruled during the 11th to 14th centuries. Great warriors, they also patronised culture and art. Although small, these temples show some of the finest carvings to be found anywhere in India. Halebid is the largest of all Hoysala temples. Starting in 1121 it remains unfinished. The friezes on the outside are particularly well carved and show scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. After the temple visits, we drive to Hassan where we stay overnight.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    Drive to Bangalore; explore the city before catching a train to Chennai.

    This morning we transfer to Bangalore (the capital of Karnataka) arriving by lunch time.  We will take a drive around this IT capital of India and then take a train to Chennai.  We will board an afternoon train to Chennai where we will stay overnight.  
    Standard hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    Tour of Chennai; visit St Thomas Church; transfer to Mahabalipuram

    After breakfast we will have a tour of Chennai and then visit St Thomas Church.  From here we drive for around 1.5hrs down the coast to Mahabalipuram where we stay for the next 2 nights. There will be time to relax in this quaint seaside resort after the last few busy days. 

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    Morning sightseeing; explore rock-cut caves; afternoon free.

    This part of Tamil Nadu was once known as the Coromandal Coast. It has a language over 2,000 years old and poetry dating back to before the birth of Christ. It also boasts some of the most remarkable temple architecture in India, and with a living tradition of music and dance, is culturally very rich. In the morning we visit the rock cut caves and temples at Mahabalupuram. Occupying a stunning position on a rocky outcrop between the beach and a lagoon, the port was made famous by the Pallava dynasty in the 7th century. There are numerous cave temples, monolithic carved shrines in the shape of chariots, stone temples and relief sculptured rock panels all dating back to the 7th century. Carving in stone is still a living art here and we will see stonemasons chipping away from dawn till dusk along the busy roadside, practicing the skills that flourished centuries ago. Afternoon free to walk along the beach and explore the local area. 
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    To Pondicherry via Vedantangal Bird Sanctuary.

    This morning we leave the coast for a while and head inland for 52km to the Vedantangal Bird Sanctuary, an important breeding ground for water birds. Cormorants, egrets, herons, storks, ibises and pelicans come here to breed and nest for about six months from November to March. At the height of the breeding season in December and January there can be up to 3000 birds here. (Please note that the bird sanctuary is closed from 31st May - 31st October). We then head to Pondicherry. Pondicherry still enjoys a hint of its French colonial atmosphere in the grid pattern streets, distinctive police uniforms and the occasional colonial building. There will be a short orientation walk in the afternoon of around 2 - 3 hours.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 12

    To Thanjavur through fertile Kaveri Delta.

    Today we drive to Thanjavur through the wonderfully fertile Kaveri Delta, an area lush with rice paddy fields. The journey today will take approx. 5 hours.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 13

    Explore Thanjavur; to Madurai.

    This morning we visit a beautiful 16th century palace which houses a huge library as well as the Rajaraja Museum with a collection of magnificent Chola bronzes. Thanjavur is famous for the Brihadisvara Temple, a World Heritage Site, and is one of the great monuments of southern India. The temple is the achievement of the Chola King, Rajaraja I, who was a great patron of the arts. It is built mainly from granite and has outstanding inscriptions and sculptures of Shiva, Vishnu and Durga. We have a snack lunch today and drive to Madurai in the late afternoon (approx. 4 hrs), past granite mountain ranges. Spread along the banks of the rocky bed of the Vaigai River stands the bustling city of Madurai, where we spend two nights.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 14

    Visit Meenakshi Temple; free time.

    Madurai is one of Tamil culture's most vital centres and the temple and bazaar are at the heart of this vibrant and colourful city. The most famous sight in Madurai is the Meenakshi Temple, an outstanding example of Vijaynagar temple architecture. Built between the 16th and 18th centuries, it is at the heart of the city and the life of the town revolves around it. It is a hive of activity and the scene of an almost continuous religious festival. The temple's nine towering gopurams stand out with their colourful stucco images of gods, goddesses and animals. There are about 4,000 granite sculptures on the lower levels and numerous pillared temple halls surrounding the Golden Lotus Tank. The main temple is dedicated to Meenakshi, the 'fish-eyed goddess' and the consort of Shiva. One of the spectacular parts of the complex is the 16th century Thousand Pillared Hall with exquisitely carved columns and its sculptured ceiling, which depicts a wheel showing the 60 Tamil years. We also visit the Thirumalai Nayaka Palace, which was built in 1636 in Indo-Mughal style by the Nayak dynasty. The bazaars are colourful and lively and Madurai is a great place to take a cycle rickshaw ride. The town is also renowned for its silk and cotton.
    Comfortable Hotel

     

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 15

    Westward to Kerala and Periyar National Park.

    We drive westwards and enter the state of Kerala today. Nicknamed 'God's own country', it is the southernmost state of India. High levels of education and healthcare have given Kerala an enviable reputation elsewhere in India and its unique balance of Hindu, Muslim and Christian sets it apart from its neighbouring states. The journey takes about four hours through lush countryside to Thekaddy and the Periyar National Park. Set on the attractive Periyar lakeside the wildlife park is known for its elephants, sambar, wild boar and barking deer. This afternoon there is the option to do a tour of the spice gardens. Coffee, tea, rubber, cardamom and pepper are just some of the local crops.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 16

    Explore Periyar National Park; morning nature walk; optional afternoon boat trip.

    A full day to explore Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. We join our local guide for a short nature walk in the park (2-3hrs) before we return to town for lunch. In the afternoon there is an optional boat cruise on the lake. This is an ideal way to get close to the animals and we have the opportunity of spotting elephant, otter, wild pig and buffalo. There is also an abundance of bird life - kingfishers, storks and hornbills are the most commonly spotted. Tickets can be purchased online in advance (approx. £8 or US$10). We recommend doing this in order to avoid possible long queues at the ticket office. Please inform your leader if you wish to book this in advance. Other activities available today include a Ayurvedic Massage (approx. £10-15 or US$13-20), a tribal dance show (approx. £5 or US$7), Kathakali Dance Show (approx. £3 or US$4), Bamboo Rafting (approx. £20-30 or US$27-40) or Martial Arts Show (approx. £3 or US$4).
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 17

    To Alleppey; board houseboat for backwater cruise.

    We leave early today and drive approximately 5 hrs to Allepey, where we board our houseboats around noon and begin our cruise along the backwaters of Kerala. The houseboat cruise is one of the highlights of the trip - these enchanting houseboats, built of Anjili wood and bamboo were the traditional method of transport of goods for hundreds of years. Now they have been decorated and made into cosy cruise boats. The network of rivers, streams, lagoons and canals occupies the alluvial plain between the Western Ghats and the Indian Ocean. As our boat meanders through areas of lush tropical vegetation we have the opportunity to view not only the prolific bird life but also gain a differing perspective on village life. The cruise takes us around the lake and along palm-fringed waterways where coconut fibre and cashews are loaded on to dugouts. In the evening the boat is anchored in the lake and we can watch the sunset over the rice paddies. All the houseboats are comfortably equipped and one boat has between 3 and 5 twin or double bedded rooms with bathroom. There is a cook and boat driver and assistants for each boat and the food served is traditional Keralan fare using local produce. No trip to Kerala would be complete without the wonderful experience of the backwaters aboard these traditional Keralite vessels.
    Houseboat

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 18

    Leave houseboat and drive to Kovalam; afternoon free.

    This morning we leave our houseboat and drive along the scenic Malabar Coast to Kovalam (approx. 5hrs), once a relaxing hideaway on the old hippie trail this beachside town has now been discovered, but the influx of tourism has not diminished this beautiful setting. Free afternoon.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 19

    Optional visit to Kanyakumari - the southernmost tip of India - or relax on the beach.

    We have a free day to enjoy the idyllic soft sandy beaches, warm clear waters and wide views of the ocean horizon that Kovalam has to offer. There is also the opportunity to do an optional day's sightseeing from Kovalam to Kanyakumari, the end point of India where 3 oceans meet, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. If it's open, the trip also takes in the old wooden palace of the rulers of Travancore at Padmapuhamban - a marvellous building with fantastic woodcarvings, and the Hindu temple at Suchindran with its amazing stone carvings. This trip can be booked and paid for locally - please note it is a very long day and the road conditions are not very good. The cost of this excursion depends on group size, but it is usually INR 4800 (approx. £58) between 4 people travelling together, or INR 6400 (approx. £75) if more than 4 people travelling together. If visiting Padmanabhapuram Palace en route it's an extra INR 300 (approx. £4) per person.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 20

    End Kovalam.

    Those on the flight inclusive package will transfer to Trivandrum airport early this morning for the daytime flight back to London. Land Only arrangements will finish after check-out from the hotel.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

India

Visas are required if you are British and for most other nationalities. For UK residents full details of the visa process can be found here. Other nationalities should check with their travel agent or the relevant embassies.

If your trip visits Ladakh, in the very north of India, or Sikkim in the northeast, do not mention this on your Indian visa application. This can sometimes slow down or even cause the embassy to reject your visa.

When you reach immigration, you are required to pick up an immigration form. If you have an e-visa, ensure you stand in the correct queue - please follow the signs to the e-visa booth (in Delhi this is at the back of the immigration hall). You will need to fill out an additional form at the booth - please make sure that you have the details of your start hotel ready (these details can be found on your Final Joining Instructions).

 

Vaccinations

India

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice. Dengue fever is a known risk in places visited. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for Dengue, therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. Some of our India trips spend time at altitude. In regions over approx. 2000m, there is low to no risk of mosquito-borne diseases. For trips going to altitudes of over 3000m there is a risk of being affected by Acute Mountain Sickness. Our itineraries are designed to enable everyone to acclimatise to these altitudes, but you should be aware that it is still possible for you to be affected. Please see the TRIP NOTES for further information.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 1 dinner included.

The houseboat is full board. You should allow at least £15 (approx. US$24) per day for lunch and dinner. You can eat out very cheaply in India, but if you go to the more expensive restaurants most of the time, you will spend more than the suggested amount. In most of the towns there is a good choice of restaurants and a choice between Indian and Western style food. If you are a vegetarian, India is probably one of the best destinations to travel to. Tea and soft drinks are very cheap. Please note that hotels (apart from 5-star hotels) and bars in Kerala are no longer allowed to sell alcohol, it is still possible to buy alcohol in government shops. Some hotels and restaurants are vegetarian and do not serve alcohol. Mineral water is widely available.

Weather

The most important feature of the Indian climate is the monsoon. The main monsoon strikes the coast of Kerala in late May and sweeps its way northward over the next month or so. The midsummer months are very hot in South India. The ideal time to visit is during the dry season from October to March, although there can be some rain in Tamil Nadu from October to early December. Days will be hot and the nights warm, the average range of maximum daytime temperatures being 20ºC - 30ºC and 6ºC - 20ºC at night. In Ooty the temperatures can be considerably cooler and you can expect temperatures to drop to a few degrees above zero at night in winter. Please note that swimming in the sea at Kovalam is not always possible, depending on recent weather conditions, however the hotel we use in Kovalam will always have a pool.

Is this trip for you?

Activity Level: 1 (Leisurely). Although this is not a demanding tour, it is a busy itinerary with lots to see. Traffic and road conditions can significantly increase estimated driving time, so you should be prepared for some long days and some early starts. The times stated in the trip notes are actual driving times and do not include photo, tea, comfort or lunch breaks.

Please note that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are responsible for the conservation of many monuments in India and very occasionally this may mean that work is taking place at sites visited on this trip. The ASI’s schedule is never published so it is not possible to forewarn our clients of when work will be taking place.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels and houseboat

You will spend 18 nights in a mixture of comfortable and standard hotels and 1 night on a houseboat.

The houseboats are comfortable and all rooms have toilet facilities. Each boat has 3 to 5 twin bedded rooms. The houseboat also benefits from a deck & dining area. The number of boats will vary depending on group size and availability. Customers should be aware that the gas water heaters used on all houseboats are open-flued systems, as used in many parts of India. While this complies with Indian law, it does not meet UK standards and therefore we must inform travellers that there is a risk (while minimal) of carbon monoxide emissions. We have asked our leaders to install a Carbon Monoxide alarm, and to brief your group about keeping their rooms ventilated at night (i.e. window open) to ensure sufficient air circulation. 

 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Here at Exodus we are incredibly passionate about wildlife and the conservation efforts to save it.

Embracing a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge, but if you’re going to keep it up there’s got to be more to it than

  • Reviewed December 2018
    Jerry Dawson

    Comprehensive exploration of the sights of South India

    If you have three weeks to spare and want to see the highlights of South India, this is the trip for you. Comprehensive coverage of the main temples, palaces, hill stations and other attractions of the region. Although the trip packs in all the sights, it did not feel rushed and there is enough time left free to explore on your own. South India seems much less frenetic than the north and the food is amazing! There is a lot of driving but the bus is air conditioned and spacious and from time to time the group travels by train, which is a fascinating experience.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    In terms of sights, the highlights for me were driving through the tea plantations near Ooty and Periyar, exploring the streets of former French colony Pondicherry, having lunch during a small cyclone in the "Rick Stein" beachfront restaurant in Mahabalipuram, exploring the various flower and vegetable markets, the waterfront at Kovalam, and the overnight houseboat trip in the Kerala Backwaters near Alleppey. The real highlight for me, however, was the food - Indian food all day from breakfast (puris and iddlys) through to dinner - including the several stops at roadside restaurants for thalis at lunchtime, the wonderful seafood in Mahabalipuram and Kovalam, and the cooking demonstration (with active participation) in Thekkady/ Periyar.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Rajesh P.K. did a great job. He had a kind and caring personality and was very open with information about India and its customs, religions and culture. All the trip logistics worked out well - which is quite an achievement for India!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    There are some very long journeys on the bus so do bring a book to read. Although western food is available at all the hotels and most restaurants, it will add greatly to the enjoyment of the trip if you throw caution to the wind and eat the local food - lot of amazing veg and non-veg options! If you want a cold beer with dinner, call ahead to the restaurant to make sure there are beers in the fridge (many restaurants seem to serve beer at room temperature!)

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I would have liked more time in Pondicherry with a more comprehensive city walking tour to include information about life during the 300 years of French occupation; and also time to see the main sights in Chennai.
  • Reviewed December 2018
    Mindy Grantham

    Great trip! Covered a lot of ground

    I was already traveling in India and made a fairly last minute decision to join this tour. I’m very glad I did. We had a small group which made it easy to move around, see things, hear the guides, and have a more personal experience. The guide (Santo) was great! He’s very personable, knowledgeable, and tries to make sure that we have a local experience to the extent possible.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Being at Periyar and having the guide start telling our group to be quiet and move quickly as we started running through the forest in order to get to the place where an elephant was spotted.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Santo was wonderful. He’s super nice (all of the time even when there’s a difficult member of the group), he explains things well so we all understand in advance what to expect, he makes sure the trip is seamless for us (even though I’m sure there’s always issues) and he tries to give us local experiences too, which really makes the difference. I highly recommend him! I’d do another trip of his.
  • Reviewed December 2018
    Mindy Grantham

    Great trip! Covered a lot of ground

    I was already traveling in India and made a fairly last minute decision to join this tour. I’m very glad I did. We had a small group which made it easy to move around, see things, hear the guides, and have a more personal experience. The guide (Santo) was great! He’s very personable, knowledgeable, and tries to make sure that we have a local experience to the extent possible.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Being at Periyar and having the guide start telling our group to be quiet and move quickly as we started running through the forest in order to get to the place where an elephant was spotted.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Santo was wonderful. He’s super nice (all of the time even when there’s a difficult member of the group), he explains things well so we all understand in advance what to expect, he makes sure the trip is seamless for us (even though I’m sure there’s always issues) and he tries to give us local experiences too, which really makes the difference. I highly recommend him! I’d do another trip of his.
  • Reviewed December 2018
    Stephen Sinnhuber

    Another interesting trip but a bit too much bus riding!

    This was our 6th Exodus trip and we have always really enjoyed them. Travelling with like-minded people. The trip involves some very interesting sights. Of course, it is the usual temples and palaces but the world heritage temples are incredible. The backwaters overnight trip is a highlight and relaxing after the rigours of bus journeys. Normally I give Exodus trips 5 stars as they have always been excellent. This one I give 3 stars simply because there is just too much bus riding. There are several 5 hour plus rides that always seem to take even longer. It was exhausting despite the fact we are just sitting in a bus! All the trips we have done have involved long bus rides but this one seemed to have even more or maybe its because it was 3 weeks. So looked forward to incredible temples and palaces but be prepared for long bus rides to get to them.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Visiting the World Heritage temples. They are truly a marvel.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader, Lukose Thomas, was excellent. He took great care of us and always ensured things were running smoothly.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take music, headphones, podcasts etc for the bus journeys. It helps pass the time. I even started to learn Spanish using an app, we spent so much time on a bus! The bus journeys are necessary in order to get to the different sights but they are long and numerous.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is a very interesting trip in terms of the sights you see. Just be ready for the bus rides in between. I think they could be broken up a bit more to at least see some local culture on the way. This did happen on some of the later rides towards eth end of the trip and really helped break up the journey. More nature could be added as well as the trip is very urban. If you haven't been to India at all we also did the Exodus Rajasthan trip 4 years ago and of the two trips, I would recommend that over this one as a first India experience.
  • Reviewed March 2018
    Mandy and John Tory

    South India Explored

    A busy and very interesting trip. Great company, well organised and good itinerary. We loved southern India.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    So many...... Little train to Ooty. Lunch stops at roadside cafes. Overnight train to Chennai. Bird sanctuary at Vedantangal. Walking near elephants in Periyar National Park, and the boat trip on the same lake. Cooking evening with Sheril, in Periyar. The huge number and variety of temples. The houseboat in the backwaters.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Rajesh was a good leader. Very well organised, friendly to all of the group with fascinating insights into local life and customs, with little held back. He embellished the trip with additions to the itinerary which were well received. He and his crew managed to break up the long drives with well planned stops - for chai and toilet purposes - as well as to observe local life and to try local produce.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Pack fairly light but you will not have to do much suitcase carrying. Have appropriate clothes for temple visits but more casual wear is better for the beach side stops. Swimwear! We had little problem with the change in diet but stuck to bottled water. Take your own drinking bottle to refill on the bus and reduce plastic waste. Learn to like beer as there may not be much choice! If female, practise squatting!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Go with an open mind and a generous spirit.
  • Reviewed March 2018
    Caroline Bradley

    Explore Southern India

    A fantastic opportunity to see the many different sides to India by travelling through 3 states and seeing the landscape, architecture, having the history explained and tasting the food.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The architecture, culture and devotion of the Indian people to their religious beliefs & practices.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader made the long coach trips fun and interesting by getting us all involved in various topics we wanted to discuss and explore about India culture and history. He was frank, open and honest.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It's a full on trip, the weather is hot and the humidity is high! So it can be exhausting, therefore you need to be "really up for it" to get the most out of the trip. Drink plenty of fluids, if you are not use to eating spicy food daily, then don't do it on the trip! There are plenty of alternatives Wear plenty of sun cream and DEET. Take things in your stride, keep your expectations low and you will be pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed. Go with a child's mind and heart; full of wonder, interest and excitement, don't prejudge and always look on the bright side and make the most of everything and you should enjoy it.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    No
  • Reviewed March 2018
    Eric Aldridge

    South India trip

    As described in the trip notes the pace is leisurely. For us there was little walking and activity with some 2000+ miles in the bus albeit with plenty of fascinating traffic and sights to see. The people, as always, very friendly. The food interesting and every variation of curry. Highlights were walking and boat trip in Periyar NP together with the houseboat and waterways. Plenty of different temples and palaces to explore and the local guides clarified the details in carvings and exhibits. Our group was only 5 so there was plenty of space on the bus, organisation and communication was 'easy' with no delays.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Nothing was inspirational

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Everything went to plan and apart from one small communication error with the transfer bus at Bangalore all events and timings work well. With a small group it was relatively easy to 'control', communicate and I think we all enjoyed each others companionship. Everyone arrived on time and there were no delays. Our guide often gave insight Into India's developing culture, politics and history. He responded well to any questions. In general he was humourous though some days he was quiet and less communicative. He was very good to those who were not feeling so well and ensured they had all the necessary medication and care to recover as quickly as possible. Overall he was a very good guide and kept the group interest by unscheduled stops to view village life, brick making works, and various workshops. He was aided in this by our driver who was always looking for unexpected events at the roadside. Any changes to the itinerary were discussed/agreed with the group beforehand.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Expect the unexpected. Be ready at the agreed time to avoid delays and frustrating the rest of the group. Read the trip notes. Generally these are okay. (NB Hairdryers are not provided at hotels). India has an anti-plastic policy and now have 'plastic police' checking the number of carrier bags and bottles carried on the bus. Our driver was fined for too many plastic bags. It may be better to bring your own water bottle rather than refilling flimsy plastic bottles. Bottles were filled from the supplies issued from bulk supplies on the bus or complementary hotel bottles and never a problem. Although Kerala and south India is cleaner than the north expect to see plenty of litter (including on the beach at Mahabalipuram-awful) and this is a cultural. challenge and hence the plastic policy. The suggested walk from Dodabetta Peak to the botanical garden is along a busy road and I would not recommend it. Generally walking in towns is difficult as there are rarely footpaths and pedestrians mingle with traffic.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We would have enjoyed more walking and we really enjoyed the opportunities in the botanical garden, Periyar, bird sanctuary and Kovalam. The houseboat gave another opportunity to wander along the waterside paths. In the towns there wasn't. much pleasure strolling with the traffic except we enjoyed the banter with the stallholders/shops. Our guide arranged a few 'strolls' through villages, festival areas but generally we travelled by bus for dinner if we didn't use the hotel.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    Alexander Renwick

    Exodus South India Experience

    This was my first experience of visiting south India and after a very successful Exodus holiday to Venezuela many years ago, decided to give them another try. The three week tour was very well organised by them and especially our tour leader Mr Sam G Benjamin who really made it special right from the start.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Difficult to pin it down really because there were so many. Mysore palace at night, Ooty and the train journey were both very special, overnight train experience, houseboat in Kerala, even our last day at Kovalum was just lovely.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader Sam was very attentive, professional and always there when needed but not at all intrusive. In my opinion Sam made the holiday for us so special and interesting too, so top marks for him.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I think because it all worked so well for me/us with some great people on the tour. A truly great team leading us safely and in comfort on our little bus including driver and his helper which made it special.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    All I would say is if you want to see a very interesting, true southern India, you have go do this trip. But don't forget, you have to hit the ground running and it's Great!
  • Reviewed February 2018
    Sylvia Holliman

    South India Explored

    An incredibly varied trip, packed with lots of wonderful moments. I loved all of the temples and palaces, particularly Shore Temple and associated monuments. The tea plantation and spice garden were both lovely, and the bird sanctuary was simply amazing! It was great to be there when various festivals were happening, and there was a real party feel to many of the places we visited.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Watching a family of otters swimming in the lake when on our boat trip in Periyar National Park.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Navin was drafted in at very short notice from his usual area in North India, and did a very good job in the circumstances. He was always ready to answer questions, and made sure that we all stayed healthy and safe.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take loo paper and antiseptic hand gel! There are some long journeys, and meal times can be a bit flexible, so you may want to consider taking some snack food (or buy when there).

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Indian people are very friendly and welcoming. I recommend this trip!
  • Reviewed March 2017
    Tim and Lesley Elgood

    The Magic Bus from Exodus

    We have not undertaken any tours previously so were apprehensive but this was unfounded. Our fellow travellers proved great fun and enhanced the tour and it was an amazing and varied trip with a great guide.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Everyday included something that was inspirational. Incredible India is the strap line and it really is the most amazing country . We have now been travelling 4 months through Asia and India remains in our memory as the most beautiful country. The towns and cities, the Temples , Palaces , the architecture through all the colonial periods of history, the friendly people so welcoming , the beautiful countryside the lakes , rivers and agriculture , teeming with wildlife and birds. The tranquility of the bird sanctuary stands out.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Sam George Benjamin was a great guide. He was very conscientious and extremely thorough , everything ran very smoothly. He went the extra mile to make sure everyone needs were met and was very inclusive. He was happy to answer our many questions about India during the long drives which kept us all entertained .He found some varied places to eat and introduced us to lots of delicious meals that we would not have tried without his guidance . He was also enormous fun and a great asset to exodus Tours. He sums up what a good guide should be as he made it seen easy , but we acknowledge how hard he worked to achieve this result. He was assisted by an excellent driver and co driver and excellent local guides.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Our guide had a phrase this is India my friends remember lower your expectations. We would say remain flexible open minded and enjoy the moment , India is very humbling exciting inspirational and memorable.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you are undecided whether to travel to India, a tour is a good way to undertake this as you learn so much about the culture and customs and any confusions anxieties are soon ironed out by the guide.

Dates & Prices

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An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

 

Private Adventures 

Not found the date you’re looking for? We can organise this itinerary as a Private Adventure – just click on the tab above the list of dates and prices, let us know your preferred dates of travel and how many people are travelling, and we’ll do the rest!

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