The Tropical South

15 days
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£1,799
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4.3 / 5 from 72 reviews >
Leisurely
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Trip code: 
AIT
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailormade Adventures
Activity:
Culture
Min age:
16
Group size:
4–16

Discover Kerala and Tamil Nadu; the two southernmost states of India

India's tropical south is a land full of fertile forests, sweeping grasslands and tea plantations. We visit the two southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, both with distinctive cultures and contrasting scenery. Kerala is a true tropical paradise with an idyllic coastline and lush tropical mountains, which is evident as we travel between the old spice town of Cochin and the beautiful hill station of Munnar. A trip to the wildlife sanctuary at Periyar boasts an array of wildlife and an abundance of colourful birdlife, and dinner with a local family provides a unique insight into Keralan life. In Tamil Nadu, we explore the state's most vibrant and colourful city, Madurai, and marvel at the intricately carved Sri Meenakshi Temple. The climax comes as the lagoons of Kerala are cruised on a traditional houseboat before relaxing on the sweeping beaches of Kovalam and the chance to try some delicious fresh seafood.

Highlights

  • Cruise the Keralan backwaters on a traditional houseboat
  • Explore the old spice town of Cochin
  • Sample traditional home cooked food in a family home
  • Discover the Sri Meenakshi temple of Madurai 

Key information

  • 11 nights hotels, 1 night homestay, 1 night houseboat
  • Travel by private air-conditioned private bus
  • Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 3 dinners 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:
+44 (0)20 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

London
to
London
  • Day 1

    Depart London.

    Flights usually depart London in the afternoon.

  • Day 2

    Start Cochin.

    The group flight usually arrives in Cochin in the afternoon and we transfer to our hotel. Those clients not travelling on the group flight will make their own way to the hotel and will join us for the afternoon. Please note that if you arrive in the morning, you may have to wait to be allocated a room as normal check-in time is mid-morning.

    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. On arrival at our hotel there is free time to either explore Cochin or simply relax after your travels. 
    Standard Hotel

  • Day 3

    Sightseeing around Cochin; optional sunset cruise at Fort Cochin and explore historic spice port.

    Today we do a sightseeing tour of Fort Cochin and Mattancherry, where most of the historic buildings are located in 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 Kerala 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. There is time to wander round the tiny back streets of Jew Town hunting for souvenirs in the many antique shops and warehouses. There is the option to join a sunset cruise at Fort Cochin or take in a Kathakali Dance Show.  Please note the show option is also available on day 8 in Periyar. 
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    To Munnar.

    After breakfast we drive away from the coastal plain to Munnar set amongst Kerala's highest mountains that form a jagged line due east of Cochin. The drive is 160km and should take approximately 5-6 hours. Munnar is a beautiful hill station on the Western Ghats at about 1600m above sea level. It was once a summer resort of the British Government in South India. The town is situated at the confluence of the three mountain streams (Mudrapauzha, Naliathanii and Kundala) and is surrounded by lakes, reservoirs, forests and several tea estates. Anamudi (2695m), the highest peak in South India dominates the skyline and the many smaller peaks are a walker's paradise.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Day trek through tea plantations and the hills of Munnar.

    After an early breakfast, we take a short drive through old Munnar and travel down to Nagarmudi, a tiny village, where we start our trek accompanied by a local guide. The trek begins with a long gradual ascent through the tea plantations and then climbs into Seven Malai Hills. Just before reaching the top we enjoy walking through cardamom and coffee plantations. Our hard work will be rewarded with spectacular views over Chittrapuram Dam, Changulam Lake, Annamudi Peak, Munnar and other villages. We then descend back to our vehicle. There is an optional visit in the afternoon to a Tea Museum. Please note that there are a couple of steep ascents and descents on this trek. Approx. walking time 4 hrs.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    To Madurai.

    Leaving Kerala behind we drive 165km through the hills to the colourful temple town of Madurai, in Tamil Nadu. The drive should take approximately 6-7 hrs and we should arrive mid-afternoon. In the evening there are many restaurants to choose from: some of the best are on rooftops, which in addition to allowing us to sample some of the specialities of the region, offer fantastic views over the city.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Visit colourful Sri Meenakshi Temple; optional cycle rickshaw ride through town.

    Today there is an opportunity to go on an early morning heritage walk through Madurai (approx. £15 or US$20 depending on group size), allowing us to observe the local community going about their everyday life; milking cows, women doing rangoli in front of their houses, breakfast being prepared on the roadside food stalls, and fruit and vegetable markets in full action. Coffee and a snack are provided on this optional tour. 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 is the Meenakshi Temple, an outstanding example of Vijayanagar temple architecture. Built between the 16th and 18th century, 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 a sculptured ceiling, which depicts a wheel showing the 60 Tamil years. There is also time to visit the Thirumalai Nayaka Palace, which was built in 1636 in Indo-Mughal style by the Nayak dynasty. Or why not take a cycle rickshaw ride through the town. The colourful and lively bazaars are also wonderful to visit and Madurai is renowned for its silk and cotton.
    Standard Hotel

    Please note, due to a  fire that took place  inside Meenakshi temple in February 2018, the temple authority has closed  off the Thousand Pillared Hall to tourists until further notice (potentially until August 2018). Other parts of the temple remain open for the public.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    To Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, home to wild elephant and many other animals and birds. Dinner and cooking demonstration in a local family home.

    Leaving Madurai we drive in the morning to the small bustling village of Thekkady, from where we visit the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the largest parks in India. The drive from Madurai is spectacular as the road climbs through the Western Ghats and we have fantastic views across Tamil Nadu. In the afternoon there will be enough free time to wander around in the village and explore the bazaar, where we can visit the numerous shops selling cardamom, vanilla, peppercorns, turmeric and other spices. The whole area is a centre for spice growing, and this evening there will be a short walk around a spice garden, where we can see many different spices growing. We then have a special dinner and a cooking demonstration with a local family in their home. (Driving time approx. 4-5 hrs)
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 9

    Explore Periyar; morning jungle walk followed by an optional boat trip on the lake.

    In the morning, before breakfast, we join our local guide for a nature walk in the Wildlife Sanctuary (approx. 2-3 hrs) and return to our hotel in time for breakfast. In the afternoon there is the option to go on a 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. Optional activities you can choose from today include an 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 a Martial Arts Show (approx. £3 or US$4).
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    To Erattupetta Planters Homestay.

    Leaving the hills, we make our way to Erattupetta Planters Homestay; a cosy eco-friendly mansion built 50 years ago, surrounded by tall rubber trees and tropical fruit trees. This is a fantastic opportunity to explore the rural life of Kerala, with a village walk and a visit to a spice plantation. With the songs of birds, the cool breeze and the rustle of trees, this is also a great place to relax. Further activities can be organised here, such as yoga and cooking lessons.
    Homestay

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 11

    To Muhamma; village walk.

    Today we make our way to Muhamma, driving through tea and fruit plantations. Our hotel this evening is the Deshadan Backwater Resort, situated on the banks of the scenic Vembanad Lake. Later we have the chance to explore the surrounding villages by foot and gain an insight into traditional village life. There is also the opportunity to go on an optional shikara ride or country boating on the backwaters (approx. £4 per person). Other activities that can be arranged include village cycling or the opportunity to see coir-making or carpet weaving.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 12

    Board houseboat for backwater cruise.

    After breakfast and a visit to the coir museum, we board our houseboat at midday and begin our cruise along the backwaters of Kerala. The houseboat cruise is one of the highlights of the trip - these enchanting boats, built of Anjili wood and bamboo, were the traditional method of transporting goods for hundreds of years. Now they have been decorated and made into comfortable 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 different perspective on village life. The cruise takes us along shallow, palm-fringed canals where coconut fibre, copia (coconut meat) and cashews are loaded on to dugouts. In the evening the boat is anchored by a bank and we can watch the sunset over the rice paddies. All the houseboats are comfortably equipped and have 2-5 twin bedded rooms with a bathroom. There is a cook, 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 vessels.
    Houseboat

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 13

    Leave houseboat and drive to Kovalam.

    After breakfast we leave our houseboat in Alleppey and start the drive along the scenic Malabar coast to the beachside town of Kovalam (approx. 4/5 hrs), passing through Quilon for a tea break en route. Once a relaxing hideaway on the old hippie trail, Kovalam has now been discovered, but the influx of tourism has not diminished this beautiful setting.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 14

    Free time for relaxing on the beach or optional trip to Kanyakumari

    A free day to unwind on the idyllic soft sandy beach, or visit the many shops for some last minute souvenirs. This is a great chance to enjoy the fresh seafood in the many small beach restaurants. Try some of the Tandoori dishes - the clay ovens give a more authentic taste to bread and curries. 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.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 15

    End Kovalam.

    Those on the flight inclusive package wil 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, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

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 3 dinners included.

Dinner is included at the homestay, and we also include a dinner and cooking demonstration with a local family in Periyar. 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, but it is still possible to buy alcohol in government shops. Mineral water is available in the bus in 20ltr containers so please bring a bottle with you to refill. Please note that service in restaurants can be quite slow.  

Weather

The most important feature of the Indian climate is the 'wet season' or monsoon. The main monsoon strikes the coast of Kerala in late May and sweeps its way northward over the next month or so. The ideal time to visit is during the dry season from October to March. Days will be hot and the nights warm, the average range of maximum daytime temperatures being between 21ºC - 30ºC and from 6ºC - 20ºC at night. However, in the hills temperatures can be considerably cooler and you can expect temperatures to drop to a few degrees above zero at night. We ask you to note that frequent rainstorms can be expected throughout the tour on November departures. However, the storms are usually of quite short duration and the sun normally comes out fairly quickly afterwards. 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 and active itinerary with lots to see. Driving time is kept to a minimum and is not normally longer than 4-5 hours except on Day 5 (Day 6 ex-London) when the drive can take up to 7 hours. You should also be prepared for some early starts. The roads are generally pretty good, but traffic and/or road damage can sometimes slow us down.

The moderate trek in Munnar requires a good level of fitness, as the trail can be steep in places. Walking shoes with a good grip are essential for this trek and you may also wish to bring walking poles or get hold of a stick locally if you have problems with your knees. Approximate walking time is 4 hrs.

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. 

Diwali Festival

Some departures will be in India during Diwali, the festival of lights. This is a great festival to witness and some very minor itinerary alterations may be made locally in order to make the most of this occasion. During Diwali, people typically light up their houses, shops and streets, and celebrate on the streets with fireworks.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 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, Homestay & Houseboat

You will spend 11 nights in a mixture of standard and comfortable hotels, 1 night in a homestay and 1 night on a traditional Keralan houseboat. Our homestay is a cosy eco-friendly mansion built 50 years ago, surrounded by tall rubber trees and tropical fruit trees. Houseboats are comfortable and all cabins have ensuite facilities. The houseboat also benefits from a deck & dining area. The number of rooms per boat will vary depending on group size and availability. 

Please note that single rooms are very limited at the homestay and cannot be guaranteed. 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 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.

Experts

Contact a member of staff who has done this trip

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 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

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 April 2018
    Jackey Phillips

    A wonderful trip - Highly recommended

    An action packed two weeks in an India I was not expecting. Kerala is a beautiful state (apart from the rubbish everywhere) and seems a more affluent part of India. We were not hassled for money all the time and the local people were all really friendly. We filled every day with new experiences, from going to the laundry in Cochin, to stopping on the road to meet locals making bricks with their hands and feet, then watching the tea pickers working in the hot sun for very little money. Once you get used to the traffic, the cities were fascinating and there was so much to see. The Bollywood film we saw was dreadful, but a great experience. Had to be done. Most of the hotels were of a good standard but the rooms at Kovalan, described as a Comfort Hotel, which I thought was supposed to be better than Standard, were very tired and most of the electric sockets didn't work. I was disappointed that due to a forest fire, we were unable to do the morning jungle walk and the only option was a packed boat trip along the river, where we did see wildlife, but mostly at a distance. The food was very good on the whole trip, and so cheap! I was not aware of anyone being unwell.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The houseboat was wonderful, made better by buying freshwater prawns from the local fish market. The best meal of the whole trip and our boat was the only one which had them. The early morning walk in Madurai was great, seeing the wholesale traders selling their wares. It seemed like no other tourists went there, so it was more special. I loved the Muhamma Backwater Resort we stayed at, but I had the best room, overlooking the lake. It was such a peaceful, beautiful place to stay. I could have stayed there longer. I was lucky to travel with such a fun group. Even though we were of different ages, we shared a sense of humour and adventure and they made the 2 weeks very special

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Sibil was an excellent local leader. He filled our days with sights and activities and had a lot of local knowledge. He was not always easy to understand and sometimes he did not understand us, but with a little patience everything worked out OK and he made sure we were all where we were supposed to be. He was very helpful and always cheerful. Even when we arranged our own activities and he had time off, he always was at hand to assist if we needed transport or anything else.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't take too many clothes, you can buy very cheap cotton items everywhere, which are ideal in the tropical heat. I took my walking poles for the morning trek amongst the tea plantations, but it was very easy and more of a stroll than a trek and I didn't need them. Take European plug adaptors, they are most commonly used. The Martial Arts display at Thekkady is recommended, but if you book for the Kathakali dance display, don't expect Bangra music and dancing girls! You have been warned! Only one room had a hairdryer, but they were available on request. Be prepared for long drives, travel always took longer than anticipated. Though the bus was comfortable and air conditioned. Take snacks. At the Homestay, take care in the bathroom as the floor is very slippery and one of our group fell and broke her arm. I was advised by people at home to only eat vegetables during the trip, but I did eat fish and chicken with no problems. You can ask for food less spicy, so the heat was never a problem.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I would highly recommend this trip
  • Reviewed April 2018
    Moira Cerny

    The Tropical South

    The trip's title really sums up our impression of Kerala. The vegetation is lush and every tree or plant seems to bear medicinal and /or edible spices,delicious fruit or vegetables. It was a very varied trip - some long journeys, but to see as much as we did, they were necessary and our bus was air conditioned and very comfortable. Our walk through the tea plantations was most enjoyable . I think we will appreciate a cup of tea even more, having seen the pluckers at work. The drive over the mountains to Tamil Nadu was spectacular. Relaxing on our houseboat as we floated past villages was a very pleasant experience. We didn't see tigers or elephants, but still enjoyed our boat trip in the Nature Reserve, although we were slightly surprised by the numbers of humans we saw! Our group was interesting and fun to be with. and we never felt like we were merely following a disinterested guide. Sibil did his best to answer our many questions and every venue had a local guide.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Too many to single out one in particular. We found the people of Kerala very friendly and genuinely welcoming. If I had to then... the spice garden walk, the tea plantations and the houseboat would be my favourite experiences. However, I also really enjoyed our last day relaxing by the sea, the trip over the mountains and the early morning walk through the market.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Sibil was anxious to help and tried his best to answer all our questions. He was sometimes a little difficult to understand, but he is able to speak four languages well, so who am I to criticise? He had a couple of tricky situations to deal with and could perhaps have benefitted from some a more supportive back-up in India able to make their own decisions. However one of our group fell and broke her wrist and he dealt with that superbly.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It was 'unseasonably hot' and humid we were told. I wished I had packed a long skirt ,as I think that might have been cooler than trousers at times. However the bus is air conditioned, as were all the hotels, except for the homestead, so it was all quite manageable. Be prepared for long journeys. Kerala is not the trip for you if you want to see ancient forts and palaces, but it is if you enjoy Nature, spectacular scenery, delicious food and relaxing on a houseboat, watching the world go by.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was our second trip to India with Exodus. On both occasions we have travelled with a friendly, interesting and fun group. No-one was ill or eaten alive by mosquitoes. Go with an open mind and you will love it.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    Helen Burrell

    Tropical South - An Adventure

    Our visit to Kerala and Tamil Nadu was a busy and enjoyable experience. There are several long journeys, but our bus was very comfortable (there were only 9 of us so we could spread out!) and there was so much to see on the way, the colourful towns, the traffic! the busyness of India. Cochin was a lovely start ; we arrived a day early. A tuk tuk driver gave us a grand tour of 2 hours for 100 rupees! The drive to Munnar was lovely through the mountains, but to describe Munnar as a beautiful hill station is stretching it - we thought it a most unattractive town. However the trek through the tea plantations and hills was wonderful. It is quite a strenuous climb and good grip shoes are essential. The picnic at the top was memorable. The rest of the trip unfolded with some visits not on the itinerary, a visit to a family brick making enterprise, heavy work in incredible heat, a school, a lovely temple on the roadside.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The trek in Munnar The early morning walk around the markets in Madurai. It's early, but don't miss this! The early morning jungle walk in Periyar. Some climbing to spot a wild elephant! The homestay with lovely home cooked food. The houseboat, peaceful, so much bird life to see, people living on the banks, fishing, washing clothes and themselves in the river. Boats carrying various cargoes, fruit, shopping, canoe ferries transporting families and schoolchildren across the river, even small boats carrying bricks and stones. Kovalam, much nicer than we expected, lovely shops, good beach, friendly people.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Manoj was an extremely efficient, informative and friendly guide. He set high standards everywhere we went, hotels, restaurants and trips. He advised us on menu choices so that we had a full appreciation of local food. No matter how early we got up, he was there! He gave us an insight into Indian culture that no guidebook can give. We were very impressed.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Southern India is hot and extremely humid in the evenings. Don't forget sunscreen and a hat. The sun is very strong and sunburn can happen in minutes. Mosquitos are pretty well everywhere so spray well! I got a more natural spray in our health food shop called Incognito. It worked just as well. Bring tissues everywhere, there's never any loo paper on coffee/lunch stops! And hand gel, often no soap . The masala chai is lovely, I had it at every stop.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The Indian people are very friendly, and if you engage with people, you get a lot back. I could never remember the Indian phases we'd been told, so a Good Morning will always be returned. We were frequently asked where we were from (Ireland) and a conversation often followed. In cases where I asked if I could take a photo, it was always agreed, and I'd usually show them the photo I had taken. The friendliness of the Indian people was one of the highlights of the trip for us. The hotels are fine, standard and comfortable (which only means as far as we could see the 2 that had a swimming pool). Every hotel had a redeeming feature. The Ayurvedic massage is lovely, I had two, and the last hotel in Kovalam was particularly good. The cost is very low.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    Elle Irvine

    School trip

    I booked this trip on the choosen dates as it was for solo travellers - hoping that it would present opportunities for meeting other individuals who would be keen to do their own thing in the evenings and on free days as opposed to being herded around in a huge group. This group consisted of approx 7 couples. Not quite the solo group I was expecting, more so as they were of retirement age and older, and being younger I struggled with the overall ' school trip ' feel of the holiday. Petty squabbles over who sat where on the bus and evening dinners arranged en- masse either at hotels with buffets or touristy restaurants just added to the disappointment. This was my first trip to India and what I saw of the region I loved - albeit I had to tune out the rest of the group and go off to do my own thing on many occasions.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Loved the tea plantation walk - although the majority of the group clearly didn't pay heed to the trip notes about it being steep in places ( this led to more moaning ) , the houseboat was better than expected and the food - when finding local small restaurants - was outstanding.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He had a difficult job on his hands I feel, managing such a large group of elderly people but did his best I suppose. He didn't make an appearance on the first evening and as such everyone pretty much left on their own til the next morning. Also we didn't get the opportunity to do the early morning village tour around Madurai as we would have had ' to get up really early ' . Really? ?! Every morning was either a 9 or 9.30 am start - rather late I felt.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Check the demographics of the group before you pay your final balance. I guess the trip being graded as -1- leisurely, should have been an indicator of the age group it would attract. Be adventurous, use the time in the evening to source lovely restaurants on line, jump in a Tuk-Tuk and have the real Indian dining experience. Bring headphones for the long journeys.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This wasn't my first group holiday, although the first with Exodus. They all follow the same format really but I felt that this trip should be marketed at the over 60's /70's with Exodus providing the average age of previous travellers on their website per trip in order to allow potential holiday makers to make an informed decision as to whether it's the right one for them.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    Susan Weaver

    Southern india

    It was a taste of the real India rather than the usual tourist holidays. We experienced seeing the day to day living which was a real eye opener. The tour through Indian countryside was scenic and interesting. Watching the women harvesting tea and seeing families washing their clothes on rocks in the river, not to mention the monkeys and fruit bats we passed on our travels. The driving in India is very unlike the UK, but when we expressed our concerns to our guide after day one, he spoke to the driver, who immediately stopped overtaking on blind bends and slowed down to drive in a way that we felt happy. ( the only problem was, other drivers then started to overtake us on blind bends!) The overnight stay on the houseboat was very relaxing, and the number of kingfishers we saw was unbelievable! The rooms on the houseboat were much bigger and luxurious than we had been expecting, and they all had large en-suite bathrooms. The main reason I have scored the trip as very good, rather than excellent, is the comfort of the tour bus. It was an old bus, with over 225,000km on the clock. The seats were not very padded or comfortable for the long journeys that we did, and the suspension was not up to scratch. I did however feel that we had a very competent driver, who completely changed his style of driving after he was aware of our concerns early on.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Getting up at 5.30 to go on a tuc tuc, then a walking tour of the market as the locals were setting up their fruit and veg stalls. The atmosphere, sights, sounds and smells were just spell binding. This was the real India, and it was a privilege to witness and experience it first hand. It’s certainly a morning that I will never forget. I think it should have been promoted more, as half our group decided not to get up early to go on it, but those who did all said they wouldnt have missed it now they knew how fantastic it was! The hike through tea plantations to the top of the mountain was also a fabulous day. The views were spectacular. The peace and tranquility at the top of the mountain, where we had our lovely picnic is also a day which I will always treasure in my memory.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader Manoj was brilliant. He is so well suited to his job. Nothing is too much trouble for him. He was very good at getting things organised. He was particularly good at organising the staff in restaurants to get our orders and bills sorted out with as much simplicity as possible. He always listened to our requests, and did his best to accommodate them. He was able to answer the many questions which we had during the tour. He has a great sense of humour, and really joins in with the group. He took a Yoga class at the home stay one morning, which was a lovely touch for the few people who participated. On the final evening of the holiday, my friend became ill with a stomach bug, which would have meant we couldn’t fly home the next morning. But Manoj saved the day! He organised a doctor to come to our room, with 2 nurses. They gave her an injection and set up 2 intravenous drips and said she would be better within 3 hours. Unbelievably, she was better, and could travel home ok. Surprisingly, the medical cost for this fantastic service, was only £50. Manoj stayed up late to make sure we were ok, and that the treatment had worked. He insisted that he wouldn’t go to bed himself until he knew my friend was feeling better. We both feel that he was extremely caring and went the extra mile over this, which just confirms how well suited he is to his role.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you’re unhappy with the driving, feeling that it’s too fast and reckless, say something to the guide early on. Our driver completely changed his style of driving from day 2 onwards. Get up early for the walking tour of the market. It will be a highlight of your holiday, but it’s not marketed or promoted as such, so half of our group missed out.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    Nigel Carrick

    The Tropical South

    A very good balanced trip with more activity in the first week and a more relaxed second week. Most of the stays are 2 nights which gives you more time to settle into a place. There are a number of opportunities to experience the frequent Festivals and religious ceremonies which are for the people and are devoid of tourists (apart from us!)

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We had an evening visit to a Hindu temple standing close to elephants robed in gold with much loud drumming and traditional horns.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Manoj our leader was passionate about his country and its traditions of being welcome to all comers. He found out about any special events happening in the next destination so he was briefed to enable us to visit everyday life in Kerala. He was well organised and speedily sorted any problems with good humour. His talks whilst travelling were very instructive if occasionally too long but reflected his love for his country.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You can travel relatively lightly as most of the hotels have good washing services. Most people thought they had brought too much luggage.
  • Reviewed January 2018
    Michael Chow

    A great tropical escape in the winter months

    This was an excellent trip but marred by the noisy festive celebration around the New Year in the beach resort of Kovolam; the noise continues into the night. The lush tropical scenery was a welcome get away from the dark December days.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Backwaters, temples in Madurai, tea plantations.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Sam was fantastic. One of the best. He was highly knowledgeable in all aspects of India and gave relevant commentaries as we journeyed. He was also patient with us on the menu selections.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The trip was rated as easy walking. I would say on two days it was moderate.
  • Reviewed January 2018
    Jagdish Jethwa

    Tropical South

    Excellent trip. It was good to get a day at the end in Kovalam. We could have done with 3 days on thew backwaters which was fantastic. Look out for the "Easy to moderate" hike in Tea plantations which is at least medium and on several sections it is a hard tough hike not suitable if you have dodgy knees or not fit. Tour leaders tend to be risk averse or for the sake of "commissions" and take people to "tourist" restaurants for meals. The best food for most of us was always in the local restaurants. Hope Exodus will stop exporting this virus of "Tipping" to India. No Indians tip bell boys to take bags up/down in lifts so why "impose" this negative practice on them? Why don't you just pay the drivers etc. better wages instead.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Home-stay, Walk and talk in the spice garden, On the houseboat

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was Good and very hard working although he felt compelled to keep giving commentary despite many people sometimes being marginally interested.
  • Reviewed January 2018
    Charlotte Bosseaux

    Mixed feelings

    Perhaps summarizing the trip as overall fair is a little on the harsh side. After all, I did see beautiful landscapes and enjoyed good times with my partner, as part of a group 14. However, I wasn't 'wowed' by India. There are too many issues of inequality, discrimination, misogyny and last but not least pollution. I enjoyed parts that were quiet in the tree plantations in Munnar, the temple at Madurai, some aspects of the walk in the jungle, and the cruise on the backwaters but these were very short moments in the midst of extreme noise and pollution, and issues of inequality, discrimination, misogyny always in the background, and on occasions, very much in the foreground. I would have preferred spending longer in the hills, on the backwaters, in the temple, etc, but as the tour is packed with things to do, there's very little time to breathe and take in properly what you are being shown. It is a shame as one of the big selling point for Keralan trips is the backwaters, for instance. But you're on the water for less than 24h, and you're not moving overnight like you would on a Nile cruise, you start at midday, moor at 5pm and leave again at 9am so cruising time is just about 7 hours. The hotels were also not very good: most were run down and in need of TLC. It's always so much nicer after an intense day out to come back to a room and feel that you can relax properly not having to worry about hygiene. I have traveled in many places in South East Asia, China, Sri Lanka, Africa and Latin America, and hotels in Kerala (and Madurai) were by far the worst I've stayed in. On the plus side, food was good, with other options than curries in most places we went to. If you love coconuts, you'll be happy as lots of curries are made with them, and you can drink coconut water from the shells almost everywhere, yummy! Overall then, this trip was a mixed bag, and I would only recommend it if you are fully aware that it won't be relaxing, and that don't have too many other destinations to compare it with.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cruising the backwaters, followed by visiting the temple at Madurai, and the tree plantations.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Sam was very professional and knowledgeable. He also had a great sense of humor.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for an assault to all your senses and to face the fact that misogyny and discrimination are everyday issues. You also know nothing know about sound pollution, air pollution and garbage/plastic pollution until you have been to India! Quite frankly I came back from the holiday more tired than I was before I left. That's mostly due to the fact that we were traveling from one place to the next every other day (with three nights in a row in a different hotel). But India generally speaking is not a relaxing place, unless you go to a beach and don't move for a few days, I guess. I have learned a lot but I wouldn't say India is a place I'll be eager to go back to.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Get ready to being challenged! Hope you will find some peace and quiet wherever you go.
  • Reviewed January 2018
    Christine Dempsey

    A Taste Of South India

    A very good & varied introduction to South India. Very different to `the triangle` around Rajasthan and West Bengal in the north of India. Kerala & Tamil Nadu are relatively wealthy compared to the north. Relatively relaxed itinerary covering about 750 miles during the 12 days (13 nights) with a couple of 5 to 6 hour (maybe longer or shorter depending on the road conditions & congestion) driving days. Lots of interesting & varied sights & experiences. Generally very well organised with optional extra activities/trips if you want.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Not one moment but many (in no particular order). The scenery in and around the tea plantations of Munnar (though I did not go on the trek) and the visit to the TATA plantation. Helping to cook our own evening meal with a local family at their home in Periyar. Visiting the Sri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai (probably the highlight of the whole trip for me). The rubber plantation homestay near Erattupetta. Early morning boat ride on Vembanad Lake at Muhamma to watch the mussel fishermen at work. The houseboat backwater cruise of course. The day trip to Kanyakumarti (southern tip of India). The late afternoon / evening walk to the Muslim quarter and fisherman quays, away from the tourist areas, of Kovalam.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader/facilitator, Sam Benjamin, was excellent. He was very knowledgeable on so many topics of Indian life and history. He was friendly, considerate and helpful (he was very helpful when a fellow passenger had a minor crisis during the trip).

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do not take the group flight; make your own way there and own way back. Arrive at Kochi at least 1 or 2 days before the tour starts and depart at least 1 or 2 days from Kovalam after tour finishes to `take-in` and have time to explore on your own or just relax. (Try and get start & finishing hotel details from Exodus in advance to save you changing hotels. Book the hotels directly and not through Exodus as they, Exodus, will add a `mark-up`.) Changing money (with a good exchange rate) and hiring a taxi at Kochi airport is cheap & easy. Although English is widely spoken, try and learn a few words of the local language, Malayalam; it may help you to engage more easily with the locals in Kerala. (I managed to pickup a few words from the local taxi & tuk-tuk drivers.) Make sure that tickets for the lake boat ride at Periyar are confirmed in advance of the day of the trip as I, with the tour leader and other members of the group had to queue for 3 hours under the hot sun for a one and a half hour boat ride. I would recommend visiting Kanyakumari (southern tip of India) by taxi. The taxi, from Kovalam, costs around IR3500 (divided by the number of passengers) for a full day (3 hours each way + 4 to 5 hours at Kanyakumari). Note that there is a `priority` queue for the island ferry (for a surcharge) if you want to visit Vivekananda Rock. It will save you a lot of queuing time if you walk directly to the gated entrance of the quay.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If it is your first time in India, have patience, be mellow and `chill`. You might encounter the odd power cut, the odd shower might not work how you wish, the Wi-Fi connection may be intermittent, restaurant service may be variable, the roads may be rough but, if you go there with a relaxed outlook, mind wide open, you will have the experience of a lifetime.

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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