LOW DEPOSITS - JUST £49 PER PERSON!
India's far south
OFFER ENDS 31st JULY*
Explore languid, verdant Kerala, temple-dotted Tamil Nadu, the historic hill stations of the rolling Western Ghats and the dusty Mysore Plateau. This extraordinary corner of the world, which its inhabitants call 'God's Own Country', is an idyllic, tropical land of ancient trading ports, traditional 'houseboats', and forested uplands dotted with churches, temples and tea and spice plantations.
Fly overnight to Bangalore.
Upon arrival, meet your Tour Manager and transfer to your welcoming hotel in the thriving city of Bangalore, with its modern developments surrounding its colonial remnants and the parks and green spaces of the former 'Garden City'. Enjoy the chance to rest and relax, and a first dinner at the hotel.
After an early breakfast, enjoy a sightseeing tour of Bangalore. Highlights will include vast Vidhana Soudha state 'capitol' - India's largest civic building - the 16th-century Bull Temple, with its massive, granite Nandi bull, and the Summer Palace of British military adversary Tipu Sultan. You'll then journey across the plain to historic, charming Mysore, pausing en route to take in the island of Srirangapatna, the one-time fortified stronghold of 'Tiger of Mysore' Tipu Sultan, who was finally defeated by the future Duke of Wellington here, in 1799, paving the way for British rule. An important Hindu temple draws pilgrims from across the sub-continent. Enjoy a first evening in Mysore.
This morning's tour first makes the short journey to the Chamundi Hills, topped by its ornate temple, before returning to take in Mysore's spectacular, domed, Maharaja's Palace, with its fusion of architectural styles and striking interior, crowned by a magnificent royal wedding hall, and the Jaganmohan Palace, with its collection of Indian paintings and carvings. Visit the Railway Museum then, this afternoon, re-board the coach for the short journey to Somnathpur, where the Keshava Vishnu temple is one of the finest examples of the intricate style of the region's 13th-century Hoysala rulers. Return to Mysore to enjoy the extraordinary sight of the illuminated Maharaja's Palace - a tour highlight.
Board the coach for the memorably scenic journey into the foothills of the Western Ghat mountains. En route, travel past the forests of the Bandipur National Park and by afternoon you will arrive in famed 'Queen of Hill Stations' 'Ooty' (a shortened version of its less pronounceable name Udhagamandalam), with its Kew-inspired Botanical Gardens, its Gothic St Stephen's Church and crumbling colonial splendour. Enjoy the evening in these idyllic surroundings.
Another memorable day awaits you, as early this morning you board the historic, narrow gauge Nilgiri Blue Mountain Railway. Journey by diesel-drawn 'Toy Train' down through the spectacular hills, first to plantation town Coonoor, where you'll break for lunch, tour a tea-factory, enjoy a tasting and meet with friendly locals involved with the mountain railway, before an onward, steamhauled journey brings you to the bottom station at Metupallyam, from where a coach will bring you to your overnight hotel in nearby Coimbatore.
After a leisurely morning, perhaps enjoying the facilities of the hotel, transfer to Coimbatore Station to board the early afternoon Ernakulam Express, which will speed you in air-conditioned comfort into Kerala, and a two-night stay in Kochi, the ancient trading seaport of Cochin. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel, where dinner will be served this evening.
Today, you'll enjoy an included guided tour of historic Cochin, including 'Dutch' Mattancherry Palace with its exquisite murals, the ancient Jewish synagogue and enchanting Fort Cochin, where the famous Chinese fishing nets are one of India's most photographed sights. Historic St Francis Church overlooks a village green, straight from a genteel English scene. This evening, experience a traditional Kathakali dance performance, a colourful spectacle combining elaborate costumes with literature, music, painting and dance.
Travel the short distance to Alleppey to board a traditional, thatch-roofed 'Kettuvallam' houseboat to lazily cruise the labyrinth of canals and waterways, lined with coconut groves, rice fields and dotted with temples, and where tiny islands offer a subsistence to fishermen, buffalo farmers, coconut growers and coir - the fibre taken from coconut husks and used in rope and matting - processors.
This evening, experience a cooking demonstration by the houseboat chef, and enjoy a guided walk through a traditional Keralan village.
Bidding farewell to your floating home, you'll begin your journey up into a lush, rolling landscape dotted with tea- and spice-plantations, to Periyar and its famed Wildlife Sanctuary, for a two-night stay. After check-in at the hotel, join the guide to explore the Spice Plantation, to learn about the mystery and history of Indian tea and spices, which are grown in abundance on the slopes of the sanctuary.
Enjoy dinner at the hotel at the end of a fascinating day.
This morning, rest and relax, or join the optional guided excursion into the Wildlife Sanctuary, home to several species of endangered mammals and to over 250 bird species.
This afternoon, complete your visit to enchanting Periyar with a boat ride on serene Periyar Lake. Sightings of elephants and colourful birds are guaranteed, but only the fortunate few will glimpse the elusive tigers and leopards. Spend the evening at leisure.
Journey east into Tamil Nadu, heading down to the southern plains to spend the next two nights in Madurai, one of Asia's oldest cities, set on the banks of the River Vaigai and famed for its extraordinary temples. Soak up the atmosphere of this unforgettable metropolis, dominated by the vast, colourful Meenakshi temple.
A guided sightseeing tour introduces the Old City, where the ornately carved facade, colonnades, shrines and quartet of towering gopurams of the temple are the breathtaking highlight. Marvel at the continual ceremonies and devotions, take in the bustle of the temple markets and stroll the labyrinth of corridors and walkways. This evening, journey by cycle-rickshaw from the hotel to discover the city's narrow, bustling streets and colourful market.
A scenic journey through a landscape of rice-paddies and irrigated fields leads to Pondicherry, a decidedly Gallic-influenced town that boasts an authentic Hotel de Ville, where French is still widely spoken and the 'gendarmes' patrolling the beachfront promenade still wear kepi berets. Enjoy an overnight stay in a place that formed a backdrop to Yann Martel's seminal novel Life of Pi.
This morning, pay a visit to the Pondicherry Museum, with its outstanding collection, and take in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, which draws its members from across the globe. Re-boarding the coach, journey north to elegant coastal resort Mahabalipuram for a last two-night stay. Enjoy a relaxed evening in the hotel, and perhaps take a stroll on the nearby beach.
A morning sightseeing tour of this once thriving trading port and stone-carving centre includes a visit to the extraordinary, 8th-century Shore Temple, one of India's most photographed, with its much eroded, Pallava dynasty-era towers, to the monoliths of the Pancha Pandava rathas, or sacred sculptures, and to the vast cave-cut Krishna Mandapam temple. This afternoon, rest and relax on the beach for a last few hours, before enjoying a Farewell Dinner at the hotel.
Bid farewell to your hosts and transfer to Chennai, where you'll enjoy a guided tour of the former Madras, India's fourth-largest city, where 'Clive of India' once worked for the East India Company as a humble clerk at historic Fort St George. Highlights include the Fort Museum, home to relics from the Raj, Marina Beach, the world's longest urban stretch of sand, San Thome Cathedral, the famous Chepauk Cricket Stadium and St Mary's Church - the 'Westminster Abbey' of Asia. After the tour, transfer to the airport for the return overnight flight.
Arrive back in the UK, at the end of a colourful, enthralling journey.
British citizens require machine-readable passports when travelling overseas. Your passport must contain two blank pages and be valid for 180 days after your return date from India. A visa is also required for entry to India. Full details of how and when to apply will be sent out about eight weeks before departure. British CITIZENS and some other European nationals satisfying certain conditions may use the online e-Tourist Visa application process at a cost of $75 (US) per person. Other British passport holders, who are not British CITIZENS, must apply for a full visa which costs £112. You may also, at extra cost, use the services of CIBT, our recommended visa handling partner, who will handle the whole process for you. Note that all travellers of Pakistani descent, regardless of citizenship, will generally be subject to more detailed processing by the Indian authorities, which can take up to four months from application.
Passports and visas
The transfer time from the airport to your hotel is approximately one hour.
Hotel transfer times
You are permitted to take one suitcase per person on the aircraft, which should not exceed 23kg.
If you have notified us of any special requirements, please check that they have been noted and acknowledged. This is especially important with any dietary needs you may have.
The majority of our tours involve a certain amount of walking, including a short walk from the coach stop to the town, attraction or venue you're visiting. If you are bringing a wheelchair, please let us know at the time of booking so that appropriate arrangements can be made.
Occasionally, for operational reasons, we may have to change the order of the excursions on your holiday. The final day-by-day itinerary will be confirmed on your Final Travel Documents, which you will receive approximately three weeks prior to your departure.
Should circumstances require, we reserve the right to accommodate you in alternative hotels, of a similar standard, nearby. Full details of your hotels will be sent with your Final Travel Documents.
Changes to your hotels
*Low deposit of £49 per person applies to new bookings made between 21st June and 31st July 2017 (inclusive) only. This offer only applies to selected air-inclusive holidays. This offer is subject to availability and may be withdrawn at any time.