Local South India Experts
The trip.me way of travel
Travelers invariably come back from India exhausted, but with stories to tell and an insatiable desire to return.
So just what is it about India that captivates people so much? Firstly, India is one of our planet's most diverse countries. It's home to a baffling array of languages, religions, cultures and foods, as well as beguiling landscapes. Secondly there's the sheer madness of the place. Millions of people line the streets in the cities in an array of colorful garments, while scooters whiz by and cars pile up in the roads. It's hectic - a touch overwhelming, at times - but this chaos creates a unique energy that's difficult to sum up. And that's the third thing that makes India so loveable: it's unique. There's no place in the world quite like India, and those that try to do it justice more often than not find themselves clutching for adjectives that, unfortunately, our language just isn't rich enough to offer.
A trip to India is a journey in self-discovery. It will challenge you, but you'll come out stronger, wiser and refreshed. We've put together an India itinerary for the Southern parts of the country, which are less-explored but equally fascinating.
Day 1, Arrive in Channai
The first day of any trip should really be spent recovering and resting for the upcoming days. In India, this is truer than ever. Get to your hotel, maybe explore the city just a little, but get your energy levels back up so you're prepared for the upcoming adventure.
Day 2, Exploring the 'City of Gold'
I said India was a melting pot of cultures and religions, didn't I? It's your first proper day in India and the melting pot is pretty much going to be obvious to you straight away. In Chennai I'd recommend that you visit the Cathedral of San Thome and Fort George. The Cathedral of San Thome is the resting place of St. Thomas the Apostle (the guy that brought Christianity to India), while Fort George is where the history of Chennai was written.
You can manage this in the morning and then in the afternoon head to Kanchipuram - the home of the South Indian silk saris. Once you've seen how the saris are made and spoken to the maestros that are responsible for their creation there should be time for a little beach visit, where the holiday part of your trip to India can really begin. Mahabalipuram is your next stop, where the most stressed you'll be is when you're trying to say the name of the town.
Day 3, Cave Temples in Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram isn't just about beaches. In fact, the area's most appealing aspect are the stunning works of architecture on offer - ancient works of art that have fascinating stories behind them. Don't miss Arjuna's Penance, Mahishasurmardini Cave Temple, Adhivarha Cave Temple, Tiger's Cave, Pancha Ratha or the Shore Temple (the latter being perhaps the most impressive thanks to its carvings).
Visiting these sights should pretty much take all day, so spend the rest of your time relaxing and eating some delicious Indian cuisine.
Day 4, Wah Lah, You're in France!
Seen Life of Pi? If not, don't worry, because you're about to live Life of Pie (well, except for the whole having a tiger as a buddy thing). From Mahabalipuram head to Pondicherry, a French-influenced town on India's coast. Be sure to visit Auroville, a bohemian, experimental town full of artists, architects, dancers, painters and spiritual healers. This township was founded in 1968 and is intended to be a "universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony [...] The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity." Lofty ambitions, no doubt.
After this, take the evening to explore the French Quarters of Pondicherry.
From Pondicherry head to Thanjavur, known as the "Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu". This, as you may have guessed, isn't for the bowl shape of the place but rather the amount of rice produced in the region. Be sure to visit the Brihadeeshwara temple. This UNESCO World Heritage site is made out of 130,000 tons of granite and is a great example of Dravidian architecture.
Day 6, Food time
No doubt you've read all about India's spice route. No doubt you've heard all about Indian food. No doubt you've decided to go to India to get your hands dirty and fill yourself with some of the most delicious cuisine in the world.
Today is the day all your curry-based dreams come true.
Head to Karaikudi, the home of Chettinad cuisine. Take the opportunity to visit the Chettinadu mansions before spending the evening in a cookery class with local chefs. In the evening, stuff yourself with as much food as you can take. A simple plan for a day, but one that truly captures one aspect of India's appeal.
Days 7 & 8, Temples
Wake up, travel. Get yourself to Madurai to see the fascinating temples in the city. These colorful temples are full of tales from Hindu mythology and a guide is absolutely essential in order to understand exactly what's going on in the intricate carvings.
Be sure to visit the Meenakshi Temple and the Tirumal Nayak Palace - both fascinating enough to warrant a good few hours of study.
Days 9 & 10, Spice Plantations and Wildlife
Wake up early and head to Periyar, which is the heartland of Indian spices. Needless to say, the area is very fragrant, filled as it is with plantations for cardamom, pepper, vanilla, nutmeg and much more. It's also an incredibly beautiful place, so a walking tour is highly recommended to try and take advantage of all the fantastic photo opportunities.
Living in the region (and just waiting to be spotted by budding wildlife enthusiasts) are also waterfowl, cuckoos, owls, egrets, herons, moorhens, darter and the Siberian crane.
On your second day in the area grab yourself a bamboo raft and sail through the Periyar Tiger Reserve. You'll see a wealth of wildlife (including giant squirrels) and some fantastic panoramic views of the region.
Day 11, A Thoroughly Different Cruise
Not all cruises are P&O style pre-packaged tours. If you travel to Kumarakom (a picturesque drive in itself) you can take a houseboat made from twine, wicker and bamboo onto the backwaters on a journey towards Alleppey. The locals you'll see on the way still enjoy their traditional way of life as they farm, fish and more in order to feed themselves day-to-day. It's a fascinating glimpse into one of the various shades of life in India.
Day 12, Cochin
Just to really have the whole "melting pot of cultures" thing hit around your head, finish up your trip to India by visiting Cochin. Explore the Old Fort area, where Potuguese, Dutch and English cultures all come together with that inimitable dash of Indian spice.
In the evening, try to get yourself to a Kathakali dance performance before heading to a delicious restaurant (you want to enjoy something pretty special on your final day, after all).
Very good service. We had a few issues( van too small, one hotel not great). These were corrected immediately.
Fascinating culture, opulence contrasted by poverty.
WOW, what an experience! We spent a month in India with a customized personal tour organized by Himanshu. We got in touch initially through trip.me. The experience we had was outstanding! We have never been to India and initially relied completely on the travel suggestions from them. The itinerary later changed a few times because we wanted to go to some different places as well as skip some of the suggested stops. The communications with Himanshu were frequent and detailed. In fact, I have never had the experience with any company to have my emails answered frequently within 1 hour or next day at the latest.
The company provided a local very detailed itinerary including descriptions, pictures and advice. We always had a driver who picked us up in a recent Toyota SUV at the respective airports or train station, frequently waiting with flowers or other welcome gifts. Another outstanding feature was that the company provided an Indian cell phone free of charge with unlimited calls and data transfer. We, therefore, were able to call and be reached at any time. Divya, called every day to make sure that everything was OK.
The guides were always on time and very knowledgeable about the areas. One guide in Varanasi, Brij, actually lived in the middle of the main touristy area and, therefore, had intimate knowledge of small backyards, background facts and many of the street vendors.
Altogether, it was an excellent trip that we enjoyed a lot. We always felt safe (even though driving in India is mind-boggling) and were pampered in usually 4 and 5 star hotels throughout our trip.
Oh, one last thing: The trip cost only about half what a well known competitor charged even though hotels and transportation were very similar.
Himanshu was so easy to make my holiday perfect.
Amit is very professional and absolutely everything was perfectly organized! Top class! Professional guides, great driver etc. Wonderful trip.
Well organised and accommodating for delay in flight.