Homestays and Heritage Hotels of South India

South India toursThis tour focuses on quality accommodation in some of the many beautiful properties in the south; both newly constructed and restored “heritage” buildings. The locations are occasionally a little bit off the beaten track, ensuring a more tranquil environment during your holiday.

The emphasis is on allowing you to experience the legendary hospitality of the local people as well as a range of different places and atmospheres.

21 Days… Bangalore- Mysore- Wayanad- Kannur Coast- Palakkad- Cochin- Alleppey- Kanjirapally- Dindigul- Chettinad- Pondicherry- Mahabalipuram- Chennai

Day 1: Arrive Bangalore- Mysore
You’ll be met on arrival at Bangalore airport and introduced to your driver; depending on arrival time either make a short transfer to an airport hotel or depart immediately for Mysore. Overnight at Hotel Clarks Exotica or in Mysore at Gitanjali Homestay.

facade-of-palaceDay 2: Mysore
A full day for exploration of Mysore with a guide including visits to the Sultan’s Palace, Chamundi Hill temple and famous Mysore flower market. Overnight in Mysore at Gitanjali Homestay.

Day 3: Mysore- Wayanad
Today you’ll make a very picturesque drive to the Wayanad region through hills and valleys in order to reach your Homestay in time for a late lunch. Wayanad was the last region of Kerala to be opened to the outside world and as a result large tracts of virgin forest remain, along with the traditional tribal inhabitants of the district. Staying in the Wayanad district, you can enjoy the cool air and lush, verdant forests of the area. Overnight in Wayanad at Aranyakam Homestay.

tours_elephantDay 4: Wayanad
Your time in the Wayanad Hills can be as energetic or as relaxed as you wish- you may like to take a guided trek in the hills or a jeep safari further afield to one of the local Wildlife Sanctuaries. Also in Wayanad are the famous Edakkal Caves, the site of India’s most ancient Neolithic rock-carvings, believed to be up to 6000 years old. Overnight in Wayanad at Aranyakam Homestay.

Day 5: Wayanad- Thallasery- Sapphire Coast
Descend the Ghats road to the coast and head to the remote but very beautiful Sapphire Coast near Thallasery. Your accommodation here is simple but very homely and your host, Kurian, is a fount of knowledge about all things local. Spend the afternoon walking along the coast, visiting villages and local temples. Overnight at Costa Malabari.

Day 6 and 7: Sapphire Coast
This day will be relatively unstructured- you can head north half an hour to the city of Kannur- a major centre of trade for many centuries- and explore the abandoned fort and other historic buildings, or spend time around the villages on the coast. Overnight at Costa Malabari.

costa_malabari_kannanoreDay 8: Sapphire Coast- Thallasery- Palakkad
A drive of around 5 hours today to the home of the Bhagwaldas family at Tharavad where you’ll arrive in time for lunch and be able to enjoy all the comforts and hospitality of this traditional home, along with optional activities including fishing, bird-watching, cooking demonstration and classes, trekking and a bullock cart ride through the nearby countryside. Overnight at Kandath Tharavad

Day 9: Palakkad
Full day around Tharavad, Overnight at Kandath Tharavad.

Day 10: Palakkad- Cochin
Depart at your leisure for the drive to Cochin- the journey shouldn’t take more than 4 hours or so. Free time on arrival in Cochin; overnight in Fort Cochin at Old Harbour Hotel.

tours_cochinDay 11: Cochin
The history of Cochin is as fascinating as it is long and complex. A morning sightseeing tour with a knowledgeable local guide will give you some valuable insights into the colourful past of the port and city. Of the many trading and colonizing powers which have impacted on Cochin over the past five hundred or more years, you will see elements of the Arab, Chinese, Jewish, British, Dutch and Portuguese influences during your tour.

While the historic Fort Cochin and Mattancherry precincts are relatively quiet and low on vehicle traffic, the modern city of Kochi/Ernakulam across the harbour is best viewed from a distance- to this end you can enjoy a harbour cruise at sunset.Overnight in Fort Cochin at Old Harbour Hotel.

Day 12: Cochin – Alleppey
The backwaters of Kerala are a world-famous tourist destination but thankfully they justify the millions of words of gushing praise written about them. The best way to experience life on the backwaters is at a homestay-type property adjacent to one of the many rivers and canals. Drive south to Alleppey (2 hours) and transfer to your accommodation by boat. Afternoon of exploration and activities around your accommodation; by. overnight near Alleppey at Emerald Isle Heritage Villa

kerala_houseboatDay 13: Alleppey Backwaters
A full day to experience the unique lifestyle around the backwaters; you can take a canoe ride, paddle a kayak yourself, watch local fishermen at work, join a cooking class, walk or cycle along the riverbanks or just relax and enjoy the ambience of this unique region. Overnight at Emerald Isle Heritage Villa.

Day 14: Backwaters- Kanjirapally
After breakfast, transfer back from Emerald Isle by boat to the road end and meet up with your driver; depart from here for Kanjirapally, arriving for lunch. Later in the day you’ll be free to explore the Estate with Kurian and learn a little about the history of the area and the crops grown around here, including rubber and various spices. Overnight at Kalaketty Estate

cardamom-house-kamarajar-lake-&-western-ghatsDay 15: Kanjirapally- Dindigul
Morning departure from Kanjirapally, driving first to Periyar for lunch and then down to the plains of Tamil Nadu, eventually reaching Dindigul and on then the village of Athoor and Cardamom House after around 6 hours total driving time. Conceived, designed and overseen by retired English physician Chris Lucas, Cardamom House is a wonderful place- one of our favourites in all of India.

Chris and his team (all of them from nearby towns and villages) will make your stay here as relaxing or as invigorating as you wish. There are walks in the valley ranging from a few minutes to a full day, birdwatchers will revel in the wealth of avian life which flocks to the nearby lake, and there are genuinely interactive visits to the village of Athol just down the road as well. But Cardamom House also has a way of turning into a rejuvenation stop part way through your trip- the perfect place to relax and unwind. Overnight at Cardamom House.

Day 16: Cardamom House
Staying too long at Cardamom House could be a problem- after more than a couple of nights you may never want to leave!; overnights at Cardamom House- Standard Room.

Chettinad MansionDay 17: Chettinad
It’s not easy to top Cardamom House, but the next stop on your journey will be a pretty good alternative- the small region of Chettinad in central Tamil Nadu, reached after about 3 hours drive this morning.

The people of this area are the Chettiars, a banking and merchant sub-caste who, over several centuries, made their fortunes trading with empires to the east and west and used the proceeds to build some of the most colossal and impressive homes in southern India.

The intermingling of influences is dizzying- Burmese teak, Italian marble, British steel and a myriad of architectural styles are used and blended in these vast mansions (some of which are over 40,000 sq ft) and you will not only get the chance to explore some of these buildings, but to stay in one too.

This is a superb place to explore a large village at a relaxed pace. En route between Cardamom House and Chettinad, stop in at Madurai and tour the vast Sri Meenakshi temple here. Overnight in Kannudakathan at Chettinadu Mansion.

Day 18: Kannudakathan
The Chettinad region is best explored slowly- this reflects the pace of life here too. The district headquarters of Karaikudi is a bigger town than Kannudakathan but still lends itself to exploration on foot. Nearby places of interest include hand-painted tile factories (a local specialty), small village temples and the ‘granddaddy’ of all the Chettiar homes- Chettinad Palace. You will also be able to experience a bullock cart ride and perhaps have your fortune told by the rather unusual practice of parrot astrology while you are here. Overnight in Kannudakathan at Chettinadu Mansion.

Day 19: Kannudakathan- Pondicherry
Full day’s journey through the temple heartland and rich agricultural plains of the Cauvery Delta; stop in at Trichy en route for lunch, and continue on to reach Pondicherry by late afternoon. This unique city was the stronghold of the French in south India for several centuries and retains an obvious Gallic feel to this day.

Pondicherry_streetDay 20: Pondicherry
The emphasis in Pondicherry is on history, culture and some of the best coffee in India. If shopping is a priority then Pondicherry is the place to pick up designer items from some very stylish boutiques. A self-guided walking tour of the French Quarter can easily consume half the day. Interestingly the French when they ruled here implemented a Spanish-style afternoon siesta, a habit which the modern India inhabitants seem only to happy to continue. Overnight in Pondicherry at Villa Shanti.

Day 21: Pondicherry- Mahabalipuram- Chennai- Depart
Drive north along the coast to the small seaside town of Mahabalipuram, now a sleepy village with a fishing fleet, some stone carvers and a long strip of sandy beach. This relative lack of activity belies the fact that this was once the capital of the Pallava dynasty which ruled southern India over 1000 years ago. The lasting legacy of the Pallavas is in the form of some remarkable rock carvings, many of which have been afforded UNESCO World Heritage listing. Tour these monuments this afternoon, and then continue on to Chennai for your flight home in the evening.

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