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South India Revealed

16 days with Intrepid Travel   Rating: Budget

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Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices Day 1 Trivandrum
Welcome to India! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting this evening at 6 pm. Afterwards, join your local leader on an orientation walk around Trivandrum. Tonight is all about introductions, so perhaps get together with your group after the walk and have an optional dinner – your leader will be able to suggest the best neighbourhoods for a delicious local meal.

Day 2 Varkala
In the morning, head up the coast by private vehicle for around 2 hours to the town of Varkala. Once settled into your hotel, use the free time to explore the Keralan coast, which is home to some of India’s best beaches. Soaring cliffs protect Varkala’s sandy bay and, depending on the time of year, dolphins can be spotted from high up on the rocks. In the evening, maybe head into town to one of the numerous restaurants serving fresh, local seafood caught right off the coast.

Day 3 Varkala
Enjoy a free day in Varkala. This is a great place to sit back and relax, but if you want to get active there are plenty of water activities on offer, such as surfing and windsurfing. Even though this is a popular destination for Indian tourists, the beaches are quiet and pretty laidback. Today is also the perfect time to check your Lonely Planet app and see what else is popular around the area. Take the rest of the day to relax, beachside or otherwise, before the rest of South India beckons.

Day 4 Kerala Backwaters 
This morning, take a 3-hour train journey along the Keralan coastline to Alappuzha (Alleppey). Once an important trading port and now renowned for the annual Snake Boat race in August, Alappuzha is the starting point for most journeys into the backwaters. An auto rickshaw will take you from the train station to the boat boarding point. Explore the Keralan Backwaters in a pole boat before heading to an island village for an overnight homestay with a local family. Your guide will take you on a walk around the village and introduce you to the community.

Day 5 Kochi
In the morning, cross the backwaters by private boat back to Alappuzha. You’ll then take a 2-hour local bus to Kochi, arriving around midday (12 pm). Once arrived, go for a walk around the Fort Kochi area, where you’ll be staying for the next two nights. In the early evening, there’s the option to attend a classic Kathakali dance performance – a snapshot into traditional cultures of the region.

Day 6 Kochi
Today, head to the Mattancherry part of Fort Cochin to explore the old Jewish quarter, synagogue and Dutch Palace (Kochi Palace) on a guided walking tour. The tour takes around three hours, with the rest of the day free to do as you wish. Afterwards, why not join an Urban Adventure day tour, such as Aromas of Kochi, to get more of an in-depth look into this city and its cuisine. 

Day 7 Periyar 
This morning, get ready for a day of travel as you head by private vehicle to Periyar National Park (approximately 7–8 hours). After checking in to your hotel, head out on a tour of a local spice farm, sampling cardamom, pepper, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Afterwards, enjoy a relaxed evening around your accommodation, perhaps settling in for an early night.

Day 8 Periyar
After breakfast, enjoy a free day with an optional walk around Periyar National Park. Encounters with animals in the wild are never guaranteed, and this is more of a jungle walk than an animal-spotting tour, but do keep an eye out for tiger tracks, spotted deer, Indian elephants or gaur – the world's largest species of buffalo. In the afternoon, unwind with an optional ayurvedic massage or just relax in your scenic setting.

Day 9 Madurai
In the morning, take a local bus to Madurai (approximately 4–5 hours). This buzzing city is crammed full of bazaars, pilgrims and cycle rickshaws. After a walking tour to see the sights, perhaps visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple. This ancient temple is still in use and features a labyrinth of lamplit corridors leading to shrines.

Day 10 Madurai – Overnight Train
Today is a free day in Madurai. Perhaps head to the Gandhi Museum to learn about the man who fought for India’s independence or wander through the 1000 pillars of Aayiram Kaal Mandapam. This is also a great opportunity to haggle with vendors at the bazaars and the tailors' market. Keep in mind that this evening, you’ll take an overnight sleeper train to Mysore. The journey is approximately 14 hours, so you may want to bring some extra snacks.

Day 11 Mysore
On arrival, transfer to your hotel in Mysore. Mysore is an easygoing town with a pleasant climate. Go on a walk with your group, checking out the ornate Mysore Palace along the way. There’s also the option to visit the Keshava Temple in Somnathpur, which is a stunning example of Hoysala architecture. The temple is a 1-hour drive out of town.

Day 12 Mysore – Overnight Train
Today is a free day in Mysore, with plenty of optional activities to keep you busy. If you’ve seen all you need to in town, perhaps explore the countryside surrounding Mysore. Climb up Chamundi Hill to the Sri Chamundeswari Temple at the top, which is dedicated to the goddess Durga. At around 7 pm tonight, meet up with your group and board a 10-hour overnight train to Hampi.

Day 13 Hampi
In the morning, arrive in Hampi and cross the river to your guesthouse by canoe. Hampi is a temple town situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Once you’re settled in, make an optional visit to the architectural masterpiece of Vittala Temple. This 16th-century temple contains mandapas (pillared pavilions), a pool, a palace and the popular stone chariot, which according to Hindu mythology was the vehicle of the Lord Vishnu.

Day 14 Hampi - Overnight train
After breakfast, explore the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire and the huge boulders on the outskirts of town. In the early evening, drive for around 3 hours by private vehicle to Hubli, where you’ll board a 9-hour overnight train to Goa.

Day 15 Goa
Once your train arrives in Goa, head to the hotel and check in. Brimming with Portuguese influences and known for the sandy beaches lining its coast, Goa is a fascinating region in India's south-west. The day is free to do what you like. Perhaps relax on the beach, sip a cocktail at a local bar or go for a city walk. Tonight, why not get together with your travel crew for a beachside dinner – Goa is definitely cause for celebration.

Day 16 Goa
There are no activities planned for the final day and you’re able to depart the accommodation at any time. Goa is a great place to end the trip – if you can, we recommend staying on for a couple of nights to relax and explore. If you would like to spend more time in Goa, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).
Map
All This Included
Unplug from everyday routine and head to the beaches and backwaters of southern India. Explore the lush landscapes, intriguing religions, exotic bazaars and incredible contrasts of this region. Jump on and off local transport, go rural through backwater coconut groves and fishing villages, and discover the heart of the subcontinent. See ancient ruins and stunning temples, eat spicy curries and drink luscious lassis. Join the bustle of city streets and at the end of it all unwind on the beautiful beaches of Goa.
  • Meals - 3 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
  • Transport - Overnight sleeper train, Private vehicle, Public bus, Auto rickshaw, Taxi, Train, Canoe, Boat
  • Kerala Backwaters - Pole boat ride
  • Guided village walk backwaters
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi walk
  • Periyar - Spice plantation visit
  • Madurai - Walking tour
  • Mysore - City walk
Highlights
  • India can be a daunting place at times, even for experienced travellers. With a local leader to support you the whole way and take care of all the logistics, you’ll build plenty of confidence in how to find the best food, activities and fun in each destination.
  • A group size of up to 16 other travellers means you will have plenty of new friends to share experiences, meals and good times with during your trip.
  • Take the atmosphere of Shimla or Darjeeling, add lush tropical jungle and you have the Western Ghats: a hotspot of biodiversity with thundering waterfalls, tea plantations, spice markets, and echoes of a colonial past.
  • Get a taste of southern Indian cuisine, indulging in sweet chutneys, seafood curries, stuffed dosa and more. Here's a sampling of what is in store for your tastebuds: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/foodies-guide-south-india/
  • Glide through the backwaters of Kerala on a pole boat, going ashore for an village homestay - a beautiful break from hotels and overnight trains and a perfect way to get close to local customs and culture.
  • The word ‘colourful’ gets thrown around a lot when people talk about India, but the gateway towers of Meenakshi Amman Temple truly are a technicolour dream.
  • Golden beaches and age-old fishing villages make Goa one of India’s most popular retreats – and the perfect last stop on your adventure.
Accommodations
Homestay (1 night)
Hotel (11 nights)
Overnight sleeper train (3 nights)
Notes
  • Ages: Min 15
  • Group size: Min 1, Max 12
  • This is a Lonely Planet Experience powered by Intrepid, made for travellers who value their independence but also want the benefit of a local leader and a group of like-minded travellers. The itinerary has a mix of included activities and free time when your leader will offer suggestions. Please budget spending money for optional activities you want to take part in.
  • We are covering a lot of distance in a vast country, so this trip involves some very long bus and train rides. These can at times be a bit gruelling, but offer a quintessential and authentic Indian experience.
  • Sleeper trains are a great way to travel long distances while still getting maximum time in each place. Beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided (although some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Please note that you may be sharing with locals of all genders. More information can be found in the 'Transport' section of the Essential Trip Information.
  • This trip runs year-round, so it’s important to be aware of just how hot it can get in India in the summer months and choose the season that best suits you.
  • Intrepid offers many ways to see southern India. If you’d prefer a different itinerary with more inclusions, check out the Intrepid Original Southern India tour (trip code HHSS) or Comfort Classic South India tour (trip code HHKS). If you're aged 18–29 and would prefer to travel with others of the same age, check out the Real South India tour (trip code HHYH). Search the relevant trip code on the Intrepid website for more information and to book.
  • A single supplement is available on this trip.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Intrepid Travel terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.