Southern Spice

Take a sojourn to where the spices grow and the palm trees slope, under the beam of India’s southern sun. We’ll prance the streets of the delightfully French Pondicherry, and drift in a bamboo houseboat through the backwaters of Kerala. Temples, tea plantations and a tiger reserve – the phrase “Incredible India” must have been coined in the south.

  • Duration: 11 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure: Yes
  • For lovers of:
  • Physical rating: Easy
  • Accommodation standard:   Budget%
  • Traveller Tour Rating: 0%  
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Supplier Tour ID: INSO/203858
  • Starts: Chennai, India
  • Finishes: Cochin, India
You will Visit
  • Chennai
  • Pondicherry
  • Kumbakonam
  • Madurai
  • Periyar
  • Kumarakom
  • Kerala Backwaters
  • Cochin



Day 1: Arrive Chennai

Welcome people of pilgrimage! A hub of South Indian arts & traditions, Chennai will play the perfect host to our trip’s introduction. Unite with the team for a 6pm pow wow before having a free evening to unwind in our hotel or take to the streets to suss out this city.


Day 2: Chennai to Pondicherry

This morning we’ll peel back the layers of Chennai, seeing Kapaleeswarar Temple and St Thomas’s Church, driving along Marina Beach & walking through the markets by the Chennai Fort. Now starting to feel acclimatised to life in India, we kick on to our second destination. Our journey through Tamil Nadu will see us stopping at Mahabalipuram Shore Temple & the peculiar boulder of Krishna's Butter-ball. Arriving in ‘Pondy’ we’ll find a delicious fusion of French beauty & Indian soul, and have a free evening to enjoy it how we see fit.


Day 3: Pondicherry

Today you can jump onto an optional Heritage Walking Tour to go deep into Pondicherry’s unique history. You can then devour cake and coffee at ‘Eat My Cake’, a café run by local widows, and visit the progressive experimental township of Auroville. A vegetarian lunch in a solar powered kitchen will warm us up for some zen vibes by the breathtaking gold dome of Matrimandir.


Day 4: Pondicherry to Kumbakonam

Though our affection for charming Pondy will be sky high, our great voyage must continue. Kumbakonam – we’re coming for you. Arriving in Kumbakonam in the bounds of two rivers, we’ll begin uncovering South India’s artisans by visiting a bronze casting & silk weaver’s home. By night you can dress to the inspiration of our Dharasuram temple visit, wearing a Saree or Dhotti to our included dinner.


Day 5: Kumbakonam to Madurai via Tanjore

Devour a hearty breakfast and throw your worldly possessions back in your bag. A city of mesmerising history is waiting for us, and there’s a locally guided trip to Brihadeeswarah Temple in Tanjore en route. One of the oldest cities in India, Madurai is the pride & soul of Tamil Nadu. Here we’ll see a palace of great pillars, ride a rickshaw, & witness an evening procession at the awe-inspiring Meenakshi Amman Hindu Temple.


Day 6: Madurai to Periyar

Another state hop awaits us this morning, as we journey out of Madurai to Kerala, the West coast state that sways by the Arabian Sea. After our cross of the state of Tamil Nadu we’ll arrive in Kerala, ‘the land of coconuts’. We’ll pull up by the elephant & tiger reserve of Periyar National Park where we can explore a spice plantation & watch an ancient style of Martial Arts called KalaripayattuI.


Day 7: Periyar to Kumarakom

After a wildlife boat safari along the Periyar River, we’ll take a leisurely journey to our next destination. En route we’ll frolic through a tea factory & plantation, enjoying one of Kerala’s proudest exports. Dreamy sighs all round as we arrive in the lake region of Kumarakom. We’ll have a free evening here amidst the fresh country air, trying to contain our excitement for tomorrow’s water adventure.


Day 8: Kumarakom to Kerala Backwaters

Waving goodbye to the agricultural lands of Kumarakom, we’ll trade one quaint setting for another. A day of boating on the beautiful backwaters are waiting on the other side of this bus ride. Arriving in the tranquil backwaters of Kerala, we’ll board a traditional houseboat made of wood, bamboo & palm leaves. Drifting past slow grazing cows, we’ll see Kingfishers darting through the forests & season our sightings with many spicy fish curries.


Day 9: Kerala Backwaters to Cochin

Shed a few tears & snap your last “local climbing coconut tree” pics. Our boat will be sailing back to the shores so we can poke our way through Cochin. Back on solid ground we’ll soon find ourselves amidst the bustling spice markets and fort lands of Cochin. Here we can eat keralan delicacies, marvel at palaces, and watch the golden sun drop behind the Chinese fishing nets known as Cheena vala.


Day 10: Cochin

It’s our final full day on tour. Wander through saree filled markets, marvel at monuments, eat your body weight in street food, or simply sit in a bookstore or café and watch the chaos and charm of Indian life passing by.


Day 11: End Cochin

Our time on tour will end in the Southern spice lands of Cochin. Having bonded deeply in these spiritual lands, we’ll say heartfelt goodbyes before going our separate ways.

    • 10 Nights: Twin Share Hotels and 1x special stay on a houseboat - Kerala Backwaters
    • Experienced Contiki Trip Manager & Local English-speaking Guides
    • 15 Meals: 10 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches & 2 Dinners
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