Magnificent temple towns, charming colonial cities, palm-fringed beaches.
- Soak up the unique Gallic flavour of Pondicherry
- Witness spiritual devotion in the temple towns of Tanjore and Madurai
- Visit the Chettinad villages, renowned for their rich cultural heritage and cuisine.
- Go walking amid Munnar’s lush tea plantations
- Tuck into a seafood curry beside Cochin’s famous Chinese fishing nets
- Float down Kerala’s Backwaters on your own private rice barge
Touchdown in Tamil Nadu
After arriving in Chennai, Tamil Nadu’s capital, you’ll be met by your private driver-guide and taken south to the seaside town of Mahabalipuram. Explore its spectacular UNESCO-listed shore temples, built by the Pallava dynasty in the 8th century, then watch as the sun sinks into the Bay of Bengal.
It’s a short drive down the coast to Pondicherry, which the French ruled until 1954, where you can swap biryanis for baguettes. Stroll down Rue Surcouf or Goubert Avenue and you’ll find bougainvillea lined boulevards and colourful colonial mansions. It’s also a great place to shop for silks and handicrafts. The spiritually inclined can pay a visit to the famed Sri Aurobindo Ashram or nearby international commune of Auroville.
Head inland to Tanjore, the former capital of the Chola Empire. Here they built over 70 temples, including the finest of them all, the must-visit Brihadishvara Temple. The spectacular Airavateshvara Temple at nearby Darasuram is also well worth visiting. Built by the Cholas in the 12th century, its four-tiered temple contains fine friezes and numerous intricate stone carvings. A traditional silk weaver’s village is located nearby, where you can see old pit looms being used to weave saris while colourful threads are dyed in the streets.
Then take a break from temples with a tranquil stay in the rural Chettinad region, the ancestral home of the Tamil Nadu’s merchant and banking community. Characterised by internal courtyards, marble floors and Burmese teak, while here you can explore the 18th century mansions they left behind. You can also go antique shopping, visit local craftsmen and sample the renowned (and fiery) Chettinad cuisine.
In Madurai, Tamil Nadu’s holiest city, join the endless stream of pilgrims at the enormous Meenakshi Temple. We’ll make sure you don’t miss the lively evening procession, when the gods are carried to rest as the sound of conch shells fill the air.
High Tea & Spice
Journey into the Western Ghats mountains of neighbouring Kerala, where the tea-covered terraces and undulating hills of Munnar await. This former British hill station is ideal for walking, and we can arrange anything from short hikes to overnight treks. You’ll also have the chance to see local tea pluckers at work and, of course, sample the local brew.
Your next stop is Cochin, whose history as an important trading port on the spice route is evident in the colonial influences of its atmospheric backstreets. See Portuguese churches, Arab spice markets, English cricket pitches and the Dutch Palace on a walking tour, then visit the famed Chinese fishing nets at sunset to tuck into a fresh and fragrant seafood curry.
Lakes & Lagoons
It’s just a short drive south to Kerala’s famous Backwaters. As you float down the meandering waterways aboard a private rice barge, you’ll pass local fishermen casting their nets and see villagers doing their washing on the sleepy riverbanks. We recommend spending a few days at a riverside retreat, where you can visit local villages, indulge in ayurvedic massage or simply curl up on your terrace and enjoy India at a slower pace.