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Southern Spice

5.0
11 reviews
See full itinerary

The one that journeys through Keralan backwaters and beyond, discovering elephants, temples, and a different side of India

Travel Style

In-Depth Explorer

Take your time and explore in-detail each destination on this trip. Find out more

  • Duration

    11 days

  • Places

    8 places

  • Meals

    10 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 2 Dinners

  • Transport Style

    Mini-Coach + Houseboat

  • Team

    Expert Trip Manager and Local Guides

Chennai, Pondicherry, Kumbakonam, Madurai, Periyar, Kumarakom, Kerala Backwaters, Cochin

Southern Spice

15 Inclusions

Experiences that are included with your trip

  • Sightseeing tour of Chennai with local guide
  • See Mahabalipuram Shore Temple + Krishna's Butterball
  • 'Eat my Cake' visit (coffee + cake included)
  • Visit Auroville township includes lunch at a Solar Kitchen
  • Visit Silk Weavers home and Bronze casting school
  • Visit Dharasuram Temple
  • Visit to Brihadeeswarah Temple
  • Sightseeing tour of Madurai with local guide
  • Rickshaw ride
  • Experience a night time procession at Meenakshi Temple
  • Visit a spice plantation with a local guide
  • Kalaripayattul Martial Arts performance
  • Wildlife boat Safari along the Periyar River
  • Visit to Connemara Tea factory and Plantation
  • Sightseeing tour of Cochin with local guide

4 Free Time Add-Ons

Optional experiences that you can choose from and pay for on your trip

  • Heritage Walking Tour 1550INR
  • Dress up in a Saree (ladies) or Dhotti (men) From 350 INR
  • Local family cooking demonstration and dinner 2155INR
  • Sunset Boat Cruise 850INR

Where I'll Stay?

Learn more about the accommodation available on this trip

  • 10 nights

    All accommodation is included on this trip

    9 nights in Hotel, 1 night in Special Stay - Houseboat

    10-nights: Plush hotels with twin share rooms will see our tired selves well-rested. One special night will be spent adrift in the arms of a traditional Keralan houseboat, the quintessential South Indian experience.

About this trip

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. 

Buy With Confidence

  • Only $99 deposit to book*

    For a limited time, reserve your space now with a deposit of only $99, pay the rest 45 days before departure

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Map & Itinerary

  • Start location
  • End location
  • Trip day
  • Via location
  • River route
  • Plane route

Nights spent per location

  1. 1 1 night

    Chennai

  2. 2 2 nights

    Pondicherry

  3. 1 1 night

    Kumbakonam

  4. 1 1 night

    Madurai

  5. 1 1 night

    Periyar

  6. 1 1 night

    Kumarakom

  7. 1 1 night

    Kerala Backwaters

  8. 2 2 nights

    Cochin

+-2 more

DAY 1 - Arrive Chennai

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. 

Stay

Grand Chennai by GRT Hotel (or similar)

DAY 2 - Chennai to Pondicherry

Chennai

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. 

Pondicherry

Our journey through Tamil Nadu will see us stopping at Mahabalipuram Shore Temple & the peculiar boulder of Krishna's Butterball. 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. 

Stay

The Shenbaga Hotel (or similar)

INCLUDED EXPERIENCES

  • Sightseeing tour of Chennai with local guide

  • See Mahabalipuram Shore Temple + Krishna's Butterball

DAY 3 - Pondicherry

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.

Stay

The Shenbaga Hotel (or similar)

INCLUDED EXPERIENCES

  • 'Eat my Cake' visit (coffee + cake included)

  • Visit Auroville township includes lunch at a Solar Kitchen

FREE TIME ADD-ONS

  • Heritage Walking Tour

    1550INR

DAY 4 - Pondicherry to Kumbakonam

Pondicherry

Though our affection for charming Pondy will be sky high, our great voyage must continue. Kumbakonam – we’re coming for you. 

Kumbakonam

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. 

Stay

Paradise Resort (or similar)

INCLUDED EXPERIENCES

  • Visit Silk Weavers home and Bronze casting school

  • Visit Dharasuram Temple

FREE TIME ADD-ONS

  • Dress up in a Saree (ladies) or Dhotti (men)

    From 350 INR

DAY 5 - Kumbakonam to Madurai

Kumbakonam

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. 

Madurai

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.

Stay

The Regency Madurai by GRT Hotel (or similar)

INCLUDED EXPERIENCES

  • Visit to Brihadeeswarah Temple

  • Sightseeing tour of Madurai with local guide

  • Rickshaw ride

  • Experience a night time procession at Meenakshi Temple

DAY 6 - Madurai to Periyar

Madurai

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.

Periyar

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.

Stay

Elephant Route Hotel (or similar)

INCLUDED EXPERIENCES

  • Visit a spice plantation with a local guide

  • Kalaripayattul Martial Arts performance

FREE TIME ADD-ONS

  • Local family cooking demonstration and dinner

    2155INR

DAY 7 - Periyar to Kumarakom

Periyar

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.

Kumarakom

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. 

Stay

Lakesong Resort Hotel (or similar)

INCLUDED EXPERIENCES

  • Wildlife boat Safari along the Periyar River

  • Visit to Connemara Tea factory and Plantation

DAY 8 - Kumarakom to Kerala Backwaters

Kumarakom

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.

Kerala Backwaters

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.

Stay

Houseboat Special Stay (or similar)

DAY 9 - Kerala Backwaters to Cochin

Kerala Backwaters

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.

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.

Stay

Number 18 Hotel (or similar)

INCLUDED EXPERIENCES

  • Sightseeing tour of Cochin with local guide

FREE TIME ADD-ONS

  • Sunset Boat Cruise

    850INR

DAY 10 - Cochin

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.

Stay

Number 18 Hotel (or similar)

DAY 11 - End Cochin

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. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions group

What health and hygiene protocols are in place on trip?

The health and wellbeing of everyone who travels with Contiki has been, and always will be, our top priority. That’s why we’ve rigorously evaluated our experiences, training and protocols to make sure we not only meet our travellers wellbeing expectations, but exceed them in every single way. We sought guidance from the World Health Organisation and government agencies, and, as members of the World Travel and Tourism Council, we’ve been involved in defining global protocols. Due to our diligent work during this time, we’ve been awarded the WTTC safe travels stamp - meaning we’re a business which has adopted global, standardised health and hygiene protocols. You can find details about how we’re prioritising your wellbeing when you travel with us here.

Are flights included in my trip?

International flights to/from the destination your trip starts and ends in are not included in the cost of the trip, and must be purchased separately. You can book these independently if you want to shop around for the best quote, or through your travel agent.

Any flights you take during your Contiki are included in the cost of your trip. On certain Asian trips we use planes to get you from A to B as quickly as possible, and all of this is included.

What documents do I need to travel?

Depending on your nationality, you may require visas to enter certain countries on your trip. In Asia, some visas – but not all – can be purchased at the border with US$ or local currency. You are fully responsible for obtaining all necessary visas that are required prior to the departure of your trip. Contiki is not legally permitted to knowingly allow anybody who does not have a valid visa to join a trip. Visa & other entry & exit conditions (such as currency, arrival/departure taxes, customs & quarantine regulations) do change regularly.
Your passport must have at least six months’ validity remaining when you arrive. Local immigration authorities may deny entry & deport people who do not meet this requirement, even if they intend on staying only for a short period. Important to consider:
1. Visas can take up to six weeks & a fee is normally charged.
2. Failure to obtain all necessary visas could cause you to
miss part of your trip & will result in you incurring considerable expense & inconvenience.
3. It is better to apply for all visas through your travel agent before you leave home. Be aware that some visas can be purchased & arranged on arrival.
4. It is very important that the entry & exit dates are correct on the visa. Your travel agent will contact Contiki for full details. In these cases passport photos and US$ will be required and your Trip Manager will explain the process.

What are the luggage restrictions?

On our Asia trips, you can bring one bag or suitcase of 73cm x 50cm x 25cm (29” x 20” x 10”), with a max weight of 20kg (44lbs) – 15kg in India – plus one piece of hand luggage suitable as a carry-on for flights.

What do the Contiki team do?

People are at the heart of everything we do, and our team is what makes our trips the best. Our worldwide On-Road Team, locally based staff & network of Local Guides are all extensively trained & widely travelled, & are the best in the business. But we know it’s not just about training, it’s about passion & our team have it in their blood. 
Your Trip Manager is like your walking, talking guidebook – just for you. They plan your itinerary every day, organise your food and accomodation and book your Free Time Add ons, and because they know everything about where you’re going, you will too. Local Guides provide specialist knowledge when you need it and will always help you avoid the tourist traps.

What's not included that I should budget for?

There are loads of great things to spend your money on while you’re in Asia – from a trip to an offshore island, to a special dinner or an outfit that you just can’t resist... So how much money should you bring?

Remember your trip already includes plenty of things such as breakfast every day, many meals, lots of sightseeing, guided tours & activities & much more


Before you travel, it’s a good idea to read up on and get an idea of the Free Time Add-Ons you think you’ll want to do on trip, as these will form part of your overall budget. We’d advise doing some research on your chosen destinations beforehand, looking at things like:
 
- Cost of a local lunch
 
- Cost of a local dinner
 
- Cost of a local taxi
 
- Cost of entry to a sightseeing spot
 
Remember, there’s a big budgetary difference between a country like Japan & a country like Thailand, so do your research.

Will I be able to access WiFi on my trip?

Contiki Asia is mostly hotel accommodation with great amenities like WiFi. We have also included accommodation that reflects Asian culture, too. Like a family-run Guest house in the Mekong, a traditional junk boat in Halong Bay & an authentic local guesthouse in Laos. At these Special Stays, take the time for a digital detox and soak in all of that natural beauty.

What are Contiki’s sustainability credentials?

We believe that travelling sustainably and consciously, matters. Contiki Cares is our commitment to protecting the communities we visit, the wildlife we interact with, and the planet we all share. Our founding partner, the TreadRight Foundation was established 10 years ago as a not-for-profit organisation focused on promoting sustainable tourism within The Travel Corporation’s family of brands. From the Dhonk centre in India to the COPE visitor centre in Laos, our projects in Asia are all about giving something back. Find out more at https://www.contiki.com/uk/en/about/contiki-cares.

How do I pay for my Free Time Add Ons?

Free Time Add Ons in Asia are paid for in cash with local currency and USD only. Payments with other currencies (eg. AUD) or credit card cannot be accepted.

How do I redeem the % off deal?

Our great deals and offers are only in market for a limited time are subject to pay in full deadlines. If you cannot pay in full by the specified date shown alongside the offer/deal you can still  lock in the trip date of your choice at our Standard Price where normal payment terms of pay in full 45 days prior to your trip departing apply.  Visit the deals page for the full terms & conditions. Discounts apply to the land portion of your trip price only (this excludes taxes, included flight costs, extra accommodation & optional activities. Your trip price does not include the costs of international flights that start or end your trip).