South India in Exsus Signature Style

Kerala & Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & the Andaman Islands

Duration: 16 nights

Price: From £2,900 per person in low season based on two adults travelling together and including all flights in economy class, accommodation, some meals, private transfers, experiences as stated and taxes

South India is the perfect destination for those looking to combine the buzzing urbanity and fascinating culture for which India is famous with a gloss of tropical serenity. This luxury holiday takes in the cultural hotspot of Chennai and the French colonial outpost of Pondicherry before heading through the heart of Tamil Nadu and on to Kerala, a beautiful state full of wildlife, charming coastal towns, and the famous backwaters.
Perfect forExploring the best that India’s tropical south has to offer.
In the knowAdding another night in Vembanad Lake to stay on a traditional Keralan houseboat.

Best for

  • First-timers
  • Couples
  • Cultural Immersion
  • Food & Wine

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Itinerary details


1 nightCHENNAI

Your southern Indian adventure begins in Chennai (formerly Madras), one of the cultural and economic hubs of South India. One of the four biggest cities in the country, it’s also considered India’s safest, and is home to a great many cultural and historical attractions. These include the ornate Government Museum, housing bronze sculptures dating back to the 7th century; the Kapaleeshwarar Temple, an impressive monument to the Hindu god Shiva; and Fort St George, dating back to 1683 and a relic of the influence of the East India Company on what was then called Madras. You’ll spend one night in Chennai at Leela Palace, a luxurious property overlooking the ocean.
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The next stop on your journey through South India is Pondicherry, reachable by a 3.5-hour private road transfer. Under French rule until the mid-20th century, Pondicherry still feels like a slice of the Riviera – French is even still spoken in some places. You’ll visit the French and Tamil quarters of the city on a guided heritage walk, and also head to Auroville, an experimental community founded in the late 1960s and devoted to the unity of humankind. Auroville grew out of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, also worth a visit for its unusual architecture. You’ll spend 2 nights at La Villa, a luxury hotel housed in a restored 19th-century French mansion.
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2 nightsTANJORE

The next stop on your journey is Tanjore, around 4.5 hours by private road transfer from Pondicherry. The journey will be broken up with a visit to the waterfront Chidambaram temple, which dates back over a thousand years, and Gangaikonda Cholapuram, another incredibly preserved temple and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tanjore, a renowned cultural and artistic centre, is also famous for its religious buildings. The most famous is the Brihadeeswarar Temple, one of the largest temples in India, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. You will spend 2 nights in Tanjore at Svatma, a luxurious resort famous for its food – you can learn how to cook delicious vegetarian Tamil cuisine with a cookery class.
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1 nightMADURAI

After 2 nights in Tanjore, you’ll be transferred to your next stop, Madurai – a journey of around 4 hours. A guided tour will see you taking in many of the cultural attractions of this ancient city, which dates back to at least the 3rd century BCE. These include the Meenakshi Amman Temple, a towering monument which dates back thousands of years and occupies a prominent place in Tamil mythology, said to have been built by the survivors of a submerged continent. You’ll also visit the grand Thirumalai Nayak Palace, and get a feel for everyday Madurai life at the bustling flower and vegetable markets. In the evening, you’ll enjoy the atmospheric night ceremony at the Meenakshi Temple, when the statue of Shiva is carried to be with his consort, Parvati, for the night. You will spend one night in Madurai at Heritage Madurai, a stylish hotel designed by the acclaimed Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa.
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2 nightsDINDIGUL

A 2-hour drive will take you from Madurai to Dindigul, your next stop in the foothills of the Sirumalai. During your time in Dindigul, you’ll visit a high-quality coffee plantation, stopping for a picnic en route, and meet the local people in the surrounding villages, who have a strong sense of traditional Tamil culture. You’ll also take an excursion into the Palni Hills, a lush forested region home to wild boar, Indian elephant, gaur, and many others in a protected wildlife area.
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Next up on your journey through South India is Thekkady, the gateway to the Periyar National Park. One of Kerala’s biggest tourist draws, the park is an important wildlife reserve, home to Indian elephants and Bengal tigers as well as gaur, sambar, and wild pig among many others. The park is also home to a notable population of rare white tigers. You’ll spend the night at Aanavilasam, a luxury plantation house on a working pepper and cardamom plantation; a guided walk through the estate is included in your stay. Cooking classes are also on offer at the property, while a boat cruise on Periyar Lake is a beautiful way to while away a couple of hours.
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2 nightsCOCHIN

The next stop on your journey is one of India’s most distinctive cities, Cochin, around 5 hours’ drive from Thekkady. During your stay in Cochin, you’ll embark on a guided trip to nearby Vaikom Village, where you’ll visit a traditional weaving centre, and watched skilled craftswomen weave mats and ropes from pineapple leaves and coconut husks. Taking a break to enjoy a traditional Keralan lunch, you’ll head back to Cochin for a tour of the city’s historical and cultural sites, taking in the St. Francis Church, built by the Portuguese in 1503; the huge Chinese fishing nets, which line the harbour; and the Pardesi Synagogue. Your home for 2 nights in Cochin is the Old Harbour Hotel, a beautiful design hotel a stone’s throw from the Chinese fishing nets.
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Moving on from Cochin after 2 nights, you’ll make the short 90-minute car journey to another Keralan icon, Lake Vembanad. The longest lake in India, Vembanad is famous for its beauty and as the gateway to Kerala’s serene backwaters. You’ll spend 2 nights at Vismaya, a luxurious heritage resort on the banks of Vembanad, which dates back over 400 years and has beautiful traditional wooden architecture. A traditional punt is available for a leisurely meander through Kerala’s famous canals, while Vismaya’s tropical gardens make a beautiful setting for yoga and meditation. Bicycles are also available to borrow and are a great way to explore the surrounding countryside, villages and temples at your own pace.
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3 nightsMARARI

Your South Indian adventure ends with some beachside relaxation at Vismaya’s sister property, the equally beautiful A Beach Symphony. Like Vismaya, this hotel is housed in restored traditional buildings – this time fishermen’s cottages, with direct access to the golden Marari Beach and the Arabian Sea. And, like Vismaya, relaxation is the order of the day here, and there isn’t a great deal to do besides enjoying the serenity of your environment and relaxing on the beach. There are several temples in the surrounding villages, accessible by bicycle or tuk-tuk, and Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is home to the likes of brahminy kites, herons and cormorants, among many others. Marari is only around an hour’s drive from Vembanad, meaning that the backwaters are still in easy reach if you can’t bear to say goodbye. After 3 nights’ relaxation at Marari, your South Indian adventure comes to an end, and you’ll be transferred to the airport for your onward flight.
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