Tour Details at a glance
14 January - 6 February 2020 12 January - 4 February 2021
24 days / 23 nights
From US$ 4390pp twin share; From US$ 5260pp including Optional Single Supplement
Minimum 4, Maximum 10
18 nights hotels; 3 nights guest house/homestay 1 night luxury houseboat 1 night overnight train
2 day trains 1 overnight train Private air-conditioned minibus Auto-rickshaws for some sightseeing
23 breakfasts 5 lunches 8 dinners
Arrival and Departure Transfers Entrances to all sights listed on the itinerary Guide fees Tips and Gratuities
South Indian Odyssey Tour
Beginning our journey in lovely Panjim, the quaint and charming capital of Goa, with its fascinating Portuguese heritage, we travel east to explore the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire in Hampi. Heading south, we spend time in Mysore the old capital of the Wodeyar Dynasty where we witness the spectacular Mysore Palace lights and the colourful Devaraja markets before heading into Kerala God's Own Country. This extraordinarily beautiful part of India offers extreme diversity. Enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful Backwaters, beaches, tea, coffee and spice plantations and wildlife reserves. Watch fishermen in Cochin pull in the Chinese Fishing nets as they have done for centuries. Experience life along the tranquil islands of the backwaters, staying on both a luxury houseboat and a homestay. Trek through a wildlife park and maybe catch a glimpse of wild elephants, deer, giant squirrels or wild boar, and if you're really lucky, a tiger. Moving on to Tamil Nadu, with its heritage of traditional Hindu culture, we visit ancient monuments and temple towns before finishing our tour in Mahabalipuram resplendent with World Heritage rock cut temples and charming beach resorts.
Experience the fantastic South India on this Small Group India Tour, fully escorted in country by a western tour leader with the service of local guides for various activities and sightseeing.
* discover the magical beauty of Goa
* wander the ruins of the once majestic Vijayanagar empire in Hampi
* smell the sandalwood in the Palace City of Mysore
* relax on a near-deserted golden tropical beach near Kannur
* help the local fisherman bring in a catch in their Chinese fishing nets in Cochin
* spend a night on a traditional houseboat in the backwaters near Alleppey
* enjoy the hospitality of a local family during a homestay in the Keralan Backwaters
* wander through verdant manicured tea plantations around Munnar
* trek through the jungle on foot in Periyar Tiger Reserve
* witness the magnificent Sri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai
* be charmed by the French colonial atmosphere of Pondicherry
* marvel at the ancient rock-cut temples of Mahabalipuram
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 Goa
Arrival Day. We have a group meeting at midday to discuss the tour before heading out for a visit to Old Goa, home to the Basilica of Bom Jesus where the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier are housed between 'viewings' that take place every 10 years.
Hotel: Panjim Inn
Day 2 Goa
A morning walking tour of Panjim, the quaint and fascinating capital of Goa, is followed by a free afternoon. Head to one of Goa's famous beaches, the Anjuna Flea Market or into the hinterland to visit temples, waterfalls or spice gardens.
Hotel: Panjim Inn
Days 3-5 Hampi
A morning train up into the Western Ghats through spectacular gorges and rainforest brings us to Hampi where we get to explore the myriad sights and temples that make up the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire's 15th century capital. On the evening of day 5, we take an overnight train to Mysore.
Hotel: Heritage Resort
Days 6-7 Mysore
A morning arrival into Mysore where we enjoy brunch at our hotel. We wander the vast halls of the splendid Mysore Palace and visit the amazing temples at Somnathpur, a short drive away through the countryside. We also visit Chaumundi temple and the colourful Devaraja Market. Don't miss the incredible evening illuminations at Mysore Palacewhich is lit up by more than 90,000 light bulbs. Mysore is famous for yoga, being the home of the Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute, so why not take a yoga class while we're here.
Hotel: Royal Orchid Metropole or similar
Days 8-9 Kannur (Cannanore)
We take a 5 hour drive west to the coast to the Keralan coast to Kannur via the coffee growing district of Coorg. After a plantation tour and lunch we proceed on our way to our small guest house near beautiful, peaceful beaches south of Kannur. During our stay here we hope to enjoy the traditional Theyyam ritual which is performed most nights of the winter season somewhere around Kannur and we will also check out Kannur Fort, the fishing village and a weaving factory.
Hotel: Costa Malabari
Days 10-12 Cochin
We take a morning train 7 hours today south to beautiful Cochin. We spend time visiting Jew Town and Mattancherry Palace, the St Francis Church and Chinese Fishing nets and soaking up the ambience in this wonderfully laid back town. Kerala is famous for Kathakali, an intricate and stylised form of dance. We watch a short performance as well as witness the intricate makeup application beforehand.
Hotel: Hotel Arches or similar
Day 13 Alleppey
A short 2 hour journey brings us to Alleppey where our traditional Kettuvallam (rice barge) houseboat awaits us. We spend the day slowly drifting past idyllic tropical rural scenes in the lush palm fringed backwaters.
Hotel: Spice Routes Houseboats
Day 14 Chennamkary
Our houseboat drops us off after breakfast at our Keralan Family Homestay. Our welcoming hosts will show us around the village which is situated on an vehicle-free island within the backwaters. We will find out all about life here in the backwaters and perhaps see some local industries such as coir-making, toddy-tapping and boat building. We have the opportunity to ride cycles to neighbouring villages, row canoes around the island or just chill in a hammock.
Hotel: Green Palm Homes
Days 15-16 Munnar
This morning we drive up the ghats through rubber, tea, coffee and pineapple plantations on a beautiful 5-6 hour journey to Munnar. On day 16 we have a half day trek around the rolling verdant hills of manicured tea plantations and estates dotted amongst picturesque hamlets. We also visit a working tea factory to see how the humble leaf is transformed into our favourite cuppa. Today is a chance to enjoy the crisp fresh air and stunning scenery surrounding some the worlds largest and highest tea estates. The hills of Munnar were featured in the recent Oscar winning movie 'Life of Pi' and you'll understand why this is a favourite filming location.
Hotel: Tea County
Days 17-18 Periyar Tiger Reserve
A spectacular 3 hour drive today through the Cardamom hills, lined with tea, cocoa, tapioca, bamboo, coconut, banana and spice plantations takes us to Thekkady, our destination for the next 2 nights. We visit a spice plantation in the afternoon followed by an early morning guided walk through the jungle on day 18 which is the best way to experience the park and hopefully see Elephants, Deer, Monkeys and more up close. A free afternoon to relax or shop or perhaps have an authentic ayurvedic massage.
Hotel: Rangerwood Nature Castle
Days 19-20 Madurai
We have a 4 hour journey this morning to Madurai. Home of the spectacular Sri Meenakshi Temple, with its sculpture festooned towers, Madurai is the quintessential Tamil Nadu temple town. There are opportunities to visit the temple at different times of the day and we also visit the Gandhi Ashram, the Thirumalai Nayyakar Palace and take a walking tour through the markets.
Hotel: Heritage Madurai
Day 21 Pondicherry
A 7 hour drive via Tiruchirappalli, another of Tamil Nadu's famous Temple towns brings us to Pondicherry on India's south east coast. A morning walking tour will help you experience the wonderful charms of this erstwhile French Colony. If shopping is your thing, you won't be disappointed by the boutiques and Auroville outlets in Pondicherry town.
Days 22-23 Mahabalipuram
It's a short 2 hour drive north to Mahabalipuram where we make an afternoon visit to the '5 Rathas' and the ancient shore temple - both World Heritage sites before enjoying dinner at one of the beach restaurants overlooking the Bay of Bengal. We make a morning visit to the rock-cut temples, which are resplendent in the morning light, before visiting Nandri Trust - run by women for local women's empowerment. We have a free afternoon of last minute shopping, enjoying the beach or relaxing at our luxurious resort hotel pool and spa.
Hotel: Grande Bay Resort
Day 24 Departure Day
There are no organised activities for today. You may leave at any time.
Minimum 4, Maximum 10
24 days / 23 nights
Tour Starts in
Tour Finishes in
Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation as specified
All transportation between overnight stops and to and from included sightseeing
Entrance fees for all sites listed as part of the itinerary
Tips and gratuities for hotel staff, porters, guides and drivers
Meals as specified
Meals other than those listed
Drinks, meal tips, laundry and other items of a personal nature
Hotels (18 nights), Guesthouse/Homestay (3 nights), Luxury Houseboat (1 night), Sleeper Train (1 night)
This tour uses a variety of accommodation. From simple guesthouses and homestays, to heritage and 4-5 star hotels, we experience a wide range of accommodation styles. Hotel rooms are twin share with private bathrooms with western style toilets. All rooms are air-conditioned.
Optional Single Supplement
If you are a single traveller, you are not required to pay a single supplement as we will match you up with other travellers. If we are unable to match you up with another traveller of the same sex, we will pay your single supplement for you. Should you not wish to share accommodation at all, but would like to guarantee your own room throughout the tour a single supplement of from USD870 will be payable. Note that single accommodation will not be possible on the overnight and may not be possible on the houseboat.
2 day trains, 1 overnight train, Air conditioned private minibus, auto-rickshaws for some sightseeing.
Train travel in India is essential considering it is such an efficient and extensive network, and is also such a part of India's culture and heritage. For our overnight journey, we travel in 2A (air-conditioned sleeper carriages with two levels of berths). The berths are arranged in curtained, door-less sections each of four berths (two up and two down) and there is also have a row of upper and lower berths along one side of the train. A conductor ensures that nobody without a reservation gets into the carriage. Carriages usually have one ‘squat’ style and one ‘western’ style toilet at one or both ends. Bedding is supplied and is clean, but for peace of mind, you may wish to bring a sleeping sheet. Meals are not included during our overnight train journey, but basic snacks are usually available.
Train journeys by day will give us an opportunity to experience Indian life by rubbing shoulders with the locals. Travelling locally is always exciting and fascinating you never know who you will meet.
The following is a list of included activities on this trip. Other activities are optional and will be at your own expense.
Old Goa; Panjim Walking Tour; Sunset Boat Cruise (Goa)
Vitalla Temple; Royal Enclosure; Hampi Walking Tour (Hampi)
Mysore Palace; Palace Illuminations; Chamundi Hill; Devaraja Market; Keshava Temple (Mysore)
Kannur Fort; Weaving Factory; Fishing Village; Theyyam Performance (Kannur)
Mattancherry Palace; Jewish Synagogue; Kathakali Dance, Chinese Fishing Nets (Cochin)
Village Walk; Canoe Ride; (Alleppey)
Day Trek through the Tea Plantations, Tea Factory; Shristi Centre (Munnar)
Spice Plantation; Guided walk through Periyar Tiger Reserve, (Periyar)
Sri Meenakshi Temple, Gandhi Museum, Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace, Market walk (Madurai)
Heritage Town Walk (Pondicherry)
Shore Temple; 5 Rathas; Monuments; Nandri Trust (Mahabalipuram)
23 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 8 Dinners
Travelling with Incredible Indian Tours we ensure that you will experience a vast array of the gustatory treats available in India. Generally, meals are not included in the trip price when there is a choice of eating options. This allows you to choose where, and what to eat. More often than not however we eat together as a group. Your leader will offer suggestions for favourite restaurants throughout the trip.
Exchange rate as at April 2018
AUD1 = 50 INR
CAD1 = 51 INR
EUR1 = 80 INR
GBP1 = 93 INR
NZD1 = 48 INR
USD1 = 65 INR
There are many ATM machines (which accept both Cirrus/Maestro debit cards and Visa and MasterCard) throughout India. This is a safe and convenient way to access money in India, however we suggest that you bring a small amount of money in cash (suggested $300) in case there are times that ATMs are not available. The major currencies, including AUD and CAD are no problem in general to exchange. Visa & MasterCard credit cards are accepted in major shops and restaurants in the bigger cities.
Although entrance fees to specified sites are included in the tour price, there are additional sights that you may like to visit. Many sites levy camera fees.
Spending money requirements will differ from one person to the next. You will need to take into consideration your spending habits when allowing for drinks, shopping, and optional activities.
It is recommended you allow enough money for the following:
Meals USD375 (or equivalent)
Optional Activities USD75 (or equivalent)
Money for drinks, shopping and incidentals.
Tipping is an integral part of Indian life and is essential to a smooth trip. To make things easier we cover tips for hotel room boys, local guides and for drivers of private transport we use. We do NOT cover restaurant tips. You will need to allow approximately 10% on top of your restaurant bill.
Physical rating 2/5
You may need to carry your bag/pack up and down railway station and hotel stairs. There will be plenty of walking around towns or sites, which due to the warm to hot climate of South India will make general sightseeing a little more strenuous.
Culture shock rating 3/5
Conditions in India are not always as comfortable as in other countries. You may need to occasionally deal with a squat toilet, cold showers or power failure.
Travel Insurance is highly recommended whilst travelling to India and is compulsory for any group tour with Incredible Indian Tours.
All foreign nationals require a visa to enter India. Most nationalities can apply for an e-Tourist visa. The Indian Government is in the process of extending this e-Tourist facility to more countries so check this website to find out the latest eligibility details.
For the e-Tourist visa, you need to apply within 120 days of travel 60 days validity. The visa is issued online and takes up to 3 days. Regular tourist visas (issued by the Indian Embassy or Consulate) for those nationalities who do not yet have availability of the e-Tourist facility, or for those who require a visa longer than 60 days, are usually issued for 6 or 12 months and are either Single, Double or Multiple Entry. As the validity begins from date of issue, be sure you do not apply for your visa too early. For information, or assistance with obtaining a visa, check out the following websites.
New Zealand https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/index.html
We recommend that you consult your doctor for current medical travel information about before departure. Your leader will be carrying a basic first aid kit, but we suggest you bring along your own as well as any personal medical requirements.
The following websites have up-to-date information about health requirements.
New Zealand http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/travelling
Communications / Keeping in touch
Most of our hotels have Wifi, although it can be unreliable, particularly in Hampi and Kannur. Many restaurants and cafes also offer wifi. You can purchase a local prepaid sim card (for unlocked cell phones) and data sticks (for mobile internet on your laptop) easily and inexpensively in India. Recommended are Vodafone, Airtel and Reliance. You will need extra passport photos for this as well as photocopies of your photo and visa page from your passport.
Your tour manager
Your tour manager is there to organise and streamline your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Whilst they are not a guide per se, they will share their local knowledge, give you suggestions for your free time and manage the day to day running of the tour. They will introduce you to their local friends and recommend great local restaurants and experiences. They will have a broad general knowledge of India, so do feel free to tap into their wisdom. At some sites, local guides may be hired where we think more specific knowledge will add to the enjoyment of the places we are visiting.
We believe strongly in responsible travel. This includes being respectful to the local culture (ie dressing appropriately, and learning a few basic cultural do's and don'ts), being mindful of the environment, and leaving a positive image behind. Remember we are ambassadors for our country. Bringing a few photos of your family and home with you is a great way to interact with the locals by giving them a glimpse of your world whilst you visit theirs.
Joining hotel and arrival instructions
E-212, 31st January Rd
Fontainhas, Panjim, Goa 403 001
Ph: +91 0832 222 6523/7169/8136
Fax: +91 0832 243 5220
Your airport transfer pickup will await you holding a sign with your name when you exit the baggage claim area of the arrivals hall. There may be large crowds here so please look carefully for your transfer.
Panjim is the atmospheric small capital of Goa, situated on the banks of the Mandovi river just 3 km from the closest beach. There is plenty to do in Panjim from wandering the Latin Quarter areas of Fontainhas and Althino as well as side trips further afield to the beaches or national parks of Goa. Our hotel is situated in the heart of Fontainhas and is surrounded by quaint by-lanes, and aristocratic houses. The Panjim Inn has a fantastic restaurant serving local Goan/Portuguese fare and also has an atmospheric outdoor bar area. Rooms are equipped with minibar and tea/coffee making facilities.
Early arrival information
If you are arriving earlier than day 1, extra accommodation in Panjim is available from USD105/120 Single/Double (or equivalent) per night per room. Please notify us as early as possible if you require extra accommodation as this hotel can be booked up well in advance.
Grande Bay Resort
Kovalam Road, Mahabalipuram 603 104, Tamil Nadu
Ph: +91 044 4813 3853
Mahabalipuram is situated 60km (1.5 hours drive) south of Chennai. Grande Bay is just a short walk north of Mahabalipuram. With a beautiful setting, and a private path leading straight to the beachfront, Grande Bay Resort is a peaceful oasis with a beautiful swimming pool, gym, spa, fabulous restaurant and a stylish bar.
If you are staying on in Mahabalipuram after the tour, extra accommodation is available from USD130 Single/Double (or equivalent) per night per room. If you do require extra accommodation in Mahabalipuram, please advise us as early as possible as rooms get booked out quickly at peak season times.
What to take
We will be on the move a lot, so try to pack as lightly as possible. The smaller your bag in India the better, as the various modes of transport we use tend to have limited storage space.
India is very conservative and we ask that you dress accordingly. As a guideline, shoulders and knees should always be covered. The wearing of shorts is looked upon by locals as akin to wearing your underwear and will limit your entry into mosques, temples and other places of worship. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool. Singlets, tank tops and short shorts are not suitable attire for India.
Upon booking, you will receive a full tour info pack including a suggested packing list an other helpful information on preparing for your trip to India.
Inexpensive laundry facilities are offered by most hotels we use. You will be able to avail of these services wherever we have a minimum 2-night stay.
The weather during our journey should be great. Daytime temperatures will be warm to hot, in the range 23-35oc and humid. Bring an umbrella and also sun protection and a hat. As we spend a couple of nights at altitude in Munnar, bring a jacket or sweater for the cooler nights in the hills.
Travel documents: passport, visa, travel insurance (don't forget your emergency insurance contact details), air tickets.
Photocopy of above documents
First aid kit
Money: ATM card (widely available and easy to access); credit cards (widely accepted in big cities); cash (for emergencies)
Alarm clock and torch/flashlight
Ear plugs can be very useful if you are a light sleeper
Lock for your bag or suitcase
Closed-in shoes for the trek through Periyar National Park and the tea plantations walk
We recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt to store your passport, air tickets, credit cards and cash. Avoid bringing valuable jewellery with you. Some hotels we use have safety deposit boxes. A lock and chain are useful for securing your luggage on the overnight train journey.
January 2020 departure
Download South Indian Odyssey Tour Registration Form
Download Trip Notes
January 2021 departure
Download South Indian Odyssey Tour Registration Form
Download Trip Notes
Read the full tour dossier here on Issuu