Flavours of South India
Trip Code: AITFSI
Superior: AU$4,740 per person
Deluxe: AU$5,690 per person
Prices are valid until 30 September 2020, excluding the Christmas / New Year period.
Please contact us for a detailed itinerary and current prices.
• Double or twin room with breakfast in all places
• Transport by air conditioned Indigo car with English speaking driver
• English speaking guides in Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Kumbakonam, Tanjore, Madurai and Cochin
• Cooking class with lunch at Nimmy Paul’s
• Entrance fees at sightseeing places
• Mineral water in the car
• Arrival and departure assistance at airports
• 24 hour support through our local representatives
• Land and vehicle taxes
• Lunch and dinner other than those specified
• Tips, Porterage, drinks and items of a personal nature
• Peak season surcharges Dec 20th – Jan 10th, Dec 24th and 31st Gala Events
One of the most striking features of south India’s rich culinary heritage is its diversity.
The infinite variety of regional cuisines reflects a broad spectrum of cultures, including Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Jewish – and influences including Chinese, Arab, Dutch, Portuguese, French and British.
This trip promises a deliciously rewarding culinary and cultural feast. It provides ample opportunity to sample the full array of colours, aromas, flavours and textures of the unique cuisines of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, from eating at ‘open kitchen’ restaurants to taking part in cooking classes. The best sights of south India are also included – forts, temples and palaces, markets and bazaars, rice fields and spice plantations.
Day 1 Mahabalipuram
On arrival in Chennai, you will met at the airport and transferred directly to your accommodation in the town of Mahabalipuram, an hour south of Chennai. Mahabalipuram is famed for its UNESCO World Heritage listed 7th century rock cut temples and friezes.
Day 2 Pondicherry
This morning explore the temples and carvings of Mahabalipuram with an expert local guide. Afterwards, enjoy lunch at one of a range of beachfront restaurants where you can select your own fish and choose the way you would like it to be cooked.
This afternoon drive 2 hours to Pondicherry.
Pondicherry has a fascinating history closely tied to the French and their imperial aspirations in India. The French connection has survived the city’s union with the Indian republic through language, food and the many visitors and residents of French origin.
Check in to your hotel on arrival and later head out to enjoy the festival atmosphere of the promenade at sunset. [Image: Harrieta171].
Day 3 Pondicherry
A full day to explore and enjoy Pondicherry, with a walking tour of the heritage quarter and visit to the paper and incense making units of the Aurobindo ashram.
In the afternoon you have the option to visit Auroville, a UN sponsored ‘utopian society’ – this is an amazing place and well worth a visit.
You may like to dine this evening at the lovely, Hotel de l’Orient. Its restaurant, aptly named ‘Carte Blanche’, is located in a pretty internal tree-shaded courtyard where old-fashioned punkahs stir the air. Its dinners feature ‘Creole’ cuisine, which blends French techniques and dishes with spicy South Indian flavours. [Image: Aurobindo Ashram].
Day 4 Pondicherry
Day at leisure. Shopping and eating are highlights of Pondicherry, with high-quality French-influenced restaurants and shops in abundance.
If you are shopping, a good place to end your expedition is at Kasha-Ki-Asha (on Rue Surcouf), a lovely old colonial house, which apart from stunning fabrics and gorgeous garments and crafts has a roof top terrace café; with its easygoing, pleasant atmosphere, it is a perfect place to refresh with an organic tea or coffee and cake.
Day 5 Kumbakonam
After breakfast – perhaps coffee and croissants – depart Pondicherry for the approximately 4 hour drive to Kumbakonam and your accommodation here – Mantra Veppathur or Paradise Resort.
Both of these hotels focus on relaxation and well-being – and their food is a standout. The eco friendly resort of Mantra Veppathur features pure vegetarian cuisine prepared in traditional ways with tasty and healthy herbs and spices. At Paradise Resort, set amidst coconut, teak and mango groves, the traditional south India ‘thali’ meal, served on a banana leaf, is a must try.
Afternoon free to relax and enjoy the peacefulness of your surroundings.
Day 6 Karraikudi
After breakfast begin the 3 ½ hour drive to Karraikudi in the Chettinad region, with a stop en route at Tanjore to visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed Brihadeeswara temple. After a short visit with a local guide, continue on to Karraikudi.
The Chettinad region was once made wealthy by traders and financiers. Some of the many mansions in the area have been restored into hotels, including the property where you will spend the next two nights.
Richer and including more meat than most Tamil food, the Chettinad style cuisine is famous throughout India. Here you can experience it in its purest form – spicy but not hot, with complex combinations of flavours making every dish distinct and unforgettable. Visit the markets learning about local ingredients and enjoy a cooking demonstration or lessons to prepare your own meal!
Day 7 Karraikudi
Day free with vehicle at your disposal. There are several small towns in this area that are worth visiting; the hotel staff and your driver will be able to advise you on specific things to see. It is worth making a visit to ‘antique street’, which has several shops selling bits and pieces salvaged from the crumbling mansions in the region.
You may like to have a wander at dusk through the small town of Kanadukathan – some of the fading mansions are quite beautiful and sad in the late afternoon light.
Day 8 Madurai
Depart Karraikudi this morning for the 3-hour drive to Madurai. Check in to your hotel on arrival and remainder of the day free.
Madurai is a bustling town well worth some exploration on foot – it’s small enough to just wander from your hotel without fear of getting lost, especially as many of the roads lead to the temple. Explore some of the multitude of bazaars and the flower and vegetable markets and enjoy a cup of chai at a tea stall.
Day 9 Madurai
Spend today sightseeing with a local guide. Madurai is famous for its Sri Meenakshi temple, covering six hectares, with 50 metre high towers and a 1000-pillared hall. This is one of the most awe-inspiring temples in the whole of India, where weddings, worship and commerce take place side by side.
You also have the option to visit Nayak Palace, the insightful Gandhi Museum, and the bustling Tailors’ Market, which is great for sharpening your bargaining skills.
Day 10 Palakkad
Make an early start this morning for the approximately 6 hour drive to Palakkad; a lovely region in which paddy fields abound, it is considered the “rice bowl of Kerala”.
Settle in to your accommodation – set amongst lush rice paddies – on arrival and remainder of the afternoon free to relax and enjoy this tranquil environment.
Day 11 Palakkad
There are a range of activities that can be enjoyed here such as Ayurvedic treatments and medicinal massages, and yoga, meditation and cooking classes.
You may like to take a walk, bicycle or bullock cart ride through the countryside or to the local village to visit its small temple and view traditional industries such as pottery making, handloom weaving and handicraft manufacturing. These activities give you an opportunity to experience Kerala village life and to interact with villagers.
Day 12 Cochin
After breakfast begin the 4-hour drive to Cochin and to the Fort Kochi area of the city. Fort Kochi has been in the hands of the Dutch, British, Portuguese and Chinese, with each having influenced the history and appearance of the Fort area in subtle yet unmistakable ways.
Afternoon at leisure. The quiet streets around the Chinese fishing nets are filled with shops and restaurants, while a short auto-rickshaw ride away is Jewtown, which is full of antique shops and cafes.
In the evening attend a Kathakali dance performance, where heavily made up and elaborately dressed artists play out the Hindu epics.
Day 13 Cochin
This morning a guide will take you on a short tour of Cochin, including visits to the Dutch Palace, Jewish Synagogue, St Francis Church (India’s oldest), and the iconic Chinese fishing nets.
Later, visit the fish market and the home of Nimmy Paul a renowned Keralan chef. Nimmy will lead a cooking demonstration – you can participate in the preparation of a special lunch. Enjoy a traditional “Sadhya” served on a banana leaf, an extensive meal usually served at weddings and festivals. Nimmy will explain the traditions and history behind the dishes.
Day 14 Kumarakom
After a leisurely breakfast, drive 1 ½ hours to Philipkutty’s Farm at Kumarakom. Philipkutty’s Farm is a reclaimed property typical of the Kuttanad or backwater region (the farm is approximately 2 metres below the lake level). It is made up of ridges and canals, with all the planting done on the ridges. The canals are used for natural fish culture and the major crops grown are coconut, nutmeg, cocoa, banana, pepper, vanilla and many other fruits, vegetables and spices.
Food is one of the highlights of a stay here. The cuisine is predominantly Syrian Christian with a strong backwater influence – ie, plenty of meat and fish preparations as well as vegetarian dishes, which feature little family touches, passed down over the generations.
Afternoon free to relax in this serene environment.
Day 15 Kumarakom
You have the day to enjoy the property and surroundings. Some of the activities on offer include: boat cruising through the narrow and winding canals on a vallam (country boat) or motorboat; bird watching; cooking classes; and farm walks.
You may like to explore the village and the market, across on the mainland or do a wider sightseeing trip of the countryside on a bicycle.
Day 16 Marari
Depart Kumarakom this morning for the short – about one-hour – drive to Marari Beach, which lies on a relatively undiscovered shore between the renowned backwaters of Alleppey and the cultural hub of Cochin.
Your accommodation here will be at either Marari Villas or A Beach Symphony; both of these boutique properties offer very personalised, friendly atmospheres in which to relax and to take it easy for a couple of days on a beach.
Day 17 Marari
Day at leisure.
If staying at Marari Villas, you can take a trip to the local fish, fruit and vegetable markets with the hotel’s chef, who can then show you how to combine your fresh ingredients with an interactive cooking class.
Day 18 Cochin
Depart Marari for the 1-hour drive to Cochin airport for your flight home.
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