Ramble around the Ghats

Small group tour in South India
19 February to 4 March 2025

The Western Ghats mountain range looms large in the life of South India. Its varying height, aspect and weather have created unique landscapes and ecosystems, and consequently diverse lifestyles, livelihoods and geo-cultural identities of the people living there and in its shadow. Amazingly, within an hour’s drive of leaving the Ghats you encounter a completely different natural and human environment, with food, language and customs all changed. It makes a truism of the idea that India is a collection of countries.

All of this is well known. What is less known, and I think greatly under-appreciated, is how much richer these places are when explored on foot; when all the layers and finer aspects of everyday life can be noticed and considered in detail. Not only this, the walking itself offers a nourishing and rewarding rhythm to one’s travel.

With all of this in mind, I recently spent a month in South India researching a new ‘walking holiday’. In developing the itinerary, I looked for places and experiences away from the conventional travel routes in this part of the country, moving beyond what most people see and do in South India. I sought out places where unique customs and cultures exist in their own biosphere – finding places where life has eddied away from the rapid homogenising effect of the mainstream. I spoke with guides and drivers, naturalists, hotel staff and strangers, gleaning intel and following their suggestions – walks to take, restaurants to try, places to stay and people to meet. 

The result is a two-week trip through Tamil Nadu and Kerala which incorporates a wide variety of landscapes, food, language and customs, with delightful local characters guiding our walks and revealing the hidden meaning of all that we see. Complementing the walks and activities is an array of beautiful, unique places of accommodation: an eco-lodge, an historic mountain retreat, a palace in a coffee plantation and an Art Deco mansion. Expect a touch of fancy as we go.

Highlights:

  • Exploring different human and natural environments on foot
  • Unique and interesting accommodation
  • Delightful guides and people we meet along the way
  • Brilliant flavours of authentic South Indian cuisine with many regional and local variations

The photos tell the story . . . then continue reading below for some practical information

Hadlee and Lincoln at Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary
Letchmi Hills walks, Munnar

Rajakkad Estate


A touch of fancy

Madurai market
The dining room at Spice Tree
A meal in the garden at Rajakkad Estate

Lincoln and the best Kothu Porotta, Madurai

A few practical details: 

  • There are 5 nature-based walks and 5 urban or cultural walks. 
  • The cultural walks are not long in distance, they are 3-to-4 hours in duration and involve more chatting, looking and sampling than straight walking. 
  • The nature-based walks are through Shola forest, tea and coffee plantations, high-altitude grassland and shrub jungle. They are generally 8-to-12 kms, taking 3-to-5 hours depending on chats and points of interest along the way.
  • All walks are optional and there’s always a lovely place to spend the day if you want a rest. Some walks can be shortened and the group can split up, to accommodate different energy levels.
  • There is one more strenuous walk, called Meesapulimala (the second highest peak in south India – amazing!) but it’s achievable for people with a decent level of fitness and a willingness to push on (there’s an alternative program on this day also). If you walked with us in Sikkim you would find the going similar here – slightly longer distance but less undulation.
  • Some days are action-packed, while others are more leisurely, with free time to enjoy special accommodation and locations. Please bring a good book.

As this is the first time we are running this tour, it will involve an element of discovery for all of us, and will suit travellers who enjoy the spontaneous encounters and experiences that come with open-ended exploring.

Because we are staying in small hotels, the group is limited to 10 people – 4 twin/double rooms and 2 single rooms. In case there are no single bookings, then the group size will be 12. 


Please email me if you would like to know more about the tour and I will share the detailed itinerary with you – lincoln@indiaunbound.com.au