Our perceptions of India are often as diverse as the country’s culture; images of slums and concerns of food safety conflict with imagined pictures of colour and vibrancy inspired by artists and authors that beckon the curious traveller to experience this unique destination.
All your concerns are taken care of when you choose to travel with Abercrombie & Kent. They give a great insight into a country’s culture and history with their outstanding and informative guides, provide a sense of security with unsurpassed care from their drivers, and with value-added and fully-inclusive itineraries whilst staying in luxury boutique accommodation – it really is the best way to travel in India.
With scheduled departures in 2019 during February/March and October, it is time to immerse yourself in India’s more spiritual side as you journey through The Beautiful South travelling from Chennai on the east coast, through to the colourful port city of Kochi on the west, known as Queen of the Arabian Sea.
And for a limited time only, Abercrombie & Kent is waiving the single supplement for the first two solo travellers booked on this Limited Edition Small group journey. Don’t miss out on this fantastic offer (also available on a select range of other tours) and call us to book before 15 February 2019!
Cultural and culinary Chennai
Formerly known as Madras and capital of Tamil Nadu, even today with its cacophony of noisy street life you will be pleasantly surprised. Explore the city with glimpses of its colonial past as you wander the streets around Fort St George when the British East India Company built a trading post in 1639-40. Visit Government Museum the second oldest in India with the largest collection of Roman antiquities outside Europe then in contrast discover the city’s oldest temple dedicated to Lord Shiva with its intricately carved gateway and shrines.
Staying at Taj Coromandel Hotel gives you the opportunity to eat at the Southern Spice restaurant, one of the best in Chennai. Presenting the best of south Indian cuisine, taste new flavours from a traditional thali meal and dosas to vegetarian curries accompanied by coconut chutney, claimed to be the best in the world!
A penchant for Pondicherry
Affectionately known as Pondy, evidence of its colonial French connection linger with tree-lined boulevards and pastel-coloured Mediterranean style houses that create a bizarre non-Indian ambience, particularly when auto-rickshaw drivers greet you with a friendly “bonjour”!
Where and what you eat is a focal point of this community set on the shores of the Bay of Bengal and some of the dishes are not found anywhere else, from traditional Tamil to inventive fusion where influences from the early settlers of France, Vietnam and Portugal can be found at luxurious fine dining restaurants to quick street food cafes.
Relax as the pace starts to slow as days are filled with guided walks through the French Quarter – a photographer’s dream with a backdrop of pastel-shaded houses and faded shuttered windows. Embrace the tranquility and meditative silence at the ashram of Sri Aurobindo in Auroville, the experimental New Age town founded in the 1960s and, during an afternoon at leisure, try not to miss the Cluny Embroidery Centre housed in an 18th Century heritage bungalow where you will stepp back in time to see women work with needles and thimbles creating elaborately embroidered tablecloths, cushion covers, etc. for that special memento or gift.
Temple cities of Thanjavur and Madurai
In the deep south witness vanished ancient dynasties in legendary UNESCO World heritage temples with a history spanning more than 3,000 years and presently has been bypassed by the masses of tourists visiting Agra and Jaipur in the north.
These temples are places of worship and meditation for the faithful pilgrims where life’s rituals are performed to the sound of chanted Sanskrit verses. Visit the Tanjore Palace at Thanjavur, ancient capital of the Chola Empire where brightly coloured murals bring to life scenes showing the opulence of court life. Wander the labyrinthine maze of markets and museums in Madurai, where bells and gongs toll as they have done for over a hundred years, marking time to a rhythm of life that has remarkably remained unchanged.
And indulge in visions of a bygone era during your stay in Madurai at The Gateway Pasumai. Built in 1891 to house a British magnate who ran a global trade in goods from local cotton mills, the hotel is a series of rambling structures on one of the city’s four prominent hillside with breathtaking views over the city.
Wildlife wonders, scents of spice and Kerala backwaters
Travel through the Western Ghats into the state of Kerala – said to be India’s happiest state with its heritage of multiculturalism and religious diversity – to the picturesque Periyar National Park, noted for its elephants that congregate on the shores of the artificial lake. Your overnight stay is at Spice Village, modelled on the dwellings of the native Manan tribe, this lofty retreat is a seamless extension of the surrounding landscape and celebrates all things spice.
After a leisurely breakfast, journey overland to the luxurious Kumarakom Lake Resort sprawled across acres of coconut groves and your home for the next three nights. Lavish heritage villas have been reconstructed to appear as 16th century manas (Keralan houses) bordering the meandering turquoise pool. Aromas of cinnamon and cardamom are carryied on a breeze as you follow a winding path through a spice plantation, then learn the technique of using southern Indian spices with a cooking demonstration. Cycle to local villages, relax with an Ayurvedic massage sand enjoy the facilities of this luxury resort where Prince Charles chose to celebrate his 65th birthday!
Begin your trip to Kochi with a day cruise aboard a traditional houseboat gliding through canals, narrow rivers and lagoons passing rural villages just beyond the banks.
Colourful and charming Kochi
Spend the day in the ancient port city of Kochi (formerly Cochin) with its intriguing mix of cultural influences that have attracted traders and invaders for centuries to sail across the Arabian Sea.
It is your last full day so why not rise early to watch the colourful fishing boats head out to sea? At the entrance to the harbour are rows of Chinese fishing nets where you can watch the fishermen at work operating giant cantilevers, visit the oldest Jewish synagogue in India and wander the double-storeyed Mattancherry Palace with its stunning collection of mural paintings.
As the sun rays fade over the city on your final evening, enjoy a harbour cruise and, with the gentle sound of lapping waves, take a moment to reflect on your journey and the natural beauty of the southern states of India with its fragrant cuisines, friendly people and fascinating cultures.