Beaches, backwaters and biryanis aplenty

Unplug from everyday routine and head to the beaches and backwaters of southern India on a 16-day Lonely Planet Experience, powered by Intrepid. Explore the lush landscapes, intriguing cultures, bustling bazaars and incredible cuisine of this region. Jump on and off local transport and go rural through coconut groves and fishing villages, discovering the heart of the subcontinent. See ancient ruins and stunning temples, eat spicy curries and drink luscious lassis. Join the bustle of city streets and, at the end of it all, unwind on the beautiful beaches of Goa.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Trivandrum, India
Finish
Goa, India
Destination
India
Style
Basix
Theme
Lonely Planet Experience
Code
HHRS
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

A powerful partnership

Lonely Planet and Intrepid Travel share the same philosophy: we help curious people explore the world.

Why you'll love this trip

  • Take the atmosphere of Shimla or Darjeeling, add lush tropical jungle and you have the Western Ghats: a hotspot of thundering waterfalls, tea plantations, spice markets, and echoes of a colonial past.

  • Glide through the backwaters of Kerala on a pole boat, going ashore for a village homestay – a beautiful break from hotels and overnight trains and a perfect way to get close to local customs and culture.

  • Cross into Kochi – a colonial centre and major port city in India’s southwest. Explore the seaside Fort Kochi area and consider watching a traditional Kathakali dance performance in your free time.

  • The word ‘colourful’ gets thrown around a lot when people talk about India, but the gateway towers of Meenakshi Amman Temple truly are a technicolour dream.

  • Golden beaches and age-old fishing villages make Goa one of India’s most popular retreats – and a perfect place to consider extending your southern India adventure.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This is a Lonely Planet Experience powered by Intrepid, made for travellers who value their independence but also want the benefit of a local leader and a group of like-minded travellers. The itinerary has a mix of included activities and free time when your leader will offer suggestions. Please budget spending money for optional activities you want to take part in.

  • We are covering a lot of distance in a vast country, so this trip involves some very long bus and train rides. These can at times be a bit gruelling, but offer a quintessential and authentic Indian experience.

  • Sleeper trains are a great way to travel long distances while still getting maximum time in each place. Beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided (although some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Please note that you may be sharing with locals of all genders. More information can be found in the 'Transport' section of the Essential Trip Information.

  • This trip runs year-round, so it’s important to be aware of just how hot it can get in India in the summer months and choose the season that best suits you.

  • Intrepid offers many ways to see southern India. If you’d prefer a different itinerary with more inclusions, check out the Intrepid Original Southern India tour (trip code HHSS) or Comfort Classic South India tour (trip code HHKS). If you're aged 18–29 and would prefer to travel with others of the same age, check out the Real South India tour (trip code HHYH). Search the relevant trip code on the Intrepid website for more information and to book.

Itinerary

Welcome to India! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting this evening at 6 pm. Afterwards, join your local leader on an orientation walk around Trivandrum. Tonight is all about introductions, so perhaps get together with your group after the walk and have an optional dinner – your leader will be able to suggest the best neighbourhoods for a delicious local meal.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.

Please note that Kerala is officially a dry state, with alcohol sales and consumption limited to bars in five-star hotels.
In the morning, head up the coast by private vehicle for around 2 hours to the town of Varkala. Once settled into your hotel, use the free time to explore the Keralan coast, which is home to some of India’s best beaches. Soaring cliffs protect Varkala’s sandy bay and, depending on the time of year, dolphins can be spotted from high up on the rocks. In the evening, maybe head into town to one of the numerous restaurants serving fresh, local seafood caught right off the coast.
Accommodation
  • Resort (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free day in Varkala. This is a great place to sit back and relax, but if you want to get active there are plenty of water activities on offer, such as surfing and windsurfing. Even though this is a popular destination for Indian tourists, the beaches are quiet and pretty laidback. Today is also the perfect time to check your Lonely Planet app and see what else is popular around the area. Take the rest of the day to relax, beachside or otherwise, before the rest of South India beckons.
Accommodation
  • Resort (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning, take a 3-hour train journey along the Keralan coastline to Alappuzha (Alleppey). Once an important trading port and now renowned for the annual Snake Boat race in August, Alappuzha is the starting point for most journeys into the backwaters. An auto rickshaw will take you from the train station to the boat boarding point. Explore the Keralan Backwaters in a pole boat before heading to an island village for an overnight homestay with a local family. Your guide will take you on a walk around the village and introduce you to the community.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kerala Backwaters - Pole boat ride
  • Guided village walk backwaters
Meals Included
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Accommodation tonight is on a multishare basis. All the families in the community live within a few hundred metres of each other, with at least one person in each family speaking a reasonable standard of English. Food is traditional Keralan home-style cooking. Standards and configuration of rooms may differ between homestays.
In the morning, cross the backwaters by private boat back to Alappuzha. You’ll then take a 2-hour local bus to Kochi, arriving around midday (12 pm). Once arrived, go for a walk around the Fort Kochi area, where you’ll be staying for the next two nights. In the early evening, there’s the option to attend a classic Kathakali dance performance – a snapshot into traditional cultures of the region.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance - INR300
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today, head to the Mattancherry part of Fort Cochin to explore the old Jewish quarter, synagogue and Dutch Palace (Kochi Palace) on a guided walking tour. The tour takes around three hours, with the rest of the day free to do as you wish. Afterwards, why not join an Urban Adventure day tour, such as Aromas of Kochi, to get more of an in-depth look into this city and its cuisine. Visit urbanadventures.com/destination/kochi-tours for more information, and check with your local leader in advance if you’d like to book one of these trips.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi walk
Optional Activities
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace - INR5
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning, get ready for a day of travel as you head by private vehicle to Periyar National Park (approximately 7–8 hours). After checking in to your hotel, head out on a tour of a local spice farm, sampling cardamom, pepper, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Afterwards, enjoy a relaxed evening around your accommodation, perhaps settling in for an early night.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Periyar - Spice plantation visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
After breakfast, enjoy a free day with an optional walk around Periyar National Park. Encounters with animals in the wild are never guaranteed, and this is more of a jungle walk than an animal-spotting tour, but do keep an eye out for tiger tracks, spotted deer, Indian elephants or gaur – the world's largest species of buffalo. In the afternoon, unwind with an optional ayurvedic massage or just relax in your scenic setting.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Periyar - Guided nature walk - INR750
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Our usual route is the Green Zone walk in the national park. Please note that tigers are extremely rare and shy in Periyar National Park. It is, however, a lovely walk, the local guides are villagers who have lived in the area for generations and are very knowledgeable about the area’s flora and fauna. Bring water – we start early but it gets very hot and humid later in the morning. Leech socks are available to rent for a small fee – this is one critter that we often do spot!
In the morning, take a local bus to Madurai (approximately 4–5 hours). This buzzing city is crammed full of bazaars, pilgrims and cycle rickshaws. After a walking tour to see the sights, perhaps visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple. This ancient temple is still in use and features a labyrinth of lamplit corridors leading to shrines.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Madurai - Walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple - INR50
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a free day in Madurai. Perhaps head to the Gandhi Museum to learn about the man who fought for India’s independence or wander through the 1000 pillars of Aayiram Kaal Mandapam. This is also a great opportunity to haggle with vendors at the bazaars and the tailors' market. Keep in mind that this evening, you’ll take an overnight sleeper train to Mysore. The journey is approximately 14 hours, so you may want to bring some extra snacks.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Madurai - Gandhi Museum - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Sleeper trains are clean and air conditioned, and beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided (although some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Please note that you may be sharing with locals of all genders.
On arrival, transfer to your hotel in Mysore. Mysore is an easygoing town with a pleasant climate. Go on a walk with your group, checking out the ornate Mysore Palace along the way. There’s also the option to visit the Keshava Temple in Somnathpur, which is a stunning example of Hoysala architecture. The temple is a 1-hour drive out of town.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mysore - City walk
Optional Activities
  • Mysore - Keshava Temple - INR200
  • Mysore - Maharaja's Palace - INR200
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a free day in Mysore, with plenty of optional activities to keep you busy. If you’ve seen all you need to in town, perhaps explore the countryside surrounding Mysore. Climb up Chamundi Hill to the Sri Chamundeswari Temple at the top, which is dedicated to the goddess Durga. At around 7 pm tonight, meet up with your group and board a 10-hour overnight train to Hampi.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Mysore - Chamundi Hill & Temple - INR100
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the morning, arrive in Hampi and cross the river to your guesthouse by canoe. Hampi is a temple town situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Once you’re settled in, make an optional visit to the architectural masterpiece of Vittala Temple. This 16th-century temple contains mandapas (pillared pavilions), a pool, a palace and the popular stone chariot, which according to Hindu mythology was the vehicle of the Lord Vishnu.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hampi - Vittala Temple - INR500
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
After breakfast, explore the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire and the huge boulders on the outskirts of town. In the early evening, drive for around 3 hours by private vehicle to Hubli, where you’ll board a 9-hour overnight train to Goa.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Once your train arrives in Goa, head to the hotel and check in. Brimming with Portuguese influences and known for the sandy beaches lining its coast, Goa is a fascinating region in India's south-west. The day is free to do what you like. Perhaps relax on the beach, sip a cocktail at a local bar or go for a city walk. Tonight, why not get together with your travel crew for a beachside dinner – Goa is definitely cause for celebration.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you’re able to depart the accommodation at any time. Goa is a great place to end the trip – if you can, we recommend staying on for a couple of nights to relax and explore. If you would like to spend more time in Goa, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This trip is a Lonely Planet Experience
Our Lonely Planet Experiences include plenty of free time so you can do the things that suit your budget and interests. Between your Intrepid Travel leader’s local knowledge and Lonely Planet’s trusted travel tips and recommendations, your trip will be more epic than ever.

Meals

3 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner

Transport

Overnight sleeper train, Private vehicle, Public bus, Auto rickshaw, Taxi, Train, Canoe, Boat

Accommodation

Homestay (1 night), Hotel (11 nights), Overnight sleeper train (3 nights)

Included activities

  • Kerala Backwaters - Pole boat ride
  • Guided village walk backwaters
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi walk
  • Periyar - Spice plantation visit
  • Madurai - Walking tour
  • Mysore - City walk

Lonely Planet extras

  • Free access to the Lonely Planet mobile app for one year
  • 25% discount on all items in the Lonely Planet Shop

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip and is available for all nights' accomodation with the exception of the overnight sleeper trains.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View Essential Trip Information

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