Essence of Kerala & Tamil Nadu

18 days from NZ$7350 pp (US$4793 /€4614)
Min 6 – Max 10 guests
2024 – 16 Oct to 2 Nov 2024
2025 – 1 Feb to 18 Feb 2025
2025 – 24 Oct to 10 Nov 2025
2026 – 1 Feb to 18 Feb 2026

Please contact us if you wish to customise this itinerary to suit your travel needs.

Essence of Kerala & Tamil Nadu

Indulge your senses on this 19-day small group escorted tour of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the relaxed southern states of the Indian subcontinent. Prized for millennia for its aromatic spices and natural beauty, the south remains a feast for the senses, with fragrant cuisines, friendly people and fascinating cultures.

Travel through tropical and enchanting Tamil Nadu, an ancient and culturally rich civilisation famous for its temple architecture, festivals, cuisine, and celebration of the arts. The jasmine flowers adorned by the colourfully attired women and the incense from the many temples give this state its distinct aroma that is altogether sensuous and relaxing. The warm and friendly locals make you feel welcome and go out of their way to please. The rural areas with their luscious rice fields with the majestic Western Ghats as their backdrop are a sight to behold.

Crossing over the Western Ghats takes us to Rick Stein’s favourite destination, Kerala, a tropical paradise famous for its spices since ancient times. Referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’, the natural backwaters give Kerala its distinct charm. The influence of the Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabs etc. who came to trade for spices is evident in the architectural landscape of this state.

Chennai | Mamallapuram | Puducherry | Thanjavur | Madurai | Munnar | Houseboat | Kochi

Chennai to Kochi Route Map - Essence Of Kerala & Tamil Nadu Small Group Tour

Joji Jacob

Tour Director

Joji, who hales from this region, is leading the tour. This tour is designed based on his in-depth exploration of these regions. He shares his passion for people, culture & nature during this tour.


Day 1 & 2 – Chennai (Madras) - Arrival

Welcome to Chennai, our gateway to the rich and varied culture of the South Indian peninsula.

You will be warmly received and greeted by one of our team members at the Chennai (Madras) International Airport and transported to your accommodation in a private vehicle.

We will spend a day exploring Chennai, its history and heritage and its current modern state through architecture, art, cuisine and crafts.

Meals:   B | – | –
Accommodation:  Crowne Plaza

Day 3 & 4 – Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) Beach

Mamallapuram was once a bustling seaport that provided shelter to illustrious travellers like Ptolemy and Periplus in the first century! Today, the city’s claim to fame lies in its ancient Pallava heritage, evident in Mamallapuram’s exquisite collection of temples, caves, rathas (chariots) and monuments. It was and still is home to master stone sculptors who practice their ancient art to this day.

Meals:   B | – | –
Accommodation Kences Palm

Day 5 & 6 – Puducherry (Pondicherry)

Pondicherry offers a slice of France in South India! Once a sleepy fishing village, the trading town was a French settlement from the 17th century until 1962. Puducherry is home to many foreigners who seek a laid-back lifestyle within a community that embraces the arts and diversity. Creole, a French-Tamil fusion cuisine unique to Puducherry, is not to be missed.

Meals:   B | – | –
AccommodationCrowne Plaza

Day 7 & 8 – Thanjavur (Tanjore)

On the banks of the river Cauvery, we visit the ‘Granary of South India’, Thanjavur. It is known for its heritage in water management and architectural marvel, Brihadisvara Temple. Stroll through the lanes to meet craftspeople making musical instruments and casting bronze statues.

Meals:   B | – | –

Day 9, 10 & 11 – Madurai

The city of incense and chiming cymbals is one of the oldest in India! Dubbed the ‘Athens of the East’, the historical city was reputedly visited by learned men from Rome and Greece, including Megasthenes, in the 3rd century BC! Cosily nestled amidst the towering mountains. This is an energetic city of contrasts where Hindu Gods and a growing IT industry go hand in hand.

Meals:   B | – | D
AccommodationHeritage Madurai

Day 12, 13 & 14 – Munnar

Munnar offers a haven of peace and tranquillity within the verdant hills of Kerala. This picturesque little town lies about 1800m above sea level in a part of the Western Ghats known as the High Ranges.

Meals:   B | – | –
AccommodationOlive Brook

Day 15 – Overnight Houseboat Cruise

Cruise Kerala’s backwaters and stay overnight in a traditional kettuvallom, a boat made from coconut rope and wooden planks. This unique and exotic barge experience provides all the comforts of a hotel, with furnished bedrooms, a modern shower and toilet room, a living area and a shaded balcony for relaxing on as you enjoy uninterrupted views of rural Kerala.

There is also a kitchen where the boat’s crew will rustle you up deliciously fresh meals and snacks, served traditionally on banana leaves. The skipper (captain) might moor up and take you to a backwater village, where you can meet local people and observe ancestral homes and places of worship. After a relaxing day, drop anchor and rest your head to the gentle sounds of the swishing lake waters.

Meals:   B | L | D
Accommodation:  Houseboat

Day 16 & 17 – Kochi

Kochi, formerly Cochin, is considered the queen of the Arabian Sea as it was one of the first European settlements in India due to its ideal position for trading.

Meals:   B | – | –
AccommodationMalabar House

Day 18 – Kochi Departure!

As with all good things, this tour has to close. We can drop you off at the airport or organise a trip to the Taj Mahal.

Meals:   B | – | –

Group Organiser Discount Available

A group organiser (4-10) can avail up to $2000 discount on a twin share package price.
Please contact us for further details.


  • Airport meet and greet with private transfers
  • Private air-conditioned vehicle
  • Handpicked boutique accommodations
  • Meals as per trip note
  • English-speaking local guides
  • All entrance fees, tips & gratuity
  • Guaranteed departure with just six guests


  • Airfares
  • Visa fees
  • Travel Insurance
  • Medical Tests & other medical expenses
  • Personal expenses


Or call Joji on +64 (0) 21 505 713

Let me take you to my birthplace and share with you the tropical sights, sounds and sensations that we enjoy about Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Venice of the east

Houseboat Cruise

Portugese & Dutch

French & British


Tea & Spice Plantations

Cooking Class


Commuter Ferry Ride

Art Galleries

Fishing Village

Martial Arts


Plantation Walk

Ayurvedic Spa Massage*

Bird Watching

Tea Tasting

This tour has been designed to experience the local culture, tradition and lifestyles of these regions of India.

Other Highlights

Village Walks

Arts & Crafts

Culinary Treats


Market Visits

Private Home Visits

Community Initiatives


Colourful Memories

Video courtesy of our guest, Edward Bayley

An ideal trip for:

Solo Traveler, Group of Friends, Couples

If you want a rich and truly authentic experience of the region(s) being visited in a slow and well-paced manner as part of a small group of like-minded people who appreciate the personal care and attention provided to them, then this is the trip for you. 

Safe Travels with ATI

Since 2013, ATI Travel NZ has been unsurpassed at delivering expertly managed small group and tailor-made boutique travel experiences.
We are uniquely qualified to ensure your well-being when travelling with us.

Our local partner offices work tirelessly with us behind the scenes

Our local suppliers and partners know our health & safety requirements, and our requirement to comply with all local regulations.

We follow the health and safety protocols required for your journey

All protocols involving physical distancing, vaccinations, masking, testing and other safety practices are communicated both before and during your journey. These protocols are carried out according to the latest local regulations and service provider requirements.

We facilitate in-country COVID-19 testing and provide round-the-clock support for any health-related matters

ATI’s network of local offices has the contacts and knowledge to support you throughout your journey, from coordinating COVID-19 testing (for travelling between countries and returning home) to answering any questions you have during your journey. Our local partners are experienced in handling any situation and have the contacts and knowledge to support guests 24/7.

ATI Travel will constantly monitor its safe travel plans to comply with global health and safety protocols

In the event that the tour director has to isolate, the tour will continue with the tour director remotely managing the tour in conjunction with the local team members.

If any of the guests have to isolate, all arrangements will be made to find accommodation and their medical support. This is not included in the package costs and must be covered by the individual’s travel insurance.

The guest can join the tour after the required isolation and clearance if the tour is still active. In the event that the tour has been completed, the guest will be supported to make their return passage home.

We Got You Covered

Something for everyone

Whether you are a first-timer or experienced traveller, our tours meet the expectations, needs and interests of each individual on the tour. Our guests continuously tell us that it surpasses all their expectations.

Active Tour

This tour is suitable for guests who do not mind travelling that extra mile in search of those unique experiences. If you are interested in culture, cuisine, architecture, people interaction and textiles, you will love this tour.  

boutique accommodation

Boutique accommodation, handpicked by us, for you to rest and rejuvenate in beautiful settings such as palaces, homestay, mansions, farm stay, business hotels and glamping is part of the travel experience we curate for you.

Travel in comfort

We provide airport to airport service, for your comfort and safety. Your private vehicle and the English speaking driver will accompany you throughout the journey. Check out the feedback we have received from our guests.

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