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South India Cultural Highlights

Experience the cultural highlights of Southern India with this magical 14-day luxury itinerary, taking in the sights of Mumbai, Hampi, Bangalore, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Karakkudi (Chettinad) and Madurai. Experience the rich culture of the south through visits to ancient ruins and a slew of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, food and market tours, and more. 

Highlights   Pricing
  • Explore the vibrant markets of Mumbai and Karakkudi 
  • Take in the intricate details of Hampi’s ancient ruins and temples
  • Look out over the Bay of Bengal from one of southern India’s oldest structures
  • Be charmed by the “French Riviera of the East” in Pondicherry
 
Starting at
$650
per person per day
View more details
Day by Day Itinerary

View The Wonders of India's South in a larger map
Day 1

Arrive in thrilling Mumbai, the flamboyant home to India’s rich and famous and the renowned Bollywood scene, and transfer to your plush suite at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, where you’re likely to spot celebrities and/or royalty alike, who often frequent the hotel.

Day 2

Today you’re going to become well-acquainted with Mumbai. Your first stop: the Elephanta Caves, a network of sculpted caves located on the island of Elephanta in the Arabian Sea. Next, you’ll be off on a market tour, where you can haggle for everything from fresh fruits, to scarves, to jewelry. Finally, you’ll head to the Kala Ghoda Art District, home to a slew of art galleries, universities, museums, and more.

Day 3

Head to Hampi today, home to the ruins of the ancient Vijayanagara Empire, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll fly to Hubli Airport, and then drive three hours to Hampi. Check in to your room at one of our two recommended luxury hotels, Hampi Boulder or The Hyatt Place, and get settled in.

Day 4

Take a peek into India’s past today with a tour of Hampi’s temples, many of which are decorated in fascinating ancient motifs and elaborate frescoes. See the city from atop Matanga Hill, a special Hampi attraction known for its particularly magical sunrise and sunset views. Finally, if you happen to be visiting in November, take part in the Utsav Festival, Hampi’s largest festival, featuring music, dance and puppet performances, as well as fireworks and more.

Day 5

Take off for Bangalore today, well-known as the country’s information technology capital, and India’s third-largest city. Transfer to your suite at the Taj West End, which holds the title of the city’s first hotel, and become acquainted with your new surroundings.

Day 6

Explore Bangalore today, on a tour that takes you to Lal Bagh, a botanical garden with India's largest collection of tropical plants; Dodda Basavana Gudi, also known as the Bull Temple, representing a sacred Hindu demi-god, and Bangalore Palace. Spend the rest of your day relaxing in the palatial surroundings of your hotel, or exploring the city as you like. 

Day 7

Today you’ll fly to Chennai, and then drive for two hours to Mahabalipuram, an ancient historic town that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Check in to your room at Vivanta by Taj - Fisherman's Cove, and get settled in. Relax at your hotel for the evening.

Day 8

Get acquainted with Mahabalipuram today, starting with a visit to the Five Rathas, believed to have once been a learning tool for teachers to instruct young students the art of carving. Next up, visit the Shore Temple, overlooking the Bay of Bengal, one of the oldest structural stone temples of South India. 

Day 9

It’s back on the road for 2 hours again today, your destination: the charming city of Pondicherry, or as the locals know it, Pondi. The city was once the largest French colony in India, and still retains much of its colonial elegance. The Old Quarters are lined with Mediterranean-style houses and bakeries, though this “French Riviera of the East” is still true to its Indian roots. Check in to your hotel, located in the Old French Quarter, La Villa Shanti. 

Day 10

Discover Pondicherry’s historical sights today, on a Heritage Walk that will take you through the city’s Old Quarters, where you’ll take in both French and Tamil style architecture. Learn more of the city’s history and culture with a visit to Pondicherry Museum. Afterwards, unwind on one of the unspoilt beaches nearby. Spend the night once again at La Villa Shanti.

Day 11

Today you’re off on a drive to Karakkudi (5 hours away), a Heritage town in Tamil Nadu, famous for its palatial limestone structures. Check in to your suite at the mansion-cum-hotel Visalam. Relax there today - the hotel’s stunning pool is calling your name.

Day 12

Karaikudi is known for its non-vegetarian delicacies, and is a haven for foodies. See what all the fuss is about on a food tour of the city. Follow this up with a private palace tour, before enjoying some retail therapy during a market visit. Relax back at your hotel for the evening. 

Day 13

It’s back on the road today. This time your destination is Madurai, 2 hours away on the banks of River Vaigai. Check in to your hotel, the Taj Garden Retreat, which has a lovely view of Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. Once settled in, venture to the temple’s grounds to see it close up. Next, pay a visit to Thirumalai Nayak palace, a sprawling royal abode once considered one of the wonders of the South.

Day 14

Say goodbye to Madurai and India today. Fly to Chennai, from where you can catch a flight to your next destination. 

 

Suggested Accommodations

Location
Accommodation
MUMBAI
Taj Mahal Palace & Tower

Taj Mahal Palace & Tower

For over a century, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower has been the haunt of India's elite, and has played host to princes, kings, maharajas, presidents, CEOs and countless celebrities. Built in 1903, it is an architectural marvel, bringing together Moorish, Oriental, and Florentine styles. Inside, the hotel showcases contemporary Indian art framed by vaulted alabaster ceilings, onyx columns, graceful archways, hand-woven silk carpets, crystal chandeliers, and an eclectic collection of furniture. There are 519 rooms and 46 opulent suites with panoramic views of the Arabian Sea and the Gateway of India. The Taj's excellent dining options include Golden Dragon - voted the best Chinese restaurant in Mumbai; Masala Kraft - Indian cuisine with a contemporary twist; Souk, which has stunning views of Mumbai from its rooftop location and serves Middle Eastern cuisine; The Zodiac Grill, where a special menu is offered for each month's star sign, and the stellar Wasabi By Morimoto - Mumbai's first contemporary Japanese restaurant, helmed by the Iron Chef himself. There is also the Harbour Bar, Mumbai's first drinking establishment, and the Insomnia nightclub, filled with "Bombabes" and their millionaire boyfriends. Guests can unwind at the luxurious spa, the fitness center, equipped with cardiovascular and weight training equipment, steam shower and sauna and swimming pool, or with a game of badminton, squash, tennis or billiards. The hotel also has a private yacht available for day trips on the Arabian Sea or to nearby Elephanta Island. There is a business center with wired and wireless Internet access, secretarial services and cell phones and laptops for hire. Wi-fi available throughout the hotel. The Taj Mahal Palace is 45 minutes from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM).

 
 
HAMPI
Hampi Boulders, The Hyatt Place

Hampi Boulders

A unique, creative resort set less than an hour from the ruins of Hampi, the Hampi Boulders resort overlooks the swift rivers of the Tungabhadra River. Each of the resort’s luxury cottages were designed and built to co-exist in harmony with the local environment; indeed, several were built to resemble local boulders, for which the area is famous. The onsite restaurant serves authentic Southern Indian food, complemented by a decent selection of wine and exotic cocktails. Amenities include a rock swimming pool and a clubhouse, which offers a variety of games from billiards to table tennis.
 

The Hyatt Place

Less than an hour’s drive from the UNESCO World Heritage ruins of Hampi, arguably the world’s largest outdoor museum, the Hyatt Place is set amidst the greenery of the nearby Vidyanagar Township. The Hyatt Place’s 155 rooms include a signature Hyatt Grand Bed, a media center, Wi-Fi, satellite television, a work desk, and a refrigerator; seven of the suites have their own private pool. The on-site restaurant serves Indian and western cuisine as well as a breakfast buffet, and a well-stocked bar that offers beer and wine from across the globe. Other facilities include a fitness center, a games room, an outdoor pool, a business center, and a coffee shop.
 
 
BANGALORE
Taj West End

Taj West End

Set amidst twenty acres of gardens, this luxury hotel in central Bangalore was the city’s first hotel. Constructed in 1887, the Taj West End has been meticulously preserved throughout the decades, and remains a fine example of colonial-era luxury, opulence, and hospitality. Each of the Taj’s ninety-one rooms feature twenty-four hour room service, electronic safes, mini-bar, a plasma television with satellite channels, telephones with an international calling capability, and queen size beds. On-site restaurants include Blue Ginger, which serves refined, elegant versions of classic Vietnamese food within a tasteful, atmospheric setting; Masala Klub, which features light, refreshing twists on traditional north and south Indian dishes; Mynt, which offers refreshing, authentic Mediterranean cuisine; and Blue Bar, an open air bar located in the gardens adjacent to Blue Ginger. Other amenities include a business center, a fully-equipped fitness center, swimming pools, and a full-service spa. The Taj West End is located approximately 45 minutes away from Bangalore airport (BLR).
 
 
MAHABALIPURAM
Vivanta by Taj - Fisherman's Cove

Vivanta by Taj - Fisherman's Cove

Just south of Chennai, near the temples of Mahabalipuram lies Fisherman’s Cove, a beautiful resort built on the ruins of an old Dutch fort. Situated on a private beach, Fisherman’s Cove contains a variety of rooms and cottages, some of which feature sea and beach views, but all of whom possess flat-screen televisions, bright, cheery spaces, tasteful, elegant furniture, and climate control. Culinary options include Seagull, an all-day restaurant which serves English-inspired Continental, Chinese, and Indian fare; the Bay View, which features fresh, delicious sea food prepared in a variety of ways, from barbecued to grilled; and an open-air deck and upscale bar. Amenities include a spa by the internationally renowned Jiva, and a fitness center. Vivanta by Taj Fisherman’s Cove lies twenty minutes from Mahabalipuram, and an hour away from downtown Chennai.
 
 
PONDICHERRY
La Villa Shanti

La Villa Shanti


Hidden behind a discrete facade, this nineteenth century house is located in the old French town. After receiving a series of expansions and renovations, La Villa Shanti's redesign resulted in a hip, modern lodge that nonetheless celebrates its distinct, French heritage. The hotel itself comprises fifteen well-decorated and spacious rooms built around an inner courtyard; all its rooms feature bright, cheery spaces, plush, comfortable beds, modern, immaculate bathrooms, air-conditioning, cable television, in-room Wi-Fi, and a minibar. Dining options include a restaurant which serves fresh, organic produce and meats in a variety of preparations, and a casual, comfortable cafe bar. While La Villa Shanti does not have a gym or spa, its courtyard does feature a beautiful, verdant garden that matches its unique architecture.


 
 
KARAKKUDI
Visalam

Visalam

Originally built as a private mansion in the 1930s, Visaram has been lovingly refurbished and converted into an environmentally friendly 15-room boutique property. Built largely from teak, the mansion sits beside a beautiful blue lotus pond. All rooms have high ceilings and beautiful views, and some come with four-poster beds. The restaurant serves traditional Chettinadi cuisine; as many Chettiars, or South Indian merchants, made their fortune overseas, Chettinadi fare is heavily influenced by flavors from areas like Southeast Asia. In addition, this food is usually eaten in the manner of locals - with the fingers. Guests can eat in the restaurant, by the pool, or even take a cooking lesson in the kitchen, where they will learn to make elaborate thails, an assortment of delicately spiced and prepared dishes that complement each other. The pool, set in a stunning bougainvillea garden, is a perfect spot to relax.
 
 
MADURAI
Taj Garden Retreat

Taj Garden Retreat

With a comprehensive view of Meenakshi Temple, the 100 year-old Taj Garden Retreat is set amidst lush, serene gardens. The resort’s fifty rooms feature in-room safes, twenty-four hour room service, currency exchange, and high-speed internet access. The resort’s rooms fall into three categories: Old World Rooms are the oldest, and feature wooden furniture and colonial charm; Deluxe Rooms offer views of the Meenakshi Temple and Kodai Hills; and Superior Rooms are the newest, with views of the swimming pool and Madurai city. The resort’s signature restaurant offers a range of international and Indian dishes in an opulent, luxurious setting that evokes the bygone days of the British Raj. Amenities include an outdoor swimming pool shaded by a growth of trees, and several tennis and badminton courts. The Taj Garden Retreat lies less than half an-hour’s drive from Madurai International Airport, and fifteen minutes from Meenakshi Temple and downtown Madurai.
 
 
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