Pearls South India – ‘seductive south’

South India is a “soft-landing’ for first time visitors to the subcontinent. For travellers who have visited the more hectic north, you will be seduced by her languorous sensuousness. The landscape you journey through is beautiful and varied. The food is an endlessly varying feast for the senses. The harmonious cultural mélange ranges from the Dravidian past, through various religious and political dynasties, the Chinese fishing and trade routes, the remnants of the Dutch, Portuguese and British colonial past to Syrian Christian and Jewish settlements and modern day advancements in health and education.

Enjoy diverse cultures as we cross three States: (Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala), each with distinctive traditions, exquisite architectural jewels, and exceptional food. Hotels have been selected for their special charm, great comfort and lovely locations.


floating in your private kettuvalom houseboat on the backwaters with a sunset music recital
• cooking demonstrations with some of South India’s most renowned chefs and sampling a heady array of regional cuisines
• delightful boutique and heritage accommodations that exude a monastic luxury
• visiting exceptional UNESCO and significant temple sites
• travelling wondrously diverse landscapes from the Bay of Bengal through the verdant Western ghats to the exotic Malabar coast


LENGTH: 15 Days
TYPE: Small Group Tour | AoL Escorted | Bespoke
STYLE: cultural | arts | architecture | heritage | cuisine
START/FINISH: Chennai/Kochi
12 – 26 August 2018 

11-25 August 2019


All meals, tour leader, expert guide, all entry fees and permits, porterage

HOTEL STANDARD: Luxury & Deluxe
TRANSPORT: Luxury mini coach


12 – 26 August 2018

11-25 August 2019


 from USD8800 twin | double share

Minimum 6 | maximum 12 guests


  • DAY 1


    You will be met on arrival at Chennai Airport and transferred to Taj Vivanta Fisherman’s Cove Hotel, a seaside location an hour from the city.

  • DAY 2


    Visit Mamallapuram’s cave temples and ancient bas-reliefs that celebrate the Pallava Kings. This Tamil dynasty was at its height from the 5th to 8th centuries as a temple and port town of great significance. After a delightful seafood lunch continue to Pondicherry.
    This afternoon visit the thriving Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha in all his manifestations and take darshan with the many devotees.

  • DAY 3


    Pondicherry is a delightful and unique corner of India that remains forever France, a final staging post for the retreating French during British rule with wide tree-lined boulevards, gorgeous colonial mansions and French street names. Though there is increasing pressure on its heritage, there are many eclectic restaurants, cafes, and stylish boutiques.
 Our intimate luxury hotel combines French colonial chic with Indian exotica with cool spacious rooms, lovely colonnaded balconies and a swimming pool.

  • DAY 4


    Today ‘s excursion is to the fascinating intentional community of Auroville, the world’s largest spiritual experiment conceived and inaugurated in 1971 by ‘the Mother” as an international utopia free of government, free of money, ownership, religion and conflict. Whilst not all is as it may seem, there are some wonderful enterprises here and a visit to the astonishing Matramandir, the gold-clad meditation orb at its centre, an unforgettable experience as compelling as being in one of the grand cathedrals of Europe.

  • DAY 5

    THANJAVUR [Tanjore]

    Drive south via the famous temple city of Chidambaram with its Nataraja (dancing Shiva) Dravidian temple to Thanjavur, the ancient capital of the Chola kings who go back to the beginning the Christian era. Your hotel is a boutique luxury property built around a quintessential Tamil heritage home, with a pool and delightful and inventive Sattvic cuisine and incomparable service.

  • DAY 6


    Visit Brihadeshvara temple built it in honour of Lord Shiva in about 1009 A.D. and one of the most outstanding monuments of the Chola Period.
    At the hotel, the chef will be happy to invite you into his kitchens to demonstrate some of his special dishes. Learn about the ancient art of bronze using the cire perdue (lost wax technique) and in the evening enjoy a music recital.

  • DAY 7


    Today journey towards Karaikudi, the biggest city in Chettinad famous for its Ganesha temple, antiques, woven textiles, crafts, majestic mansions and a most distinctive cuisine. Seventy four other villages comprise Chettinad, the homeland of the Nattukottai Chettiars who were a prosperous banking community who ventured overseas to do business in South and Southeast Asia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Their legacies are the fascinating houses they built with precious rosewood, teak and Japanese tiles. Your hotel is an outstanding example of one of these ancestral homes converted to a find boutique hotel.

  • DAY 8


    The Chettiars are known for their family temples and ancestral mansions.
    Today’s culinary highlight is a cooking demonstration illuminating the wonderful spicing of Chettinad cuisine that bristles with the fragrant aromas of freshly ground spices, especially pepper. You will be served an exceptional sadya banquet served on banana leaf in the home of one of Chettinad’s most famed cooks.

  • DAY 9


    Today, traverse the beautiful scenery and tropical farmlands of the Western Ghats, rich with coffee, tea and spice plantations, to reach Thekaddy by late afternoon. For the next two nights you are based near Periyar National Park, staying in the charming and very comfortable eco-friendly Spice Village which has its own extensive organic market garden, spice gardens all around and a marvellous Ayurvedic Centre for health treatments.

  • 10


    Today’s excursions include a rural ramble with elephants and a visit to a tea plantation. Marieke will introduce you to her all time favourite spice merchant so you carry home spices more fragrant and fresh than anything you’ll find at home.

  • DAY 11


    Travel through very lush, verdant tropical scenery to reach the Kerala backwaters. Lunch en-route will be enjoyed at a private coffee and rubber Estate with its lovingly restored art deco bungalow where our hostess is renowned as a custodian over wonderful family recipes

  • DAY 12


    Board your individual Kettuvalam houseboat. They are Kerala’s magical answer to the caravans of the West. Each houseboat comes with en-suite air-conditioned cabins and is a floating hotel space with its own staff. It is a spellbinding experience drifting in the canals and lagoons and absorbing the ancient way of life along the smaller canals and waterways. A traditional dinner will be served accompanied by a flute recital.

  • DAY 13


    Take in the major historic and architectural sites of the Fort, the colourful antique bazaars and delightful boutiques.
    Tonight’s special dinner is with the renowned Nimmy Paul in her culinary atelier. A master of Syrian Christian cooking, Nimmy will demonstrate some beautiful dishes that form part of the banquet she serves at her long table.

  • DAY 14


    Fort Kochi is a wonderful melange of all those explorers and traders who came to her shores since long ago – the Chinese, Portuguese and Dutch, Jews and the British whose faded vestiges remain to be enjoyed in this charming town.  This evening attend a Kathakali, a stylised classical Indian dance drama famous for its elaborate costumes and exaggerated gestures. It’s utterly mesmerising watching the performers prepare their make-up.
    Farewell dinner at the hotel.

  • DAY 15


    This is a relaxed day for last minute sightseeing or shopping. This evening you will be transferred to Kochi airport for international departure or you may continue your travels in India arranged by Art of Living.


    Mysore or Hampi via Bangalore

    A Gastronomic Extension From Cochin To Tellicherry | Tranquil | Mysore

    An Ayurveda Resort recommended by AoL

    Sri Lanka


Dearest Marieke, 
Now back after another wonderful trip filled with endless colour and beauty, things I love, as simple as smiles on faces so ready to share, a temple glowingly yellow, an elephant engaged in blessing all and sundry, a plate of deliciously fresh organic food, lovingly prepared and served on a banana leaf from the grounds of the hosts plantation. Thank you for making all of this and much much more possible. Not the least of which was cruising the Venice of India in Kerala.  India is at its least exciting, it is full of promise, tolerance, spirituality and offers much that the rest of the world could sit up and take notice of.  I am thankful for the way in which you, with the erudite Durga by your side, present it and let it gently unfold, with a surprise here and there. The memories and photographs are what are now left. Thankfully neither will fade away. What you do is an art and involves detailed planning. I am appreciative of being able to take part in both.
With my love,

Hi Marieke,
Thank you so much.  What I would have loved to say to you before you and Usha jetted off after lunch was this:
I know that I have been blessed to be the recipient of your many years of experience in the subcontinent.  It showed in everything we did, from the delicious food and gorgeous hotels, the highly polished itinerary, the hospitality and friendship of everyone we met and of course, the ace up your sleeve in India, Durga.  As I am usually the one organising everything on our trips, it was great not to have to think about anything else except enjoying the sights in front of me and knowing what time the next meal was!  It is truly a holiday when you have no idea what day it is, and you don’t care to know either…
India is certainly a land of contrasts, and you were right in saying that as soon as the initial shock wears off, you are then free to experience the rest of what the country has to offer.  I am glad that we chose the soft landing in the south.  Thank you for converting a non-believer.
With love, Karen Van A Sydney

Hi Marieke,
We are home now and I would like to thank you for organising such a wonderful trip for us.
India is such an amazing place.  I was reading Kipling’s book Kim as we travelled and enjoyed seeing little scenes straight from the book, from the oxen carts, the men in dhotis planting rice, the women herding goats, a girl gathering her buffalo out of the river, chickens scurrying around a thatched hut, the man sewing on a treadle machine and another ironing using a coal iron.
The highlights of the trip were the amazing bas reliefs at Mahabalipuram near the shore temple and the huge elephant and Nandi there, staying at Visalam, Mrs Meyappan’s wonderful lunch, an oxen cart tour of the town that Visalam is in, talking to children on a school excursion at Tanjore palace, eating cashews freshly roasted at the road side, and seeing the amazing town and village life along the roads.
We really enjoyed the driver and the car he used was so cool and comfortable.
Thank you for all your help and organization.
 Melissa and Peter


Tour Leader Marieke Brugman

Having travelled in the south many times, Marieke specially loves it for the sweetness of her people, lively living temples, colourful festivals and enticing cuisine. The south feels to have a certain 'softness' - maybe it's the constantly warm climate and verdant landscapes or the sense that so many explorers over so many centuries came, settled, exerted their influence that has left a sense of tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Pondicherry and Fort Kochi are particular favourites for their colonial architecture and languid manners. It is also the home of Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga which has long been her other vocation.

Your Tour Guide Durga Singh was first charmed by South India’s treasures and relaxed lifestyle when with Marieke they originally researched the region together in a gold Ambassador, over a decade ago. As a desert-dweller he is enamoured of so much water and such lush landscapes. Highly educated, Durga can converse deeply on almost any subject whether this be spiritual traditions, politics, architecture, farming, music or ancient philosophy. He is unfailingly solicitous of all our guests and brings both a depth of knowledge and a great sense of fun to all our Indian adventures.


For further details or to request a brochure on this tour please complete your details below.


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