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Remarkable East

Secret South India

Part of Remarkable East’s Insight Series

14 Days | 12–25 February 2019 | Limited to 10 passengers

In more than two decades of travel across Asia I have not encountered as many remarkable people and places in such close proximity to each other as I’ve discovered in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. This is a tour of places, ideas and customs that very few visitors have the opportunity to be exposed to. Central to Secret South India are the places we stay - heritage hotels, homestays and B&Bs - all with engaging hosts who will welcome us as they would welcome family friends. What a privilege it is to have found these secret.

Lincoln Harris (Founder, Remarkable East)

Tour Highlights

Secret South India will reveal to you the remarkable people and places of India’s three southern-most states: Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Highlighting themes of architecture, art, religious ritual, food and history, this two-week journey is the result of our years of reconnaissance and in-depth travel in the south of India. Largely avoiding conventional sights and activities, this active-paced tour focuses on the finer details of places, and on the people who call those locations home.

  • Visit Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, one of India’s largest temples
  • Witness the spectacular classical dance-drama of Kathakali in its original setting
  • Uncover the secrets of Mappila cuisine with a market visit and cooking class
  • Discover the distinct spiced cuisine and 18th century mansions of Chettinad
  • Experience a 2-night stay at a colonial coffee plantation bungalow in Coorg
  • Observe traditional temple rituals performed in a family temple in Kerala
  • Be mesmerized by Theyyam, a colourful religious ceremony
  • Marvel as almost 100,000 lights illuminate Mysore Palace at night
  • Experience traditional home-cooked meals and meet the wonderful hosts who prepare them
  • An active-paced tour

Secret South India 14 Days

12 – 25 February 2019

  • Number of nights
  • Journey by plane
  • Journey by vehicle/train
  • Chennai (arrival), 1 day
  • Madurai, 2 days
  • Karaikudi, 2 days
  • Pollachi, 2 days
  • Vellinezhi, 1 day
  • Tellicherry , 2 days
  • Coorg, 2 days
  • Mysore, 1 day
  • Bangalore (departure)


You will be met upon arrival in Chennai and transferred to your hotel. A thriving modern Indian city, Chennai is the gateway to Tamil Nadu and holds an important place in the culture of the Tamil people. Our journey through Secret South India starts here.

Overnight Trident Hotel, Chennai

Chennai — Madurai

Delve into the heart of Chennai with a walking tour hosted by an expert resident guide. The Peacock Trail uncovers religious practices and anecdotes of everyday life in Chennai’s Mylapore area. Afterwards fly to Madurai, one of South India’s oldest cities. In the early evening visit Meenakshi Temple, with its colourful, soaring spires, and observe the cacophony of sounds and frenetic activity at this awe-inspiring temple.

Overnight The Gateway Hotel, Madurai


Explore the by-lanes of Madurai with a walking tour created by local women. Discover the flower markets and vendors in the narrow and bustling streets, and see the city from the perspective of the women who live here. Afterwards, visit the Ghandi Museum and the city’s silk weavers colony — where colourful fabrics are woven on traditional handlooms.

Overnight The Gateway Hotel, Madurai

Madurai — Karaikudi

Continue by vehicle to the Chettinad region, once made wealthy by teak traders and financiers, and known for its unique cuisine and 18th century mansions. For the next two nights stay at Visalam, a restored 1930s mansion with high teak ceilings and Art Deco furniture. Later, enjoy a bullock cart ride and visit local artisans and workshops.

Overnight Visalam, Karaikudi


Immerse yourself in the small towns of Chettinad today. Discover the crumbling mansions and palaces of Karaikudi on foot with a guided walk, visit the outstanding mansion of Kottaiyur, a hand weaver’s workshop and Nemam temple. In the afternoon you may wish to enjoy the pool at the hotel or the kitchen at Visalam welcomes those curious about Chettinad cooking.

Overnight Visalam, Karaikudi

Karaikudi — Pollachi

Drive through dry climate agricultural countryside to our next destination deep in the Tamil Nadu hinterland. Enjoy the next two nights at a lovely farm stay, abundant with crops, native plants and animals. Our host Prabhu is a larger than- life character who is proud of his farm and knowledge of it. In the afternoon, stretch your legs with a arm walk and discover some of this expansive property.

Overnight Banyan Tree Farm Stay, Pollachi


A full day to explore Pollachi and surrounding areas. We may visit the lively town market in Pollachi — where farmers and traders come together to buy and sell agricultural goods — a place that sees few western visitors.

Overnight Banyan Tree Farm Stay, Pollachi

Pollachi — Vellinezhi

Drive to Vellinezhi, the cradle of Kathakali dance. Our accommodation here is Olappamanna Mana — where the traditions of the Kerala Brahmin community are observed. Witness the auspicious rituals practiced each day at the private family temple and experience vegetarian dishes like jack fruit and banana flower curries. In the afternoon, be mesmerized by the Kathakali, where heavily made-up men in elaborate costumes tell the stories of the Indian epics.

Overnight, Olappamanna Mana, Vellinezhi

Vellinezhi — Tellicherry

Travel by train to Kannur. India’s railway network is one of the world’s largest, and integral to the functioning of the country. A local train ride is an experience not to be missed. For the next two nights stay at Ayisha Manzil, a rambling landowners’ bungalow overlooking the Arabian Sea, known for its hosts and their cuisine. Tonight, visit a local temple and witness Theyyam — a dramatic and colourful religious ritual featuring elaborate costumes and masked devotes in a trance-like state.

Overnight Ayisha Manzil, Tellicherry


Uncover the secrets of Mappila food today — a unique cuisine that originates in the Muslim community of Kerala. Visit the local fish and vegetable market, shopping for ingredients ahead of an afternoon cooking class with our hostess Mrs Faiza — a cookbook author and expert in Mappila food. Dine under the stars overlooking the sea tonight and enjoy the dishes you have learnt to cook.

Overnight Ayisha Manzil, Tellicherry

Tellicherry — Coorg

Enjoy egg hoppers, fresh juice and local fruits on the verandah for breakfast, before departing by vehicle for Coorg. A colonial bungalow surrounded by flower-filled and manicured gardens situated within a working coffee estate is our home for the next two nights. In the afternoon, a short plantation walk will reveal the art of coffee cultivation.

Overnight The School Estate, Coorg


Day at leisure. You may choose to take a longer walk through the estate, sip tea in the garden, unwind on your verandah, or play a round of golf with our host at the nearby golf club — a picturesque and relaxed course.

School Estate is the perfect spot for a quiet, relaxing day and comes at an ideal point in our journey. With its pretty gardens and surrounding coffee plantations, we’ll surely savour this beautiful location and our last few days together as a group. There’s no better place to pause and reflect on the trip, and all that we have seen and experienced together. Who could resist lingering over one more cup of tea on the lawn?

Overnight The School Estate, Coorg

Coorg — Mysore

Drive to Mysore, a captivating south Indian city famous for its palace. Immerse yourself in the city’s history and markets on a guided walking tour. Your senses will be brought to life by garlands of marigolds and roses, sandalwood incense and spices at the city market, and local delicacies like Mysore Pak and Masala dosa tasted along the way. Tonight, join the locals and visitors who flock each Sunday to Mysore Palace and marvel as almost 100,000 lights illuminate its magnificent façade.

Overnight Royal Orchid Metropole, Mysore

Mysore — Bangalore

Drive to Bangalore airport for departing international flight and bid farewell to the Secret South India you have discovered.

Secret South India

$9,475 per person twin share, $2,870 single supplement

  • Fully escorted from Chennai by Lincoln Harris
  • Return economy class international flight^
  • 13 nights’ accommodation
  • All breakfasts and dinners, 8 x lunches
  • Transport by air-conditioned mini coach for all transfers, sightseeing and touring as per itinerary
  • English-speaking Indian guide throughout
  • Internal flights: Chennai — Madurai
  • Train ticket Vellinezhi to Kannur

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Secret South India

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