A three week tour taking in the beauties of Kerala and the jungles of Karnataka before touring through Sri Lanka and ending on the beach at Galle.
Kerala beaches, backwaters, Fort Cochin, Ooty, Mysore, Chennai, Colombo, Sri Lanka's Cultuarla triangle, Hill Country, Kandy
Day 1. Fly from London to Colombo on Sri Lankan Airlines. The flights are direct non-stop and flying time is 11 hours.
Day 2. Arrive Colombo and connect with flight to Trivandrum. The flight takes 45 minutes. On arrival in Trivandrum you will be met and driven to the Saurya Samudra Hotel where I would recommend you check into one of the Kerala Houses for three nights. Rest of the day relaxing at the Surya Samudra.
Day 3 Recommended visit to the palace at Padmanabhapuram and possible the Pilgrimage City of Kanya Kumari, which is the Lands End of India. The famous place is where the Indian Ocean the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal all meet. The palace is sensational being the former palace of the Maharajas of Travancore. Overnight Surya Samudra.
Full day at the Surya Samudra.
I suggest that you spend some time on the backwaters, which is a special part of Kerala. I would propose the following. You are driven from the Surya Samudra to Quilon where you will be picked up and taken by Rice barge to an hotel on the backwaters. There are numerous hotels from private Kerala houses to resorts such as the Coconut Lagoon and the Taj Kumarakom. The mansion Houses at the Coconut Lagoon are delightful but the place is very much a resort. The private places such as Mankotta Island and Chalakuzy are delightful but one is staying with a family albeit in a different part of the house. I have booked both types. Both experiences have proved to be very popular.
Full day in and around the backwaters. It is possible to sleep on a rice barge on the backwaters. However people have mixed views about the experience.
Proceed from Kumarakom on the backwaters to Cochin and check into the Brunton Boatyard or the Malabar House residency for three nights.
Full day in Cochin I recommend visits to Jewtown, Mattancherry and Fort Cochin.
I think Cochin (though not nearby Ernakalum) is the most charming town in Kerala.
Full day in Cochin.
To get to Ooty from Cochin is a full days drive. The first part of the drive takes you through the highly populated. I can recommend a stop at Trichur, which has some famous temples. The second half of the drive involves a climb into the Nilgiri Hills following the path of the miniature metre gauge railway. This is quite fun and if the timing works properly you could ride the train for a couple of stops Coonoor to Ooty is a good one.
Stay at the Savoy Hotel in Ooty for two nights.
Full day in Ooty. I recommend a visit to the botanical gardens and just above the gardens is a village occupied by the Toda people one of the best known tribal groups in India.
There is a racecourse there and I will let you know if there will be any racing when you are staying. You can ride if you so desire arrangements made through the hotel. The Ooty Club which is just up from the Savoy was (so I am informed) the place where the rules of snooker were first laid down. I also recommend a visit to the Fernhill Palace, which was the Maharaja of Mysore's hill palace. This would be the most sensational hotel if the required refurbishment is carried out. It is well worth a visit.
Drive from Ooty to Mysore. This is a wonderful drive through the wildlife sanctuaries of Bandipur and Mudamalai. You can stop off at a jungle lodge for refreshments. Some of the views looking north from the hills into the plains of Karnataka are sensational. On arrival in Mysore check into the Lalithmahal Palace Hotel or the more modest Green Hotel for two nights. I am very fond of the bazaar in Mysore especially at dusk when it gets lively. I also recommend a drive to the top of Chaumundi Hill at sunset.
Full day in Mysore. Sightseeing should include the City palace and I recommend you take a short trip to the fort, at Srirangapatnam famous for its association with Tipu Sultan. Tipu's palace and tomb are also worth seeing. Nearby is a lovely temple at Somnathpur. It is Hoysala style, thirteenth century. Return to Mysore in the early evening
Morning transfer to the station to catch a train to Madras. This is a fast train and you will travel via Bangalore. On arrival in Madras you will be met and driven to an hotel called the Fisherman's Cove at Covalong, South of Madras. There are some excellent hotels in Madras as well but it is nice to be by the Bay of Bengal.
Sightseeing in Madras and district including the rock temples and sculptures at Mahabalipuram. I am also fond of Kanchipuram, which was the capital of the Pallava Kings and is a major silk centre
Transfer to the airport to fly to Colombo. On arrival transfer to Kandalama in the north and stay at the Kandalama hotel which is a wonderful place. And an excellent place to see the ancient cities of the north.
Visit the Citadel of Sigiriya and if you have the energy, the city of Pollonaruwa
Proceed to Kandy. Visit the elephant orphanage Temple of the Tooth of the Buddha and the Botanical gardens. I also ought to mention that I met the owners of the Victoria Golf Club and I was told it was delightful and I could easily make the appropriate arrangements.
Drive from Kandy through the hill country to Nuwara Eliya. Here I have the opportunity to book a tea plantation house or use colonial hotel like the St Andrews.
Continue to the coast driving down though some of he most beautiful parts of Sri Lanka such as the Ella Gap. Overnight at the Sun House in Galle
Morning exploring Gall. Drive on for the last two nights at the little Nil Manel hotel south of Bentota.
Final day relaxing on the beach at the Nil Manel.
Early morning transfer back to the airport to catch a Sri Lankan Airways flight back to the UK.