South India Odyssey

Imagine nothing less than a kaleidoscopic journey of the senses. India is a land of the mystical and this Yoga vacation will captivate you as we feast on cultural, spiritual, culinary, artistic and majestic wonders… in the land of the unexpected.

This small group tour is specifically curated to bring you deeply into the destination. Food, people, customs combined with beautiful landscapes interlaced with spiritual and yoga experiences (yoga is optional) to get you close to the natural surroundings.

Our service is second to none, from your decision to join our tour, throughout the trip and when you get home, we will be there for you.

This escape brings you experiences you wouldn’t find on your own.

This tour was co-designed by Ellen Schaeffer, who will lead our group. One Yoga Center, Foster, RI

Tour dates April 1-14, 2020

Escape With Us

Our escapes are unique in offering you an adventure filled itinerary with a local flavor. We work with local guides, planners and connections to make sure you do, see and even eat and drink things you may not have even thought of on your own.

Small Groups

We keep our groups small so we get to know each other and travel together, unified by the destination and our experiences.  Often lifelong friendships are forged. If anything, our growing group of like minded travelers start traveling together on future trips. “Where should we go next?” is often the last question asked as we depart for home.

Are you traveling solo? It is our pleasure to welcome you to our small group. We will match you with another solo traveler of the same gender. If you wish, you may choose to pay a solo supplement to have your own room. Please check for availability.

For each trip, you will be invited to our Facebook group so you can chat with fellow travelers, dream about the upcoming trip together, maybe prepare together, hiking, practice a useful skill, etc. Usually, we also organize a get together about a month before the trip to share information, pass out travel documents, and ‘break the ice’ so when we embark on our trip we already know each other a bit. If you don’t live in the area, no worries, we will Skype you into the party and mail you your travel documents.

Why negotiate and plan yourself. Even the best guidebook can’t give you the freedom to embrace and immerse yourself in the destination. Enjoy the pleasure of travel without having to think about the details, leave the planning to us, your job is to fully embrace the journey without the hassles! We are so happy you are considering being our guest and can’t wait to deliver your fantastic experience!

Itinerary

Day 1 – April 2 – Thursday – Arrive Chennai/Chennai – Mamallapuram

Arrival at Chennai airport. Meet our tour guide who will provide assistance and then drive us to Mamallapuram.

Night stay in Mamallapuram.

Mamallapuram, Shore Temple

Day 2 – April 3 – Friday – Mamallapuram

After breakfast The Shore Temple, Built during the 7th century, Shore Temple is one of the oldest South Indian temples constructed in the Dravidian style and depicts the royal taste of the Pallava dynasty. It was constructed as a work of art. The Pallavas, who were known to be great patrons of art wanted to create a temple in their own style of architecture.

Also visit Panch Rathas (Five Rathas) Arjuna’s Penance.

Later Explore Mahabalipuram beaches, sandy beaches and a rich history almost sum up Mahabalipuram in its entirety. The beach is beautiful, white and clean.

Overnight in Mamallapuram

Day 3 – April 4 – Saturday – Pondicherry

Morning leave for Pondicherry, a French colonial settlement in India until 1954, is now a Union Territory town bounded by the southeastern Tamil Nadu state. Its French legacy is preserved in its French Quarter, with tree-lined streets, mustard-colored colonial villas, and chic boutiques. A seaside promenade runs along the Bay of Bengal and passes several statues, including a 4m-high Gandhi Memorial. Enjoy the beautiful city and some shopping.

Over the next two days experience an Ashram, learning about Yoga traditions, how yoga is used as a healing art in India, as Asana translates to therapy. Enjoy an evening of traditional dance and learn how Mudras are used as expressions in dance.

Overnight in Pondicherry

Day 4 – April 5 – Sunday – Pondicherry

Overnight in Pondicherry

Day 5 – April 6 – Monday – Pondicherry to Trichy

After breakfast leave for Trichy by road en-route visiting temples in Chidambaram, Kumbakonam and Gangaikondacholapuram.

Later drive to Tiruchirappalli (also called Tiruchi or Trichy) is an ancient city in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state. The Kaveri and Kollidam rivers flow around Srirangam Island, which is known for sacred Hindu sites Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, with intricately carved gopurams (towering gateways), and Jambukeswarar-Akilandeswari Temple, dedicated to the god Shiva. The Rock Fort Temple complex towers over the city center.

Night stay in Trichy.

Day 6 – April 7 – Tuesday – Trichy to Ooty

After breakfast check-out and drive to Ooty. Today is a driving day. It will be filled with amazing landscapes as we pass into higher ground.

When we arrive the we are free to explore the beautiful & ravishing beauty of Ooty. Also we will visit the Botanical Garden: A variety of exotic and ornamental plants adorn this garden which is the venue for the Flower show held in May every year.

Night stay in Ooty.

Day 7 – April 8 – Wednesday – Ooty

After breakfast transfer to Udagamandalam railway station, to experience of the Nilgiri Mountain train. The experience is really out of this world. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is the only mountain railway that operates on a daily basis in South India.

The train runs completely through the picturesque Nilgiri Mountains and the journey is worth the time spent on the train.  Enjoy the mountains and the beautiful scenery that whisks pass you. Initially the mountain train was pulled by a steam locomotive, but now this is sometimes replaced by a diesel one to give the train more pull.

We will be picked up at the Coonoor station and transferred back to the hotel.

The rest of the day is free to relax and explore the surroundings, maybe hire a guide for a hike. It is one of the most popular hill resorts in southern India at an elevation of 7216 ft. above sea-level. The Eastern Ghats are mighty and attractive while the Western Ghats have wooded loveliness. Nature unfolds itself in and around Ooty in a myriad of profiles, each one with a distinctive grandeur and individuality.

Night stay in Ooty.

Day 8 – April 9 – Thursday – Ooty to Munnar

After breakfast drive to Munnar. Our driving day, down the mountain.

Throughout the journey enjoy beautiful streams rubber trees, spices like pepper and cardamom, small waterfalls, and tea plantations through thick forests.

Arrive in Munnar a hill station located 1600 meters above sea level. Once the summer resort of the erstwhile British administration in South India it still retains it’s colonial charm and is famous for tea plantations, most of which are privately owned. With its sprawling estates, rolling hills, sparkling waterfalls, picture postcard hamlets and undulating valleys.

While in Munnar – opt for a spa or Ayurvedic treatment.

Night stay in Munnar.

Day 9 – April 10 – Friday – Munnar

After breakfast we will explore all Munnar has to offer, one of the most beautiful hills station in Kerala.

Tea plantation – Tea gardens spread like a green carpet over hundreds of kilometers, lust green hills, a place so difficult to describe, very low population, too far from pollution, most of the area is covered by Tata tea. It is one of the biggest centers of tea trade in India. Until 1790, Munnar and the surrounding area were forest, when they were first recognized by the Duke of Wellington as an area to grow tea.

Raja Malai – A top peak of Munnar Rajamala is 15 km from Munnar, where you can see Neel Thar (mountain goats), it is the natural habitat of the Nilgiri tahr. Rajamala is 2695 m above sea level. Half the world’s population of the rare mountain goat or tahr which is fast becoming extinct, is now found here. The Nilgiri tahr in Rajamalai are found in small herds in the Eravikulam-Rajamala region. The total number of Niligiri Tahrs in Rajamala is estimated to be over 1300.

Mattupetty Dam – Mattupetty is 13 km from Munnar town. Mattupetty is known for its storage dam and lake which is 1700 mts above sea level. Mattupetty also has a beautifull view of the surrounding hills and landscape. It has lush green grasslands, tea plantations and Shola forests. The reservoir is also known to be one of the visiting grounds of elephants in the region. Mattupetty is famous for its highly specialized dairy farm, the Indo-Swiss livestock project.

Night stay in Munnar.

Day 10 – April 11 – Saturday – Kumarakom

After breakfast drive to Kumarakom.

Kumarakom is one of the enchanting backwater regions of Kerala. The labyrinth network of rivers, canals, streams, and lagoons which form the famed backwaters, offer stunning views and is an ideal place to relax. Kumarakom, is a bird sanctuary located on the banks of the backwaters and renowned for its varied avian population. Local varieties such as Waterfowls, Cuckoos, and Owls, as well as the migratory Siberian Cranes can be viewed here.

You may take an optional boat ride to the nearby village through lagoons.

Night stay in Kumarakom. While in Kumarakom, opt for a spa or Ayurvedic treatment.

Day 11 – April 12 – Sunday – Alappuzha

In the morning we will board the Rice boat for our overnight stay.

It took great skill and meticulousness to construct these Houseboats by tying huge planks of jack wood together, without the use of a single nail. It usually has one or two bathrooms, an open lounge, deck, kitchenette and a crew comprising oarsmen, a cook, and guide.

The backwaters of Kerala form the lifeblood of beautiful Kerala and played the main role in the economy of the state. Riceboats and small ships used to play in these waters, carrying coconut, rubber, rice, and spices to various trading centers of Kerala.

Even today, these waterways link remote villages and island with the main land. It is an incredibly different experience to cruise in the backwaters in country boats, absorbing the beauty of the villages. Sail along with the winding network of Kerala backwaters. See the unique water world and experience its myriad charms. Eat spiced and baked rice cakes on board a floating rice barge, fish for fresh catch and have the cook onboard cook a traditional delicacy for you. Lie down on the deck and count the glittering stars that garland a clear sky with crickets making pleasant sounds as your barge floats along the unending network of Kerala backwaters.

Embark at the local villages that flourish on the banks of the emerald Kerala backwaters and visit the village bazaars that are flooded with coir products, coconuts, and other villages produce. You can also interact with the local population to see their lifestyle. Although practically surrounded by water, they still manage to keep cows, pigs, chickens, and ducks and cultivate small vegetable gardens, prawns and fish.

In houseboats, traditional Kerala food will be served. Lunch, Dinner & overnight on the houseboat.

Day 12 – April 13 – Monday – Cochin

Morning we leave our lovely houseboat, and drive to Vaikom Village.

Vaikom lies on the western side of the Kottayam district of Kerala. It is a quaint village just an hour’s drive from the city, and offers you a traditional welcome and a chance to witness the unhurried lifestyle of the villagers. See their simple homes and small workshops. On a walk through the village, you will stop briefly at the Khadi Weaving Centre to see villagers produce hand-spun and hand-woven cloth out of cotton, silk or wool yarns. In the village center, you will also see how the local people earn their livelihoods. Ladies weave coir ropes from dried coconut husks, and you’ll see straw mats being woven out of wild pineapple leaves. Watch the local potter create a range of pots and vases, depicting ethnic designs in clay. You will be invited inside a local house for a chance to interact with the family members.

Night stay in Cochin.  

Day 13 – April 14 – Tuesday – Cochin departure

Today we say goodbye to India as we are transferred to the airport for our flight home.

You may opt to take a pre or post trip to see the Taj Mahal and Varanasi. Please contact us for more information.

Your Investment

Your Investment is $1997 per person based on double occupancy. (we will match same gender roommates) If you want your own room, single supplement is $1275.

The deposit to hold your space is $300 per person.  Final Payment is on January 31, 2020.

If you prefer to make payments, please contact us and we will arrange a plan that works.

Your Trip Includes

  • Accommodations
  • Breakfast
  • Activities, tours and admissions as listed in the itinerary
  • All transport between destinations and to/from included activities in India
  • Train tickets, second class, (tickets are subject to availability)
  • Vaikom Village visit
  • Overnight in a houseboat
  • Daily yoga practice (optional)
  • English speaking guides

Your Trip Does Not Include

  • International flights (round trip out of Boston flights are pricing at $1000 per person)
  • Meals not listed in itinerary
  • Travel insurance
  • Optional tours and activities
  • Gratuities

How We Make Your Escape Awesome!

We are ready to answer your questions throughout the process via phone or email.

Once you sign up and pay your deposit:

  • We will send you a link to your My Trips account. You can view your trip details any time from your PC or Mobile Phone.
  • We will send you arrival and departure details so you can make your flight arrangements.
  • We will email you your final payment reminder about 1 week before it is due.
  • About two-three months before the trip we will send significant details like packing lists, further itinerary details, etc.
  • One month before the trip we will mail you your travel documents (or pass them out at a gathering for those local).

Facebook Group

You will be invited to a private Facebook group where you can meet, virtually, your fellow travelers, discuss the trip, make any preparation plans together, and share your excitement.

Our groups are typically 10-15 travelers. We aren’t a ‘big bus’ tour and don’t want to be. We don’t just look out the window and drive by the sights. Typically, our tours are custom and private. The advantage is, we can say, ‘stop here, we want to see this’ and we can stop and explore, even if it isn’t in the plan. Yes, we have an itinerary, but we also feel it’s important to take advantage of unexpected moments that arise. We attract travelers who are flexible and adventurous. A bit of spontaneity is a good thing!

You should know, our travelers are like you, they don’t want a canned tour, they like a sense of freedom on their trip, they understand the value of flexibility in travel, and they love the idea of working with a planning team that understands and respects their travel values.

So, Is this Trip for You?

  • You love traveling with like minded people and a tour company that is focused on traveling deeply into a destination, knowing how to read the group and make the best decisions for a perfect trip.
  • Hiking is moderate, multiple hours, varied terrain.
  • You find joy in trying new things, food, activities, etc.
  • Plans are good, and important to a great trip, however, flexibility sometimes brings a deeper experience and it’s OK with you.
  • You enjoy meeting and traveling with new people.

This Trip is Not for You If…

  • Travel is stressful and sometimes you find yourself anxious and frustrated when things don’t go perfectly as planned.
  • New things, new situations, aren’t really your thing.
  • You are unsure that you physical conditioning is up to longer hikes.
  • You don’t like trying unusual local foods.
  • You feel uncomfortable and unsafe in places that are ‘foreign’ to Western culture.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often will I change accommodations during the trip?

Most destinations will be a 2 night stay. There is one night on the houseboat, one night in Trichy, Kumarakom and Cochin.

Can I extend my stay?

Absolutely, adding a pre or post stay always enhances a trip. You spent the money to get there, why not stay a while? We will be happy to help you make plans. We have priced a pre or post stay in Northern India to see the Taj Mahal and Varanasi. Please contact us for pricing.

What airport do I fly into and out of?

You will fly into Chennai and home from Kochi (Cochin).

What are VISA requirements for these countries?

You will need to obtain a VISA before entering India. Your passport must not expire before 6 months of your departure date. You must have blank pages in your passport for the VISA and required stamps.

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/India.html

https://www.in.ckgs.us/visa/howtoapply

What type of currency is used in these countries?

The currency used in the India is the Rupee.

Who do I contact for other questions and travel advice?

Call us at 860-779-6531 or send an email to lwhittemore@cruiseplanners.com

What is the age group of my potential fellow travelers?

Our guests typically range in age from 45-75. They tend to be of an age where they are either already retired and traveling is an objective for them, or are getting close. There are some tours that attract a younger group, sometimes adult children of a traveler in the group will join the tour.

Groups tend to be predominantly female, although we are wanting a good mix of men and woman, solo and couples traveling.

In any case, our travelers are in good health, active and adventurous.

I’m not a tour person, will this be too much of a standard tour for me?

No worries here, your fellow travelers feel exactly the same way and so do we, your tour curators. Of course there are some parts of our tours that are standard, we travel often by a van or motor coach, we eat together and do activities together. What makes us different, are two critical things, we don’t like traditional touring either, we work hard to be different. And two, you will always have the opportunity to choose. If you want to do something on your own or different than the group plan, you are welcome to do that.

We would love to have you join us! We will do our best to provide the opportunities and activities that allow you to make amazing memories and lasting friendships. We are looking forward to traveling with you.

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