Holiday Overview

Greenix Village Interior
St Francis Church (Nivalink Trip Dated - 5 May 2008)
Backwaters of Alleppey
Backwaters of Alleppey
Backwaters of Alleppey
Backwaters of Alleppey (Nivalink Trip Dated - 13 May 2009)
(Nivalink Trip Dated - 5 May 2008)
Periyar Boat Ride (Nivalink Trip Dated - 5 May 2008)
Elephant Junction (Nivalink Trip Dated - 5 May 2008)
Walking in Periyar (Photo Courtesy: Jonathanawhite)
Bamboo Rafting in Periyar (Photo Courtesy: Bernard Gagnon)
Cheruthony Dam (Photo Courtesy:
Meenakshi Amman Temple
Brihadeeswarar Temple (Nivalink Trip Dated - 2 May 2009)
Inside the Sacred Heart Church
Beaches around Mahabalipuram
Pondicherry Promenade
French Quarters
Krishnas Butterball (Nivalink Trip Dated - 25 July 2016)
Five Rathas (Nivalink Trip Dated - 25 July 2016)
Shore Temple (Nivalink Trip Dated - 25 July 2016)

South India Coastal Explorer is an itinerary popular with inbound travelers which combines best of experiences of heritage circuit of Tamilnadu and plantations / backwaters / heritage areas of Kerala.


Mahabalipuram(1) - Pondicherry(2) - Thanjavur(2) - Madurai(1) - Thekkady(2) - Alleppey(2) - Cochin (Fort Cochin)(2)

Summarised Itinerary
  • Day-1 Arrival at Mahabalipuram
  • Day-2 Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry. Visit to the French quarters
  • Day-3 Pondicherry
  • Day-4 Pondichery - Thanjavur via Chidambaram. Visit UNESCO World heritage site temple
  • Day-5 In and around Thanjavur or Kumbakonam Temples visit
  • Day-6 Thanjavur - Madurai
  • Day-7 Madurai - Thekkady. Sightseeing around Thekkady
  • Day-8 Activities inside Periyar reserve forest
  • Day-9 Thekkady - Alleppey
  • Day-10 Alleppey - Alleppey boat Cruise Jetty
  • Day-11 Alleppey - Fort Cochin
  • Day-12 Fort Cochin
  • Day-13 Departure
Sightseeing Summary

Alleppey - Backwaters of Alleppey (1.00 kms), Pathiramanal Island (15.00 kms), Marari Beach (15.00 kms)

Cochin (Fort Cochin) - St Francis Church (0.50 kms), Greenix Village (0.50 kms), Kerala Kathakali Centre (0.50 kms), Jewish Synagogue Fort Cochin (1.00 kms), Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica (1.00 kms), Matancherry Palace (2.00 kms)

Madurai - Meenakshi Amman Temple (1.00 kms)

Mahabalipuram - Monuments at Mahabalipuram (1.00 kms), Crocodile Bank (14.00 kms), Dakshinachitra (30.00 kms)

Pondicherry - Aurobindo Ashram (0.50 kms), Pondicherry Promenade (1.00 kms), French Quarters (1.00 kms), Botanical Garden Pondicherry (4.50 kms), Sacred Heart Church Pondicherry (5.00 kms), Anglo French Textile (5.00 kms), Manakula Vinayagar Temple (6.00 kms), Pondicherry Museum (6.00 kms), Varadaraja Perumal Temple (6.00 kms), Auroville (8.00 kms), Chunnambar Boat House (8.00 kms), Chidambaram Shiva Temple (Nataraja Temple) (46.00 kms)

Thanjavur - Brihadeeswarar Temple (1.00 kms), Saraswathi Mahal Library (1.00 kms), Sangeetha Mahal (2.00 kms), Adi Kumbeswarar Temple (40.00 kms)

Thekkady - Bird Watching in Periyar (1.00 kms), Bamboo Rafting in Periyar (1.00 kms), Elephant Junction (2.00 kms), Spice farm visit (3.00 kms), Periyar Boat Ride (5.00 kms), Gavi Ecotourism (40.00 kms)

Preferred Arrival /Departure Destination
Arrival - Chennai Departure - Cochin (Ernakulam)
Best Season to Travel
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Popular Extensions to the Itinerary

Chettinadu area (between Thanjavur and Madurai) is renowned for its excellent heritage and cuisine experience and therefore recommended for experiential travelers. Guests looking to visit Navagraha temples around Kumbakonam may plan an additional night stay at Kumbakonam (after Pondicherry).

  • Chennai to Mahabalipuram -60 kms (1 hrs)
  • Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry -100 kms (2 hrs)
  • Pondicherry to Thanjavur -176 kms (4 hrs)
  • Thanjavur to Madurai -194 kms (4 hrs)
  • Madurai to Thekkady -140 kms (3.5 hrs)
  • Thekkady to Alleppey -138 kms (4 hrs)
  • Alleppey to Cochin (Fort Cochin) -62 kms (1.5 hrs)
  • Cochin (Fort Cochin) to Cochin (Ernakulam) -13 kms (0.5 hrs)

Chennai - Mahabalipuram(1) - Pondicherry(2) - Thanjavur(2) - Madurai(1) - Thekkady(2) - Alleppey(2) - Cochin (Fort Cochin)(2) - Cochin (Ernakulam)

Detailed Itinerary

Day-1 Arrival at Mahabalipuram Arrival to Mahabalipuram. Enroute its possible to visit Crocodile Farm and Dakshinachitra (Craft village). Visit Shore Temple (UNESCO World heritage site) and other heritage sites (Pancha Ratha, Varaha Cave Temple, Tiger Cave, Krishna Mandapam, Balancing rock, Arjuna's Penance, all within 1-2 km radius) in the evening.

Day-2 Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry. Visit to the French quarters Proceed to Pondicherry (100 kms - 2.5 hours). In the evening enjoy a walk on the french quarters heritage area of Pondicherry and the promenade in the evening. A romantic evening meal at a restaurant serving French, European or Chettinad cuisine could be a good experience.

Day-3 Pondicherry During first half sightseeing options in and around Pondicherry town comprise Aurobindo Ashram, Ashram's handmade paper factory, Varadaraja Perumal Temple, Manakula Vinayagar Koil, Pondicherry Musuem, the Botanical Gardens and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. Afternoon visit to Auroville commune (15 kms North of Pondicherry). Matrimandir at the commune is a renowned architectural masterpiece. In the evening visit the Anglo-French Textiles showroom for a bit of shopping. Those looking at a bit of Boating can also head for Chunnambar (8 kms South of Pondicherry).

Day-4 Pondichery - Thanjavur via Chidambaram. Visit UNESCO World heritage site temple Proceed to Thanjavur (175 kms - 4 hrs) via Chidambaram (58 kms). Chidambaram is home to Nataraja Temple (17th century temple renowned for its architectural and religious significance) and a major pilgrim centre. Evening visit Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur, a Chola Period (9th - 13th century) Temple and a UNESCO World heritage site.

Day-5 In and around Thanjavur or Kumbakonam Temples visit Visit Vijayanagar fort (2 kms from Brahadeeswara Temple), a 16th century fort. Inside the fort is the Tanjore Palace, Sangeetha Mahal, Saraswathi Mahal Library and Art Gallery having a collection of sculptures and paintings OR undertake excursion to Kumbakonam (41 kms) to visit Adi Kumbeswara Temple, Darasuram temple and other temples of Kumbakonam, which not only have architectural significance but also are pilgrim centres on their own.

Day-6 Thanjavur - Madurai Proceed to Madurai (194 kms - 4 hrs). Enroute Visit Trichy (Rock Fort temple, Jambukeswarar Temple, Ranganathaswamy temple). In the evening visit the Meenakshi Temple at Madurai.

Day-7 Madurai - Thekkady. Sightseeing around Thekkady Proceed to Thekkady (2500 ft asl) (140 kms - 3.5 hrs). Post Lunch can go for the touristy Periyar boat cruise (on direct payment) and later Kathakali dance show. Given time Spice garden visit (Cardamom, Pepper, Cinnamon, Vanilla) can be done (Direct payment) alongwith a visit to Elephant Junction for the elephant experience (elephant ride).

Day-8 Activities inside Periyar reserve forest Guests can opt for an activity inside Periyar forest such as half day jungle walk / trek forest programme or a full day forest programme involving jungle walk / trek and Bamboo Rafting. Guest also can opt for a full day Gavi eco tourism experience programme (42 kms from Thekkady) involving Jeep Safari (Gavi trip), nature walk / hike, bamboo rafting etc. These programmes require to be reserved in advance.

Day-9 Thekkady - Alleppey Proceed to Alleppey (138 kms - 4 hrs). Enjoy a lakeside resort stay OR do an excursion to Marari Beach (16 kms from Alleppey) OR Bird Watching at Pathiramanal Island is about 1.5 km boat ride from Muhamma.

Day-10 Alleppey - Alleppey boat Cruise Jetty  Proceed to houseboat jetty by 11:30 AM for overnight houseboat cruise which will sail through backwaters of Kuttanad area, a region in South Alleppey known for their undersea farming and gives Kerala the name "Venice of the East". Experience the backwater lifestyle up close and authentic Kerala Cuisine experience.

Day-11 Alleppey - Fort Cochin Alight from houseoat (9:30 AM) and get trasferred to Fort Cochin (62 kms - 1.5 hrs), a heritage area. Walk in heritage bylanes of Fort Cochin. Visit St Francis Church, Jewish Synagogue, Chinese fishing nets. Enjoy a quiet dinner at one of the charming restaurants in Fort Cochin.

Day-12 Fort Cochin  Visit Matancherry Palace / Museum, Santa Cruz Basillica and Museum of Art and Kerala History. Guest can also opt for an evening speed boat ride of Islands around Fort Cochin (Bolgatty and Vypeen). Evening visit to Greenix village for evening performances of traditional dance forms of Kerala.

Day-13 Departure Depart for onward journey.

Detailed Sightseeing

Alleppey :

  • Backwaters of Alleppey - Kuttanad Backwaters in South Alleppey is what gives Kerala Venice of the East tag. Day cruises / hourly boat rides are popular and available from Alleppey jetty. Guests seeking an experience either opt for overnight houseboat or Kayaking tour.

  • Pathiramanal Island - The Pathiramanal Island is a boat ride away from Muhamma / Kumarakom. The island provides excellent Bird watching especially in Winter.

  • Marari Beach - An idyllic beach, few kms from Alleppey where a number of beach resorts are located.

Cochin (Fort Cochin) :

  • St Francis Church - St Francis Church is a tourist attraction at Fort Cochin. It was built in 1503 and is the oldest European church in India

  • Greenix Village - A craft village at Fort cochin that offers a wide ranging live performances. A visit here is very popular with guests to Fort cochin.

  • Kerala Kathakali Centre - A place that offers a wide ranging live performances of art forms such as Kathakali, Indian Classical Dance, India Classical Music, Martial Art (Kalaripayattu), typically in evenings. It also offers Meditation and Yoga classes in mornings.

  • Jewish Synagogue Fort Cochin - Jewish Synagogue at Fort Cochin was built in 1568 and is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations.

  • Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica - Santa Cruz Cathedral was built in 1905. Santa Cruz was proclaimed a Basilica by the Pope John Paul II in 1984.

  • Matancherry Palace - Mattancherry Palace known as the Dutch Palace features Kerala murals depicting Hindu temple art, portraits and exhibits of the royal family of Kochi.

Madurai :

  • Meenakshi Amman Temple - Meenakshi Amman Temple is a 17th century temple dedicated to Goddess Parvati known as Meenakshi and her consort, Lord Shiva as Sundareswarar. It is most prominent landmark of the city. The complex houses 14 gopurams, highest being about 52 meters. Meenakshi Amman Temple is one of the most visited temples of Tamilnadu and must visit for any traveller.

Mahabalipuram :

  • Monuments at Mahabalipuram - Mahabalipuram is home to 7th - 9th century monuments of Pallava kingdom which are now a designated UNESCO world heritage site. The monuments include Rock Temple, Lord Vishnu Temple, Arjuna Penance, Varaha Cave temple. Its a popular stopover on inbound heritage circuit and day visited from chennai.

  • Crocodile Bank - The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology (MCBT) is a reptile zoo and herpetology research station on outskirts of Chennai and is the first crocodile breeding centre in Asia. It was established with the aim of saving three Indian endangered species of crocodile, the marsh crocodile, the saltwater crocodile and the Gharial (Alligator). The CrocBank grounds are covered by coastal dune forest providing a haven for native wildlife, including large breeding colonies of water birds and a secure nesting beach for Olive Ridley sea turtles. The centre is the biggest crocodile sanctuary in India and is home to over 5000 crocodiles.

  • Dakshinachitra - Dakshinachitra is a Craft village on east coast road where one can purchase authentic handcrafts from artisans.

Pondicherry :

  • Aurobindo Ashram - The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a well known ashram in Pondicherry with devotees from India and all over the world. The Ashram was founded by Sri Aurobindo, great philospoher and it represents a combination of yoga and modern science.

  • Pondicherry Promenade - Pondicherry has a renowned Promenade around the french quarters which is where locals converge on a sunday evening. Promenade otherwise is an excellent area for a walk and to visit in evening for some romantic restaurants in bylanes around.

  • French Quarters - French quarters is a colony of residential buildings with distinct colonial era french architecture. These are quiet bylanes that end up at the promenade. A morning or evening walk through these lanes can be very interesting and best way to explore French quarters.

  • Botanical Garden Pondicherry - Botanical Gardens in Pondicherry were laid out in 1826 in the French style with pruned trees, flower beds etc. The French introduced many exotic plants here later from all over the world. Botanical Gardens is a popular tourist visit option.

  • Sacred Heart Church Pondicherry - Sacred Heart Church is a Roman Catholic Church in Pondicherry that is visited for its Gothic architecture besides its Pilgrimage importance. It contains rare stained glass panels depicting events from the life of Christ and saints of the catholic church.

  • Anglo French Textile - Anglo French Textiles, a Govt of Puducherry Undertaking is one of the leading manufacturers and exporters of 100% cotton. Anglo French Textiles are good for guests looking to purchase export quality cotton.

  • Manakula Vinayagar Temple - Manakula Vinayagar Temple is an ancient Lord Ganesha temple and is said to have been in existence before the French settled in Pondicherry. Its a popular visit option for locals and guests to Pondicherry.

  • Pondicherry Museum - Pondicherry Museum has a gallery with sculptures and has the remains of archaeological findings from the Arikamedu Roman settlement. The museum also has a collection of rare bronzes and stone sculptures from the Pallava and Chola dynasties and artifacts excavated from Arikamedu (7 kms)

  • Varadaraja Perumal Temple - Varadaraja Perumal Temple is a Dravidan style ancient temple located centrally in Pondicherry and is believed to be the oldest temple in town dating back to 600 AD

  • Auroville - Auroville is an experimental township situated 8 km north of Pondicherry off East Coast Road. It was founded in 1968 by Mirra Richard (also known as The Mother), the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo. The dome here is an architectural marvel and overall spread of the area and its character means that interested tourists and devotees arrive here all through the year.

  • Chunnambar Boat House - Chunnambar is a local backwater stretch where a boat house has been setup where guests can do a bit of boating. Popular with locals and tourists who are not looking heritage elements of pondicherry.

  • Chidambaram Shiva Temple (Nataraja Temple) - Chidambaram is one of the five Pancha Bootha Sthalams and one of the most significant and visited temples of Shiva. Temple is spread over 40 acres and built around 10-11th century representing Chola period architecture. Chidambaram is the only known temple where Shiva is depicted performing Cosmic activities. The architecture of the temple is imposing and therefore visited by heritage traveller and those interested in temple architecture.

Thanjavur :

  • Brihadeeswarar Temple - Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur is an ancient Lord Shiva temple Shiva and is considered Landmark in South Indian temple architecture. It has a massive 66 meter temple tower and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a must visit for any heritage traveller.

  • Saraswathi Mahal Library - The Saraswathi Mahal Library established around 1700 AD and located in the premises of a palace, contains over 30,000 Indian and European manuscripts written on palm leaf and paper.

  • Sangeetha Mahal - Sangeetha Mahal is Handicraft Gallery offering wide ranging authentic handicrafts from local artisans.

  • Adi Kumbeswarar Temple - Adi Kumbeswarar Temple is a 7th century Lord Shiva temple in Kumbakonam. The Mahamaham Festivl is associated with this temple.

Thekkady :

  • Bird Watching in Periyar - 320 different kinds have been counted in Periyar. The bird life includes darters, cormorants, kingfishers, the great Malabar Pied Hornbill and racket-tailed Drongos. Bird watching is possible via taking up a forest walk from Periyar forest entry gate at Kumily.

  • Bamboo Rafting in Periyar - One of the full day long forest programmes has a combination of walking, hiking and bamboo rafting across periyar lake. Its one of the definitive experiences of Periyar.

  • Elephant Junction - Elephant Junction is where guests enjoy interaction with elephant that includes bathing elephant, elephant ride and being around playful elephants. Elephant junction is a huge hit with inbound guests and familiies with kids.

  • Spice farm visit - Spice farm visit is a popular excursion for guests in Kerala. The spices grown around the area include cardamom, cinnamon etc. alongwith vanilla, tea and coffee.

  • Periyar Boat Ride - A highly touristy boat ride is the main attraction for average tourist to Periyar. The boats are filled with 30-40 tourists with the aim of spotting wildlife on the edge of the lake. Binoculars are a must to have any chance of spotting a wildlife.

  • Gavi Ecotourism - Gavi is a quiet and pristine forest located at a distance of 40 km from Periyar Tiger Reserve. Gavi often serves as a base camp for deep jungle trekkers, birdwatchers, nature lovers and research student. There are number of eco-tourism related activities that are conducted by the forest authorities around Gavi area and are popular with tourists. Guests typically opt for a full day Gavi eco tourism programme.

Destination Overview

Cochin (Ernakulam) - Ernakulam, part of Cochin area is business hub of Cochin and also commercial capital of Kerala.

Chennai - Located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, Chennai is a metro city of India and the largest in South India. Chennai is starting point for many itineraries of Taminadu and South India.

Mahabalipuram - Mahabalipuram also known as Mamallapuram is situated 60 km south Chennai on the famous East Coast Road. It has various historic monuments built largely between the 7th and the 9th century, and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pondicherry - Pondicherry is a popular destination in South India for Inbound guests on the heritage itinerary covering other areas like Mahabalipuram, Chidambaram, Thanjavur, Madurai etc. Pondicherry is a popular weekend getaway ex-Chennai and Bangalore.

Thanjavur - Thanjavur is an important center of South Indian art and architecture. The Brihadeeswara Temple is located in the center of the town, which is UNESCO World Heritage site.

Madurai - Madurai today is one of the busiest towns in Tamilnadu. The Meenakshi temple is awe-inspiring and is a must visit for any South India itinerary for both Indian as well as Overseas guests

Thekkady - Thekkady (2500 ft asl) is a stopover on the South India Itinerary on Madurai - Kottayam route known for nature centric experiences connected with Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.

Alleppey - Alleppey is renowned for its backwaters and is known as the Venice of the east. Overnight houseboats in Alleppey lake and backwaters are considered an experience.

Cochin (Fort Cochin) - A heritage area a few kilometers from Willingdon Island. With many charming heritage hotels in the area, its perhaps the best area of accommodation for leisure and experience oriented travelers.

Prefered Arrival : No ImageChennaiNo ImageChennai
Prefered Departure : No ImageCochin (Ernakulam)No ImageCochin (Ernakulam)
  • Chennai to Mahabalipuram -60 kms (1 hrs)
  • Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry -100 kms (2 hrs)
  • Pondicherry to Thanjavur -176 kms (4 hrs)
  • Thanjavur to Madurai -194 kms (4 hrs)
  • Madurai to Thekkady -140 kms (3.5 hrs)
  • Thekkady to Alleppey -138 kms (4 hrs)
  • Alleppey to Cochin (Fort Cochin) -62 kms (1.5 hrs)
  • Cochin (Fort Cochin) to Cochin (Ernakulam) -13 kms (0.5 hrs)

Ready Cost estimate for this itinerary is not available.

However Nivalink would be able to readily offer a cost estimate or customise the itinerary as per specific requirements.

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Travel Ideas incorporated in the itinerary

Madurai Pilgrimage

Meenakshi temple complex in Madurai is nothing short of an experience. Meenakshi Temple today is a more

Thekkady Getaway

Thekkady (2300 ft asl) is a stopover enroute Kumarakom (100 kms from Kottayam) from Madurai and more

Lines indicate the best available driving routes.
Arrows indicate connectivity other than Road (e.g. Waterways or Air).
Please click on the markers for more detailed Information.

  • Chennai to Mahabalipuram -60 kms (1 hrs)
  • Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry -100 kms (2 hrs)
  • Pondicherry to Thanjavur -176 kms (4 hrs)
  • Thanjavur to Madurai -194 kms (4 hrs)
  • Madurai to Thekkady -140 kms (3.5 hrs)
  • Thekkady to Alleppey -138 kms (4 hrs)
  • Alleppey to Cochin (Fort Cochin) -62 kms (1.5 hrs)
  • Cochin (Fort Cochin) to Cochin (Ernakulam) -13 kms (0.5 hrs)

Expert Speak

South India Coastal Explorer is a very popular all-season itinerary with winters offering better weather over Summer / Monsoon. The itinerary just skims through most visited and largest of temples. Heritage / Pilgrim traveler with deeper interest and looking for comprehensive converage could opt for a custom itinerary of Tamilnadu that includes Kancheepuram, Tiruvarur, Thirunelveli, Tiruchendur, Thiruvannamalai etc. Experiential traveller may opt for a visit to musical instruments factory in Thanjavur, Kumbalangi backwaters village near Fort Cochin and opt for a homestay in backwaters instead of a lake resort.

Expert Connect

Nivalink has taken over 300 trips across India and select destinations overseas over last 10 years to verify hotels, evaluate destinations and understand its suitability with different profiles of customers across different seasons.

At Nivalink you are able to connect directly with experts who have travelled to these destinations and are able to offer novel ideas, honest perspectives and help you narrow down choices.

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