In an age-old tradition, which is surprisingly effective, local Keralan fishermen throw huge nets into the sea, then slowly pull them in, harnessing a wealth of fish in the process.2/31
Houseboats were traditionally used to carry grain stores up the Backwaters of Kerala. Luxuriously adapted, they now the offer the unique chance to travel these nature-filled network of waterways.3/31
Walk among smiley locals as you wander the relaxed streets in South India.4/31
An ox-drawn plough races through the paddy fields of fertile Kerala.5/31
A warm traditional Indian welcome, offering flowers and a blessing.6/31
Everyday life in India – you’ll be surprised how much even a tiny shop can sell; bananas, cigarettes, even gasoline!8/31
Feel history seep from the walls of Hyderabad's Taj Falaknuma Palace, which boasts marble staircases, lavish chandeliers and rare objects d’art. It really is as grand and magnificent as it looks – a real-life fairytale!9/31
Dine in stately grandeur in the opulent dining room of the Taj Falaknuma Palace and re-live the history of the Nizams of Hyderabad.10/31
The stone temples in Tanjore are decorated with bas-relief figures and make for the perfect place to shelter from the sun while watching busy Hindu temple life unfold.11/31
400 kilometres west of the Malabar coast lies the dazzling Lakshadweep Islands. Above water, find a deserted paradise and below, discover plentiful corals teeming with colourful fish.13/31
Pick through the exotic bazaars of Goa to immerse yourself in local life.14/31
A glittering morning scene as the fishermen set off on Marari beach, Kerala.15/31
The gentle pace here means that you can rest and rejuvenate in the natural surroundings.16/31
Marvel at the vibrantly coloured carvings that greet you at Chidambaram, one of Tamil Nadu's most exotic Hindu temple complexes.17/31
Multi-tiered brass lamps are lit by worshippers in temples across Kerala.18/31
The coastline of Tamil Nadu, remote and windswept, is largely off the tourist track. Come here to discover a chilled out pace and friendly welcome.19/31
Locals climb the swaying palm trees with ease to pluck coconuts.20/31
Be enchanted by a unique lifestyle aboard your traditional houseboat, drifting up the fertile canals and lagoons of Kerala’s Backwaters.21/31
For an alternative and atmospheric beach break, Marari Beach in Kerala can't be beat. This laid-back resort consistently gets great feedback from our clients.22/31
Rise early to experience the bustle of the morning catch coming to shore at Marari Beach. Potential buyers line the beach to choose the day’s catch straight from the fishing boats. Fresh fish is a staple part of every Keralan’s diet – often laced with fiery chillis!
At the Leela Kimpinski in Goa, expect staff to go the extra mile to make your day. Al Fresco dinner surrounded by water lilies and candles? Not a problem.24/31
Watch magnificent elephants take a refreshing drink in the Periyar National Park. Keep an eye out for tigers too!26/31
Set on an idyllic spit of land in north Goa overlooking the ocean, ‘Elsewhere – The Beach House’ is a simple but charming 3 bedroom Portuguese-style house with just the friendly staff, fishermen and egg-laying turtles for company… bliss.27/31
Explore the fine colonial architecture of Pondicherry and be sure to stop by this vast Roman Catholic church, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.29/31
Use your time in the Backwaters to gain an understanding of daily life on these sleepy Keralan waterways. In between the rice paddy fields are a criss cross of canals, which locals use for transport.31/31
South India: Best time to go
Not only do the palm-fringed beaches of Goa, the idyllic Backwaters of Kerala or even be it the general slower pace of life, drive visitors south, but so do the comfortable yet still glorious sun-bathing temperatures. Cooler breezes spreading across from the west bordering Arabian Sea can make for a much-needed break if having soaked up the Golden Triangle heat.
The dry season (December – March) is the ideal time of year to visit southern India. Use these reliable months to visit India as a whole, but especially for exploring the calmer southern states at a comfortable temperature ranging between 20-30°C. Although an experience, we wouldn’t recommend exploring Kerala’s Backwaters for the first time, during a tropical storm. Instead, travel through peak season for guaranteed wall-wall glorious sunshine, to be wonderfully enjoyed at some of Goa’s tranquil beach resorts.
If the warm temperatures aren’t enough to encourage you to stop south during a bespoke tour of India, then maybe the chance to fully immerse yourself into some of India’s culturally magical and colourful festivals will. December is packed with exciting dates to fill your diary. From the third week until mid-January the temple town of Mahabalipuram works with southern state - Tamil Nadu Tourism Board, to bring the Mahabalipuram Dance Festival. A 20-day celebration of India’s culturally rich and diverse folk-dance scene. Another great festival to attend during a winter sun escape, is the renowned Chennai Music Festival – a season spanning across nine weeks showcasing talented professional and amateur musicians from across the country. It’s important to bear in mind, that because of these festivals and the desirable weather, planning your Christmas escape during southern India’s peak season, can result in higher hotel prices and busier crowds.
Come spring (April – May) temperatures start to climb reaching 40°C and humidity in the tropical south can be too intense, just in time for monsoon season. India is subject to two monsoons, the southwest and northeast. The former, which is more significant, comes in from the west Arabian Sea and hits the coastal state of Kerala from early June. Precipitation levels circle the coastal areas, west of the Western Ghats during the summer months (June – August). However, these months are considered the best for rejuvenation therapies. According to Ayurvedic traditions, the body’s pores are fully open during the tropical heat – allowing them to absorb the oil rich treatments. So, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend some time relaxing at our recommended favourite Kumarakom’s Coconut Lagoon to experience some Keralan traditions.
To avoid disappoint, move across to Tamil Nadu for an alternative slower southern taste of India. With the cool breeze reaching in from the Bay of Bengal, the summer months are much drier here - the perfect weather to explore the Dravidian style Hindu Temples the state is famed for and celebrate the local festivals of Tamil New Year. Most of Tamil Nadu's rainfall sweeps in during October and November from India's second hit of monsoon season, this time from the northeast. So, if travelling during transitioning periods, it’s imperative to be aware that changing seasons could be unreliable - late or early and potentially partial to the odd burst of rain all throughout the country.
N.B. All information given here is to the best of our knowledge, however, changes do occur, sometimes at short notice. Ampersand cannot be held liable for such happenings. Of course, if you have any tips that you feel would benefit other travellers, please pass them onto us and we will add them.
There are direct flights from UK to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Direct flight times are between 8 - 10 hours. India has an excellent network of domestic flights and combining the north and south is easy.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate visa(s) for your trip.
The easiest way is to apply online (www.indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html) up to 4 months before your arrival in India. A recent square passport style photograph against a white background will need to be uploaded with your visa application – this should be no bigger than 1MB and saved in a PDF or JPEG format. You will also need a clear image of the picture page of your passport, which should be no bigger than 300KB and can only be in a PDF format – both of these can be done with a good smart phone. The visa fee is US$ 75 per passenger and should be paid right away. The application will not be processed until payment has been made.
If you would like to use a visa service to process your visa on your behalf, we recommend CIBT Visas. They have expert knowledge in visa requirements, and are dedicated to ensuring that obtaining your visas is as efficient and hassle-free as possible.
CIBT provide various levels of visa service, including detailed information about which visas and documentation you and your party require, clear and user-friendly application forms, and a full concierge service to manage your application from start to finish. There is a team of experts on hand to offer advice, and liaise with embassies on your behalf.
Ampersand can personally endorse the services CIBT provides, and our partnership secures a 20% discount on all CIBT services fees for our clients. We would highly recommend speaking to a specialist at CIBT to determine which service would best suit your needs.
You can begin the process of finding out which visas you require and how to apply by following this link. This will log you in to the Ampersand CIBT account, securing your dedicated discount. For more information, please contact the CIBT visa team on 020 7593 6100 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or discuss with your Ampersand consultant.
It is essential to visit your GP as soon as possible to check if you need any vaccinations prior to travel. Risk for vaccine preventable diseases can change at any time. MASTA (Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad) can supply a quick and easy online Travel Health Brief. This includes easy to understand vaccination advice for single or multi-country trips. Their website is www.masta-travel-health.com
London - Chennai: 10 hours
London - Bangalore: 10 hours
London - Hyderabad: 9 hours 40 minutes
London - Goa: There are no direct flights from London to Goa. The best route would be to fly via Mumbai. With a short connection, the flying time is usually 12 hours 35 minutes.
London - Cochin: There are no direct flights from London to Cochin. The best route would be to fly with Emirates via Dubai. With a short connection, the flying time is usually 12 hours 30 minutes.
We highly recommend you reconfirm your onward and return international flights at least 72 hours prior to departure.
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
- Leslie Siben, India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Mr David Wallace, North India