South India Highlights

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South India Highlights

from £620
Duration: 16 days
Countries: India
A rollicking, rip-snorting jaunt through India’s lush interior.

South India Highlights



If Mahatma Gandhi refers to your hometown as the 'Evergreen city of India', you better make sure you keep it that way. Thankfully, Trivandrum is now considered as one of the 10 greenest cities in India. Phew.

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.

You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

There are no activities planned for Day 1, enjoy exploring Trivandrum.

South Park Hotel or similar


If you love beaches you’ve come to the right place. If you don't love beaches, then we feel quite sorry for you. But not sorry enough to replace this day with something else. Because Varkala is incredible.

Spend a couple of days in Varkala - a beautiful beach town on the Arabian Sea.

The main beach here is Papanasham Beach, which is long and golden with a backdrop of red laterite cliffs from which mineral water springs forth, chill out here and witness fishermen pulling up their nets from the sea.

The tour guide can take us to various beaches in the surrounding areas and advise us on optional activities - maybe witness an evening Kathakali or Kalaripayatt show.

This place is also known for its Ayurvedic massage centres.

Dream Beach Resort or similar


Take a local train along the Keralan Coast to reach Alleppey (approx 2.5 hrs).

Auto rickshaws take us from Alleppey train station to the boarding point for our boats.

Alleppey's sleepy, palm-shaded backwaters are Kerala's hidden treasure. Once an important trading port and now famous for its August 'snake boat' races, Alleppey is the starting point for most journeys into the backwaters and also hosts a mid-December musical festival.

Crossing the backwaters, head to an island village to stay with local families (approx 1 hour).

Explore the backwaters with a local guide to observe the different facets of local life - this is a great chance to meet and talk with the people who live here. Strolling under palm trees and weaving in between the rice fields that cover the island, learn about their lifestyles.

Take a leisurely pole boat ride around the lake and enjoy the outstanding scenery.

Accommodation is on a multishare basis and all the families live within a few hundred metres of each other, with at least one person in the family speaking a reasonable standard of English. Food is traditional Keralan home cooking.

Kerala Backwaters homestay


Crossing the backwaters by private boat, head for Alleppey (approx 1.5 hrs).

Take a local bus to Kochi (approx 2 hrs).

Spread over several islands, Kochi is a fascinating place full of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English influences.

Stay at Intrepid Kaliveedu. This is a special lodge offering very different ambience with large landscaped gardens, air-conditioned rooms and a central location close to most of the sights in Fort Cochin.

We will reach Kochi around midday. Today we will go on an orientation walk with our leader and take in the sights in the vicinity of our accommodation.

Some of the sights to see include St Francis Church, Santa Cruz Basilica and the famous Chinese fishing nets.

There's the option of attending a Kathakali dance performance tonight at 5pm. This classical dance is a highly charged and powerful drama that combines devotion and physical virtuosity with symbolic storytelling to produce one of the most impressive and vibrant forms of theatre in the world. It requires lengthy and rigorous training to attain complete control of the body and sensitivity to emotion so as to be able to render all its nuances through facial expressions and hand gestures.

The following day we will head to the Mattancherry part of Fort Kochi where we explore the old Jewish quarter, Synagogue and Dutch Palace. The tour takes approximately 2-3 hours after which the rest of the day is free.

In your free time why not join one of our Urban Adventures such as Fort Kochi by Bike, Home Cooked Kochi or Kochi Food & Culture Tour. Please check with your leader in advance if you would like to book one of these tours and they can assist in making arrangements.


Kochi - Dutch Palace - INR5
Kochi - Kathakali performance - INR300

Intrepid Kaliveedu Lodge or similar


Set high in the ranges of the Western Ghats is the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. This wildlife sanctuary surrounds a picturesque lake, formed by the building of a dam in 1895, which meanders around the contours of the wooded hills and provides a permanent source of water for the local wildlife. Though it's a tiger reserve, tourists come here to view the Indian elephants in the act of ablution and playfulness by the lake.

Ambadi Hotel or similar


Crammed full of bazaars, pilgrims, cycle-rickshaws, beggars and street markets, Madurai showcases southern India at its colourful and lively best.

Visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple, which lies at the heart of the city. This ancient, still active temple is a labyrinth of lamp-lit corridors which lead to shrines where some mysterious and interesting rituals are performed.

Wander the bazaars and the tailors' market.

The Pearls Hotel or similar

DAY 11-12 - MYSORE

You’ll remember the City of Palaces for sandalwood, rosewood artefacts, palaces, temples and landscaped gardens.

Board a local bus to Mysore (approx 3 hrs).

Mysore is an easygoing town with a pleasant climate, perfect for wandering around on foot.

A visit to Mysore isn't complete without a look around Mysore Palace. One of the most ornate palaces in India, its interior is a riot of colour, mosaics and mirrors.

Visit the Keshava Temple in Somnathpur - a stunning example of Hoysala temple architecture (approx 1 hr from Mysore).

You have plenty of time to explore the surrounding countryside, so head out and climb Chamundi Hill - site of the Sri Chamundeswari Temple, which is dedicated to Goddess Durga.

Catch the bus to Bangalore (approx 3 hrs).

Board an overnight train and head up to Hampi, via northern Karnataka (approx 10 hrs).

Bombay Tiffany Hotel or similar

DAY 13-14 - HAMPI

Arrive in Hampi and cross the river to our guesthouse by canoe.

Hampi is a beautiful ancient temple town situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Giant granite boulders litter the landscape and make great vantage points to view this incredible town.
Explore the Vittala Temple - the architectural highlight of Hampi's Vijayanagar ruins.

We drive to Hubli (approx 3 hours) and jump on an overnight train to Goa (approx 8-9 hours). Make sure you get your snacks situation sorted early. Try not to eat them before the train has pulled out of the station.

Shanti Guesthouse or similar

DAY 15-16 - GOA

If you like it hot this is the place to be – in terms of both the curries and the weather.

Between the beaches, the seafood and the nightlife you’ll probably never want to leave. But sadly, you have to.

Famous for the sandy beaches that line its coast, Goa is a fascinating and distinctive region in India's southwest. Brimming with Portuguese influences and bursting with fresh food, this region has earned its idyllic badge.

There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

The trip ends on Day 16. Stay awhile though, Goa is pretty sweet.

Hotel Santiago or similar

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Further Details

More information about this gap year opportunity...

Price details:

from £620


Call 0333 333 9923 to enquire or book

Important Information

Group size: - 16
Transport: Auto-Rickshaw, Boat, Canoe, Private Vehicle, Public Bus, Sleeper Train, Taxi, Train
Accommodation: 1 Night Guesthouse, 1 Night Homestay, 10 Nights Hotel, 3 Nights Sleeper Train
Starts in: Trivandrum
Ends in: Goa, Goa, India

Safety Information

We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won’t need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you’ll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it’s deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
Festivals: Holi and Diwali
Travelling in India and Nepal during the Holi festival, a lunar festival generally held in March each year, can at times be dangerous - a lot of locals participate in consumption of intoxicating substances. The day has been associated with physical violence and danger. Your leader/guide will be advising you and your group on what places to avoid on this day and it may even be necessary for us to alter your itinerary for the day to avoid putting you or our group leader/guide in high risk situation.
Travelling during the Hindu festival Diwali (a lunar festival generally held from mid October to mid November every year) can also be dangerous. During this time there are many displays of fireworks in the streets. It can be very noisy for several days and there is also a lot of pollution caused by the fireworks. As there are no restrictions on buying fireworks in India there are often injuries caused by people exploding them inappropriately. During this festival your leader/guide may be required to alter your itinerary to avoid any dangerous areas to avoid putting the group at risk.
Petty theft and personal safety
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Traffic and driving on the other side of the road
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
Women should exercise caution when travelling in India. Reported cases of sexual assault against women are increasing; recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas and cities show that foreign women are also at risk. While the risk of an incident occurring on your trip is very low, below are some things you can do for your safety and peace of mind when travelling:
-  Respect local dress codes and customs, perhaps dressing more conservatively than you do at home
-  Avoid isolated areas, including beaches, unlit city streets and village lanes when alone at any time of day
-  Avoid travelling alone on public transport, or in taxis or auto-rickshaws, especially at night
-  If you have to use a taxi get them from hotel taxi ranks and use pre-paid taxis at airports. Try to avoid hailing taxis on the street. Some cities (including Delhi and Chennai) have special taxi services for women with women drivers
-  If you’re being collected at the airport by a driver make sure they have properly identified themselves before you set off. When leaving your compartment on overnight trains (ie. going to the bathroom), ask a male travel companion to accompany you where possible
For further information and advice, visit:

About StudentUniverse

StudentUniverse has been supplying the best flight, hotel and tours deals to students around the world for years now and we’re delighted to be the preferred travel partner of and to make your travel experience even more amazing.

We have a great team of travel gurus that understand what a gap year is all about just waiting to help you, and since we are part of the Flight Centre Travel Group we are able to offer the best flights, gap year packages, hostels, tours, volunteer placements and insurance - the works. This is not your average travel agency, it’s the ultimate backpacker travel agency.

If you’d like to get in touch to chat about your travels, even if you’re in the preliminary stages and you’d just like some advice, give us a call on 0333 333 9923 or submit an enquiry to StudentUniverse – we’d love to hear from you.

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