Stroll the bougainvillea-lined streets of the former French colony of Pondicherry, past shuttered villas in ochre and citrus with the patina of time spelt out on their faded facades. Also home to the Sri Aurobindo movement.
Kerala is the float tank chapter in the Indian experience. We`ll take a cruise on a converted rice barge along the backwaters on Kerala, a slow moving tapestry of rice paddies and muddy villages, threaded together by green rivers and canals between corridors of coconut palms.
Hinduism takes on exultant forms in the south, where temples are dominated by gopurams, towers elaborately decorated with writhing figures of Hindu gods, godesses, demons and heroes. Madurai’s World Heritage-listed Meenakshi Amman Temple is an outstanding example.
A stylish heritage hotel just metres from the seafront promenade in Pondicherry, a glorious art deco Chettinad mansion, an elegant colonial-era hotel overlooking the waterfront in Fort Cochin, a glamorous resort hotel on Lake Vembanad – charm, character and calm are the hallmarks of our stays.
We’ll mix our rice with the subtle flavours of multi-dish thali meals, dip into coconut-infused dishes and sample the delights of banana leaf cuisine. The flavours are lively and fresh, and south is where most of India’s spices come from. Seafood dishes are a real standout.
Traditions linger in South India. As well as some of the grand monuments and temples we’ll spend time exploring villages, experiencing the slow and gentle rhythms of life ruled by the seasons and by religious festivals. Many unscripted moments will animate our journey.