Tamil Nadu - Kerala Itinerary

#1 Aug 25th, 2008, 18:47
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#1
Hello all,

I'm planning my first trip to India and have spent much time reading here and elsewhere for advice. I have an outline of a trip taking shape and would really appreciate any thoughts/advice anyone can offer.

We enjoy cities, history/culture and sceneray walking more than beaches, but I think a day or two to unwind at a few beaches on route will be most welcome too!

So, we've got 3 weeks from Dec 25th - to Jan 17th, starting in Chennai. My rough plan is:

Chennai - Mamallapuram - Pondicherry - Thanjavur (possibly)- maybe Trichy/Srirangam? - Madurai - Kumily (Periyar nature reserve) - Munnar - Cochin (maybe places on way?) - and then down the coast to Trivandrum. From there an internal flight to Chennai for flight home.

Is this doable in the timeframe without rushing too much? It's possible to go from Kumily to Trivandrum and up to Cochin to take a flight to Chennai. Would this route be better?

Are there any other 'must see' places along the way that I've missed? I appreciate this is a long post! Thanks for looking.
Chris
#2 Aug 26th, 2008, 22:15
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#2
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we've got 3 weeks from Dec 25th - to Jan 17th, starting in Chennai. My rough plan is:

Chennai - Mamallapuram - Pondicherry - Thanjavur (possibly)- maybe Trichy/Srirangam? - Madurai - Kumily (Periyar nature reserve) - Munnar - Cochin (maybe places on way?) - and then down the coast to Trivandrum. From there an internal flight to Chennai for flight home.

Is this doable in the timeframe without rushing too much? It's possible to go from Kumily to Trivandrum and up to Cochin to take a flight to Chennai. Would this route be better?
What a fantastic itinerary, you are virtually covering it all!

However as it will be peak holiday season, do try and book your hotels reasonably early. There is a fairly decent selection of hotels in all these places in the Hotels section of IM. Additionally you can check more hotels at keralatourism.org and tamilnadutourism.org

For your flight TRV-MAA or COK-MAA you can check ixigo.com or makemytrip.com You can go from Madurai to Munnar first and then to Kumily, and onward to TRV [Kumily TRV 6-7hrs] then COK [Kumily COK 5hrs] or vice versa depending on frequency of flights back to Chennai.

Are you renting a taxi for the entire trip? If so, there have been recent posts in the TN forum with recommendations for taxi services.

In your time frame, you can do all of these places but you may want to add or reduce a few days at select destinations depending on what you want to see or do. I would keep at least 2 days for Mammalapuram [great beaches and ancient monuments], Thanjavur [exquisite ancient temples], Madurai [exquisite ancient temples], Periyar, Munnar and a day at Srirangam [exquisite ancient temples], Trivandrum [Kovalam??] and Cochin [2-3 days if you also want to see the backwaters of Allepey / Kumarakom]. We've just been to most of these places in May and in July. Drove through Pondicherry and personally, I was not particularly impressed, but I could be wrong. If you are interested you can read my trip reports at: Kerala: Periyar, Munnar etc: http://www.indiamike.com/india-artic...uide-may-2008/
Tamil Nadu: Thanjavur, Srirangam etc:
If it is Thursday, it must be Gangaikondacholapuram!

Im sure you will also get a lot of additional information from our other members here at IM.
Last edited by Nick-H; Aug 26th, 2008 at 23:40.. Reason: Quote boxes is good :)
#3 Aug 27th, 2008, 13:42
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#3
Thank you for the reply Snonymous.

To answer your question: we will be travelling by bus/train and some taxis I guess.

So in terms of choosing the route for the Kerala leg of the trip you think it makes little differecne? I am wondering about skipping Periyar altogether and opting for Munnar and maybe even the Nilgiri Hills due to the indifferent reports I've read online???

Lastly, is booking ahead going to be essential? Is there really going to be no available accomodation if we just turn up in town? I'm an experienced South American traveller and at XMas/New Year there we were able to wing it just fine. Is India that different in this respect?

And talking of New Year, does anyone have any recommendations for Tamil Nadu?
Thanks once again.
#4 Aug 27th, 2008, 15:08
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So in terms of choosing the route for the Kerala leg of the trip you think it makes little differecne?
My personal experience, budget permitting, is that a pvt car at your disposal all the time makes life ever so much more convenient.

I am wondering about skipping Periyar altogether and opting for Munnar and maybe even the Nilgiri Hills due to the indifferent reports I've read online???
Periyar is a fantastic place, if you like nature and wildlife. Please read my trip report [link in previous post]. But if you are not that interested in tropical jungles and wildlife, then it does make sense to skip it and spend that time on what interests you more.

Lastly, is booking ahead going to be essential? Is there really going to be no available accomodation if we just turn up in town? I'm an experienced South American traveller and at XMas/New Year there we were able to wing it just fine. Is India that different in this respect?

To this I would say, it depends on the type of hotel. Better to at least phone or email and check in advance as to the availability for your proposed dates, and take a call based on that information. The popular hotels are bound to be full up especially as most Indian hotels, even in remote places, offer celebration packages nowadays and even locals from the area book for these, so it is not just visitors who fill up the hotels. This is especially true for New Years Eve.
#5 Aug 31st, 2008, 05:57
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Thanks again for your detailed reply Snonymous. Your trip report sounds great and I will go to Periyar for sure.

Having read some more, it sounds as though the train ride in the Nilgiri hills is an experience not to be missed. Do you think this trip is feasable to add to my itinerary or do you think it is too much to cover in 3 weeks?

If so, would it be better to head up to Nilgiri from Madurai and work southwards through Kerala, or south from Maduria and head north through Kerala ending at Nilgiri? I understand it is possible to catch a night train from somewhere in the Nilgiri area to Chennai.
Thanks, Chris
#6 Aug 31st, 2008, 12:09
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#6
the train ride in the Nilgiri hills is an experience not to be missed. Do you think this trip is feasable to add to my itinerary or do you think it is too much to cover in 3 weeks?

If you are headed to the Nilgiris region, you can always do a short 1hr train ride Ooty Coonoor or vice versa, or even both ways. If one way, take the bus the other way, it is about 45min and costs all of Rs7. The train ride does offer some very pleasant views. Buy a first class or 2nd class ticket.

If so, would it be better to head up to Nilgiri from Madurai and work southwards through Kerala, or south from Maduria and head north through Kerala ending at Nilgiri? I understand it is possible to catch a night train from somewhere in the Nilgiri area to Chennai.
Thanks, Chris


From Madurai, Kodaikanal [2000+m] or the Munnar region [1600 – 2500++m] is much closer. You could go to Kodaikanal first and then to the Nilgiris [7hrs by car] but a better route in my opinion, would be Madurai to the Munnar region, and from Munnar via the Marayoor and Chinnar region to Udumalpet and thereafter to the Nilgiris. I think this is one of the most scenic regions ever. You could also just go from Munnar upto Coonoor and then take the train to Ooty, or if you have the time to spare then go from Munnar to Mettupalayam and take the train from Mettupalayam all the way upto Ooty, this way you will enjoy the entire Nilgiri train ride experience.

For the train back to Chennai you would have to return to Mettupalayam or Coimbatore. If you look at the Tamil Nadu and Trains forums, there is more detailed information about train journeys on this route.

If you are doing Periyar as well, then from Madurai first go to Kumily and from there to Munnar and onward to the Nilgiris.
#7 Aug 31st, 2008, 14:31
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#7
If you want to go on the toy train to Ooty, I strongly suggest that you do the full trip from Mettupalayam. At least when I did this (2.5 years ago) the first half was with a steam engine and the second half with diesel. We had a car and driver and after spending the night at Coimbatore we had the driver drop us at Mettupalayam station and pick us up again in Ooty - an extremely comfortable way to do this.
You should book this train journey early and reserve first class.
Baba
#8 Aug 31st, 2008, 14:47
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That's great info Snonymous - thank you so much!
What are the transport links like between Munnar and Udumalpet and Udumalpet and Coimbatore? Presumably buses, what's the frequency and length of journeys?

Sorry to keep asking such specific questions, but from what everyone is telling me about booking certain accomodations and transport at this time of year it seems pretty crucial to have an itinerary pretty well mapped out from the start.
#9 Aug 31st, 2008, 14:52
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Baba: Thank you for the tip. Would you recommend the toy train? Is it worth planning a fews days and a major route change for?

I'm certainly no train enthusiast (!) but I do like beautiful scenery and it sounds like you get some tremendous views. It also sounds somewhat quirky which appeals to me!!
#10 Aug 31st, 2008, 15:31
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Originally Posted by redchris View Post What are the transport links like between Munnar and Udumalpet and Udumalpet and Coimbatore? Presumably buses, what's the frequency and length of journeys?
Sorry, cant help with buses because we usually do all our trips with pvt taxi as we like to stop everywhere, and especially between Munnar and Udumalpet there are umpteen places to enjoy and linger on. If you want, you can contact our taxi driver friend Jagadeesan at 91 94 423 70 007 for a quote. He is based in CJB but does the Nilgiri Kerala Kodai circuit regularly. I can personally guarantee that he is reliable and honest.

For buses, I think if you do a search here at IM, you will find the relevant threads.

Length of journey: Non stop or with a multitude of stops? Non stop Munnar to Mettupalayam via Udumalpet, Pollachi and CJB should be around 4-5 hrs. By taxi, it would be faster because the driver would avoid congested areas and go on the side roads. If you stop to enjoy every place en route, estimate at least one whole day! Actually, it is not a bad idea to night halt at Marayoor and start your journey to Mettupalayam the next day.
#11 Aug 31st, 2008, 16:40
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LOL - this gets more complicated by the hour!!
Excuse my ignorance, but where's CJB? Is your friend in email contact?
I'm beginning to think that Nilgiri may be a trip too much in 3 weeks. What do you think?
Last edited by redchris; Aug 31st, 2008 at 17:40..
#12 Aug 31st, 2008, 19:00
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#12
Hi Chris,

The original itinerary is quite doable, doing more would be rushing too much. Yes X-mas can be busy, but we always found accomodation, so with the exception of the first night if you arrive late, there is no real need to.

Follow the links below for more tips.

Have Fun,

Hans

Tips for trips to India with (young) children: India with kids
Our travel blog (mostly in Dutch): Reisfamilie
#13 Aug 31st, 2008, 21:20
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Originally Posted by redchris View Post LOL - this gets more complicated by the hour!!
Excuse my ignorance, but where's CJB? Is your friend in email contact?
I'm beginning to think that Nilgiri may be a trip too much in 3 weeks. What do you think?


1]CJB=Coimbatore
2] No e mail contact
3] This is really up to you. If you are going to be in the Munnar region which is in the mountains, there is not much sense in visiting another mountain region [Nilgiris] for just a day, unless you particularly want the train ride.

If you decide how many days you want to spend at each place and add your travel time, you will get a better idea and can work out your itinerary accordingly.
#14 Sep 2nd, 2008, 00:01
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#14
Thanks once again for all your kind contributions and valuable advice!

Snonymous: I am trying to apply your advice re mapping out an itinerary but it's very difficult never having been there!!

Dhans: When you say the original itinerary is quite doable, do you mean including my plan to get up to the toy train in Nilgiri?
I think it might be pushing it a bit as we want a few relaxing days en-route. One thing travelling has taught me is not to plan too much.

It's only the fact that we're going over the peak period, and only for 3 weeks, which has made me want to plan so thoroughly and get all of this organised in advance. It actually goes against my whole travelling ethos which is to take things as they come and map out your route as you go.

Looking at your blog/journal (which I loved reading btw!) and from what you have said, you always stumble upon suitable accomodation in the end and I noticed that you too travelled over Xmas & New Year, so that has allayed some of my panic.

Can anyone tell me what we can expect in Madurai on New Years eve btw?!

Thanks!

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