Tours to Southern India

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My husband and myself would like to take a comprehensive tour of Southern India, 2-3 weeks long in 2013, with a group of no more than 24 others. Could you recommend a tour?

I booked a tour of southern India with Adventures Abroad several years ago, only to have it canceled because not enough people signed up. That seems to have happened more frequently in recent years than before, and not just with Adventures Abroad, presumably because the economy forced many people to scale back their plans for travel.

So whatever tour you choose, talk with the company about whether (or how often) they've had to cancel the same tour in the past, how many people they need to operate the tour without increasing your costs, and when they will make a firm commitment about operating the tour.

Also, if possible, don't commit yourself to the cost of non-refundable plane tickets before the departure is guaranteed, at least without thinking through the consequences if the tour is canceled.

If you're interested in a private tour that may not cost more than a group tour with a US company, I recommend that you contact Swagatam (www.swagatam.com). You can learn more about them by typing "Swagatam" in the search box on this page. They're based in Delhi but have several offices in southern India, and they essentially duplicated the Adventures Abroad itinerary for me at a lesser cost than I would have paid Adventures Abroad.

We thoroughly enjoyed the Overseas Adventure Travel (www.oattravel.com)tour of southern India (we likewise enjoyed their trip to northern India). Excellent native guides and people-to-people experiences.

We've used Sita Tours http://sitatours.com/ for two trips to India. Both trips were done very well, one was where we were the only couple (our request) that included car and driver, guides were picked up locally. Another was a small group. It depends on your needs as they seem to be pretty flexible. They are also a top tour operator in India. We give them a very high recommendation.

I had the same experience as Stan (first post) in that an Explore Worldwide tour planned from Calcutta to Mumbai across Central India was cancelled. I asked Swagatam Tours to duplicate it and the price for the private tour, my own guides and car/drivers was less than the group tour price. In addition I flew 3 longer sections rather than taking overnight trains and stayed at better hotels. (I enjoy staying at heritage properties). Swagatam Tours has also received favorable reviews in the print version of ITN.

You might enjoy having a private tour over a group tour. India, China and some of the countries in southeast Asia are, in my opinion, places where it is often either the same or a lessor price than a group tour and in the bargain, you can have better accommodations, and more comfortable traveling.

Do some googling for "South India Itineraries" and get an idea of what might be interesting for you. You can also plan on staying an extra day or two at particularly interesting cities/sites (ie Hampi) and even take in a festival or two. Some "do not miss" places are: Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram (shore temples), Madurai, Munnar (hill station and tea estates), Periyar National Park, Kerala (backwaters on a houseboat), Goa and the archaeological sites of Hampi, Aiholi, Pattadakal and Badami.

You can arrive in Mumbai and return home from Chennai or vv. There is no need to plan your air to return home from the same city you started from.

All the best to you in your travel planning!

I recommend the tour operator Indian Panorama very highly. Find them at http://www.indianpanorama.in/ or http://www.indianpanorama.org/

I've arranged 3 trips to India with them and they were all fabulous: Tamil Nadu & Kerala in 2009, Gujarat in 2011 and recently returned from a trip to Karnataka & Maharashtra. All trips were arranged via email. Their prices are good, the itinerary can be tailored to your interests, and their service and attention to detail can't be beat. Indian Panorama arranged airport transfers, hotels, car & driver, guides and any internal transport (trains, flights). Having a car & driver is really the way to go in India, since you'll be able to stop wherever you like along the way.

Contact Tim Hawley at Indian Panorama tim@indianpanorama.in

Have a great time in South India!

ElderTreks has a guaranteed Southern India tour in Feb, 2013. As far as I understand, they will guarantee a departure with as few as 4 people and will not accept more than 16. I have not taken this specific tour, so I cannot comment on it, but I have been very happy with most of the ElderTrek trips I have taken. And I have traveled with Nitin Dhami who is scheduled to be the leader of this departure and recommend him highly.

I traveled to South India with Spirit-of-India/Original World in 2004. The tour was very comprehensive, well-run, and about 3 weeks long. Original World has a low mininun number of participants, and the cost can be increased as that lowest number is reached. I think South- and most of -India is better when traveling in a smaller group, and, if I remember correctly, we were a group of 8.

Sounds like a great idea! I would also recommend you to visit Sri Lanka, it's one of the most amazing places in the whole world. Once I visited it I've been dreaming of coming back someday. The hotels there are amazingly comfortable there and the atmosphere is something special.

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Moderator note: post edited to remove advertising/possible spam.

We used India Panorama tours http://www.indianpanorama.in/ for our tour of northern India (New Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan.) They actually are more focused on southern India. We did this all via the Internet. Everything worked out great, from the pre-tour planning, their information to us before we left, the hotel choices*, the driver and guides in each city, etc. Their price was about 60% of the other quotes I got.

Strongly recommended!

* The one exception was the hotel in Agra, where all their normal recommendations were fully booked (major Muslim feast the day we visited), so we took a chance on a place I picked from TripAdvisor that didn't work out very well. But since that was only 1 night, it was no big deal.

I arranged a private tour of both south India and Sri Lanka for just two travelers. I contacted several local Indian operators and finally selected TrinertraTours out of NewDelhi ( Website: www.trinetratoursindia.com - E-Mail: trintours@del2.vsnl.net.in) All arrangements and changes/addendums/etc. were made by E-mail. Both tours were absolutely fantastic regarding guides, transportation, hotles,meals, itineraries etc. Like most of the above comments, our cost was lower than those offered by all the companies which I had researched, The personal attention to all of our needs has rarely been exceeded by any operator with whom we have traveled in the past 15 years. I'd be happy to expand ,if you contact me at: el31@att.net

Also try Untamed Borders (http://www.untamedborders.com/) a UK based adventure travel company offers adventure holidays to some of the harder to reach places of Central and South Asia including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North East of India and private trips to Chechnya and Daghestan in the Russian Caucasus.