Start the journey through India’s steamy south in historic Kochi, whose ancient streets tell a timeless tale of seafaring, trade and Kerala spices. As you roam south to Alappuzha, ditch the car for a day to explore the fascinating, waterlogged backwaters by boat.
As you pass through Amrithapuri, you can pause for a hug from a living guru before soaking up some rays on Kerala’s loveliest beaches at Varkala and whooshing through Thiruvananthapuram (pause just long enough for some incendiary Kerala curries) to the southern tip of India. From here, you’ll head inland, through drier, rockier Tamil Nadu, to reach Madurai, whose temple towers groan under the weight of deities and demons.
The trip back to Kochi will take you through the Palani Hills, a side spur of the Western Ghats, where the landscape surges upwards to Kodaikanal, perhaps the most charming of India’s southern hill stations, with just the right mix of faded British-era nostalgia and India vim. Grab a cuppa amidst swirling tea plantations in Munnar, South India’s top tea-growing center, before you return to the coast.