Explore the Spice Route of India with Neela

Specialization: Explore and experience the Gastronomic treasures of India with an expert Chef

Who with: Neela Paniz

Where: Chennai-Madurai-Kovalam-Cochin-Hyderabad-Bangalore


Join esteemed Chef Neela Paniz, former owner of Chutneys, Bombay Café and Neela’s Napa on a total immersion tour of South Indian food and culture. Limited to eight participants, we depart for 18 delicious days in January 2017—the best (and coolest) time to go.

Guided by Paniz, we will taste our way through one of the greatest cuisines of the world in all its rich variety; the magnificent seafood plucked from the Arabian Sea along Kerala’s palm-fringed Malabar coast, the fragrant towering biryanis of meat-eating Hyderabad and the complex spice-infused fare of Chennai (formerly Madras) in Tamil Nadu, famed for fiery Chettinad chicken. The South’s complex, often delicate vegetarian cooking includes the best examples of crepe-like Dosas, cake-like Idli, and savory Vadas.

The itinerary takes us to the cities that combine ancient culture and thriving modern commerce, amazing high-end restaurants with superbly trained chefs, exotic market places, unbelievably good (and sanitary) traditional street food and not-to-be-missed shopping opportunities.

6 Jan’17 / Friday

Depart US for Chennai

Rooms blocked from this day to allow immediate occupancy upon arrival.

7 Jan’17 / Saturday

Arrival Chennai

Arrival Chennai early in the morning and transfer to hotel. Rest up in the morning.

Chennai, India’s fourth largest city, is also called the Gateway to the South. From a tiny hamlet in 1639, it grew around the Fort St. George built by the British. A lush green city famed for its temples, silk, music and dance, Chennai gives a sense of serenity and spaciousness, enhanced by one of the world’s largest and most beautiful beaches, the Marina beach.

Afternoon proceed for a half day city tour. Visit the museum to see the bronze gallery with its superb collection of Chola art. Drive through the flower and fruit market, past the High Court built in Indo-Saracenic style, the Fort Museum with its collection of colonial memorabilia and Marina Beach.

Visit the San Thome Cathedral said to house the remains of St Thomas the Apostle, Arrival Chennai early in the morning and transfer to hotel. Rest up in the morning.

Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

8 Jan’17 / Sun, Chennai -Mahabalipuram – Chennai by car

(50 kms / 90 mnts one way)

Breakfast at hotel.

Day return trip to Mahabalipuram. Also called Mamallapuram, the coastal temple town of Mahabalipuram is an hour’s drive from Chennai. It has a beautiful beach over 20 km long. An erstwhile port of the Pallava dynasty, its stone carvings, caves and rock cut temples also attract tourists.

A crocodile farm, a snake venom extracting center, schools of art and sculpture and many resorts draw holiday seekers all around the year, especially during the dance festival held in January.

Take a tour of Mahabalipuram

It isfamous for being a sculptor’s delight. There are 14 cave temples, nine monolithic rathas, three stone temples and four relief sculptured rock panels. Built in the Dravidian style in the 7th and 8th century, most of them are dedicated to Vishnu or Shiva. Sights include the Shore temple (a World Heritage site), Arjuna’s Penance, the Five Rathas , various mandapams etc. The sculptures here depict deities, animals, Hindu fables and scenes of everyday life.

Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

9 Jan’17 / Mon, Chennai – Madurai by flight

(1310/1430 hrs)

After breakfast at hotel, morning at leisure. In time transfer to airport to connect flight to Madurai. Arrival Madurai and transfer to hotel.

Madurai, the second largest city of Tamil Nadu, is an important cultural and commercial center. With a history going back to the 6th century BC, it was once the seat of Tamil learning and still the place where the Tamil language is spoken in its purest form. The old city was planned in the shape of a lotus with the Meenakshi temple, the town’s main attraction, at the centre. Madurai has long been a center of learning and pilgrimage. Its main event is the 14 day Chithrai festival every April/May.

Evening visit the Meenakshi temple for prayer ceremony. Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

10 Jan’17 / Tue


Breakfast at hotel.

Later take a half-day city tour of Madurai visiting the great Meenakshi Temple dedicated to the consort of Lord Shiva. It is an outstanding example of Dravidian temple architecture, with towering Gopurams covered with stucco images of gods, goddesses and animals. The sanctuary is open only to Hindus. Also visit the Tirumala Nayak Palace, a gracious 17th century building in the Indo-Saracenic style famous for stuccowork on its domes and arches.

Afternoon, time to experience the local cuisine also called the Chettinad cuisine.

Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

11 Jan’17 / Wed, Madurai – Kanyakumari – Kovalam by car

(350 kms / 8-10 hrs)

Early breakfast at hotel and get ready for a long but very picturesque drive to Kovalam via Kanya Kumari.

Kanyakumari, the southernmost point of mainland India, lies at the confluence of the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. It is basically a pilgrimage town dedicated to the virgin Goddess Devi Kanya whose temple overlooks the shoreline. On a rock about 500 m offshore stands the Vivekananda Memorial, dedicated to Swami Vivekananda, a great Indian philosopher. The construction reflects architectural styles from all over India. Kanyakumari is the only place in India where one can watch the sunset and the moonrise simultaneously on a full moon evening.

Arrive Kovalam and check-in at hotel for overnight stay.


Just 12 km to the south of Trivandrum lies Kovalam, an uncluttered beach of silvery sands fringed with rows of tall palm trees. Once just a series of sandy bays separated by rocky promontories, deserted except for some fishing

villages, it has become a major tourist centre. Kovalam is a pleasant seaside place with a sheltered bay and a wide choice of water sports.

Lunch & dinner on own.

12 Jan’17 / Thu, Kovalam – Trivandrum by car, Trivandrum - Cochin by train,

(1430/1817 hrs)

After leisurely breakfast at hotel, drive to Trivandrum.

Trivandrum is the capital and gateway to one of the most beautiful states in India -Kerala. Built over 7 hills, this “City of the Sacred Serpent” once formed a part of the kingdom of Travancore and still retains some of the ambience characteristic of old Kerala in its red-tiled roofs, wide-open avenues, parks, cultural institutions and the undulating countryside.

Visit the 260 year old Padmanabha Swami Temple (non-Hindus cannot enter) and Napier Museum.

Proceed to railway station to board the train to Cochin. Arrive Cochin and transfer to hotel for overnight stay. Cochin (Kochi) is spread across islands and promontories in a stunning location between the Arabian Sea and the Backwaters.

The city was founded in 1341 when a flood created a natural safe port which became the principal harbour for Malabar coast’s spice trade. Cochin was on the main trade route between Europe and China. The rulers invited people of various religions to settle here, attracting the Jews and the Christians who built places of worship and their own communities.

Lunch & dinner on own.

13 Jan’17 / Fri


Breakfast at hotel.

Take a tour of the city visiting the Dutch Palace, which has some of India’s most beautiful murals, the Jewish Synagogue in the heart of Jew Town and the cantilevered Chinese fishing nets. See St. Francis Church where Vasco da Gama was originally buried, and the Santa Cruz Church with its pastel coloured interior and carved wooden panels. Also visit Spice Market

Afternoon enjoy and experience the local cuisine at Nimmi Paul.

Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

14 Jan’17 / Sat


This morning, after breakfast at hotel, you proceed for a half day houseboat cruise in the backwaters of Kerala. Option to enjoy lunch on the houseboats.

Evening, option to watch the traditional dance form at a performing arts centre.

Kathakali literally meaning "story dance" is the pantomimic dance drama, the dancing and the acting being blended together into an inseparable form. It is a combination of facial expressions and body movements, which brings out the thought and emotion of the character. Kathakali is predominantly a male art and the dancing is mostly of the masculine type. The position taken by the actor is angular. He never stands erect while acting, his knees being spread out and his legs forming a rhombus, his hands bent at the elbow and his palms on his hips.

The outer feet are never flat on the ground and still the actor maintains a perfect balance. The female character is lasya which is gentle and grateful. This is particularly evident in love scenes

Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

15 Jan’17 / Sun

Cochin – Hyderabad by flight

Breakfast at hotel.

In time, transfer to airport to board flight to Hyderabad.

Arrival Hyderabad and transfer to hotel.

The twin city of Hyderabad-Secunderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, combines Islamic and Hindu influences. While Hyderabad was founded in 1589 by Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah, the cantonment of Secunderabad beyond the artificial Hussain Sagar lake was established by the British in the early 1800’s. Hyderabad was planned in a grid pattern with enormous arches. The city is an important centre of Islamic culture.

Afternoon, on a half-day tour of the city, visit the Charminar (1591 AD), Hyderabad’s principal landmark. This 56 m high, rectangular four-arched monumental gate is often described as the ‘Arc de Triomphe of the east’.

The 17th century Mecca mosque to its southwest is one of the largest in the world. Also see the Salar Jung Museum housing a one-person collection of exhibits including ancient manuscripts, paintings, sculptures, weapons, costumes and curios. Later, drive past the High Court buildings built in the Mughal style using pink granite.

Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

16 Jan’17 / Mon


After breakfast at hotel, time to explore the Golkonda fort.

The 16th century fort of Golconda lies 11 km to the west of Hyderabad city. Though the bulk dates from the time of the Qutb Shahi rulers (16th – 17th century), its origins have been traced to earlier Hindu periods. It was surrounded by three walls with massive gates studded with iron spikes. There was an ingenious water supply system using clay pipes and Persian wheels. See the Rani Mahal, Mahakali temple, Darbar Hall etc.

Also visit the Qutub Shahi tombs, domed mausolea in black

granite or greenstone surrounded by landscaped gardens. The larger of the tombs have their own mosques attached

Return the main town and experience the world famous Hyderabadi Cuisine.

Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

17 Jan’17 / Tue


Breakfast at hotel.

Day at leisure to relax, enjoy the city and its excellent weather. Go for a Tea at the legendary Falaknuma Palace.

Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

18 Jan’17 / Wed

Hyderabad – Bangalore by flight

After breakfast at hotel, take a morning flight to Bangalore.

Arrival and transfer to hotel.

Bangalore, India’s sixth largest city, is known as the Garden City because of its countless parks and tree-lined avenues. It was founded in 1537 by a local chieftain called Kempe Gowda, and later extended by Tipu Sultan, the Wodeyars of Mysore and the British. Set at an altitude of over 1000 m, the climate adds to the attractions of this city, now famous as the Silicon Valley of India.

Afternoon take a tour of the city of Bangalore visiting the Lal Bagh which has a variety of old trees, fountains, lotus pools, terraces and an assortment of tropical and sub-tropical herbs.

Also, see the Peninsular Gneissic Complex that is home to a 2500-2600 year old rock. You will also visit the brilliantly painted and carved summer palace of Tipu Sultan, the Bull Temple with its monolithic bull statue and drive past the government buildings.

Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

19 Jan’17 / Thu


Breakfast at hotel.

Day at leisure to relax, shopping and tasting the local flavours.

Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

20 Jan’17 / Fri

Bangalore – Hassan by car (200 kms / 5-6 hrs)

This morning, after breakfast at hotel, dive to Hassan. Arrive Hassan and check-in at hotel.

194 km from Bangalore is the district headquarters of Hassan. This pleasant, busy little town is a convenient base to visit Sravanabelagola (48 km), Belur (38 km) and Halebid (33 km). They are best done over two days, with an overnight halt. The town has a small museum showcasing sculptures, paintings, weapons, inscriptions etc.

Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

21 Jan’17 / Sat


Breakfast at hotel

Day excursion to the famous sites of Belur and Halebid.

38 km from Hassan is Belur, the first capital of the Hoysala dynasty. It is known for its exquisite temples, of which the Chennakeshava Temple is a fine example. It took 103 years to complete and the façade of the temple is covered with intricate sculptures and frescoes, which are awe-inspiring in their workmanship. In the temple are hand-lathe turned filigreed pillars, each different from the other. Veeranarayana Temple and the smaller shrines are worth a visit.

27 km northwest of Hassan is Halebid. Hoysaleswara Temple has a wealth of sculptural detail, the walls covered with gods, goddesses, animals and dancing girls. No two facets of the temple are alike.

Guarded by a Nandi Bull, it was never completed, despite 86 years of work. It is the most outstanding example of Hoysala art. Halebid also has a smaller temple called Kedareshwara and a little-visited enclosure containing three Jain bastis (temples) with fine carvings.

Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

22 Jan’17 / Sun

Hassan – Mysore by car, Mysore – Hospet by overnight train (1900/0710+1)

Another long day awaits you after the breakfast. Drive to Mysore from Hassan (120 kms / 3-4 hrs).Arrive Mysore and proceed for sightseeing.

Mysore, once the capital of the Wodeyar kingdom, is today the second largest city in Karnataka and one of the finest in southern India. Small, easygoing, famous for its silks and sandalwood, it is a city of fine gardens, tree-lined boulevards, art galleries and an intriguing palace. Mysore’s ten day Dasara festival in September-October is still celebrated with medieval pageantry.

Take a half-day city tour of Mysore visiting the Maharaja’s palace built in 1911-12. The palace harmoniously synthesizes the Hindu and the Saracenic styles of architecture with archways, domes, turrets, colonnades and sculptures, which are truly magnificent.

Visit the art gallery and drive up to the 1062m high Chamundi hill to see the Chamundeshwari temple with a panoramic view of Mysore. On your way back, see the 5m high Nandi Bull carved out of solid rock in 1659.

In the evening, board the overnight train to Hospet. The train leaves Mysore Junction railway station at 1900 hrs.

Overnight on board train. Lunch & Dinner on own.

23 Jan’17 / Mon

Mon, Arrival Hospet / Hampi

Arrival at Hampi by Hampi express from Mysore at 0710 hrs. Proceed straight to hotel for breakfast while the rooms will be ready for a (possibly) early check-in.

Hampi, once the seat of the great Vijayanagar empire, is one of India’s most remarkable former capital city sites. Across the rocky outcrops are spread impressive ruins of palaces, temples and sculptures. The undisputed highlight of the site, the 16th century Vitthala temple, is a World Heritage monument. One of the earliest structures here is the Virupaksha temple with its painted mandapam ceiling.

Also worth seeing are the Hazara Rama temple, huge Ganesha and Narasimha images, the elephant stables, the Queen’s bath, LotusMahal, Ramachandra temple etc.

Later in the day, explore this World Heritage site and see its various temples current and old and other magnificent monuments.

Overnight at hotel. Lunch & Dinner on own.

24 Jan’17 / Tue

Hampi-Hubli by car, Hubli-Bangalore by flight 1640/1755 hr

This morning, after breakfast at hotel, drive to Hubli (170kms / 4-5 hrs). Arrive Hubli and proceed straight to airport to board flight for Bangalore. Arrive Bangalore and in transit to connect flight back home. Lunch & dinner on own.

25 Jan’17 / Wed

Bangalore / US by flight

Namaste and have a safe and comfortable flight back home!!

Suggested hotels

Chennai - Courtyard by Marriott

The Courtyard Chennai welcomes guests with a unique blend of convenience and sophistication. Well-located in Chennai's vibrant city centre, our hotel can provide a 4-star home away from home for business and leisure travellers alike. Settle into your spacious, elegantly appointed hotel room, which includes a flat-screen TV, high-speed Wi-Fi, and plush bedding, as well as marble bathrooms and 24-hour room service. Our hotel also showcases a host of perks to help you optimise your time in Chennai; enjoy a 24-hour fitness centre, a tranquil hotel spa, and sensational on-site dining. Those seeking a stylish venue for an event in Chennai city centre can benefit from our versatile venue space and our knowledgeable planning team. Ideally placed in the heart of Chennai, just 20 minutes from Chennai Airport and close to the US Consulate and Chennai's IT and manufacturing hubs, our hotel allows for stress-free access to the best of the city. Treat yourself to a memorable hotel stay at the Courtyard Chennai.

Madurai –The Heritage

Welcome to Heritage, Welcome to Madurai. A resort, one hundred years in the making, in the heart of a city that grew from drops of nectar that flowed from the locks of Shiva, as legend would have us believe.

Enter the gates of the 17-acre resort, and experience the Madurai of distant past. Heritage Madurai - a signature Luxury Resort in the ‘Temple City’, Madurai in Tamil Nadu, South India. Heritage Madurai was built in 1923 as the residence for the British officers of the Madura coats a pioneering textile company, that went on to build brands such a Louise Philippe and Van Husen. In the 1970s the renowned Srilankan architect Geoffery Bawa built the club house on the grounds of the officer’s bungalows. Using honey colored granite, materials and artisans from within 20 miles of Madurai he created a landmark Bawa structure. Today this building functions as our restaurant and coffee shop.

Kovalam – Manaltheerame

"Indulge in the pure joy of relaxation and retreat to the cuddling arms of nature. Take delight in the varying hues of the golden shore, the azure sea, the evergreen flora, the yellow marigolds, the earthen red…"

Manaltheeram Ayurveda Beach Village gives you an opportunity to pamper yourself with a heavenly experience. Enter the world of holistic healing and let Ayurveda and meditation restore your physical, mental, spiritual and emotional equilibrium. Situated at Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, India, Manaltheeram is as outstanding as its sister concern, the famous Somatheeram Ayurveda Resort.


Have an unforgettable experience at our Kochi hotel Brand new and immaculately appointed, the luxury Kochi Marriott Hotel offers a comfortable and sophisticated home away from home for business and leisure travelers visiting southwest India. Our picture-perfect location on the campus of the famous LuLu Mall places you just moments from the city's bustling IT district, as well as some of Kerala's most famous landmarks. Spacious, exquisitely designed rooms and suites offer every possible luxury, from deluxe bedding and marble bathrooms to flat-screen TVs and 24-hour room service. Start your day with an elaborate buffet breakfast or enjoy a workout in our fitness center. We also offer relaxing treatments at Quan Spa, and a sparkling swimming pool. Pay a visit to Cassava Restaurant, and experience the intriguing tastes of Kerala's many culinary influences. Plan a meeting or a social event in one of our beautiful indoor or outdoor venues, or spend some time exploring Kochi city and its countless attractions. It's all waiting for you here at the Kochi Marriott Hotel

Hyderabad – Courtyard Hyderabad

Comfortably enjoy our stylish Hyderabad hotel The Courtyard Hyderabad welcomes guests to the heart of the city centre with an array of amenities and comfortable, sophisticated lodging. Our accommodations were designed with the modern traveler in mind, and feature perks like plush bedding, marble bathrooms, spacious work areas, and high-speed Internet access. Discover the best of Hyderabad, India from our hotel's superior central location, located just steps away from fabled city centre attractions like Charminar Monument and Lumbini Park and across from the scenic Hussain Sagar Lake. Moreover, our proximity to the Marriott Convention Center and array of business facilities, including seven meeting rooms, makes us an ideal hotel choice for corporate travelers.

Additional hotel perks include delicious all-day dining at the MoMo Café, the full-service O2 Spa, and our state-of-the-art SkyGym fitness center and pool facility. Come experience the many charms of Hyderabad, India from the comfort and convenience of your lodging at the Courtyard Hyderabad.

Bangalore – Aloft Bengaluru Whitefield

For the traveler open to possibilities, Aloft Bengaluru Whitefield is a modern, fresh, and fun destination. Breeze into a hotel that offers more than a comfy bed and a friendly smile, and enjoy a whole new travel experience. Energy flows and personalities mingle in a setting that combines urban influenced design, accessible technology and social scene that’s always abuzz.

Energizing public spaces draw you from your room to socialize, or just enjoy the hum of activity as you do your own thing. Sip a drink, read the paper, or work on your laptop in the re:mix(SM) lounge or w xyz(SM) bar, where lighting and music change throughout the day to set the perfect mood. Aloft Bengaluru Whitefield's open flow of features and help-yourself services inspire you to step outside the one-size-fits-all travel routine. Customize your stay and celebrate your style in a place where anything can happen.

Hassan – Hoysala Village Resort

You are far from the city life and by the time you realize that you are in Karnataka‘s historical heartland – Belur & Helibidu, contemplating all surprises that waiting ahead, you are on the gate of Hoysala Village Resort. The moment you enter, you realize you have reached an Oasis.

‘Green’ is the word! Simply put – the resort is a botanical wonderland. Elegantly designed, tastefully decorated with a variety of artifacts, constructed with rosewood and traditional materials, and laminated carefully with trees and flowers, Hoysala Village Resort keeps you astounded. The resort is a matchless escapade if you love history, nature, serenity, modern comfort and scrumptious food.

Hampi – Heritage Resort

We welcome you to an unspoilt world, detached from the maddening crowd, filled with intoxicating smells of mangoes, lemons, custard apples, mud apples, coconuts and varieties of Bananas and fresh vegetables, grown at the resort's unique pastoral countryside. The expansive in-house organic farm sources veggies and fruits for our guests.

Thoughtfully designed with utmost sensibility and an eye for detail, Hotel Heritage Resort Hampi is a brand new resort built on 9 acres of mango and coconut plantations. As you wake up with the first rays of sun, you will hear to the sweet melodies collectively composed by various species of birds. You cannot help but feel excited when the sunrays try hard to enter your room, negotiating the curtains dangling on the windows.
Owing to availability and other operational exigencies, the hotels may change at the time of booking.


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