Carefully designed to take in the best of Southern India, the Madras Mail covers everything from India’s most important cities to spectacular World Heritage Sites and stunning coastlines — all from the comfort of the luxurious Deccan Odyssey. The gateways of Mumbai (Bombay) and Chennai (Madras) are key ports of call, as they open the door to a more tropical India: slower, tranquil, and even more exotic.
When you’re not on the Deccan Odyssey, spend nights at some of the most exclusive 5-star hotels in India: Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, Taj Fisherman’s Cove Resort and Spa Chennai, and Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad.
Day 1: Mumbai
Your voyage of discovery begins at Mumbai airport, where you will be met and transferred to the iconic five-star Taj Mahal Palace Hotel for a luxurious two-night stay.
This flagship Taj hotel offers you splendid views of the Arabian Sea and the Gateway of India, along with refined hospitality. This legendary luxury hotel has played host to kings, dignitaries, and eminent personalities from across the globe. (All meals today are on your own.)
Day 2: Mumbai
This morning we take a short cruise, weather permitting, to Elephanta Island, a lush island densely wooded with palm, mango, and tamarind trees. This fascinating UNESCO World Heritage site cave complex dates back to the 3rd – 5th century and was designed to honor the life of Lord Shiva, one of the most auspicious Hindu gods.
We return to Mumbai for lunch at the Khyber restaurant (or similar). In the afternoon, you are free to explore Mumbai independently or visit one of the colorful local markets.
Alternatively, with our Freedom of Choice program, we offer a visit to the famous Jehangir Art Gallery and also the Prince of Wales Museum, housing 50,000 exhibits in a landmark building close to the Gateway of India.
In the evening, a welcome reception is followed by dinner at your hotel, where you can get to know your fellow travelers.
Day 3: Mumbai
The compelling city of Mumbai is rich in culture and history. Today we visit the ‘Dhobi Ghats’, an intriguing outdoor laundry. Our tour then takes in Fort Bombay and Gandhi’s House, now converted into a museum depicting his life. Lunch is served in a local restaurant.
This afternoon, board our private train, the Deccan Odyssey. Settle into your beautiful, private en-suite cabin and enjoy the hospitable atmosphere of the stylish Bar and Lounge cars before experiencing a fine dinner of Indian or western cuisine in one of the restaurant cars.
An all-day option prior to boarding the Deccan Odyssey is to take the 100-year old rail line from Neral to the hill station of Matheran (at 2,500 feet or 800 meters), a 2-hour drive south of Bombay. As the little train climbs into the clear mountain air, one can view the scenic vista of hills and plains below. The total lack of motorized traffic at Matheran makes it an unusual and peaceful retreat. (Guests will then join the Deccan Odyssey at Pavel Junction after descending from Matheran).
Day 4: Goa
Goa, renowned for its beaches, temples, and world heritage architecture, was the capital of the Portuguese Empire in the east and displays much of this heritage in its architecture today. We take a morning tour to view Basilica De Bom Jesus and Sé Cathedral of Santa Catarina, a towering white structure with a grand baroque interior and the most imposing church in Old Goa.
Day 5: Ooty
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a World Heritage Site, starts from the town of Mettupalayam and takes us on a journey full of twists and turns as this narrow gauge steam train ascends 19 miles (about 30 km) on India’s only Rack and Pinion Railway to the town of Coonor, with gradients as steep as 1:12. From there, for the final 10 miles (16 km), the train picks up speed on its way to the hill resort at Ooty at 7,228 feet (2,225 meters), famous for its pretty cottages and beautiful Botanical Gardens. The steam-hauled ‘Toy Train’ heads through tea and coffee plantations, forest-clad hills, and 16 tunnels and tall bridges, making the journey to Ooty an extraordinary experience!
Day 6: Cochin
Cochin’s beautiful, natural harbor and scenic backwaters have witnessed a rich and varied history; the British, Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch, and Chinese have all left indelible marks on the architectural development of this city. We will visit the Dutch Palace and the Jewish Synagogue and then see the Giant Chinese fishing nets that billow from massive teak and bamboo poles, which dot the entrance to the harbor and are still in use today. The day ends with a visit to the 500-year old Fort Cochin, where we will walk through the historical Dutch and Portuguese buildings. In the evening, there is the opportunity to witness a Kathakali Dance performance, where the dancers are elaborately made up with paint and masks, accompanied by drummers and musicians as they act out a dance drama.
Day 7: Trivandrum & Kanyakumari
The Deccan Odyssey arrives in Trivandrum in the early morning. After breakfast, we visit the Napier Museum and the dominating Padmanabhaswamy Hindu Temple. Following lunch, we head to Kanyakumari, which is mainland India’s southernmost point, where the three seas – the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal – meet, and where the shore temple to the Virgin Goddess Kanyakumari stands.
Day 8: Madurai
Situated on the River Vaigai, the Temple City of Madurai is one of the oldest cities in India. It was the capital of the Pandya Kingdom. During the reign of the Nayaks, the magnificent Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Temple was constructed, which is one of India’s greatest cultural and architectural landmarks. In the evening, we will return to the temple to witness a Hindu ritual, an Aarti Ceremony, before we continue our journey towards Madras.
Day 9: Pondicherry
Pondicherry, located on the Bay of Bengal, is the former capital of the French territories in India. To this day, there still remains a rich French cultural heritage, including the French language being widely spoken. Landmarks include Raj Nivas, the residence of the Lt. Governor of Pondicherry – a handsome, 200-year old building that faces Government Park with its paths, lawns, fountains, and sculptures, as well as the wide and vibrant beaches and beautiful promenades. Tonight, we have our final dinner aboard the Deccan Odyssey.
Day 10: Chennai
Chennai (formerly Madras), the capital of Tamil Nadu, is located on the legendary Coromandel Coast and has a marvelous tradition of music and dance. This city of 4 million people has a pronounced colonial heritage dating back to the 17th century when the British East India Company built a small fort on the banks of the Cooum River and called it Fort St. George.
We arrive in Chennai in the morning and transfer to our luxurious beachfront property of the Taj Fisherman’s Cove Resort & Spa for a three night stay. The Fisherman’s Cove, once an impressive Dutch Fort, is now one of the finest beach resorts in Southern India. It is located on a beautiful white sandy beach, lapped by the waters from the Bay of Bengal, and offers a perfect setting for relaxation at the end of your journey through Southern India.
Day 11: Chennai
In Chennai, we will visit highlights of the city, including Fort St. George and the National Art Gallery. Situated south of Chennai, we will also visit Mahabalipuram, a beautiful coastal resort classified as a World Heritage Site. The rock-cut temples and caves situated here are among the finest in the world and originated between the 7th and 9th centuries. The highlight is a visit to the Shore Temple, which is renowned for its intricate carvings and skilled craftsmanship, and is one of the oldest temples in southern India.
Day 12: Chennai
Enjoy a day at leisure in Chennai.
Day 13: Chennai to Hyderabad
Today we travel by air from Chennai to our final destination, Hyderabad, and stay for two nights at the luxury Taj Falaknuma Palace. Elevated 2,000 feet above Hyderabad, this 5-star property features a blend of colonial and Indian designs. It houses a heritage walk with beautifully crafted objects and a first-rate spa.
Day 14: Hyderabad
Today we enjoy a city tour of Hyderabad. Steeped in history, thronging with people, and buzzing with commerce, the Old City of Hyderabad is one of India’s most evocative ancient quarters. We’ll explore the lanes of this district, with its many spice merchants and chai shops. Looming over the Old City is also some of Islamic India’s most impressive architecture.
In the evening we say our goodbyes to our fellow passengers at a Gala Farewell Dinner in the most magnificent of venues, the 101 Dining Hall of the Taj Falaknuma Palace.
Day 15: Hyderabad
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport to begin your journey home. Airport transfers are included for all guests.
2019 Dates:December 5-19
Twin / Double
All prices are per person.
Medical/evacuation insurance is required for this journey. We highly recommend full tour cancellation/interruption insurance to protect your travel investment.
An Indian visa is required for U.S. citizens.
Latest News: Click here for Track 25, our blog, for the latest news on this and other tours on our World’s Top 25 Trains™.