Yoga. Meditation. Ayurvedic Treatments. Giving Back.
Join ESCAPE TO SHAPE on a magical journey to explore the South of India. Every doorway, every arch is an entrance into an exotic world. The customs, the rituals, the colors. And while not quite as flamboyant as the North, the South of India is home to the oldest undiluted Indian culture — steeped with history, culture, religion and spirituality. Splashed with color, scents and scenery, it’s a feast for the eyes, the palette, the spirit and the soul. Join us as we journey through Southern India — Chennai, Mylapore, Mamallapuram, Pondicherry, Hyderabad, Cochin, Kerala Backwaters and the beaches of Mararikulam — on an Escape that is sure to stay with you forever.
March 10–11 & March 13–15: Reminiscent of the Chettinad Palace and its architecture, The Leela Palace Chennai reflects rich historic influences that will lead you on a voyage of age-old traditions and hospitality. Built on 4.8 acres by the azure expanse of the Bay of Bengal, this stunning palace is a beautiful amalgamation of the modern and traditional. Adorned with intricacies from Chettinad architecture like high ceilings, an enviable collection of art and artifacts and immaculate gardens, this expansive property set in the heart of the city will leave you spellbound. Please note that we will not have exclusive use of Leela Palace, but will share it with other discerning travelers.
March 11–13: An address in the French Quarter with a distinct colonial stamp, Palais de Mahe lies close to the seaside promenade, barely 50 meters from the cool breezes and gentle rumblings of the Bay of Bengal. This signature hotel — with its majestic courtyard, deep verandahs, attractive pillars and period furniture — combines South Indian fire and flavor with French intensity and fervor to bring you an experience that is in every way unforgettable. Please note that we will not have exclusive use of Palais de Mahe, but will share it with other discerning travelers.
March 15–17: Passed on for generations like a precious jewel, Falaknuma Palace or “Mirror of the Sky” was the royal guesthouse of Nizam Mehboob Ali Khan. After ten years of sensitive restoration, the Taj has infused new life into this sixty room private palace to offer visitors a glimpse of the imperial lifestyle of the Nizams who governed the legendary city of Hyderabad. What was once the sole preserve of visiting royalty-King George V and the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II; will soon be yours to discover. With 60 unique rooms, an outdoor pool and the Jiva Grande Spa, spread across 32 acres of land, live like royalty in this thoughtfully restored palace. Guest rooms are rich in color and details, such as Hyderabadi embellishments and English frescoes. Please note that we will not have exclusive use of Falakuma Palace, but will share it with other discerning travelers.
March 17–20: Brunton Boatyard at Fort Kochi is inspired by Cochin’s rich colonial history. A former shipyard in British times, this historical plot of land that once housed a famous boatyard now has another landmark, the Brunton Boatyard Hotel. Built to faithfully reflect the symbols and signs of a historical period known for its stately grandeur and refined taste as expressed through its ambiance, amenities, service & food. Please note that we will not have exclusive use of Brunton Boatyard, but will share it with other discerning travelers.
March 20–23: Carnoustie Ayurveda and wellness resort is an award winning resort on the shores of the Arabian sea. Carnoustie is the archetypal luxury resort for Ayurveda, yoga and other therapies such as reiki and pranic healing. Set in a luscious green forest next to the ocean, it radiates natural beauty and emphasizes privacy and discretion above all else. Carnoustie has welcomed numerous VIPs and celebrities, managing to maintain complete anonymity with respect to their identities. Their villas with huge bathrooms, comfortable sofas, king-size beds and walk-in closets truly place Carnoustie in a league of its own. Alcohol is not served in the restaurants, but can be consumed in the rooms with prior arrangements. Please note that we will not have exclusive use of Carnoustie Resort, but will share it with other discerning travelers.
Private Room: $15,500
Shared Room: $13,000 – Please note that shared rooms are only available to book if we have a roommate for you to share with.
Upon confirmation of availability a 40% deposit is required. Credit card payments incur a 3% banking fee. Wire transfer and checks are also accepted at no additional fee. The remaining balance is due December 1, 2023.
Payment can be made by credit card (surcharge of 3% unfortunately, imposed by the credit card company), wire transfer, check, Venmo or Zelle.
40% deposit per person is fully non-refundable, to cover non-refundable deposits related to this Escape. Final payment is fully non-refundable upon receipt. We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance in case you run into any unforeseen medical, work or personal issues that prevent you from being able to join us after submitting payment, as the deposit and each subsequent payment, is non-refundable. You are welcome to purchase any travel insurance you are comfortable with, and we also offer policies & rates here.
Should borders close or lockdowns be imposed prior to travel no cancellation fees will be incurred.
Please refer to the policies page for our complete cancellation policy.
Please find a brief outline of the itinerary below. We appreciate the element of surprise and prefer to not reveal each element of this unique Escape in advance — there are so many amazing experiences that are not listed below. An element of trust is requested so that we can keep these surprises a surprise, but we are happy to provide more details if needed — just ask.
Vip meet & greet + transfer to Leela Palace, Chennei.
Relax post flight in preparation for tomorrow’s adventures.
Please note meals are not included on this day.
Breakfast & lunch and then transfer by private luxury coach from Chennai to Palais de Mahe in Pondicherry (approximately 2.5 hours).
Settle in and enjoy a group dinner.
After breakfast we will explore Pondicherry. With three distinct sections: The French quarters, The Tamil quarters and the Ashram, there is much for us to discover!
Today after breakfast we will drive to the Indian Ocean and the UNESCO site of Mahaballipuram. Mamallapuram as it is known today is an extraordinary experience. This open-air museum of Tamil art in living rock is the work of students under the patronage of the Pallava rulers. Strewn along the coast are some outstanding examples of 7th century sculpture — cave temples, an enormous bas-relief depicting scenes from the Indian epic the Mahabharata, and an amphitheater of chariot shaped temples. The landmark of this marvelous collection is the Shore Temple, a world heritage monument, and the only surviving one from the complex, the other’s having been claimed by the sea.
After lunch we continue back to Chennai to settle into our hotel and enjoy dinner.
After breakfast we will tour one of the oldest and most interesting areas of Chennai — the City of Mylapore. This walking tour will allow us the opportunity to experience daily local life — from the temple and through the narrow lanes of Mylapore. After lunch we will explore the importance of dance in Indian culture — and even take a lesson on South Indian dance!
Dinner & back to our hotel.
After breakfast we will transfer to the airport and depart by 6e 269 (10:14 AM/11:20 AM) for Hyderabad, to explore the unique culture and craftsmanship of this city.
After lunch we will explore the old city starting with a walk around the four palaces of the Chowmahalla Complex. Hear the numerous stories about the seven Nizams of Hyderabad whose decisions shaped the history and culture of this region. Walk through the imposing Durbar Hall and the various rooms which are a slice of life from the past.
Hyderabad’s charms lie beyond the monuments. The charm of the city is found wandering through the historic Lad Bazaar, listening to the stories of its grand past; in discovering the many art and crafts that developed under royal patronage and still survive. Together we will explore the colorful and chaotic market where vendors sell an extraordinary variety of items ranging from mundane household goods, to the colorful bangles for which the city is so well known. It is a slice of Hyderabadi life — vibrant, chaotic and absorbing.
Dinner & back to our hotel.
After breakfast we will visit the Golconda Fort and the exquisite Qutb Shahi tombs.
This tour will trace the history of the Qutb Shahi dynasty which ruled Hyderabad between 1518 and 1687 AD. The narrative will include stories of the rulers of this dynasty with a special emphasis on the love story between Mohd Quli Qutb Shah and Bhagmati.
After lunch we will dive deep into discovering Indian traditions through paintings, sculptures and fabric, with special visits to unique collections.
Dinner & back to our hotel.
After breakfast, we will transfer to the airport and depart to Cochin on 6E 6707 (09:00 AM/11:20 AM).
Today we will walk and explore the heritage zone, located near our hotel — exploring the historical and cultural significance of the area. Enjoying lunch at the great panorama of life in the city.
In the evening we will enjoy dinner and experience a traditional Kalaripayyattu performance, the 1000-year-old Martial Art.
After breakfast we will explore Fort Cochin, stopping at the Ghats (open air laundries), temples, churches, spice markets, the beach and the area still referred to as Jew Town. The narrow lined with antique and souvenir shops, leading to the main attraction of the area — the Pardesi Synagogue, amongst the oldest in India.
You will stop at the Mattancherri Palace which was commissioned by the Portuguese for the Raja of Kochi in exchange for trading rights. The palace built in the traditional Kerala style known as “nalukattu” (four buildings around a central courtyard). Made of wood and richly carved, the palace exhibits memorabilia from the Raja of Kochi’s collection, but it is best known for its outstanding murals painted on the walls. Fast fading, one can still see some of these excellent 16thcentury paintings illustrating episodes from the great Indian epic — The Ramayana.
We will end our day with dinner and learning about the classical Kathakali dance.
After breakfast, enjoy a free day to roam charming Fort Cochin on your own; wandering at your leisure to take photos, shop for textiles, art, spices, antiques or relax at the hotel. Lunch and dinner provided.
Breakfast. A visit to Kerala is incomplete without a tour of the famous Kerala backwaters. The photography opportunities are exceptional. We will do this tour in small boats, disembarking along the way at places of interest.
We disembark at Mararikullam and a short drive takes us to our Ayurvedic retreat nestled in the backwaters. Lying on the shores of the Arabian Sea, this Ayurvedic and Wellness Resort is surrounded by the rich tropical vegetation of Kerala. During your stay you will have Ayurvedic consultations and treatments daily, you can also take part in the yoga and meditation classes or just relax on the beach.
This afternoon and evening you will have a Ayurveda Doctor’s consultation.
As Ayurveda and wellness is the focus of this resort, the cuisine is pure vegetarian and they do not serve alcohol, although we can arrange for alcohol to be consumed in your room.
Free days to enjoy your personal Ayurvedic journey & the beach. We have included the Rejuvenation package for each person, which includes 45 minutes to 6 minutes therapeutic Marma, Pranic healing and Kalari treatments based on the doctor’s advice. You may have additional treatments based on the Doctors consultation and your meals will be based on an Ayurvedic diet plan customized for you. Each morning and evening yoga and meditation are offered.
Today you will transfer to Cochin airport and will be assisted with checking in for your onward flight. You can either depart directly from Cochin or fly to Chennai or Mumbai for your onward connections. We will provide departure services at your final destination.
A visa is required to enter India. The official Visa Application Site is: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in
Passport must be valid for six months beyond date of visa application to obtain a visa.
Passport must have at least two blank pages.
Please note that no immunizations are required unless traveling from a yellow fever zone, but some are recommended. Speak with your health care professional for further details.
Malaria transmission is found throughout India. Please speak to your health care provider to discuss the best option for you.
Please note that this is a MOVING ESCAPE, which means that while you are more than welcome to sleep in and skip out on activities on any of the days that we are not traveling from one location to the next, it is mandatory that the entire group travel as a group from one place to the other on the days that we need to change locations.
Given that we will be on the go during this entire Escape and moving from place to place frequently, we suggest you pack light, and leave plenty of space for shopping as you are sure to depart with more than you arrived with!
All internal flight times are based on current flight schedule and subject to change.
We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance in case you run into any unforeseen medical, work or personal issues that prevent you from being able to join us after paying your deposit, as the deposit and each subsequent payment, is non-refundable. You are welcome to purchase any travel insurance you are comfortable with, and we also offer policies & rates here.
Rooms are officially available for check in at 3:00 pm on March 10. Should you arrive earlier than this we will request early check in but the only way it can be guaranteed is if you book an extra night at The Leela Palace, Chennai. We would be happy to help arrange this with the extra cost payable directly to the hotel.
The first included meal is the group dinner on March 11. No meals are included on March 10.
Yoga & Meditation will be offered as time permits throughout the itinerary, but not daily. All hotels have a gym EXCEPT the hotel in Pondicherry and the Ayurvedic Resort. All hotels have a spa.
This Escape starts in Chennai & ends in Cochin. Arrival and departure airport assistance will be provided at each airport. We would be happy to assist with international flights, which are not included in the rate.
Below are a few ideas to get you started below – our sister company Escape Artists Travel is happy to help plan on your behalf!
We look forward to sharing this magical journey with you. Please let us know if you have any questions or if you are interested in joining us.
Erica is an acclaimed wellness expert, yoga teacher & fitness trainer. She is largely inspired by the journey of wellness, the subtle to the grand discoveries each individual makes through their physical practice, inviting students to embrace a sense of play while experiencing their body in a whole new way through each unique class. With classes always set to music, from tribal to lounge to classic rock songs, Erica encourages students to find their own personal rhythm and expression, to meet their edge and challenge themselves in new ways. Additionally, Erica is co-founder and co-owner of Escape To Shape: Adventures in Wellness & Escape Artists: Luxury Travel Advisors. Erica is passionate about travel & giving back to the communities in which she visits & thrives on authentic connection, curiosity & discovery.