Visit the classical sites of South India starting with a warm welcome in the bustling city of Chennai. Explore Fort St. George, and the neighbourhood of Mylapore, drive past Marina Beach before departing for Mahabalipuram. Visit the Shore Temple, Arjuna's Penance and the Five Rathas in Mahabalipuram and then drive to Pondicherry to visit the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Head to Swamimalai for a stay at a heritage property and then tour Tanjore's sites before making your way to Madurai stopping in Trichy (Tiruchirappalli) to admire the fine blend of tradition and modernity built around the Rock Fort. Your tour continues to Madurai, one of the oldest cities in South India, where you will enjoy a tour of the city and a visit to the Meenakshi Temple before heading uphill through the Western Ghats to Periyar for walking tours and visits to plantations and Periyar Lake. Take a backwater cruise on a kettuvallam and enjoy some leisure time in the veritable paradise of Kumarakom. End your tour in Cochin as you admire the Chinese fishing nets lining the harbour before a traditional Kathakali dance performance.
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Hotel with daily breakfast, lunches & dinners as indicated, services of expert English speaking local guides, entrance fees to sites listed on the itinerary, private A/C transportation, and airport transfers. International flights are not included, contact us for preferred rates and schedules.
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Upon arrival in Chennai, you will be met by your local guide in the arrivals area holding a name-board. After a warm welcome & brief introduction, you will be transferred to your hotel for check-in. The remainder of the day is at your leisure. Stay one night in Chennai.
Enjoy breakfast and then checkout and proceed on a half-day city tour. Visit the Kapaleeswarar Temple, honouring Shiva, dating back to the 13th century AD and which is the biggest temple in Chennai. Then proceed to Mylapore, which was inhabited in the 16th century by the Portuguese, and visit the Saint Thomas Church. Later, you will drive past Marina Beach, the second longest in the world, stretching for several miles. Your next stop will be Fort St. George, which is presently being used by the Tamil Nadu Government. Within the compound is a museum holding many remembrances of the East India Company and the British period. In the afternoon drive for Mahabalipuram and on arrival check in to your hotel.
This morning, enjoy a guided tour of Mahabalipuram starting with a visit to the Shore Temple, which symbolises the heights of Pallava architecture and the maritime ambitions of the Pallava kings. Visit Arunja’s Penance, a relief carving on the face of a huge rock which depicts animals, deities and other semi divine creatures as well as fables from the Hindu Panchatantra books. Also visit the Five Rathas. Carved from single pieces of rock, the Five Rathas are low-laying monoliths that huddle in more ancient subtlety than grandeur. Each temple is dedicated to a Hindu god and named for one of the Pandavas, the five hero-brothers of the epic Mahabharata, plus their common wife, Draupadi. You will have the afternoon at your leisure.
This morning, depart for Pondicherry, en-route visiting Auroville. Developed around the ashram of the Indian yogi, Sri Aurobindo, this project was developed as a “Universal township where the men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, politics and nationalities” and were guided by the Mother - a French lady who carried on the work of Sri Aurobindo after his death. Pondicherry is a former French colony and presents an unusual combination of European culture and Indian traditions. In the afternoon, proceed for a half-day city tour visiting the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The ashram was founded by the philosopher-saint Sri Aurobindo in 1926 to put into practice his ideals of a peaceful community. Its spiritual tenets represent a synthesis of yoga and modern science. Also visit the Pondicherry museum and see the Sacred Heart Church with its Gothic architecture and stained glass windows. This evening walk along the sea front to view the architecture, a legacy of the French, who governed this town until 1957.
This morning depart for Tanjore. Visit the Brihadeeshwara Temple, Art Gallery, and Saraswait Mahal Library, which houses palm leaf and paper manuscripts. Enjoy the evening free at your leisure.
Depart for Madurai en-route visiting Tanjore and Trichy. The capital of the Great Chola Empire, Tanjore (also called as Thanjavur) also served as the capital for the Nayaka Empire and Maratha rulers. The Chola kings who were great patrons of the arts built most of the 93 temples, of which the Brihadisvara Temple is the showpiece. While they lavished their wealth on the temples, they also encouraged the belief in the divine right of kings, and the practice of donating a part of one’s wealth to the temple for spiritual gain. In the afternoon, visit the Brihadisvara Temple, also known as the 'Big Temple'. Built between 985 and 1012, this is a World Heritage monument. In Trichy, visit the Rock Fort, which stands on an 84m high rock. As you climb up the 437 rock cut temples to the Vinayaka Temple, you pass the original 11th century defence line and the remains of a 1000-pillared hall. Further up is a hundred pillar hall and at the end of the last flight is the Tayumanasvami Temple dedicated to Shiva, which has a golden vimana and houses the main deity. There are also beautifully carved pillars and panels. Continue the drive to Madurai and on arrival check-in to your hotel.
Visit the magnificent Sri Meenakshi Temple which is the abode of the triple-breasted, fish-eyed Goddess Meenakshi Amman and considered by many to be the height of South Indian temple architecture. It’s not so much a temple as a 6-hectare complex enclosed by 12 gopurams, the highest of which towers 52m over Madurai, and all of which are carved with a staggering array of gods, goddesses, demons and heroes. Also visit the elegant Thirumalai Nayaka Palace. Built in 1636 in the Indo Mughal style, its 15 domes and arches are adorned with stucco work. Its Celestial Pavilion, an arcaded octagonal structure, is curiously constructed in brick and mortar without supporting rafters. In the late evening revisit the Temple to attend the night ceremony. This is a ceremony that takes place every evening when the temple bronze of Lord Shiva is carried to the bed chamber of Parvati. The procession is accompanied by religious prayer and temple music.
Drive uphill through the western ghats to Periyar. On arrival, check in to the hotel. Periyar is the ‘Land of the Spices’ Columbus was seeking when he stumbled on the New World; Kerala’s Malabar Coast is famous for its fabulous spice crops. In the afternoon, walk to the neighboring pepper plantation to see traditional plantation techniques walking amidst the rows of vines creeping upwards. This is the starting point of the centuries old spice trade and that delicious flavour which makes such a difference to foods worldwide.
With 16 wildlife sanctuaries and 5 national parks nestled along the Western Ghats; Kerala is an excellent wildlife destination. The Western Ghats – geologically older than the Himalayas – is one of the world’s most significantly bio diverse regions and has been given World Heritage Site status by UNESCO. Drive up to nearby Periyar National Park reserve, along the Cardamom and Pandalam hills of the Western Ghats. From the entrance gate, take a guided nature walk for about an hour on a trail through the park towards Periyar Lake. At the bank of the lake, take a bamboo raft and cruise for about 2 hours through many delights of the sanctuary. From the elephant and tiger to the nilgiri tahr sambar, wild dog, leopard smooth-coated otters and lion-tailed macaque – around 35 species of animals live here. Around midday, disembark the raft, return to the gate and head back to the hotel. In the afternoon, drive downhill towards the backwaters of Kumarakom, en-route stopping at a working rubber estate to see rubber tapping techniques.
Wake up early for a session of yoga under the guidance of an expert yoga master at the open air platform yoga centre. Breakfast is at leisure. Later, take a short drive to Allepey where you board a Kettuvallam, a traditional houseboat, and cruise through the day drifting through the backwaters of Kerala. The backwaters are a network of canals, lakes, lagoons and estuaries stretching over almost 1000 square miles. Here, palm-fringed narrow canals wind through a vast expanse of paddy fields. As you float along, enjoy the picturesque hamlets that line the banks, migratory birds in abundance, water lilies and coconut groves. Your ride ends close to the hotel on the edge of the great Vembanad Lake. The remainder of the day is at your leisure.
This morning, depart for Cochin. On arrival, check in to your hotel. Kochi (popularly known as Cochin) is spread across islands and promontories in a stunning location between the Arabian Sea and the Backwaters. In the evening, you will visit a local theatre to experience a Kathakali performance. Kathakali literally meaning "story dance" is the pantomimic dance drama, the dancing and acting blend together into an inseparable form.
This morning, start on a guided city tour. Begin your exploration of the city with a walk through the bustling harbor area and quaint backstreets to discover it’s rich and multifaceted past. See the St. Francis Church, originally named after Santo Antonio and dedicated to him as the Patron Saint of Portugal. Once a wooden building, it was replaced by the present stone building. Across, the four-century old Jewish synagogue was built in 1568 AD, it was destroyed by the Portuguese and rebuilt by the Dutch a century later. We will explore the Jew-town, which abounds with fascinating antique shops and wares. Looming protectively over the synagogue is the Mattancherry palace, erstwhile home to the Verma kings and today a fine museum.
Meet at your hotel and transfer to the airport to board your departure flight.
Day 7: Take a guided tour of the Sri Meenakshi Temple, and see the evening procession.
Day 10: Take a houseboat cruise through the backwaters.
This itinerary has been tried & tested and can be booked as-is. However, should you wish to customize your tour, you may contact us here.
THE MALABAR COAST OF SOUTH INDIA
BEST OF NORTH INDIA
CLASSIC SRI LANKA