Visit the classical sites of South India starting with a warm welcome in the bustling city of Cochin. Explore the city sites, admire the Chinese fishing nets lining the harbor, and discover the quaint backstreets before a traditional Kathakali dance performance. Head to Alleppey and board your houseboat for your backwater cruise through lush idyll of Kerala, and then disembark and head to Periyar with a stop at a spice plantation followed by an excursion through the Periyar National Park reserve. 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. From Madurai we head to Pondicherry, an old French settlement, before departing for Mahabalipuram to see the Shore Temple, Arjuna's Penance and the Five Rathas. The journey will conclude with a tour of Chennai.
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Accommodation rarely changes, but when and where this is required a similar alternative will be provided and advised before you depart on your tour.
Prices are per person based on a party of at least 2 adults traveling together. A single room supplement cost is applicable for those who would like their own single room. This is a group tour where a minimum number of travelers on each departure date are required to guarantee the materialization of the tour. Prices subject to change. If looking for your own private trip to India, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be pleased to provide you with your own personalized trip quote.
Accommodation with daily breakfast, services of expert English speaking local guides, entrance fees to sites listed on the itinerary, air-conditioned transportation with expert drivers, overnight cruise on Houseboat, and airport transfers. International flights are not included, contact us for preferred rates and schedules.
This trip can be booked as a standalone tour of South India, or as an extension to the Portrait of North India trip.
Not interested in traveling with a group? We can customize this trip and make it your own private tour. Contact us at email@example.com and we'll tailor an itinerary just for you.
Upon arrival in Cochin, 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.
You will 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. Kochi is full of echoes of Kerala's past colonizers, including Hindu and Mughal dynasties, Portuguese and Dutch conquerors, and the British Empire - which came seeking control of the lucrative pepper trade. In the evening, you will visit a local theatre to experience the Kathakali dance performance.
After breakfast, drive to Alleppey 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. Stay overnight on the houseboat.
This morning, drive uphill to Periyar through the western ghats. On arrival, check in to your 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.
With 16 wildlife sanctuaries and 5 national parks nestled along the Western Ghats; Kerala is a hotspot of a 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. 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 through the scenic Periyar Lake for about 2 hours through the 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 for the afternoon at your leisure.
After breakfast, drive downhill towards Madurai where you will check in to your hotel. Madurai was once a center of Tamil culture and is famous for its writers and poets and the history goes back to the 6th century BC when it traded with Greece and Rome. In the evening you will visit a temple to attend the night ceremony. This ceremony 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.
This morning, visit the magnificent Sri Meenakshi Temple which is considered by many to be the height of South Indian temple architecture. 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. Return back to your hotel and enjoy the evening 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. On arrival in Pondicherry, check in to your hotel, and enjoy the rest of the day free at your leisure.
Proceed on 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.
Enjoy an excursion to Chennai and Kanchipuram. Visit the Kapaleeswarar Temple, honoring Shiva, which dates back to the 13th century AD and is the biggest temple in Chennai. You will than proceed to Mylapore, which was inhabited in the 16th century by the Portuguese; visit the Saint Thomas Church, and then drive by 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 visit Kanchipuram, apart from being a center of pilgrimage, Kanchipuram is also famous for its silk weavers who settled in this area in the 16th century. Return to your hotel for the evening free at leisure.
Meet at the hotel at the appointed time and transfer to the airport in Chennai for your departure flight. Check out is at 12 noon.
Day 7: Take a guided tour of the Sri Meenakshi Temple, and see the evening procession.