Per Person on twin sharing basis
South India is the area including the five southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, as well as the three union territories of Andaman and Nicobar islands, Lakshadweep and Puducherry, occupying 19% of India's area.
DAY 01: ARRIVE CHENNAI BY FLIGHT (TBA)
You will arrive at Chennai International Airport. Following customs, immigration formalities and baggage collection, a representative will meet you as you EXIT the ARRIVALS TERMINAL building after which you would be transferred to your hotel for check-in [Check in time at hotel is 1400 hrs/ early check-in is subject to availability and at discretion of the hotel].
Chennai (formerly known as Madras), the largest city in South India and the fourth largest city in the country, the capital of Tamil Nadu is located on what is popularly called the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. The varied aspects of traditional South Indian culture existing alongside the lifestyle of a modern city complete with its plush hotels, restaurants offering a range of continental to typical South Indian cuisine, long and uncrowded stretches of beaches, modern shopping malls, and cinema halls. While moving around in the city one cannot overlook the obvious British influence that is so evident in the various cathedrals, buildings in Indo-Saracenic style of architecture and wide tree lined avenues. However, despite the undeniable strong English legacy, Chennai has retained its traditional Tamil Hindu culture and effectively blended it with the foreign influence. Popularly regarded as the "Gateway to the South", Chennai presents a culture that is distinctly different from that of northern India. Music, dance and all other art forms of the South are cherished and nurtured in this city, which, though industrialized, continues to be traditional and conventional in many ways. Overnight at Chennai.
DAY 02: CHENNAI- MAHABALIPURAM
Breakfast at the hotel. Explore some of the colonial sights on a sightseeing tour of Chennai.
Begin your sightseeing with a visit to the site of the first British outpost in India-Fort St. George (closed on Friday) and the commercial centre, George Town. Visit the Fort house and the museum exhibiting a vast collection of portraits, regimental flags, weapons and coins. Proceed to Mylapore in the south which is the site of the famous Kapaleeswarar Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It has a typical Dravidian gopuram (Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple premises). Near the temple, is the San Thome Cathedral, which is said to contain the remains of St Thomas the Apostle (Doubting Thomas). Located on Triplicane High Road is the Parathasarathy Temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna. Built in the 8th century during the Pallava reign, it was later renovated by the Vijayanagar kings in the 16th century. The morning tour ends at the Government State Museum and the National Art Gallery showcasing an interesting archaeological section and a bronze gallery. It houses items right from the Cholas, Vijaynagar, Hoysala and Chalukya periods to some very recent artwork. Later you will be driven to Mahabalipuram (60 kms/ Approx 01 hrs 30 mins approx). Upon arrival, check-in to your hotel. Rest of the day at leisure for independent activities. Overnight at Mahabalipuram.
DAY 03: IN MAHABALIPURAM
Breakfast at the hotel. Today explore temple town of Kanchipuram & Mahabalipuram.
First you will be visiting impressive temple town of Kanchipuram, known as the Golden City of a Thousand Temples, is one of the oldest towns in India. It is famous for both its temples, many of them remarkably well preserved and for its hand-woven silks. Kanchipuram is one of the seven sacred cities of India and it is the only one associated with both Shiva and Vishnu. Visit Ekambareshwar Temple, Kailashnath Temple, Kamakshi Temple, the Vaikunthaperumal Temple, all built in the 7th and 8th centuries. With a weaving tradition dating back to the Pallava era (when silk was the royal cloth), Kanchipuram is justly famous for its particularly fine silk saris, embellished with stunning patterns. Visit the local homes of the weavers and watch them create magic out of silk thread into saris. Apart from the temples, you will also have an opportunity to visit the homes of traditional Kanchipuram weavers specializing in silk fabric. Continue visit to Mahabalipuram, a small seaside village that was once the main port of the Pallava Dynasty from the 5th - 9th centuries. Today it is the site of several antique sculptural marvels. Declared as the world heritage site by UNESCO, Mahabalipuram boasts of some of India’s most sublime rock-cut art. The town was earlier called Mahabalipuram, but was later renamed as Mamallapuram or the place of the great wrestler - Narasimhavarmam I. He made this port a flourishing trade centre. The only shore temple, which remains here, is the spectacular two-spired shrine, which is unique in that it houses both Vishnu and Shiva in its sanctum. The open-air bas-reliefs, structured temples, man-made caves and the five monolithic “rathas” (chariots carved from single processions) reflect this art at its best. "Arjuna's penance" here is the world's largest bas relief measuring 27 meters by 9 meters. The hillside is scattered with eight temple porches with bold sculptures inside and there is also still one surviving shore temple, built in the 1st century. A row of Nandi Bulls surrounds its walls and Mahabalipuram also boasts an excellent open-air museum where you can watch stonemasons at work. The tour of the temples ends with a visit to the ‘Shore temple’ designed according to the description of the original plan from ancient Hindu texts, consisting of a compact temple with two spires with the main alter facing east. Following visit, return to your hotel. Overnight in Mahabalipuram.
DAY 04: MAHABALIPURAM - PONDICHERRY
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning you will be driven to Pondicherry (210 kms/ Approx 5 hrs approx). Upon arrival, check-in at your hotel.
Pondicherry has a rich French cultural heritage, having been the capital of the French colonies in India since the 17th century. The French legacy is visible in the well-planned town, neatly laid roads, wide and vibrant beaches, beautiful promenades, architecturally imposing churches and public buildings and the statues. Split into two parts, Pondicherry on one side is a bustling Indian Market town, and in its old French quarters, the cobbled streets, waterfront pavements and promenades were designed to resemble any seaside town, south of France.
Later enjoy an orientation tour of Pondicherry visiting the main Ashram of Sri Aurobindo. Situated in a bustling city of a quarter-million people, the Ashram is not a quiet place of retreat secluded from the world but a vibrant centre of life in a modern urban setting. It consists of an interconnected block of houses, including those in which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother dwelt for most of their lives. At its centre under a tree-shaded courtyard lies the Samadhi, a white-marble shrine where their bodies are laid to rest. Continue to the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, noted for its Gothic architecture and stained glass panels, which depict the entire life of Jesus Christ. Following the sightseeing tour, return to your hotel. Overnight at Pondicherry.
DAY 05: PONDICHERRY – TANJORE
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning you will be driven to Tanjore (200 kms /Approx 05 hrs) enroute visiting Chidambaram Temple (Remain closed from 1200 to 1600 hrs).Nataraja Temple, also referred to as the Chidambaram Nataraja temple or Thillai Nataraja temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Nataraja - Shiva as the lord of dance - in Chidambaram. The present temple was built in the 10th century when Chidambaram was the capital of the Chola dynasty, making it one of the oldest surviving active temple complexes in South India. After its 10th century consecration by the Cholas who considered Nataraja as their family deity, the temple has been damaged, repaired, renovated and expanded through the 2nd millennium. Most of the temple's surviving plan, architecture and structure is from the late 12th and early 13th centuries, with later additions in a similar style.Following visit, continue drive to Tanjore, upon arrival proceed for check-in at your hotel. Tanjore - Called the rice bowl of the country, Tanjore is an interesting place located in the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu. It was the cultural capital of the state till the period of 1790. It rose into prominence at the time when it was under the rule of the Cholas and was their capital. Consequently, it came into the hands of the Nayaks and the Marathas with prominence in its culture and architecture. The Grand Anicut and the Serfoji temple gave ample proof of the earlier extravaganza. In the present context, it is known for the magnificent temples set in the lush green rice fields of the Cauvery delta. Thanjavur is especially distinguished as a place for art lovers. The Maharaja of Serfosi in the 19th century himself developed the famous Thanjavur style of painting. The art form is a combination of raised and painted surfaces. Overnight at Tanjore.
DAY 06: IN TANJORE
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning proceeds to visit Sri Brihadeshwara Temple (Open from 0530-1230 hrs & 1600-2100 hrs) built by the great Chola king, Raja Raja I in the 10th century AD; this temple is an outstanding example of the Chola architecture. Guarding the inner shrine of the temple is the gigantic statue of Nandi, the Bull, while the walls of the sanctum are covered, with the wall paintings of Chola and Nayak periods. This superb monument has been listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Continue on a visit to the Tanjore Palace and Museum (Remains closed on Friday). The Palace, adjacent to the temple is a vast structure of outstanding architecture built partly by the Nayaks and partly by the Marathas around 1550 AD. The Royal museum displays many items of the kings who ruled the palace in past. The Royal clothes, hunting weapons, the head gears and many more such items. The Nayak hall of the palace is converted into an Art Gallery which has an excellent collection of artefacts from the Chola dynasty during the 8th and 9th century. Next to the art gallery is the Saraswathi Mahal Library with an amazing collection of manuscripts on palm leaves and paper. The library is not open for the public. But one can always go in the museum to have a look at the full Ramayana written on Palm leaf or a set of explicit prints of prisoners under Chinese torture. The Sangeetha Mahal is an acoustically perfect musical hall that testifies to the skill of its boundaries. Rest of free for independent activities [No transport services]. Overnight at Tanjore
DAY 07: TANJORE - MADURAI
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning you will be driven to Madurai (250 kms/06 hrs approx.).
Upon arrival, check-in at your hotel. Madurai Known as the Athens of the East, Madurai, the second largest city in Tamil Nadu is situated on the banks of the river Vaigai. An ancient city, more than 2,500 years old, Madurai is believed to have been built by the Pandyan King Kulasekara in the 6th century BC. The city is said to have got its name from the drops of nectar (Mathuram) that fell from Shiva's locks when he came to bless its people for constructing a temple for him. Originally named Madhurapuri or the 'land of nectar', the name later got modified as Madurai. From such legendary beginnings, the actual history of Madura i emerged sometime during the 3rd century BC. Evening you will proceed for Aarti Ceremony at Meenakshi Temple (Non Hindu can view the Aarti from the platform adjacent to the temple). Following visit, return to your hotel. Overnight at Madurai.
DAY 08: IN MADURAI
Breakfast at the hotel and then proceed to half day sightseeing tour of Madurai. Commence your tour with visit to Meenakshi Temple. One of the most important places of Hindu pilgrimage, the temple is the very centre of cultural and religious life for the residents of the city. It is a riotously baroque example of Dravidian architecture with gopurams (spires) covered from top to bottom in a breathtaking profusion of multi coloured images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. The temple complex has two main shrines, one dedicated to Sundareswarar (Shiva) and the other to his consort Meenakshi (Parvati). The Kampathadi Mandapam (pillared hall) in front of the Sundareswara shrine depicts the various manifestations of Lord Shiva. The 1000-pillared hall in the complex houses the Temple Art Museum, which contains friezes, stone and brass images and the best exhibits on Hindu deities.Continue your tour with visit to the Palace of Tirumalai Nayak, an Indo-Saracenic building constructed in 1523. There is no other building in Madurai which can better illustrate the architectural style of the Nayaks. The most remarkable part of this palace is the Swarga Vilasam which served as the audience hall. Its dome which lies beyond a huge courtyard is a magnificent example of the engineering skill of its builders, rising as it does to a height of 20m without support of any kind. Following visit, return to your hotel. Rest of the day at leisure for independent activities.
Evening enjoy a short walk through this ancient city. Listen to the stories that span the gamut of time - some set a millennia ago and some of a more recent vintage; Stories that zigzag the obscure lines separating history and myth; Stories of people who made Madurai, and of some who unmade it too; Stories of fickle kings and towering monuments, of whimsical Gods and extraordinary mortals; Stories that take you behind the scenes for a glimpse into the city’s heart. [From 1600 to 1900 hrs, everyday with other guests, walking tour is subject to minimum number of pax in small group]. Overnight at Madurai.
DAY 09: MADURAI-THEKKADY
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning you will be driven to Thekkady (160 kms/4.5 hrs approx). Upon arrival proceed for check in at your hotel. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, the pride of Kerala and a testimony to nature's splendour and human innovation is situated on the banks of the Periyar Lake - an artificial lake. Lying close to the plantations, in the rich jungles of Periyar in Thekkady is one of the world's most fascinating natural wildlife reserves spread across 777 sq. km, of which 360 sq. km is thick evergreen forests. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary was declared a Tiger reserve in 1978. Noted for its geomorphology, diversity of wildlife and scenic beauty, the reserve attracts visitors from all over the world. The splendid artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar dam across the Periyar River adds to the charm of the park. This is the only sanctuary in India where you can have the unique experience of viewing wildlife at close quarters from the safety of a boat on the lake. The greatest attraction of Periyar, however, is the herds of wild elephants that come down to play in the lake. Other inhabitants of Periyar include the leopard, wild dog, barking deer, mouse deer, Nilgiri langur (a primate), bonnet macaque, sambar, porcupines, squirrels, gaur (Indian bison), wild boar and sloth bear. Among the unusual species found at Periyar are the flying lizard and the flying snake. The best way to explore the Periyar National Park is through the two hour boat cruise in the early morning or evening. The Periyar Lake provides an excellent boating spot to the tourists where one can see the herds of elephants, bathing animals and even the herds of deer. Afternoon proceed to visit Spice Garden.This region has long been as the heartland of the spice gardens that have made Kerala so famous across the world. The tour enables you to visit the Spice Garden and know the details about the various spices that are grown in the region. Following visit, return to your hotel. Overnight at Thekkady.
DAY 10: THEKKADY - ALLEPPEY
Breakfast at the hotel. This morning, you will be driven to Alleppey (130 km/ 4 hrs). Upon arrival, board the traditional houseboat for overnight. Embark on an enchanting journey across sun-dappled backwaters on a kettuvallom - fully furnished traditional boats. Rightly called the ‘Venice of the East’, this verdant area surrounded by coconut plantations is famous forits narrow maze of canals and backwaters. Float through the placid waters passing palm fringed canals, lakes and villages. Treat yourself to a sumptuous lunch and dinner of local delicacies. NOTE: Air-conditioning on houseboat would be operational from sunset till sunrise when boat remains stationed. Overnight at Houseboat
DAY 11: ARRIVE KUMARAKOM
Breakfast on board. Disembark from houseboat (Check-out time at 0930 hrs) in Kumarakom. Upon arrival check in at hotel. (Hotel’s check-in time is 1400 hrs. Early check-in is subject to availability at the time of check-in of the hotel).
Kumarakom at a glance.
An enchanting backwater destination on the picturesque Vembanad Lake. The village of Kumarakom is a cluster of little islands. The blue backwaters and the surface of Vembanad Lake reflect the azure sky. The amazing shades of green of the vegetation that include mangroves, coconut palms, and paddy fields cover the verdant countryside. Channels and waterways wind their way through this green paradise. Water lilies and lotuses bloom in the water and birds from the bird sanctuary on Vembanad Lake call as they fly across the clear tropical sky. Kumarakom is an idyllic holiday destination. Full day free for relaxation & for independent activities [No transport services]. Overnight in Kumarakom
DAY 12: IN KUMARAKOM
Breakfast at the hotel. Full day free for relaxation & for independent activities [No transport services] Overnight at Kumarakom.
DAY 13: KUMARAKOM- COCHIN
Breakfast at the hotel
Morning drive to Cochin (90 kms/ 2.5 hrs drive approx), enroute visit Kumbalanghi village. Spend your day in a village experiencing the ‘old-ways’ of life at the Kumbalanghi Village! Ride on the pristine backwaters in a country boat; visit a crab farm; watch coir yarn making and coconut leaves weaving; visit an agriculture farm and see various plantations, water harvesting ponds and biogas plants. Find out how the Chinese used to fish in ancient time with the Chinese Fishing Nets. As the morning comes to and end after having unfolded various secrets, enjoy a traditional lunch at the village before returning to your hotel. Later continue drive to Cochin. Upon arrival, check-in at your hotel. The commercial capital of Kerala and the most cosmopolitan of the state’s cities, Cochin or Kochi have long been eulogized in tourist literature as the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea.’ trategically located on the east-west sea route, Cochin is Kerala’s major port, boasting of one of the finest natural harbours in the world, which forms the hub around which the city revolves. With its wealth of historical associations and its setting on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsula, the city of Kochi perfectly reflects the eclecticism of Kerala. Apart from being a major commercial hub, Kochi is also a major tourist attraction in southern India. Main attractions are Fort Kochi, Mattanchery Palace, and Synagogue. Cochin served as a very important seaport and centre of trade with the Chinese, Arabs, Phoenician, Romans and Greeks. One is able to catch a glimpse of the past through the old colonial churches, tiled houses built in the Chinese pagoda style, the famous Chinese fishing nets, colonial buildings, synagogues and mosques - all narrating fascinating tales of this enriched harbour town. Rest of the day will be at leisure for independent activities [No transport services]. Overnight at Cochin.
DAY 14: IN COCHIN
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning exclore commercial capital of KeralaYou tour would includes visit to Mattancherry, where you will visit the oldest Jewish Synagogue in India [closed on Friday fternoon and Saturday] built by a thriving Jewish community in 1568 A.D.Now the community has
dwindled in numbers, however the synagogue is beautifully preserved. You can see the religious scrolls and the beautiful hand-painted tiles from China, which decorate the synagogue. Its fascinating interiors include 19th century Belgian Chandeliers, a ladies gallery and an elegant brass pulpit. The Dutch Palace [closed on Friday] at Mattancherry was built in 1555 and its coronation hall and murals at Ramayana are noteworthy features. From Jewish Synagogue you will visit Chinese fishing nets. The cantilevered fishing nets line the entrance to the harbour
mouth. The long rows of Chinese Nets silhouetted against the sunset present a spectacular sight of Cochin's waterfront. These are large nets, which hang from bamboo or teak posts, still used by the local fishermen of Fort Cochin. Note: Visitors to the Jewish Synagogue should be modestly dressed. Admission will be denied to men and women wearing short pants/skirts, sleeveless t-shirts/blouses. Bare shoulders and mid-riffs are not permitted and should be covered with shawls. Continue your tour to the St. Francis Church [closed on Sunday during Mass], originally named after Santo Antonio and dedicated to him as the Patron Saint of Portugal. Five Portuguese priests who arrived with Albuquerque built St. Francis church in 1510. This church, said to be the oldest European church built in India, was the original burial site of Vasco da Gama in 1524. Following visit, transfer to hotel for check-in (Check-in time at 1400 hrs). Rest of the day at leisure (No transportation). Later, witness a traditional Kathakali dance performance. Kathakali represents a synthesis of all that is best in dance, drama and music and has been recognized by connoisseurs of art, the world over as a `total art form of immense sophistication and power’. It is the impression created by make-up and the costumes that make Kathakali a visual par excellence.
You will witness the Kathakali artists readying themselves up with the make up for the final performance. Costume is elaborate with the face painted up. Great importance is laid on the Vesham or make-up, which are of five types -Pacha, Kathi, Thadi, Kari and Minukku. The pomp and magnificence of Kathakali is partly due to its decor part of which is the kireetam or huge headgear and the kanchukam the over sized jackets, and a long skirt worn over a thick padding of cushions. The identity of the actor is completely mutilated to create a super human being of larger-than-life proportion. Overnight at Cochin.
DAY 15: COCHIN - DEPARTURE (BY FLIGHT)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Morning at leisure for independent activities. (No transport services). Check-out from the hotel by 1200 hrs. In time a representative will meet you at the hotel & provide assisted transfer to Cochin International Airport to board the flight for onward destination.
END OF THE TOUR
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