Day 01 :
ARRIVE CHENNAI – MAHABALIPURAM [BY INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT]
CHENNAI – MAHABALIPURAM [BY SURFACE (65 kms / 02 hrs)]
You will arrive in Chennai in the afternoon by an International Flight.
Following Customs & Immigration Formalities and Baggage collection, a Representative will meet you at the Exit of the Arrival Hall after which you would be straightaway taken for a drive to Mahabalipuram.
The East India Company established its presence in southern India on the Bay of Bengal in 1639 AD with the establishment of Fort St. George. The city of Chennai, formerly known as Madras, grew up around the Fort area. It now serves as the capital city of Tamil Nadu State and is the fourth largest city in India, with over six million inhabitants. It sprawls over a large area yet, in spite of recent industrial growth, seems less congested than other large Indian cities. Its role as a trade centre is furthered by rail, road, and air connections in addition to its seaport. It presents both modern and traditional charm, its many British influences juxtaposed with Tamil-Hindu traditions.
Upon arrival at Mahabalipuram, check-in to your hotel.
Day 02 :
This morning do sightseeing of the Shore Temple, Arjuna's Penance & other Cave relief.
Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) built in the 7th century, is an ancient Pallava Port. Today it is the site of several antique sculptural marvels. Declared as the 'World Heritage Site' by UNESCO, it 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 center. 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 Pallavas perfected the art of sculpting rocks to build temples without brick, mortar or timber. 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.
The Shore Temple Though Mamallapuram is known as the land of Seven Pagodas, there is only one of them remaining today. The five-storied Shore Temple on the sea beach was built by the Pallava King Raja Singha at the end of 7th century in pure Dravidian sculpture. This temple was the last work of Pallava dynasty. Guarding the temple is Lion-King Nandi or the row of Oxens. This is one of the oldest temples in South India. Arjuna's Penance - This skilfully carved rock of 29x7 metres, is the largest vas - relief sculpture in the world. It gets its name from the figure of an ascetic who is believed to be Arjuna, the hero of epic Mahabharata, doing penance to obtain a boon from Lord Shiva. However, there are others who think that the figure is actually Bhagiratha who entreated Shiva to let Holy River Ganges flow over the earth. Cave relief: The temples are finely sculptured & carved out in Mahabalipuram. Krishna Temple is the oldest temple. The decorated Krishna stall is depicted with the episodes from Lord Krishna's life and the lifting up of Goverdhan hill to give protection to Gops & Gopis from the curse of the Rain God.
Afternoon is at leisure.
Day 03 :
MAHABALIPURAM – PONDICHERY [BY SURFACE 135 kms / 03 hrs]
In the morning you will be driven to Pondichery. Upon arrival, check-in at hotel.
Pondichery or Puducherry 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, Pondichery is, on one hand a bustling Indian Market town, and on the other hand, towards the sea, the streets are emptier, cleaner and decidedly European.
In the in the afternoon proceed for sightseeing of Pondichery - visit Sri Aurobindo Ashram, located on Rue de la Marine is the most popular attraction in Pondichery. The Ashram was founded by Sri Aurobindo Ghose in 1926. Sri Aurobindo, the poet philosopher founded the Ashram to help man reach the zenith of his evolution through spiritual exercises and yoga, combined with physical activity and productive work.
Day 04 :
PONDICHERRY – KUMBAKONAM [By Surface 145 kms / 04 hrs]
Today you will be driven from Pondichery to Kumbakonam.
Stop enroute to visit Chidambaram Temple.
Chidambaram was the capital of the Cholas from 907 AD to 1310 AD. It is one of Tamil Nadu's most important holy towns. In Chidambaram temple, Dancing Shiva (Nataraja) is the presiding deity and all rituals are conducted on the basis of the Vedic doctrine. These are the two features which distinguish the Shiva Nataraja temple from all other temples in India. Shiva Nataraja's dance is seen as the visualization of the processes of cosmos.
Note: Foreigners (Non Hindus) are not allowed inside the inner sanctum of the temple.
After visiting Chidambaram, continue your drive to Kumbakonam.
Kumbakonam, a picturesque temple town located in Tanjore District of Tamil Nadu, is known for its age old temples. Kumbakonam literally means the place of pot (Kumbam). This beautiful town is naturally set between the rivers Cauvery and Arasalar. This city was the capital of the historically important Chola dynasty ruled the region during the medieval period.
The town is known for the Airavateswara temple constructed by the Raja Raja Chola II in the 12thcentury AD. The temple is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage monument.
In the afternoon visit Darasuram Temple in Kumbakonam known for the Airavateswara temple constructed by the Rajaraja Chola II in the 12th century AD. The temple is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage monument. This temple is a storehouse of art and architecture. The vimana is 85 feet high. The front mandapam itself is in the form of a huge chariot drawn by horses. The temple has some exquisite stone carvings. The main deity's consort Periya Nayaki Amman temple is situated adjacent to Airavateswara temple.
Later visit a workshop of the Bronze sculpture-makers and observe the local artisans making bronze statutes using the traditional methodology. Though it takes many days to make one statue, this interesting process is explained using display of unfinished work at different stages.
Day 05 :
KUMBAKONAM – TANJORE [By Surface 35 kms / 1½ hrs]
TANJORE – TRICHY [By Surface 55 kms / 02 hrs]
This morning is free to relax in the serene countryside environment.
After an early lunch, we will drive you to Tanjore (also called Thanjavur locally). Years ago, Tanjore was the capital of the powerful Chola Dynasty. Today, it is the little town set amidst the lush green rice fields of the Cauvery delta. Magnificent temples still bear witness to the splendour of Chola architecture. The Chola kings built the majority of Tanjore's (also known as Thanjavur) 93 temples. Sightseeing of Tanjore will start with a visit to the famous Brihadeswara Temple, built in the 10th century AD by Raja Chola. It is considered to be artistically the most perfect of Dravida temples.
Later drive to Trichy for an overnight halt.
Day 06 :
TRICHY – KARAIKUDI [By Surface 100 kms / 03 hrs]
In the morning today proceed for sightseeing of Trichy.
Trichy or Tiruchirappalli is situated on the banks of the river Cauvery; it is the fourth largest city in Tamil Nadu. It was a citadel of the early Cholas, which later fell to the Pallavas. Trichy is a fine blend of tradition and modernity built around the Rock Fort. Apart from the Fort, there are several Churches, Colleges and Missions dating back to the 1760s. The town and its fort, now in Trichy were built by the Nayaks of Madurai. Start the sightseeing of Trichy with a visit to Rock Fort, which is a landmark of Trichy city. The rock is one of the oldest in the world-approximately 3.800 million years, which makes it as old as the rocks of Greenland and older than the Himalayas. A climb of 434 steps leads to the ancient temple of Ganapati on top and a further climb to a Shiva Temple. You will visit Srirangam Temple.
Later you will be driven to Karaikudi. Upon arrival, check-in to your hotel.
It will be a special Chettinadu cuisine Lunch on a banana leaf at The Bangala.
Chettiars: Legend has it that displaced from their port city on the Bay of Bengal around the 13th century, the Chettiars moved to this dry and arid area in the deep south of Tamil Nadu that is now known as Chettinad. Little is known about the intervening period from then to about the 17th Century. But being an extremely successful and resourceful mercantile community, they steadily prospered. By the 17th Century their ventures had lead them, as far away as Calcutta and Banaras. However their truly golden days were in 18th & 19th Centuries, when they followed the British overseas to their colonies in Burma, Malaysia, Singapore and Ceylon and even went as far as Vietnam and Indonesia. Over these years they amassed huge fortunes which they sent home to Chettinad. This funded the building of palatial homes on an astonishing size, scale and architecture, not seen anywhere else. From Pudukottai to Pasumpom Muthuramalingam and Sivaganga districts the Chettinad region stretches roughly 80 sq kms and comprises seventy six villages. Rich in cultural heritage, cuisine, art and architecture the region is a must visit for every serious traveller.
Chettinad cuisine originated from the Chettiar community in Chettinad region. It is one of the spiciest and the most aromatic in India. Chettinad cuisine is famous for its use of a variety of spices used in preparing mainly non-vegetarian food. The dishes are hot and pungent with fresh ground masalas, and topped with a boiled egg that is usually considered essential part of a meal. They also use a variety of sun dried meats and salted vegetables, reflecting the dry environment of the region. The meat is restricted to fish, prawn, lobster, crab, chicken and lamb. Chettiars do not eat beef and pork. Most of the dishes are eaten with rice and rice based accompaniments such as dosai, appam, idiyappam, adai and idli. The Chettinad people through their mercantile contacts with Burma, learnt to prepare a type of rice pudding made with sticky red rice. Chettinad cuisine offers a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Some of the popular vegetarian dishes include idiyappam, paniyaram, vellai paniyaram, karuppatti paniyaram, paal paniyaram, kuzhi paniyaram, kozhakattai, masala paniyaram, adikoozh, kandharappam, seeyam, masala seeyam, kavuni arisi & athirasam.
In the evening visit the Chettinad residences that dot the region and built over the last 200 years. They initially started as simple single storied buildings, but steadily grew in size and ornamentation to huge intricate structures that will astonish even the most seasoned traveller. Around Karaikudi there are at least a dozen villages that are easily accessible but less bustling than Karaikudi. It is very interesting to walk through and admire the architectural Heritage close up. All villages have their own temples which are worth seeing.
Day 07 :
KARAIKUDI – MADURAI [By Surface 110 kms / 03 hrs]
Today you will drive straight to Madurai. Upon arrival proceed to check in at your hotel.
Madurai, the temple town is unique in that all its temples are living temples and it remains a major religious centre attracting pilgrims the year round. Madurai's main attraction is the famous Meenakshi Temple in the heart of the old town, a riotously baroque example of Dravidian architecture with gopurams (towers) covered from top to bottom with a breathless profusion of multi-colored images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. The temple complex is a city within a city and one can spend days exploring its labyrinthine corridors and halls.
Another attraction is the Thirumalai Nayaka Palace. This Palace was built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak with the help of an Italian Architect. The original Palace complex was four times bigger than the present structure. This palace consisted mainly of two parts, Swargavilasam and Rangavilasam. In these two parts, there were the royal residences, a theatre, a shrine, apartments, armoury, palanquin places, royal bandstands, quarters, ponds and gardens. He conducted daily dance and music performances in the palace. During 19th century, Lord Napier, Governor of Madras, made several renovations, mostly from 1866 – 1872 AD. Today, only the spacious rectangular courtyard called the Swargavilasam and a few adjoining buildings survive, their awesome scale evoking the grandeur of a vanished era. Dance drama concerts are performed here daily in the evening.
In the afternoon proceed for a sightseeing tour of Madurai. First visit Thirumalai Nayaka Palace and later proceed to visit the famous Sree Meenakshi Temple. Time permitting; also watch the closing ceremony at the temple.
Note: Foreigners (Non Hindus) are not allowed inside the inner sanctum of the temple.
Day 08 :
MADURAI – THEKKADY [By Surface 145 kms / 3½ hrs]
This morning drive from Madurai to Thekkady. Upon arrival, check in to your hotel.
In the afternoon proceed for a Jungle Safari inside Periyar National Park on a Launch Boat. Located within the confines of the Western Ghats in the state of Kerala, Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve is one of the most captivating wildlife parks in the world. The park has a picturesque lake at the heart of the sanctuary. Herds of elephant and sambar, gaur and wild pigs and wander down to the lakeside.
Later proceed for a walk through a Spice Plantation. This walk is a novel experience with sighting possible of rare varieties of flora & fauna, Ayurvedic medicinal herbs, spices, fruits, flowers etc. Guests gain rich knowledge about Ayurvedic cure, spice extracts, wood crafting etc. They get familiar with the various operations in spice growing and processing like planting, harvesting, drying, preparing spice extracts etc.
Day 09 :
THEKKADY – KUMARAKOM [By Surface 125 kms / 03 hrs]
Drive from Thekkady to Kumarakom today.
In the lush backwaters of Kottayam in Kerala, lies a veritable paradise, which is called Kumarakom, or the 'Venice of the East'. Palm fringed narrow canals winding through the vast expanse of paddy fields, and the neat tiny hamlets lined up along either side of the canals are panoramic sights one can never forget. Kumarakom is Kerala's heartland of lagoons, palm fringed lakes and paddy fields, inter-linked with hundreds of winding canals, with the typical low slung country boats that carry everything from people to fish, rice and coconuts to the milkman and newspaper boy, local politicians and priests to wedding parties.
Upon arrival proceed to check in at your hotel. Remaining day is free for relaxation. Lie in a hammock on this lakeshore, and allow your senses to possess you. Before you is Vembanad Lake; rippling under the vault of an impossibly large sky.
Day 10 :
KUMARAKOM – ALLEPPEY
Morning is free to relax at the hotel's beautiful location.
At noon embark on a traditional Kerala Houseboat called 'Kettuvallam' for a day cruise experience in the backwater country. On board you will be able to see the water channels lined with abundant vegetation, remote villages and their fishing nets etc.
The traditional Houseboats of Kerala The Kettuvallam or 'boat with knots' is called so because coir ropes tied in knots hold the entire structure of the boat together. During the entire assembling work of the boat, not a single nail is used. The boat is made of huge planks of Jack wood (Artocarpus hirsuta) or 'Aanjili' and joined with coir. This it is then coated with a caustic black resin made from boiled cashew kernels. The Kettuvallam is a large floating structure with a high load-carrying capacity and it has been a part of Kerala's culture and heritage over the past many years.
In the evening you will be dropped on the other side of Lake Vembanad, at one of the Boat Jetties of Alleppey. Upon arrival, check in at a Resort.
Day 11 :
ALLEPPEY – MARARIKULAM [By Surface 10 kms / 30 minutes]
Enjoy the breakfast at the Resort; later check-out and drive to Mararikulam.
Upon arrival, check in to a Beach Resort. Rest of the day is free for independent activities.
Marari Beach, you'll find, is the one place where you can unwind completely, without the trying bit. You can't watch TV to relax, for example. There isn't one in your room. You can't plunge into a whirl of holiday activities like surfboarding or beach parties. The Resort has thoughtfully left all that stuff off the schedule. Instead, what about a completely aimless walk on a path strewn with wildflowers? Or an hour spent with a Monarch butterfly? Or a glowing afternoon on a near-empty beach, watching the waves change colour?
Marari is not merely an antidote to stress. It's a cure for that other vexing holiday problem: Trying to 'Take it easy'. Because here, you can throw away the 'To do list' and be free. With no effort at all
Day 12 :
Full day is at leisure today.
The only way to do nothing is to, well do nothing. However here are some suggestions for spending the day in an interesting way.
Unwind relax and let an authentic Kerala massage create a new you (on direct payment basis).
Cook an interactive meal for yourself at the Farm Kitchen (on direct payment basis).
Let the miracles of Yoga work on you with our master Yoga teacher.
Marari is a nature lover's paradise and a morning stroll with one of our naturalists in tow is a fine way to introduce you to the Malabar coasts.
Day 13 :
MARARIKULAM – COCHIN [By Surface 50 kms / 1½ hrs]
Today you will be driven from Marari to Cochin
Kochi, or more familiarly Cochin, is a city of many parts. Around for a long, long time, Kochi played a pivotal role in the development of shipping and trade in the region. Kochi's prime location on the west coast, its fine bay and protected harbor made it popular with seafarers and merchant ships who made frequent stops to stock up on spices, coffee and wood enroute to the rich markets of Europe and West Asia. And so down the ages, Kochi prospered as a busy port city and commercial centre. Its seafront is still extremely relevant to Cochin and to India: it houses a Naval Base and one of India's busiest ports. Its twin city, Ernakulum, is an important railhead and industrial centre.
Upon arrival proceed for check-in at the hotel.
In the afternoon proceed for a sightseeing tour of Cochin.
First proceed to Mattancherry and visit the oldest Jewish Synagogue (closed on Fridays Saturdays & All the Jewish holidays) in India, built in 1568 AD. It was destroyed by the Portuguese and rebuilt by the Dutch a century later. Then visit The Dutch Palace (Closed on Fridays) - which was built in 1555 and its coronation hall and murals at Ramayana are noteworthy features. Continue your drive to Chinese Fishing nets. The cantilevered fishing nets line the entrance to the Harbour mouth. Chinese traders are believed to have originally introduced them in the 14th century although, today parts of the nets are known by Portuguese names. Your next stop will be St. Francis Church, originally named after Santo Antonio and dedicated to him as the Patron Saint of Portugal; St. Francis Church is the first church to have been in the new European influenced tradition. Originally a wooden building was replaced by the present stone building. Vasco De Gamma died on the site in 1524 and was originally buried in the cemetery here. 14 years later his mortal remains were retrieved and sent to Portugal. The Church was renamed St. Francis in 1663 AD.
In the evening, you will be taken to a Kathakali dance centre where you will witness the most elaborate of the dance forms in southern India. Here you will witness the artists readying themselves up with the make up for the final performance. Kathakali explicates ideas and stories from the Indian religious epics and Puranas. Presented in the temple precincts after dusk falls Kathakali is heralded by the Kelikottu or the beating of drums in accompaniment of the Chengila (gong).
Day 14 :
DEPART COCHIN [BY: INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT]
Today you will bid farewell to South India. A Representative will transfer you to the International Airport to board your flight for onward journey.
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Destinations Covered: Chennai - Mahabalipuram - Thekkady - kumarakom - Cochin
Tour Duration: 13 Nights 14 Days