Cultural tour of South India - Fixed departures
Come discover the charm and beauty of South India on a group tour with fixed departures escorted by professional local guides. Explore the famous backwaters, visit majestic temples, palaces and cities with an European flavour, get the lost in local markets and meet friendly local people: it will be a life-changing experience in one of the most hectic and fascinating corners of the world!
On arrival at Chennai International airport, our representative will meet you at the airport and later escort you to your hotel in Mamallapuram.
Mahabalipuram - Seventh and eighth-century reliefs, rock temples, cave temples and "chariot" temples carved into the golden stone of the Coromandel Coast have made Mahabalipuram, also called Mamallapuram, an astonishing UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town has a wonderful Shore Temple to Vishnu, built by the grateful merchants, as well as rock temples, over a dozen cave temples, constructed stone temples and some fine bas-reliefs - including the world's largest, the Penance of Arjuna.
Chennai Airport to Mamallapuram – 1.5 hrs.
Overnight in Mamallapuram. Meals included: Nil.
Recharge yourself with an energizing breakfast and embark on a spectacular walk through history of Mamallapuram. Each of the cave temples, monolithic chariots, sculpted reliefs and structural temples has its own story to tell. The 7th Century town, which is the oldest existing remains of the Dravidian architecture, will have your hearts captured with its quaint beauty and timeless stories.
Overnight in Mamallapuram. Meals included: Breakfast.
After breakfast proceed to Pondicherry. Attractively set on the Bay of Bengal with delightful unspoilt beaches, this surprising town is a throwback to colonial times when it was a French enclave, but nowadays it is richly blended with Tamil culture. Enroute discover the harmonious community of Auroville.
Today evening proceed to visit Shri Aurobindo Ashram, it was set up by one of his disciples, a Parisian known as The Mother, in his memory and is one of the most active ashrams in India. In contrast experience the calm of the Church of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, one of the finest French churches in town and the Hindu temple to Ganesh whose walls are embellished with a wonderful series of paintings of Ganesh in various forms.
Mamallapuram to Pondicherry – 2 hrs
Overnight at Pondicherry. Meals included: Breakfast.
Depart to Tanjore. Despite its important history and culture Tanjore was once the capital of the Chola empire and, although many buildings from that period no longer survive, the town is still full of lovely temples.
On the way, visit Darasuram temple and silk weaving village. The Darasuram town is known for the Airavateswara temple constructed by the Rajaraja Chola II in the 12th century AD. The temple is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage monument. This temple is a storehouse of art and architecture.
Pondicherry to Tanjore – 5 hrs. Overnight in Tanjore. Meals included: Breakfast.
Morning checkout and visit the Brihadeshvara Temple - this magnificent temple, over 1000 years old and now an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Later drive to Karaikudi/ Chettinadu which is the homeland of the Nattukottai Chettiars, a banking and business community. This is a city of elegant mansions, and renowned for its family kitchen.
Enjoy lunch at The Bangala. The cooks use grinding stones to pulverize regional spices, deploying them in masalas for dishes. Meals there are taken communally at a teak dining hall and eaten from banana-leaf with one's hands.
Tanjore to Karaikudi – 2 hrs
Overnight at Karaikudi Meals included: Breakfast / Lunch.
Morning checkout and drive to Madurai. This vast, pulsating city, one of the oldest cities in South India, dating back 2500 years, sprawls along the banks of the River Vaigai. Wander through the fun, packed streets which are full of pilgrims, wandering cows, open-air kitchens and colorful bazaars.
Afternoon proceed for a rickshaw tour – This tour takes you to explore banana markets, cotton weaving industry, vegetable markets and Gandhi Museum.
Tanjore to Madurai – 3 hrs.
Overnight at Madurai. Meals included: Breakfast.
Wander through the tailors markets and bazaars and further visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple, which lies in the heart of the city. Our next stop is Thirumalai Nayak Palace, an example of architectural grandeur. It was built by King Thirumalai Nayak in 1636 AD. The palace was designed by an Italian Architect and served as the residence of the King.
Optional tour: - In the evening attend the Night Ceremony. One of the highlights at the Meenakshi Temple is the night ceremony (Optional). An image of Lord Shiva is carried out from his shrine by temple priests, in procession in a chariot, to his wife Meenakshi's shrine where he'll spend the night. His gold feet are brought out from her shrine, while his chariot is fanned to keep it cool, and a puja (worship) is performed, amidst much chanting, drums, horns, and smoke.
Overnight at Madurai Meals included: Breakfast.
Drive to Periyar/Thekkady. The evocative name of the Cardamom Hills is home to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, a reserve on the Kerala/Tamil Nadu border, which is surrounded by tea and spice plantations. Lush forest, with a vast lake at its heart, it is home to many indigenous animals.
This afternoon proceeds to a Spice Plantation tour with a Naturalist - In this tour you will be enticed by not only the aroma of spices like cinnamon, cardamom, pepper and nutmeg but will also get to know how they are grown, harvested and processed before they reach the supermarkets.
Madurai to Thekkady – 4.5 hrs Overnight at Periyar/Thekkady. Meals included: Breakfast.
In the morning board a small boat and cruise the lake at the heart of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. From the tranquility of the lake, enjoy the lush scenery all around you and keep a look out for animals that may come down to the water's edge – maybe a family of elephants, scurrying Wild Boar or the magnificent Sambar Deer.
Evening learn the secrets of traditional Kerala cooking. And of course, you will enter the magical world of Indian spices, learning about what they are, how to use them, combine them, and savor the special magic they bring to even the most common place foods.
Overnight at Periyar/Thekkady. Meals included: Breakfast/Dinner.
Morning checkout and drive to a community for the homestay in Alleppey called Green Palm Homes located on a backwater island which gives an unique chance to get into the Indian-Keralean culture. As well as meeting an Indian family you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet the local villagers.
Your host will take you out for village walk on leisurely trips around the village, stopping to chat with people along the way or have a cup of chai at the open air tea shop/shacks. People are very friendly, and the further into the backwaters you get, the less they are accustomed to seeing foreigners and the sunset canoe ride would be another highlight of the tour. The host will cook wonderful fresh Keralian food three times a day that is served at a large communal table.
Periyar to Alleppey – 4 hours
Overnight at Alleppey. Meals included: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner.
Take a short drive to Cochin. Also known as Kochi, this is a colonial port town of Kerala, whose diverse architecture, acts as a reminder of the foreign traders who came over centuries ago, to buy spices. Portuguese, Dutch and British influences combine, to bring a colonial twist to a city that is not only cosmopolitan but also absorbing.
In the evening, you can then visit one of Cochin’s auditoriums to watch the famous dance drama of Kerala, the Kathakali. This dance is characterized by great storytelling, amazing costumes and extensive make-up. Overnight in Cochin. Meals included: Breakfast.
Bid farewell. Today you'll transfer to Kochi International airport: end of services.
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