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15 Days in South India

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15 Days in South India

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PLACES TO BE VISIT :  Chennai / Mahabalipuram / Pondicherry / Tanjore / Trichy / Madurai / Periyar / Alleppey / Cherai / Cochin

Tour Highlights – Chennai “Gateway to South India” and  representing the different elements of the highest variety of the Dravidian civilization. One of the finest example of Dravidian architecture is Shore temples at Mahabalipuram which are also UNESCO world heritage site,  Step into Pondicherry and you’ll wonder if you’re in India or France. The French colonized the place a long time ago but some of that allure still hovers here. The architecture is French, the road signs are in French (along with English and Tamil), a lot of people speak fluent French and most restaurants serve steak and wine! Auroville founded in 1968 is a town created where people of all nationalities could live in peace and progressive harmony, continuing journey to the world of temples in Richy, Tanjore and Madurai famous for architecture and are part of UNESCO world heritage site.  Visit by boat one of the natural wild life sancturies famous for Asiatic wild elephants in Periyar, enjoy a relaxed overnight stay  on a house boat sailing on one of the largest fresh water lakes at  Kerala back water region.

ACTIVITIES COVERED – Spice Plantation & Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary by common boat in Periyar, stay at Deluxe Houseboat and Folk Dances in Cochin

1
Day 01: Arrive Chennai

Meeting upon arrival & transfer to Hotel

Rest of the time at leisure. Overnight at hotel.
2
Day 02 : Chennai

Morning after breakfast proceed for sightseeing tour of Chennai visiting

Relics of the Raj abound in Fort St. George built by the British in 1640 as their first fortified settlement in India. It now houses the offices of the government, the Fort Museum, and St. Mary’s Church, the oldest Anglican Church in India. India’s tallest flagstaff of 46 mts, originally the mast of a ship wrecked in the 17th century stands here.

The Marina Beach is the second longest in the world. Walk along the surf-kissed edge, coast along the Drive, relax in your shorts, take the kids to the aquarium, sip coconut water, but worshippers of the sun, beware! You’ll offend everyone if you bring out your bikini. Rumours of sharks and sharp eddies keep all but the bravest away.The San Thome Cathedral Basilica houses the mortal remains of Christ’s doubting apostle, St. Thomas. 8th century Pallava temples, Kapaleswarar and Parthasarthy are not far from each other, in Mylapore and Triplicane respectively.

The Kapaleswarar Gopuram (tower) is typical of Dravidian architecture and should be on your list of places to see when in Chennai. This temple is dedicated to the Destroyer figure in the Hindu holy trinity, Lord Shiva. The Parthasarathy Temple is dedicated to the blue-skinned, flute playing flirt Lord Krishna. He is an incarnation of the Preserver figure, Vishnu. Non-Hindus are not allowed into the sanctum sanctorum.

Overnight at hotel.

3
Day 03 : Chennai / Mahabalipuram / Pondicherry by surface (198 kms / 3 hrs)

Morning after breakfast depart for Pondicherry. En route visit Mahabalipuram

The wonderful monolithic monuments and stone sculptures of the ancient Pallava dynasty of kings who ruled much of the territory now known as Tamil Nadu, from the 16th century A.D. These kings laid the foundations of Dravidian architecture in India and at Mahabalipuram, today, the earliest of these remarkable monuments are to be seen, all hewn out of rock. The Pallava monuments are spread over a wide area, some bordering on the sea, and it is advisable to see them before the midday heat.

The important monuments are the five Rathas, the bas-relief on a huge rock popularly known as Arjuna’s Penance the Mahishasura Mandapam, the Krishna Mandapam, and the Shore Temple.

Continue drive to Pondicherry.

Arrive and check-in at Hotel

Overnight at hotel.

4
Day 04 : Pondicherry

Morning after breakfast sightseeing tour of Pondicherry visiting

Auroville – It is about 10 kms from the city centre. The place has been converted into a lush green cover from a highly eroded area, by 25 years of sheer hard work. Auroville, at the moment, is formed of several communities, scattered along the border of Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu.

Aurbindo Ashram – The main building encompasses the houses of Shri Aurobindo and The Mother (Mirra Alfassa, a French woman who accepted Aurobindo as her spiritual mentor and guide and later became his most important disciple). In the courtyard are the samadhis of Aurobindo and The Mother where their mortal remains have been enshrined. The worth visiting at the Ashram complex are the International Education Centre, guest houses, libraries and the cottage industries.

Manakkula Vinayakar Temple – Pondicherry places of worship – it is situated just behind Raj Nivas and shares a close distance with Arabindo Ashram. It is believed that there was a Frenchman who tried to destroy the deity. But the image of the deity kept appearing. And it was after his numerous futile efforts that he turned into a staunch believer of religion. However, to come to this temple back from its history it can be said that in this holy temple Vellakkaran (White Man) and Pillai (Ganesha) are found. Apart from this, an elephant can also be found here.

Pondicherry Museum – The Pondicherry museum housing some of the superb collections of sculpture is located in the Bharathi Park. This museum has an excellent gallery with sculptures and has the remains of archaeological findings from the Arikamedu Roman settlement. One can go through the history and legendary French colonial details in the section of the museum.

Pondicherry Beach – The beaches are the best place to relax in Pondicherry. The 1500 meter long beach that borders the town on the eastern side is clean and is an ideal place for swimming and sun bathing. There are two monuments of historical significance on the beach. One is the 4m tall statue of Mahatma Gandhi and the other is the War Memorial, built by the French in commemoration of the soldiers who died in the First World War. The Light House which stands 29m high is further down the beach and is over 150 years old.

Overnight at hotel.

5
Day 05 : Pondicherry / Tanjore by surface (170 kms / 4 hrs)

Morning after breakfast depart for Tanjore. En route visit the famous Natraj Temple at Chidambaram

Nataraja Temple is the main temple of Chidambaram, which is dedicated to the Nataraja or the dancing posture of Lord Shiva. This temple is located in the heart of the town and has undergone numerous renovations under the reign of Chola and Pallava kings. In 1213 AD, Aragalur Udaya Iraratevan Ponparappinan rebuilt some of the parts of this temple. The Nataraja Temple is known for its attractive gopurams, carvings, five mandapams and inscriptions. Built during the 10th century by Chola Kings, this temple is known for huge walls, four tall shikharas in four directions and a big Sivagangai tank. The four tall shikharas are decorated with 108 carved dance postures of Natya Shastra. There are five main principle sabhas in this temple, which are known as Chit Sabha, Kanaka Sabha, Deva Sabha, Nritya Sabha and Raja Sabha. The main idol of Lord Shiva or Nataraja resides in the Chit Sabha.

Continue drive to Tanjore

Arrive and check-in at Hotel

Overnight at hotel.

6
Day 06 : Tanjore / Trichy / Madurai by surface

Morning after breakfast sightseeing tour

Tanjore or Thanjavur as it was earlier called, was the capital of the Chola Empire from the 10th century to the 14th century A.D. Later it became part of the Vijaynagar Kingdom, then passed into the hands of the Marathas and later still went to the British. Visit the celebrated temple of Brihadeshwara built by the Chola King, Raja the Great, during the 11th century is its major attraction. The Saraswati Mahal Library, dating from the time of the Marathas, contains a rare collection of books & manuscripts on paper and palm leaves.

Depart by for Madurai. En route visit Trichy (60 kms / 1 hr)

Also known as Tiruchirapalli, which was held by the Chola and Pallava Dynasties. The Nayakas of Madurai have constructed the greater portion of the town. The Rock Fort is a landmark of Trichy with a Ganesh Temple on the top. This rock also contains excavated cave temples dating to the 7th century A.D., famous for the fine sculptures. Sightseeing of Trichy includes visiting the Rock Fort, a climb up its stone steps to the ‘Hall of a Hundred Pillars”.

Continue drive to Madurai (135 kms / 2 ½ hrs from Trichy)

Arrive and check-in at Hotel

Overnight at hotel.

7
Day 07 : Madurai

Morning after breakfast, proceed for visiting Meenakshi Temple and Tirumala Nayak Palace

The grand gopurams of the Meenakshi Sundareshwar Temple tower over the city at the heart of which they stand. The temple complex covers 6 hectares right in the middle of the city and is flush with visitors from all over, each and everyday. The towers that loom overhead are famous for detailed carvings of the gods and goddesses, mythological figures and running depictions of legendary tales. The huge southern gopuram has over 1500 sculptures!

The temple is dedicated to Shiva and Meenakshi, an earthly incarnation of his wife Parvati, who was born to the childless ruler after many prayers. The Pandyas originally built the Meenakshi Temple but little had survived when Tirumalai Nayak restored it to its old glory.

Entry into the sanctum of the Shiva temple is restricted to Hindus, and in the Meenakshi temple to Hindu women.

The thousand pillar hall, Ayirankkal Mandapam with its exquisitely carved 985 pillars is definitely the highlight of the Meenakshi Temple. It is believed the Nayaka kings set up a factory to produce the pillars, but these are certainly off no production line. Each pillar is a work of art depicting images of gods and goddesses as well as humbler men and women. Elaborate and intricate in design, the pillars also serve a more useful purpose. They support the roof over a 5548sq mt hallway. The mandapam houses the Temple Art Museum with a fine collection of images, drawings and photographs showing the 1200 year old history of temple architecture in South India.

The Maraimman Thepukullam Temple Tank built in 1636, the 1000X 950ft tank with its temple is barely 5km from the Meenakshi Temple. Fed by underground channels connected to the Vaigai River, the tank is the venue of the annual Float Festival (Jan-Feb.). The temple is dedicated to Lord Vigneshwera (Ganesha), whose statue was unearthed when construction began at the site of the Tirumalai Nayakkar Palace.

Tirumalai Nayakkar Palace (1636) is ten minutes walk from the Meenakshi Temple. Built in the classic Indo- Saracenic style, its highlights include a open air courtyard and dance hall with 58ft tall pillars, a free standing dome and stuccowork on the arches and on the impressive dome. A good Sound & Light Show at the palace provides an interesting break from temples and does offer an insight into the history of the city and its rulers.

Evening witness prayer ceremony at Meenakshi Temple.

Overnight at hotel.

8
Day 08 : Madurai / Periyar by surface (160 kms / 4 hrs)

Morning after breakfast depart by car for Periyar

Arrive and check-in at Hotel

Afternoon proceed for visit spice plantation.

As you take a walk along the streets of Kumily or the winding pathways among the plantations, the thing that strikes you first is the lingering aroma in the air. The scent may be of cloves, nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon or cardamom and sometimes a fragrance that combines the scents of two or more spices. The geographical and climatic peculiarities of Kumily such as the cool climate and its elevation from the sea level make it ideal for spice cultivation.

Overnight at hotel.

9
Day 09 : Periyar

Morning after breakfast visit Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary by common boat

Herds of elephants moving towards a lake against the backdrop of picturesque mountain ranges with thick greenery – if you come across such a photograph in Kerala, it will most probably be one of the Periyar Valley. Snuggled in the southern region of the Western Ghats, the Periyar Tiger Reserve sprawls over an area of 777 sq. km of forest land and is home to thousands of different species of flora and fauna, including rare and endangered ones. Thick, evergreen forests form about 360 sq. km of the total area of the valley.

Overnight at hotel.

10
Day 10 : Periyar / Alleppey by surface (140 kms / 4 hrs)

Morning after breakfast, depart by car for Alleppey.

Arrive Alleppey boat Jetty and board Air-conditioned Two bed room House boat for overnight cruise on Kerala Back waters.

The Kettuvallam or ‘boat with knots’- was so called because the entire boat was held together with coir knots only – not even a single nail is used during the construction. The boat is made of planks of jack-wood joined together with coir. This is then coated with a caustic black resin made from boiled cashew kernels. With careful maintenance, a kettuvallom can last for generations.

Freshly cooked meals will be served on board

Overnight on board the house boat.

11
Day 11 : Alleppey / Cherai by surface (74 kms / 1 hr)

Morning after breakfast on board, arrive jetty and drive to Cherai

Cherai Beach, a picturesque beach, located on the north-end of the Vypeen Island is ideal for swimming. Lined with luscious green coconut groves and paddy fields, this sandy beach is a unique combination of the sea and the backwaters, studded with seashells of various hues and shapes. Dolphines are occasionally seen here. Thick coconut groves and Chinese fishing nets on the waterfront are added attractions.

Arrive and check in at Resort.

Rest of the time at leisure

Overnight at resort.

12
Day 12 : Cherai

Morning after breakfast day free for independent activities

Overnight at resort

13
Day 13 : Cherai / Cochin by surface (30 kms / ½ hr)

Morning after relaxed breakfast depart for Cochin

Arrive and check in at Hotel

Evening witness Kathakali dance performance at local theatre

Kathakali is one of the oldest theatre forms in the world. This dance form originated in the south Indian state of Kerala and since Cochin is a developing important city, both culturally and commercially, Kathakali is quite popular among locals and tourists here.

Overnight at hotel

14
Day 14 : Cochin sightseeing

Morning after a relaxed breakfast proceed for sightseeing tour of Cochin visiting

Dutch Palace – Location: Mattancherry, 10 km from Ernakulam.Built by the Portuguese in 1557 and presented to Raja Veera Kerala Varma of Cochin, the Palace was renovated in 1663 by the Dutch. The palace is built like the typical Kerala style mansion, the nalukettu – the home of the aristocracy, nobility and upper classes, with four separate wings opening out to a central courtyard. The double-storeyed building which stands by the panoramic Kochi backwaters has an exquisite collection of murals; also on display are royal paraphernalia like weapons, robes, and so on.

Fort Kochi – The first European Township in India and home to nearly 13 Communities is a historic town brimming with the tales of myriad traders. During 1660s, Fort Kochi peaked in stature as a prime commercial centre and its fame spread far and wide – as a rich trade centre, a major military base, a vibrant cultural hub, a great ship building centre, a centre for Christianity and so on. The town has innumerable interesting sights like Chinese fishing nets along the Vasco da Gama Square, the St. Francis Church, (Vasco da Gama was buried here and his remains were returned to Portugal 14 years later) and so on.

Jew Street – The Jew Street in Fort Kochi is lined with shops that sell curios, antique pieces of crockery, carved wooden furniture, bronze and brass sculptures, remnants of traditional houses, and jewellery. The antique sellers are the descendants of a fast dwindling population of Jews who settled here in AD 52. The Jewish synagogue here, a mark of exceptional architecture and history, has hundreds of visitors everyday. Though there are a few other Jewish settlements in the State, Fort Kochi with its synagogue and its popular antique shops is the most prominent.

Chinese Fishing Net – The Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi, located in the Kochi city of Kerala, make up a very popular tourist attraction. They are fixed land installations, which are used for a very unique and unusual method of fishing. Operated from the shore, these nets are set up on bamboo and teak poles and held horizontally by huge mechanisms, which lower them into the sea. They look somewhat like hammocks and are counter-weighed by large stones tied to ropes.

Overnight at hotel.

15
Day 15 : Depart Cochin

Morning after breakfast depart in time transfer to airport to board flight for Cochin

End of the tour

Hotel / Check in / out time 1200 hrs.
Inclusions
  • Warm welcoming with Garlanding by our representative on arrival in India
  • Meeting and assistance
  • 24 Hours Assistance throughout the trip.
  • Breakfast at all the hotels.
  • Stay at preferred hotels and 01 night stay on the deluxe air-conditioned houseboat with all meals
  • Air-conditioned transport with driver
  • Services of English speaking local guides in Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Chidambaram, Tanjore, Trichy, Madurai, and Cochin
  • Visit Spice Plantation in Periyar
  • Visit Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary by common boat
  • Folk Dance show in Cochin
  • All present Government taxes & service charges
Not Includes
  • Any airfares or train fare.
  • Entrance/camera fees to the monuments.
  • Meals other than mentioned above.
  • Drinks, phone calls, laundry, tips, and portages.
  • Insurance or any other expenses of personal nature.