Masterpiece of South India


Masterpiece of South India

Nights:
14 Nights/15 Days
Board Basis:
Bed & Breakfast
Destinations:
Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Karaikudi, Madurai, Thekkady, Kumarakom, Cochin

Special Offers

10 Jan - 31 Mar 2022 from £2229/pp

01 Apr - 30 Sep 2022 from £2079/pp

01 Oct - 20 Dec 2022 from £2269/pp

10 Jan 2023 - 31 Mar 2023 from £2289/pp

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TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Chennai - Gateway of South India (01 night), Mahabalipuram - The city of temple (02 nights), Pondicherry - The French capital of India (01 night), Thanjavur - The Chola Legacy (01 night), Karaikudi - The pride of Chettinad (02 nights), Madurai - The glory of Pandas (01 night), Thekkady - Pampered by Nature (02 nights), Kumarakom - Little Venice (02 nights), Cochin – Backwaters of Kerala (02 nights)

Destinations Covered: Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Karaikudi, Madurai, Thekkady, Kumarakom, Cochin. Duration: 14 Nights / 15 Days

Itinerary

  • Arrive in Chennai by international flight
  • Meet & Greet at the airport and transfer to your hotel

Our representative will meet you in the arrival area of the airport after you clear all immigration and custom formalities. Depart for your hotel where you will check in for your stay

The East India Company established its presence in southern India on the Bay of Bengal in 1639 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 of Tamil Nadu 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 center is furthered by rail, road, and air connections in addition to its seaport. It presents both modern and traditional charm. Its many British influences are juxtaposed with Tamil-Hindu traditions.

(Hotel Check-in: 1400 Hrs, Early check in would be subject to the availability)

Overnightatthe hotel
Meals Included:None

  • Explore Old city part of Chennai
  • Drive Pass the Marina Beach and Visit St. George Fort
  • Drive to Mahabalipuram

After breakfast proceed for half - day sightseeing tour of the Chennai City.

Firstly you will visit Kapaleeswarar Temple, honoring Shiva. This temple 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 named for the Christian disciple (“Doubting Thomas”) who lived and taught here in the first century.
You will drive past the Marina Beach, the second longest in the world stretching for several miles. Also visit St. George Fort the first British fortress built in India, established in 1644, with a museum & 17th-century church.

Post lunch commence your drive to Mahabalipuram (approx. 2 – 3 hours)

En-route stroll through Dakshina chitra, a living museum of art, architecture and lifestyles of South India. Pause to admire intricately carved entrance ways, observe statues of gods both benign and seething with fury and see color flash at you from wall murals.

Add to this the heritage houses themselves – each one a treasure trove of stories, just waiting to be told. Every door has a tale to tell and every courtyard was the scene for much activity. Figure out the science behind low slung houses, the reason behind wooden dwellings or the need for rounded storage spaces. Flesh out the bare bones of brick and mortar with stories of communities who called these houses home. Quirky, practical, profound or unbelievable – these stories offer fascinating insights into life in South India.

Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram was built in the 7th century and is an ancient Pallava port. 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 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.

Upon arrival at Mahabalipuram, check into your hotel.

Over night at the hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast

  • Morning Visit Shore temple
  • Explore the Kanchipuram city

In the morning visit Mamallapuram that is a special experience. This open-air museum of Tamil art in living rock is the work of students under the patronage of the Pallava rulers. Strewn along the coast are some outstanding examples of 7th century sculpture – cave temples, an enormous bas-relief depicting scenes from the Indian epic the Mahabharata, and an amphitheater of chariot shaped temples. The landmark of this marvelous collection is the Shore Temple, a world heritage monument and the only surviving one from a complex. The sea has claimed the others.

In the afternoon visit Kanchipuram that is one of Hinduism’s seven most sacred cities. The city dates from the 2nd century BC from the time of the early Chola reign. Successive dynasties built hundreds of temples resulting in the name “The Golden City of a 1000 temples”. The earliest surviving temple dates from the 6th and 7th century. Apart from being a center of pilgrimage, Kanchipuram is also famous for its silk weavers who settled in this area in the 16th century. Silk being a pure fabric is used to dress the images of the various deities during festivals.

These silk weavers came from neighboring Karnataka and make saris woven in jewel colors and decorated with gold threads. Most of the weavers work from their own homes that you will visit during this trip.

Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

  • Morning Drive to Pondicherry
  • En – route visit to Auroville
  • Enjoy tuktuk ride

In the morning depart by surface for Pondicherry (approx. 3 hours) and en-route visit Auroville, which developed around the ashram of the Indian yogi, Sri Aurobindo.

Pondicherry, a former French colony and presents an unusual combination of European culture and Indian traditions. Its history can be traced back to Agastya, the revered sage of the south who built his hermitage here in 1500 BC. It became a part of India in 1954, but traces of its history as a French colony still remain in its churches, cuisine, grid pattern streets and some colonial buildings.

Take a “tuktuk” ride to experience the mode of local transportation and do a guided local market tour. You may shop also.

Later in the evening take a walk by the sea shore exploring the French cafes and bakeries.

Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

    Morning Drive to Tanjore En – route visit to Chidambaram

Post breakfast commence your drive to Tanjore (approx. 05 hours). En-route visit Chidambaram, the capital of Cholas from AD 907 to 1310.

Chidambaram is one of the most ancient and most celebrated of shrines in India. It is of great religious as well as historic and cultural significance. Chidambaram is associated with Nataraja or Shiva in his Ananda Tandava pose (the Cosmic Dance of bliss) in the cosmic golden hall and the hall of consciousness (Chit Sabha).

Shiva is also worshipped in the "formless form" of the ChidambaraRahasyam, while the temple is known for its Akasa Lingam, an embodiment of Shiva as the formless Space. The word "Koyil" or temple in the Tamil Saivite tradition refers to none other than the Chidambaram Nataraja temple the dance of bliss, or the Ananda Tandavam of Shiva is said to symbolize the five divine acts (panchakrityas) of creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment and bestowment of grace. The dance of Shiva has been frozen in metal and held in worships in Nataraja Sabhas, in virtually all of the Saivite temples in Tamilnadu.
After your visit continue your drive to Tanjore.

Tanjore was the royal city of the Cholas, Nayaks and the Mahrattas. Tanjore was at height of its glory during RajarajaCholan. The Big Temple and the other famous temples in the district are known all over the world. Tanjore was the cultural capital of the country in 1790. Tanjore gained prominence during the period of Chola Kings, who made it as their capital.

Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

  • Visit Palace and museum
  • Drive to Chettinad

Visit the Royal Palace and Museum. A remarkable collection of South Indian sculptures and paintings is housed in the old palace buildings at Thanjavur (Tanjore). The palace was originally built by the Nayak rulers of Tamil Nadu. It was this dynasty that added to and enlarged many of the temples with ornate and often huge sculptures. The palace building set within a large compound also contains the Saraswati Library and the Sangeetha Sabha or Music Hall.

Later drive to Chettinad (approx. 4 hours) and en-route visit Trichy.

Upon arrival at Trichy, visit the Rock Fort Temple, which is a landmark of the town. 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. Next explore the most fascinating part of Trichy, Srirangam Island. Bazaars, schools, homes are all within the temple, a living example of the ancient temple towns of the south. The massive temple has exquisite carvings and fabulous jewels.

Situated between Pudukottai in the north and Sivagangai in the south, the 74 villages of Chettinad stretch over 600 sq. kms. of mostly arid land with a splash of green at irregular intervals. Chettinad, the land of palatial houses, enormous temples and excellent cuisine can convey volumes to the newcomer. From the days of trading diamonds, gems and salt under the Cholas, these townsfolk have made great progress.

Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

  • Learn to make Kollam
  • Explore rural life and market
  • Bullock cart tour in the evening

At around 0800 hours participate with the staff, learn and draw a Kollam. Kollam is a form of drawing that is drawn by using rice flour/chalk.

Embark on a Once upon a Chettinad tour with In house guide, dedicated for the whole day.

Old Chettiyar’s Mansion: The mansions of Karaikudi are another MUST SEE in this area. You will visit some of the finest houses in the region.

Athangudi Tile factory: At the nearby Athangudi village, visit the units which make the famous handmade Athangudi tiles. Made one at a time by trained craftsman, these colorful tiles not only adorn the opulent homes in the region but are exported to other parts of the world.

The Chettinad region and Karaikudu especially is a treasure trove of antiques and well-crafted hand-made products ranging from jewelry to furniture making.

Later in the afternoon take Bullock cart tour or a walk around town. The guide will show you the best sights of the village and take you to the local weaving center and to a house. It is a delightful small excursion into village life in South India.

Chettinad cottons are hand woven in bright colors and designs and are truly something to take home

Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

  • Drive to Madurai
  • Explore local market with guide
  • Witness the closing ceremony of Temple

Post breakfast drive to Madurai (approx. 2 hours).

The ancient city of Madurai is one of southern India's oldest with a recorded history going back to the 6th century B.C., has been a seat of learning from time immemorial and the center from which the Tamil language developed and flourished. It was well known to the Greeks and Romans with whom the city carried on active trade. The town has been patterned on the lotus flower with the temple of Goddess Meenakshi at the center.

Upon arrival check into the hotel.

Late evening, revisit the Temple to attend the night ceremony at the temple. This is a ceremony that takes place every evening when the temple bronze of Lord Shiva is carried to the bedchamber of Parvati. The procession is accompanied by religious prayer and temple music. (Note – Non - Hindus are not allowed inside the inner sanctum of the temple)

Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

  • Visit to Meenakshi Temple
  • Drive to Thekkady

Post breakfast at the hotel visit the magnificent Meenakshi Temple thatis an outstanding structure dedicated to Minakshi the “fish eyed goddess” and the consort of Shiva who also has a temple dedicated to him. Since Minakshi is the presiding deity, the daily ceremonies are first performed at her shrine. This is a living temple and each shrine has priests performing rituals in front of them and there is also a temple elephant. The temple is entered through massive gopurams or gateways profusely covered in very colorful carvings, which are believed to be an encyclopaedia of Indian dance poses. The mandapas surrounding the main shrine have exquisitely carved pillars and panels. Of note is the panel showing the marriage between Shiva and Minakshi and another showing Shiva in 24 forms.

Later depart by surface for Thekkady (approx. 4 hours) and on arrival check-in at the hotel.

The Periyar Tiger Reserve named after the Periyar river is one of the most prestigious wild life tracts on the Western Ghats. The Periyar Lake which runs through the middle of the sanctuary was created in 1895 by building a dam across the Periyar River to divert the water for irrigation. The forests around the lake were declared as Reserve Forests.

Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

  • Afternoon enjoy boat ride
  • Enjoy nature walk
  • Evening visit Spice Plantations

Morning proceed for an interesting nature trail with your naturalist.

Different nature trails traversing diverse habitats form the trekking routes, generally 4 to 5 km. in length. This is an interpretive program offering excellent opportunity to watch birds, butterflies and other wildlife. The trails often pass through evergreen and moist deciduous forests interspersed with marshy grasslands.

The program is offered between 7.00 am. and 10.30 am. and between 2.00 pm. and 3.00 pm. and lasts for about 3 hours. A maximum of 5 persons can go for trekking at a time along each nature trail, accompanied by a trained tribal guide. The Nature walk is the right program to feel nature, hear her whispers and smell her flowers.

Evening visit Spice plantation in Thekkady is one of the major spice plantations in Kerala. The spice plantations in Kerala are captivating farms to wander in, since different spices are cultivated in different sections of each plantation. The entire tour takes about 45 minutes or so, where the local guide will explain the process of growing the different types of spices being cultivated and how they are used in different cuisines etc in the state. If one wants to buy the same, plenty of shops are located in the area. In some of the small spice plantations the clients can even take a small elephant ride lasting for 10 – 15 minutes and even feed the elephant after buying the feed basket at the farm on direct payment

Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

  • Drive to Kumarakom
  • Day at leisure

Afternoon leisurely breakfast drive to Kumarakom

Kumarakom, or the 'Venice of the East' is a veritable paradise in the lush backwaters of Kottayam. It 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.

Rest of the day is at leisure to enjoy the resort facilities.

Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

  • Day Cruise in Vembanad Lake
  • Lunch on Houseboat

Wake up early for a session of yoga under the guidance of an expert yoga master (optional)

Midmorning, take a short drive to Alleppey to board Kettuvallam, a traditional houseboat and spend several hours drifting through the backwaters of Kerala enjoying lunch onboard.

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 Kettuvallam can last for generations. While most boats are poled by local oarsmen, some are powered by a 40 HP engine.

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 we float along, enjoy the picturesque hamlets that line the banks, migratory birds in abundance, water lilies and coconut groves.

Disembark the boat and return back to the hotel. Rest of the day is at leisure to enjoy the resort facilities.

Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

  • Drive to Cochin
  • Cooking demo with lunch with local family

Today post breakfast transfer to the nearest boat jetty, met and drive to Cochin.

Cooking demonstration with lunch with local family.
Nimmy and Paul have been involved in 'At Home' hospitality for more than twelve years. Nimmy, a professional cookery instructor for more than twenty years, and her stockbroker husband Paul, offer food and hospitality to foreign guests. Nimmy and Paul belong to a traditional Syrian Christian community in Kerala. In keeping with the tradition of their families they enjoy having guests and serving good food. Nimmy conducts cookery classes. She teaches guests the nuances of traditional Kerala recipes. She is also a food consultant to writers, chefs and magazines. Articles by her and about her have appeared in magazines and newspapers. Nimmy, Paul, and their son Joseph live in Kochi.

Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

  • City tour of Cochin
  • Evening witness Kerala Kaleidoscope

Morning enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of Fort Cochin and Mattancherry

Chinese Fishing Nets -These nets believed to be introduced by the traders from the Courts of the Chinese ruler, Kublai Khan are unique to Cochin. The numerous nets that dot Fort Kochi and Vypeen Island can be seen only in Cochin outside China. Each structure is at least 1m high and comprises a cantilever with an outstretched net suspended over the sea and large stones suspended from ropes as counterweights at the other end. Each installation is operated by a team of up to six fishermen.

St. Francis Church - Started in 1503 and completed in 1516 by the Portuguese this is the oldest European church in India. It gained prominence as it housed the remains of Vasco Da Gama the Great Portuguese Explorer who first came to Calicut, Kerala in 1498 and died during his third visit in 1524 in Cochin. His remains were exhumed and taken to Lisbon in 1539. The present structure of European architecture is a Protected Monument under the Archaeological survey of India but owned by the North Kerala Diocese of Church of South India.

Paradesi Synagogue - One of the oldest and very few functional synagogues, this was built by the European and Middle Eastern Jews in 1568. It is located in Jew Town, adjacent to the Mattancherry Palace temple. Unlike normal Synagogue practice this does not have a Rabbi and is lead by the elders of the community. The main highlights of this place are the Scrolls of the Law, several Gold Crowns, Belgian Glass Chandeliers and a brass-railed pulpit and the floor that has hundreds of 18th century Chinese hand-painted porcelain tiles. The Clock- tower stands top above all. Timing 1000Hrs- 1200Hrs and 1500Hrs- 1700Hrs

The Spice Market and Jew Town the area in between the Synagogue and the Dutch Palace used to the place where most of the spices were traded. Until recent times they even had an old-fashioned Pepper Exchange where it was traded. The old spice shops are sadly all but gone but it is still interesting to browse around these narrow lanes. It is dotted with antique shops.

In the evening proceed to witness Kerala Kaleidoscope. Showcasing quintessentially magnificent vignettes of Kerala’s rich cultural traditions, Kaleidoscope Kerala is essentially an exclusive, uniquely choreographed repertoire of live classical dance and music performed in a heritage theatre with legendary ritualistic folk invocations and martial arts.

Overnight at the hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

  • In time, transfer to Cochin International airport

Our representative will provide you the assisted departure transfer to the International airport to board your flight for onward destination.

  • Accommodation is based for 14 Nights at the hotels mentioned above or similar
  • Daily Buffet Breakfast at the above mentioned hotels.
  • All transfers and sightseeing using below A/C Vehicles as per the itinerary:-
    o 01-02 Pax: - A/C Innova
    o 03-06 Pax: - A/C Tempo Traveller
    o 07-12 Pax:- A/C Mini Coach
    o 13-30 Pax:- A/C Large Coach
  • One time entry at the monuments as per the itinerary
  • Services of Local English speaking guides as per the itinerary
  • Tuk-tuk ride in Pondicherry
  • Afternoon boat ride in Thekkady
  • Day cruise with lunch on Vembanad Lake
  • Cooking Demonstration followed by Meal with an Indian Family at Cochin
  • Kathakali dance performance in Cochin
  • Sita representative for arrival and departure transfers as per the itinerary
  • All applicable taxes on hotel & transport
  • All applicable Govt. Service Tax 5%
  • International Air Fare

  • Additional meals other than specified above
  • Item of personal nature like telephone calls, room services, laundry, drinks etc.
  • Additional sightseeing / transport requirements

  • Hotel Check-In 1400 Hrs / Check-out time 1200 Hrs.
  • Prices are subject to change with any increase in the cost.
  • Rates include only those items specified in your itinerary.
  • Train Bookings in India are open 120 days in advance.
  • To place Air / Train / Safari bookings, we would need complete passport details of the guests.
  • Please note, the names of hotels mentioned above only indicate that our rates have been based on usage of these hotels. It is not to be construed that accommodation is confirmed at these hotels until and unless we convey the confirmations to you on receipt of your acceptance. However in the event of any of the above mentioned hotels not becoming available at the time of initiating the reservations, we shall book alternate accommodation at a similar or next best available hotel and shall pass on the difference of rates (supplement/reduction whatever applicable) to you.
  • In case on any currency fluctuations or amendment in local Government taxes, or any fuel hike, we reserve the right to adjust the tour price accordingly

HOTELS ENVISAGED

Days / Dates

City

Hotel

Room Category

No of Nights

Meal Plan

Day 01-02

Chennai

Rain Tree AnnaSalai

Deluxe Room

01

Bed & Breakfast

Day 02-04

Mahabalipuram

Radisson Blu Temple Bay

Standard Chalet

02

Bed & Breakfast

Day 04-05

Pondicherry

Maison Perumal

Deluxe Room

01

Bed & Breakfast

Day 05-06

Thanjavur

Sangam

Executive Room

01

Bed & Breakfast

Day 06-08

Karaikudi

The Bangala

Heritage Room

02

Bed & Breakfast

Day 08-09

Madurai

Heritage Madurai

Deluxe Club

01

Bed & Breakfast

Day 09-11

Thekkady

Shalimar Spice Garden

Elegant Room

02

Bed & Breakfast

Day 11-13

Kumarakom

Coconut Lagoon

Heritage Bunglow

02

Bed & Breakfast

Day 13-15

Cochin

Eighth Bastion

Bastion Room

02

Bed & Breakfast

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