Treasures of Southern India14 days & 13 nights, Escorted Discovery Group
Escorted Discovery Group
Chennai, Puducherry, Thanjavur, Karaikudi, Madurai, Munnar, Kumarakom & Kochi
The delicate scent of spices, the sound of temple bells, exotic flora and fauna and beaches all characterize Tamil Nadu and Kerala. This journey travels through hill stations, tropical backwaters and temple-laden towns while staying in some of the region's very best hotels.
Day 1Arrive Chennai
You will be met and taken to your hotel.Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park - 2 Nights
Day 2Mylapore - Chennai
Mylapore, a town that predates Chennai by at least 2,000 years, is widely considered the hub from which the rest of the city grew. It has kept alive many traditions and arts that Chennai is so well known for. The Peacock Trail is essentially a walk through Mylapore, garnished with a pinch of culture, a spot of history, and a few sights, and served up with a bundle of stories about local life and beliefs, some amusing, some baffling, and some that help you make sense of the sights around you. This walk will provide a greater understanding of the symbolism and history behind everyday life here.Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park (B)
Today you will visit Fort St. George, St. Mary's Church and Marina Beach. Fort St. George looks more like a collection of well-kept colonial mansions than a traditional fort, and it is still used today for State government offices. Although building started in 1640, most of the fort's buildings are more recent, including the imposing 18th century colonnaded Fort House. St. Mary's Church dates back to 1678 and has a very British air, full of plaques, statues and memorials to British soldiers and officials. From Marina Beach, stretching for 3 miles along the city's shoreline, see fishermen riding the waves on their catamarans and local people walking along the esplanade.
Fort St. George is closed on Fridays.
Free time at Marina Beach.
Day 3To Puducherry
Drive from Chennai (Madras) to Mahabalipuram, a distance of 38 miles and a journey time of approximately 1.5 hours.The Promenade - 2 Nights (B)
Mahabalipuram is a small seaside village once the main port of the Pallava Dynasty from the 5th to 9th centuries. Its exquisite rock cut temples or rathas are some of the finest in India and have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In the village center is an immense frieze carved in the 1st century AD, which is 40 ft. high and 92 ft. long. It recounts the Mahabharata episode of Arjuna's penance. 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.
Your visit will last for approximately 1.5 hours, after which you will continue by road to Puducherry (Pondicherry), a distance of 62 miles and a journey time of approximately 3 hours.
Organized by Mohanam Cultural Centre, this visit to a local village allows you to interact with the locals and get an insight into their traditions and daily life.The Promenade (B)
There is still a hint of French colonial atmosphere in Puducherry (Pondicherry) and today you will visit the French quarter and the famous Sri Aurobindo Ashram, founded by one of India's greatest philosopher-poets. Your sightseeing will also include visits to some of the town's interesting houses, as well as the Government Park and Gandhi Memorial.
Day 5To Thanjavur
Drive from Puducherry (Pondicherry) to Thanjavur (Tanjore), a distance of 105 miles and a journey time of about 4 hours.Svatma - 2 Nights (B, L, D)
Witness the process of traditional weaving at the silk weavers' colony where lines of houses accommodate approximately five thousand people engaged in this exquisite but gradually declining craft.
The Brihadeeswara Temple is one of the most spectacular pieces of South Indian architecture. The temple, constructed by the King Raja Raja Chola, follows the Dravidian style and was built in honor of his victorious reign. It took 12 years to complete and like many other temples built during this period served many functions; inside there are separate waiting areas for musicians, workers, etc. and the periphery served as a meeting place for the public. An interesting aspect of this temple is its vimana (the central tower of the temple) over the sanctum sanctorum which, unlike other temples in the south, is very tall. Sculptures depicting the wedding of Goddess Parvathi and beautiful paintings adorn the temple walls. The main deity of Shiva is represented by a huge stone lingam. Another striking feature of the temple is the colors of the frescoes which, although approximately 1,000 years old, are still bright and colorful.Svatma (B, D)
Visit Thanjavur Palace, comprising a mixture of ruin and renovation, superb art and an array of significant royal paraphernalia. The Saraswati Mahal library and the art gallery are essential sights, with the former being home to over 65,000 books and 50,000 palm-leap manuscripts offering a generous insight into the 19th-century obsession with knowledge accumulation. The art gallery hosts an excellent collection of Chola bronzes and stone carvings.
In the evening enjoy an introduction to Thanjavur paintings at your hotel, followed by dinner. Thanjavur painting is a classical South Indian painting style, which was inaugurated from Thanjavur (Tanjore) and spread across the adjoining Tamil country.
Day 7To Karaikudi
Drive from Thanjavur to Karaikudi, a distance of about 56 miles and journey time of approximately 2 hours.Chidambara Vilas - 1 Night (B, D)
Today visit a nearby charming and unspoilt village and explore its delightful markets where vendors sell vegetables, fruit, fish, household and farm utensils and a variety of other items under colorful canopies.
Enjoy Chettinad cuisine at its finest with an interactive culinary experience followed by a traditional dinner. Traditionally, cooking was a community affair managed by the women in the family with recipes associated with strong flavors ranging from spicy to sweet handed down through generations. Learn more about the cuisine in an interactive kitchen experience held in an open courtyard where you will be able to converse with local chefs via a translator. The process of dining is an experience in itself: there are many courses and the food is served in a traditional manner presented on freshly cut plantain leaves.
Day 8To Madurai
Drive from Karaikudi to Madurai, a distance of about 56 miles and journey time of approximately 2 hours.Heritage Madurai - 1 Night (B)
The Meenakshi Temple is located in the heart of Madurai, surrounded by colorful markets. The temple is a brilliant example of southern temple architecture, with its nine gopurams (temple towers) soaring to almost 164 feet above the gateways, decorated with colorful stucco images of gods, goddesses and animals. The visit includes the thousand-pillared hall and the Golden Lotus tank.
Day 9To Munnar
Today you will travel from Madurai to Munnar, a distance of 90 miles and journey time of approximately 5 hours.Blackberry Hills Retreat & Spa - 2 Nights (B, D)
Today, accompanied by your guide, walk through a working tea plantation. Depending on the time of the year, you might be able to see the colorful tea pluckers at work. The walk offers the opportunity to get a first-hand experience of how tea was first introduced during the British Raj, the different types of tea that is produced and the modern-day challenges faced by the estate owners. If carefully managed the tea plants can survive for hundreds of years. Following your tour of the plantation, continue to the Kannan Devan Tea Museum. Your tour of the museum includes a short video presentation about the efforts of the pioneers who introduced tea in the region. The visit to the museum offers the opportunity to see some of the old instruments that were used in the production of tea in the early 20th century and an introduction to the various stages of processing of tea.
The Tea Museum is closed on Mondays and other public holidays.
Visit Kudla Dam and Echo Point, approximately 12 miles outside of Munnar. Constructed in 1946, the hydroelectric dam is considered to be Asia's first arch dam and from the top of it you will be able to see beautiful panoramic views of mountains, lakes and tea estates. Just a short drive from here you will find Echo Point surrounding a beautiful natural lake. The name is due to the distinct natural echo that occurs because of the location of the trees and the mountain.
Optional early evening excursion: Gentle hike through lush landscape.Blackberry Hills Retreat & Spa (B, D)
Day 11To Kumarakom
Drive to Kumarakom, a distance of 125 miles and a journey time of approximately 5 hours.Kumarakom Lake Resort - 1 Night (B, D)
Day 12To Kochi
Drive to Alleppey. From here, take a cruise in a shikara (traditional motorized canoe) through the canals and backwaters where you will see rural life that has remained unchanged for centuries.Fragrant Nature Kochi - 2 Nights (B)
The backwater cruise lasts for approximately 2 hours. Afterwards, you will be collected from the jetty and taken to your hotel. The shikaras are not suitable for cruising on the Lake Vembanad and therefore these boats cannot be used if you wish to be collected from or dropped off at any resort which is set around this lake.
Drive from Kumarakom to Kochi (Cochin), a journey of 80 miles and approximately 2 hours.
A performance of Kathakali dancing demonstrates an ancient ritual that plays an important role in Kerala's cultural life. The plays are based on the three major Hindu epics, acted out with elaborate hand gestures, facial expressions and choreographed movements.
On today's sightseeing tour of the city you will visit Fort Kochi, the spice markets, the antique shopping market, the synagogue and the Chinese fishing nets.Fragrant Nature Kochi (B)
The synagogue is closed on Saturdays and on Fridays during Jewish holidays.
Day 14Depart Kochi
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport.(B)