Treasures of Southern India14 days & 13 nights, Escorted Discovery Group
Escorted Discovery Group
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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)
In the Indian Subcontinent, there are completely different customs when it comes to road use and road craft, and all manner of vehicles, people and animals can be found moving about, even on the main roads. To most visitors, road journeys in the Indian Subcontinent can seem quite startling at first; however, all Cox & Kings drivers are very experienced and in tune with other road users, allowing you to relax and absorb the extraordinary sights and sounds en route.
For Escorted Groups, Cox & Kings uses air-conditioned buses of an appropriate size for the number of people traveling, while on Private Journeys, Cox & Kings uses mid-size cars with an option to upgrade to luxury segment vehicles, available on request. They all feature air-conditioning and our drivers are experienced. Please refer to page 51 for further details.
Important Note: Road conditions in the Indian Subcontinent change throughout the year, due to monsoon rains and extreme weather patterns and journey times can vary enormously at all times of the year which is beyond the control of Cox & Kings.
Air travel in the Indian Subcontinent is more affordable now. There are full service brands that operate domestic and international flights and then there are low cost airlines that have gained popularity due to low cost airfares being offered.
Flight Delays & Insurance: Due to increase in air traffic, government restrictions and changing weather conditions, flight delays have become more commonplace. Domestic flights in India can incur last minute schedule changes, delays, over flying, and / or cancellation without prior notice. November through January, fog can also create delays in Northern India airports, causing flight postponement or cancellation.
Flight delays can cause problems with onward connections, hotel and holiday arrangements. Although the airline will sometimes make arrangements to get you to your next destination at no extra cost, costs may be involved for you, in the form of additional accommodation, transfers and onward tickets. Unfortunately, since most services are paid for in advance, any services missed due to delays are non-refundable. Please note many international flight tickets are restricted and nonrefundable. Therefore, Cox & Kings requires that you are insured against such eventualities, and recommends traveling with a comprehensive Travel Insurance Policy from your point of origin.
Early Starts: A number of flights within the Indian Subcontinent arrive / depart early in the morning and, while we will endeavor to schedule your tour with a flight which arrives / departs at a reasonable time, sometimes there is little or no alternative and early check-in / check-out times may be required.
Special Requests: Cox & Kings will endeavor to request any specific meals or services, on the condition that we are told at the time of booking. Specific seat requests with most major airlines can now only be requested if traveling in one of the premium classes. We are able to request general seating preferences for Economy Class passengers. However, all special requests are at the discretion of the airline and cannot be guaranteed.
Travel within the Indian Subcontinent is an adventure at every moment. We will endeavor to keep all clients apprised of any changes and or alterations to the program due to flight arrival or departure re-scheduling or other situations that may occur throughout your travel.
Important Note: Airlines and train schedules and fares are subject to last minute change. In the event that any amendment or cancellation arises or increase in fare, Cox & Kings cannot be held liable for the same.
The Indian Subcontinent has made an indelible mark in the area of hospitality. The distinctive features of these hotels are high standard and quality accommodation and service along with contemporary facilities at par with world standards. The availability of hotels in the Subcontinent ranges from Deluxe, Luxury, First Class and Budget to Heritage and Boutique.
Accommodation standards vary dramatically throughout the Subcontinent and in general cannot be compared to the West. In larger cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, the hotels we use are fully modernized with excellent facilities, while in other cities and towns the hotels are smaller but still offer good facilities. In the desert cities of Rajasthan, areas of Southern India and small hill towns, many hotels we use are small, privately owned properties or converted palaces, retaining much of their original ambience, but the room size, shape and design can vary enormously (even in the same price bracket). On certain circuits in Rajasthan, enjoy the experience of staying at one of the marvelous Heritage hotels – once the residence of Maharajas. Although palace hotels often have simple facilities and service can be slow, we ask for your patience as this is more than compensated for by their atmosphere and charm.
Check-in & Check-out Times: Most hotels work on a check-in of 1400 hours and check-out of 1200 hours. If a flight arrives in the morning, you may be taken for breakfast or sightseeing before check-in. We will endeavor to get your room as early as possible in these instances.
Game Parks & Remote Areas: Even when you travel off the beaten track with Cox & Kings,you can be sure that your accommodation in game lodges, smaller hotels and tented camps is the best available. Sometimes the best hotel may be the only hotel, which may be very modest. In these cases we feel that the simplicity of such accommodation is outweighed by the experience. Game park accommodation cannot be compared to that available in parts of Africa and is often reached down narrow and makeshift roads.
Meals: Meals included in the tour program are indicated in the itineraries at the end of each day with codes: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L) and Dinner (D).
Maps: Type of travel is indicated in the maps at the beginning of each itinerary with symbols:
Road Travel (), Train Travel (),Air Travel (), Day Excursion ( ).
Cox & Kings is happy to arrange for you to extend your stay in the Indian Subcontinent. We have suggested possible extension options for the tours in this brochure, however we would also be delighted to design a custom extension, either pre or post tour, to fit in with your particular interests. Please note that tour extensions are operated on the same basis as Private Journeys.
Many of the sites in the Indian Subcontinent necessitate a reasonable amount of walking, either to the site or around it. Whilst the walking is normally easy going, a full-day’s sightseeing can be quite tiring and sometimes strenuous. In addition, at ancient monuments there are many steep sections and uneven surfaces. A reasonable amount of fitness is required.