A fascinating journey through India's tropical south, do experience the diversity in scenery, architecture, culture and most importantly the people.
Tamil Nadu the most leading feature is the prevalence of Hinduism, which has given rise to a unique style of temple architecture found in this state alone. The most magnificent is the great temple in Madurai. This temple is not only a spectacular architectural feat, but still provides the focus for daily life.
Kerala is a tropical bliss with an idyllic coastline and lush tropical hills. Despite its relative riches, the majority of the population in Kerala life continue with agriculture, tea, coffee and spice plantations and the coir industry, which still provides the basic economic structure of the region.
Upon arrival at Chennai International airport, meet and assistance by our office representative, followed by a transfer to your hotel for a check-in. After some rest and depending on your arrival time, be introduced to the "Capital of the south" during an orientation tour. Explore the diverse neighbourhoods and sense its role as a keeper of South Indian artistic and religious traditions. Pass though the excellent British-built Government Museum, the Roman style San Thome Basilica and the majestic colonial Fort St George. Finally take a sunset walk along the long stretch of Marina Beach and barge into a cricket game or catch some families evenings gather. Later have a diner with a view seated in one of the costal beach restaurant. Return back to your hotel for your overnight.(Half-board)
Start your day with an easy guided walk in the heart of the bustling Mylapore, zigzag though the very beat and pulse of this neighbourhood, learn about Tamil Nadu myriad customs and Hindu traditions. Visit the impressive Kapaleeshwarar temple, with its rainbow-coloured gopuram and pillared mandapas. Your journey will lead in these caracterfull market streets with a chance to be predicted your future from a fortune teller or to enter into a sacred Brahmin family house. After an early delectable South India breakfast in a local spot, experience a Colonial British Trail. Walk to discover the colonial Madras through the buildings the British left behind. Look closely at each structure and listen the history of this vibrant city.
Return to your hotel for your lunch and check-out, drive to your next stop, the seaside town of Mahabalipuram, port of the Pallava kings in the 5th to 8th centuries. Along the shore lies a stunning series of temples and sculptures, carved from the living rock 1,200 years ago. Unlike many Hindu temples, the rocks show scenes of everyday life. Check-in your hotel and later go visit with your guide the magnificent Shore temple, symbolising the heights of Pallava architecture and the maritime ambitions of their kings.
Go explore the masterpiece of Mahabalipuram’s Rock cut caves representing the scenes of Hindu myths and finish by the site of the Five Rathas. Each of these temples were named after one of the Pandavas, the five hero-brothers of the epic Mahabharata. Tonight, enjoy a Seafood dinner in a terrace facing the sea shore. Drive back to your hotel for an overnight stay. (Full-board)
After your breakfast and your check-out, head to Pondicherry. Settled by the French in the 18th century, this colonial town retains a tranquil atmosphere with some French architecture aesthetic. Make a first stop at Auroville, situated outskirt of the town, this spiritual community was founded in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo and a French-born woman known as ‘the Mother’. Enjoy a lunch at Solar kitchen - the community Kitchen for the inmates and understand the unique living here, based on universal harmony. You will be taken through the visitor’s center and a few of the Auroville units which innovatively work on paper, textile, bamboo and stones.
Pass by the Matri mandir (the meditation centre) and learn from those who choose to join, build and live this unique lifestyle. Later on, attend a Kolam class in Alamkuppam village and find out about this traditional custom of drawing in the houses entrance with sparkling powders or fresh flowers, to invite the Goddess Laxmi to bring luck and prosperity. Reach Pondicherry and check-in at your hotel. Enjoy the rest of the day free in the colonial streets.
Take a hint into the lifestyle shops, wander in the bohemian chic atmosphere of the French quarter, go see the Ganesha temple around or search for inspiration at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram bookshop. Tonight you will taste some delicious French fusion cuisine at the restaurant La Villa Helena, a charming old colonial house located in one of the town’s bougainvillea-draped streets. Overnight at the hotel. (Full board)
Early morning enjoy a bicycle tour through the French district and the Tamil quarter with a Storyteller. Pass by the white town (as the French quarter is popularly known as) with its heritage colonial buildings, keep biking toward the Tamil quarter and learn the anecdotes of the distinctiveness of Franco-Tamil culture, creating a fusion of diversity in the air of Pondy. Return back to your hotel for your breakfast and check-out. Later head to the local spot Surguru to savour a south Indian vegetarian meal.
Continue your journey to Tanjore, former capital of the mighty Cholas Empire. On route stop at Swamimalai and observe the art of making Bronze idols by Stapathis (sculptors) as per the traditional Shilpa Sastras (craft hindu system) prevailed from the Chola period. Follow to Darasuram and see its famous Airavatesvara Chola Temple, UNESCO world heritage site, carved with vivid elephants and horses pulling chariots and dating from the 12th century.
You will then be invited to meet the adjacent colony of silk weaver and discover the art of the Saree weaving, made out from their traditional wood machinery and tracing few generations. Arrive at Tanjore and check-in at your hotel for your dinner and overnight stay. (Full board)
Breakfast at the hotel and check-out. This morning be immersed into the Chola Empire legacy during a visit of the world Heritage-listed Brigadeswara Temple, build in the 11th century by Raja Raja I (‘king of kings’). Enter through the Nayak gate, followed by two original gopurams with some elaborate stucco sculptures. Inside discover several shrines, including one of India’s largest statues of Nandi (Shiva’s sacred bull).
Both west and north walls of the main building are lined with exquisite lime-plaster Chola frescoes. Continue your visits at the Thanjavur's Royal Palace, which preserves memories of other powerful dynasties from later centuries. Here, explore the Saraswati Mahal Library Museum housing over 30000 Indian and European manuscripts and the Art Gallery containing a collection of superb, mainly Chola, bronzes and stone carvings.
Have a traditional Sadhya lunch at the heritage style Satvma hotel. It is time for your next enlightment, sneak into a small house and witnesse the Tanjore veena art making process, there an entire instrument is carved on a single block of Jackwood. Carnatic music played on these Veenas has won the hearts of millions of music lovers. Later on learn about the Tanjavur painting technique with gem stones inlay demonstration from the masters. Drive south to another vibrant city of Tamil Nadu, Madurai.
Upon arrival check-in at your hotel. After some rest, leave the hotel by auto-rickshaw, and have a dinner on a roof-top with views on the Gopurams of the Meenakshi temple. Later take a visit of the temple and attend the night ceremony when the temple bronze of Lord Shiva is carried to the bed chamber of Parvati. Return to your hotel by auto-rickshaw. Overnight stay.(Full Board)
Start your day with a guided walking tour and go deep into the real life of this Tamil rooted oldest city. Walk in the narrow streets flanked by flowers and bananas stands, interact with local people, watch people milking cows by hand and stroll down in the bazaars. Learn with your guide the 5000 years old legends of this busting city while having a meter tea from the corner tea stall. Return back to your hotel for your breakfast. On your way pass by the biggest flower market in the southern region which transacts as much as 10 tons of flowers in a day, mainly the reputed Madurai malli (Jasmine).
After your check-out, go visit the sprawling Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal, 17th century palace of the emperor of the Nayak dynasty and capture its hybrid Dravidian-Islamic style. Follow with a meaty feast at the local spot Kumar Mess and try their spicy Biryani before driving up hills to Munnar, the South India's largest tea-growing region. On route act like a local and experience short ride on a state bus between the villages Adipetti and Uslampatti on the way. Upon arrival in Munnar, check-in and dinner at your hotel. (Full Board)
Breakfast at the hotel. This morning explore the hillside of Munnar and start your journey by Jeep, followed with a moderate trek into the tea carpeted rolling hills, reaching up Kulukamalai Tea Estate, the highest located tea factory in the world (8000ft). Enjoy a packed lunch uphill surrounded by the carpeted tea bushes. Witness the manual tea-making process at this old fashioned factory, unchanged since the British constructed it in the 1930s and have a savoring tea tasting session with panoramic views of the mountains ridge that rise around. Drive back to the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (Full Board)
After your breakfast at your hotel and check-out, take a beautiful drive to Thekkady, down to the green mountains of the Nilgiris, rubber, coffee and cardamom plantations will follow. Upon arrival experience a Kerala style Cooking Session in a family house followed by lunch with them. Later, take a Spice Plantation Jeep excursion into the tropical fields of the Cardamon Hill reserve where you can touch, smell and taste almost all the spices seen worldwide. Finally check-in at your hotel and this evening enjoy a tasty meal at the english manor-style, Ambadi restaurant. Overnight at the hotel. (Full Board)
This early morning proceed with a nature walk and observe the flora and fauna in the remote areas of the National Periyar Park accompanied by a trained tribal guide. Return back to your hotel for your breakfast, check-out and drive east to Kumarakom. On route stop at the home stay Kuruvinakunnel Tharavadu to experience a typical Syriac Christian lunch, followed by a walk into the owner’s plantations. This ancestral home was built around 400 years back and is located in the midst of a lush green estate. Continue your tropical journey towards Kumarakom, a backwaters village located on the shore of vast Vembanad Lake – Kerala's largest lake. Upon arrival check-in and dinner at your hotel. (Full Board)
Breakfast at the hotel. This morning go in the Aymanam Village, home of Arundhathi Roy’s novel ‘The God of Small Things’. Start your local immersion with a ride on a traditional canoe cruise through the narrow, winding canals and catch the scenic daily life of the bordering houses. Follow with a walk in the heart of this typical Kuttanad village surrounded by paddy fields and identify the snakes abodes, sacred to earliest habitants.
Be invited in a Kathakali master house who will introduce you to this traditional theatre form, which adapts styles of ancient Sanskrit with visual presentations of human expressions. There, take an opportunity to share a homely made family lunch with delicious blend of curries fish or meat with rice.
After a check-out, this afternoon you will reach your next destination by Bicycle through small fishermen villages and lush coconut trees sceneries. You will row through a small stretch of backwaters and reach Fort Kochi. Refresh and check-in at the hotel. Tonight have a dinner at the Italian restaurant Upstairs with a prime view on the Santa Cruz Basilica. Overnight stay at the hotel (Full Board).
Breakfast at the hotel. Today you will experience the real local life of Cochin during an Ethnic tour – start with the visit of the famous Chinese Fishing Nets of Cochin. The huge cantilevered Chinese fishing nets that droop towards the waters like over-sized hammocks have become a hallmark that represents Fort Kochi on every postcard. Next visit is at the St.Francis CSI Church, the oldest European church in India built in 1503, where the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama was originally buried and pass by the finest Santa cruz Basilica.
Take a tuk tuk – the most popular mode of transport among the localities, go along with your local tour and stop at the Dhobi Khana (laundry station), once throbbing with activity, it is now a picture of slow extinction. Continue through the small streets of Mattanchery, and arrive at the Fruit market on Palace road where locals get a variety of fresh and organic produces at bargains prices. Don’t miss a stop at the Spice Market, where exotic odors of the finest ginger, cloves, cardamom, turmeric and pepper emanate from the spice warehouses lining the street.
Make a pause and have one “meter tea” at one of the tea stall. There is now an opportunity to interact with a Brahmin Family. The Brahmin are the highest of the four Hindu castes of priests and scholars of Vedic literature, their traditional occupation is to conduct rites at marriages, births and other auspicious occasions.
Have a lunch at the Indo-French restaurant Caza Maria, overlooking the Mattancherry spices bazaar and filled to the brim with antiques. Then you will be invited to get squiggly lines drawn on your hands. This ritual called Mehndi arts holds plenty of cultural significance in Indian traditions and is one of the most important ritual during the wedding ceremonies. Visit the Jewish Synagogue at the heart of what is locally called the Jew Town, and finally stop at the Dutch Palace with its beautiful mural paintings from the 17th century.
Enjoy a cultural evening at Greenix Village Cultural Center and discover the famous dance drama of Kerala, the “Kathakali” show. This dance can be characterized by grotesque gesticulations, amazing costumes and very extensive make-up. The stories are mostly taken from the epics Mahabharatha and Ramayana. Tonight enjoy a Seafood dinner at the waterfront restaurant Fort House. Overnight stay at the hotel.(Full board)
Time to say good bye. After breakfast transfer to the Cochin International airport to connect your flight back home.
|CHENNAI||1||Raintree Hotel||Raintree Hotel|
|MAHABALIPURAM||1||INDeco Hotel||Ideal Beach Resort|
|PONDICHERRY||1||Shenbaga Hotel||Villa Helena|
|TANJORE||1||Lakshmi Hotel||Hi Tanjore|
|MADURAI||1||Regency Madurai by GRT||Heritage Madurai|
|MUNNAR||2||Ecotones Munnar Camps||Ecotones Munnar Camps|
|COCHIN||2||Chiramel Residency||Fort House|
- Accommodation on double / twin sharing basis at all hotels mentioned or similar in standard room
- Full board basis as per described in itinerary (Bottled water included at each meal)
- Transportation as per itinerary by chauffeur driven air conditioned large vehicle
- Local English Speaking Guides for the sightseeing of Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Auroville, Darusaram, Tanjore, Madurai, Munnar, Thekkady and Cochin
- English speaking Tour-escort during the entire trip
- Entrance charges at the monuments as mentioned in the itinerary
- Half-day Heritage city tour in Chennai
- Visit of Auroville with a lunch at Solar Cafe
- A Kolam class in Pondicherry
- Bicycle tour in Pondicherry with a Storyteller
- Visit to Bronze making center, Painting and Veena making centers in Tanjore
- Walking tour in Madurai
- Evening ceremony in Meenakshi temple in Madurai by Auto-rickshaw
- Kulukamalai Estate Jeep Safari with a Picnic lunch
- Lunch in a Family house in Thekkady
- Spice plantation visit by Jeep in Thekkady
- Trek in Periyar National Park
- Aymanam Village half-day excursion in Kumarakom including a Country canoe ride
- Bicycle tour in the Backwaters
- Ethnic tour of Fort Kochi by walk and Auto-rickshaw
- Ticket for the Kathakali Dance show in Fort Kochi
- Assistance on arrival and departure
- All currently applicable taxes
- Camera fees & activity charges other than those listed in the itinerary inclusions
- Expenses of personal nature such as porterage, laundry, telephones, tipping etc.
- International/Domestic flight charges and Visa/Insurance charges, if any
- Any other items not covered under inclusions