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Journey to South India, a region that has seen the rise and fall of a multitude of cultural dynasties,
each leaving an array of architectural treasures. A highlight will be our 2 night cruise along the backwaters of Kerala on a comfortable houseboat. Other highlights include Kanchipuram, the "City of a Thousand Temples and Madurai, one of the regions oldest cities. The south still supports several unique and diverse cultures and we will see and experience a variety of dress, language, cuisine and folklore. We will travel from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea, from the interior plateau to the highlands of the Western Ghats and enjoy the varied to landscapes, plants and animals including a visit to the famous Periyar National Park & Tiger reserve. We end our journey at the beaches of Cochin.
Daily departures based on minimum 2 personsTour cost from Chennai: $ 2,675 USDSingle Supplement: $ 875 USD
Trip begins in Chennai and finishes in Cochin. Domestic flights to Delhi, Bombay or elsewhere can be added. Trip may be modified to suit individual interests. Extensions can be added.
Day 1 ARRIVE CHENNAI - MAHABALIPURAM (D)Arrive Chennai. On arrival we will be met, assisted by our representative and transferred to Mahabalipuram (58 kms/1 hr 30 min) On arrival, Check-in to the hotel Fortune for 2 nights. After a leisurely lunch visit Cholamandal Art Village, a Cooperative effort house of some 30 artists and sculptors. Cholamandal stands for the rehabilitation of the creative artist as an equal participant in society, self employed and independent. Return to the hotel Day 2 MAHABALIPURAM - KANCHIPURAM 0 MAHABALIPURAM (B,D)Today, enjoy a half day excursion to Kanchipuram (65 Kms / 1 hr 30 min). Kanchipuram is the "City of a Thousand Temples". It still has 124 temples out of one Thousand. The most spectacular of these is the Ekambeshwara Temple. The gopurams, at its entrance, stand 188 ft/57 m high with ten storeys of intricate sculpture. On a smaller scale is the 100 ft/30.5 m tower of the Varaderajaswamy Temple, famous for its hall of 96 Pillars. Although the peak of its fame was at the time of the Pallava Empire, Kanchipuram still draws thousands of pilgrims. It is also the home of the famous "kanjeevaram" silks. Lunch on your own, drive back to Mahabalipuram. Mahabalipuram is a monument to the glory of the Pallava Emperors who ruled this part of India in the 7th & 8th centuries. Five of its "pagodas" are actually chariots. These temples have excellent bas-reliefs in stone depicting fascinating scenes from Hindu mythology. Of the many temples that were built along the sea-shore, only one has survived the ravages of the ever-pounding ocean. It stands with its back to the sea, a lonely silhouette, symbol of Man's greatness despite the infinite vastness of his Universe. Day 3 MAHABALIPURAM - PONDICHERRY (B,D)This morning after breakfast drive (138 kms / 3 hrs, 30 minutes) to Pondicherry. Often referred to as "A little piece of Medieval France in India" and "... a sleepy provincial French town", Pondicherry has managed to retain its French aura. On arrival, check-in at the Annanda Inn. Later, visit the huge cream-and-brown Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of Pondicherry's finest Catholic churches, built by French missionaries in the 1700s. It contains rare and beautiful stained glass panels depicting events of the life of Christ. The Pondicherry Museum is on Ranga Pillai Street, the archaeological collection includes Neolithic and 2000-year-old remains from Arikamedu, a few Pallava (sixth-to-eighth-century) and Buddhist (tenth-century) stone sculptures, bronzes, weapons and paintings. Alongside these are displayed a bizarre assembly of French salon furniture and bric-a-brac from local houses. Day 4 PONDICHERRY- TANJORE (B,D)In the morning we drive to Tanjore (177 kms / 5 hrs approx). On arrival, check-in at the Parisutham Hotel for 2 nights. In the afternoon we will visit the Brihadeeswara Temple, the main attraction of Tanjore. The massive temple built by Rajaraja Chola reflects the Cholas' contribution to the development of arts in this area. It is also regarded as the Chola dynasty's finest contribution to the Dravidian temple architecture. Listed as a World Heritage site, the temple is visited by a large number of people for the regular worship here. The temple is characterized by its unique structure. Unlike the usual South Indian temples, the Brihadeeswara temple has a soaring vimana and a stunted gopuram. It was constructed from a single piece of granite weighing an estimated 80 tonnes and the dome was hauled into place along a 4-km earthwork ramp in a manner similar to the Egyptian pyramids. A huge Nandi, about 6 m long and 3.7 m high, faces the inner sanctum. The statue of Nandi was created from a single rock piece and weighs 25 tonnes. It is in fact one of the largest statues of Nandi bulls in India. The temple also has a spacious ground, number of pillared halls, shrines and 250 lingams. Day 5 TANJORE - TRICHY - TANJORE (B,D)After breakfast drive to Trichy, a town situated on the banks of river Cauver, visiting the famous Sriranganathaswami temple at Srirangam - the most revered of the 108 pilgrimage shrines of Vishnu, and the largest temple complex in all India, it is surrounded by seven concentric walls (the outermost wall having a perimeter of over 3 kilometers) and 21 towers called Gopurams. A 437 rock cut steps will reach you to the Ganesh Shrine on top of this rock. A view of entire Trichy town from here is breath taking. Drive back to Tanjore Day 6 TANJORE - MADURAI (B,D)In the morning depart for Madurai (150 kms/ 5 hrs). Madurai is one of the oldest cities in South India. Madurai has been the centre of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. Spread along the rocky banks of the river Vaigai in the state of Tamil Nadu, this modern industrial city is today famous as a temple town. On arrival, check in to the GRT hotel for 2 nights.Day 7 MADURAI (B,D)After breakfast, visit Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple, Tirumalai Nayak Mahal, Gandhi Museum and the flower market. One of the most important places of Hindu pilgrimage, the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple is located at the heart of the city and is the hub of the religious and cultural life. Built by Kulasekara Pandya in the pre-Christian era, the temple was in ruins before it was rebuilt by Tirumalai Nayak. Spread over 6 ha/15 ac, the temple is an outstanding example of Vijayanagar temple architecture. The temple has four entrances to it and its gopurams (large gateways) and mandapams (multi-pillared halls) are covered from top to bottom in a profusion of multi-colored images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. Lunch on your own. Then, continue to the Gandhi Museum - Housed in the old palace of the Rani Mangammal and dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, the museum provides a historical account of India's struggle for independence. A bookshop in the premises of the museum offers a good collection of books on Gandhi. In the evening, we will visit Meenakshi temple once again to witness the Arti ceremony.
Day 8 MADURAI - PERIYAR (B,D)In the morning, after Breakfast, we drive to Periyar (145 kms/ 4 hrs 30 min). On arrival, check-in to our wildlife resort. Established in 1934 as the Nelliampatty Sanctuary, the park was enlarged in 1950 and is India's southernmost tiger reserve. The lake covers some 10 sq. miles and most of the sanctuary is undulating. Since boat travel is the only means of transport in the park, large areas can be covered in a short time. Among the game found here are gaur (the largest of the world's wild oxen), elephant, wild pig, sambar, barking deer, mouse deer, the rare and endangered lion-tailed macaque, the Nilgiri langur, the common langur and the bonnet macaque, porcupine, Malabar squirrel, wild dog and tiger. Among the birds commonly seen are darters, cormorant, osprey, kingfisher and kite, great hornbill, grey hornbill, hill mynas, orioles and racket-tailed drongos. Afternoon wildlife outing. Day 9 PERIYAR TIGER RESERVE (B,L,D)A full day of game drives. Day 10 PERIYAR - BACKWATERS (HOUSEBOAT)Early morning game drive. Breakfast and drive to the starting point of our boating trip, to board the luxury houseboat (215 kms/ 5 hrs). Traditionally called a Kettuvallom, or rice barge, the shallow and rounded hull of the boat is made without using a single nail. Each Anjali wood plank is joined to the next with strong coil rope and then coated with caustic black resin obtained from boiled cashew kernels and fish oil. These boats were originally built for transportation in the placid lagoon waters, and this technique of boat making has existed for many centuries. 2 nights on board our river boat. Day 11 BACKWATERS (HOUSEBOAT) (B,L,D)On this comfortable floating home we spend this day relaxing, letting all our worries slowly float by. As we slowly cruise along the backwater canals of the Arabian Sea, we may choose to stop and explore some of the many small villages, farmlands, old temples and churches that we come across.Day 12 BACKWATERS (HOUSEBOAT)-COCHIN (B,D)finish our cruise and drive to Cochin. On Arrival, check-in to the hotel Abad Atrium for 2 nights. In the evening witness a Kathakali dance performance. This is the most developed dance drama art of India. Drums beckon an audience to a performance most magnificent actors depict characters from the Puranas and the Mahabharata, the great Indian epics - demons, superhuman beings and ordinary men and women. The dancers, all male, adorn themselves in huge skirts and elaborate headdress, wearing what must surely be the most intricate make up known to any dance style in the world. Dialogue is combined with dance to bring myth and legend to life in the temple courtyards of Kerala. Day 13 COCHIN (B,D) This morning, we take a tour around Fort Cochin. Cochin comprising of a cluster of islands and towns, is a living museum. Fort Cochin is believed to be the oldest European settlement in India, with the Portuguese flag first hoisted here in 1500. It occupies the northernmost point of the Mattancherry / Fort Kochi Peninsula, which is linked by ferries and a road bridge to Willingdon Island. Visit the St Francis Church, built in 1510 by friars brought to India by Vasco da Gama, and is the first European church built in India and is the site where da Gama was buried. On the beach, near the church you will see the Chinese Fishing nets stung out along the tip of the peninsula. A legacy of the earliest visitors to the Malabar Coast, the Chinese fishing nets are unmistakable as one enters the harbor. Records show that they were first erected between 1350 and 1450 AD. Constructed out of teak wood and bamboo poles, they work on the principle of balance. The best place to watch is from Vasco da Gama Square, a narrow promenade that parallels the beach with little stalls that serve fresh seafood, tender coconuts and so on. Enjoy a Farewell Dinner this evening.
Day 14 DEPART FROM COCHIN (International Departure)Today, you will be transferred to international airport to board the onward flight.
EXTENSIONS AVAILABLE ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS
"I'm just writing to let you know that our crew returned home safely from India and had a fantastic time. They felt they got great footage and in particular thought the festival was highly visual. Thanks so much for the opportunity to deal with you and your fantastic people in India!"F. Gorica, Producer, Off the Map series
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