Day 01: Arrival / Chennai
Evening arrival, Meeting and assistance upon arrival as our representatives welcome you and escort you to your car.
Whilst the room keys and check-in is organized, our representative would introduce the tour to you and hand over the documents to you.
Welcome to India, or as we say 'atithi devo bhava' (the guest is an incarnation of God). Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you!
Overnight at Radha Regent (Superior Room)
Day 02 Chennai
Today, we will proceed to the tour of one of India's largest cities- Madras is the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The Tamillians are the proud inheritors of a rich cultural heritage, which is one of the main reasons for their beliefs of superiority over the hybridized culture of North India. Fort St. George (1653), built by the British, presently houses the State secretariat and the legislative assembly. The Fort has an interesting museum with fascinating collections of memorabilia from the early days of the British Raj. St. Mary's Church (1678-80), was the first English church and the oldest surviving in India. The High court building, built of red sandstone has an interesting archaeological section and a bronze gallery. The former has an interesting collection of all major and ancient south Indian dynasties. The bronze section has interesting collections of Chola (9th century) bronze art. The High Court, built in Indo-Sracenic style is supposed to be the largest judicial building in the world after the Court Of England. The Kapaleshwar temple is an ancient Shiva temple in typical Dravidian (south Indian) style. Near the temple, the San Thome Cathedral (originally built in 1504), is a Roman Catholic Church believed to have the remains of St. Thomas the Apostle.
Day 03: Chennai / Mahabalipuram (70 Kms)
Morning we will drive to Mahabalipuram
Upon arrival check into your hotel Ideal Beach Resort
Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities
Day 04: Mahabalipuram
Today we will proceed on a tour of Mahabalipuram, which is famous for its shore temples. The sculpture here is particularly interesting because, instead of Gods & Goddesses, the sculpture shows scenes from contemporary day to day life - women milking cows, pompous dignitaries, young girls priming and posing in street corners or swinging their hips in artful come-ons. Mahabalipuram is an easy going village of essentially two streets and positioned at the foot of low lying boulder strewn hill where most of the fascinating temples and the rock cut carvings are to be found. It affords a wonderful combination of an excellent beach, good seafood and the fascinating remains of an ancient Indian Kingdom
Day 05: Mahabalipuram / Kanchipuram / Pondicherry (187 Kms) (03Â½ Hrs Drive)
Following a leisurely breakfast we will drive to Pondicherry, en route we will Kanchipuram
Kanchipuram is a Hindu Holy City and capital of the Pallava dynasty from the 7th to 9th centuries AD, is renowned for temples and silk, and you will see plenty of both. The temples range in date from the 8th to the 17th century. The latest building was impressive in its size, the height of its gopuram, the intricacy of its carvings and wealth of colour, but, the earliest temples, of golden sandstone, are more aesthetically pleasing, the only colour provided is by a flock of ring-necked parakeets.
Across the road is a workshop where men sit at a loom, weaving fabrics that you will recognize immediately as "Madras cotton". However, Silk-weaving takes place on a grander scale than the cotton-weaving in this town dotted with cottage workshops. You could visit a factory where all the processes of spinning, dyeing and weaving take place. Of special note would be exquisite wedding saris made to order - the silk is heavily interwoven with gold thread. The sari and blouse are woven together so as to ensure a perfect match.
From here we will continue our drive to Pondicherry
Upon arrival check in to Hotel De l' Orient
Day 06: Pondicherry
After a leisurely breakfast, we will proceed on a tour of the city. More than anything else, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, where Sri Aurobindo and the Mother lived for the most parts of their lives, is a major attraction of this little city. The Pondicherry Museum is home to some of the most exquisite collections on architecture and sculpture. Pondicherry also has a pleasant beach alongside promenade and historical monuments. Some of the other interesting sites includes the Bharti and Bharthidasan Memorial museums and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The French, Britain's strongest rivals for the control of India, established their foothold here and only relinquished it in 1954. The town still has the feel of a French provincial town, with its librairie, epicerie, imposing Hotel de Ville, memorial to Franco-Indians killed in the Great War, and statue of Joan of Arc. The houses could be anywhere in southern France and bear the familiar white numbers on a blue ground. Street names, too, are shown in white on blue - rue St Louis, rue de la Caserne and so on. During a pleasant afternoon stroll you could hear French spoken frequently.
Day 07: Pondicherry / Chidambram / Darasuran / Kumbakonam / Thanjavur (190 Kms) (04 Hrs Drive)
Morning we will drive to Thanjavur enroute we will visit Chidambram, Darasuran, Kumbakonam.
Chidambram is in between two rivers in a 40 acres temple-complex, it is one of the oldest and magnificent temples of the South. Shiva Natrala or the Dancing Shiva stands in his cosmic dance pose in the golden rooted sanctorum. Flanking the temple are 108 sculptured illustrations of Bharat Natya Shashtra. In Akash Lingam hidden by a veil, lies the real secret of Chidambaram. From we continue driving to Darasuram
Darasuram is a small town near Kumbakonam. It is known for the Airavateshwar Temple built by a Chola king in the 12th Century CE. This temple is a storehouse of art and architecture. The vimana is 85 feet high. The front mandapam itself is in the form of a huge chariot drawn by horses. The temple has some exquisite stone carvings. The main deity's consort Periya Nayaki Amman temple is situated adjacent to Airavateshwarar temple. From here we will continue our drive to Thanjavur,
Upon arrival, check in to hotel Ideal River View Resort
Day 08: Thanjavur / Trichy (60 Kms)
Morning, proceed on a tour of Thanjavur Palace. It has huge halls, spacious corridors, observation & arsenal towers and a shady courtyard. Though many sections of the palace are in ruins restoration work has been taken up. The palace houses a library, a museum and an art gallery. The Royal museum displays many items from the kings who ruled the place in past. The eclectic collection of royal memorabilia can fascinate any visitor. The Royal cloths, hunting weapons, the head gears and many more such items are enough to catch the attention of any one. There are two Durbar halls where the rulers held public meetings. Though they have not been renovated, they are in good shape.
The Nayak hall of the palace is occupied by the Art Gallery. This gallery has an excellent collection of artifacts from the Chola dynasty during the 8th and 9th century. The bronze and granite statues reflect the height of craftsmanship obtained during those days. The bell tower which was put under restoration work, has emerged very different from the rest of the structure after renovation. But it is worth going up the tower to have a good view of the surrounding area. Next to the art gallery is the Saraswathi Mahal Library with an amazing collection of manuscripts on palm leaves and paper. The library is not open for the public. But one can always go in the museum to have a look at the full Ramayana written on Palm leaf or a set of explicit prints of prisoners.
We will also proceed for sightseeing of Tanjore. See the beautiful Chola temple of Brihadeeshwara. The temple is capped by a monolithic cupola made of a single granite block weighing 80 tons which was taken to the top with the help of a 6 km long ramp- an old technique used by the Egyptians for building pyramids. You will also visit the Palace and its Art Gallery, which contains several granite and bronze statues of the Chola period.
Following the tour, we will drive to Trichy
Upon arrival, check into hotel Grand Gardenia
Day 09: Trichy / Madurai (140 Kms) (03 Hrs Drive)
Morning tour of Rockfort Temple. The 83m high Rock Fort is the only outcrop in the otherwise flat land of the city. 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. The sheer abruptness of its rise is a thrill in itself, but the actual centre of attraction is not the fort itself, of which very little remains, but the temple at the summit. 344 steps hewn out of rock lead to the top where there are inscriptions dating back to the 3rd century.B.C. Hardly anything remains of the ramparts but the Main Guard Gate is still intact. The fort played an important part during the Carnatic wars and according to an inscription, mainly contributed to lay the foundations of the British Empire in India.
At the top of the rock is the Uchipillaiyar Koil, a temple dedicated to Lord Vinayaka from where one can enjoy a panoramic view of Tiruchirappalli. A flight of steps leads to the Mathrubutheswarar of Thayumanaswami temple, dedicated to Lord Siva where the lingam is a projection of the rock itself. Below the Siva temple are the two Pallava cave temples that have beautiful sculptures of the 6th and 7th centuries. At the foot of the Rock Fort are a tank and a pavilion which are used during the float festival of the temples. Near the tank is the house where Robert Clive lived when he was in Tiruchirappalli and there is an 18th century Church built by Reverend Schwartz of Denmark
The temple elephant in rock fort temple collects donations, giving a blessing and hands over the money to his "boss
Afternoon, we ride to Tirumayam, which is one of the 108 Divya Desams. Tirumayam has two cave temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, which are visited by large number of devotees. Mahendravarman and Narasimhavarman Pallava built the cave temples, which lie adjacent to each other.
Later, we will drive to Madurai
Upon arrival, check in to the Hotel Heritage Madurai
Madurai is one of the oldest cities of southern India. It has been a center of pilgrimage, for centuries. The Meenakshi temple, the main architectural attraction here, is an excellent example of Dravidian architecture, with gopurams or multi pillared halls, covered from top to bottom, in a profusion of multicolored images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures.
Afternoon we will walk along the main street leading to the temple. The well-organized confusion caused by pilgrims in traditional clothes, pavement shops of all shades, holy men in robes of different colours etc add an unmistakable colour and atmosphere to this fascinating Temple City.
Evening we will witness Bed Chamber Ceremony at Meenakshi temple.
Day 10: Madurai / Cardamom House (85 Kms) (01Â½ Hrs Drive)
Morning we will proceed to the sightseeing of Madurai one of the oldest cities of southern India. It has been a center of pilgrimage, for centuries. The Meenakshi temple, the main architectural attraction here, is an excellent example of Dravidian architecture, with gopurams or multi pillared halls, covered from top to bottom, in a profusion of multicolored images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures.
Afternoon, we will visit the Tirumala Nayak Palace - A gracious building in the Indo saracenic style, famous for the Stucco work on its domes & arches. Also visit the Alagar Hills and Tirupara Kundran Rock temple.
Later, we will drive to Cardamom House, situated in stunningly beautiful surroundings on a hillside of the Western Ghats over-looking a monsoon dependent 400-acre lake. Cardamom House is owned and managed by Dr. Chris Lucas, a retired English physician, ably assisted by 6 Indian staff. All rooms have either twin or separate double-bedded accommodation, face south, and have modern western style bathroom facilities en-suite with solar heated hot water. The water comes from deep bore wells and is potale. With just two guests to each staff member we can assure that you will, be personally looked after and "spoiled rotten" during your stay. The meals are prepared using only the freshest produce purchased daily from the local markets and the house takes great pride in the variety of food that they serve.
Besides experiencing a great, traditional accommodation in stunning natural settings, we also want you to experience a typical back of beyond unhurried Athoor village that has remained frozen in time. We suggest that you simply stroll through the village at your own pace, absorbing the atmosphere and watching as the rural life unfolds. On the track you will pass a Hindu Temple situated under a Banyan Tree, Continuing your stroll you will pass Banana Plantations, fields of Chilli and Groundnuts, and of course hundreds upon hundreds of Coconut Trees. The villagers whose Way of life is dependent on agriculture, are Very friendly and will welcome you. Some of the Cardamom House staff either hail from, or are living in Athoor and will ensure that they are there to help you, introduce you to people and help with the devilishly difficult Tamil language, Athoor is truly an unspoiled Indian Village waiting to be discovered.
Day 11: Cardamom House / Periyar (200 Kms) (04 Hrs Drive)
Morning, we will drive to Periyar through the scenically vibrant valley of the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Thekkady in Kerala, is one of the 16 Project Tiger Reserves in India. About a century ago, a British engineer, Col. J. Penn ycuick, chalked out a plan to dam the Periyar River, subsequently, a dam was constructed in 1895. This resulted in the adjoining forests being granted protection, by the Maharaja of Travancore. The 55 sq km reservoir and the surrounding forests, provide protection to the animals within. Today, Periyar is undeniably, one of the most impressive wildlife sanctuaries in the world.
Upon arrival check into the Cardamom County
The spice plantation in Periyar 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 spice plantation in Periyar is a prime attraction of this beautiful land. Though sprawling tea estates cover much of the landscape of Periyar, plantations of cardamom, rubber, vanilla and coffee are also aplenty.
We have the option for nature walks, bird watching, taste the various spices and breathe in the fragrant air while exploring the spice plantation in Periyar. Pick up a few packets of the tea and spices grown here that make for a good buy.
There are various kinds of spices cultivated in Periyar. The most abundantly found spice in Periyar is pepper. However, there is a variety of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric and curry leaves on the slanting slopes of the spice plantation in Periyar. We will also visit the Sahyadri Organic tea factory in Peermade, a recent venture of the PDS. There are specially designed vantage points for you to view this factory housed in a white-washed building.
Day 12: Periyar
Following breakfast this morning we would take a short trek inside the forest. The birdlife comprises of darters, cormorants, kingfishers, great hornbills (the great Malabar hornbill) and racket-tailed drongoes. The reptilian population boasts of monitor lizards that can be spotted basking in the sun, on the rocks along the lakeshore, especially in the cooler months. Pythons, king cobras, flying lizards, flying squirrels, flying snakes and to top it all, flying frogs are the other inhabitants of this amazing sanctuary.
There are a few fascinating tribal villages around the Periyar, primarily the Manan and Oorali tribes. The Mana ns are ace fishermen, and a few of them still indulge in the traditional, if dangerous, practice of collecting the honey of large and deadly hill bees. The Ooralis build tree dwellings, though not as residences, but watchtowers to keep wild pigs, and elephants from ruining their crops.
After the trek, we board rafts made of bamboos for a rafting experience through some of the richest forest tracts of Periyar Tiger Reserve. The rafting is for about three hours and one gets a panoramic view of forest-clad hills reflected on the lake. Animals like elephant, gaur and sambar are sighted keeping close to the edges of the lake.
The team hitchhikes back to the boat landing by about 5 pm. An armed guard and guides will accompany us. Tea, snacks and packed lunch will be served Enroute
Day 13: Periyar / Munnar (130 Kms) (03 Hrs Drive)
After breakfast, we drive to the Munnar through the scenically vibrant valley of the Cardamom Hills of the Western. We would stop a few times to interact with locals as well as walk through the countryside to explore traditional and ethnic lifestyles. It's a journey through extensive tea and spice plantations and for most part of our journey; the air is rendered with the fragrance of tea and spices.
Munnar, a hill station on the Western Ghats and with its lakes, reservoirs, forests and tea estates is the Nature-Lovers's Paradise. It is beautifully situated at the confluence of three rivers - the Muthirappuzh, Nallathanni and Kundala. Munnar is a major center of Kerala's tea industry.
Upon arrival check into the hotel Tea County
We have two days at leisure to explore the virgin beauty of the place and its several possibilities at your own pace. Anaimudi (2694 m), the highest peak in the southern India, is nearby and the views from here are incredible. Munnar offers some great possibility for nature walks and visits to nearby tribal villages where people, though poor are extremely friendly, charming and hospitable. The ethnic lifestyles, traditional homes and the traditional occupation with ethnic tools and implements provides an incredible experience. The forest that surround Munnar are still rich in wildlife. The hills surrounding Munnar are home for one of the world's rarest mountain goats, Nilgiri tahr. The tropical forests are inhabited by elephants, tigers, deer and gaur (bison) Munnar is a birdwatcher delight with a variety of birds that are supported by the evergreen vegetation of the region. If one seek a sense of peace, a desire to communicate with nature and most importantly participate in a journey through a living museum, Munnar is the place that seeks to provide all this in a heavenly setting.
Day 14: Munnar
Munnar is surrounded by 30 tea gardens; the atmosphere is fragrant with extensive tea and cardamom plantations. Tea estates are situated mostly on the inner slopes of an elevated basin-like plateau. Estate elevations vary from about 1220 m to over 1830 m. some of the tea plantations, at an elevation of over 2135-m, are among the highest in the world. It would be worthwhile to visit some of these tea gardens to witness the plucking of leaves by women who carry conical bamboo baskets on their back and strapped to their forehead by a cloth band. The work on the field is all done by hand and is a fascinating sight. You may also visit the nearby Lockhart Gap, which provides a panoramic view of the valley and plantation down below. The enchanting high range of lakes and streams, the low-flying clouds and the mist-filled valleys cast a magical spell, which lingers long in the memory.
You could also visit the Mattupetty dam and lake, Rajamala, the natural habitat of Nilgiri Tahr, a rare mountain goat and the Eravikulam National Park.
Day 15: Munnar / Alleppey / Houseboat
After breakfast we ride to Alleppey for a houseboat experience through the narrow canals and channels of the backwaters of Kerala.
The materials that go into the making of houseboat are all local and Eco-friendly; bamboo poles, coconut fiber ropes, bamboo mats carpets etc. The main wood used is "Anjali". The Houseboat provides all comforts - Beds, a kitchen, western toilets and an upper deck. Traditional lanterns are used as lights. The cuisine is of traditional Kerala flavour along with the local Specialities - delicious fish and prawns.
We spend the day Cruising on our boat through remote tribal villages along the tranquil backwaters of Kerala is a superb experience. Sensational in its own silent way, the cruise takes you along snake boat docks, friendly cheering villagers, coir (Jute) making communities, toddy (local spirit) shops, fishing nets pitched for the day's catch, bunded paddy fields and manual canoes of different sizes criss-crossing each other. The experience enables you to reach beautiful untouched areas.
Day 16: Houseboat / Kumarakom
After breakfast, the houseboat traverses through narrow channels and canals and reaches Kumarakom.
Upon arrival, check into Lemon Tree Vembanad Lake Resort.
Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities
Day 17: Kumarakom
Day is free for independent activities. You can also enjoy the optional ayurvedic body massage at the resort. You could also choose to explore the surrounding tribal villages, visit the nearby water bird sanctuary or ride through the narrow backwater channels through back of beyond Kerala
Day 18: Kumarakom / Mararikulam (40 Kms)
After breakfast, we will drive to Mararikulam
Upon arrival, check into Marari Fishermen Village Beach Resort
Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities.
Day 19 - 20: Mararikulam
Days at leisure to enjoy your exquisite beach resort and the amazing countryside and tribal villages that adjoin the place
Day 21: Mararikulam / Cochin (50 Kms)
Following a leisurely breakfast we will drive to Cochin
Upon arrival, check into hotel Trident.
A special treat awaits us this evening as we proceed to witness the strength and vigor of Kathakali dance drama, as it enacts episodes from great Indian epics. The extremely stylized gestures, the elaborate make-up, the masks and the splendid costumes of these all-male dancers, recreates an incomparable sense of pageantry.
Day 22: Cochin
After a leisurely breakfast, we proceed on a guided tour of the City. The true character of the city is to be found in the older parts of the Fort Cochin area. It more or less exists as it used to be a 1000 years back, when it was first built. The roads have not been widened because the old haggard buildings, through patchwork repairs over the centuries, still stand on the edges. This part of the city reflects an unusual blend of medieval Portugal, Dutch and English country life grafted on to the tropical Malabar Coast. The fishing community of Cochin is also very interesting. They ancient cantilevered fishing nets called Chinese Fishing Nets. The net is fixed to a pole on the shore. While fishing, the entire net is lowered by a primitive fulcrum mechanism using long bamboo poles. By the same mechanism the pole is lifted along with the catch. We will explore the sights of Photographic as well as cultural interest. We would also visit the 16th century Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace since the Dutch substantially renovated the palace in the 17th century. The double storied quadrangular building surrounds a courtyard containing a Hindu temple. The Central Hall on the first floor was the coronation hall of the Rajas of Cochin; on display are their dresses, turbans and palanquins. The most important feature of this palace, however, is the astonishing murals in the bedchambers and other rooms, which depict scenes from the Ramayana and other religious legends. These murals are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful and extensive anywhere to be seen in India. The unique feature here is the unexpected and isolated Jewish community, whose origins date back to AD 52. They are self-contained and have there own Synagogue.
The area around the Synagogue, known, as 'Jew Town' is one of the main centres of spice trade. Scores of small firms huddle together in old dilapidated buildings and the air is filled with the aroma of ginger, cardamom, cumin, turmeric and cloves. The area is very busy. The potters are loading gunny bags of spices on to carts, which keep running up and down the narrow lanes. We would visit Jew Town, in the Mattancherry section and a short walk from the ferry, is one street long. Jews used to occupy virtually all the houses on Jew Town Road, where they sold fruits, vegetables and spices or worked as oil pressers or carpenters. The spice markets are still located on the narrow street.
Overnight atÂ The Trident - a 5* Oberoi Group Hotel (Superior Room)
Day 23: Cochin / Ooty (290 Kms) (06 Hrs Drive)
Following a leisurely breakfast we will drive to Ooty
Upon arrival check into your hotel Taj Savoy
Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities
Overnight at Taj Savoy - a Taj Group Hotel (Standard Room)
Day 24: Ooty
This morning we will proceed to a guided tour of Ooty
Nestled among some of the most spectacular mountains in Southern India, Ooty is a relic of the British Raj. The town's general appearance is an unlikely combination of Southern England and Australia, with single - storey stone cottages surrounded by trees, fenced flower gardens scattered along leafy, and winding lanes with tall eucalypti stands covering the otherwise barren hilltops. The other main reminders of the British period are the stone Churches and the huge boy's school with its landscaped gardens at the bottom of Ooty's famous lake There is also the terraced and very English Botanical Gardens, in which the Government House stands on the lower slopes of Doddabetta (2623m), the highest peak in Tamil Nadu. From the top of Doddabeta you can see Connor, Wellington, Coimbatore, Mettupalayam and, on a clear day, as far as Mysore.
Day 25: Ooty / Bangalore (280 Kms) (06 Hrs Drive) Bangalore / Chennai (SG 3416 - 1800 / 1900 Hrs)
Morning, we will drive to Bangalore airport to connect your flight to Chennai.
Meeting and assistance upon arrival in Chennai and transfer to your hotel Radha Regent
Day 26: Chennai / Departure
Transfer to the International airport to connect your onward flight back home.
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We do hope the flavor of India will remain on your taste buds for all times to come and hopefully would kindle an indelible fondness for the country and her people; Thank you for being our guest, and as we say in India 'Please Come back Soon"
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