CLASSIC SOUTH INDIA
CHENNAI (Madras)-MYSORE-COONOR-COCHIN-KUMARAKOM-PERIYAR-MADURAI-TANJORE-SWAMI MALAI-PONDICHERRY-CHENNAI (Madras)
Introduction: .This is an extensive tour covering the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala to give you a complete experience of the flavours of South highlighting its diversity and richness of culture. The tour includes some of the best sites in India including the World heritage Monument at Tanjore, the Brihadeshwara temple, the Meenakshi temple at madurai with its brilliant Gopuram, the bronze collection in Chennai museum, artisans village in Mahabalipuram, the grand Mysore Palace; wildlife, tea gardens, backwaters and spice plantations of Kerala. We follow our stomachs to taste the exquisite cuisine that each southern state offers, including the seafood at Cochin, the vegetarian idlis of Tamil nadu, the spicy kerala meat and the Karnataka dosas. The hotels are the best in each city giving you a mix of heritage and modern.
Jewels of information
Bharatnatyam – the classical dance
Day 01: Wecome to Chennai
Arrive Chennai airport, where you will be met by our representative and transfered to your hotel.
Chennai, also known as Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu, is the country's fourth largest city. Compared to the other major metros of India, it is far less congested and polluted. Chennai was the site of the first settlement of the East India Company. It was founded in 1639, on a piece of land given by the Raja of Chandragiri, the last representative of the Vijayanagar rulers of Hampi.
Day 02: Chennai
Morning is at leisure. Afternoon proceed for half day sightseeing tour.
Chennai has a lot to offer to tourists in the form of ancient temples and Museums, Churches and forts built during the British rule. Built in 1640 AD, the Fort St. George once served as the very first bastion of the East India Company. Now, it houses the Secretariat and the Legislative Assembly. The 46 metre - high flagstaff, that adorns the front of the structure, is actually a mast salvaged from a 17th century shipwreck. Another ancient landmark in the city, is the Madras Harbour, one of the finest in India, and entirely artificial, which has been around for almost a century. Mylapore in the south, is the site of the famous Kapaleeswarar Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It has a typical Dravidian gopuram. Also visit the Marina Beach – the second largest beach in the world extends up to 13km. A place where you can feel yourself close to nature and enjoy the beauty of the sunset. It is a suitable place where you can release your tiredness of a busy day. You can see a wide variety of tropical sea fishes and fresh water sea fishes at the Aquarium. The blue waters of Bay of Bengal mingle with the golden sands at the beaches of Chennai. Once being a small village of fishermen Chennai attained a significant place during the British Rule. Overnight at hotel.
Day 03: Chennai – Mysore
Today you arrive Mysore by air, later transfer to hotel.
Mysore - a city of palaces, gardens, shady avenues and sacred temples and retains some of the charm of the old world with its many institutions that propagate Carnatic Classical music and dance. It also used to be the political capital of the Wodeyar dynasty which ruled the state of Karnataka for some 150 years till the independence of the country from the British. These kings were great patrons of art and culture and Mysore was the cultural capital of the south under the rule of the Wodeyars.
Afternoon drive upto Chamundi hill to see Chamundeshwari Temple and a panoramic view of Mysore. visit temple of Goddess Chamundeshwari, symbol of victory of Good over Evil is a 335 metre landmark with 1000 steps. Half way up along the stone steps is Nandi, a majestic 4.8 mts monolith. Atop the hill is huge statue of Mahishasura, the demon and a temple of Goddess Chamundeshwari, can also be reached by driving 13 Kms. Enroute back to Mysore also visit Bull Temple. Overnight at hotel.
Day 04: Mysore
Morning after breakfast proceed for sightseeing tour visiting the palace of the Maharaja built in 1911-12. The palace is of harmonious synthesis of the IndoSaracenic styles of architecture with archways, domes, turrets, colonnades and sculptures which are magnificient, also visit the Art Gallery. Also visit the summer palace of Tipu Sultan and Srirangapatnam.
Afternoon you can relax at the hotel or visit Brindavan gardens, located 12 Kms north-west of Mysore city and has rows-of colourful fountains. There is a boating pond to cross the dam from the south bank to the north bank and at the northern edge are the dancing fountains. Using advanced lighting techniques, the fountains are made to jump and dance to the tune of music. The dam is over 3 Kms long and is constructed at the junction of three rivers - Kaveri, Hemavati and Lakshmanathirtha. This site has been popularised over the years by the large number of Indian/foreign films shot at this location.
Overnight at hotel.
Day 05: Mysore – Coonoor
Drive to Ooty this morning and spend theday. Post lunch Enjoy the exhilarating and unique ride on the toy train that connects Coonoor with Ooty. The trip provides some breathtaking views of the Nilgiri hills in all its natural glory.
Coonoor is the second largest hill station in the Nilgiris, surrounded by tea plantations, at an altitude of 1839 metres. Its climate is milder than Ooty. It is a very popular weekend get away for the people in Coimbatore. Coonoor is essentially a small tea garden town where the weather remains pleasantly cool throughout the year.
Coonoor provides the traveller with the panoramic view of the lush green Nilgiri hills, with its ravines, valleys, and waterfalls. Bird watching is a popular pastime in Coonoor, as the area boasts of a large variety of species like cormorants, pipits, thrushes, parakeets, skylarks, Nilgiri verditer, etc. Travellers can take a walk through the tea gardens. There are number of trekking and hiking trails around Coonoor. Overnight at hotel.
Day 06: Coonoor – Cochin
A long and interesting drive will bring you to Kochi (Cochin), the Queen of the Arabian Sea and the Queen of the Adriatic, is situated on the west coast of India is also referred to as the Gateway of South India. It is a cluster of islands dotting on the magnificent emerald lakes which in turn open to the sea, making the city one of the finest natural harbors in the world. Due to its advantageous location, Cochin has experience the affluence from the seaborne trade, and at the same time enjoyed various cultural influences brought in by different traders and visitors since the ancient times.
Day 07: Cochin
In the morning after breakfast proceed for sightseeing tour of the city, which includes ancient palaces, old Portuguese churches and Jew synagogue, a clear indication of diverse cultural heritages left to the city.
Cochin is boasted for its extensively emerald backwaters lined with palm trees and local villages which represent the fascinating lifestyle of inhabitants who still used these course ways as their mode of transportation. Such cultural scenes in Cochin's backwaters can be appreciated by a comfortable cruise which will take visitors delving through magnificent waterways.
Kathakali dance performance in the evening. You even see the artists putting make-up.
Overnight at hotel
Day 08: Cochin – Kumarakom
Ever closed your eyes and wished for wings, to take you away to a land breathtakingly beautiful, peacefully serene and wholesomely pristine. Well, dreams have the uncanny ability of coming true. Especially when you arrive at the Kumarakom - slumbers on the banks of the famous Vembanad Lake, which is a part of Kuttanad ('granary' of Kerala). The Vembanad Lake with its majestic canals, streams and distributaries along its banks weave an intricate and enchantingly beautiful web. The gorgeous green of the fringed palms ripple in the blue waters and blend into wavelets.
It is incredibly different experience to cruise in the backwaters in country boats, absorbing the beauty of Kerala villages. The scenery flashes up vivid contrasts of breath-taking greens and deep blues. You drive up to Allepy today and take the private cruise to Kumarakom. Evening is free to explore the nearby bird sanctuary or just enjoy the views from your hotel. Or take an Ayurvedic massage.
Day 09: Kumarakom – Periyar
Morning is at leisure. After an early lunch drive to Periyar visiting the spice plantations en route.
The pride of Kerela and a testimony to nature's splendour and human innovation, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is situated on the banks of the Periyar lake - an artificial lake, at Thekkady. Here the high ranges of the Western Ghats are clothed in dense evergreen, moist deciduous forests and savannah grass lands. Below this thick green canopy roam herds of elephants, sambars, tigers, gaurs, lion tailed macaques and Nilgiri langurs.
Day 10: Periyar
In the morning proceed for boat ride in the splendid artificial Periyar lake formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam across the Periyar River. This is the only sanctuary in India where you can have the unique experience of viewing wildlife at close quarters from the safety of a boat on the lake. The greatest attraction of Periyar, however are the herds of wild elephants that come down to bathe and play in the lake.
In the afternoon you can relax at the hotel or can go for Nature Walk - The guided day trek, This is an interpretive programme offering excellent opportunity to watch birds, butterflies and other wildlife. The trails often pass through evergreen and moist deciduous forests interspersed with marshy grasslands. The programme is offered between between 2.00 pm. and 3.00 pm. and lasts for about 3 hours. A maximum of 5 persons can go for trekking at a time along each nature trail, accompanied by a trained tribal guide. The Nature walk is the right programme to feel nature, hear her whispers and smell her flowers. Overnight at hotel.
Day 11: Periyar – Madurai
Drive to Madurai, one of South India's great temple towns, Madurai is synonymous with the celebrated Meenakshi Temple. Situated on the banks of river Vaigai, Madurai has a rich cultural heritage passed on from the great Tamil era more than 2500 years old.
Afternoon, proceed for sightseeing of Madurai. It is an important cultural and commercial center. It was once the seat of Tamil learning and still the place where the Tamil language is spoken in its purest form. The city is planned in the shape of a lotus. Modern Madurai is a burgeoning industrial center, even though the vast stretches of paddy fields, dusty roads and crowded bazaars make it seems like an overgrown village. Modernity has reached the city of Madurai, but not at the cost of its rich tradition and culture.
Sightseeing would involve the great Meenakshi temple dedicated to the consort of Lord Shiva with its towering Gopurams. Later, visit the Tirumala Nayak Palace, a gracious building in the Indo-Saracenic style.
Dinner & Overnight at the hotel.
Day 12: Madurai – Trichy - Tanjore
After breakfast drive to Tanjore enroute stopover at Trichy to visit ancient temples dedicated to Lord Ganapathi 434 steps cut out into the rock side and interspersed with shrines, lead to the temple, yet another flight leads to the temple of Lord Shiva. The ascend is climaxed by magnificent view of the sacred Kaveri river. Visit Srirangam a massive temple dedicated to lord Vishnu which contains within its walls a Bazaar as well followed by lunch specially prepared and served in the traditional plantain leaf et al. The food is home made and typical of the region.
Arrive Tanjore and check in at the hotel, rest of the day is at leisure. Dinner & overning hotel.
Day 13: Tanjore
In the morning after breakfast sightseeing tour of Tanjore where you will visit Chola temple, Brihadeeshwara built during the 10th and 14th centuries. Overnight at hotel
Day 14: Tanjore – Kumbhakonam – Dharasuram - Swami Malai
Drive to the temple town of Kumbhakonam, hailed as one of the 6 padai veedu shrines of Skanda where he sojourned during his battle against the demon Soorapadman. It has been praised in Tirumurugaatruppadai of the tamil sangam period and by the Tiruppugazh hymns of Arunagirinathar. The temple is built at an elevation, on an artificially constructed mound, reached through a flight of steps. Although the shrine is of ancient origin, much of the structure seen now is of the 20th century. Also visit the temple at dharasuram before driving on to the hotel at Swamimalai. overnight is Swami Malai.
Day 15: Swami Malai – Pondicherry
This morning you drive to Pondicherry visiting Gangaikondacholapuran en route.
Upon arrival visit Sri Aurobindo Ahsram- the final resting-place of Sri Aurobind, a saint-cum-yogi that synthesized yoga and modern science. It is also the final resting-place of the Mother Mirra Alfassa. You will also visit the Auroville, an oasis of peace and enlightenment, Museum and Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus. Rest of the day at your discretion or you can explore the unusual combination of European culture and Indian traditions.
Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 16: Pondicherry – Chennai
Drive back to Chennai visiting the 8th & 10th century sites at Mahabalipuram en route. .
Rest of the day is free for personal activities. The coastal temple town of Mahabalipuram is about 58 kms from chennai. It has a beautiful beach over 20 km long. An erstwhile port of the Pallava dynasty, its stone carvings, caves and rock cut temples also attract tourists. A crocodile farm, a snake venom extracting center, schools of art and sculpture and many resorts draw holiday seekers all around the year, especially during the dance festival held in January. Visit Shore Temple, which is now a World Heritage Monument and other stone carvings and rock-cut temples.
Day 17: Leave Chennai
Departure to International airport to connect flight to your onward destination.
Optional Extension : New Delhi & Agra (4 days)
For the first time visitors, an extension to Delhi and Agra is suggested. On day 16, fly to Delhi for 3 nights. Visit the sights of Delhi and take a full day excursion to Agra to see the famous Taj Mahal. Leave Delhi on Day 19 for onward journey