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Day 01 : Arrive Chennai
Day 02 : Chennai / Mahabalipuram
Day 03 : Mahabalipuram / Kanchipuram / Mahabalipuram
Day 04 : Mahabalipuram / Pondicherry
Day 05 : Pondicherry / Thanjavur
Day 06 : Thanjavur / Madurai
Day 07 : Madurai
Day 08 : Madurai / Thekkady
Day 09 : Thekkady / Backwaters (Houseboat)
Day 10 : Backwaters (Houseboat)
Day 11 : Backwaters (Houseboat) / Kochi
Day 12 : Kochi
Day 13 : Departure Kochi
After clearing immigration and customs, our representative will meet you at the receiving area and escort you to your hotel. Thereafter, check in to the hotel.
Overnight at Hotel
Check out after breakfast, depart for your guided tour around Fort St. George which was built by the British East India Company and also houses a small quaint museum known as the Fort Museum.
Later drive to Mahabalipuram and check-in to the hotel.
Overnight at Hotel (B)
Embark on a half-day excursion to Kanchipuram, also known as the, ‘City of a thousand temples’.
The most famous of these are the Ekambeshwara temple and the Varaderajaswamy temple. Drive back to Mahabalipuram to explore its five ‘Pagodas,’ or chariots.
Mahabalipuram is commonly known as the “City of the Seven Pagodas,” even though five of the seven pagodas are actually rathas (stone chariots). The Pallavas, the ruling power of South India during the 7th and 8th Centuries and prolific patrons of the arts, reached their greatest architectural achievement in the visually dramatic temples at Mahabalipuram. A wealthy maritime trade with Southeast Asia enabled the Pallava monarchs to construct a large number of temples and sculptural programs, which garnered them both religious merit and promoted the political and social ideals of South Indian society.
We will visit the photogenic and windswept Shore Temple, dramatically perched near a promontory overlooking the Bay of Bengal. We can see the aforementioned Panch Rathas (Five Stone Chariots), at the southern end of town. The rathas, which date to the 7th Century, are extraordinary examples of rock shrines made from monolithic stone, and are named for the heroes of the epic Indian tale the Mahabharata.
In the center of Mahabalipuram is the main cluster of temples and rock sculptures. Life size stone statues of an elephant, bull and a lion guard these delicately sculptured temples. Depictions of scenes from Indian mythology carved out of stone cover the temples. One of the most elaborate is the Bhagirathi’s Penance, which despite its mammoth proportions, is intricately carved. So large is the bas-relief that it is often described as a “fresco in stone.” In fact, a number of stonecutters still work in Mahabalipuram and continue to produce high-quality traditional sculptures.
After breakfast, check out and drive to Pondicherry. On arrival, check in to the hotel.
The French relinquished control of their former colony just 50 years ago and “Pondy” (as it’s locally known) still bears its European heritage. The local cuisine has a distinctive French influence, as does the architecture of homes, boulevards and city buildings. 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. From its delightful restaurants offering French cuisine and streets bearing French names, Pondicherry’s French connection is very much alive – yet, very subtle.
Pondicherry is also famous as a center chosen by late Sri Aurobindo, revolutionary turned saint, who built his Ashram here in 1926, drawing huge crowds of followers with its unique spiritual concept revolving around work as a divine offering.
Check out after breakfast and drive to Thanjavur. Enroute visit the temples at Chidambaram & Darasuram.
On arrival at Thanjavur check into the hotel.
After breakfast, check out and visit the magnificent Brihadishwara Temple is the crowning glory of Chola temple architecture and is dedicated to Shiva as Nataraja, king of the cosmic dance. Its beauty is particularly enhanced in late afternoon, when its sandstone tower is bathed in the golden hues of sunset. The vimana, or tower, over the temple sanctuary soars to a height in excess of 200 feet, and is adorned with several exquisite pieces of Chola sculpture. The temple sits in the middle of a spacious courtyard, faced by a massive 20-foot long sculpture of Shiva’s vahana (vehicle), the great bull Nandi, carved from a single piece of granite.
Then we visit Tanjore’s second great historical site, the Royal Palace complex, with its impressive observation tower. The Nayakas, who ruled this area in the 16th and 17th Centuries, constructed the palace. Aside from the historical significance of the palace itself, the complex also houses several important museums and libraries.
Thereafter, leave for Madurai.
Late evening, those interested can visit the night ceremony at the great Meenakshi temple where the Lord Shiva is reunited with his wife Meenakshi for the night.
After breakfast, depart for a sightseeing tour of the Meenakshi temple and Tirumalai Nayak Palace.
The Meenakshi temple of Madurai is estimated to receive 10,000 pilgrims every day. A riotously baroque example of Dravidian architecture with twelve gopuras (towers), ranging in height from 130 to 165 feet, the towers are covered from top to bottom in a breath-taking profusion of multicolour images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures.
Legend has it that the temple was founded by Indra (King of Gods) himself. Every point in the temple has a legend attached to it. While exploring the temple, visit the “Hall of a Thousand Pillars,” with its fascinating study of “human expression” carved on the pillars, the walls and the ceiling. Just outside you will find the “musical pillars,” each emitting a different musical note when struck. Explore the Kambatti Mundapum (yet another hall) containing pillars sculptured with various manifestations of Lord Shiva. The Meenakshi Temple is arguably the preeminent example of South Indian temple architecture, and is also one of India’s most important places of pilgrimage.
Explore the colorful markets of Madurai.
A pleasant boat ride would be a perfect way of observing the wildlife in their natural habitat (Subject to water level) OR guided Nature Walk that takes one through dense deciduous forests and swampy grasslands.
In the afternoon board your private houseboat. An environmentally-friendly vessel unique to Kerala’s placid waterways. Prior to their conversion to passenger boats with all the modern comforts, these traditional craft known as kettuvallom once plied these waters as rice barges. Coir (coconut fiber rope) and resin from cashew kernels, not nails, hold the kettuvallom together – a ship making practice passed down through the centuries.
The uniqueness of Kerala has always been its Backwaters, and no place in the world is blessed with this mesmerizing beauty. It’s the reason; this heaven is called “GOD ‘S OWN COUNTRY!!”
On this comfortable floating home you may spend your day relaxing and unwinding. As you slowly cruise along the backwater canals of the Arabian Sea, you may choose to stop and explore some of the many small villages, farmlands, old temples and churches that you come across.
Overnight Onboard (B, L, D)
Today, we see Indian life up close as we slowly cruise along the palm-fringed backwater canals of the Arabian Sea, a distinctive region whose beauty and tranquility have earned it the sobriquet “God’s own country.” Along the way we go ashore to visit some of the local villages and farms, observing traditional livelihoods such as coir making, boat building, fish farming, rice growing and toddy tapping – the extraction of palm sap for production of palm wine, or toddy. We also see churches in a land synonymous with the very beginnings of Christianity: Saint Thomas the Apostle was said to have made a missionary visit to Kerala in 52 AD; to this day Kerala has a significant Christian minority.
Overnight onboard (B, L, D)
After breakfast, cruise to Thottappalli and check-out. Drive to Kochi and check-in to the hotel.
In the evening, we attend a performance of Kathakali dance, where facial expressions and hand gestures combine with movement to create this highly expressive traditional Kerala art form which depicts great Indian epics. Distinct among the six classical Indian dances, Kathakali is a highly dramatic and mimetic dance depicting various stories from Indian epics. It originated in Kerala during the 17th century and has developed over the years with improved looks, refined gestures and added themes besides more ornate singing and precise drumming.
After breakfast, enjoy a tour of Kochi. Fort Cochin, your first stop, where the Portuguese flag was first hoisted is also believed to be the oldest settlement in India.
Thereafter, visit the St Francis Church, built in 1510 by friars brought to India by Vasco da Gama. The gorgeous view of the ocean from the beach enhanced by the Chinese fishing nets, first erected between 1350 and 1450 AD makes extremely picturesque sight only to be followed by a visit to the Jewish Synagogue (closed to non-Jews on Fridays and Saturdays).
Depart for the Dutch Palace (closed on Fridays) which contains mythological murals and traditional Keralite flooring.
Finally, wrap up your experience with a traditional cooking demonstration and dinner with a local family.
Overnight at Hotel (B, D)
In time check out from your hotel and transfer to the airport to board your onward flight.
Please note: Your room will be available for use till 12 Noon
Price Valid From: October 2018 to September 2019
Price Not Valid From: 20th December 2018 to 10th January 2019