Two Week Tour of South India
Plus Extension: Varanasi OR Taj Mahal in Agra
Arrive in Chennai, formerly known as Madras, the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. You are met in the arrival hall after immigration and baggage collection and transferred to your hotel.
We have a full day excursion including visit of Mylapore area, Madras Museum and Fort St George.
After breakfast proceed 1 ½ hours to Mahabalipuram where you will view stone sculptures and stone temples dating back as far as 7th century, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its fascinating history and architecture. Today will also include a stop at Dakshin Chitra, an exciting, living museum which showcases the art, architecture, craft and cultures of the four southern states. Later, we drive on to Pondicherry.
Pondicherry, with its bougainvillea and leafy boulevards with French names, reveals itself as a French city until it was transferred to India in 1962. Pondicherry is also home to the famous Sri Aurobindo Ashram, founded in 1926, dedicated to the pursuit of a higher spiritual consciousness. Walking tour of the French Quarters and the Tamil Quarters.
After breakfast drive to Thanjavur, the heart of Tamil Nadu en route visit Gangai Konda Cholapuram, Darasuram and Swamminalai.
Visit “great Temple” the Brihadisvara Temple, a world heritage monument. Afternoon visit a village of weavers who spin the lustrous silk textile used to dress gods and goddesses during festivals. Then we will visit the Bronzes Museum.
After breakfast we head to the unusual Ayyanar Temple, set in a grove in the forest. Then we continue to the Chettinad Region, famous for the huge private hawelis and spectacular cuisine. Chettinad, or “Country of the Chettiars” is a lineage of wealthy traders and financiers who serviced British and Southeast Asian businesses. The 73 villages and 2 towns of the region were planned with the same urban grid, with main streets oriented south/north, second streets east/west, and rectangular plots in 1:4 proportion. You will also see water storage lakes organized in a huge network for sustainable agriculture. You will stay in one of Chettinad’s extraordinary 19th c mansions whose wide courtyards and spacious rooms are embellished with marble and teak with furnishings imported from Europe and Asia.
We tour the Chettinad Region, seeing the architecture, Temples, and local crafts.
This morning we drive to ancient Madurai, a city dating from the 3rd century, and one of the larger towns in Tamil Nadu. We will visit the colorful, intriguing Meenakshi Amman Temple, a dazzling mazelike structure that ranks amongst India’s greatest temples.
In the morning we will visit the weaving villages near Madurai that specialize in the simple spun cotton worn by the local people. In the afternoon we will explore the markets surrounding the temple. In the evening we have the option to visit the temple to watch the ritual when Shiva is ceremoniously taken to Minakshi’s sanctuary for the night.
After breakfast we will drive to Munnar, the renowned tea growing region. Set in the Western Ghats mountain range, you will see why this was the favorite summer resort of the British in the colonial days and a favorite honeymoon destination today.
The drive takes us to the tea plantations lying on the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
In the morning we visit the Ervikulam Sanctuary and visit the Tea Museum which traces the history of the area. An afternoon walk through the extensive spice and tea plantations follows.
After breakfast we drive to Alleppey, the start of our tour of the famed Kerala backwaters. The Kerala backwaters is the name for the peaceful and picturesque palm-lined network of lagoons, lakes, rivers, and canals that run inland from the coast of Kerala, from Cochin to Kollam. Alleppey is the main entry point is between Cochin and Kollam. The backwaters are used for transportation, fishing, and agriculture. You will see houses and villages, as well as people bathing, brushing their teeth, and washing their clothes right in the backwaters as you travel along the canals. This region is quite unique!
We will board the houseboat and travel through the canals, stopping at paddy fields and villages.
We will disembark after breakfast and visit the town of Alleppey that at one time was the center of the spice trade. Later we drive 1 ½ hours to Cochin. also known as Kochi. A blending of several small villages created this now major port city, known for Kathakali (traditional dancing), 16th century Portuguese churches and forts, and the unusual Chinese fishing nets dotting the shoreline. Later we drive to Cochin.
Have a full day excursion including a visit to the Mattancherry Palace, Jewish Synagogue, Heritage Zone, St. Francis’ Church, Santa Cruz Cathedral, and learn the fascinating history of this part of India. The tour ends at the Chinese Fishing Nets.
We all transfer to the airport for flights to Delhi. From there you will depart for home or take part in a spectacular add-on to the tour:
VARANASI ON THE RIVER GANGES
AGRA FOR TAJ MAHAL.
EXTENSION TO AGRA/TAJ MAHAL:
First timers in India will almost always need to travel to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, for it is a “bucket list” item in its unbelievable beauty and enchantment and a breathtaking Wonder of the World. We tour extraordinary examples of Mogul architecture. We will view the Taj at sunset from the quiet of the beautiful Mughal Mahtab Bagh Garden. We then have an early morning visit to the Taj Mahal for another chance to absorb your experience of this spellbinding architecture.
EXTENSION TO VARANASI:
Varanasi, the oldest city in the world, is situated in a magical and spiritual spot on the banks of the Ganges River. It is a pilgrimage destination for Hindus who bathe in her holy waters. There are miles of ghats, or steps, that line the riverbank from the hundreds of Hindu temples and shrines that hug the waters. Pilgrims come to the Ganges here to wash away sins in the sacred waters, to cremate their loved ones, or simply to die here, hoping for liberation from the cycle of rebirth.
Itinerary plan subject to adjustments