Start in Chennai (Madras) and end in Kochi (Cochin)! With the in-depth cultural tour South India Explorer - 14 days, you have a 14 day tour package taking you through Chennai (Madras), India and 10 other destinations in India. South India Explorer - 14 days includes accommodation in a hotel as well as an expert guide, meals, transport and more.
Chennai - Mahabalipuram. Saturday. Welcome to Southern India! On arrival at Chennai Airport you?ll be transferred to our hotel in Mahabalipuram, where the rest of the day is at leisure. You may wish to visit the gravity-defying Krishna?s Butterball. This giant boulder is perched precariously at the top of a slope and looks like it could roll down at any moment - yet it has remained here for 1,200 years.
This morning we meet our guide and group for a Welcome meeting at 8:00, then travel to Kanchipuram and discover some of its impressive temples, dedicated to the gods Shiva and Vishnu. We then return to Mahabalipuram for a guided tour of its highlights. Discover the beautiful 7th century Shore Temple, so-named because of its location on the shore of the Bay of Bengal. Continue to the world?s largest bas-relief carving, Arjuna?s Penance and the incredible Five Rathas. This UNESCO-listed site is made up of five different temples, all carved individually from separate rocks. The temples lay hidden under sand until the British rediscovered them 200 years ago.
Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry. Say goodbye to Mahabalipuram this morning as we travel to the French colonial city of Pondicherry. French rule lasted here until 1954 and the influence is still clear in the city?s architecture. Enjoy a tour of highlights including Pondicherry Beach and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram spiritual community. Finally, we explore the striking Sacred Heart Basilica, a famous Christian pilgrimage site.
Pondicherry - Tanjore. Leaving Pondicherry today, we travel to the vibrant city of Tanjore, stopping at several temple sites en route. Discover the impressive Natraja Temple in Chidambaram, one of the oldest temples in Southern India. Later, visit the UNESCO-listed Airavateswara Temple, a popular Hindu pilgrimage destination. On arrival in Tanjore the evening is free to explore at leisure. Perhaps go shopping for Tanjore?s famous authentic bobblehead dolls, which make excellent souvenirs.
Tanjore - Madurai. Enjoy a guided tour of Tanjore today, an ancient fortified town with a glorious history dating back more than 1500 years. Explore highlights including the enormous Brihadishwara Temple. This temple is over 1,000 years old and the dome on top is thought to have been hauled up in a similar way to the construction of the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Later, we drive to Madurai and join an Aarti prayer ceremony at the Meenakshi Temple. The ceremony involves the lighting of candles and songs being sung in praise of the gods.
Enjoy a half day guided tour of Madurai today and take in Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal. This grand palace is known for the giant circular pillars in its courtyard and dates back to the 17th century. We continue to the famous rock cut temple of Thirupparankunram Murugan. According to a famous Hindu legend, this is where Murugan slayed the demon Surapadman. Finally, we return to Meenakshi Temple to appreciate the magnificent site for a second time. We then explore the bustling local bazaar before this evening is at leisure.
In and around TrichyMadurai - Trichy - Kochi. Today we travel to Trichy to explore some more stunning temples, starting with Sri Ranganathaswamy. Located on an island, this is one of the most famous temples in Southern India. We also visit the imposing Rock Fort Temple, perched on a hill overlooking the city. The Pallavas first built a temple here, before the Nayaks recognised its strategic position and transformed it into a fortress. Our final visit is to Sri Jambukeswarar Temple, before we board the night train to Kochi.
On arrival in Kochi this morning you?ll be transferred to our hotel, before the rest of the day is free to explore. You may wish to wander down Princess Street and appreciate the Dutch, Portuguese and British influence on display. This evening we watch an entertaining and traditional Kathakali dance show. Kathakali performers are known for their elaborate costumes and make up and they always put on a fantastic show.
In and around MunnarKochi - Munnar. Enjoy a guided tour of historic Fort Kochi today, the old part of the city. We see the famous Chinese fishing nets and explore narrow, winding streets. Visit St Francis? Church and see the Parsi Synagogue - the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth. After our tour we travel to the picturesque former hill station of Munnar, surrounded by sprawling tea plantations. On day 10 we take a guided stroll through a local tea plantation and visit a local market, before the rest of the day is free to relax as you please. You may wish to visit nearby Blossom Park and enjoy cycling or boating in your stunning surroundings.
In and around AlleppeyMunnar - Alleppey - Keralan backwaters. Today we leave Munnar and take a scenic drive to Alleppey. Here we board our deluxe private rice boat for a voyage through the famous Kerala backwaters. This is a chain of rivers, lakes and lagoons that run parallel to the Arabian Sea and are surrounded by lush forests. We sail past palm trees and local villages, before enjoying sunset and a delicious dinner onboard.
In and around KumarakomKeralan Backwaters - Kumarakom. On the morning of day 12 we disembark our rice boat at Kumarakom - a village spread over a cluster of islands on Lake Vembanad. Enjoy two days relaxing or exploring Kumarakom at leisure. Perhaps take a boat ride on the lake or visit the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. The sanctuary is home to many rare bird species and is an important stopover for migratory birds in the winter (Nov-May).
Kumarakom - Kochi. Friday. Our South India adventure comes to an end today. We travel back to Kochi this morning and there is an included departure transfer to the airport. Please note: Flights from Kochi should depart after 2pm.