Explore attractive temples, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, architectural marvels and the rich culture of Tamil Nadu, along with the best that “God’s Own Country”, Kerala has to offer, such as the serene backwaters, ayurvedic therapies and exoticwildlife on our Best of South India tour over 15 days.
Arrive late evening at Chennai International airport. You will be met by our representative outside the customs gate and escorted to your hotel.
This morning enjoy a half day guided tour of Chennai. Chennai is the cultural centre of South India. Capital of the modern state of Tamil Nadu, it is the fourth largest city in India as well as the heart of the South Indian film industry (Tollywood). Begin your tour by visiting Fort St. George. Built around 1653 by the British, it occupies a place of pride and prominence in Chennai. The State Legislature and the Secretariat are located inside this fort. Visit the Fort Museum which hosts a fascinating collection of memorabilia from the days of the British Raj. The tour ends at Kapaleeswarar Temple, an ancient Shiva temple in Mylapore constructed in pure Dravidian style (Please note: Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple premises). After the visits, proceed to Mahabalipuram on the coast of Coromandel.
This morning, drive to the impressive temple town of Kanchipuram. Known as the Golden City of a Thousand Temples, it is one of the oldest towns in India and is famous for both its temples and hand-woven silks. The prominent temples of Kanchipuram include Ekambareshwar and Kamakshi. Late afternoon, drive to Mahabalipuram. Cave temples, rock temples, "chariot" temples, and 7th and 8th century reliefs are carved into the golden stone of the Coromandel Coast have made Mahabalipuram an astonishing UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This morning, visit the Mahabalipuram temple complex. A small seaside village, it was once the main port of the Pallava Dynasty between the 5th and 9th centuries. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Mahabalipuram boasts some of India’s most sublime rock-cut art. Later, drive to Pondicherry. The French ruled this area for 300 years, and today, Pondicherry stands as a living monument of French culture in India. Being a small and quiet enclave of Tamil Nadu, it has imbibed the Tamilian culture. Upon arrival, check-in to your hotel.
In the afternoon, enjoy a sightseeing tour of Pondicherry. Begin your tour with a visit to Aurobindo Ashram. Although the Ashram is secluded from the world, it forms a vibrant centre of life in a modern urban setting. Continue to the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, noted for its Gothic architecture and stained glass panels which depict the entire life of Jesus Christ. Enjoy a walking tour in the old streets. The area retains the French influence with even a few Gallic accents. Later visit Auroville or the ‘City of Dawn’ which was conceived as a place of research into the ideal of human unity by the Mother, the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo.
This morning drive to Tanjore. En route visit the 9th century Shiva Temple at Chidambaram. Chidambaram is one of the most ancient and celebrated shrines in India. Also visit Gangaikondacholapuram and Darsuram Temples at Kumbakonam, famous for their Chola architectural style. Arrive in Tanjore by late afternoon and check-in to your hotel. Located on the eastern coast of central Tamil Nadu, Tanjore has the distinction of having been the capital of the Cholas, one of the greatest dynasties of the South. Tanjore bears witness to this, being dotted with no fewer than 74 temples, the most famous of which is the Brihadeshwara temple, a World Heritage monument.
This morning, enjoy a sightseeing tour of Tanjore. Visit the Sri Brihadeshwara Temple built by the great Chola king, Raja Raja I in the 10th century. This World Heritage temple is an outstanding example of Chola architecture. Continue to Tanjore Palace, a vast structure built partly by the Nayaks and partly by the Marathas around 1550 AD. In the afternoon, enjoy an excursion to Trichy. Trichy is a blend of history, a pilgrim site and a thriving commercial city. Situated on the banks of the Cauvery River, it was a Chola citadel during the Sangam Age and was also briefly ruled by the Pallavas and the Pandyas. Visit Trichy's main attraction, the Rock Fort Temple. The fort is the centre of the city and is a remarkable structure that dominates the landscape. Continue to Srirangam, famous for the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple which is one of the largest temple complexes in India. Return to Tanjore in the evening.
This morning drive to Chettinad, famous for its fortress-like homes and temples that are architectural marvels. Arrive in Chettinad and check-in at your hotel. Later in the afternoon enjoy an orientation tour of the city. Visit Chettinadu Mansion, a 100-year-old architectural marvel situated in a quaint little village called Kanadukathan. Following your mansion tour, enjoy a tile making demonstration. The tour ends with a visit to the antiques street.
This morning drive to Madurai. Tucked snugly into the banks of the sacred Vaigai River, Madurai is the oldest city in Tamil Nadu and is a destination for thousands of pilgrims. Upon arrival, check-in to your hotel. Late afternoon, your tour begins with a visit to the beautiful Meenakshi Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Meenakshi. Its enormous domes covered with brightly coloured statues dominate the landscape and are visible from all over Madurai. Continue to the Palace of Thirumalai Nayak, an Indo-Saracenic building constructed in 1523. There is no other building in Madurai which can better illustrate the architectural style of the Nayaks. In the evening, revisit the Meenakshi Temple to witness the evening prayer ceremony.
This morning drive to Periyar. One of the world's most fascinating natural wildlife reserves, Periyar National Park is spread across 777 sq km. It was declared a tiger reserve in 1978 and attracts visitors from all over the world. The splendid artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar dam across the Periyar River adds to the charm of the park. 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 is the herds of wild elephants. Arrive in Periyar by afternoon and check-in at your hotel. In the afternoon enjoy a boat ride on Lake Periyar. Cruise around taking in the cool surroundings and the panorama. The lake spreads around tropical jungles where one can see wild elephants, Indian gaur, monkeys, spotted deer, barking deer, wild boar and birds of myriad varieties.
This morning drive to Kumarakom, an enchanting backwater destination located on the picturesque Vembanad Lake. The blue backwaters and the surface of the lake reflect the azure sky, contrasting with the amazing shades of green of the mangroves, coconut palms and paddy fields that cover the verdant countryside. Arrive in Kumarakom and check-in at your hotel. Rest of the day will be at leisure.
Day will be spent at leisure. You will have the option to enjoy Ayurvedic/spa therapies or choose from different activities available at the hotel. Ayurveda is the art of healthy living that enables you to create harmony in your daily life by applying self-knowledge and self-care. The word comes from the Sanskrit language and literally means Science of Life. It is an ancient art of healing that has been practiced continuously throughout Kerala for over 5,000 years. Ayurveda is probably the oldest authentically recorded healing science in existence today and includes yoga philosophy and integration of the body, mind and consciousness.
Late morning embark on the houseboat from your hotel jetty for a cruise on the backwaters.
The rice boats are traditionally known as Kettuvallom which means 'boat with knots'. The entire boat is held together with coir knots only, not a single nail is used during the construction. Kettuvallom were formerly used for the transport of goods like rice, spices and coir from the isolated villages of the interior to the towns. A houseboat cruise on the backwaters is a truly unique experience. You will be awed at the vast expanse of paddy fields that surrounds these beautiful backwaters and the boat will stop at villages giving you an opportunity to glimpse village life in rural Kerala.
This morning disembark at Alleppey and drive to Kochi. Kochi, formerly known as Cochin, is a fascinating city on the north Kerala coast and is now one of India’s largest ports and an important naval base. Arrive in Kochi and check-in at your hotel. In the afternoon, enjoy an orientation tour of Kochi. Begin your exploration with a walking tour that takes you around Fort Kochi, the city’s most historic part. Begin with the church of St Francis, the oldest European-built church in India. Continue to the Jewish Quarter where you visit the historic synagogue, built over 400 years ago. It contains beautiful Belgian glass chandeliers and is paved with hand painted tiles from China. Also visit The Dutch Palace at Mattancherry. Built in 1555, its coronation hall and painted murals are noteworthy features.
Enjoy a day at leisure in Kochi for a personal exploration of Fort Cochin, antique and spices shopping, In the late afternoon. enjoy a Kathakali dance performance at a local theatre. The most spectacular form of dance in India, the origins of Kathakali go back 500 years. Before the show you will have a chance to attend the make-up session of the actors.
In the morning you will be escorted to the International Airport by our representative who will assist with departure formalities for your return flight.