Classic South India
15 Days / 14 Nights
Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry - Tiruchirapalli - Chettinadu - Madurai - Periyar - Munnar - Kumarakom - Kochi
A classic two-week trip through South India starting with a sightseeing of the ancient temples of Mamallappuram, visiting several historic and natural sites over your journey in Pondicherry, Tiruchirappalli, Chettinadu, Madurai, Periyar, Munnar, and finally in Kumarakom and Kochi in Kerala.
Our itineraries are suggestions and are fully customisable according to your needs, interests and budget.
Treat these itineraries as inspiration and one of our experts will create your uniquely tailored holiday with your requests in mind so that you can truly experience India with Seven Senses.
Day 1. Arrive Chennai - Mamallapuram (-/-/-)
Meeting and assistance on arrival and transfer from to Mamallapuram.
Mamallapuram dates back to the Tamil Pallava dynasty in the 7th-9th century. The structures here, mostly carved straight out of granite, are among the oldest existing examples of Dravidian (South Indian) architecture. Today's Mamallapuram is purely a tourist town and one of the major attractions around Chennai. The East Coast Road has made it easily accessible - just about an hour from the city.
Check in to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax.
Day 2. Mamallapuram (B/-/-)
Morning sightseeing of the temples of Mamallappuram.
The Shore Temple is the oldest structure in the area, build c. 700 AD, this temple has been here for more than 1400 years. However, unlike Mamallapuram's other monuments, the Shore Temple is a building (not carved from rock) and the bulk of the current structure is a reconstruction after it was struck by a cyclone. It's not particularly large, and the carvings have been badly eroded by the wind and the sea, but this adds to the sense of antiquity. The area around the temple is now a landscaped park, with guards keeping the hordes of souvenir hawkers at bay. A Shiva lingam is enshrined in the central building and the site can get very crowded on weekends.
Five Rathas (Pancha Pandava Rathas). This site contains five rathas, literally chariots, dating from the 7th century. The sculptures are complemented by some enormous stone animals, including a large elephant.
Thirukadalmallai, the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It was also built by Pallava King in order to safeguard the sculptures from the ocean. It is told that after building this temple, the remaining architecture was preserved and was not corroded by sea.
In the afternoon visit the temples of Kanchipuram. Kanchipuram, sometimes called Kanjeevaram or Kanchi, is a small town in Tamil Nadu. One of the most important spiritual centres of Hinduism, and a major pilgrim destination; Kanchipuram has several medieval temples with spectacular architecture. It used to be the capital of the Pallava kingdom from the 4th to the 10th century, and was a centre of learning for all the major religions of South India. Hindu temples are still present and in use today, and there are archaeological remains of Jain temples.
Day 3. Mamallapuram - Pondicherry (B/-/-)
Morning drive along the coastal road to Pondicherry. Though very small, Pondicherry was the largest French colony in India. The city has a long and interesting history of trade and war. There is a strong French influence in the city, especially in the old quarters, with Rues and Boulevards lined with Mediterranean style houses and bakeries, although the city remains very much Indian. French is still understood, and the whole city makes for rather pleasant mix of East and West. It is also known as The French Riviera of the East (La Côte d'Azur de l'Est). If you've spent some time in Tamil Nadu and approached Pondicherry by land, you'll very likely experience mild culture shock on discovering French architecture and restaurants serving steak and good wine. Pondicherry is very much a city with a dual personality: crossing from East to West of the central canal reveals two cities with very different characters.
Afternoon visit Auroville. Auroville was a vision of The Mother from Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry. She envisioned a town where unity will be celebrated and all will have a spiritual vocation.
Approximately 2200 people from 43 different countries live in the city. Although the official langage of Tamil Nadu is Tamil, the official local languages of Auroville are English, Tamil, French and Sanskrit. Tamil is the dominant language spoken at home, followed by French and German. English is the lingua franca. There are a lot of activities in Auroville like Yoga, Tai-Chi, Watsu, different kinds of alternative healing and courses. The variety is wider during the visitors' season (December to March), such as attending the classical Indian dance performances of young virtuosos organized by Auroville Cultural Exchange. Kottakarai Organic Food Processing Unit is a small little shop that makes things like cookies and pasta from local and organic ingredients in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It is located next to Ganesh Bakery, a cafe/restaurant that is popular with tourists.
Later we will visit Aurobindo Ashram. The Ashram, according to Sri Aurobindo, “has been created with another object than that ordinarily common to such institutions, not for the renunciation of the world but as a centre and a field of practice for the evolution of another kind and form of life which would in the final end be moved by a higher spiritual consciousness and embody a greater life of the spirit.”
And later in the day visit a handmade paper factory.
Day 4. Pondicherry - Tiruchirappalli (B/-/-)
In the morning we will drive to Tiruchirapalli. En route visit the Lord Shiva Temple at Chidambaram.
Chidambaram Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in the heart of the temple town of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu). The temple lies 78 km south of Pondicherry.
Chidambaram is one of the five holiest Shiva temples, each representing one of the five natural elements; Chidambaram represents akasha (aether). The other four temples in this category are: Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara, Trichy (water), Kanchi Ekambareswara, Kanchipuram (earth), Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara, Thiruvanna malai (fire), and Kalahasti Nathar, Kalahasti (wind).
The temple complex spread over 50 acres in the heart of the city. It is an ancient and historic temple dedicated to Lord Shiva Nataraja and Lord Govindaraja Perumal, one of the few temples where both the Shaivite and Vaishnavite deities are enshrined in one place. To the followers of Shaivism (Saivism) or the saivaite, the very word koil refers to Chidambaram. In the same way, to the followers of Vaishnavism it refers to Srirangam or Thiruvarangam. There have been several renovations in its history, particularly during the days of Pallava/Chola emperors in ancient and pre-medieval periods.
Later continue to Tiruchirapalli. Trichy is an ancient city of South India and it was capital of Chola and Naicka kings for many centuries, having historical background. The battle between British (East India Company) & French with the help of locals, decided the beginnings of the British empire in the southern part of India.
Day 5. Tiruchirappalli (B/-/-)
After breakfast visit the Rockfort Temple. One can feel the icy chill of the wind when getting to the top of the rock (The temple is housed on the top of a famous rock-88 metres high). One also gets a splendid view of the city and the Cauvery river from the top. Enjoy a bird's eye view of Trichy, SriRangam, Cauvery and its surroundings in the morning - a must-visit place for anyone in South India.
Next, visit Srirangam Temple. Temple for the sleeping form of Lord Vishnu - this temple is considred the foremost temple of Lord Vishnu for Vaishnavites. One must see this temple for its history, architectural beauty and for it's religious value. Non-Hindus can only go up to the sixth wall but not inside the gold topped sanctum sanctorum. The body of the Hindu saint Ramanuja has been preserved since 1000 years inside this temple.
In the afternoon visit visit Thanjavur , visit the Brihadeshwara Temple, Rajaraj Museum and Nayak Darbar.
Day 6. Tiruchirapalli - Chettinadu (B/-/-)
In the morning, after breakfast drive to Chettinadu.
The Chettinadu region is well known for its 19th-century mansions, whose wide courtyards and spacious rooms are embellished with marble and teak. Construction materials, decorative items and furnishings were mostly imported from East Asian countries and Europe. The marble was brought from Italy, chandeliers and teak from Burma, crockery from Indonesia, crystals from Europe and wall-to-wall mirrors from Belgium.
Many of these mansions were built using a type of limestone known as karai. Local legend has it that the mansion walls were polished with a paste made out of egg whites to give them a smooth texture.
Afternoon short city tour, visit the different styles of palatial houses in Chettinadu.
Day 7. Chettinadu - Madurai (B/-/-)
In the morning, after breakfast drive to Madurai.
Located on the banks of the river Vaigai, Madurai has been a major settlement for two millennia and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. This city was the capital of the Pandyan kingdom - initially at Korkai, around 600 BC and later moved to Koodal (the present Madurai) during the reign of Nedunj Cheliyan I.
Madurai is famous for its temples built by Pandyan and Madurai Nayak kings in the Dravidian style of architecture. It is also one of India's most outstanding Hindu pilgrimage centres. Madurai is also called City of Junctions (Koodal nagaram), City of Jasmine (Malligai maanagar), Temple city (Koil maanagar), City that never sleeps (Thoonga nagaram) and City of four junctions (Naanmada koodal).
Madurai is famous for the Chithrai Festival which takes place during mid April-May, during the Hindu month of Chithrai, when millions pour into the city for the carnival.
In the evening attend the Aarti Ceremony at Meenakashi Temple. The traditional ceremony symbolizes the delivery of Shiva, the consort of Goddess Durga, in a torchlight procession with drums and shehnai, an instrument that is thought to bring good luck. Enjoy a tuk-tuk ride from the car park to the temple.
Day 8. Madurai (B/-/-)
In the morning visit Meeenakashi Temple. The complex itself is a splendid example of the south Indian Dravida architectural idiom. Four immense gopurams or temple towers crown the gateways at each cardinal direction, easily visible from a distance. Each tower is encrusted with more than a thousand brilliantly painted sculptures depicting an assortment of mythological and auspicious themes. It is traditional to enter through the south gopuram and, unusually, worship the Goddess before her consort.
Continue to Tirumalai Nayak palace. The remains of the palace of the 17th century ruler Thirumalai Nayak who contributed extensively to the Meenakshi Temple. Only a small portion of the original structure which was four times larger remains. There were originally two parts -Swargavilasa heavenly pavilion, meant for the King's harem and housing the darbar court, and the ranka vilasa, which was for his brother.
Day 9. Madurai - Periyar (B/-/-)
Morning drive to Periyar.
In the afternoon guided nature walk in Periyar National Park. Periyar has a lot to offer you in nature and wildlife. The dense forests of Periyar are home to many species of plants and you will be amused by the rich bio-diversity of this region.
Day 10. Periyar - Munnar (B/-/-)
In the morning visit a spice plantation. Afterwards drive to Munnar. A hill station and former resort for the British
Raj elite, it's surrounded by rolling hills dotted with tea plantations established in the late 19th century.
In the afternoon, visit a Tea Museum & Tea Plantation in Munnar.
Day 11. Munnar – Kumarakom (B/-/-)
Morning drive to Kumarakom. After arrival, relax at the hotel.
Situated in the Kottayam district of Kerala, which is already known for its lush greenery, this exotic backwater village adds more than a sparkle to it. The landscape basically consists of a cluster of island villages in and around the large "Vembanad Kayal" backwater body (which is also, incidentally the largest in Kerala), with a plethora of branched bodies all lined by beautiful, thick, lush and peaceful greenery. A large number of coconut trees line the horizon to add the perfect tropical touch to the landscape. With the onset of the monsoon rains, some time around June, the little streams and lagoons break their flow beds and irrigate the fertile land to an overwhelming cover of green. Shrubs, grass and bushes cover every available inch of land to provide a fantastic treat to the eyes with the morning dew and surface mist on the water bodies, spotted in colors with blooms of algae and lillies.
The modern history of this exotic backwater village started with the arrival of the English farmer Alfred George Baker in 1847. He reclaimed 500 acres of Vembanad Lake and made garden land and paddy fields. He built the Baker House (also known as the History House). Mr Baker was the beloved Kari Saipu (possibly an elision from Baker Sahib) of the locals. Four generations of Bakers lived in the house until 1962. It is reported that they spoke Malayalam, the local language, and even wore the "mundu", which is the traditional formal wear of the people of Kerala (a plain white dhoti, with golden silk lining). The Baker Memorial School in Kottayam, was started around 1825, by members of the same family. The Baker House itself was in ruins, until it was taken over by the Taj Group and restored into a luxury heritage hotel.
Day 12. Kumarakom (B/-/-)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Day at leisure. In the evening, backwater cruise on Vemanad Lake by motor boat.
Day 13. Kumarakom - Kochi (B/-/-)
Breakfast at the hotel. Later, drive to Kochi.
Afternoon city tour of Kochi. Begin your exploration with a walking tour that takes you around Fort Kochi, the most historic part of Cochin. Your walking tour shows you the church of St Francis, the oldest European-built church in India. Continue to the Jewish Quarter where you visit the historic synagogue (closed on Friday & Saturday). Also visit Mattancherry (closed on Fridays). It was built in 1555 and its coronation hall and the murals painted are noteworthy features. The next stop will be to view the Chinese fishing nets strung out along the tip of the peninsula. These are used by local fisherman. In the evening witness the Kathakali performance.
Day 14. Kochi (B/-/-)
Full day at leisure.
Enjoy your time at the pool in your hotel or you can enjoy some last minute shopping in Kochi.
Day 15. Departure (B/-/-)
Transfer to the airport according to your flight schedule for your flight back to the UK.
The itinerary may be subject to change depending on circumstances.
15 DAYS / 14 NIGHTS FROM £1,685 per person
based on 2 people travelling together
The price includes:
Domestic flights and train tickets according to the itinerary.
Medium range hotel accommodation on a twin-shared basis with breakfast.
Quality private air-con vehicles & experienced drivers for all transfers and sightseeing.
Experienced English-speaking local guides throughout the tour.
Entrance fees for all listed attractions.
The price does not include:
Return flights from the UK to India
Anything not specifically mentioned above
Visa fee for India
Tips to the guide and driver
Personal costs such as drinks, laundry, etc.
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