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Day 01 – Arrive Chennai
Arrive Chennai by International flight. Meeting and assistance upon arrival and transfer to the hotel. Overnight at hotel.
Day 02 – Chennai
Morning proceed for the sightseeing of Chennai, “the gateway of South India”. P.M. Visit National Art Gallery and Museum (closed on Fridays) which has a selection of ancient paintings of almost all schools as well as section devoted to modern art, Fort St. George, St. Mary’s Church, Drive along Marina Beach (the second longest in the world) and San Thome Cathedral Basilica rebuilt in 1606 as a cathedral and in 1896 it was made a basilica; and Theosophical Society – the world headquarters of the Theosophical Society formed to encourage the study of comparative religion philosophy and science.
Evening is free for individual activity. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 03 – Chennai – Kanchipuram – Mahabalipuram
Today after early breakfast we will drive to Mahabalipuram (approx. 150kms / 04hours) en-route visiting Kanchipuram. It’s a city of thousand temples and one of the seven sacred cities of Hindus, it was the capital of the early Cholas as far back as the 2nd century BC. Kanchi was a major seat of Tamil learning as well as an important place of pilgrimage for Buddhists, Jains and Hindus. Apart from temples, the city is also famous for its silk weavers, who settled here some 400 years ago and have given it an enviable reputation.
Thereafter proceed to Mahabalipuram, driving south of Chennai on the coast which is the ancient port of Pallavas. Krishna Mandapam has a big bas relief, notable for its realistic representation. The world’s largest bas relief measuring 27m x 9m, whale back shaped rock contains figures of gods, demi-gods, men beasts, birds and representation of the entire creation. Shore Temple, one of the oldest in south dating back to 8th century AD is a good example of the first phase of structural temples constructed in Dravidian style. The Five Rathas are a group of five monolithic temples, each created in different style. Upon arrival, check-in at the hotel and evening is free for relaxation. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 04 – Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry
Today after breakfast we will drive to Pondicherry (approx. 100kms / 02hours). A French colony till 1954, Pondicherry borders the ocean & still has a distinctly French flavor to it with its mediterrain waterfront & cobbled streets.
Upon arrival check-in at the hotel and rest of the day is free to relax at beach, which runs along the city. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 05 – Pondicherry
Morning proceed for the sightseeing of Pondicherry, once a French settlement and now home to the Aurobindo Ashram – It spiritual tenets represent a synthesis of yoga and modern science and Auroville or the City of Dawn, an international settlement where community living is the focus of life. The sphere shaped Matri Mandir a hall of meditation is the splendid center of Auroville. Visit Pondicherry Museum which has an outstanding collection of artifacts. The sculpture gallery is a treasure house of Pallava and Chola art. Evening Relax at the beach, which runs along the city. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 06 – Pondicherry – Chidambaram – Kumbakonam
Today morning after breakfast drive to Kumbakonam (approx. 135kms / 04hours) en-route visiting Chidambaram, the seat of the Cosmic Dancer; dedicated to Lord Nataraja. Spread over an area of 40 acres with a gopuram on each side, the temple is distinguished by the five sabhas or counts. The towering gopurams, the tallest one on the north is 42.5m are carved on it with 108 dance poses of Bharatanatyam.
Thereafter continue your drive to Kumbakonam, one of the oldest towns in Tamil Nadu and is famous for its Mahamaham festival. In the 7th Century it was the Capital of Chola Kings. Kumbakonam, the famous temple town of South India, is picturesquely located amidst the two rivers, Cauvery & Arasalar. Upon arrival, check-in at the hotel and later visit the temple of Kumbakonam.
Late afternoon visit the local market to bring stuff for cooking and try your hand in cooking class under the supervision of our chef. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 07 – Kumbakonam – Thanjavur – Madurai
Today morning after breakfast drive to Madurai (approx. 210kms / 05hours) en-route visiting Thanjavur as it is now called an ancient Chola dynasty town renowned for the Brahadeeswara temple, now a World Heritage monument. Thanjavur is rich in its architecture, exquisite handicrafts, paintings, bronzes and South Indian Musical instruments. Visit the magnificent Brahadeeswara temple, where the shade of the tower (gopuram or vimanam) will not fall on the ground. The second largest monolithic sculpture, Nandi (Bull) can be found in the portal of the shrine. The Royal palace complex houses in important library and museums, including a superb collection of Chola bronzes.
Thereafter continue your drive to Madurai. Madurai, known as Athens of the East, is the second largest city on the banks of the River Vaigai. The city is believed to be more than 2500 years old. The city got its name from the drops of nectar (Mathuram) that fell from Shiva’s lochs when he came to bless its people for constructing a temple for him.
Upon arrival, check-in at the hotel and some free time later in the day to explore local food shops which have real south Indian taste. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 08 – Madurai
After breakfast visit Madurai famous for the Meenakshi Sundereswar temple is the epitome of South Indian temple cities alive and bustling with pilgrims and religious preoccupations. The temple of goddess Meenakshi houses the hall of 1000 musical pillars known for their intricate work.
Late afternoon, we will visit your cooking class home where chef will give you briefing about all the spices used in food. Try your hand in this exciting activity. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 09 – Madurai – Thekkady
Morning drive through the Western Ghats to Thekkady (approx. 155kms / 04hours), a beautiful area of tea gardens, rubber estates and coffee and pepper plantations, located high in the Cardamom hills. Upon arrival check-in at the hotel and relax for a while amidst the comforts of your room.
In the afternoon, visit a spice garden where you will be introduced to different spices and shown how some of the spices are grown. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 10 – Thekkady
This morning our route takes us past rubber plantations and varied spice gardens to Periyar wildlife sanctuary, close to the border with Tamil Nadu. One of 16 tiger reserves in India, Periyar is it is perhaps better known for its elephants. There are about 40 tigers living in this park but, as they are solitary creatures, the chances of seeing them are very slim.
We go for a walk in search of other wildlife such as the wild boar, giant malabar, porcupine and the flying squirrel. The Park itself is made up of a variety of habitats, open grasslands, deciduous, semi-evergreen and tropical forests all of which have different animal species. The ecosystem of the tropical evergreen jungle is very interesting as the trees grow up to 40m, and the dense canopy only allows in limited sunlight. Therefore at ground level, there are abundant ferns, orchid and air plants- plants which need little light to survive.
Later we will head back towards the coast and our homestay for the next two nights. We stay with local families within a village, and local guide will brief you on local customs and traditions. It is a great opportunity to spend time learning about the real life of locals as well as an opportunity to have some delicious home cooked food. The rooms are in traditional Keralan home with mattresses made locally. All rooms are twin sharing and the majority of them have their own attached bathrooms. Bathrooms are basic with a toilet and a simple shower. Overnight at the homestay.
Day 11 – Thekkady (Tour Cooking class or Village walk)
We spend today exploring the village and getting to know our host families and local culture. Enjoy your walk thru the surrounding villages or relax under the tree.
Late afternoon, will be busy for cooking lesson where delicious recipes will be prepared and later enjoy your meal with host family. Overnight at the homestay.
Day 12 – Alleppey & Backwaters village walk
Today after breakfast, we will driving to the coastal town of Alleppey and we head for the canals and channels that make up the Kerala Backwaters.
Later, we will drive on to the village of West Chennamkary in the heart of the Backwaters for a short walk around some of the local villages, soaking up the atmosphere of a region where Arundhati Roy got the inspiration for her book, ‘The God of Small Things’. Afternoon witness whole cooking process and enjoy a traditional Keralan lunch with a local family.
Late afternoon enjoy a traditional houseboat for 02hours through the region in the backwaters of Kerala. A time-honoured form of transport, these wonderfully characterful boats are made of anjili wood and bamboo and come with en-suite twin bedrooms and an on-board chef, providing the perfect way to enjoy the scenic and cultural beauty of this remarkable setting. Along theses narrow channels, the industrious villagers survive on narrow spits of land, keeping cows, pigs, chickens and even cultivating vegetable gardens. Nothing goes to waste: the shells from the fresh water mussels are burnt to make building lime and coir is used for just about everything. This evening we will stay near the banks of Vembanad Lake.
Evening is free for individual activity or relaxation. Overnight at the hotel / homestay.
Day 13 – Alleppey – Kottayam – Cochin
In the morning after breakfast drive to Cochin (approx. 105kms / 03hours) en-route visit Kottayam, a town of ancient churches predating the European missionaries by a thousand years. Thereafter, we will continue your drive to Cochin.
Upon arrival, check-in at your hotel and relax for a while amidst the comforts of your room. In the early evening we see a performance of Kathakali, which is thought by some to be the very essence of the culture of Kerala. Its origins may have come from traditional temple rituals and from an art form known as Koodiyattam. It is the face make up which makes this dancing so unique. The dancers can take up to three hours painting their faces – the features are heavily emphasised as it is the facial expressions and coordinated eye movements which are important in the dance. The dances usually portray events from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, great Indian epics. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 14 – Cochin
Morning after breakfast, visit Fort Kochi which is the oldest European settlement in India (1500), and has a mixture of English, Dutch and Portuguese influence. The Mattancherry Palace was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, but extensive renovations by the Dutch some hundred years later earned it the name the Dutch Palace. It has some of the best murals in India, depicting scenes from the Ramayana and other great legends. On our tour we visit the Jew town synagogue where Kochi’s surviving Jewish community come to worship. Nearby are the interesting cantilevered Chinese Fishing nets. Afternoon is free to explore the local market or individual activities.
In night transfer to the Cochin airport to connect flight for onward destination.
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