South India Tours
Best of South India Tour
Day 01: Arrive Madras (Chennai)
Arrive Madras by international flight. Assistance on arrival and transfer to the hotel.
Day 02: Madras
Afternoon sightseeing tour. Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu, popularly regarded as the 'Gateway to the South' represents a culture that is distinctly different from that of northern India. The places of interest are Kalakshetra, a school of art and music that encourages exponents of Bharatnatyam, Carnatic music, traditional weaving and designing; Fort St. George built in 1653 during British reign in India, - now houses the Secretariat and Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu; St. Mary's Church, the oldest Anglican Church in India with its premises; Sri Parthasarathy Temple built by Pallavas in the 8th century AD; Kapaliswara Temple, Mylapore also an eighth century Pallava Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva; San Thomas 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.
Day 03: Madras - Kanchipuram - Mahabalipuram, 140 km
Morning drive to Kanchipuram. Kanchipuram, 70 kms west of Mahabalipuram, is a city of a thousand temples. One of the seven sacred cities of the 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, settled here some 400 years ago who have given it an enviable reputation. Later proceed to Mahablipuram. Driving south of Madras on the coast lies Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram), the ancient port of the Pallavas. The Pallavas have created many marvelous monuments with sculptural panels, caves, Monolithic Rathas and Temples. 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 India dating back to the 8th century AD is a good example of the first phase of structural temples constructed in Dravidian style. The Five Rathas, a group of five monolithic temples, each created in different style are another attraction. Overnight at the hotel in Covelong.
Day 04: Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry, 135 km
Departure for Pondicherry. Afternoon sightseeing tour of Pondicherry. Although the French influence is gradually fading, Pondicherry retains a few Gallic accents. Pondicherry's main sights are the Rai Nivas, the Sacred Heart Church and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The ashram retreat was founded in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo after whose death the spiritual authority passed to one of his disciples, a French woman known as the Mother. The Mother was also instrumental in founding the city of Dawn Auroville, 10 km from Pondicherry. Its original charter aimed at creating a city of the future where people from India and abroad could live and work together in a spiritual environment.
Day 05: Pondicherry - Tanjore, 175 km
Morning drive to Tanjore visiting enroute temple of Lord Natraja at Chidambaram. On arrival, check-in at the hotel. Afternoon sightseeing tour of Tanjore. The home of Carnatic music, musical instruments, dance and traditional handicrafts, Tanjore (Thanjavur) is famous for the Brahadeeswarar Temple. The temple constructed more than a thousand years ago by the Chola King Raja Rajan is an architect's marvel. The Art Gallery and the Saraswathi Mahal Library are also well known places of interest.
Day 06: Tanjore - Trichy - Madurai, 201 km
Drive to Trichy and on arrival, visit Srirangam. Located on an island 5 kms from Trichy, is Srirangam. Surrounded by the Kaveri river is a 600 acre island town enclosed within the seven walls of the gigantic Sri Ranganathaswami temple. There are no less than 22 gopurams, one of which is the tallest in India. The 72 m high 13-tiered gopuram dominates the landscape for miles around. The Rock Fort situated on the banks of the Kaveri River, Trichy's most famed landmark is an 84 m high rock, one of the oldest in the world aprox. 3,800 million years old. The attraction is not for the fort itself but the temple at the summit. 344 steps hewn out of rock lead to the top where are the inscriptions dating back to the 3rd century B.C. Later drive to Madurai and on arrival, check-in at the hotel where you stay overnight.
Day 07: Madurai
Morning sightseeing tour of Madurai. Known as Athens of the East, Madurai 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 locks when he came to bless its people for constructing a temple for him. Madurai where the people wake up to the chant of hymns is proud of the magnificent Meenakshi-Sundareswara Temple. Of its 12 gopurams, four of the tallest stand at the outer walls of the temple. The 48.8 m high southern gopuram is the most spectacular and has over 1500 sculptures. In the Ashta Shakti Mandapam inside the Meenakshi temple, the sculpted pillars tell the story of the beautiful princess of Madurai and her marriage to Lord Shiva. Afternoon at leisure. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 08: Madurai - Periyar, 160 km
Morning drive to Periyar and on arrival, check-in at the hotel. Periyar sanctuary spread over an area of 777 sq km, has about 35 tigers and leopards. However, sighting a tiger in Periyar is a rare occurrence. The park encompasses a 26 sq km artificial lake and is the home of sambars, wild boars, elephants and antelopes, which can be seen on the banks of the river during a boat cruise. Periyar, otherwise, blessed by Nature has enormous tea, coffee, pepper and cardamom plantations and has lush green hills. Afternoon boat-cruise on Lake Periyar to view wildlife. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 09: Periyar-Kumarakom, 136 km (via Kottayam)
Drive to Kumarakom via Kottayam. Kottayam, 64 kms from Cochin, it is another commercial centre of Kerala. Dotted with churches and covered with rubber plantations, Kottayam is just 16 km away from Kumarakom and Vembanad Lake. To the city's west are delightful backwaters and to its east is the most fertile and scenic part of the Western Ghats having rubber, tea, coffee, pepper and cardamom plantations. On arrival, check-in at the backwater resort. Kumarakom is a beautiful backwater village on the shores of the enchanting Vembanad Lake. Coconut Lagoon is set on an abandoned coconut plantation in the heart of idyllic backwaters. Rest of the day free.
Day 10: Kumarakom - Alleppey - Cochin
Morning backwater cruise for 2-1/2 hours to Alleppey famous for snake boat races, and an intricate network of canals. This district is famous for coir mats and rugs and comes alive during snake boat races organized in January, August and September. Traveling by boat on the backwaters in Kerala is one of the most unique experiences. The boats cross shallow, palm-fringed lakes and travel along narrow shady canals providing glimpses of small settlements on the narrow land, shops, schools and trading on boat, lush green rice fields. These canals are well connected between Kottayam-Alleppey-Changancherry-Quilon and Kumarakom. On arrival, transfer to Cochin (56 km). Rest of the day free. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 11: Cochin
Morning sightseeing tour of Cochin. Cochin, Kerala's commercial center, has a fine natural harbor. Cochin is famous for Mattanchery Palace, St. Francis Church, Wellington Island, Bolghatty Island, Chinese Fishing nets and Jewish Synagogue. Cruising on the backwaters provides glimpses of the rural life, fine view of the harbor and three islands. Afternoon at leisure. Evening witness a Kathakali Dance Show in an auditorium.
Day 12: Cochin - Ooty drive, 280 km
On arrival, transfer to the hotel. Rest of the day free
Day 13: Ooty
Sightseeing tour of Ooty and Conoor. Ooty, is an integral part of the great plateau occupying the junction of the Eastern and Western Ghats. Located at 2240m above sea level, Ooty is the headquarters of the Nilgris district. Apart from coffee and tea plantations, trees like conifers, eucalyptus, pine and wattle dot the hillsides of Ooty and its environs. The places of interest in Ooty include Botanical Gardens where "the summer Festival" is held each year during the month of May. The artificial lake and Dodabetta Peak, which is the highest point in the district at a height of 2623 m are popular attractions. 17 km from Ooty is the first of these hills stations. Coonoor is a small town with an equable climate that has made it popular as hill resort. Tea and Tourism Festival is held here during Dec-Jan. The main attraction is the Sim's Park, a small well maintained botanical garden that has several varieties of plants not to be found in other hill stations.
Day 14: Ooty - Mysore drive, 155 km
On arrival, check-in at the hotel. Afternoon sightseeing tour of Mysore. Mysore, 770 m above sea level, this imperial city was the erstwhile capital of the Wodeyars. The city takes its name from a famous demon called Mahishasur, a great warrior who ruled as a tyrant until he was killed by the goddess Chamundeshwari. Mysore as we see today is most famous for the imposing Royal Palace with a magnificent Durbar Hall, particularly splendid during the Dussehra Festival when the Maharaja's jewellery, studded gold throne (weighing 200 kgs) is on display. Chamundeshwari temple perched on a hilltop is 2000 years old, Nandi Bull half way to the hill is a 4.8 metre monolith. 19 km north-west of Mysore is the KRS Dam and the ornamental Brindavan Gardens. The musical fountains and colorful lights transform this place into a fairyland in the evenings.
Day 15: Myore
Morning visit Somnathpur temple. 45 km from Mysore, the temple, built in 1268 AD is known for its Hoysala architecture. The temple is seated on a star shaped base, set on a chiseled plinth and guarded at intervals by miniature elephants. The temple wall depicts scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagvata Gita. Afternoon at leisure
Day 16: Mysore-Hassan, 150 km
On arrival, check-in at the hotel. Afternoon visit Belur and Halebid. Belur temple took over 103 years to build and is a classic example of the Hoysala style of architecture. It rises like a wedding cake in stone, from a star shaped plinth, one of the hallmarks of Hoysala building design. From the base upwards, there is an extraordinary wealth of decorative detail; every available inch is crammed with intricate carvings. In one frieze, 650 elephants jostle one another in a continuous line. Many of the figures of full bosomed women depicted at Belur are believed to be portraits of King Vishnuvardhana's queen. Halebid - 16 km east of Belur and 27 km from Hassan, the Hoysaleswara Temple dating back to 12th century, is astounding for its wealth of sculptural detail. The walls of the temple are covered with an endless variety of gods and goddesses, animals, birds and dancing girls. Yet no two facets of the temple are the same. The magnificent temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, guarded by a Nandi Bull was never completed despite 86 years of labor. In the inner sanctum, the black lingam, the symbol of Shiva, is still worshipped. The carving at the door is ornate with small details.
Day 17: Hassan-Bangalore-Bombay-Dep.
Drive to Bangalore visiting enroute Sravanbelgola. Said to be the world's tallest monolithic statue the sculpture of Bahubali (Gomateshvara) rises 17 metre high. The statue was built in 981 AD by the sculptor Aristanemi and is most sacred to the Jain Community. On arrival, transfer to the airport for flight to Bombay and your onward connection.