Embark on a captivating journey through South India, where tradition meets history and natural beauty unfolds at every turn. Your adventure begins in Chennai, a city that showcases India’s rich cultural tapestry. Experience the grandeur of Mahabalipuram’s rock-cut temples and the artistic haven of Dakshinachitra. Venture to the coastal charm of Pondicherry, where French influence merges seamlessly with Indian heritage.
Continue to Tanjore, a treasure trove of ancient temples, including the awe-inspiring Brihadeeswara Temple. Immerse yourself in Madurai’s vibrant atmosphere, where the Meenakshi Temple stands as an architectural marvel. Traverse the wilderness of Periyar National Park, home to diverse wildlife. Glide through the picturesque backwaters of Alleppey on a houseboat, savoring the tranquil beauty of the region.
Conclude your journey in the serene beaches of Kovalam, with the option to explore Kanyakumari’s unique allure. Your voyage culminates in the vibrant city of Cochin, where history and cultural performances await, leaving you with cherished memories of an enchanting South Indian odyssey.
Duration: 13 Days / 12 Nights
Places: Chennai > KanchiPuram > Dakshinchitra > Mahabalipuram > Pondicherry > Chidambaram > Thanjore > Trichy > Madurai > Periyar > Alleppey > Kovalam > Cochin
Chennai: Chennai, the gateway to South India, welcomes you with a blend of tradition and modernity. From historical landmarks like Fort St. George to bustling markets and serene beaches, the city offers a glimpse into India’s diverse culture.
Mahabalipuram: This coastal town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stunning rock-cut temples and intricate carvings. Arjuna’s Penance, the Shore Temple, and the Five Rathas are some of the architectural marvels that transport you to ancient times.
Pondicherry: The French Riviera of the East, Pondicherry, enchants with its unique blend of French and Indian influences. Stroll through charming streets, visit Auroville Ashram, and relax on its tranquil beaches.
Tanjore (Thanjavur): Known for its rich cultural heritage, Tanjore boasts the iconic Brihadeeswara Temple, a masterpiece of Dravidian architecture. The ornate temple and the Royal Palace complex offer insights into the region’s history and art.
Madurai: Often referred to as the Athens of the East, Madurai is centered around the Meenakshi Temple, a marvel adorned with intricately carved sculptures. The city’s bustling markets, vibrant streets, and cultural heritage make it a unique destination.
Periyar National Park: Set amidst the Western Ghats, this wildlife sanctuary offers a chance to explore the lush landscapes and spot diverse wildlife, including elephants and birds, on a boat ride along the picturesque Periyar Lake.
Alleppey: Known as the Venice of the East, Alleppey offers a serene experience as you cruise through its intricate network of canals, backwaters, and lagoons on a traditional houseboat.
Kovalam: This coastal paradise is characterized by its pristine beaches and relaxed ambiance. Kovalam offers opportunities to unwind and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Arabian Sea.
Cochin (Kochi): A melting pot of cultures, Cochin boasts historical sites like St. Francis Church and the Dutch Palace. The city’s vibrant arts scene and the enchanting Kathakali dance performance add to its charm.
Each destination on this tour presents a unique facet of South India’s heritage, architecture, nature, and traditions, ensuring an enriching and unforgettable journey.
Detailed Tour Plan
DAY 1 – ARRIVE CHENNAI
Welcome to India – a country where hospitality is a way of life; to a culture steeped in tradition, a land where history lives in music and dance.
DAY 2 – CHENNAI, KANCHIPURAM, DAKSHINCHITRA, MAHABALIPURAM
Morning after breakfast you will proceed to Mahabalipuram.
En route visit the city of Kanchipuram covering Kailasanatha Temple (Dedicated to Siva, Kailasanatha is one of the earliest temples. It was built by the Pallava king, Rayasimha, in the late 7th century, though its front was added later by his son, King Varman III. It is the only temple at Kanchi which isn’t cluttered with the more recent additions of the Cholas and Vijayanagar rulers, and so reflects the freshness and simplicity of early Dravidian architecture) and The Sri Ekambarnathar Temple (It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the largest temples in Kanchipuram, covering nine hectares. Its 59 m high gopuram and massive outer stone wall were constructed in 1509 by Krishna Devaraja of the Vijayananagar Empire, though construction was originally started by the Pallavas and the temple was later extended by the Cholas. Inside are five separates enclosures and a 1000- pillared hall. The temple’s name is said to be a modified form of Eka Amra Nathar — the Lord of the Mango tree. and in one of the enclosure is a very old mango tree with four branches representing the four Vedas. The fruit of each of the four branches is said to have a different taste, and a plaque nearby claims that the tree is 3500 years old).
Post lunch drive down to Dakshinachitra (Roughly translated in this context, means ‘Picture of South India’. It is a depiction of the way of life prevalent in South India. A trip down Dakshinachitra takes you back to traditional home architecture from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Started with the objective to revive, preserve and promote the arts and crafts of South India, it also serves as heritage education for visitors from outside South India and also for children who have never had the opportunity to experience their culture).
Arrive Mahabalipuram in the evening and check-in at your hotel for overnight stay.
DAY 3 MAHABALIPURAM, PONDICHERRY
Morning after breakfast you will proceed for a sightseeing of Mahabalipuram.
Pay a visit to Arjuna’s Penance (Carved in relief on the face of a huge rock, Arjuna’s Penance is the mythical story of the River Ganges issuing from its source high in the Himalaya . The panel depicts animals, deities and other semi-divine creatures, fable from the Panchatantra, and Arjuna doing a penance to obtain a boon from Siva.
The Shore Temple (This beautiful and romantic temple, ravaged by wind and sea, represents the final phase of Pallavas art and was built in the late 7th century during the reign of Rajasimha. It is believed that at one point in time there were seven such temples, six of them were victims to the natural elements of erosion. This temple has three shrines; one dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the other two to Lord Shiva. The frothy waves form a striking backdrop to the temple, protected by rows of rock-carved bulls. The most unique feature of the temple is that it houses shrines to both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu), Krishna Mandapam (There are eight mandapams ( shallow, rock-cut halls ) scattered over the main hill, two of which have been left unfinished. they are mainly of interest for their internal figure sculptures.
One of the earliest rock-cut temples is the Krishna Mandapam. It features carvings of a pastoral scene showing Krishna lifting up the Govardhana mountain to protect his kinsfolk from the wrath of Indra.
On the hill rests a dangerously balanced boulder named Krishna’s Butterball after his legendary affinity for fresh butter) and Five Rathas (These are the architectural prototypes of all Dravidian temples, demonstrating the imposing gopurams and vimanas, multi pillared halls and sculptured walls which dominate the landscape of Tamil Nadu).
Post sightseeing drive down to Pondicherry (Pondicherry was a French colony at one time but in 1954 it was restored to India by the French. Neat & charming, Pondicherry has a beautiful beach & a refreshing sea).
Arrive and check-in at your hotel.
Afternoon to explore Pondicherry. On the eastern side of Indian peninsula, Pondicherry is a seaside resort. But at the same time it differs very much from a typical beach resort. Tourist attractions in Pondicherry lie in its ambience. Old French style buildings, churches and museums, tree-lined boulevards along the seashore would remind you of a bygone era.
The laidback township, pristine beach and the palm trees swaying in breeze bring a slice of serenity. The only sound you can hear is the waves crashing against the rocks and the chirping of the birds.
But to cap it all, the Auroville Ashram is the biggest of all tourist attractions in Pondicherry. Just because of it, the destination of Pondicherry exudes a spiritual aura. For the weary soul, this is an ideal retreat. Any evening head for the Ashram, meditate, soothe the battered psyche.
DAY 4 PONDICHERRY, CHIDAMBARAM, THANJORE
Morning after breakfast visit Pondicherry.
The places of attraction are Sri Aurobindo Ashram (Where Sri Aurobindo and the Mother lived for the most parts of their lives, attracts tourists to this little city), The Pondicherry Museum (Is home to some of the most exquisite collections on architecture and sculpture). Another interesting site in Pondicherry could be the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Pondicherry also has a pleasant beach alongside promenade and historical monuments.
Post sightseeing dirve down to Thanjore.
En route visit Chidambaram covering The Nataraja Temple (Located in centre of the town, it is one of the most ancient temples of Tamil Nadu. The top roof of the sanctrum is covered with gold plates and strings. The presiding deity of the temple is representative of air, one of the five elements of the universe, and is known as ‘Akasa Lingam’. There is a shrine known as Chitrakootam dedicated to lord Govindarajan adjacent to the Nataraja shrine.
There are five halls in the temples – Nritha Sabha is the Hall of Immortal Dance. This sabha has fifty pillars depicting dancing figures. Here, the stone pulsates with rhythm and life. Deva sabha is the hall of festivals and meeting place of the administrators. The Raja sabha is the 1000 pillars-hall measuring 103 meters and 58 meters wide where the Pandya, the Cholas and others celebrated their victories) and The Kali Temple.
Arrive Thanjavur in the afternoon and check-in at the hotel for overnight stay.
DAY 5 THANJORE, TRICHY, MADURAI
Morning after breakfast you will proceed for a tour of Tanjore City.
Pay a visit to The Brihadeeswara Temple (The Brihadeeswara Temple is the main attraction of Tanjore. The massive temple built by Rajaraja Chola reflects the Cholas’ contribution to the development of arts in this area. It is also regarded as the Chola dynasty’s finest contribution to the Dravidian temple architecture. Listed as a World Heritage site, the temple is visited by a large number of people for the regular worship here. The temple is characterized by its unique structure.
Unlike the usual South Indian temples, the Brihadeeswara temple has a soaring vimana and a stunted gopuram. It was constructed from a single piece of granite weighing an estimated 80 tonnes and the dome was hauled into place along a 4-km earthwork ramp in a manner similar to the Egyptian pyramids. A huge Nandi, about 6 m long and 3.7 m high, faces the inner sanctum. The statue of Nandi was created from a single rock piece and weighs 25 tonnes. It is in fact one of the largest statues of Nandi bulls in India) and The Palace (The Palace of Tanjore also makes an important tourist destination.
The royal Palace near the massive Brihadeeswara temple is characterized by its vast corridors, large halls, shady courtyards and observation and arsenal towers. Built by the Nayaks in the mid-16th century, the Palace was completed by the Marathas. The Durbar Hall of the palace still retains the grandeur of the bygone era. The palace also functions as a Royal Museum housing a diverse collection of royal remnants, compilations of the early 19th century, the king’s slippers, head dresses and hunting tools).
Post sightseeing drive down to Madurai while visiting Trichy en route.
Pay a visit to The spectacular Rock Fort Temple (The landmark of the city, is on the shores of the Kaveri. It is perched on a massive rocky outcrop at an altitude of 83 m above sea level.
The Thayumanaswamy Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva (the destroyer in the Hindu trinity), is situated halfway to the top. It has a 100-pillar hall and a Vimana covered with gold. On the southern face of the rock are several beautifully carved rock-cut cave temples of the Pallava period)
The Jambukeshwara Temple (Dedicated to Lord Shiva, is situated just 2 km east of Srirangam and houses five concentric walls and seven gopurams. Legend has it that an elephant once worshiped the Lord under the holy Jambu tree, and hence the name Jambukeshwara. The principal deity is the Shiva lingam, almost submerged in water, which flows from the subterranean spring in the sanctum.
Arrive Madurai in the afternoon and check-in at the hotel for overnight stay.
DAY 6 MADURAI
Morning after breakfast, we will take you for a city tour of Madurai covering Meenakshi Temple (This temple is the city’s main attraction.
This temple is nearly 2000 years old placed in the heart of the old town – a splendid example of Dravidian architecture. The present temple was designed in 1560 by Vishwanatha Nayak and subsequently built during the reign of Tirumalai Nayak. There are four entrances to the temple with an area of six hectares. Each of its 12 towers has the height of 45 to 50 meters. The Potrama Raikulam or the Golden Lotus Tank is the place where the Tamil literacy society, called Sangam used to meet to decide the merits of the work presented to them.
The temple museum has 985 richly carved pillars and each one surpasses the other in beauty) and Tirumalay Nayak Mahal (This Indo-Saracenic building was constructed in 1523 and was originally four times large are today).
Also enjoy a rickshaw ride during your sightseeing. Evening witness aarti ceremony at Meenakshi Temple and then back to hotel for overnight stay.
DAY 7 – MADURAI , PERIYAR
Morning after breakfast proceed to Periyar. Upon arrival, check-in at the hotel.
Afternoon proceed for a boat ride in Periyar National Park (Thekkady – The very sound of the name conjures up images of elephants, unending chains of hill and spice scented plantations. Here, in the crisp, cool air of the Western Ghats you will experience the most enchanting holiday. With the animals of the wild and the simple mountain people.
In the Periyar forest of Thekkady is one of the finest wildlife reserves in India, and spread across the entire district are picturesque plantations and hill towns that hold great opportunities for treks and mountain walks.
Notable among the denizens of Periyar are the tigers, the majestic Asiatic wild elephants and the distinctive Nilgiri langur with an all black body and white face. Other creatures include wild boar, wild dog, bison, bear and leopards. Amongst the avifauna, the most profuse are herons, egrets, darters, kingfishers and the great Malabar grey hornbill.
Evening back to the hotel for overnight stay.
DAY 8 – PERIYAR
Morning after breakfast drive down to Allepey – a town in Alappuzha Dirstrict full of picturesque canals, backwaters, beaches, and lagoons..
Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala with the unending stretch of paddy fields, small streams and canals with lush green coconut palms , was well known even from the early periods of the Sangam age. History says Alappuzha had trade relations with ancient Greece and Rome in B.C and in the Middle Ages, as well as with other parts of India.
Upon arrival, take your House Boat for an Overnight Round Cruise of Allepey (The sweeping network of canals honey-combing the town of Alleppey (Alappuzha) has earned for the place its sobriquet – “The Venice of the East”. Small, low-slung country boats are the taxis of this waterland.
DAY 9 – ALLEPPEY, KOVALAM
Morning after breakfast drive to Kovalam
Day at leisure.
Overnight at the Hotel.
DAY 10 and 11 – KOVALAM
Day at leisure. Relax by the beach or go for a full day excursion to Kanyakumari.
Overnight at the Hotel.
DAY12 – KOVALAM, COCHIN
Morning after breakfast drive to Cochin. On arrival check in at the Hotel.
Later in the evening, enjoy a performance of the highly ritualized “Kathakali” dance which tells stories from the ancient Hindu epics – Ramayana and Mahabarata. Performances begin with the application of elaborate makeup which is based in traditional Ayurvedic principles.
Overnight at the Hotel.
DAY13 – COCHIN, DEPART
Morning a guided tour of the city covering St. Francis Church (St. Francis Church was originally named as Santo Antonio. It is the first church to have been built in the new European influenced style and tradition. The original wooden building of 1510 was soon replaced by the present building around 1546.
Vasco da Gama died here in 1524 and was originally buried in the church, fourteen years later his body was removed back to Portugal. The church has an impressive facade. Inside the chancel is separated from the nave by a plain arch. The use of the arch is in sharp contrast to traditional Indian use of flat overlapping slabs or corbelling, a bit like Trinity Church, Bangalore.
The Mattancherry Palace or “Dutch Palace” (Also known as Dutch Palace, the Mattancherry palace with its medieval charm is situated at Palace Road, Mattancherry, 10km from Ernakulam city, Kochi, Kerala. Built by the Portuguese and presented to the Raja of Kochi Veera Kerala Varma (1537-65) in 1555 AD, it took on its present popular name ‘Dutch Palace’ after 1663, when the Dutch carried out some extensions and renovations in the palace)
Chinese Fishing Nets
You also see the Jew City with the Jewish Synagogue, constructed in 1568, with hand-painted, willow-pattern floor tiles brought from Canton in the mid-18th century by a Rabbi, who had trading interest in that city.
Evening at leisure.
In time, transfer to the airport to board the flight for onward destination.
End of Tour
FAQs about the Tour
Q1: What is the duration of this tour?
A1: The tour spans 13 days, allowing you to explore diverse destinations in South India.
Q2: Which historical sites can I visit in Chennai?
A2: Chennai offers attractions like Fort St. George, a historical fort, and the Kapaleeshwarar Temple known for its Dravidian architecture.
Q3: What makes Mahabalipuram a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
A3: Mahabalipuram’s rock-cut temples and intricate carvings, including Arjuna’s Penance and the Shore Temple, contribute to its UNESCO status.
Q4: How is Pondicherry unique?
A4: Pondicherry’s blend of French and Indian cultures, serene beaches, and Auroville Ashram make it a distinctive destination.
Q5: What are the highlights of Tanjore?
A5: Tanjore boasts the magnificent Brihadeeswara Temple and the Royal Palace complex, showcasing intricate architecture and cultural heritage.
Q6: What is the significance of the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai?
A6: The Meenakshi Temple is an architectural marvel with intricate carvings, reflecting the cultural and religious importance of Madurai.
Q7: What wildlife experiences can I have in Periyar National Park?
A7: Periyar National Park offers a boat ride on Periyar Lake to spot wildlife like elephants and various bird species in their natural habitat.
Q8: How does Alleppey earn the nickname “Venice of the East”?
A8: Alleppey’s intricate network of canals, backwaters, and lagoons is reminiscent of Venice, offering serene houseboat cruises.
Q9: What attractions can I enjoy in Kovalam?
A9: Kovalam boasts pristine beaches where you can relax and unwind, enjoying stunning views of the Arabian Sea.
Q10: What cultural experiences await in Cochin?
A10: Cochin features historical sites like St. Francis Church and the Dutch Palace, along with vibrant arts and the captivating Kathakali dance performance.
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