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Magic of South India

Duration : 10 Days / 9 Nights
Destination Covered : Cochin - Chennai - Kanchipuram - Mahabalipuram - Madurai - Cardamom House - Periyar - Allepey - Houseboat - Kumarakom

Day 01: Arrival / Cochin

WelcomeLate night arrival. Meeting and assistance upon arrival as our representatives welcome you and escort you to your car.

Whilst the room keys and check-in is organized, our representative would introduce the tour to you and hand over the documents to you.

Welcome to India, or as we say 'atithi devo bhava' (the guest is an incarnation of God). Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you!

Overnight at Taj Coromandel - a 5* Taj Group Hotel

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Day 02: Chennai / Kanchipuram / Mahabalipuram/ Chennai Chennai / Madurai (9W 3519 - 1905 / 2025 Hrs)

Kailasanath Temple KanchipuramFollowing a leisurely breakfast, we will have an excursion of Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram is a Hindu Holy City and capital of the Pallava dynasty from the 7th to 9th centuries AD, is renowned for temples and silk, and you will see plenty of both. The temples range in date from the 8th to the 17th century. The latest building was impressive in its size, the height of its gopuram, the intricacy of its carvings and wealth of colour, but, the earliest temples, of golden sandstone, are more aesthetically pleasing, the only colour provided is by a flock of ring-necked parakeets.

Across the road is a workshop where men sit at a loom, weaving fabrics that you will recognise immediately as "Madras cotton". However, Silk-weaving takes place on a grander scale than the cotton-weaving in this town dotted with cottage workshops. You could visit a factory where all the processes of spinning, dyeing and weaving take place. Of special note would be exquisite wedding saris made to order - the silk is heavily interwoven with gold thread. The sari and blouse are woven together so as to ensure a perfect match. From here we continue our ride to Mahabalipuram.

Mahabalipuram is famous for its shore temples. The sculpture here is particularly interesting because, instead of Gods & Goddesses, the sculpture shows scenes from contemporary day to day life - women milking cows, pompous dignitaries, young girls priming and posing in street corners or swinging their hips in artful come-ons. Mahabalipuram is an easy going village of essentially two streets and positioned at the foot of low lying boulder strewn hill where most of the fascinating temples and the rock cut carvings are to be found. It affords a wonderful combination of an excellent beach, good seafood and the fascinating remains of an ancient Indian Kingdom.

Evening, transfer to Chennai airport to connect your flight to Madurai

Meeting and assistance upon arrival and transfer to your hotel Taj Garden Retreat

Overnight at Taj Garden Retreat

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Day 03: Madurai

Madurai TempleAfter breakfast we will proceed on a guided tour of Terumalai Nayak Mahal. The palace was built in 1636 by Thirumalai Nayakar. A classic example of the Indo-Saracenic style, the piece de resistance of this Mahal is its carved dome outsoars without the support of girders or rafters. The stucco work on its domes and arches is remarkable. The gigantic pillars and structures represent the amazing architectural mastery of Nayak Kings. The courtyard and the dancing hall are being the center of attractions. There are around 248 pillars of each 58 feet toll and 5 feet diameter. Furniture and utensils used by the kings have been exhibited inside the palace.

We will also visit Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam, which is a huge temple tank. The mandapam in the centre has an idol of Vigneshwara (Vinayaka). This tank was said to have been dug by Tirumala Nayaka. It is the biggest tank of its kind in Tamil Nadu and one of the most imposing sights of Madurai when it is full of water. The vinayaka idol was found when the earth was being dug out from here to build the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal. So, the place attained sanctity and was converted into a teppakulam (tank).

Our tour includes a visit to The Gandhi Memorial Museum, which is meant to be living Institutions and not merely a building preserving and showing exhibits, however precious. It seeks to help an ever increasing number of people to understand and to value the life, work and teachings of Gandhiji

Madurai is one of the oldest cities of southern India. It has been a center of pilgrimage, for centuries. The Meenakshi temple, the main architectural attraction here, is an excellent example of Dravidian architecture, with gopurams or multi pillared halls, covered from top to bottom, in a profusion of multicolored images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures.

Overnight at Taj Garden Retreat

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Day 04: Madurai / Cardamom House

Cardamom HouseThis morning, we ride to Cardamom House, situated in stunningly beautiful surroundings on a hillside of the Western Ghats over-looking a monsoon dependent 400-acre lake. Cardamom House is owned and managed by Dr. Chris Lucas, a retired English physician, ably assisted by 6 Indian staff. All rooms have either twin or separate double-bedded accommodation, face south, and have modern western style bathroom facilities en-suite with solar heated hot water. The water comes from deep bore wells and is potale. With just two guests to each staff member we can assure that you will, be personally looked after and "spoiled rotten" during your stay. The meals are prepared using only the freshest produce purchased daily from the local markets and the house takes great pride in the variety of food that they serve.

Besides experiencing a great, traditional accommodation in stunning natural settings, we also want you to experience a typical back of beyond unhurried Athoor village that has remained frozen in time. We suggest that you simply stroll through the village at your own pace, absorbing the atmosphere and watching as the rural life unfolds. On the track you will pass a Hindu Temple situated under a Banyan Tree, Continuing your stroll you will pass Banana Plantations, fields of Chilli and Groundnuts, and of course hundreds upon hundreds of Coconut Trees. The villagers whose Way of life is dependent on agriculture, are Very friendly and will welcome you. Some of the Cardamom House staff either hail from, or are living in Athoor and will ensure that they are there to help you, introduce you to people and help with the devilishly difficult Tamil language, Athoor is truly an unspoiled Indian Village waiting to be discovered.

Overnight at Cardamom House

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Day 05: Cardamom House / Periyar

Cardamom HouseMorning, we will drive to Periyar through the scenically vibrant valley of the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Thekkady in Kerala, is one of the 16 Project Tiger Reserves in India. About a century ago, a British engineer, Col. J. Penn ycuick, chalked out a plan to dam the Periyar River, subsequently, a dam was constructed in 1895. This resulted in the adjoining forests being granted protection, by the Maharaja of Travancore. The 55 sq km reservoir and the surrounding forests, provide protection to the animals within. Today, Periyar is undeniably, one of the most impressive wildlife sanctuaries in the world.

Upon arrival check into the Spice Village Resort. Set in the heart of the Cardamom Hills of Kerala, Spice Village is an unprecedented tourist destination, offering a rare opportunity to enjoy South India's wildlife and beauty. The village lies just outside Periyar Tiger Reserve, and a stay here is the perfect way to appreciate and respect the environment. This is a place for everyone who loves nature: somewhere to fill your lungs with fresh mountain air, to savour the rich fragrance of cinnamon and cloves, to watch young elephants drinking at the water's edge. The resort itself provides every comfort the modern traveller could wish for - luxurious accommodation, mouth-watering cuisine, and an exclusive swimming pool.

This evening, we will enjoy a boat ride along the lake into the more inner areas of the reserve. There is probably no sanctuary in the world where elephant behavior can be watched in such absolute comfort and safety. The total popula-tion is about 800. From the lake we can get as close as 20 meters to watch placid groups feeding, bathing and mud slinging. We end this adventurous day at our hotel, turning in for the night matching the tranquil pace of the forest around us.

Overnight at Spice Village

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Day 06: Periyar / Allepey / Houseboat

Allepey HouseboatFollowing breakfast this morning we would take a short trek inside the forest. The birdlife comprises of darters, cormorants, kingfishers, great hornbills (the great Malabar hornbill) and racket-tailed drongoes. The reptilian population boasts of monitor lizards that can be spotted basking in the sun, on the rocks along the lakeshore, especially in the cooler months. Pythons, king cobras, flying lizards, flying squirrels, flying snakes and to top it all, flying frogs are the other inhabitants of this amazing sanctuary.

There are a few fascinating tribal villages around the Periyar, primarily the Manan and Oorali tribes. The Mana ns are ace fishermen, and a few of them still indulge in the traditional, if dangerous, practice of collecting the honey of large and deadly hill bees. The Ooralis build tree dwellings, though not as residences, but watchtowers to keep wild pigs, and elephants from ruining their crops.

Later we will drive to Allepey to board the Houseboat.

The materials that go into the making of houseboat are all local and Eco-friendly; bamboo poles, coconut fiber ropes, bamboo mats carpets etc. The main wood used is "Anjali ". The Houseboat provides all comforts - Beds, a kitchen, western toilets and an upper deck. Traditional lanterns are used as lights. The cuisine is of traditional Kerala flavour along with the local Specialities - delicious fish and prawns.

We spend the evening cruising on our boat through remote tribal villages along the tranquil backwaters of Kerala is a superb experience. Sensational in its own silent way, the cruise takes you along snake boat docks, friendly cheering villagers, coir (Jute) making communities, toddy (local spirit) shops, fishing nets pitched for the day's catch, bunded paddy fields and manual canoes of different sizes criss-crossing each other. The experience enables you to reach beautiful untouched areas.

Overnight abroad Houseboat

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Day 07: Houseboat / Kumarakom

Following a leisurely breakfast, the houseboat traverses through narrow channels and canals and reaches Coconut Lagoon, this has rightly carved its place among the top 10 heritage resorts of the world. The resort is on a small island and can be reached only by boat. The accommodation consists of individual cottages built in the traditional Kerala style, relying heavily on wood and some with private pools.

Overnight at Coconut Lagoon

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Day 08: Kumarakom

Day is free for independent activities. You can also enjoy the optional ayurvedic body massage at the resort. You could also choose to explore the surrounding tribal villages, visit the nearby water bird sanctuary or ride through the narrow backwater channels through back of beyond Kerala.

Overnight at Coconut Lagoon

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Day 09: Kumarakom / Cochin

KumarakomAfter a leisurely breakfast we drive to Cochin.

Upon arrival and transfer to hotel Taj Malabar

After wash & change, we proceed on a guided tour of the City. The true character of the city is to be found in the older parts of the Fort Cochin area. It more or less exists as it used to be a 1000 years back, when it was first built. The roads have not been widened because the old haggard buildings, through patchwork repairs over the centuries, still stand on the edges. This part of the city reflects an unusual blend of medieval Portugal, Dutch and English country life grafted on to the tropical Malabar Coast. The fishing community of Cochin is also very interesting. They ancient cantilevered fishing nets called Chinese Fishing Nets. The net is fixed to a pole on the shore. While fishing, the entire net is lowered by a primitive fulcrum mechanism using long bamboo poles. By the same mechanism the pole is lifted along with the catch. We will explore the sights of Photographic as well as cultural interest. We would also visit the 16th century Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace since the Dutch substantially renovated the palace in the 17th century. The double storied quadrangular building surrounds a courtyard containing a Hindu temple. The Central Hall on the first floor was the coronation hall of the Rajas of Cochin; on display are their dresses, turbans and palanquins. The most important feature of this palace, however, is the astonishing murals in the bedchambers and other rooms, which depict scenes from the Ramayana and other religious legends. These murals are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful and extensive anywhere to be seen in India. The unique feature here is the unexpected and isolated Jewish community, whose origins date back to AD 52. They are self-contained and have there own Synagogue.

Kathakali DanceThe area around the Synagogue, known, as 'Jew Town' is one of the main centres of spice trade. Scores of small firms huddle together in old dilapidated buildings and the air is filled with the aroma of ginger, cardamom, cumin, turmeric and cloves. The area is very busy. The potters are loading gunny bags of spices on to carts, which keep running up and down the narrow lanes. We would visit Jew Town, in the Mattancherry section and a short walk from the ferry, is one street long. Jews used to occupy virtually all the houses on Jew Town Road, where they sold fruits, vegetables and spices or worked as oil pressers or carpenters. The spice markets are still located on the narrow street.

Kathakali Dance:
A special treat awaits us this evening as we proceed to witness the strength and vigor of Kathakali dance drama, as it enacts episodes from great Indian epics. The extremely stylized gestures, the elaborate make-up, the masks and the splendid costumes of these all-male dancers, recreates an incomparable sense of pageantry.

Overnight at Taj Malabar - a 5* Taj Group Hotel

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Day 10: Cochin / Departure

Transfer to the airport to connect your onward flight back home.

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END OF SERVICES…

We do hope the flavor of India will remain on your taste buds for all times to come and hopefully would kindle an indelible fondness for the country and her people; Thank you for being our guest, and as we say in India 'Please Come back Soon"





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