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South India Delights

Duration : 26 Days / 25 Nights
Destination Covered : Cochin - Chennai - Mahabalipuram - Kanchipuram - Pondicherry - Chidambram - Darasuran - Kumbakonam - Thanjavur - Trichy - Madurai - Cardamom House - Periyar - Munnar - Alleppey - Houseboat - Kumarakom - Mararikulam - Ooty - Bangalore - Chennai

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

Dravidian TempleToday, we will proceed to the tour of one of India's largest cities- Madras is the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The Tamillians are the proud inheritors of a rich cultural heritage, which is one of the main reasons for their beliefs of superiority over the hybridized culture of North India. Fort St. George (1653), built by the British, presently houses the State secretariat and the legislative assembly. The Fort has an interesting museum with fascinating collections of memorabilia from the early days of the British Raj. St. Mary's Church (1678-80), was the first English church and the oldest surviving in India. The High court building, built of red sandstone has an interesting archaeological section and a bronze gallery. The former has an interesting collection of all major and ancient south Indian dynasties. The bronze section has interesting collections of Chola (9th century) bronze art. The High Court, built in Indo-Sracenic style is supposed to be the largest judicial building in the world after the Court Of England. The Kapaleshwar temple is an ancient Shiva temple in typical Dravidian (south Indian) style. Near the temple, the San Thome Cathedral (originally built in 1504), is a Roman Catholic Church believed to have the remains of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Overnight at Taj Coromandel - a 5* Taj Group Hotel

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Day 03: Chennai / Mahabalipuram

Morniing we will drive to Mahabalipuram

Upon arrival check into your hotel Fisherman's Cove

Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities

Overnight at Fisherman's Cove - a 5* Taj Group Hotel

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Day 04: Mahabalipuram

Today we will proceed on a tour of Mahabalipuram, which 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

Overnight at Fisherman's Cove - a 5* Taj Group Hotel

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Day 05: Mahabalipuram / Kanchipuram / Pondicherry

MahabalipuramFollowing a leisurely breakfast we will drive to Pondicherry, Enroute we will 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 recognize 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 will continue our drive to Pondicherry

Upon arrival check in to Hotel Le-Dupleix

Overnight at Hotel Le-Dupleix

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Day 06: Pondicherry

PondicherryAfter a leisurely breakfast, we will proceed on a tour of the city. More than anything else, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, where Sri Aurobindo and the Mother lived for the most parts of their lives, is a major attraction of this little city. The Pondicherry Museum is home to some of the most exquisite collections on architecture and sculpture. Pondicherry also has a pleasant beach alongside promenade and historical monuments. Some of the other interesting sites includes the Bharti and Bharthidasan Memorial museums and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The French, Britain's strongest rivals for the control of India, established their foothold here and only relinquished it in 1954. The town still has the feel of a French provincial town, with its librairie, epicerie, imposing Hotel de Ville, memorial to Franco-Indians killed in the Great War, and statue of Joan of Arc. The houses could be anywhere in southern France and bear the familiar white numbers on a blue ground. Street names, too, are shown in white on blue - rue St Louis, rue de la Caserne and so on. During a pleasant afternoon stroll you could hear French spoken frequently.

Overnight at Hotel Le-Dupleix

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Day 07: Pondicherry / Chidambram / Darasuran / Kumbakonam / Thanjavur

Thanjavur TempleMorning we will drive to Thanjavur enroute we will visit Chidambram, Darasuran, Kumbakonam.

Chidambram is in between two rivers in a 40 acres temple-complex, it is one of the oldest and magnificent temples of the South. Shiva Natrala or the Dancing Shiva stands in his cosmic dance pose in the golden rooted sanctorum. Flanking the temple are 108 sculptured illustrations of Bharat Natya Shashtra. In Akash Lingam hidden by a veil, lies the real secret of Chidambaram. From we continue driving to Darasuram

Darasuram is a small town near Kumbakonam. It is known for the Airavateshwar Temple built by a Chola king in the 12th Century CE. This temple is a storehouse of art and architecture. The vimana is 85 feet high. The front mandapam itself is in the form of a huge chariot drawn by horses. The temple has some exquisite stone carvings. The main deity's consort Periya Nayaki Amman temple is situated adjacent to Airavateshwarar temple. From here we will continue our drive to Thanjavur

Upon arrival check in to hotel Ideal River View Resort

Overnight at Ideal River View Resort (Cottage)

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Day 08: Thanjavur

Tanjore is also known as Thanjavur (The rice bowl of TAMIL NADU). We will proceed for sight seeing of Tanjore. Visit the famous Chola Temple of Brihadeeshwara - A WORLD HERITAGE MONUMENT. Its bronze and handicrafts make Tanjore one of the highlights of the tour to South India. The majesty of the palaces and art gallery attached to the temple is really awe-inspiring. It is also famous for the silk.

See the beautiful Chola temple of Brihadeeshwara. The temple is capped by a monolithic cupola made of a single granite block weighing 80 tons which was taken to the top with the help of a 6 km long ramp- an old technique used by the Egyptians for building pyramids. You will also visit the Palace and its Art Gallery, which contains several granite and bronze statues of the Chola period.

Overnight at Ideal River View Resort (Cottage)

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Day 09: Trichy / Madurai

Madurai TempleAfter a leisurely breakfast we will drive to Madurai

Upon arrival check in to the Hotel Taj Garden Retreat

Afternoon we will walk along the main street leading to the temple. The well-organized confusion caused by pilgrims in traditional clothes, pavement shops of all shades, holy men in robes of different colours etc add an unmistakable colour and atmosphere to this fascinating Temple City.

Overnight at Taj Garden Retreat (Superior Room)

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Day 10: Madurai

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 (Superior Room)

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Day 11: 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 Resort

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Day 12: Periyar

PeriyarFollowing 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.

After the trek, we board rafts made of bamboos for a rafting experience through some of the richest forest tracts of Periyar Tiger Reserve. The rafting is for about three hours and one gets a panoramic view of forest-clad hills reflected on the lake. Animals like elephant, gaur and sambar are sighted keeping close to the edges of the lake.

The team hitchhikes back to the boat landing by about 5 pm. An armed guard and guides will accompany us. Tea, snacks and packed lunch will be served Enroute

Overnight at Spice Village Resort

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Day 13: Periyar / Munnar

PeriyarAfter breakfast, we drive to the Munnar through the scenically vibrant valley of the Cardamom Hills of the Western. We would stop a few times to interact with locals as well as walk through the countryside to explore traditional and ethnic lifestyles. It's a journey through extensive tea and spice plantations and for most part of our journey; the air is rendered with the fragrance of tea and spices.

Munnar, a hill station on the Western Ghats and with its lakes, reservoirs, forests and tea estates is the Nature-Lovers's Paradise. It is beautifully situated at the confluence of three rivers - the Muthirappuzh, Nallathanni and Kundala. Munnar is a major center of Kerala's tea industry.

Upon arrival check into the hotel Tea County

We have two days at leisure to explore the virgin beauty of the place and its several possibilities at your own pace. Anaimudi (2694 m), the highest peak in the southern India, is nearby and the views from here are incredible. Munnar offers some great possibility for nature walks and visits to nearby tribal villages where people, though poor are extremely friendly, charming and hospitable. The ethnic lifestyles, traditional homes and the traditional occupation with ethnic tools and implements provides an incredible experience. The forest that surround Munnar are still rich in wildlife. The hills surrounding Munnar are home for one of the world's rarest mountain goats, Nilgiri tahr. The tropical forests are inhabited by elephants, tigers, deer and gaur (bison) Munnar is a birdwatcher delight with a variety of birds that are supported by the evergreen vegetation of the region. If one seek a sense of peace, a desire to communicate with nature and most importantly participate in a journey through a living museum, Munnar is the place that seeks to provide all this in a heavenly setting.

Overnight at Tea County

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Day 14: Munnar

MunnarDay is at leisure. Munnar is surrounded by 30 tea gardens; the atmosphere is fragrant with extensive tea and cardamom plantations. Tea estates are situated mostly on the inner slopes of an elevated basin-like plateau. Estate elevations vary from about 1220 m to over 1830 m. some of the tea plantations, at an elevation of over 2135-m, are among the highest in the world. It would be worthwhile to visit some of these tea gardens to witness the plucking of leaves by women who carry conical bamboo baskets on their back and strapped to their forehead by a cloth band. The work on the field is all done by hand and is a fascinating sight. You may also visit the nearby Lockhart Gap, which provides a panoramic view of the valley and plantation down below. The enchanting high range of lakes and streams, the low-flying clouds and the mist-filled valleys cast a magical spell, which lingers long in the memory.

You could also visit the Mattupetty dam and lake, Rajamala, the natural habitat of Nilgiri Tahr, a rare mountain goat and the Eravikulam National Park.

Overnight at Tea County

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Day 15: Munnar / Alleppey / Houseboat

After breakfast we ride to Alleppey for a houseboat experience through the narrow canals and channels of the backwaters of Kerala.

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.

Overnight abroad Deluxe Air-Conditioned Houseboat

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Day 16: Houseboat / Kumarakom

HouseboatWe spend the day 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.

Later, the houseboat traverses through narrow channels and canals and reaches Kumarakom.

Upon arrival check in to Coconut Lagoon, which 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.

Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities

Overnight at Coconut Lagoon

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Day 17: 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 18: Kumarakom / Mararikulam

After breakfast, ride to the exquisite Marari Beach Resort. A beach is just a beach, until you find its living heart. The search ends in the little village of Mararikulam.

Overnight at Marari Beach Resort

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Day 19 - 20: Mararikulam

Days at leisure to enjoy your exquisite beach resort and the amazing countryside and tribal villages that adjoin the place.

Overnight at Marari Beach Resort

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Day 21: Mararikulam / Cochin

Following a leisurely breakfast we will drive to Cochin

Upon arrival and transfer to Taj Malabar

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 22: Cochin

CochinAfter a leisurely breakfast, 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.

The 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.

Overnight at Taj Malabar - a 5* Taj Group Hotel

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Day 23: Cochin / Ooty

Following a leisurely breakfast we will drive to Ooty

Upon arrival check into your hotel Taj Savoy

Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities

Overnight at Taj Savoy

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Day 24: Ooty

OotyThis morning we will proceed to a guided tour of Ooty

Nestled among some of the most spectacular mountains in Southern India, Ooty is a relic of the British Raj. The town's general appearance is an unlikely combination of Southern England and Australia, with single -storey stone cottages surrounded by trees, fenced flower gardens scattered along leafy, and winding lanes with tall eucalypti stands covering the otherwise barren hilltops. The other main reminders of the British period are the stone Churches and the huge boy's school with its landscaped gardens at the bottom of Ooty's famous lake There is also the terraced and very English Botanical Gardens, in which the Government House stands on the lower slopes of Doddabetta (2623m), the highest peak in Tamil Nadu. From the top of Doddabeta you can see Connor, Wellington, Coimbatore, Mettupalayam and, on a clear day, as far as Mysore.

Overnight at Taj Savoy

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Day 25: Ooty / Bangalore Bangalore / Chennai (IT 2407 - 1800 / 1900 Hours)

Transfer to Bangalore airport to connect your flight to Chennai

Meeting and assistance upon arrival and transfer to your hotel Radha Park Inn

Overnight at Radha Park Inn (Superior Room)

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Day 26: Chennai / 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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