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Heritage Trail Through TamilNadu and Kerala

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From Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea, this tour you will show case the coast-to-coast beauty we call south India. On this journey you will connect with the rich culture of the Dravidians, awe at the skill of craftsmen who created timeless architectural wonders and let nature spill her magic on you with backwaters, forests and stunning beaches. Exotic temples, overnight stay on a houseboat and spice tours are just some of the special touches in store for you. Come, discover the best there is to Tamil Nadu & Kerala.

Places:Kochi, Mahabalipuram, Tanjore, Madurai, Alleppey and more

Duration:15 Days

package

Experience Highlights

  • Cover 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites on your tour: Legendary Stone carving sites at Mahabalipuram, the great living Chola temple sites and the Western Ghats.
  • Stay on a beautiful eco-friendly houseboat as it traverses through backwaters
  • Appreciate the ancient Chola art of bronze casting used to make the beautiful Hindu idols
  • Visit to 12 famous temples and cultural centres including the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world at Trichy
  • Watch a demo of ancient martial art form Kalaripayattu by individuals devoted to the tradition

Tour on Map

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Day to Day itinerary

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  • Day 1 - Day 2

    Chennai / Mahabalipuram
  • Day 3

    Tiruvannamalai
  • Day 4

    Pondicherry
  • Day 5

    Tanjore / Kumbakonam
  • Day 6

    Trichy
  • Day 7

    Chettinad/
    Karaikudi
  • Day 8

    Madurai
  • Day 9- Day 10

    Thekkady
  • Day 11- Day 12

    Kumarakom/
    Houseboat
  • Day 13- Day 15

    Athirapally/
    Fort Kochi
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Day

1

ChennaI Arrival

You will be welcomed at Chennai International airport by our company representative and taken to your hotel.

Welcome to Chennai – the largest city in south India. Established in 1639 as one of four divisions of the country under Imperial British rule, it is today is a significant gateway to southern India. Relax for the night at your hotel.

Day

2

Chennai & Kanchipuram

We start the tour after breakfast with a quick tour of two places of traveller interest in Chennai.

Visit San Thome Cathedral: One of the 3 sites of apostles in the world

It is a 16th century neo-gothic style cathedral. It houses the tomb of St. Thomas, the apostle who came to India in 52 AD and was killed here in 72 AD. His mortal remains are in Italy but a relic has a tiny bone fragment on a cross here.

At the Government Museum: Celebrating heritage with Chola bronze

This is the second oldest museum in India. The Archeology section exhibits 2nd century Buddhist to 16th century Vijayanagara work. The Bronze gallery is famous for its Chola era bronze idol collection. The National Art gallery exhibits Ravi Varma and Tanjore paintings.

Optional visits:Kapaleeswarar temple (8th century pallava architecture) and Marina Beach (world’s second longest natural beach, 13 km)

A view of the interiors of the neo-gothic style San Thome, built over the tomb of St. Thomas

TRAVEL TO KANCHIPURAM (72 KM, 2 HRS)


We walk into one of the most important spiritual centres of Hinduism. Kanchipuram was ancient capital of the Pallavas (7th century),Cholas and the Vijaynagara Empire. The city was once called 'a city of thousand temples’. Kanchipuram is now famous for its handloom silk sarees.


Visit the Kailasanathar Temple: The oldest temple in Kanchi


It reflects the freshness and simplicity of the early Dravidian style of temple architecture of the 8th century. Explore this sandstone compound and admire the fascinating carvings, including half-animal deities that were popular during that period.


Explore the Ekambareswarar Temple: The largest temple in Kanchi


This Temple features a 59 meter high gopuram (gateway tower), a hallway with a thousand pillars and a 3,500 year old mango tree whose branches are said to yield four different types of mangoes. It is also a sacred religious spot being a PanchBootha place.


Optional : If you are interested we can have a quick look at a silk saree shop around here.

Being amongst the oldest temples around, the unique architectural style of the Kailasanathar temple really stands out

TRAVEL TO MAHABALIPURAM (68 km, 2 hrs)


Check into to hotel by 8 pm and enjoy your dinner and relax for the night.

Day

3

MAHABALIPURAM & TIRUVANNAMALAI

We start today’s tour at 9 am after a lovely breakfast in your hotel. Mahabalipuram is an enclave of seafood, sun and sand. The town is famous for its ancient rock carvings and still the best place to see artisans chip away at exquisite sculptures in stone.

Spend Half-a-day enjoying Pallava stone work at the UNESCO Heritage Sites

Experience seekers and history buffs will find heaven here. Explore the magnificence of Pallava architecture at the 3 monuments: Shore temple (magnificent ruins of a dual shrine), Arjuna’s Penance (bas relief on the face of a huge rock) and the PanchRathas.

Arjuna’s Penance, a legend (story) carved on monolithic rock is testimony to the architectural and artistic brilliance of man

TRAVEL TO TIRUVANNAMALAI (160km, 3.5 hrs)


Set off on a journey to the spiritual hub of Tiruvannamalai at the base of the majestic mountain. On reaching Tiruvannamalai, check in to your hotel and relax for an hour.


Explore the Arunachaleswar Temple: One of the largest temple complexes in India


This 10 hectare temple has its oldest parts tracing back to the 9th century. The biggest attraction is the East gopuram (gateway tower) which is 271ft tall making it second tallest in the country. Also see a thousand-pillared hall and get blessed by the temple elephant.


An Evening at Ramana Ashram: The ashram of the most revered of Indian Saints


This tranquil ashram draws devotees of Sri Ramana Maharshi, one of the first Hindu gurus to gain an international following during the 1930s. Visit the old and new hallsand the Samadhi where the guru’s body is enshrined. If interested join a mediation/satsung.


Enjoy your dinner and relax for the night at your hotel.

Day

4

Pondicherry

Enjoy a lovely breakfast at your hotel and by 9 am we begin our journey to the French quartet of Pondicherry.Unmistakably and charmingly distinct European feel of Pondicherry makes for an excellent outing.

TRAVEL TO PONDICHERRY (110 KM, 2.5 HRS)

Visit to Auroville: A unique experiment in community living

Auroville township is home to an international community (from 43 nations) dedicated to peace and sustainable living. We will go to the visitors centre and if interested shop around for paper crafts, ceramic and wood work. We will also get view-point passes for the Matrimandir- an archaeological marvel & spiritual heart of Auroville.

After Auroville, we will travel to Pondicherry and you can check-in to your guest house.

An edifice of spiritual significance, Matrimandir is often described as the ‘Soul of Auroville’

An evening at the French quarter: Walk around and explore


This evening you are free to explore Pondicherry at your leisure. Enjoy Do-it-yourself heritage walks through the seafront promenade, white mustard buildings, neo-classical governor’s residence (Raj Nivas) and white town. You could also visit the Aurobindo ashram and its bookstall. Don’t miss French food (hello steak!) and beer.


Enjoy the good life and relax for the night at your resort.

Day

5

Chidambaram & Kumbakonam

After a refreshing break at Pondicherry, we are back on our trail of temples and world heritage sites. At 9 am after breakfast, we travel to our first destination of the day, Chidambaram.

TRAVEL TO CHIDAMBARAM (65 km, 2 hrs)

At the temple of Natarajar: Shiva as a cosmic dancer

The east passageway of the temple is carved with 108 sacred postures which inspired the classical dance form called Bharthanatyam. This is the only temple with a brass idol where Shiva is worshiped in this cosmic dancer form. The architecture is Chola style.

An ancient bronze idol representing the dancing Shiva of Chidambaram

TRAVEL TO KUMBAKONAM (73 km, 2 hrs)


Our destination today is Kumbakonam, a small Indian town along the Cauvery river. The town is famous for many superb Chola temples scattered around nearby.


Check in to your resort by 2 pm, have lunch and relax for an hour.


Wonder at the Airavateswara Temple: Chola architectural marvel


Part of the Great living Chola Temples UNESCO heritage site, the temple is a fine example of Dravidian architecture and was built in 12th century AD. This speciality of this temple is the exquisite detail of the stone work.


Appreciate the Chola art of bronze casting: The only school of iconography


We will take you to a village workshop where the famous bronze idols are cast and defined. It is an ancient Chola art where beautiful icons are made out of the ‘lost wax process’. Directly see various stages of the manufacturing process to appreciate the art yourself.


Optional :If you are interested we can take you to the village homes of silk weavers of Darasuram or village temples in Kumbakonam like Sarangapani Temple.


Travel back to your resort at Kumbakonam, enjoy its ambience and relax for the day.

Day

6

Tanjore & Trichy

Enjoy a lovely breakfast at your hotel and by 9 am we begin our journey to Trichy via Tanjore. Welcome to the ancient capital of the Chola Kings and important centre of South Indian art. The Tanjore school of painting is famous for depicting Lord Krishna in white.

TRAVEL TO TANJORE (40 km, 1.5 hr)

Explore the Brihadishwara Temple: ‘Big temple’ with the largest temple tower

This famous Shiva temple is also part of the great living Chola temples heritage site. The temple houses one of Asia’s largest stone Nandi (bull) statues. Curiously the temple architecture is such that at any time of the day, it never creates a shadow on the ground.

Among the most celebrated architectural discoveries in Tamil Nadu, the Brihadeswara temple is one compelling sight

Optional :You could consider a quick shopping tour for Tanjore paintings, dancing dolls and musical instruments. Also consider a visit to the Palace Museum in Tanjore.


TRAVEL TO TRICHY (60 KM, 1.5 HRS)

Arrive at Trichy and check-in to your hotel. Enjoy your lunch and relax for some time.


Visit the Rockfort Temple: Cave temples perched on a 83 m high rock


The Rockfort temple is also an attraction in Trichy. There are close to 600 steps to climb to reach the top. There are multiple shrines and caves along the way. The top will give you a beautiful aerial view of Trichy.


Optional :You could visit a local market in town where you can enjoy the aromatic experience of spices, fruits and flowers are sold.


Enjoy a nice dinner and enjoy you stay.

Day

7

Chettinad/Karaikudi

Enjoy a lovely breakfast at your hotel and by 9 am we begin our journey to Karaikudi/chettinad the land of mansions. Today we visit the biggest temple in our tour and spend time royally in the mansions of Chettinad.

At the Ranganathaswamy temple: Largest functioning Hindu temple in the world

With an area of 160 acres, this reclining Vishnu shrine has 21 towers and fifty shrines. This temple also features a hall of thousand pillars with sculptures of riders on horses, Among other attractions is the art museum which has a worthwhile collection of ivory figurines.

TRAVEL TO KARAIKUDY (90KM, 2 HRS)

Arrive at Chettinad and check-in to your mansion. Enjoy a Chettinad style lunch and relax for some time. This is where you will hear the fascinating story of the naatukottaichettiars (a business community), how they built their townships and mansions and also the secrets of their famous cuisine.

The travel experience to the empty palatial homes of Chettinad is packed with grandeur, history and mouth-watering menus

Explore the mansions of Chettinad: Relive the ancient glory


Every village has a few stately mansions built in the late 19th century with material sourced from around the world. Made from Burma teak, Spanish roof tiles, Italian floor tiles & Belgian mirrors there is much to see in the PeriyaVeedu and its surrounding palaces. Explore a couple of them to understand the history of Chettinad.


Completely man-made tiles: Discover the art of tile making at Athangudi


The Athangudi design on tiles is of a bygone era but they still grace the floors of most chettiar mansions. You will be surprised by observing tile-making: totally handmade using local soil and natural colour to get geometric patterns.


Return to your mansion and enjoy the regal life in your mansion for the rest of the day. Live in the charm of a bygone era.

Day

8

MADURAI

Today we travel to one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Madurai. After a relaxed breakfast and enjoying some time in your mansion by 9:30 am we start our journey to Madurai.

TRAVEL TO MADURAI (90KM, 2.5 HRS)

Visit the Thirumalai Nayak Palace: built as one of the grandest in South India

This is the 17th century palace of Tirumalai Nayak who made significant contribution to the city of Madurai and the Meenakshi Temple. This Palace is a classic fusion of Dravidian and Islamic styles. This national monument is famous for its interior work and artistic style.

After visiting the palace, check-in to your hotel, have lunch and relax for a couple of hours.

A snapshot of thegopurams at the Meenakshi temple, encrusted with a staggering array of gods, goddesses, demons and heroes

An evening at Meenakshi Temple: Architectural marvel of the fish eyed goddess


A fascinating temple complex embellished with gateway towers with exquisitely multi-coloured images of gods, demons and mythical figures. Enter through the busy eastern entrance (a lot of craft shops here) and move on to see the 1000 pillar hall and the art museum. Also spend time at the massive temple tank and leave the temple through the hall with magnificently painted ceilings.


If you are interested in seeing Indian temple rituals, then don’t miss the night ceremony here. An image of lord Shiva is brought on a chariot to his wife Meenashi’s shrine amidst much chanting, drums, horns and gathering of devotees. An absolute must-see!


Relax for the night at your hotel.

Day

9

THEKKADY

Enjoy your breakfast at Madurai and by 9 am get on a journey to Thekkady, home to one of the best managed wildlife reserves in India. With a 100-year-old artificial lake and its setting in the thickly forested Western Ghats (UNESCO world heritage site), Periyar will not disappoint with a range of activities and wildlife spotting on offer. The Asiatic elephants are commonly seen and lucky spotting of Gaur (Indian Bison) and wild boar do happen.

TRAVEL TO THEKKADY (140 KMS, 3 HRS)

Check-in to your resort, relax for a while and soak in the tropical garden landscape.

A guided tour in a Keralan spice farm will transform your idea of what spices really taste like

Guided spice plantation tour: The aroma is incredible!


Keralan spice tours are immensely educative experiences. For some, it is the lingering aroma of cloves, cinnamon, for others, it is about joy of plucking spices straight of the plant. Experienced guides escort you around gardens keeping you excited along the way with bits of information and even some demonstrations on the healing powers of the various spices.


Relax for the night at your resort.

Day

10

In the Periyar reserve (thekkady)

Today have some of the best wildlife experiences on offer in Periyar. A nature walk by the river side, an elephant safari, shopping and evening seeing one of the oldest martial arts forms in existence.

Go for an early morning Nature walk in the reserve

Dawn is an ideal time to view exotic wildlife with the help of your trained tribal naturalist/ guide in the Periyar tiger reserve. The walk through the jungle explores a safe and easy path for about 3 hours. You can get lucky and spot some wildlife, flowers and birds along the way. Head back to your resort for a late breakfast.

Elephant Safari: Take a ride on top of a friendly elephant(Optional)

Nothing like a friendly jumbo! If you are interested we will take you on a ride through plantations on an elephant or even do a jumbo shower. Safe and among the best experiences in Thekkady,

Asiatic elephants, gaurs and wild boars are commonly spotted in the reserve during boating

Experience Kalaripayattu: One of the oldest fighting systems in existence


Today evening, we will take you to attend a Kalaripayattu show illustrating the 3000 year old art-form. The practitioners of Kalaripayattu are not only warriors but also self-healers. Besides the swords and daggers the warriors are also trained in a unique weapon called ‘Urumi’ - a lethal flexible sword that can be concealed as a waist belt.


Relax for the night at your resort.

Day

11

ON A HOUSEBOAT IN ALLEPPEY

This morning our travel takes us several hours through scenic landscapes of spice gardens and tea to finally reach the backwater town of Alleppey. The ‘Venice of the East’ as it is called support a vibrant village life along the shorelines with paddy fields and palms.

On board a ‘Kettuvallom’: A glimpse of backwater life

After traditional lunch on your private houseboat, the cruise will take you through splendid waterways of narrow canals. You will get opportunities to explore village life and the country side. Afternoons are best spent sunbathing on the deck or lounging in the shade while socialising with your crew. As we drift along we will be amazed by the life by the waterside and witness a spectacular sunset. Experience the night life in an anchored houseboat in the middle of the lake. Overnight stay in Houseboat.

Your trip along narrow canals and stay on a houseboat can be an experience of a lifetime

Day

12

KUMARAKOM

Today venture out to east Kumarakom, an idyllic village set in a maze of complex lush waterways marked by its gentle pace of life. This day of the tour has been set aside for you to experience the best of the famed ayurveda massages.

Take it slow: A day of relaxation and ayurveda in a backwater heritage resort

Check into your heritage resort, totally recreated from traditional Kerala style homes. Spend the rest of the day enjoying the scenic environs by the lake side. You make choose to lounge by the pool or pamper yourself with an ayurveda treatment. Ayurveda besides being an ancient Indian science of healing is also a philosophy of living. Relax for the day at Kumarakom.

Recreate the way of life very typical of the backwater culture at Kumarakom

Day

13

KOCHI

Today to will travel to Kochi, one of the finest natural harbours and the oldest European settlement in India. The cultural mosaic here is shaped by a long history of visitors – Arab, Chinese, British, Jewish, Portuguese and French – making for a remarkable heritage city.

TRAVEL TO KOCHI (60 KMHS, 1.5 HRS)

Do-it- yourself walk: heritage sites of Fort Kochi

You start your walking tour of Fort Kochi at the St. Francis Church, the oldest European church in India and explore the imposing Santa Cruz basilica built by the Portuguese. It will be fun to observe the iconic and still-in-use Chinese fishing nets and even try using them yourself. Stroll past the shops along Jew Street shopping for antiques and spices and also visit the Jewish Synagogue and the Dutch Palace. You will notice that the heritage zone of the city is amazingly well preserved.

Marvel at the slow rhythm of the fishing technique using Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi

Kathakali: an evening enjoying the performing arts of Kerala


This 17th century art form is a highly stylized classical dance-drama with the confluence of dancing, acting, vocal and instrumental music. Watch the extensive make-up process and then enjoy a story telling in Kerala style in the performance.


Enjoy dinner at one of the amazing seafood restaurants in the city. Relax for the night in your hotel.

Day

14

ATHIRAPALLY & CHERAI

Today experience the beauty of nature’s creations with forests, waterfalls and beaches. By 9 am set off on a journey to the Sholayar forests.

Trip to Athirapally & Vazhachal Waterfalls: the cascading beauty

Enjoy a mild trek through the forests to the base of the thunderous waterfall at Athirapally. Also visit the cascading waterfalls at Vazhachal 5km away and get some snaps of wild insects and water pools along the way.Enjoy lunch on the way back.

A magnificent sight at Athirapally where the river takes an 80 feet plunge onto dark granite

Sunset at Cherai Beach: safe shallow and quiet


This is a safe evening beach with a 400m long walkway where you can relax and enjoy the sunset. The uniqueness of Cherai is the proximity of lagoons which makes for a remarkable sight. Occasionally, people also see dolphins in the waters over here.


Return to your hotel and relax for the night.

Day

15

DEPARTURE FROM KOCHI

Today is the last day of your tour. Enjoy a splendid breakfast. If you are interested in picking up some Kerala souvenirs we will take you to some of the good handicraft shops around town. Alternatively you may rest in your hotel swimming pool and prepare for onward journey.

Drop back at Airport in the afternoon bidding farewell the land of heritage and god’s own country with memories to last for a life time.

Bon Voyage

STANDARD PACKAGE

Accommodation

3 star Hotel/resort with neat amenities, hygienic bathrooms & European toilets, Telephone and 24 hours room service

Transportation

Air Conditioned vehicle with chauffer at your disposal thorough out the tour

Meals

Buffet Breakfast will be included at all places

Total tour cost

Price on Request

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add ons

Best time to visit:
October to March


Group Leader & Guides:
This tour is ideal as a special interest group tour. Groups (min. 15 travellers)are accompanied by one of our experienced group leaders. They offer suggestions onlocal food to try, share cultural insights and introduce our local friends.


Pick up and drop off:
Chennai (Start point), Kochi (End point)

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