Arrive In Chennai
On arrival very early in the morning at Chennai your driver will meet and take you to the hotel where you can check-in to your room. You can have breakfast and freshen up, or just snooze for the morning if you prefer. The hotel has a lap pool and onsite spa. Then at around midday you will be collected from the hotel for an afternoon taking in some of the iconic sights of Chennai. This might include the San Thome Cathedral, rebuilt in 1896 in a neo-gothic style; the Shiva Kapaleeshwarar Temple, a shining example of Dravidian architecture, classic and colourful; and perhaps also a visit to the Government Museum. The Bronze Gallery has a wonderful collection of South Indian bronze artworks dating back to the 7th century. Then you will be taken to your coastal hotel with views of the Bay of Bengal, the rest of the day is at your leisure.
Today there will be an opportunity to explore Mahabalipuram, an area known for stone carvings which date back hundreds of years. You will spend time being guided around the superb temples, some unfinished, perhaps practice sites for budding artists. The Shore temple and the wonderful 27 metre long bas-relief sculpture of the Descent of the Ganges, are superb examples of such carvings. After a day at Mahabalipuram you return to your hotel probably with time for a dip in the pool before choosing your spot for dinner.
Day 3 And 4
This morning your driver will take you on a journey south, following the coast for 2 hours to Pondicherry. Over the next two days you can explore this charming corner of southern India. A local guide will take you on a tour showcasing points of interest. A rickshaw ride has been arranged too. Areas of interest will be the seafront Promenade and the grand architecture of the unique French Quarter. One of the city's best known churches is Our Lady of the Angels with its twin towers, large cupola and distinctive pale pink exterior. The Tamil Quarter is within walking distance and you can visit the fish market and Goubert Market, a rabbit warren of shops, cubby holes and handcarts. An explosion of colour, sounds, and fragrance.
Day 5 And 6
The trip continues to Thanjavur, an important city for art, religion and architecture. The drive is about 4.5 hours, and you'll stop en route at Chidmabaram. Here there's a rather fine example of the brightly coloured temples with massive towers, that south India is so famous for. It's a good introduction to this type of temple architecture. You will have two nights in Thanjavur and the opportunity to take a guided tour. The number one sight of interest is the beautifully preserved Brihadishwara Temple. It's completely different from the one at Chidmabaram and definitely worth a visit. Hundreds of people come to worship here each day. Also in Thanjavur is the royal palace, a labyrinth design, which has halls filled with ancient relics from the Chola kingdom. Within the royal complex is the Seforji Sarasvati Mahal Library, home to numerous old artefacts and manuscripts.
Day 7 And 8
Today's drive to Chettinad will take a couple of hours. Established in the 19th century the area is now a heritage site on account of the many palatial mansions built by wealthy merchants from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries. Now it is a quiet rural area and a great place to visit village markets and fascinating cottage industries. The small local temples are adorned with rows of terracotta horses which is unique to this area. You can do a bullock cart ride around the village or take a pushbike if you prefer! Chettinad is also known for delicious cuisine so if you have the opportunity why not try some of the local dishes while you are here and you can even have a cooking lesson at the hotel.
Leaving Chettinad behind, today's destination is the ancient city of Madurai. It's a short drive of about 2 hours and there will be a guided tour when you get there. The most important building here and a 'must see' is the Meenakshi temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It's simply magnificent with a total of 14 ornate towers, the tallest being 52 metres high. The colourful carvings are captivating and this temple, above all others, is the epitome of south Indian temple architecture. It is very much in use and watching the rituals and daily life inside its precincts is a really fascinating way to spend some time. Don't rush around it - take your time!
Day 10 And 11
After breakfast, it's time for a change of scenery as you drive 4 hours inland to the lush green hills of Munnar, home to tea plantations and beautiful mountain scenery. Everything is different here right down to the weather, temperatures are cool and pleasant throughout the year. You will have the opportunity to re-charge in these beautiful surroundings. Spend your time on a guided hike through the plantation grounds, taking in hills and valleys. There's a spectacular view of the town of Munnar below. If you are feeling adventurous, borrow one of the plantation's bicycles and explore using pedal power. The quiet, winding roads are perfect for cycling. A tea museum provides a fascinating insight to the production of tea. A range of teas can be purchased fresh from the factory. Sunday is the local market day, when the town is filled with tea-pickers enjoying their day off.
Day 12 And 13
From the rolling green landscape, you will head for the backwaters of Kerala at Kumarakom. Located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, Coconut Lagoon is the ideal spot to relax or explore the surrounding area. At around midday you will embark on a houseboat cruise, sailing along the lake as you enjoy lunch. During your stay at Coconut Lagoon, you could walk to the local village, take a tour to the nearby bird sanctuary, wander through the butterfly garden, or simply relax by the pool. There are yoga and meditation sessions every day if you fancy joining them, and an Ayurveda wellness centre. There are also regular traditional dance and music performances.
Day 14 And 15
Cochin is one of South India's most attractive towns with a rich trading history that has drawn in many cultures from around the world. Temples, mosques, churches and synagogues can be found amongst the narrow streets of the historic Fort Cochin district, and you can see Arab, Portuguese, British and even South East Asian influence in the architecture of the town. Today, Cochin remains a busy port, with large ships slipping past the traditional Chinese fishing nets which line the coast. A guided tour will take you to see the highlights of this fascinating coastal city, with a stop off at a local restaurant for a tasty lunch.
Depart For Home
Your time exploring southern India has come to an end. It is time to pack your bags and you will be collected for the short drive to the airport in time to catch your flight home.
Call: 01473 890499
Start planning your tailor-made holiday now. Tell us what you want, and we will tailor make your perfect trip.