DAY 01 ARRIVE CHENNAI / MAHABALIPURAM
Arrive Chennai by international flight. Meeting & assistance on arrival and transfer straight to Covelong. Check in at hotel.
DAY 02 MAHABALIPURAM
Today full day excursion of Kanchipuram & Mahabalipuram.
Kanchipuram is one of Hinduism’s seven most sacred cities and this “Golden City of a Thousand Temples” dates back to the early Cholas in the second century. Only around 70 temples of the original temple complex are still intact and the most famous is the Kailasanatha Temple built of sandstone in the early seventh century. Kanchipuram is famous for silk weaving.
Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) occupies a stunning position on a rocky outcrop between the beach and a lagoon. Built by the Pallava rulers in the seventh century the complex comprises of 14 cave temples, nine monolithic ” Rathas”, three stone temples and two relief sculptured rock panels and a Bass Relief and largest in the world. The Shore temple built on the water’s edge with an east-facing alter designed to catch the rising sun, has now been declared a World Heritage Site.
DAY 03 MAHABALIPURAM / PONDCHERRY
Today morning checkout and drive to Pondicherry. 140 kms & 4 hours drive. On arrival checkin at hotel.
Afternoon sightseeing of Pondicherry which traces its origin to Saint Gasthya, the revered sage of the South. Excavations near Pondicherry reveal that a Roman settlement existed here 2000 years ago. It was also the theatre of many a battles between the British and the French and was the capital of French India before it attained its independence. Visit Auroville, an ‘Ashram’ for peace and harmonious living, founded by saint-philosopher Sir Aurobindo.
DAY 04 PONDCHERRY / TANJORE
Today morning drive to Tanjore visiting Chidambaram, Darasuram and Gangaikondacholapuram enroute.
Chidambaram is also known as Thillai, since the place was originally a forest of the thillai, botanically known as excecaria agallecha shrubs. It is an important pilgrim centre and a holy place for Saivites as the famous Nataraja Temple is located here. Dedicated to Lord Nataraja, this ancient temple of the Cholas is unique not only it is devoted solely to the art of Bharatanatyam, but also it is one of the rare temples where Shiva is represented by an idol rather than the customary lingam. Spread over an area of 40 acres with a gopuram on each side, the temple is distinguished by five sabhas or courts. The eastern gopuram is 40.8 m. high and carved on it are the 108 dance poses of Bharatanatyam. The western tower has also similar carvings while the northern tower that soars to a height of 42.4 m. is the tallest.
The idol of Nataraja is installed in the kanakasabha, the roof of which is covered with gold Plates. The icon is a stunning piece of sculpture that evokes a sense of continuous movement. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the sanctum.
Darasuram: Raja Raja Chola II built the Airateswara or Darasuram temple. It is an excellent example of 12th century Chola architecture and is well preserved to this day. The frontal columns of the temple have unique miniature sculptures. During the 14th century the large stone statues surrounding the temple were replaced with brick and mortar statues similar to those found at the Big Temple in Thanjavur.
Gangaikondachola[puram: Rajendra Chola-I, son of the Great Rajaraja-I, established this temple after his great victorious march to river Ganges on Northern India. His empire extended the whole of southern India to river Thungabathra in the north India, for administrative and strategic purpose he built another capital and named Gangaikondacholapuram. The Gangaikondacholapuram temple, he constructed consists of 3 stories and surrounded by a huge fort like wall. The temple was located at the center of the Gangaikondacholapuram city and occupies around 6 acres of land.
Later continue the drive to Tanjore. Arrive Tanjore and checkin at hotel.
DAY 05 TANJORE
Today sightseeing of Tanjore.
Thanjavur rose to glory during the later Chola period between the 9th and 14th centuries A.D. It also flourished later during the rule of the Nayaks and Mahrattas. Thanjavur is well-known throughout the world for being the home of the Brahadeeswara temple, the magnificent palace, Rajah Serfoji’s Saraswathi Mahal Library, Art Gallery and also for its exquisite handicrafts like the Art Plate, pithwork, bronze icons, Thanjavur paintings and the classical South Indian musical instruments. Brahadeeswarar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The great Chola king Raja Raja I built this temple. It is an outstanding example of the Chola architecture. Its unique architectural excellence has made the UNESCO to declare it a World Heritage Monument. The 64.8 meters tall tower over the sanctum is a testimony to the engineering skill of the Cholas. In keeping the immensity of the temple the gigantic mahalingam in the shrine measures 4 mtrs. in height. The monolithic Nandi bull mount of Lord Shiva has been chiselled out of single rock. It is the second largest nandi in India. The beautiful Chola Fresco paintings on the inner walls of the temple are no way less than Ajanta paintings. The Palace Just 1 km.away from Brahadeeswarar Temple, is the magnificent palace. This palace is surrounded with huge fort walls. It dates 14th century A.D and was partly built by the Nayaks and partly by Marathas. Even now the royal family of the Marathas resides in this palace. It measures 110 acres in size. It is a grand pile of fascinating building with huge corridors, spacious halls decorated rooms, tall observation towers, beautiful stucco works, wonderful fresco painted walls and ceilings.
DAY 06 TANJORE / TRICHY / MADURAI
Today morning drive to Madurai visiting Trichy enroute. 158 kms & 3:30 hours drive.
In Trichy visit Rock Fort & Srirangam. Rock Fort : Tiruchi’s most famed landmark is an 83 meters high rock which is the only out crop in the otherwise flat land of the City. The most amazing fact about the rock is that it is one of the oldest in the world – approximately 3,800 million years Srirangam: The most important pilgrim centre in the district is located on an island just 7 kms from Tiruchirappalli. Srirangam, surrounded by the waters of the River Kaveri on one side and its tributary the River Kollidam on the other. It is a 600-acre island-town enclosed within the seven walls of the gigantic Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple. This is the seat of the pontiff of the Vaishnavite, who are the worshippers of Lord Vishnu. Non Hindus are not allowed in sanctum of temple.
Later continue the dive to Madurai. On arrival checkin at hotel.
DAY 07 MADURAI
Morning: Sightseeing of Madurai visiting Great Meenaskhi Temple dedicated to the consort of Lord Shiva with its towersing Gopurams, rising high above the surrounding township. Later visit the Tirumala Nayak Palace – a gracious biulding in the Indo-Saracenic style, famous for the stucco work on its domes and arches.
Evening visit the temple once again to see the temple closing ceremony in which the idol of Lord Shiva is shifted in temple of Goddess Parvati. Non Hindus are not allowed in sanctum of temple.
DAY 08 MADURAI–PERIYAR
Today morning drive to Periyar. 160 kms & 4:30 hours drive.
Upon arrival check in at Hotel.
DAY 09 PERIYAR
Morning boat ride on the lake Periyar to see the heard of Elephants and other wild animals who come to lake to drink water.
Periyar has a lot to offer you in sightseeing. The name Thekkady, for those who have already visited this place, brings to mind images of elephants, unending chains of hills and spice-scented plantations. Moreover, the flora and fauna of the Periyar wildlife sanctuary is absolutely thrilling. The wildlife sanctuary here is the natural habitat of a wide variety of animal species. The Periyar Lake is a paradise for the nature lovers. It gives you an opportunity to observe the wild animals roaming in the jungle. The lake is also a birdwatcher’s delight. The greatest attraction of Periyar Lake, however, is the herds of wild elephants that come down to play in the lake. This lake serves as the waterhole for the animals and they come here to drink or take a dip. Other attractions of the sanctuary are the Sambhar, Bison, Spotted Deer, Tigers, Leopards, Malabar Flying Squirrels, Stripe necked Mongooses, etc. There are over 260 species of birds here, including Nilgiri Wood Pigeons, blue-winged Parakeets, White bellied Tree Pies, laughing Thrushes and Fly Catchers.
Afternoon visit to a Spice Plantation to watch different varieties of spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, peeper, clove, vanilla, ginger, tea and coffee growing in their natural environment. Periyar is on 1000 meters above the sea level and is rich in spice growing. 95% pepper in India is produced from here. Vasco de Gama was the first European to land at the Malabar Coast in 1498 A.D. in search of spices. Pepper in those days was exported against the equal weight of gold, so in the beginning of 15th century pepper was called black gold.
DAY 10 PERIYAR – KUMARAKOM
After breakfast drive to Kumarakom. 135 kms & 3 hours drive.
Kumarakom slumbers on the banks of the famous Vembanad Lake, which is a part of Kuttanad (‘granary’ of Kerala). The Vembanad Lake with its majestic canals, streams and distributaries along its banks weave an intricate and enchantingly beautiful web. The gorgeous green of the fringed palms ripple in the blue waters and blend into wavelets
DAY 11 KUMARAKOM
Whole day is at leisure in Kumarakom.
DAY 12 KUMARAKOM / MARARIKULLAM
Today morning drive to Mararkullam which is around an hours drive from Kumarakom. On arrival checkin at hotel.
Marari Beach is an endless vista of sand and surf. It is an authentic experience of the world of Kerala’s traditional fishing villages, and a recreation of an ancient, harmonious way of life. The village of Maraikulam lies on a forgotten shore, midway up the Malabar coast, where the Indian Ocean finally decides that it has now become the Arabian Sea. Marari Beach Resort is a celebration of Kerala’s coastal fishing villages. The resort sprawls across 55 acres of lawns, far-flung lotus ponds and whispering coconut groves, all threaded through with stone- flagged pathways. A windbreak of palms runs the length of the property, a protective cover that reduces even the gustiest sea winds to mere caresses. And beyond is a milk-and-azure ocean, fringed by a beach more ochre than yellow, a sand-meets-sea combination you’re not likely to find anywhere else
DAY 13-14 MARARIKULLAM
Days at leisure in Mararikullam.
DAY 15 MARARIKULLAM / COCHIN
Today morning drive to Cochin. On arrival checkin at hotel.
DAY 16 KOCHI (COCHIN)
Morning: After breakfast sightseeing tour of Kochi. Visit the Dutch Palace, the Jewish Synagogue – (which remains closed on Saturdays) St. Francis Church and the Santa Cruz Basilica. While driving along the coastline, at the Harbour’s mouth, one can also view the unique and still-in-use “Chinese Fishing Nets” which were introduced by the Chinese traders in the 14th Century. The tour ends in the Fort Kochi area where you can walk through the historical Dutch and Portuguese buildings. Some parts of this nearly 500-year-old Fort are still amazingly well preserved.
Evening witness Kathakali dance performance. Enjoy India’s most spectacular Dance Drama based on stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The dancers are elaborately made up with paint and masks, accompanied with drummers and musicians.
DAY 17 LEAVE COCHIN
Departure transfer to airport to board flight for onward destination.