Best of South India

Duration : 22 Nights / 23 Days
Places to see : Chennai - Kanchipuram - Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry - Swami Malai - Tanjore - Tirchy - Madurai - Kanya Kumari - Kovalam - Periyar - Alleppey - Kumarakom - Cochin - Ooty - Mysore - Srirangapatnam - Hassan - Belur - Bangalore - Mumbai


Day 01: Home - Chennai
Chennai, also known as Madras, is the capital of Tamil Nadu and country's fourth largest city. Compared to the other major metros of India, it is far less congested and polluted. Chennai was the site of the first settlement of the East India Company. It was founded in 1639, on a piece of land given by the Raja of Chandragiri, the last representative of the Vijayanagar rulers of Hampi.

On arrival in Chennai, you will be welcomed by IDMS's staff and transferred to your hotel. (Rooms will be booked from 1200hrs).

Overnight in the hotel.

Day 02: Chennai - Kanchipuram - Mahabalipuram
In the morning have half day city tour of Chennai.

You will visit Parthsarthy Temple, built in the 8th century B.C. by the Pallava Dynasty and dedicated to Lord Krishna; this temple was renovated in the 16th century by the Vijayanagara dynasty and continues to be in active use today.

Kapaleeshwar Temple was constructed in the 13th century and is a living example of the architectural skills of the Dravidians. Non-Hindus are not allowed into the main worshipping place

Also visit Santhome Cathedral, built over the tomb of Apostle St. Thomas. According to legends, St. Thomas arrived in India from Palestine in AD 52 and died after 26 year. The church was built after a millennium, probably by the Persian Christians, and his remains were moved inside.

In the afternoon drive to Mahabalipuram en route visiting Kanchipuram.

Kanchipuram is intricately woven with the glorious reign of the Pallavas, the Cholas and the Rayas of Vijayanagar. Kanchipuram was the capital city of the early Chola kings in the 2nd century BC and a Pallava capital between the 6th and 8th centuries. The kings of Vijayanagar dynasty ruled Kanchipuram from 14th to 17th centuries.

The history of Kanchipuram is one of the seven most sacred pilgrim centers for the Hindus. Kanchi has about 126 temples remaining in total and a few more in its outskirts. There are several big temples, notably Ekambaranatha Temple which is one of the five form of abodes of Lord Siva, (it is the earth abode here, other abodes include Chidambaram (Sky), Sri Kalahasti (air), Thiruvanaikoil (water) and Tiruvannamalai (fire)), Kamakshi Amman Temple, Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Kumara Kottam, Kachapeshwarar Temple, Kailasanathar Temple and many more

On arrival in Mahabalipuram, check in at the hotel.

Mahabalipuram is a tiny sea side village, set in a boulder strewn landscape. Also called, Mamallapuram has a beautiful unspoiled 20 km beach and rock-cut art. The sculpture of this place, is particularly interesting, because it shows scenes of day-to- day life, in contrast to the rest of the state of Tamil Nadu, where carvings generally depict gods and goddesses.

Rest the day is free at leisure. Overnight in the hotel.

Day 03: Mahabalipuram
In the morning have half day sightseeing tour of Mahabalipuram.

You will visit Krishna Mandapam, one of the earliest rock-cut temples. It features carvings of a pastoral scene, showing Lord Krishna lifting up the Govardhana Mountain, to protect his kinsmen from the wrath of Indra, the God of Rain.

Arjuna's Penance is a massive bas-relief replete with meticulous carvings that include a family of elephants and monkeys. The carvings on the bas-relief are the stories from the legends of India and the Panchatantra.

Pancha Pandava Rathas are splendid structures dating back to the 7th century are located in the southern end of Mahabalipuram. These Rathas (chariots) are five in number and carved out of a single rock. The five rathas (chariots) are architectural precursors of the temples of south Indian.

Shore Temples were built in 7th century, during the reign of Rajasimha, and represent the final phase of Pallava art. These beautiful and romantic temples, ravaged by wind and sea, are so significant that they were given World Heritage listing, a few years ago.
The two spires of the temples contain a shrine for Lord Vishnu, and for Lord Shiva.

Afternoon is free at leisure on the beach.

Overnight at the Hotel.

Day 04: Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry
In the morning, drive to Pondicherry (Puducherry).
On the way to Pondicherry, one gets to see the scenery typical of the Deccan plateau. Striking red soil and deep green vegetation, consisting mainly of cashew, palm and neem, area forms a stunning landscape.

Pondicherry, a former French colony, presents an unusual combination of European culture and Indian traditions. Its history can be traced back to Agastya, the revered sage of the south who built his hermitage here in 1500 BC. It became a part of India in 1954, but traces of its history as a French colony still remain in its churches, cuisine, grid-pattern streets and some colonial buildings. An added attraction is the town of Auroville, an oasis of peace and enlightenment.

On arrival, check in at the hotel.

In the afternoon have half day sightseeing tour.

Visit Sri Aurobindo Ashram founded by the philosopher-saint Sri Aurobindo in 1926 to put into practice his ideals of a peaceful community. Its spiritual tenets represent a synthesis of yoga and modern science. It is also his final resting place.

At the Ashram's hand-made paper factory one can buy the most wonderful paper products.

Also visit Sacred Heart Church with its Gothic architecture and stained glass windows.

On the way, one can notice people playing a strange game with iron balls, which was a French form of amusement.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 05: Pondicherry - Swami Malai
In the morning drive to Swamimalai.
On the way, visit temples in Chidambaram & Gangaikondacholapuram.

The Nataraja Temple is located in the center of Chidambaram town and covers an area of 40 acres. The roof of the sanctum sanctorum is covered with gold plates. The presiding deity of the temple is represented by air, one of the five elements of the universe and is known as Akasa Lingam. This to signify that God exists in vacant space too. This is the temple of the Cosmic Dancer, where the presiding deity is called Nataraja.

In Gangaikondacholapuram, visit the Brihadishwara Temple, which was built on the same lines of the Tanjore temples with the same name, by the Chola emperor Rajendra I. The temple is no longer used for Hindu worship but till date even the ruins of the temple are visited for the splendid specimens of the Chola sculpture.

On arrival, check in at the hotel.

Rest the day is free at leisure. You will observe how the traditional crafts such as bronze statue making and pottery are done.

Overnight in the hotel.

Day 06: Swami Malai - Trichy
In the morning drive to Trichy.

On the way, visit temples in Kumbakonam, Darasuram and Tanjore.

Kumbakonam is considered to be a very holy town according to Hindu religion. It used to be once the capital of the Chola kings. There are as many as sixty temples, in and around Kumbakonam within 40-km of radius. Of the many temples in Kumbakonam, the oldest Shiva fane is the Adikumbeshwara and the oldest Vaishnava fane, the Sri Sarangapani, Sri Nageshwara Temple, Sri Chakrapani Temple and Sri Ramaswami Temple

Airatesvara Temple in Darasuram is a superb example of 12th century Chola architecture. Columns with unique miniature sculptures front the temple. In one large sculpture a lion ferociously attacks an elephant, said to be symbolic of the triumph of Hinduism over Buddhism!

In Tanjore, visit the Sri Brahadeeswarar temple built by Raja Raja in 1010 is the crowning flory of Chola temple architecture. Constructed from a single piece of granite weighing an estimated 80 tonnes, the dome was hauled into place along a 4 km earthwork ramp in a manner similar to that used for the Egyptian pyramids.

The Palace of Thanjavur is right next to the temple was built by the Nayaks and the Marathas. It has huge corridors and spacious halls, the art gallery, housing granite and bronze statues of the Chola period.

On arrival in Trichy, check in at the hotel.

Overnight in the hotel.

Day 07: Trichy
In the morning have half day sightseeing tour of Trichy.

Tiruchirappalli or Trichy, located on the banks of the Cauvery River, was mentioned by Ptolemy in the 2nd century BC. The town and its fort were built by the Nayakas of Madurai. It was ruled at various times by different dynasties, each of which has left their mark on the town. Today, Trichy is a blend of historical town, pilgrim center and thriving commercial city. It is also India's largest center manufacturing artificial diamonds.

You will visit the famous Rock Fort Temple, a spectacular monument perched on a massive rocky out crop which rises abruptly from the plain to tower over the old city.
This temple complex is a collection of three temples - the Manikka Vinayakar temple at the foot of the hill, the Uchhi Pillayar Koyil at the top of the hill and the Taayumaanavar Koyil (Shivastalam) on the hill.

In Srirangam, visit Sri Ranganathaswami Temple. The temple of Ranganatha, the largest in India, is of particular reverence to all Hindus. Srirangam is also listed as one of the Nava Graha Sthalas, or temples representing the planets. It is surrounded by 7 concentric walled courtyards with 21 magnificent gateways. Within the walls are several shrines and bazaars.

Rest the day is free at leisure.

Overnight in the hotel.

Day 08: Trichy - Madurai
In the morning drive to Madurai, the second largest city of Tamil Nadu.

It was once the seat of Tamil learning and still the place where the Tamil language is spoken in its purest form. The city is planned in the shape of a lotus. Modern Madurai is a burgeoning industrial center, even though the vast stretches of paddy fields, dusty roads and crowded bazaars make it seems like an overgrown village. Modernity has reached the city of Madurai, but not at the cost of its rich tradition and culture.

Madurai is also home to a large number of temples that reflect the refined architectural works of yore. There are numerous tourist attractions in Madurai that will fill your trip to Madurai with joy and excitement.

On arrival in Madurai, check in at the hotel.

Afternoon is free at leisure.

After early dinner visit an interesting ceremony at Meenakshi Temple of taking lord Shiva in a procession with the musicians to the Goddess Parvati for the night halt.

Return back to hotel for overnight.

Day 09: Madurai
Today you will have sightseeing tour of Madurai.

You will visit the great Meenakshi Temple dedicated to the consort of Lord Shiva with its towering Gopurams. Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Shiva are the main deities of the temple. The temple has 985 beautifully sculptured pillars that form the Thousand Pillar Mandapam Hall. Since ages the temple has been the center of Tamil culture, sponsoring literature, art, music and dance.

Also visit Tirumala Nayak Palace, a gracious building built by Thirumalai Nayaakar in 1636. The paintings, carvings and designing of the Mahal show the amazing talents of the nayak kings. 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.

Rest the day is free for shopping

Overnight in the hotel.

Day 10: Madurai - Kanyakumari - Kovalam
Drive to Kovalam en route visiting Kanyakumari - is the southernmost point of peninsular India and the meeting point of three oceans-the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Besides its importance as a Hindu pilgrim center, it is famous for its beautiful views of sunrise and sunset over the waters. The multicolored sand is a unique feature of the beach here.

Visit Vivekananda Rock Memorial. This memorial to Swami Vivekananda was built in 1970. Vivekananda was a social reformer and saint of modern India. He is supposed to have meditated on the rock where the memorial stands.

Ferry service is available to reach the rock memorial.

Visit the Sangam which is the meeting point of the three major bodies of water, the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Drive continues to Kovalam - is one of the most popular beach hangouts in India. Kovalam means a grove of coconut trees and truly the coconut trees along the beaches gives it a ravishing look.

The palm-fringed bays in secluded coconut groves, promise a relaxed stay. The boundless blue waters of the Arabian Sea and miles of white sands washed away by the surf at the feet of the stalwart palms and the rocky promontories, makes this beach paradise.

On arrival, check in at the Hotel. Rest the day is free at leisure on the beach

You may take Ayurvedic massage or treatment at the hotel on direct payment basis.

Overnight in the Hotel.

Day 11: Kovalam
The day is free at leisure on the beach

You may take Ayurvedic massage or treatment at the hotel on direct payment basis.

Overnight in the Hotel.

Day 12: Kovalam - Periyar
In the morning drive to Periyar. Periyar is South India's most popular wildlife sanctuary, encompassing an area of 777 sq. km. Though the sanctuary was made a part of Project Tiger in 1973, it is better known for its elephants.

The park has a picturesque lake at the heart of the sanctuary. Formed with the building of a dam in 1895, this reservoir meanders around the contours of the wooded hills, providing a perennial source of water for the local wildlife. The dense forest cover and the variety of flora are also among the tourist attractions in Periyar. There are trees more than 100 years old and over 50 m high.

In the evening you can have Nature walk in the wildlife sanctuary.

In the lap of the mountains, the Periyar wildlife sanctuary's environ is like a canvas of many shades. The fresh air of the moist deciduous forest gives one a chance to experience the peace and serenity and long to return for more.

Overnight in the hotel.

Day 13: Periyar
In the afternoon enjoy game viewing by boats, which carry you through the jungle along convoluted waterways. This biosphere reserve has a varied range of flora and fauna and you can set out for a tour of this exotic territory with camera in your hand and hope to capture the shy residents of the forest.

The elephants are the most majestic among all the things to watch in Periyar. They can be spotted on the lake shores bathing and basking in the sun.

However, you can come across many other mammalian species such as leopard, wild dog, barking deer, mouse deer, Nilgiri langur (an endangered primate), bonnet macaque, sambhar, porcupines, squirrels, gaur (Indian bison), wild boar, and sloth bear.

In the evening have a walk in spice plantations.

Overnight in the Hotel.

Day 14: Periyar - Alleppey
In the morning drive to Alleppy to board Rice boat.

It took great skill and meticulousness to construct these Houseboats by tying huge planks of jack wood together, without the use of a single nail. It usually has one or two bath rooms, an open lounge, deck, kitchenette and a crew comprising oarsmen, a cook and guide.

A dense network of 44 rivers and man made canals envelop Kerala in a large glittering green web. The water ways of Kerala have played a main role in the economy of the state. Riceboats and small ships used to ply in these waters, carrying coconut, rubber, rice and spices to various trading centers of Kerala. Even today, these waterways link remote villages and island with the main land .It is an incredibly different experience to cruise in the backwaters in country boats, absorbing the beauty of the villages.

Sail along the winding network of Kerala backwaters, see the unique water world and experience its myriad charms. Watch in wonderment the dancing net-like patterns on the glistening backwaters of Kerala formed by sunrays that filter through the dense foliage on the water banks.

Embark at the local villages that flourish on the banks of the emerald Kerala backwaters and visit the village bazaars that are flooded with coir products, coconuts and other village produce. You can also interact with the local population see their lifestyle. Although practically surrounded by water, they still manage to keep cows, pigs, chickens and ducks and cultivate small vegetable gardens, prawns and fish.

In houseboats, traditional Kerala food will be served.

Lunch, Dinner & overnight on Boat.

Day 15: Alleppey - Kumarakom
In the morning after breakfast disembarks the boat, and drive to drive to Kumarakom - The tourist village of Kumarakom lies in the scenic backwater area, on the shore of the pleasant Vembanad Lake, 16 km away from Kottayam. Here an old rubber plantation around the lake has been developed into a bird sanctuary. A path goes through the swamp to the main nesting area, while the island in the middle of the lake can be reached by boat.

On arrival, check in the hotel.

You can take Ayurveda treatments from the hotel on direct payment basis.

Over night stay at the hotel.

Day 16: Kumarakom - Cochin
After breakfast drive to Cochin - Kochi is a beautiful city situated on the Western Coast of India facing the Arabian Sea, and rightfully called the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea'. It has a rich network of backwaters and is the culture and heritage centre of Kerala. A cluster of islands, Cochin is the commercial city of Kerala and is one of the finest natural harbors in the world.

Cochin was the center of trade with ancient Rome in the products like pepper and pearls, fine silks, cotton, muslin, honey, oil, betel, tortoise shell, cinnamon leaf, black pepper, ginger grass, and indigo.

On arrival in Cochin, check in at the hotel.

In the afternoon have small city of Cochin.

You will visit Jewish Synagogue, constructed in 1568, is the oldest synagogue in the commonwealth. It is closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.

Mattancherry Palace or Dutch Palace has fine collection of mural paintings depicting the scenes from the Hindu epics Mahabharatha and Ramayana. It is closed on Fridays. In Fort Cochin visit St. Francis Church, the oldest church built by European in India. Vasco da Gama was buried here in 1524 before his remains were moved to Lisbon, Portugal. The tombstone still remains.

In the evening, you can enthrall yourself with a special presentation of the colorfully costumed Kathakali Dance Show in a local theatre. Kathakali is an ancient religious pantomime dance drama handed down through generations for more than 300 years and performed by dedicated families of Kerala

Overnight in the Hotel.

Day 17: Cochin - Ooty
Ooty, also known as Udagamandalam, is the "Queen of hill stations" and the capital of Nilgiris district. It is one of the most popular tourist resorts in India. Nilgiris means "Blue Mountains". It is a land of picturesque picnic spots. Used to be popular summer and weekend getaway for the Britishers during the colonial days. It is situated at an altitude of 2,240 meters above sea level.

Overnight in the hotel.

Day 18: Ooty
In the morning visit Botanical gardens, which are major tourist attractions of Ooty. They sprawl over 50-acres and lie on the lower slopes of Dodabetta peak, which is the highest point in Ooty. The establishment of numerous tea estates made Ooty famous. Lofty mountains, dense forest, sprawling grasslands and miles and miles of tea gardens greet the passengers on most routes.

Overnight in the hotel.

Day 19: Ooty - Mysore
In the morning drive to Mysore - has been always associated with the royal families and their patronage, be it the Wodeyars or the Sultans. Mysore is a city known for its resplendent palaces and majestic buildings. A visit to the city conjures up visions of the glory, still evident of the illustrious Wodeyar Kings. This former state capital still retains its tradition in music and dance, art and literature and its time-honored crafts.
Mysore enchants you with its quaint charm, verdant gardens, tree-lined boulevards and its sacred temples.

Mysore, once the state capital, today is a vibrant city teeming with tourists and visitors. It is known the world over for its exotic sandalwood and rich silks. Many culinary delights await those inclined to sample the regional cuisine.

Overnight at hotel

Day 20: Mysore
Today you will have sightseeing tour of Mysore.

In the morning visit Somnathpur Temple. It was built in the 13th century in the exquisite Hoysala Temple architecture. Hoysala art is intricate and highly detailed. The temple is set on a chiseled plinth guarded by elephants.

Visit Srirangapatna famous for the island fortress of the legendary warrior king Tipu Sultan is just 14 km from Mysore city. Inside the fortress is Tipu's mosque with its twin minarets, the Wellesley Bridge and the dungeons where British officers were once imprisoned.

In afternoon visit Brindavan Gardens, located at the Krishna Raja Sagar Dam. Brindavan Gardens is one of the best gardens in South India. Spread over 150 acres, Brindavan Gardens has since the 1960s provided the backdrop for many Indian films.

Also visit Chamundi Hill where you are welcomed by a large colorful statue of Mahishasura, the demon after whom Mysore is named. The gigantic bull, vehicle of Shiva, is still worshipped

In the evening visit the illuminating Maharaja Palace built in 1857 in Indo-Saracenic style. The Palace is a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world.

Overnight in the hotel.

Day 21: Mysore - Hassan
Drive to Hassan. Visit Belur and Halebid.

Halebid:-
The splendor of the city is attested by its architectural monuments which still rank among the masterpieces of the Hindu art. The Hoysaleswara temple dating back to the 12th century is outstanding for its wealth of sculptural details. The walls of the Hoysaleawara temple are covered with an endless variety of goddesses, animals, birds and dancing girls. No two facets of the temple are alike. Guarded by a Nandi Bull, it was never completed, despite 86 years of work. It is the most outstanding example of Hoysala art.Halebid also has a smaller temple called Kedareshwara and a little-visited enclosure containing three Jain bastis (temples) with fine carvings

Belur:-
38 km from Hassan is Belur, the first capital of the Hoysala dynasty. It is known for its exquisite temples, of which the Chennakeshava Temple is a fine example. It took 103 years to complete and the façade of the temple is covered with intricate sculptures and frescoes, which are awe-inspiring in their workmanship. In the temple are hand-lathe turned filigreed pillars, each different from the other. Veeranarayana Temple and the smaller shrines are worth a visit.

Return back to Hassan for overnight.

Day 22: Hassan - Sravanbelgola - Bangalore
Drive to Bangalore en route visit Shravanabelagola, an important Jain pilgrim centre.

Shravanabelagola is home to Asia's largest monolithic statue Lord Gomateswara here towers 58 ft., looming atop the picturesque Vindhyagiri Hill. Every 12 years, Jain pilgrims gather here to participate in a splendid head-anointing ceremony. Shravanabelagola has over 500 inscriptions, and some of them are recording death by starving (`sallekhana') by Jaina ascetics and laymen.

On arrival in Bangalore, check in at the hotel. Rest the day is free at leisure.

Overnight in the Hotel.

Day 23: Bangalore Mumbai - Home
Connect flight for Mumbai and further connecting flight for onward destination.

 
 
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