South India Extensive

Duration : 11 Nights / 12 Days
Places to see : Chennai - Tirupati - Kanchipuram - Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry - Swamimalai - Trichy - Madurai - Kanyakumari - Trivandrum

Day 01: 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 stay at hotel.

Day 02: Chennai - Tirupathi - Chennai
After breakfast same day trip to Tirupathi - is a temple town known for the famous ancient temple of Lord Venkateswara (Lord of seven hills or Balaji, as he is affectionately known) on the top of the 860mts high Tirumala hills.

In the evening return to Chennai. overnight stay at hotel.

Day 03: Chennai - 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 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.

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
After breakfast same day trip to Rameshwaram - the most sacred temple town of India is an island hallowed by the epic Ramayana, where Lord Rama is said to have visited before going into battle of Srilanka.

PM - 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.

Overnight in the hotel.

Day 10: Madurai - Trivandrum
After breakfast drive to Trivandrum and check in at hotel.

Overnight stay at hotel.

Day 11: Trivandrum - Kanyakumari - Trivandrum
After breakfast same day trip to 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.

Overnight stay at hotel.

Day 12: Trivandrum - Home
After breakfast transfer to airport to connect flight for onward journey.
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