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You are here : India Taj Mahal Tours > Special Tours Itineraries India >> South India Cultural Wildlife Tours
South India Cultural Wildlife Tours

Duration : 15 Days / 14 Nights
Destination Covered : Chennai - Kanchipuram - Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry - Tanjore - Kanadukathan - Madurai - Cardamom House - Periyar - Vagamon - Alleppey - Cochin
Day 01: Arrival - Chennai (Madras)
Late night arrival. Meeting and assistance upon arrival as our representatives welcome you and escort you to your car.

Whilst the room keys and check-in is organized, our representative would introduce the tour to you and hand over the documents to you.

Welcome to India, or as we say 'atithi devo bhava' (the guest is an incarnation of God). Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you!

Overnight at Taj Coromandel - a 5* Taj Group Hotel

Day 02: Chennai
Lotus TempleFollowing a leisurely breakfast we proceed on a guided tour of one of India's largest cities- Madras is the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The Tamillians are the proud inheritors of a rich cultural heritage, which is one of the main reasons for their beliefs of superiority over the hybridized culture of North India. Fort St. George (1653), built by the British, presently houses the State secretariat and the legislative assembly. The Fort has an interesting museum with fascinating collections of memorabilia from the early days of the British Raj. St. Mary's Church (1678-80), was the first English church and the oldest surviving in India. The High court building, built of red sandstone has an interesting archaeological section and a bronze gallery. The former has an interesting collection of all major and ancient south Indian dynasties. The bronze section has interesting collections of Chola (9th century) bronze art. The High Court, built in Indo-Sracenic style is supposed to be the largest judicial building in the world after the Court Of England. The Kapaleshwar temple is an ancient Shiva temple in typical Dravidian (south Indian) style. Near the temple, the San Thome Cathedral (originally built in 1504), is a Roman Catholic Church believed to have the remains of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Overnight at Taj Coromandel - a 5* Taj Group Hotel

Day 03: Chennai / Kanchipuram / Mahabalipuram / Pondicherry (205 Kms)
After breakfast we will spend the day among picturesque villages, crashing coastline, and rock-cut temples offering a window on daily life in an ancient Indian kingdom. Visit Mahabalipuram, seaside capital of the Pallava kings, famed for its shore temples and remarkable, lifelike rock carvings of animals, deities and village life 1400 years ago. Good seafood and a fine beach are among the other attractions to sample in town, before continuing to Kanchipuram, the golden Pilgrimage City of silks and shrines. On our way we stop to watch some fishermen hollowing out canoes from tree trunks. You could also witness similar craft being hauled out of the sea and fishermen unloading their catch, watched by fish-eagles hoping, no doubt, for a share.

Kanchipuram, a Hindu Holy City and capital of the Pallava dynasty from the 7th to 9th centuries AD, is renowned for temples and silk, and you will see plenty of both. The temples range in date from the 8th to the 17th century. The latest building was impressive in its size, the height of its gopuram, the intricacy of its carvings and wealth of colour, but, the earliest temples, of golden sandstone, are more aesthetically pleasing, the only colour provided is by a flock of ring-necked parakeets.

Across the road is a workshop where men sit at a loom, weaving fabrics that you will recognise immediately as "Madras cotton". However, Silk-weaving takes place on a grander scale than the cotton-weaving in this town dotted with cottage workshops. You could visit a factory where all the processes of spinning, dyeing and weaving take place. Of special note would be exquisite wedding saris made to order - the silk is heavily interwoven with gold thread. The sari and blouse are woven together so as to ensure a perfect match.

Late afternoon, drive on to Pondicherry
Upon arrival check in to Hotel Le - Duplex

Overnight at Hotel Le - Duplex

Day 04: Pondicherry
Lotus TempleFollowing a leisurely breakfast, we will proceed on a tour of the city- Pondicherry. More than anything else, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, where Sri Aurobindo and the Mother lived for the most parts of their lives, is a major attraction of this little city. The Pondicherry Museum is home to some of the most exquisite collections on architecture and sculpture. Pondicherry also has a pleasant beach alongside promenade and historical monuments. Some of the other interesting sites includes the Bharti and Bharthidasan Memorial museums and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Overnight at Hotel Le - Duplex

Day 05: Pondicherry / Tanjore / Kanadukathan (Chettinad) (245 Kms)
After breakfast we will drive to Kanadukathan (Chettinad) enroute we will visit Tanjore

Tanjore also known as Thanjavur(The rice bowl of TAMIL NADU). Proceed for sight seeing of Tanjore. Visit the famous Chola Temple of Brihadeeshwara - A WORLD HERITAGE MONUMENT. Its bronze and handicrafts make Tanjore one of the highlights of the tour to South India. The majesty of the palaces and art gallery attached to the temple is really awe-inspiring. It is also famous for the silk. From here we continue our drive to Trichy

From here we will drive to Kanadukathan (Chettinad). It is a region of the Sivaganga district of southern Tamil Nadu. Chettinad is the homeland of the Nattukottai Chettiars (Nagarathar) a prosperous banking and business community. The region is well known for a few things. The food here is special. Many of Chettinad cook has melted the palates of international clientele, they woo: at their entrepreneurial restaurants. Chettinad food, now is one of the many reasons why people get to know Chettinad. Chettinad food is essentially spicy, with a standard full meal consisting of cooked dhal, eggplant (brinjal) curry, drumstick sambar, ghee for flavouring rice, and sweet meats like payasam and paal paniyaram.

Upon arrival, check into Chettinadu Mansion. This 100 year's old architectural marvel is situated in Chettinadu, one of the Hidden Treasures of Tamil Nadu. It's 126 rooms and sheer size of the marriage hall, tall pillars, beautiful balconies, and hidden lofts the size of a large room in the false ceilings are features typical of a by gone era of gracious living. Chettinadu Mansion is a Heritage Home bringing to its guests the living style of the Chettiars - the business tycoons of the South who made their livelihood in Burma in the last century. Chettinadu is equally famous for its astrological talents and of course the world famous Chettinadu Cuisine.

Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities

Overnight at Chettinadu Mansion

Day 06: Kanadukathan (Chettinad)
Lotus TempleAfter breakfast we will explore Chettinad. The place is rich in cultural heritage, art and architecture, and is well known for its houses, embellished with marble and Burma teak, wide courtyards, spacious rooms, and for its 18th Century mansions. Local legend has it that their walls used to be polished with a paste made out of eggwhites to give a smooth texture. We explore the temples of the region. Originally built to appease the Gods, the temples of Chettinad stand testimony to the spiritual beliefs of its denizens. The temples are more than rock and stone. Scattered over the whole place, each temple has its own tank called oorani where water lilies are grown, and used for holy rituals. Even today much of chettinad's daily tidings are centered around the festivities around the temple; which as inferred are much revered and frequented. Among the many famous temples, a few are Vairavan Kovil temple, Karpaga Vinayakar temple, Kundrakudi Murugan temple, Kottaiyur Sivan temple.

Overnight at Chettinadu Mansion (Standard Room)

Day 07: Kanadukathan / Madurai (90 Kms)
After a leisurely breakfast we will drive to Madurai

Upon arrival check in to the Hotel Taj Garden Retreat

Madurai is one of the oldest cities of southern India. It has been a center of pilgrimage, for centuries. The Meenakshi temple, the main architectural attraction here, is an excellent example of Dravidian architecture, with gopurams or multi pillared halls, covered from top to bottom, in a profusion of multicolored images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures.

However, besides the temple, our tour includes a walk along the main street leading to the temple. The well-organized confusion caused by pilgrims in traditional clothes, pavement shops of all shades, holy men in robes of different colours etc add an unmistakable colour and atmosphere to this fascinating Temple City.

Overnight at Taj Garden Retreat

Day 08: Madurai / Cardamom House (70 Kms)
Following a leisurely breakfast, we will drive to Cardamom House situated in stunningly beautiful surroundings on a hillside of the Western Ghats over-looking a monsoon dependent 400-acre lake. Cardamom House is owned and managed by Dr. Chris Lucas, a retired English physician, ably assisted by 6 Indian staff. All rooms have either twin or separate double-bedded accommodation, face south, and have modern western style bathroom facilities en-suite with solar heated hot water. The water comes from deep bore wells and is potale. With just two guests to each staff member we can assure that you will, be personally looked after and "spoiled rotten" during your stay. The meals are prepared using only the freshest produce purchased daily from the local markets and the house takes great pride in the variety of food that they serve.

Overnight at Cardamom House

Day 09: Cardamom House
Lotus TempleBesides experiencing a great, traditional accommodation in stunning natural settings, we also want you to experience a typical back of beyond unhurried Athoor village that has remained frozen in time. We suggest that you simply stroll through the village at your own pace, absorbing the atmosphere and watching as the rural life unfolds. On the track you will pass a Hindu Temple situated under a Banyan Tree, Continuing your stroll you will pass Banana Plantations, fields of Chilli and Groundnuts, and of course hundreds upon hundreds of Coconut Trees. The villagers whose Way of life is dependent on agriculture, are Very friendly and will welcome you. Some of the Cardamom House staff either hail from, or are living in Athoor and will ensure that they are there to help you, introduce you to people and help with the devilishly difficult Tamil language, Athoor is truly an unspoiled Indian Village waiting to be discovered.

Overnight at Cardamom House

Day 10: Cardamom House / Periyar (150 kms)
After breakfast we will drive to Periyar.

Upon arrival check into the Spice Village Resort. Set in the heart of the Cardamom Hills of Kerala, Spice Village is an unprecedented tourist destination, offering a rare opportunity to enjoy South India's wildlife and beauty. The village lies just outside Periyar Tiger Reserve, and a stay here is the perfect way to appreciate and respect the environment. This is a place for everyone who loves nature: somewhere to fill your lungs with fresh mountain air, to savour the rich fragrance of cinnamon and cloves, to watch young elephants drinking at the water's edge. The resort itself provides every comfort the modern traveller could wish for - luxurious accommodation, mouth-watering cuisine, and an exclusive swimming pool.

Recreating the mood of the local tribal community, our architects have designed individual cottages amongst a landscaped spice garden. Each dwelling is thatched with elephant grass and offers simple luxury and privacy. Throughout the village, the atmosphere is relaxed and enchanting.

This evening, we visit a spice farm where our guide will show and explain the various Spice plantations.

Overnight at Spice Village

Day 11: Periyar / Vagamon (100 Kms)
Following breakfast this morning we would take a short trek inside the forest. The birdlife comprises of darters, cormorants, kingfishers, great hornbills (the great Malabar hornbill) and racket-tailed drongoes. The reptilian population boasts of monitor lizards, which can be spotted basking in the sun, on the rocks along the lakeshore, especially in the cooler months. Pythons, king cobras, flying lizards, flying squirrels, flying snakes and to top it all, flying frogs are the other inhabitants of this amazing sanctuary. There are a few fascinating tribal villages around the Periyar, primarily the Manan and Oorali tribes. The Manans are ace fishermen, and a few of them still indulge in the traditional, if dangerous, practice of collecting the honey of large and deadly hill bees. The Ooralis build tree dwellings, though not as residences, but watchtowers to keep wild pigs, and elephants from ruining their crops.

Later we will drive to Vagamon through incredibly scenic countryside. We do have opportunities to stop on the way a few times to take in the beauty of the place as also to interact with the locals. Reaching this high range destination is a winding-uphill journey. With a number of twists and turns the tarred road goes winding a number of hills until you reach a top. Even before you approach the foot of the hills to be ascended, you pass along paddy fields, rubber plantations and a few seemingly forested areas. Greenery every where you see. This experience is sure to add a very special flavour to your trip.

Upon arrival, check into Vagamon Hideout Resort, a real romantic true eco-friendly Heritage resort and also a memorable destination for those seeking quiet amidst natural splendours! The resort is surrounded by romantic hills with un-spoilt nature, sparkling streams, lake, country boats, fishing, green tea gardens and cardamom plantations.

Overnight at Vagamon Hideout Resort

Day 12: Vagamon
Lotus TempleDay is at leisure to enjoy the spectacular resort and its scenic surroundings of green tea gardens, beautiful meadows, valleys and dales. 35,00 ft above sea level, the perfect beauty of Vagamon is only recently discovered. Much like a few other hill stations in India, Vagamon was discovered by the British who set up tea plantations here.

Overnight at Vagamon Hideout Resort

Day 13: Vagamon / Alleppey / Houseboat (190 Kms)
Following a leisurely breakfast, we ride to Alleppey for a houseboat experience through the narrow canals and channels of the backwaters of Kerala.

The materials that go into the making of houseboat are all local and Eco-friendly; bamboo poles, coconut fiber ropes, bamboo mats carpets etc. The main wood used is "Anjali ". The Houseboat provides all comforts - Beds, a kitchen, western toilets and an upper deck. Traditional lanterns are used as lights. The cuisine is of traditional Kerala flavour along with the local Specialities - delicious fish and prawns.

Cruise on your boat through remote tribal villages along the tranquil backwaters of Kerala is a superb experience. Sensational in its own silent way, the cruise takes you along snake boat docks, friendly cheering villagers, coir (Jute) making communities, toddy (local spirit) shops, fishing nets pitched for the day's catch, bunded paddy fields and manual canoes of different sizes criss-crossing each other. The experience enables you to reach beautiful untouched areas

Overnight aboard Deluxe Houseboat

Day 14: Houseboat / Alleppey / Cochin (45 Kms)
Lotus TempleFollowing breakfast we disembark houseboat at Alleppey and drive to Cochin

Upon arrival, check into your hotel Taj Malabar. This hotel combines the old world charm with unparalleled luxury. The hotel takes its very character from this beautiful city. Situated on the Willingdon Island with a magnificent view of the harbor, it has elegantly designed interiors a heritage wing built in 1935 and brings you the very best in contemporary comfort all of which it the perfect place to start any journey through Kerala.

After rest and relaxation, we proceed on a guided tour of the City. The true character of the city is to be found in the older parts of the Fort Cochin area. It more or less exists as it used to be a 1000 years back, when it was first built. The roads have not been widened because the old haggard buildings, through patchwork repairs over the centuries, still stand on the edges. This part of the city reflects an unusual blend of medieval Portugal, Dutch and English country life grafted on to the tropical Malabar Coast. The fishing community of Cochin is also very interesting. They ancient cantilevered fishing nets called Chinese Fishing Nets. The net is fixed to a pole on the shore. While fishing, the entire net is lowered by a primitive fulcrum mechanism using long bamboo poles. By the same mechanism the pole is lifted along with the catch. We will explore the sights of Photographic as well as cultural interest. We would also visit the 16th century Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace since the Dutch substantially renovated the palace in the 17th century. The double storied quadrangular building surrounds a courtyard containing a Hindu temple. The Central Hall on the first floor was the coronation hall of the Rajas of Cochin; on display are their dresses, turbans and palanquins. The most important feature of this palace, however, is the astonishing murals in the bedchambers and other rooms, which depict scenes from the Ramayana and other religious legends. These murals are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful and extensive anywhere to be seen in India. The unique feature here is the unexpected and isolated Jewish community, whose origins date back to AD 52. They are self-contained and have there own Synagogue.

The area around the Synagogue, known, as 'Jew Town' is one of the main centres of spice trade. Scores of small firms huddle together in old dilapidated buildings and the air is filled with the aroma of ginger, cardamom, cumin, turmeric and cloves. The area is very busy. The potters are loading gunny bags of spices on to carts, which keep running up and down the narrow lanes. We would visit Jew Town, in the Mattancherry section and a short walk from the ferry, is one street long. Jews used to occupy virtually all the houses on Jew Town Road, where they sold fruits, vegetables and spices or worked as oil pressers or carpenters. The spice markets are still located on the narrow street.

Kathakali Dance:
A special treat awaits us this evening as we proceed to witness the strength and vigor of Kathakali dance drama, as it enacts episodes from great Indian epics. The extremely stylized gestures,the elaborate make-up, the masks and the splendid costumes of these all-male dancers, recreates an incomparable sense of pageantry

Overnight at Taj Malabar - a 5* Taj Group Hotel

Day 15: Cochin / Departure
Transfer to the International airport to board your onward flight to back home

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