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South India with Kerala Tours
India Taj Mahal Tours
Duration : 14 Days / 13 Nights
Destination Covered : Delhi - Agra - Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry - Tanjavur - Trichy - Madurai - Periyar - Houseboat - Kumarakom - Cochin
Day 01: Arrival / Delhi
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 Hotel

Day 02: Delhi / Agra
India Taj Mahal ToursAfter breakfast we will drive to Agra, along one of India's finest freeways

Upon arrival check into your hotel

Afternoon we ride to the massive Agra Fort. The elegant buildings inside reflect an interesting synthesis of Hindu and Central Asian architectural styles. Built by Emperor Akbar, the maze of the courtyards, mosques & private chambers of the fort echo the story of the Mughal Empire. The Moti Masjid & other magnificent buildings reflect the skill of the ancient Indian architects.

Overnight at Hotel

Day 03: Agra / Delhi
Delhi / Chennai (9W 832 - 1655 / 1935 Hrs)
Chennai / Mahabalipuram (70 kms - 90 Minutes)

We are about to witness one of the greatest sights of one's lifetime - the Taj Mahal at sunrise. Before departure for the monument we shall be served tea/coffee and cookies so that our eyes open real wide to behold this breathtaking sight. A dawn visit to the fabled Taj Mahal to witness the magical effects caused by the reflections of the changing colours of the rising Sun on this brilliant white marble building.

Following a leisurely breakfast transfer to Delhi airport to connect your flight to Chennai

Meeting and assistance upon arrival in Chennai & we will drive to Mahabalipuram.
Overnight at Hotel

Day 04: Mahabaipuram / Kanchipuram / Mahabalipram (60 Kms)
India Taj Mahal ToursFollowing a leisurely breakfast, we will tour Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram is famous for its shore temples. The sculpture here is particularly interesting because, instead of Gods & Goddesses, the sculpture shows scenes from contemporary day to day life - women milking cows, pompous dignitaries, young girls priming and posing in street corners or swinging their hips in artful come-ons. Mahabalipuram is an easy going village of essentially two streets and positioned at the foot of low lying boulder strewn hill where most of the fascinating temples and the rock cut carvings are to be found. It affords a wonderful combination of an excellent beach, good seafood and the fascinating remains of an ancient Indian Kingdom.

Later we will have an excursion of Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram is 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. From here we continue our ride to Mahabalipuram.

Overnight at Hotel

Day 05: Mahabalipuram / Pondicherry (113 Kms - 3 hrs)
Morning we will drive to Pondichery

Upon arrival check into your hotel

Afternoon, proceed on a tour of the city. 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.

The French, Britain's strongest rivals for the control of India, established their foothold here and only relinquished it in 1954. The town still has the feel of a French provincial town, with its librairie, epicerie, imposing Hotel de Ville, memorial to Franco-Indians killed in the Great War, and statue of Joan of Arc. The houses could be anywhere in southern France and bear the familiar white numbers on a blue ground. Street names, too, are shown in white on blue - rue St Louis, rue de la Caserne and so on. During a pleasant afternoon stroll you could hear French spoken frequently.

Overnight at Hotel

Day 06: Pondicherry / Chidambaram / Kumbakonam / Darasuram / Gangaikonda / Thanjavur (170 Kms - 8 Hours including tours en route)
Morning we will drive to Thanjavur enoute we will visit Chidambaram, Kumkakonam, Darasuram & Gangaikonda.

Chidambram is in between two rivers in a 40 acres temple-complex, it is one of the oldest and magnificent temples of the South. Shiva Natrala or the Dancing Shiva stands in his cosmic dance pose in the golden rooted sanctorum. Flanking the temple are 108 sculptured illustrations of Bharat Natya Shashtra. In Akash Lingam hidden by a veil, lies the real secret of Chidambaram.

Kumbakonam is flooded with temples of large size. There are as many as sixty temples, in and around Kumbakonam within 40-km of radius. Of the many temples in Kumbakonam, the oldest Shaiva fane is the Adikumbeshwara and the oldest Vaishnava fane, the Sri Sarangapani.

Darasuram is a 'Sculptor's dream in stone', musical pillars, mandapam in the shape of a chariot, a wealth of sculpture and painting are synonymous with Airavateshvara Temple. The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a well-preserved example of 12th century Chola architecture. Darasuram is an ancient town about 380 kms south of Chennai in Tamil Nadu and also boasts a silk weaving centre. The original name of Darasuram was Rajarajapuram, which later got corrupted into Darasuram.

We drive through the tropical mountains to Gangaikonda through the Coleroon river delta.. The ancient town of Gangai Konda Cholapuram in Tamil Nadu is an hour's drive from Chidambram. It was the capital of the Cholas till their fall in the 13th century. This place is well known for the Gangai Konda Cholapuram temple which was built in 11th century, to commemorate Chola King's conquest up to the Gangetic plain. The temple is one of the very ancient temples of Tamil Nadu, built in the Chola style. The temple is lavishly sculpted with beautiful stone sculptures including a dancing Ganesha, a lion headed well and a stunning freeze depicting Rajendra being crowned by Siva and Parvati.

From here we continue our drive to Thanjavur

Upon arrival check into your hotel

Overnight at Hotel

Day 07: Thanjavur / Srirangam / Trichy (65 Kms - 2 hours)
Morning tour of the Tanjavur Palace. It has huge halls, spacious corridors, observation & arsenal towers and a shady courtyard. Though many sections of the palace are in ruins restoration work has been taken up. The palace houses a library, a museum and an art gallery. The Royal museum displays many items from the kings who ruled the place in past. The eclectic collection of royal memorabilia can fascinate any visitor. The Royal cloths, hunting weapons, the head gears and many more such items are enough to catch the attention of any one. There are two Durbar halls where the rulers held public meetings. Though they have not been renovated, they are in good shape.

The Nayak hall of the palace is occupied by the Art Gallery. This gallery has an excellent collection of artifacts from the Chola dynasty during the 8th and 9th century. The bronze and granite statues reflect the height of craftsmanship obtained during those days. The bell tower which was put under restoration work, has emerged very different from the rest of the structure after renovation. But it is worth going up the tower to have a good view of the surrounding area. Next to the art gallery is the Saraswathi Mahal Library with an amazing collection of manuscripts on palm leaves and paper. The library is not open for the public. But one can always go in the museum to have a look at the full Ramayana written on Palm leaf or a set of explicit prints of prisoners.

We will also proceed for sight seeing of Tanjore. See the beautiful Chola temple of Brihadeeshwara. The temple is capped by a monolithic cupola made of a single granite block weighing 80 tons which was taken to the top with the help of a 6 km long ramp- an old technique used by the Egyptians for building pyramids. You will also visit the Palace and its Art Gallery, which contains several granite and bronze statues of the Chola period.

Later we drive to the district's most important pilgrim centre, Srirangam, located in an island just 7 kms from Trichi. Srirangam, surrounded by the waters of river Cauveri on one side and its tributary kollidam on the other, is a 600 acre island-town enclosed within the seven walls of the gigantic Sriranganathaswami Temple. Most of it dates from the 14th to 17th centuries, and many people have had a hand in its construction, including the Cheras, Pandyas, Cholas, Hoysalas and rulers from Vijayanagar. The largest gopuram in the first wall on the southern side was completed as recently as 1987, and now measures 73m.

From here we will drive to Trichy

Upon arrival check into your hotel

Evening tour of Rockfort Temple. The 83m high Rock Fort is the only outcrop in the otherwise flat land of the city. The rock is one of the oldest in the world-approximately 3.800 million years, which makes it as old as the rocks of Greenland and older than the Himalayas. The sheer abruptness of its rise is a thrill in itself, but the actual centre of attraction is not the fort itself, of which very little remains, but the temple at the summit. 344 steps hewn out of rock lead to the top where there are inscriptions dating back to the 3rd century.B.C. Hardly anything remains of the ramparts but the Main Guard Gate is still intact. The fort played an important part during the Carnatic wars and according to an inscription, mainly contributed to lay the foundations of the British Empire in India.

At the top of the rock is the Uchipillaiyar Koil, a temple dedicated to Lord Vinayaka from where one can enjoy a panoramic view of Tiruchirappalli. A flight of steps leads to the Mathrubutheswarar of Thayumanaswami temple, dedicated to Lord Siva where the lingam is a projection of the rock itself. Below the Siva temple are the two Pallava cave temples that have beautiful sculptures of the 6th and 7th centuries. At the foot of the Rock Fort are a tank and a pavilion which are used during the float festival of the temples. Near the tank is the house where Robert Clive lived when he was in Tiruchirappalli and there is an 18th century Church built by Reverend Schwartz of Denmark.

The temple elephant in rock fort temple collects donations, giving a blessing and hands over the money to his "boss"

Overnight at Hotel

Day 08: Trichy / Madurai (130 Kms - 3 Hours)
Morning, ride to Tirumayam, which is one of the 108 Divya Desams. Tirumayam has two cave temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, which are visited by large number of devotees. Mahendravarman and Narasimhavarman Pallava built the cave temples, which lie adjacent to each other.

After the tour we will drive to Madurai

Upon arrival check into your hotel

After wash & change, visit the Tirumala Nayak Palace - A gracious building in the Indo saracenic style, famous for the Stucco work on its domes & arches. Also visit the Alagar Hills and Tirupara Kundran Rock temple.

Later we will proceed on a tour of Madurai. 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.

Evening we will witness Bed Chamber Ceremony at Meenakshi temple.

Overnight at Hotel

Day 09: Madurai / Periyar (236 Kms - 6 hrs)
After breakfast, we will drive to Periyar through the scenically vibrant valley of the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Thekkady in Kerala, is one of the 16 Project Tiger Reserves in India. About a century ago, a British engineer, Col. J. Penn ycuick, chalked out a plan to dam the Periyar River, subsequently, a dam was constructed in 1895. This resulted in the adjoining forests being granted protection, by the Maharaja of Travancore. The 55 sq km reservoir and the surrounding forests, provide protection to the animals within. Today, Periyar is undeniably, one of the most impressive wildlife sanctuaries in the world.

Upon arrival check into your hotel

This evening, we will enjoy a boat ride along the lake into the more inner areas of the reserve. There is probably no sanctuary in the world where elephant behavior can be watched in such absolute comfort and safety. The total population is about 800. From the lake we can get as close as 20 meters to watch placid groups feeding, bathing and mud slinging. We end this adventurous day at our hotel, turning in for the night matching the tranquil pace of the forest around us.

Overnight at Hotel

Day 10: Periyar / Allepey / Houseboat (150 Kms - 3 Hours & 30 Minutes)
India Taj Mahal ToursFollowing 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 that 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 Mana ns 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.

After the trek 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.

Overnight abroad Houseboat

Day 11: Houseboat / Kumarakom
We spend the morning cruising on our 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.

Following a leisurely breakfast, the houseboat traverses through narrow channels and canals and reaches your hotel.

Overnight at Hotel

Day 12: Kumarakom / Cochin (55 Kms - 80 minutes)
Mid morning, a short boat cruise brings us to 'Philip Kutty's Farm' to see an extraordinary way of life, farming and fishing. Here, we learn the intricacies of Keralan food preparations. The type of cooking you will be exposed to, is predominantly with a Christian and backwater influence, ie, plenty of meat and fish preparations as well as other vegetarian dishes and also the little family touches passed down over the generations

Later we will drive to Cochin.

Upon arrival check into hotel

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 Hotel

Day 13: Cochin
After breakfast, 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.

Overnight at Hotel


Day 14: Cochin / Departure
Transfer to Cochin airport to board your flight back home




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