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Treasures of South India

Trip Length

Trip Code

15 days PITI

Minimum Passengers

4 people

Maximum Passengers

15 people

Countries Visited

India

Start City

End City

Mamallapuram, Tamil N?du, India Chennai
Treasures of South India

This leisurely journey through Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka encompasses all the highlights of southern India. The beachside retreat of Mamallapuram is our initial base. We then travel to explore Pondicherry and the historic temple and palace cities of Tanjore (Thanjavur), Chettinad and Madurai. Next is the lush tropical land of Kerala - home to Periyar National Park where we go in search of wildlife, palm-fringed backwaters and the harbour city of Kochi (Cochin), with its diverse architectural and religious influences. Alleppey is a village where we observe the rural lifestyle in the backwaters before boarding a traditional rice barge and taking to the main waterways. The historic palace city of Mysore takes us back to the grandiose age of the maharajas. Our journey ends back in the lively former trading outpost city of Chennai (Madras).

Treasures of South India


Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1: Chennai - Mamallapuram

Upon arrival at Chennai's Anna International Airport (next to the international terminal is the Kamaraj domestic terminal), we are met at the airport and transferred to our hotel in Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram). Our airport representative will be waiting for us outside the arrival hall, located after passing out of the customs area. Look out for the signboard. It usually takes about an hour's drive to reach our destination. Lying south of Chennai and overlooking the Bay of Bengal, the ancient seaport of Mamallapuram (also called Mahabalipuram) is now a coastal retreat with a long sandy beach, flanked by volcanic rocks. The town has been a sculpture centre since the 5th century when, at its height during the Pallava Dynasty, many of the temples in the town were constructed. Most famous of these is the Shore Temple overlooking the beachfront, decorated with ornately carved figures. There are many man-made caves to explore and at the centre of the village are two massive rocks covered in bas-reliefs, known as Arjuna's Penance and the Krishna Mandapa. Mamallapuram became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, due to its large number of impressive sites.

Day 2: Mamallapuram

Meals included: 1 breakfast

We enjoy some sightseeing today in this village of 12,000 people. The highlights include a visit to the fabulous rock-cut temples, the giant frieze and the Shore Temple, carved out of rock along the Coromandel Coast. We have the afternoon at leisure to take in the seaside ambience and perhaps seek out some of the delicious seafood that this place is famous for.

Day 3: Pondicherry

Meals included: 1 breakfast

(Driving time: approx 3 hours) We drive south down the coast from Mamallapuram to the former French settlement of Pondicherry (Puducherry). This was the capital of French India and along the seafront we can still discern traces of the colonial influence in the design of some of the houses and also in the kepi-wearing policemen. An important trading post since ancient times, the town has also been colonised over the years by the Portuguese, the Danes and the British, as well as the French. It's now both a bustling Indian market town, but also takes on the appearance of being a permanently out-of-season seaside resort. Pondicherry also attracts visitors who come here to study yoga or practice meditation in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. There is also an international flavour present in the nearby Auroville community, which was inspired by the founder of Sri Aurobindo Ashram - a Parisian painter named Mirra Alfassa, who was known as the 'Mother'. The centre‘s charter states that “to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness“. With roughly 1800 residents from 38 nationalities, mainly Europeans, serving the Divine Consciousness, the centre operates as a kind of alternative community, subsisting from handicrafts and alternative technology. Our time in Pondicherry is at leisure, so those with an interest in the philosophy of the centre may be interested in arranging a visit. Pondicherry is famous for its French-influenced cuisine and in the evening we can chose from one of the many great eating spots on offer.

Day 4: Tanjore

Meals included: 1 breakfast

(Driving time: approx 4 hours) We drive from Pondicherry to Tanjore. Also known as Thanjuvar, the town is a main commercial centre for the surrounding Kaveri Delta, but nevertheless retains the feel of a rural market town. There are some superb monuments in Tanjore, most notably the Sri Brihadishwara Temple - a World Heritage listed monument. This is the most imposing Chola monument in all of Tamil Nadu and contains a superb bronze collection. The temple dominates the skyline of the town with a 13-storey tower and colonnaded walkways around a central courtyard. The town itself is divided in two by the Grand Anicut Canal, with the old town lying to the north. There are still many other temples here, as well as the Nayak royal palace.

Day 5: Chettinad

Meals included: 1 breakfast

(Driving time: approx 3 hours) We continue by road from Tanjore to Chettinad. Chettinad is a region of the Sivaganga district of southern part of the state of Tamil Nadu. Karaikkudi is the capital of Chettinad, which includes Karaikkudi and 74 other villages. Chettinad is rich in cultural heritage, art and architecture, and is renowned for its 18th century mansions that are embellished with marble and Burma teak and feature wide courtyards and spacious rooms. Local legend has it that their walls used to be polished with a paste made out of egg white to give a smooth texture. A heritage walking tour takes us to look at the exterior of some of these stately buildings. In your free time, you may wish to visit the interior of one of the Chettiar mansions. Chettinad is also known for its culinary delicacies and we can indulge on some of these in the evening.

Day 6: Madurai

Meals included: 1 breakfast

(Driving time: approx 2½ hours) Our next destination, Madurai, is full of colourful bazaars, street tailors, throngs of pilgrims and joyful religious processions. The main attraction is the famous temple dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi, one of the re-incarnations of Parvati - Shiva's consort. The Meenakshi Temple is one of the finest and largest examples of Dravidian architecture, has an estimated 33 million sculptures and is always a hive of activity. The most fascinating features of the temple are its musical pillars, each of which is carved out of a single block of granite and each when tapped let out a musical note. Then there is the Hall of a Thousand Pillars, part of which has converted into a museum filled with sculptures and antique treasures. It is well worth returning in the evening to see the closing ceremony, in which an image of Shiva is carried in procession to Parvati's shrine. This ceremony is accompanied by chanting priests, drummers and torch-bearers, making it an unforgettable experience.

Day 7: Periyar National Park - Thekkady

Meals included: 1 breakfast

(Driving time: approx 4 hours) After breakfast we continue our journey by road and cross from one state to another, as we travel from Tamil Nadu to Kerala. Our journey is on a hilly and winding road and our destination is Thekkady, which is set amidst beautiful countryside and is the visitor’s centre and gateway to Periyar National Park - a renowned wildlife sanctuary and tiger reserve and one of the largest national parks in India. Even though there is plenty of wildlife, sightings are of course a matter of chance. We include a forest walk with a local guide in the hope of sighting some of the exotic species of animals that make their home in the park. Periyar is also located around a large artificial lake and you can take an optional boat ride in the late afternoon if you wish.

Day 8: Kerala Backwater Cruise

Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner

(Driving time: approx 3 hours) After a drive to Alleppey, we board our houseboat, converted from a Kettavallum, or traditional rice barge, and sail the beautiful backwaters of Kerala - a breathtakingly stimulating experience. This large aquatic area is a vast network of lagoons, lakes, rivers and canals, and the people who live in this region have created their own distinct lifestyles. While sailing down the maze of canals one sees simultaneously different scenes - villages, paddy fields, coconut palms, fishermen and everyday local life. From our comfortable houseboats we witness the peaceful way of life on these amazing waterways and get to watch the sun go down over the backwaters. Our overnight stay on board our boat is sure to be a real highlight of our trip and the cool breeze from the lake always helps us to sleep better, after we moor up for the night.

Day 9-10: Kochi

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

(Driving time: approx 1½ hours) We finish our cruise and drive us past some of the numerous villages that line the intricate waterways, to Kochi (Cochin). On arrival we enjoy a city tour and explore Fort Cochin and St Francis Church. Built by Portuguese Franciscan monks in 1503, this is said to be the oldest church in India. The structure itself is testament to the evolving history of Cochin, having been used at various times by Roman Catholics, Dutch Protestants and Anglicans. We also enjoy a boat cruise around the harbour. In our fee time we can explore other sights of interest including the famous Mattancherry Jewish Synagogue, which was originally built of wood in 1568. The area surrounding the synagogue is full of spice shops selling cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and a host of other spices. Kochi is set on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas and has one of the best natural harbours in the world. It is one of the most unique and fascinating towns in southern India. In the evening we can watch a performance of Kathakali dancing (optional).

Day 11: Vaikom - Kochi - overnight train

Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch

(Train journey: approx 12 hours) This morning we drive to Vaikom for a day visit, where we include a boat ride through the small waterways and visit various local industries such as like coir making, toddy tapping, spice producing, mat weaving and pot making. We visit a riverine village and meet the families living in this stunningly unique environment. The backwaters of Kerala have become the lifeline of the state, with a number of towns like Alappuzha, Kumarakom, Kollam, Kuttinad located amidst the maze of waterways. We also enjoy a Keralan lunch at Vaikom, prepared for us by a local family. Late in the afternoon we drive back to Kochi, where In the evening we board a sleeper train to Bangalore (Bengaluru). Our train departs at around 8:45 pm from Kochi Railway Station. On this train we use 2nd-class, air-conditioned sleeper berths.

Day 12-13: Mysore

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

(Driving time: approx 3 hours) After arriving in Bangalore at approximately 8:35 am, we are met and driven to Mysore - a friendly and easy-going city of shady trees and buildings of faded grandeur. This is one of India's most manageable cities. The huge Maharaja’s Palace is simply magnificent, especially when illuminated during festivals. There are museums, hilltop temples and an extremely colourful fruit and vegetable market, which is a photographer's delight. On a city tour of Mysore we visit the Maharaja’s Palace and Chamundi Hill. Mysore is also a crafts centre and there are numerous shops selling a large range of sandalwood, rosewood and teak carvings, and furniture. Plenty of shopping opportunities!

Day 14: Chennai

Meals included: 1 breakfast

(Train journey: approx 7½ hours) We take the Shatabdi Express air-conditioned train back to Chennai, arriving in the evening. Our train is scheduled to depart at 2:15 pm and arrive at Chennai at 9:35 pm. Founded as recently as 1639 by the British East India Company as a trading post, Chennai is divided into three main areas. The original site was north of the River Cooum and is known as Fort St George. Central Chennai is the commercial and business heart of the city and, to the south, Mylapore has temples and other attractions. George Town, to the north of Fort St George, is an area of small, crowded streets lined with interesting architecture; both Hindu and Jain temples are found here, as well as the occasional mosque. There are some good bazaars to explore, but like much of Chennai it can be crowded and chaotic. More manageable is Mylapore, which has the most famous temple in the city - the Kapalishvara. With a 40 metre tower decorated with sculptures and a collection of shrines tended by priests, it is a popular site for devotees and sightseers alike.

Day 15: Chennai

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Your trip ends in Chennai this morning after breakfast. Check out time is 12 noon. If your flight leaves in the evening you may wish to book additional accommodation so you have a room until departure. Your leader will be on hand to assist with transfers to the airport. This is not covered but can be booked in advance through your travel agent or with us.


Your Trip

What's Included

• The services of Peregrine’s expert English-speaking local tour leader throughout the tour and local guides at some sites.

• Sightseeing (including entrance fees where applicable): UNESCO World Heritage-listed site of Mamallapuram including the rock-cut temples, giant frieze and Shore Temple; 10th Century UNESCO World Heritage-listed Sri Brihadishwara Temple; Madurai including Meenakshi Temple; Kochi including Fort Cochin and St Francis Church; Mysore including Chamundi Temple, Chamundi Hill and Maharaja’s Palace.

• Stroll the French colonial promenades of Pondicherry.

• Sample the delicious cusine and explore the extravagant temples of Chettinad.

• Kerala Backwater Cruise staying overnight on a converted traditional rice barge houseboat.

• Boat ride in Vaikom’s countryside to observe local cottage industries and including a Keralan lunch prepared by a local family.

• Boat cruise around Kochi harbour.

• Jungle walk in Periyar National Park.

• Free time to explore Mamallapuram, Madurai, Kochi, Mysore and Chennai.

• Overnight train from Kochi to Bangalore in 2nd-class, air-conditioned sleeper berths.

• Shatabdi Express air-conditioned day train from Bangalore to Chennai.

• Arrival transfer.

Summary of accommodation, transport & meals

Transport

Accommodation

Meals

Not Included

International flights, airport departure taxes, airport departure transfer, visas, insurance, other meals including lunches dinners, any optional tours and activities during free time, excess baggage charges, tips, items of a personal nature and camera fees (some places that we visit charge additional fees if you are entering with a camera or camcorder - your city guide will advise on these and they can be paid for locally).


What to know

Fitness

None of the activities featured in this trip require special training or skills, just a reasonable level of fitness and a willingness to participate. If you are in any doubt contact your doctor for advice.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations may be required for this trip. Please talk to your doctor about the up-to-date information for this region.  We're travel experts, not doctors and defer to the medicos when it comes to inoculations.

Visas and Permits

Please ensure that you have all required visas for your trip – this is your responsibility. Rules and regulations governing the issuance of visas are constantly changing, and vary for different nationalities and you should check visa requirements with your travel agent or relevant consular authority well before travel.

India

Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance OR on arrival*
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance

There is NO visa on arrival in India for most nationalities. Indian visas can NOT be obtained in Nepal. Tourist visas are available in Single and Multiple Entry. Be sure to check the date you require a visa from and the length of time you will need to cover, especially if you change countries during your trip.

*Visa on arrival is available for select nationalities, including New Zealanders provided that specific criteria can be met. See link below for more information. http://india.gov.in/spotlight/encouraging-inbound-tourism-tourist-visa-arrival-tvoa-scheme

Insurance

You are required to have travel insurance before heading off on a Peregrine trip. Insurance can be organised by your Peregrine representative or your travel agent.

Responsible Travel

Our Responsible Travel ethos is at the heart of everything we do, from getting the basics right like respecting local cultures and the environment, to initiating projects that make positive contributions to communities, to our staff’s fundraising efforts and offsetting our carbon emissions.
Please visit our Responsible Travel (http://www.peregrineadventures.com/rt) page for more information.

Customs and Culture

Our Pre Departure Information or Travel Dossier (provided upon booking a trip) provides tips on how you can show respect for the local customs and culture in the country you are travelling in. Your leader will also help steer you though the complexities of local cultural norms.

Pre Departure Information
The information listed above is a brief description of some things you may need to consider when booking a trip. Once a tour is booked you will be provided with a link to your Travel Dossier which will contain detailed Pre Departure information.

Further Reading

India

India Lonely Planet-Sarina Singh

A Passage to India-EM Forster

A Suitable Boy-Vikram Seth

Chasing the Monsoon-Alexander Frater

Entrance

Included for all sites visited as part of the itinerary. Any camera fees charged are not included. India also has a wealth of other historical attractions that you may wish to visit in your free time. Entrance fees to these are not included.


Important Information

R ventures

Local Emergency Contacts In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency Peregrine’s India office can be reached on +91 (120) 422 7164 or +91 (120) 422 7169 during business hours (9.30am to 6pm) or after hours on +91 9910035322.

About this Information

The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please keep this in mind when you read it and check with us if you want to be sure about something. The document was correct at time of printing, but you can check online for the most up to date version.  If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!

Last Updated

17 January 2014


General Contact Details

Peregrine AdventuresPhone: 1-800-663-5132
E-mail: sales@peregrineadventures.com
Web: Visit Peregrine