|Grand Tour of South India
Destinations Covered: Chennai - Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry - Tanjore - Trichy - Madurai - Periyar - Kumarakom - Alleppey - Cochin - Bangalore - Mysore - Hassan - Hospet (Hampi) - Badami - Goa - Mumbai
23 Nights / 24 Days
Day 1: Arrive Chennai
Meeting and assistance on arrival at airport and transfer to hotel.
Chennai: At the southern tip of India in the state of Tamil Nadu, Chennai - or Madras as it was known earlier - is its capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu. It is also the third largest metropolis in India. Chennai as the gateway will put you in touch with a different face of India - classical, ancient, and gentle. Definitely touched by colonialism but not ravaged by wars & intensely aware of its roots & traditions.
Day 2: Chennai - Mahabalipuram (60 Kms, 01-02 Hrs Drive)
After breakfast, half day city tour of Chennai visiting Museum to see the art and bronze gallery (Closed on public holidays). Drive through the Flower & Fruit Market, High Court, Fort Museum, Marina Beach, San Thome cathedral.
Afternoon, leave for Mahabalipuram en route visit Kanchipuram - (64 km from Madras) ancient capital of the Pallavas, famous as a city of 1000 temples that still has 124 shrines. The first temple dedicated to Shiva was built in the 7th & 8th century & has painting on the walls. Temples of Ekambaswara, Kailasnatha, Sri Kamakshi & Vardarajaewamy are of interest. Kanchipuram is also famous for its silk.
On arrival in Mahabalipuram check in at your hotel.
Day 3: Mahabalipuram
After breakfast, visit Mahabalipuram, which was the main port of the Pallava dynasty & has exquisite Rock-cut monuments, monolithic structures & Bas-reliefs. It is also a beach resort. Visit a very interesting creation en route Dakshin Chitra, a museum that preserves actual houses of different communities & village craftsmen from the four southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka & Kerala.
Afternoon, free to relax on the beach.
Day 4: Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry (134 Kms, 03 Hrs Drive)
After breakfast, leave for Pondicherry. On arrival check in at hotel.
Afternoon, sightseeing of Pondicherry which was formerly a French Colony. Settled early in the 18th century Pondicherry became part of the Indian Union in the early 50s when the French voluntarily relinquished control. The main attraction here is the Aurobindo Ashram which was founded by Sri Aurobindo in 1926. The ashram is one of the most popular in India with westerners, and is also one of the most affluent. Also to be visited is the Pondicherry Museum which has a well displayed variety of exhibits ranging from French furniture to this history of bead making.
Day 5: Pondicherry - Tanjore (183 Kms, 04-05 Hrs Drive)
After breakfast, leave for Tanjore. On arrival check in at hotel.
Afternoon, visit Tanjore (Thanjavur) which was the ancient capital of Chola kings. Visit the Brihadishwara temple which was built by Raja and is termed as the crowning glory of Chola temple architecture. This temple is one of the monuments in India with World Heritage listing. Also visit the Thanjavur Palace which was constructed in 1550 and has huge corridors, spacious halls, observation and arsenal towers.
Day 6: Tanjore - Trichy - Madurai (184 Kms, 04-05 Hrs Drive)
After breakfast, leave for Madurai en route visit Trichy. Visit the Rock Fort Temple in Trichy (Tiruchirapalli) and the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangam - This superb temple complex is surrounded by seven concentric walls with 21 gopurams and is probably the largest in India. Most of it dates back from 14th to 17th centuries. The largest gopuram was completed as recently as 1987, and now measures an astounding 73 meters.
Continue drive to Madurai. Arrive Madurai and check in at hotel.
Day 7: Madurai - Periyar (150 Kms, 03-04 Hrs Drive)
After breakfast, visit Madurai - one of the oldest cities in South India and has been a centre of learning & pilgrimage for centuries. Visit Madurai's main attraction - Sri Meenakshi temple which attracts thousands of pilgrims from all over India. The temple is named after the daughter of a Pandyan King. Designed in 1560 by Vishwanatha Nayak, the present temple was substantially built during the reign of Tirumalai Nayak (1623-55 AD), but its history goes back 2000 years to the time when Madurai was the capital of Pandya Kings.
Afternoon, leave for Periyar. Periyar has one of the world's most fascinating Natural wildlife reserves noted for its geography, diverse wildlife and scenic beauty.
Arrive at Periyar and check in at hotel.
Day 8: Periyar
After breakfast, leave for Jungle Walk The forest provides specially trained guides who can be hired at the hotel for early morning treks into the jungle. The treks are of duration of 03-04 hrs. These treks are an ideal way to really feel the forest and to experience it closely.
Afternoon, boat ride on the Lake Periyar where one can have a unique experience of viewing wildlife at close quarters from the safety of a boat on the lake. The greatest attraction of Periyar, however are the herds of wild elephants that come down to play in the lake.
Day 9: Periyar - Kumarakom (140 Kms, 03-04 Hrs Drive) - Overnight Backwater Trip Till Alleppey
After breakfast, leave for Kumarakom in time to board houseboat for overnight backwater trip till Alleppey.
On arrival in Kumarakom, commence an overnight houseboat cruise to Alleppey, which gives one a fascinating insight into the life of a Keralan Backwater Village. As the boat glides along the backwaters one can see the daily life in the backwater villages. On the narrow strips of land, fisherman fishing, children swimming and playing in the water, women doing their daily chores, mobile shops in tiny canoes, the cultivation of paddy and it's harvesting (during harvest season), huge country barges ferrying the coconuts, rice, coir etc.
Note : The cruise commences at 1300 hrs with lunch served onboard and continues till dusk. At dusk the boat will anchor in a wide waterway or lake for the night. (The backwaters close to boat traffic at dusk as the fisherman lay their nets in the backwaters. Other boats are not allowed to ply in the backwaters after dusk.) On the following day the cruise commences again after breakfast and you will be dropped at Alleppey by 1000 hrs.
Day 10: Alleppey - Kochi (56 Kms, 01 Hr Drive)
Checkout from the houseboat and proceed to Kochi. Arrive Kochi and check in at prebooked hotel.
Afternoon, half day sightseeing of Cochin including Asia's best preserved Synagogue, the Dutch Palace and the oldest European Church in India - the St. Francis Church where Vasco De Gama was originally buried. A leisurely walk through the Fort Cochin area which gives you a close look at the operation of the huge catileavered Chinese fishing nets introduced by Chinese traders which is still used in Kerala backwaters as a traditional way of fishing.
In the evening, witness Kathakali Dance Show
Day 11: Kochi - Bangalore (BY Flight, IT 2452, 0750-0910 Hrs)
Early morning, transfer to the airport to board flight for Bangalore. Arrive Bangalore and transfer to prebooked hotel.
Afternoon, city tour of Bangalore - "city of gardens". Visit, the Vidhan Sudha - It houses the State's Legislature and Secretariat, Nandi Temple - One of the oldest temple, popularly known as the Bull temple.
Day 12: Bangalore - Mysore (130 Kms, 02-03 Hrs Drive)
After breakfast, leave for Mysore en route visit Srirangapatnam. Arrive Mysore and check in at hotel.
Afternoon, visit the magnificent city on the foothills of Mount Chamundi. Visit the Mysore Palace, also known as the Amba Vilas Palace, this palace was the seat of the Maharajas of Mysore. Burnt down in 1897, the present one was completed in 1912, at a cost of Rs. 4.2 million; Chamundi Hill - overlooking Mysore from 1062m summit of the hill is the Sri Chamuneswari temple and the Brindavan Gardens.
Day 13: Mysore - Hassan (161 Kms, 04 Hrs Drive)
After breakfast, leave for Hassan en route visit Sravanabelagola, one of the oldest and most important Jain pilgrimage centers in India, and the site of the 17m high statue of Gomateshvara, said to the world's tallest monolithic statue - an important Jain religious centre - a colossal Gomateshvara statue.
Continue drive to Hassan. Arrive Hassan and check in at hotel.
Day 14: Hassan
After breakfast, excursion to Hoysala Temples of Halebid & Belur. Visit the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebid which is the most outstanding example if Hoysala art. At Belur, visit the Channekeshava temple is the only one at the three Hoysala sites still in daily use.
Day 15: Hassan - Hospet (362 Kms, 07-08 Hrs Drive)
After breakfast, leave for Hospet. Arrive Hospet and check in at hotel.
Day 16: Hospet
After breakfast, excursion to Hampi: the once beautiful capital city of Vijaynagar Empire was greater than Rome and had palaces; temple and sculptures spread all over. The Sultanates of South razed the city to the ground in the year 1565 AD. Some of the interesting ruins remaining are the Virupaksha, Vittala and Hazara Rama Temples, huge Ganesha & Narasimha images, the elephant stables, the queen's bath, and carvings on the Ramachandra Temple & Lotus Mahal.
Day 17: Hospet - Badami (195 Kms, 05-06 Hrs Drive)
After breakfast, leave for Badami en route we stop at Aihole which was the Chalukyan regional capital between the 4th & 6th centuries. There are over 70 structures in and around and the more important structures include the Ladkhan temple, Kulinguidi & Durgigude Temples. Continue drive towards Badami.
En route stop at Pattadakal, the second capital of Badami Chalukyans, Pattadakal reached the height of its glory during the 7th and 8th centuries. The most important monument here is the Lokeshwara or Virupaksha temple that narrates episodes from the Hindu epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. After the visit continue drive to Badami.
Arrive Badami and check in at hotel.
Day 18: Badami
After breakfast, visit Badami which was once the capital city of the Chalukyan Empire which ruled much of the Central Deccan between the 4th and 8th centuries A.D. Badami is best known for its cave temples, cut into the cliff face of the red sandstone hill and connected by flights of steps. They display the full range of religious sects which have grown up on Indian soil. Two of them are dedicated to Vishnu, one to Siva and the fourth is a Jain temple. There's also one natural cave which is a Buddhist temple.
Afternoon free for independent activities.
Day 19: Badami - Goa (345 Kms, 06-07 Hrs Drive)
After breakfast, leave for Goa. Arrive Goa and check in at hotel.
Day 20: Goa
Day free for independent activities.
Day 21: Goa
Day free for independent activities.
Day 22: Goa - Mumbai (By Flight, SG 264, 1725-1825 Hrs)
After breakfast, morning free. In the afternoon, transfer to the airport to board flight for Mumbai. On arrival transfer to hotel.
Day 23: Mumbai
After breakfast, excursion to Elephanta caves. Afternoon, half day city tour of Mumbai.
Day 24: Depart Mumbai
In time transfer to international airport to connect flight for onward destination.