Scenic South

Tour Type:
Private Escorted Tours
Start:
Chennai
Duration:
16 Days
End:
Cochin
Departs:
Daily

Starting From

NZ$ 4494
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Experience the cultures as we cross two States (Kerala and Tamil Nadu), each with distinctive cultural traditions, exquisite architectural jewels, and rich, delicately scented cuisine headily fragrant, and an endlessly spiced varying feast for the senses.

Itinerary

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DAY 1

Meet and assistance on arrival by TOTAL HOLIDAY OPTIONS representative at the arrival lounge holding plaque card and transfer to the hotel. Rest of the day at leisure and stay overnight in Chennai.

DAY 2

After breakfast proceed for the sightseeing tour. The capital city of Tamil Nadu state is popularly regarded as the ‘Gateway to the South’ and represents a culture that is distinctly different from that of northern India. Chennai has flourished into a charming city in a time span of just over 350 years, encouraging all forms of development, both modern technology and the traditional arts and crafts, embracing a series of paradoxes. People in Chennai are deep rooted in their cultural moorings and traditions, even though modernity has its own impact. Chennai was the site for the East India Company’s first settlement founded in 1639 and had its military headquarters at Puzhal, which is now a small village on the outskirts of the city. In the 19th century the city became the seat of Madras Presidency, the southern division of British Imperial India. After independence in 1947 it became the capital of Madras state that was renamed Tamil Nadu. The city is a wonderful blend of the traditional Tamil Hindu culture and modern British culture. The numerous temples, shrines, churches, forts and palaces are a reflection of the rich and diverse historical heritage of the city. Visit Kalakshetra, a school of art and music that encourages exponents of Bharatanatyam, Carnatic music, traditional weaving and designing; St. Mary’s Church, the oldest Church in India with its premises; Sri Parthasarathy Temple built by Pallavas in the 8th century AD; San Thomas Cathedral Basilica rebuilt in 1606 as a cathedral and in 1896 it was made a basilica. Dinner and overnight at Chennai.

DAY 3

After breakfast travel to Mahabalipuram, en-route visit Kanchipuram, the city of a thousand temples and one of the seven sacred cities of Hindus; back in 2nd century BC, the city was the capital of the early Cholas Kingdom. It has been a centre of Tamil learning, cultural and religious backgrounds for centuries and its imposing temples of unique architectural beauty bear eloquent testimony to its glorious Dravidian heritage. The temples feature high roofs surmounting the sanctum, Sanctorum and gopurams. The city is also famous for its silk weavers, settled around 400 years ago and has given it an enviable reputation. Woven from pure mulberry silk, the saris in dazzling colours are embellished with fine gold thread (zari) and are available in every imaginable design and variety, making the job of selection quite challenging. Later proceed to Mahabalipuram, on arrival check in to the hotel. Dinner and overnight at Mahabalipuram.

DAY 4

The temple city of Mahabalipuram was a flourishing port town of the Pallava rulers, a Dravidian dynasty that once ruled over the major portion of peninsular India. Earlier known as Mamallapuram, the city is said to be a fabulous “open-air museum” of sculpture under the vault of the burning sky. After breakfast proceeds for a sightseeing tour, where the Pallavas have created many marvellous monuments with sculptural panels, caves, monolithic Raths (Chariot) and Temples. The majestic Mahabalipuram invokes a certain kind of mystery, with its sculptural extravaganza depicting strong artistic temperament of the Pallava rulers who are considered by many as the conceivers and the driving force behind the Dravidian art movement. In a land that is liberally strewn with some of the best in temple art, Mahabalipuram holds its own and stands as a silent yet eloquent witness to the glory of its creators. The wonders in rock leave one enthralled, conveying an impression of beauty and harmony. Rest of the evening at leisure with dinner and overnight at Mahabalipuram.

DAY 5

After breakfast travel to Pondicherry, on arrival check in to the hotel. The town is adorned with natural beauties of the Deccan Plateau; on the red soil, the dense green trees create marvellous scenery, with trees majority of cashews, palm and neem. After some rest enjoy the sightseeing tour of this city ruled by French for about 281 years before independence, and the profound influence of Southern France is still very prominent. The medieval town of the French province, Pondicherry has managed to preserve its French aura, from its delectable restaurants offering French cuisine to streets bearing French names. The grand boulevards make Pondicherry a richly cosmopolitan city. The numerous palm-fringed beaches, splendid backwaters, fabulous tiny fishing villages and hamlets make it a beautiful town. Dinner and overnight at Pondicherry.

DAY 6

Drive to Thanjavur, en-route visit Chidambaram known for its beautiful temple dedicated to the Lord Nataraja – Lord Shiva in the form of a Cosmic Dancer. The Nataraja temple is said to be the venue of the divine dance competition between Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy. It blends piety, tradition, history and art to an outstanding level. Visit the GangaiKonda Cholapuram for its rich, beautiful and intricately carved Chola style sculptures on the walls and roofs, 42 in number. It also houses some remarkable bronzes of the Chola Dynasty. Stay two nights at Thanjavur.

DAY 7

After breakfast go for sightseeing tour of the city known as the "Rice bowl of Tamil Nadu" also known as the Granary of the South India, lying in the deltaic region of the famous river Cauvery and crisscrossed by a lengthy network of irrigation canals. The royal city of the Cholas, Nayaks and the Mahrattas, Thanjavur has a rich and varied heritage, which is renowned across the globe. The center of knowledge and culture reached its zenith between the 10th and 14th centuries under the reign of the Cholas, though the magic of Thanjavur continues un-faded over the period of time. It is a fortuitous combination of flourishing agriculture, competent monarchs and along religious revival. The Chola rulers were also mighty builders who erected large number of exquisite temples in their Empire which reflect the power, genius and architectural grandeur of their authors displaying the unique and magnificent proficiency in sculpture, painting and wood carving. The town is also famous for its ancient handicrafts-making of bronze icons, Thanjavur art plates, bell-metal castings, bowls and powder boxes of metal with beautiful and artistic in-laying and engraving work of motifs well known as “Tanjore swami work” and the wonderful Tanjore style of paintings, developed over multiple layers, usually centred on the Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

DAY 8

After breakfast enjoy short drive to the historical city of Tiruchirappalli, popularly known as Trichy, situated on the banks of the Cauvery River, has a long history going back several centuries before the birth of Christ. This Chola Dynasty citadel is known for its profound wisdom of the Sangam Age and still carries an age-old aura about it. The present-day city, with a blend of glorious past and acclaimed divinity through the famous Dravidian temples, stands as a commercial and tourist hub of Tamil Nadu. After breakfast proceed for sightseeing tour of the city and visit Rock Fort; a spectacular landmark of Trichy perched on a massive rock outcrop which rises abruptly from the plain to over the old city, a climb of 434 steps leads to the ancient temple of Ganapathi on top and a further climb to a Shiva temple, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple; famous for its superb sculpture, the 21 impressive gopurams and its rich collection of temple jewellery and Sri Jambukeshwara Temple; named after the elephant which is believed to have worshipped Lord Shiva here. Installed under an ancient Jambu tree, the lingam is partially submerged by water and meant to represent God incarnate as water. Afternoon take a stroll in the streets of this holy city, home to many historic temples, monuments, churches and mosques. Dinner and overnight at Trichy.

DAY 9

After breakfast travel to Madurai, on arrival check into the hotel, the rest of the evening at leisure. Dinner and overnight at Madurai.

DAY 10

After breakfast proceed for sightseeing tour of the second largest city of Tamil Nadu situated on the banks of the River Vaigai, believed to be more than 2500 years old. One of South India’s oldest cities, it has been the centre of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. Madurai is called Athens of the South because of the way myth meets life here. Originally called Madhurapuram because honey (Madhu) is said to have dropped off the locks of Shiva here. Visit the magnificent Meenakshi Temple and experience stunning architecture as the sculpted pillars tell the story of the beautiful princess of Madurai and her marriage to Lord Shiva. Designed in 1560 by Viswanatha Nayaka and built during the reign of Thirumalai Nayaka, the Temple occupies an area of six hectares with 12 temple towers (Gopurams) and the outer towers are the landmark of Madurai. The temple is lavishly decorated with colourful images and carvings of numerous deities, animals and mythical creatures. Endowed with a rich cultural heritage, legends of warrior princesses, the gods falling in love and divine promises abound and glorious tradition, Madurai is grouped among the antique cities of the India. Afternoon free for your own activities with dinner and overnight at Madurai.

DAY 11

After breakfast travel to Periyar, on arrival check in at the jungle resort. Periyar conjures up images of elephants, unending chains of hills, lush green trees, chirping birds, stunningly beautiful landscape and unending spice-scented plantations. The Periyar forest of Thekkady is one of the finest wildlife reserves in India and spread across the entire district are picturesque plantations and hill towns that hold great opportunities for treks and mountain walks. Afternoon take a spice plantation tour to see crops of cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, coffee and tea estates. On your way back you could stop at the local market and pick up some fragrant spices. Dinner and overnight at Periyar.

DAY 12

After breakfast explore the Periyar wildlife sanctuary on the boat, the sanctuary centrepiece being the splendid artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam, meanders around the contours of the wooded hills, providing a perennial source of water for the wildlife and is home to tiger, bison, wild boar, sambar, monkeys, wild elephants, antelopes and a wide variety of birds. There are over 260 species of birds here, including Nilgiri Wood Pigeons, blue-winged Parakeets, White-bellied Tree Pies, laughing Thrushes and Fly Catchers. Rest of the day is free to explore the area and perhaps take the option of a jungle walk with a local guide. Dinner and overnight at Thekkady.

DAY 13

After breakfast travel to Alleppey, on arrival embark on the houseboat; while sailing enjoy palm fringed narrow canals winding through the vast expanse of paddy fields and the neat tiny hamlets lined up along either side of the canals, panoramic sights one can never forget. Flocks of ducks swimming around the banks and tiny birds flying across the sky remain an enduring picture reflecting the charm of this beautiful land. Enjoy fishing and sunset when heading towards Kumarakom. All meals and overnight on the houseboat.

DAY 14

After breakfast disembark from the houseboat and travel to Cochin now known as Kochi, set on a cluster of peninsulas and islands in the Indian Ocean. It has one of the most beautiful harbours on India’s west coast, serving for centuries as an important trading post. Built along saltwater lagoon, the view of the vast stretch of the blue waters along with Chinese nets is a sight worth beholding. An interesting mix of the Hindu, Muslim and British architecture can be seen on its beaches. Its cosmopolitan spirit is visible in the temples, mosques and synagogues that rise against the city’s skyline. It has a rich network of backwaters and is the culture and heritage centre of Kerala and is called ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’. On arrival check in to the hotel. Later explore and witness the town possessed by many rulers. Stay two nights at Cochin.

DAY 15

After breakfast enjoy sightseeing tour by taking a ferry-boat across the waterway to the nearby peninsula, discover the remains of Fort Cochin and St Francis church, the oldest church in India. Built-in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan monks and worshipped by Roman Catholics, Dutch Protestants and the Anglicans is a wonderful site to visit. On your way back, stop at the spice shops selling cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and a host of other spices. Evening witness Kathakali dance show in an auditorium – the famous classical dance drama of Kerala. Dinner and overnight at Cochin.

DAY 16

After leisurely breakfast transfer to the airport to board the flight for your onward journey.

Inclusion


Accommodation with private facilities

Travel by private air-conditioned car with driver 

Local English-speaking guide 

Meals as specified (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)

Private Backwater cruise

Kathakali Dance show

Boat ride at Cochin

Spice Plantation Visit

Wildlife safari at Periyar 

Entry fee/Monument charges

Assistance and Transfers

All current taxes

Exclusion


Any international or domestic airfares

Train fares other than specified in the what's included section 

Airport taxes, visa & passport fees

Extra baggage charges

Early check in or late check out

Meals other than specified in the what's included section

Tips & gratuities

Travel & medical insurance

Camera & video permits

Expenses incurred due to flight / train cancellation or delay

Any expense of a personal nature, like drinks, laundry, telephone calls, mini bar, postage etc

Any optional excursion or tour

Entry charges at monuments/forts etc

Any other expense not mentioned in the what's included section