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Temples of Tamil Nadu & Kerala Backwaters
International flights quoted separately
Explore the temples & cultures of Tamil Nadu in south India, with your own private driver/guide. Starting from Chennai (formerly Madras), visit the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram, French-influenced Pondicherry & the temples of Tanjore & Madurai. See Periyar's wild elephants, stay on a Rice Houseboat & relax on the beautiful Kerala backwaters. English speaking guides & sightseeing included.
You will be met at
by your driver and transferred to your hotel in the city, formerly called
and the state capital of Tamil Nadu.
Chennai is located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal and is a major commercial, cultural, economic and educational centre, as well as being famous for its Madras curry.
This morning enjoy a half day tour of the thriving city of
We start with a visit to ancient
Fort St George
that dates back to the 17th century and is filled with memorabilia. Here you can see St. Mary’s Church, the first Christian church consecrated on Indian soil. We also visit the splendid St Thomas Cathedral Basilica, where the apostle St Thomas is said to be buried.
Afterwards we drive along the marina to the ancient
at Mylapore. This shrine to the Hindu god Shiva is over 2,000 years old and showcases the architectural splendour of the Dravidian period.
You afternoon is free for independent exploration or relaxation. Places of interest include the Victoria Art Gallery, the Bronze Gallery and Chennai Museum.
This morning your driver will introduce you to the beauty of Tamil Nadu state, as we leave
and travel 1-hours to the ancient port of
, with its huge casuarina trees and silvery sandy beaches. Here a group of temples were hewn out of rock along the Coromandel Coast during the 7th and 8th centuries by the Pallavas kings. These intricately carved structures, mostly in granite, are among the oldest surviving examples of South Indian architecture.
Now a World Heritage site, the
is the oldest of these, but unlike the other monuments it is built - not carved from rock - and contains a Vishnu Temple and two Shiva temples (a 3-in-1 abode of the gods). More than one hundred stone relief figures of people, animals and gods can be seen in this area. You can admire the five Rathas (stone chariots) and the mythology associated with the 'Descent of the River Ganges' & the 'Penance of Arjuna' carved in stone.
Another curiosity in the town is
- a very large boulder balanced precariously on a small hill, that looks as if it could roll at any moment.
Today we leave
and travel 2.5-hours to the city of
, fondly called "Pondy". Pondicherry was a market place in Roman times and has been controlled by many kings, emperors and sultans in its rich history. During the colonial era it was a French territory, with occasional interuption from the British and Dutch until it was incorporated into the Indian Union.
In the afternoon enjoy a tour of the city, starting with a visit to the
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
a spiritual centre that is the home to more than 1,500 followers from around the world. Afterwards we take a walk through the
with its old buildings, visit the Sacred Heart Basilica and stroll along the Promenade with its many interesting monuments. You can also see Government Park, the Manakula Vinayagar Temple and the Roman Rolland Library.
In the evening enjoy the many restaurants of this city.
At leisure to explore more of
, with your driver providing transport.
Today we travel 3-hours from
, which was known as Coombaconum during the time of British India.
This holy city is renowned for its many temples, art, brassware and beautiful saris, handmade on looms.
In the afternoon we visit the nearby town of Darasuram to see the famous
, a UNESCO World Heritage site dedicated to the Lord Shiva and a well preserved example of magnificent 12th century Chola architecture.
This morning we drive 1.5-hours from
(now called Thanjavur), which is an important centre of Southern Indian religion, art and architecture.
Most of the Great Living Chola Temples, which are UNESCO World Heritage monuments, are located in and around this city. Here we visit the famous towered
. Enclosed in two courtyards, it has an exquisitely decorated shrine. We also visit the Tanjore Royal Palace and Museum, with its fascinating collection of 19th century royal artefacts.
today and travel 4-hours to
situated on the banks of the Vaigai River - a centre of the Tamil language and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
At prayer time we visit the famous
, a pilgrimage site visited by thousands of Hindus from all over the world. Here we participate in the daily Aarti Ceremony, a very special experience.
This morning drive 4-hours from
Periyar National Park
in the Western Ghats mountains.
Situated in the Cardamom and Pandalam Hills, this park forms the watershed for two important rivers - the Periyar and Pamba. It is home to several rare and endangered species including tigers, although they are rarely seen.
In the afternoon enjoy a boat trip on
, a haven for bird life including herons, hornbills and egrets and where you may see wild elephants coming down to the lake for a drink.
This morning we drive 4-hours to
set on Vembanad Lake, the largest backwater (fresh water lake) in India. This network of backwaters, lakes and rivers stretches over 930 miles (1,500 km) and provides a vital waterway for transporting people and their produce.
Here you board your air-conditioned
once used to transport goods from isolated interior villages to the larger towns but now largely used for pleasure. As the water is level with the land here, spend the afternoon relaxing and watching the agricultural lives of the people who live along the canals and work in the rice paddy fields, as you cruise through the
In the evening see the sun setting over the tranquil backwaters and enjoy dining on delicious local Kerala cuisine prepared by your chef.
After breakfast disembark at the merchant town of
and transfer 1.5-hours to the small town of
, situated on Vembanad Lake - the largest backwater in India.
Check into your hotel and relax surrounded by these tranquil waters.
At leisure to relax and enjoy the leisurely lifestyle and wonderful food of
- an important habitat for many marine and freshwater fish species and shrimps.
Kerala is famous for yoga and ayurvedic spa treatments. Bird watching is also outstanding, with nearby Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary offering a safe refuge for many migratory birds. Sunset boat rides, pedal boats and fishing are available from some hotels.
After breakfast disembark at the merchant town of
and transfer 3-hours to your hotel in
Balance of day free to relax at your hotel or explore the local markets.
This morning enjoy a city tour of
- known to the ancient Greeks, Romans, Jews, Arabs and Chinese as an important trading centre.
The Portuguese established the first European settlement in India here and the city was later colonised by the Dutch and then the British. Visit St. Francis Church built by the Portuguese, where explorer Vasco Da Game was first buried. Also visit Mattancherry Palace with its famous murals depicting scenes from Hindu legends associated with Shiva, Vishnu and Krishna
; the Dutch Palace and the Jewish Synagogue
(closed Fridays & Saturdays).
Then walk to see the old shore-operated Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi, each operated by a team of up to six fishermen.
In the evening a special treat awaits - a performance of the famous
for your flight home.
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