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South India Discovery: Kerala and Tamilnadu


11 days 10 nights

Code SI02

Category South India Classic Tours

  • Group Size 2-16 Person
  • Difficulty Level 1
  • Rating Popular
  • Trip Starts From Cochin
  • Trip Ends At Chennai
  • Accommodation Hotels
  • Type Tours
  • Destination Kochi Alleppey Periyar Madurai Tanjore Trichy Pondicherry Mahabalipuram Chennai
Dates & Prices

Overview

This trip takes you through the two most famous Southern states of India, Kerala and Tamilnadu, both rich in history, culture, religion and architecture. We will visit the major religious and architectural wonders of the area but also experience the rural lifestyle.

We begin our journey from the historical and colorful spice trading city of Cochin, enjoy the backwater cruises in Alleppey and explore the wildlife by boat in Lake Periyar. From here, we enter the state of Tamilnadu known for the Drawidian style of temples. Appreciate the architectural wonders and masterpiece temples of Madurai, Trichy and Tanjore, witness the French style buildings, streets and boulevards in Pondicherry and conclude the tour in seaside town of Mahabalipuram, near Chennai.

We will have ample free time to sample the mouth-watering cuisines of South India, attend the yoga lessons and enjoy the traditional Ayurvedic massages.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 01~Arrive in Cochin (Kochi)

Flights to Cochin (Airport Code COK) arrive from major cities of India, South-east Asia and Middle-east Asia. Upon arrival, meet your guide and driver and transfer to the hotel.

No sightseeing is scheduled today but depending on your arrival time and if you wish, we can rearrange the itinerary and arrange some visits today. Cochin has been the principal port for southwestern India for centuries and so we can notice the evident Portuguese, Dutch and British influences as we travel through Kerala. Cochin, also called Kochi is made up of an array of islands. Cochin is known for palace architectures, old spice warehouses, Jewish synagogue and churches.

Overnight hotel in Cochin.

Day 02~Sightseeing of Cochin including traditional Kathakali dance show

After breakfast, your guide and driver will take you for sightseeing of Cochin. We begin from Fort Cochin, also called Old Cochin. Fort Cochin was the fishing village in pre-colonial Kerala and later it went to the control of Portuguese, Dutch and British in different period of time. We visit the Church of St. Francis which is the oldest church in India.Vasco de Gama- the Portuguese explorer was originally buried in this church but his body was later moved to Lisbon, Portugal. Next, we visit the Portuguese built Mattancherry Palace (closed on Friday) where you will find some of the finest murals in India. The Chinese Fishing Nets are also attractions of Cochin as they are in no other states of India. The fishing nets are huge and have elegant construction. The way they are operated is quite hypnotic. Interestingly, catches can be purchased individually and needs to be taken to a street vendor nearby who will cook it for you.

In the afternoon enjoy the Kathakali dance – the stylized and theatrical art form retelling stories from Hindu legend. Kathakali, as a form of dance has evolved from many social and religious dramas which existed in the southern region in ancient times.

Overnight hotel in Cochin.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 03~Cruise the backwaters of Alleppey

After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to Alleppey by car (Approx. 38 miles/1 ½ hrs drive) and embark on Houseboat.

Upon arrival, check into the traditional houseboat accommodation and cruise on the Kerala's backwaters. The boats are made by joining wooden planks together with the help of coconut ropes. Originally, these traditional boats were used for transporting rice. The boats have one or two fan-cooled bedrooms with western style en suite bathroom and shower. The sides can be opened to allow the breeze to flow freely. You will have private crew, steering the boat and cooking meals and serving for you. Tea and soft drinks are also served.

As you float along the backwaters, you can observe the local life in the shores. Some are fishing and others are washing clothes and children trying their English with you while they are splashing in the water. Backwater cruising also offers opportunities to view the various species of aquatic birds; mainly storks, egrets.

Afternoon, we take canoe trip through the narrow canals that go through the paddy fields, coconut lagoons and isolated islands. We observe the daily life of the locals in the land as well as on water.

Overnight in Houseboat.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 04~Boating in Lake Periyar and exploring wildlife reserve

After breakfast at the hotel, we leave for Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, also called Thekkady (Approx. 100 miles/4 hrs by car). Thekkady is a popular hill resort and a spice trading town. Thekkady is also known for wildlife Sanctuary and is home to wild elephants.

The afternoon is for boating trip on Lake Periyar. The boat takes us around the sanctuary. Most commonly spotted animals are monkeys, wild-pigs, deer, wild-buffaloes and elephants. Tiger sighting is very rare. The boat ride lasts in about 2-hour.

Overnight in Periyar.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 05~Drive to Madurai- the city of Meenakshi Amman Temple

Early morning, we go for a nature walk in the forest and enjoy the calls of birds and monkeys. Children under 12 years are not allowed on a nature walk.

Later, drive to Madurai (Approx. 94 miles/3 ½ hrs)- a vibrant ancient city on the Vaigai River in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Meenakshi Amman Temple with 14 towers, known as Gopurams, is the main attraction here. Upon arrival, we check into our hotel.

After dinner, we visit the temple to watch the evening procession ceremony of Lord Shiva. Amidst chanting and prayers, the idol of Lord Shiva is carried on a palanquin from his shrine to his residence where Goddess Meenakshi waits for him.

Overnight in Madurai.

Meals : Dinner
Day 06~Continue travel to Tanjore

After breakfast, we return to the Meenakshi temple complex again to see the temple in day light. The temple complex has 14 towers which are known as the Gopurams, meaning gateway towers. Two of the towers which are elaborately sculptured and painted are for the main deities. Meenakshi Temple is among the most famous temples of India. The temple is known for its outstanding and impressive architectural grandeur.

Next, we visit the Thirumalai Nayak Palace, a 17th century palace, built by King Thirumalai Nayak. Designed by an Italian architect, this temple is a classic fusion of Dravidian, Islamic and European styles. The palace, listed as the national monument of India and protected by Tamil Nadu Archaeological department, is truly an architectural wonder of India.

Afternoon, we transfer to Tanjore, now known as Thanjavur (119 miles, 4 hours)- an important South Indian hub for religion, art, and architecture.

Upon arrival, check into your hotel.

Overnight in Tanjore.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 07~Excursion of Trichy

Moring excursion to Trichy- officially known as Tiruchirapalli (38 miles, 1 hour). The city lies almost in the center of Tamilnadu State and is famous for its Rock Fort Temple.

The Rock Fort Temple is the landmark of the city of Trichy. The Rock Fort, situated on a massive rocky outcrop on the bank of River Kaveri that dramatically spurts amid the flat land. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the gigantic temple features a 100-hall and a Vimana (a mythological flying machine) covered with gold! The rock-cut cave temples on the southern face of the rock are spectacular.

The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangam is situated 4 miles from the downtown Trichy. With seven rectangular-walled courtyards and 21 towers, this temple claims to be the world's second largest temple complex after Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It's among the most revered Hindu temple in India. Some of the rock carvings here are considered best in India.

Afternoon, we return to Tanjore and proceed for local sightseeing. Tanjore also boasts some UNESCO recognized heritage temples. We visit the Brihadeswara Temple dating back to 11th century and claiming to be among the tallest temples of the world. It's undoubtedly an architectural wonder and a perfect example of the Chola rulers love and passion to the creative architecture.

Next, we visit the Palace of Tanjore. Situated near the Brihadeswara Temple, the Palace of Tanjore is a huge building built over several decades by the kings of different dynasties. We visit the Art Gallery situated in the palace. The palace preserves some of the magnificent and precious Granite and Bronze statues of the Chola period.

Overnight in Tanjore.

Day 08~Continue trail to the former French colonial Pondicherry

After breakfast, depart for Pondicherry which is a long day travel (122 miles, 5-hours) with two important stops for sightseeing.

We first stop in Kumbakonam (25 miles, 1 hour from Tanjore) to visit some of the 118 temples of the city.

Kumbakonam city was the capital in the medieval Chola kings and became the center of studies for Hindu culture and European education during the British reign. Some of the prominent temples we visit here are Kumbeswara Temple, Ramaswamy Temple and Sarangapani Temple etc.

Now, continue our travel and stop in another temple town of Chidambaram (47 miles, 2-hours) which is an important pilgrimage destination for the devotees of Lord Shiva. We visit the Natraj Temple situated in the center of the town. Natraj is the dancing form of Lord Shiva. Spread out over 40 acres, Natraj Temple complex includes several other temples, a water pool, and the 'hall of thousand pillars’. The complex is open to everyone but the gold-plated sanctum sanctorum that houses the idol is for Hindu worshippers only.

Pondicherry is journey of another 44 miles and takes about 2 hours from Chidambaram.

Overnight in Pondicherry.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 09~Sightseeing of Pondicherry

After breakfast, we set out to explore the former French colonial city of Pondicherry, also called Puducherry. French left in 1954 but we can still see the French legacy well preserved in French quarter, with yellow colored colonial villas, elegant boutiques and tree-lined streets.

We begin from the Aurobindo Ashram - one of the most renowned and the wealthiest Hindu retreat in India, with devotees from India and all over the world gathering here for spiritual knowledge. Next, we head to the Puducherry Museum (closed on Monday and national holidays) with a wide range of exhibits including rare bronzes and stone sculptures from the Pallava and Chola dynasties.

Now, we drive little out of the city to visit the Auroville - or the ‘City of Dawn'. A project of spiritual leader Aurovinda, Auroville is a universal town that promotes peace and progressive harmony, above all faiths, all politics and all nationalities. We begin from the visitor's center, that offers detailed exhibitions and video viewings on the city’s aims and activities and we take walk around.

On the way back, we stop in the French Quarter, a corner of Pondicherry which has French colonial influences. We take a heritage walk starting at the French Consulate near the north end of seafront Goubert Ave, then gradually head south, passing by the Bharathi Park with neoclassical governor's residence, Raj Nivas, Gandi Memorial, Hotel De Ville, White Town-Dumas, Romain Rolland, Suffren and Labourdonnais Sts.

We meet our transport and then transfer to the hotel.

Overnight in Pondicherry.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 10~Travel to Mahabalipuram (63 miles, 2.5hrs)

First, we check into our accommodations and then we proceed for sightseeing of Mahabalipuram also known as Mamallapuram. Mahabalipuram is famous for its rock-cut temples built along the Coromandel coast and caves associated with Hindu epic Mahabharata.

We visit Arjuna's Penace- a huge open-air sculpture that shows the various events that occurred during Arjuna’s Penance. Its built on two big rocks which are approximately 43 feet high. The rock sculpture is intricate and is unlike any other that is found in India.

Next, we visit the Thirukadalmallai - one of the 108 temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This is a 8th century temple built in the time of Pallavas dynasty. It has a Dravidian Pallava style architecture with a white colored tower that is a marvel to behold.

Now, we move on to the Rock-Cut Cave Temples of the 7th century. The rock sculptures here are dedicated to various Hindu deities and these are among the finest masterpieces of Indian art. We also visit the Shore Temple, that overlooks the shore of Bay of Bengal and that's how it got its name. This is a distinct Pallava style architecture, finely cut into granite rock, decorated with various rock cut reliefs and sculptures.

Final stop of the day will be at Pancha Rathas which are open air rock cut reliefs, designed in the form of chariots named after the Pandava from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. We can notice the distinctive Dravidian style of architecture in the design. The monoliths are carved out of pink granite and the tallest one of them is around 40 feet high. The sculptures in the niches in the chariot shaped temples are various characters of Hindu mythology.

Depending on available time and interest, we may or may not visit all the attractions listed but the above are the most important ones and of course, there are a lot more to see in Mahabalipuram.

Overnight in Mahabalipuram.

Day 11~Transfer to Chennai and depart

Today get transferred to Chennai airport in time, (Approx. 38 miles/1 hrs drive) to catch your flight for on-wards destination.

Trip Map

Trip Info

Trip Includes

  • Accommodation for (8) nights on twin or double share basis in superior class (4*) hotels or resorts.
  • Breakfast at hotels except on houseboat where it will be on full board.
  • English speaking local guides.
  • Sightseeing admission fees.
  • A private minivan for all transfers and sightseeing.
  • Boat ticket in Lake Periyar.
  • Currently applicable taxes

Trip Doest Not Include

  • Airfares
  • Lunch and dinner except during the houseboat trip
  • Drinks, tipping, laundry, phone, internet usage and other expenses of personal nature.
  • Extra expenses due to nature and unforeseen events.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Additional fees for camera.
  • Early check in and late checkout fees

Note on itinerary

We do our best to adhere to the itinerary but its subject to change for a number of reasons beyond our control such as weather, travel conditions, government holidays etc. The sightseeing or the travel order may change to adjust the local conditions.

Hotels

The hotels on this trip are first class properties, classified 4 star by local standard with adequate amenities and facilities. You will have private bathroom with running hot and cold water. During the backwater crusie, you have one night in a traditional houseboat. Usually, the houseboats have one or two bedrooms with ensuite bathroom.If listed hotels are not available under circumstances we will provide you the best available alternative.

Meals

Your trip includes daily breakfast at your hotel. During your accommodation in houseboat while cruising in the backwaters of Kerala, meals are prepared and served by the boat crews. You will have opportunity to try local cuisines and also western style dishes are available in most tourist class restaurants. Please, budget $10-15 per meal.

Tour Guide

You will have a private tour guide to accompany you throughout the tour. Your guide will be a local individual, well versed in English and knowledgeable about the local history, geography, culture and religion. You will meet your guide upon arrival in Cochin. Tour Guide and driver are the different persons.

Transportation

Depending on the group size, we provide good conditioned minivan or minibus for all transfers and sightseeing. Your vehicle will be well kept, air-conditioned and driven by an experienced driver.

Getting in and away

The trip starts in Cochin, now called Kochi and concludes in Kovalam. Cochi has an international airport served by major Asian and Middle-eastern airlines. Flights to Kochi arrive from major cities of India, Middle-east and South-east Asia. If you are already traveling in South India, you can also get to Kochi by train or public transports. The trip concludes in Kovalam and the nearest airport -Trivandrum is 45 minutes drive away.

Best Time to Travel

In terms of weather, South India is usually hot but the period between the months of October and March has comfortable the temperature. April and May are the hottest months but due to its proximity with the tropics, it's not so humid. Monsoon season begins from June and lasts in early September and this is the right time if you are into Ayurveda treatment.

Booking Deposit and Payment Schedule

US$ 300 deposit is requested along with the completed trip registration and normally balance payment is due 90 days prior departure but we may also request you second payment if need be. Payment by credit card except the initial deposit will attract additional 3.5% fee. We reserve the right to refuse certain form of payment.

Cancellation and refund

Notice of cancellation and refund request must be received in written form.

Cancellation charges

  • 90 days prior departure: Administrative fee US$ 150 per person
  • 60-89 day's prior departure: US$ 300 or 25% of the land cost whichever is higher.
  • 45 days to 59 days prior departure: US$ 450 or 50% of the land cost whichever is higher.
  • 30 days to 44 days prior departure: US$ 600 or 75% of the land cost whichever is higher.
  • Less than 30 days: 100%

Cancellation and refund of air tickets cost will be as per rules and regulations of the concerned airlines plus a service charge of US$ 25 per segment will be levied. Cancellation terms and conditions of certain services may vary which will be informed per case to case basis.

No refund or adjustment to other services will be made for any unused land or air services for any reason whatsoever, once tour begins. We highly recommend that all travelers purchase trip cancellation insurance.

We reserve the right to cancel any trip prior to departure for any reason whatsoever, including insufficient signup or logistical problems that may impede trip operations. We also reserve the right to refuse your participation on the  tour with or without any reason. So, please do not purchase your international airfare until your participation on the tour is confirmed by us.

Final trip dossier

A comprehensive trip dossier will be sent to you about 2 months before the trip date. The trip dossier includes the final itinerary, list of confirmed hotels and flights and service details. The document will also include the travel notes including weather, packing suggestions, currency information etc.

Travel Insurance

While we plan and do our best that your trip goes smoothly as planned but there are always chances of unforeseen events and conditions such as illness, accident, inclement weather conditions, and flight cancellation or missed connection or loss of baggage etc. that may cause interruption or delay or total cancellation of your trip putting your hard earned travel investment in jeopardy. It's also possible that you may need medical assistance, emergency evacuation or medical transportation when you get ill or involve in an accident when you are traveling in remote areas. Far & High's Tour cost does not cover any of these expenses or losses and so we strongly recommend you that you should protect yourself and your travel investment against those unfavorable conditions.

Accomodation

The hotels on this trip are first class properties, classified 4 star by local standard with adequate amenities and facilities. You will have private bathroom with running hot and cold water. During the backwater crusie, you have one night in a traditional houseboat. Usually, the houseboats have one or two bedrooms with ensuite bathroom.If listed hotels are not available under circumstances we will provide you the best available alternative.

  • Casino Cochin Hotel

    Casino Cochin Hotel
  • Carmelia Haven, Thekkady

    Carmelia Haven, Thekkady
  • Alleppey House Boat

    Alleppey House Boat
  • Fortune Pandian Hotel Madurai

    fortune-pandiyan-madurai
  • Ideal River View Tanjore

    ideal beach view tanjore
  • Maison Perumal, Pondicherry

    maison perumal pondicherry
  • Ideal Beach Resort, Mahabalipuram

    ideal beach resort mahabalipuram

 

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