South India is famous for its fabulous heritage, the multitude of sacred sites, the incredible spices, and for its verdant landscapes. During this 14-day ‘Gems of South’ tour you will discover this region’s many facets: from the beautiful temples, spiritual ceremonies and wildlife encounters, to the impressive panoramic views of hill stations and backwaters cruises.
Namaste, welcome to India! On arrival at Chennai Airport, you will be greeted by our tour representative in the arrival hall, who will escort you to your hotel and assist you in check-in. Finish off check-in formalities with the help of your guide and have some free time on your own to adjust with the time zone. Meanwhile enjoy deliciously served meals at the hotel.
Chennai Cultural Excursion Time: 2-3 Hours
After a relaxing morning at leisure, have your breakfast and proceed for Chennai Cultural Excursion. Formerly called Madras, Chennai is known as the “Detroit of South Asia”. Start your day by first witnessing India’s first British fortress in Chennai, Fort St. George. Built in 1640, today it’s the home of Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. Next, visit 1980 built St. Mary's Church, which accolades for being the one of the oldest British buildings in India before having lunch (on your own).
Witness Artifacts Feature Major South Indian Periods Time: 3-4 Hours
After lunch, your next destination will be the National Art Gallery where you’ll get a chance to see some major artifacts of South Indian periods, including the Chola, Vijayanagar, Hoysala and Chalukya. Later, continue to Kapaleeswara, an ancient Shiva Temple, noted for its beautifully carved gopuram (monumental tower). Next, stop at the peaceful Portuguese-built Santhome Cathedral, named after St. Thomas the Apostle. It is a historical pilgrimage center built in Gothic style. Afterwards, enjoy delicious dinner at the hotel after returning back for an overnight stay.
Drive to Kanchipuram Time: 2 Hours; 73 km (on-road journey)
After breakfast, drive to Kanchipuram, 73 km (approximately 2 hours) away from Chennai. Kanchipuram is one of the seven most sacred cities of Hindu and also home to over 100 shrines, most of which are dedicated to Hindu Lords Shiva and Vishnu. Beside religious significance, Kanchipuram is also world-renowned for its hand-woven silk saris, regarded for their color and sheen.
Option Visit to Shop for the purchasing of famous Kanchipuram Saris. (1/2 hour)
Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram Time: 2 Hours (Sightseeing)
Enjoy a lunch of southern Indian delicacies before proceeding to the coastal town of Mahabalipuram. Drive for approx 2 hours and cover 66 km on-road journey to see UNESCO World Heritage Site, Group of Monuments. See Bhagiratha’s Penance, a bas-relief sculpted over enormous rocks that depicts life-size figures of animals, gods and saints, all watching the holy Ganges River flow from the Himalaya. Nearby, see its shallow mandapas (pillared halls). Finally, stop at the Shore Temple before leaving for Chennai (1.5 hours; 56 km). Upon arrival, enjoy dinner at the hotel before going to sleep.
Explore the Temple City
This morning, have breakfast at the hotel before leaving your hotel. After finishing check-out formalities, you’ll be transferred to the Chennai Airport to take your flight to Trichy. Upon arrival, you’ll be escorted to the local restaurant at Trichy for lunch. Later, join your guide to continue the excursion. Visit Srirangam, which is famous world-wide for its massive Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, housing 49 separate shrines all dedicated to Hindu Lord, Vishnu. If you’ve time, you can ask your guide to take you to the Rock Fort Temple which is only 6 km away. After witnessing pious charm of Trichy’s holy temple, check-in to your hotel for dinner & overnight stay.
After breakfast, finish hotel check-in formalities to drive for Thanjavur, 57 km (approximately one hour) away. Thanjavur (or Tanjore) was once the capital of the indomitable Chola dynasty. It is a noteworthy centre of art, architecture and religion of South India. The Chola Temples in and around Thanjavur are UNESCO World Heritage Monuments. Specific to this region are Tanjore paintings characterized by bright and rich colours, and decorated with gold foils and precious stones.
On arrival in Thanjavur, check-in at hotel and leave for the city tour. Major attractions include Brihadeeswarar Temple and Thanjavur Palace. The Brihadeeswarar Temple built by Raja Chola I, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This spectacular temple is over 1000 years old and is one of the largest temples in India. Thanjavur Palace is a fascinating and rich piece of history famous for its library and museum of artifacts. Afterwards, return back to your hotel for dinner & overnight stay.
Arrive Chettinad Time: 2 Hour; 102 km
Have breakfast, and get ready to drive for 2 hours to cover 102 km to reach Chettina, ancestral homeland of the Chettiars. Home to wealthy business tycoons who made their livelihood in Burma during the last century, the area is renowned for its mansions and rich, distinctive cuisine. See these extraordinary homes with their teak pillars and marble detailing.
Witness Pooja Ceremony at Meenakshi Temple Time: 20 minutes
After lunch, continue to Madurai (76 km), where you check in to your hotel. This evening, visit Meenakshi Temple to witness a Pooja ceremony, in which an idol of Shiva is carried in a colorful procession accompanied by musicians.
Visit the famous Meenakashi Amman Temple Time: 3-4 Hours
Join your private guide for an early morning walking tour of Madurai. Discover equal parts legend and history as you wander through this ancient Tamil capital. Return to your hotel for breakfast before exploring Madurai’s great 17th-century Meenakshi Amman Temple. After witnessing alluring charm of Meenakshi temple, stop for some time to have lunch on your own. At last, return back for dinner & overnight stay at the hotel.
Arrive Periyar Time: 140 km; 3.5 Hours
After breakfast, cover 140 km on-road journey to travel overland into the state of Kerala to Periyar. Your journey takes you into the Western Ghats, a lush mountain range that raises parallel to India’s Arabian Sea coast where you’ll stop en-route to have lunch on your own. On arrival, check-in to your hotel and rest for some time.
Checkout the Incredible Wildlife Time: 1.5 Hours
Later, in the afternoon visit to Periyar National Park where you will get an excellent opportunity to watch birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Later, return back for dinner & overnight stay.
Arrive Kumarakom Time: 3.5 Hours; 132 km
After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, descend a dramatic escarpment as you journey overland to the village of Kumarakom. Stop en-route for lunch at a local restaurant in Kanjirappally, considered the entrance to Kerala’s hill country. Upon arrival, check in to your beautiful lakefront hotel. This evening is at leisure. Dinner & Overnight stay at the hotel.
Enjoy Kerala Spice Adventure Time: 4-5 Hours
This morning, travel by boat to a spice plantation. In this region known for producing Indian spices, including cardamom and pepper, a tour of a spice plantation is an incredible sensory experience. Explore the plantation’s aromatic pathways before sitting down to a delicious lunch, joined by the family who owns the plantation.
Backwaters of Kerala on an Elegant Houseboat
After a morning at leisure, enjoy your breakfast at the hotel. Today, you’ll board a traditional houseboat for a day cruise on the beautiful backwaters of Kerala. It is voyage through the many canals and lakes where you’ll get an opportunity to watch the rustic, slow-paced life of passing villages. You are treated to a lunch of local specialties as you cruise. Glide through canals and lagoons shaded by coconut palms and pass sleepy rural villages. Disembark this evening and journey overland to Kochi, where you check in at your hotel for dinner & overnight stay.
Explore the Ancient Harbor City Time: 2-3 Hours
Spend the day exploring the tropical coastal city of Kochi, where you’ll discover an intriguing mix of cultural influences. Have your breakfast at the hotel, and meet your guide for a morning visit to India’s oldest Jewish synagogues in Kochi. Stroll through the markets and the famous Dutch Palace. After this excursion, continue to visit St. Francis Church, where Vasco da Gama was originally buried before his remains were returned to Portugal, the Santa Cruz cathedral and the nearby, unique cantilevered Chinese fishing nets.
Evening Kathakali Dance Show Time: 2.5 Hours
In the early evening, watch the Kathakali Dance show at Greenix Theater, which tells stories from the ancient Hindu epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata. The dancers narrate the story through intricate facial expressions and gestures, with sudden leaps, spins and freeze balances, each wearing fantastic costumes and elaborate make up. Later, return back to your hotel for dinner and overnight stay after this performance.
After a breakfast at your leisure you will be transferred to the Kochi Airport to board your flight to Mumbai. Upon arrival, you’ll be transferred to the hotel. This entire day is at leisure. So, relax and enjoy delicious dinner served at the hotel before going to bed.
This morning, you’ll be transferred to the Mumbai Airport to catch your next flight for onward journey. So, have your breakfast on time. We also advise you to arrive at the airport at least 3 hrs prior to departure and keep your passport and printout of airline ticket handy to avoid last minute hassles. This itinerary is only a slice of the wonderful diversity and beauty that India has to offer and we hope that you will come back soon to discover more…Namaste!