South India Treasures

Chennai, Madurai, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kumarakom, Kochi
Overview

overview

Southern India is a very different world from the North, and this trip features the best of this greener, gentler India. You'll be welcomed into the country by the "gateway to Southern India," the city of Chennai. Explore various monumental buildings and forts here, including the former British stronghold Fort St. George.  Learn about Gandhi at the Gandhi Museum in Madurai, and afterward see the palace where the king lived, Thirumalai Nayak Palace. Spend time exploring around Periyar National Park and enjoy a safari by boat where you will spot hundreds of animals. You'll probably spot a few wild elephants, but if you're one of the lucky few, you'll spot one of the 50 tigers that make this park their home. Continue on to the beautiful backwaters of Kumarakom and get a glimpse of the lives of the locals that live along the waters of the largest freshwater lake in Kerala. Finally, end in Cochin where you will learn about the rich history of this vibrant city. Experience the artistic culture by watching a Kathakali dance performance, a dance form which depicts characters from epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata. 

All in all, the picturesque villages, gracious people, and beautiful countryside of South India await you on this serene and insightful guided adventure.

itinerary

itinerary

  • Day 1: Arrive Chennai

    Welcome to India! Upon arrival, meet your guide and transfer to your hotel.

    Chennai (formerly Madras) is also known as the "Gateway to Southern India". The city was founded in 1639 by the East India Company and soon became a fortified trading post. Over the course of the next century, the city flourished, expanding rapidly and absorbing many surrounding villages becoming the modern and bustling city it is today.

    Meals
    None
    Lodging
    Lemon Tree Hotel or similar (upgrade to Vivanta by Taj)
    Show on a map
  • Day 2: Chennai

    Chennai is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and home to approximately 7 million people. Spend the day exploring the three main parts of this fascinating city: Georgetown, central Chennai, and eastern Chennai. Your first stop will be Fort St. George, built by the British as their stronghold. The fort was the first structure in Madras town and the first territorial possession of the British in India. It's 20 foot walls still encircle India's largest Anglican Church, St. Mary's and the Fort St. George museum. The Tamil Nadu Government Secretariat and the Legislative Assembly are also located inside.

    Chennai is full of monumental buildings, including the magnificent High Court. With it's white onion domes and sandstone towers, this building is thought to be the finest example of Indo-Saracenic architecure in India. Continue on cruising Marine Drive, along one of the longest city beaches in the world. Stop at the Basilica of San Thome, a neo-Gothic church with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The church is said to house the remains of St. Thomas the apostle.

    Later, visit the Kapaleeshwarar Temple, a 16th century structure dedicated to Lord Shiva. The huge tower is covered with a multitude of brightly colored plaster figures, and the temple itself is filled with devotees coming to worship. Prayers are said, blessings are given, and shrines of the various gods are adorned with marigolds and anointed with water and ghee (clarified butter).

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    Lemon Tree Hotel or similar (upgrade to Vivanta by Taj)
    Show on a map
  • Day 3: Chennai

    After breakfast, make the scenic drive along the Coromandel Coast in the direction of India's stone-carving capital, Manallapuram. Before reaching your destination, visit Dakshin Chitra, a unique heritage center offering the visitor an authentic insight into the lifestyles of the diverse people of South India. Traditional craftsmen and folk artists work and perform in the reconstructed period spaces of 19th century streets, homes, and workshops. Continue on to Manallupuram, which was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1995. Admire the astonishing ancient monuments you'll find here, which include open air bas-reliefs, temples, man-made caves, and monolithic rathas or "chariots" carved in situ from single boulders. One of the structures you'll see is Arjuna's Penance, the world's largest bas-relief at 88 feet long and 30 feet high. It is considered one of the great masterpieces of Indian art, portraying hundreds of celestial beings humans and animals watching the descent of the Ganges from the Himalayas. Later, visit the 8th century Shore Temple, which is believed to be the oldest stone temple in South India. The temple boasts five separate freestanding sculptures that portray mythological tales. Also, a life-sized carved elephant stands nearby. Return to your hotel in Chennai for the night.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    Lemon Tree Hotel or similar (upgrade to Vivanta by Taj)
    Show on a map
  • Day 4: Chennai / Madurai

    In the morning, proceed to the airport for your flight to Madurai, often referred to as "Temple City." Madurai is among the oldest continously inhabited cities with a date of origin going back roughly 2,500 years.

    In the afternoon, visit the Gandhi Memorial Museum. The museum actually contains a piece of blood-stained cloth from the robe Gandhi wore when he was assasinated. Continue to Thirumalai Nayak Palace, built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak with the help of an Italian architect. The building is a classic fusion of Dravidian, Islamic, and European styles. Finally, end your tour with a visit to Meenakshi Temple. The temple represents many deities and features a Shiva shrine, a huge sculpture of Ganesh, and a shrine for a giant Ganesh temple called the Mukurony Vinayakar.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    Hotel Sangam or similar (upgrae to the Gateway Hotel)
    Show on a map
  • Day 5: Madurai / Thekaddy

    In the moring, transfer to Thekkady, home to India's largest wildlife sanctuary. The sanctuary spans over 480 square kilometers, 15 of which consist of a massive lake that provides water for the animals. Thekkady is a paradise on earth for nature lovers with its vast and bountiful treasures of tropical flora and fauna.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    The Elephant Court Hotel or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 6: Thekaddy
    Cruise Lake Periyar and look for wildlife

    Today you head to the Periyar Tiger Reserve for fantastic wildlife viewing by boat. Wildlife viewing by boat is a great vantage point for encountering animals along the edge of the lake. The best time of day to do this is early in the morning when the animals are all fueling up for the day.

    In the afternoon, explore a spice plantation that produces vanilla, oregano, reosemary, thyme, basil, mint, bay leaf, and sage. Return to your hotel in the late afternoon.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    The Elephant Court Hotel or similar (upgrade to Spice Village)
    Show on a map
  • Day 7: Thekaddy / Kumarakom

    In the morning, drive to Kumarakom, an other worldly escape featuring the largest freshwater lake in Kerala. The slender coconut palms, never ending paddy fields, meandering lagoons, and dense mangroves will invigorate your mind. Along with the pristine beauty, enjoy the local people, boating, and fresh, tropical air.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    Lakesong Kumarakom or similar (upgrade to The Zuri Kumarakom)
    Show on a map
  • Day 8: Kumarakom
    Relax on a comfortable houseboat while exploring the backwaters

    Today you will enjoy a lovely backwater cruise on Vembanad Lake. The lake is rich in marine life, such as spotted fish, kanju, tiger prawns, crabs, and more. During the monsoon, the shores of the lake are transformed into a rich fertile land. The streams and lagoons break their banks to nourish the shrubs that sprout. Float through majestic canals, streams and distributaries while appreciating the fringed palms, blue water, and utter tranquility.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    Lakesong Kumarakom Hotel or similar (upgrade to The Zuri Kumarakom)
    Show on a map
  • Day 9: Kumarakom / Cochin
    The make-up and costume of the Kathakali dancers is unique to this area

    After breakfast, make the two hour drive to Cochin, a trading port founded during the Roman times. Cochin boasts a relaxed, seaside ambience that has changed little over the centuries. Experience the bustle of commerce in and about the city's courtyards, the vendors of betel nut, giner, peppercorns, and coconut husks. The air is filled with the scent of exotic spices and shouts of vendors pushing heavy carts. It's easy to forget that one is in the 21st century.

    In the evening, proceed to a local theatre and witness a dance performance called Kathakali. This is one of the oldest forms of dance in the world. This dance-drama originated in Kerla and epicts characters from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. The performers don extraordinarily elaborate costumes to bring the myths to life in the temple courtyards.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    Dream Cochin Hotel or similar (upgrade to Vivanta by Taj)
    Show on a map
  • Day 10: Cochin
    Explore Cochin, meet fishermen, and see the famous fishing nets

    Most of Cochin's historic structures are contained within Fort Cochin, constructed by Portugal's Alfonzo de Albuquerque in 1500. First visit the Pardesi Synagogue, a tiny, beautiful structure built in 1568. Then continue to Mattancherry or "Dutch Palace" which houses a remarkable series of murals rich in color and painstaking detail.

    Later, explore the surrounding area of Jew Town, wander in and out of shops, through spice auction rooms and more. The Jewish population here was a very thriving community that dates back to King Solomon, but it has shrunk considerably.

    The large, graceful Chinese fishing nets that line the shore of Fort Cochin are probably the most iconic image of Kerala. Walk along the shore to have a look at this clever fishing system. Chinese fishing nets were actually introduced by traders from the court of Kublai Khan. The nets are periodically raised to check for catch.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    Dream Cochin Hotel or similar (upgrade to Vivanta by Taj)
    Show on a map
  • Day 11: Onward

    Transfer to the airport in time to check-in for your international flight.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    None
    Show on a map
Price and Date Details

Price and Date Details

Oct 29-Nov 8, 2014
Dec 8-18, 2014
Jan 26-Feb 5, 2015
Or Privately on Request
Land Cost:
$3,150
Includes local domestic flight Hotel upgrade available for $500 more
Single Supplement:
$850
The single supplement is applicable if a roommate is not available or if single accommodation is specifically requested. While single accommodation is not available on all trips, we will try and honor this request whenever possible.
Need to Know

Need to Know

We recommend booking early. Hotels and flights fill up quickly.

Travel times listed in quotations are estimated and may vary depending on traffic or the number of stops required.

Duration:
11 days
The number of days, or duration, in a destination corresponds with the itinerary as published. This is the time period covered by the land cost. The total number of days includes the time required to travel between the USA and the destination country.
Comfort Level:
3
Charming lodges to 4* Western hotels Upgrade to 5* hotels available for $750 more
Group Size:
2-12
The stated range indicates minimum required for guaranteed departure and maximum accepted on the scheduled dates. Exceptions can often be made for private departures.
Activity Level:
1
Charming lodges to 4* Western hotels Upgrade to 5* hotels available for $750 more

Resources

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Trip Extensions

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