We take an excursion to the World Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram. This group of sanctuaries, founded by the Pallava kings, was carved out of rock along the Coromandel Coast in the 7th and 8th centuries. It is known especially for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air reliefs and thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva. On our return we tour Chennai, culturally one of the richest cities of India. Our tour of Chennai starts with a visit to The National Art Gallery, Built before 1789,the museum was established in 1857 and contains on of the best collection in the country of bronzes. including the famous icon of Natraja. St. Mary's Church-Built in 1680, is India' s oldest surviving British church.
After breakfast we drive to Pondicherry, situated on the Coromandel Coast of South India._Pondicherry, was the capital of French India, before it attained its independence.It also, traces its origin to Saint Agasthya, what attracts most travelers to Pondicherry is the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The ashram, founded by Sri Aurobindo in the year 1926, the spiritual tenets of which combine yoga and modern science, are popular within India and abroad.
After breakfast we drive to Thanjavur, popularly known as Tanjore. The town is famous for its distinctive style, "Krishna" is the most popular deity depicted, and in the Tanjore school his skin is white, rather than the traditional blue-black. Tanjore was the ancient capital of the Chola Kings whose origins go back to the beginning of the Christian era. Our afternoon tour of World Heritage Site of Tanjore includes in the Shri Brihadishwara temple built by "Raja-Raja" in 1010, which is the crowning glory of Chola temple architecture. The temple, set in spacious grounds, has several pillared halls and shrines. Inscriptions record the names of dancers, musicians and poets a reminder of the significance of this area to the development of the arts. We end our tour of Tanjore with a visit to the Tanjore Palace and Museum
Day 05: Tanjore / Tiruchirapalli / Madurai (Drive: - 200 km)
In the morning we drive to Madurai. En route we visit Tiruchirapalli - Trichy, a town deeply immersed in Hindu religion and home to some outstanding Dravidian temple architecture. We begin our tour with a visit to the Rock Fort Temple, the maze of the Mathurubhuteshwar Shrine and various other local temples followed by a visit to some local villages and see the rural life of Southern India.
The life of Madurai revolves around the magnificently carved Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. The Meenakshi Temple has a thousand pillared 'Mandapam'. Among these are the musical pillars, carved of a single granite rock, that produce music when tapped. Madurai is culturally rich city crammed with shops, street markets, pilgrims.
A scenic and refreshing drive conveys us to the peaceful hill station of Kodaikanal located at the top of the Palini Hills. Upon arrival we take a boat ride on Kodaikanal Lake giving us a unique opportunity to experience the landscape.
An interesting day ahead as we drive past beautiful spice and tea gardens stopping to see the tea estates and learn about the process of growing tea. Later we drive to the Wildlife Sanctuary of Periyar. We boat on the manmade lake at the bottom of the hill. The forest here slopes into a manmade lake at the bottom of the hill and the lake serves as the waterhole / swimming hole for the animals. Elephants, Gaur, Sambhar and even tigers can be spotted. Overnight: Hotel in Periyar
Today we explore Cochin, the commercial capital of Kerala, with one of the finest natural harbors in the world. Ancient mariners from Arabia, China, Holland, Britain and Portugal have all left their mark on this beautiful island city, often referred to as the Venice of the East. Here we tour the Dutch Palace, St. Francis Church, the Jewish Quarter with its old synagogue and take a boat tour to visit the Bolghatty Palace and observe the fascinating Chinese fishing nets in action. (B)
In the morning we drive to Kumarakom. An unbelievably beautiful paradise of mangrove forests, emerald green paddy fields and coconut groves interspersed with enchanting waterways and canals adorned with white lilies. Situated on the Vembanad Lake, in this small water world you will come across plenty of traditional country crafts, boats and canoes that will take you into the heart of the scenic lake. The resorts offer comfortable accommodation and exclusive leisure options like an Ayurvedic massage, yoga, meditation, boating, fishing, angling and swimming. The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, an ornithologist's paradise, is a favourite haunt of migratory birds like the Siberian stork, egret, darter, heron and teal. A cruise along the Vembanad Lake is the best way to experience the Sanctuary.
We start with a boat ride to visit the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. Those adventurous enough may indulge in water sports such as windsailing and water skiing. For those looking to relax, try a canoe ride on the still waters.
Morning at leisure. In the afternoon we board the traditional rice boats - "Ketuvallam" and begin our journey through the picturesque backwaters and small lakes relaxing in the tranquility of Kerala's beautiful scenery. Experience the way of life and activity of the local people.
Arrive at Alleppey and drive to Trivandrum.We visit the beautiful Temple of Padmanabhaswamy, the Chitra Art Gallery and Napier Museum.From here we proceed to Kovalam Beach on the Malabar Coast. The palm-fringed bays in secluded coconut groves, promise a relaxed stay. Evening enjoy the cultural program.
Free Day on the beach. The boundless blue waters of the Arabian Sea and miles of white sands washed away by the surf at the feet of the stalwart palms and the rocky promontories make this beach an incredible paradise. Kovalam is an internationally renowned beach of Kerala, with three adjacent crescent beaches. Kovalam has been a favorite haunt of tourists. A massive rocky promontory on the beach has created a beautiful Bay of calm waters ideal for sea bathing. The leisure options at this beach are plenty and diverse - sunbathing, swimming, ayurvedic rejuvenating massage. Catamaran cruising etc.
We enjoy a visit to the "Lands End" of India: Kanniya Kumari is the southernmost tip of peninsular India where the waters of the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea meet. A place from where one can see spectacular sunrises and also colourful sunsets. On balmy evenings, one can watch the sun set while the full moon is rising in another part of the sky.
Overnight: Hotel in Koalam
Days 16: Kovalam / Trivandrum / Home
Today we are transferred to Trivandrum airport for our flight to onward destination