The Temple Towns of Tamil Nadu & best of Kerala
The Temple Towns of Tamil Nadu and best of Kerala
Day 01: Arrive Chennai/Mahabalipuram
After arriving at Chennai Airport, you will be meeting our rep and will be immediately escorted to a hotel in Mahabalipuram (55 km; 1.5 hrs).
An erstwhile port of the Pallava dynasty, its stone carvings, caves, and rock cut temples attract tourists. A crocodile farm, a snake venom extracting center, schools of art and sculpture, and many resorts draw holiday seekers all around the year to Mahabalipuram, especially during the dance festival held in January.
Overnight stay will be at Mahabalipuram.
Day 02: Mahabalipuram/Kancheepuram/Mahabalipuram
In the morning, you will proceed for a visit to Kancheepuram (55 km;1.25 hrs)
The City of Thousand Temples is one of the seven sacred cities, considered as the second holiest place in India. The great Buddhist Vhikku Bodhidharma lived and worked here. Kancheepuram is also famous for its hand-woven silk fabrics.
You will later drive back to Mahabalipuram.
In the afternoon, you will visit the Shore Temple, now a World Heritage Monument, and other stone carving and rock-cut temples.
Overnight stay will be at Mahabalpuram.
Day 03: Mahabalipuram/Pondicherry
In the morning, you will drive to Pondicherry (110 km; 2 hrs)
In the afternoon, you will visit the town of Auroville, an oasis of peace and enlightenment.
Pondicherry, a former French colony, presents an unusual combination of European culture and Indian traditions. Its history can be traced back to Agastya, the revered sage of the south, who built his hermitage here in 1500 BC. Pondicherry became a part of India in 1954, but traces of its history as a French colony still remain in its churches, cuisine, grid-pattern streets, and some colonial buildings.
Overnight stay will be at Pondicherry.
Day 04: Pondicherry/Chidambaram/Tranquebar
After an early breakfast, you will drive to Chidambaram (75 km; 1.75 hrs)
Between two rivers in a 40-acre temple complex, lie the temples of Chidambaram, one of the oldest, most venerated, and magnificent temples of South India. Shiva Nataraja or the Dancing Shiva stands in his cosmic dance pose in the golden-rooted sanctum sanctorum. The temple is engraved with 108 sculptured illustrations of Bharat Natya Shastra. In Akash Lingam, hidden by a veil, lies the real secret of Chidambaram.
You will further drive to Tranquebar (55 km; 1.5 hrs).
Tranquebar, the land of the singing waves.
The allure of Tranquebar is a wonderful yet seamless cultural concoction that has been brewing over hundreds of years – a beautiful mix of languages, cultures, races, and religions. Two centuries of Danish heritage has left important cultural and architectural imprints, which can be seen in colonial houses, churches, cemeteries, and most particularly, the Dansborg military fort.
You will witness the socially and environmentally sustainable transformation of Tranquebar into a model heritage town with a strong local participation.
Day 05: Tranquebar/Kumbakonam/Tanjore
You will enjoy a morning drive to Kumbakonam (58 km; 1.5 hrs).
Kumbakonam is the temple city of South India situated in Tanjore district of Tamil Nadu. The city is famous for the Mahamaham festival that is celebrated once in 12 years in the Mahamaham tank located in the heart of it.
You will later drive to Tanjore (40 km, 1 hr).
The city was once the great capital of the Chola Empire. You will visit the most spectacular of Tanjore temples, the Brihadishwara capped by a monolithic cupola made of a single granite rock weighing 80 tons. The temple itself is decorated with carved panels depicting mythological events. It is also a part of UNESCO World Heritage Site as “Great Living Chola Temples.”
Overnight at Tanjore
Day 06: Tanjore/Ayyanar/Chettinad
You will enjoy a morning drive to Chettinad (90 km, 2 hrs)
En route, you will visit the Ayyanar Temple.
This temple doesn’t fit the traditional model of what tourists come to expect.
One can be in sight of more than 1000 terracotta horses that line the drive. The horses are offerings to Ayyanar, a popularly worshiped Hindu village deity in South India, particularly Tamil Nadu. He is known as the protector of rural villages and interestingly, the priests are usually non-Brahmins.
Chettinad occupying the hot and dusty coastal plain, south of Trichy, is home to some of South India’s wealthiest merchant families. Many of the villages are now semi-deserted, but they retain a charm and distinctive style that repays a visit.
In your afternoon visit, you will see and learn about Athangudi tiles – Athangudi tiles are named after the village of manufacturing in Chettinadu and come in myriad colors and patterns. The designs and colors used in Athangudi tiles are traditionally still those of a bygone era. However, off late, new designs and patters are being incorporated. The tiles are hand-made in a slow process. It’s an enriching experience to visit the local tile makers while in the area.
Overnight stay will be at Chettinad.
Day 07: Chettinad/Madurai
Your morning visit will be to the weekly market called Vaara Sabdhai. Visiting these markets is simply a delightful experience. The weekly markets are unspoiled and a great treat to visit. Vegetable and fruit vendors display their wares under colorful canopies, bantering with customers and tourists alike. The market is setup on a temporary base to be moved to the next place for the next day.
You will later drive to Madurai (90 km, 2 hrs)
Over 2500 years old, Madurai is the second largest city of Tamil Nadu. It is an important cultural and commercial center. It was once the seat of Tamil learning and still the place where the Tamil language is spoken in its purest form. The city is planned in the shape of a lotus. Modernity has reached the city of Madurai, but not at the cost of its rich tradition and culture.
The afternoon sightseeing of Madurai includes Tirumalanayak Palace and the great Meenakshi Temple dedicated to the consort of Lord Shiva with its towering Gopurams.
After early dinner, you will once again visit the Meenakshi Temple to witness the temple ceremony.
Overnight stay will be at Madurai.
Day 08: Madurai/Periyar
You will drive to Periyar (150 km, 3.5 hrs)
Periyar is South India’s most popular wildlife sanctuary, encompassing an area of 777 sq. km. Set on the attractive man-made Periyar Lake, noted for its geomorphology, diversity of wildlife and scenic beauty, the reserve attracts visitors from all over the world. This is the only sanctuary in India where you can have the unique experience of viewing wildlife at close quarters from the safety of a boat on the lake. The greatest attraction of Periyar, however, are the herds of wild elephants that come down to play in the lake. Thekkady is also the home for the best of spices.
In late afternoon, you will proceed for a boat ride in Lake Periyar and see the wildlife around the lake as you cruise along its banks. Apart from elephants, bisons, sambars, wild boars, langurs, otters, and flying squirrels are common. This sanctuary is also home to 246 species of birds and 112 species of butterflies.
In the evening, you will proceed to witness Kalaripayattu performance (martial arts) at a local theatre.
Overnight stay will be at Periyar.
Day 09: Periyar/Kambam Village/Periyar
On this day, you will experience a Tamil village and then later lunch at a farm house. In the beginning, you can also cycle for 10 km through Tamil Nadu lowlands. You will pass through vegetable farmlands and stop at vine yards. The local life in Tamil Nadu highly depends on agriculture, and the produce is sold to other states, including Kerala.
You will then stop at a typical Tamil restaurant for breakfast and have a go at the local delicacy. You will walk to the farmers market, enjoy the sight of fair trade, and understand the magnitude of the business. You will pick up vegetables from the market to cook your salad for lunch. You will now jump on a bullock cart that will take you to the farm house. On arriving, you will prepare your own salad with your cook and enjoy a typical Tamil lunch at the farm house. The caretaker will take you around the farm to give you first-hand information on the growing of crops like pomegranates, bananas, grapes, papayas. By late afternoon, you will drive back to Periyar.
Overnight stay will be at Periyar.
Day 10: Periyar/Backwaters
After an early breakfast, you will drive to Pallathuruthy (135 km, 4 hrs).
On arrival, you will board a houseboat for an overnight cruise around the backwaters.
Houseboats, popularly known as “Kettuvallom,” are converted from a traditional rice barge. While cruising in Alleppey backwaters, you will see glimpses of village life of the people living around the backwaters area. You may get to watch palm-lined bank and narrow strips of land that separate the waterways, and the constant quiet traffic of valam (small boats) is typical.
Overnight stay in the houseboat.
Day 11: Backwaters/Cochin
After breakfast, you will disembark the houseboat and drive to Cochin (65 km, 1.5 hrs).
Cochin (Kochi) is spread across islands and promontories in a stunning location between the Arabian Sea and the backwaters. The city was founded in 1341 when a flood created a natural safe port, which became the principal harbor for Malabar Coast’s spice trade. Cochin was on the main trade route between Europe and China. The rulers invited people of various religions to settle here, attracting the Jews and the Christians, who built places of worship and their own communities.
In the afternoon, you will meet up with your local guide and set on foot to explore Fort Cochin and St. Francis Church, the oldest European Church in India, where Vasco de Gama, the first European traveler to India, was originally buried. You will also visit the Chinese fishing nets believed to be brought to Kochi by the Chinese traders.
After Fort Cochin, you will take a TUK TUK for a short ride to Mattancherry Dutch Palace (Friday closed) at Mattancherry, renowned for its wall murals depicting scenes from the Ramayana and the Jewish Synagogue (Saturday closed) at the heart of what is locally called the Jew Town. You will have a pleasing experience by walking through the Jew Street.
Overnight stay will be at Cochin.
Day 12: Cochin
This day will begin with a visit to a fishermen village to witness the auction of fresh catch of fishes.
You will rise up early morning and after a cup of tea from the hotel, your guide will drive you to the nearby village of Chellanam, where you will witness the live action of boatmen bringing in their fresh catch of fishes for auction. You will blend with hundreds of people gathered in the beach to auction the fresh catch. Coming across local fishermen folks, traders, auctioneers, and mobile shopkeepers selling tea and snacks, you will also see kids picking up the spill over alongside canoes, boats, and nets. Here, everything works on a system of distribution.
Later, you will visit a family at their home and have breakfast together, giving you a chance to interact with the family and exchange experiences with brief introduction to some of the heritage relics available in the house. You will further continue for a village walk through the paddy fields, fish farms, crossing the river in the panchayat ferry to visit the local market.
You will drive back to Cochin by noon.
Rest of the day will pass in leisure. Overnight stay will be at Cochin.
Day 13: Departure from Cochin
You will be dropped off at the Cochin Airport in time (1 hr) to get a connecting flight back home.