Cultural Tours of India

India

Southern India Tour Itinerary

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This is the India one dreams of, or finds in a Kipling novel — the beauty of South Indian temples seemingly lost amongst the pilgrims, the dense jungles and the sleepy tropics of coastal Kerala. Why more do not go south is a good question, but those who are drawn there get to see India in a provocative light.

Day 1: Depart the U.S. for South India

Day 2: Transit day

Day 3: Arrive at Chennai (formerly Madras). Afternoon sightseeing in Madras, the main city of South India with unique seaside architecture. While easier going then the other big cities of India, it is a bustling region of commerce.

Day 4: Visit Kachipuram, one of India's most famed pilgrimage sites and temple town. We'll drive to Mahabalipuram (2 hours). The temples and structures of this area are some of the oldest in Hindu mythology.

Day 5: Sightseeing in Mahabalipuram, covering Shore Temple, Arjuna Penance etc.

Day 6: Drive to Pondicherry (3 hours/110 km). Pondicherry is an old French colony with Paris style design and a charming flavor. In the afternoon, we'll visit the Raj Nivas, Sree Aurobindo Ashram (one of the world's most famed ashrams and meditation centers) and the local beach.

Day 7: Drive to Tanjore via sightseeing in Darasuram, Gangaikondacholapuram, Kumbakonam over two days and nights.

Day 8: Sightseeing of the masterpiece Temple of Tanjore Sri Brahadeeswara. Well visit the Palace, Art Gallery and Saraswathy Mahal Library.

Day 9: We'll drive to Trichy (2 hours/55 km) and check into a hotel. We'll make an afternoon visit in Rock Fort Temple and Sri Ramgam Temple. These are extremely lively markets and temple towns, filled with shoppers and pilgrims.

Day 10: We'll drive to Madurai (3.5 hours/130 km) and check in to Hotel Royal Court for two nights. Our afternoon will be free, but in the evening we'll witness the Temple ceremony. Madurai is the epitome of a temple town with markets, food pigrism and tourists from all over India in the fray.

Day 11: Our sightseeing in Madurai will cover the Meenakshi Temple, Temple Museum, Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal and the Gandhi Musuem. We'll take in an evening light and sound show at Thirumalai Nayakar Palace.

Day 12: We'll drive to Thekkady. On arrival, we'll check in to Hotel Shalimar Spice Garden for an overnight stay and take an afternoon boat ride at Lake Periyar.

Day 13: We'll do early morning trekking for three hours in the Sanctuary, before breakfast. Afternoon drive to Kumarakom (4 hours/140 km) for one-night stay.

Day 14: At noon, we'll check into a houseboat for stay for a one-night stay, with all meals on board. The boat will pick up our team and proceed to Alleppey and the narrow canals. Traditional Kerala meals, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, will be served on the boat. We'll make stops in between to see the villages, churches, temples etc.

Day 15: We'll check out from the houseboat and drive to Cochin (1.5 hours/65 km). On arrival, we'll check into Fort Heritage, in the old part of Cochin and stay in Cochin for two nights. We'll take an evening sunset cruise by private boat.

Day 16: We'll have a full day of relaxation and sightseeing. We'll visit the Dutch Palace, Jewish synagogue, St. Francis Church and Chinese fishing nets. In the evening, we'll take in a Kathakali dance show.

Day 17: Drive to Varkala, or as it's known in Malayam, the local language, Papa Nashini (Sin Destroyer). Varkala's beautiful white-sand beach, Papanasam Beach, has long been associated with ancestor worship. Devotees come here after praying at the Janardhan Swamy temple (said to be more then 2,000 years old) to bring ashes of departed relatives for a final rest. Unlike many temples in Kerala, non-Hindus are welcome. A small government hospital at its north end was set up to benefit from three natural springs and take advantage of the sea air, which is said to boost the health of asthma sufferers.

Day 18: After breakfast, we'll depart on a three-hour drive to Somatheeram. This tropical garden of Eden slopes to the sandy beach stretching to the tranquil, turquoise sea changing colour and mood momentarily as the white clouds sail pass over it. Somatheeram is also perfect hideaway, far from mass tourism. Its accommodations are widely scattered down the contoured hills amongst the verdant coconut groves and other naturally preserved plants. Constructed of wood and sporting antique, carved doors and pillars, each building is a unique piece of architecture. Overnight at Hotel Somatheeram Beach Resort.

Day 19: The Resort has an exclusive Ayurveda center, where several rejuvenative therapies based on the vedic science of Ayurveda (a 5,000-year-old traditional indigenous body toning practice) are possible. Ayurvedic treatment with herbal preparations helps strengthen the immune system, and prevent and cure diseases without any side effects. It's also known for its Yoga center, where Yoga and mediation can be learned and practiced under the guidance of a Guru.

Day 20: Depart for home country

Day 21: Arrive in U.S. or home country

(Travelers note: Each day we will try to have some free time so you're not always on a guided tour. While we'll often eat meals together, they will not be pre-arranged, which will allow us the flexibility to eat at local establishments or at more preferred hours. Hotels are subject to change.)

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