TOWERING TEMPLES, LUSTROUS, WATERY WORLDS
This tour introduces to us the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala in its two-week itinerary that takes us across tropical south India from east to west with fabulous temples, holy Hindu shrines, charming old hill-stations, princely palaces, wildlife reserves, green waterways and golden beaches en route.
Setting out from Chennai, one of India’s top four metros, we journey to the temple towns of Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram palace. Leaving towns behind, we embark on an exciting wildlife safari through Bandipur National Park. Then we move on to the hills, stopping at the quaint old hill stations of Ootacamund (Ooty) and Coonoor, where colonial cottages and green landscapes await. We catch our breath in these cool climes and enjoy exhilarating walks through the verdant tea plantations and forests.
From here we travel down the west coast into serene and charming Kerala. The historic trading center of Kochi, with its heritage architecture, multi-religious ambience and rich cuisine, is our first port of call. After a day spent sightseeing in Kochi, we drive to Alleppey to begin an enchanting voyage; A cruise on the backwaters in a houseboat, also our quarters for the night. Sun, sand and sea are the parting notes as we conclude the tour with a two-night stay in the seaside resort of Varkala.
- 6th and 9th century Mahabalipuram temples carved from rocks
- Exquisite hand-woven silks and gorgeously carved temples of Kanchipuram
- The Mysore palace, seat of Mysore’s princely kingdom for nearly six centuries
- Bandipur National Park, former hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Mysore
- Delightfully charming hill stations of Ooty and Coonoor
Day 2Way to town of world heritage listed temples
Chennai - Mahabalipuram
After a refreshing breakfast, we take a Sightseeing tour of Chennai, the fourth largest city in India and the capital of Tamil Nadu to visit Kapaleeswarar Temple, Government Museum and San Thome Basilica.
Later, we drive towards Mahabalipuram, renowned for its beautiful Shore Temple. The rock carvings here are notable for the freshness and simplicity of their Folk art origins. Upon arrival, we check in at the hotel.
Day 3Drive back to Chennai en route visiting Kanchipuram
Mahabalipuram - Kanchipuram
In the morning, we visit the Five rock-cut monolithic temples, each created in its own style and providing an insight into the Art of Dravidian Style of construction in temples. We also visit the 8th century Shore Temple built on the seashore of the Bay of Bengal with blocks of granite, in Dravidian style.
Then, we head towards Kanchipuram, known as Golden city of the thousand temples.
Kanchipuram, the so-called Golden City of One Thousand Temples. We visit the Kailasanathar Temple, famous for its exquisite carvings, with 58 small shrines situated around the main shrine. We also visit Kamakshi Amman Temple. Kamakshi is said to be the Super-goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. She blesses all who dedicate themselves to her.
Kanchipuram - Chennai
After the visit, we continue to drive towards Chennai.
Day 4 - 5Train journey till Mysore and excursion to Srirangapatna
In the early morning after breakfast at the hotel, we leave for the Railway station to board the train to Mysore. Arrival in Mysore and transfer to the hotel.
Thereafter, we drive towards Srirangapatna (the historic capital of Tipu Sultan who was known for his struggle against the British rule), where we visit the Daria Daulat Bagh, the Summer Palace of Tipu Sultan. It is situated in scenic surroundings on an island formed by two branches of the River Cauvery. Several monuments relating to the sultan’s rule are scattered across the Island. Return back to the hotel in Mysore.
Today, we visit the Palace of the Maharaja (Emperor), a harmonious synthesis of Hindu and Saracenic styles of architecture – with a plethora of magnificent archways, domes, turrets, colonnades and sculptures. We also visit the Chaumundi Hill with its temple dedicated to Durga. On the road up to the temple, there is a giant Monolithic Nandi bull, carved from a single piece of granite in 1659. Known for its sandalwood, Mysore is also famous for some of India’s finest crafts, such as printed silk, inlaid furniture and ivory carvings.
Day 6Immerging in wildlife
Mysore (Mysuru) - Bandipur National Park
After the breakfast, we drive towards Bandipur National Park. Situated halfway down the Mysore - Ooty highway, this Park is one of the most popular reserves in the country with a rich variety of flora and fauna. It was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1973, and after a period, was covered under ‘Project Tiger’.
In the afternoon, we leave for an Evening Jeep safari.
Other than tiger, there are various natural inhabitants of this lovely forest which are gaur (a type of bull), sambhar, chital, mouse deer, four-horned antelope, wild dogs, wild boar, jackal, sloth bear, panther, malabar squirrel, porcupines and the black-knapped hare
Day 7Head towards Coonoor en route visiting the queen of hills
Bandipur National Park - Ooty
In the morning, there is an Optional visit to an Elephant training centre.
We later drive to Ooty a hill resort, in the state of Tamil Nadu. This place is fondly known as the Queen of Hill Stations with a stunning location in the heart of the Nilgiri Hills. The environs are full of sparkling waterfalls, gurgling brooks and lush green tea gardens.
We visit the Ootacamund Botanical Garden, laid out in 1847 CE at an elevation of 2400m and spread over 22 hectares with some 650 species of plants and trees.
Later, we also visit the Rose Garden, spread out on 10 acres of land and showcasing the largest collections of roses in the country (around 3600 varieties). Subject to availability of time, we may also visit the Ooty Lake or Doddabetta peak that stands at an altitude of 2623 mtrs.
Day 8Toy Train ride to Coonoor
Today, we drive towards Conoor.
The second-largest hill station in The Nilgiris, surrounded by tea plantations, Coonoor is situated at an altitude of 1,839 meters. This is a small tea garden town where weather remains pleasantly cool throughout the year. It was once home to the Coons tribe, and possibly that’s where the name comes from. Famous for its verdant surroundings and for a variety of wild flowers and birds we either explore this place on foot walking through tea plantations or enjoy a ride on the famous toy train of The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, one of the oldest mountain railways in India and now a UNESCO World heritage site. On arrival, we would be received by driver at railway station and transfer to our hotel in Ooty.
Day 9 - 10City popular for fishing nets
After an early breakfast, we set off for a long drive down to the West coast, leaving Tamil Nadu to enter Kerala, another picturesque state. The road winds down through forested hillsides which make our drive one of the most scenic drives in South India, with splendid views of the plains below. We arrive in Cochin (Kochi) in the late afternoon. This is an old port city with a long and profitable sea trade connection with The Middle East, the Mediterranean Sea and Northern Europe. Its cosmopolitan character is reflected in its handsome Colonial buildings.
Today we visit Fort Kochi, founded by the Portuguese in 1503 and it is considered to be one of the earliest site chosen by European colonial power. An odour of spice emerges from warehouses and food stalls offering different delicacy is common sight in each nook and corner of the town. In the afternoon, we enjoy a sightseeing tour of Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese as a gift for the Raja of Kochi, the Jewish synagogue dating from 1568 and St Francis church. We also explore the town of Kochi, its bazaars and old harbour area. In the evening there is the chance for an Optional visit to see a display of Kathakali, a form of classical dance unique to Kerala.
Day 11Visit of Venice of East
Cochin (Kochi) - Alappuzha (Alleppey)
After the breakfast, we take a short drive towards Alleppey.
Alleppey also known as Alappuzha, the town is also called the Venice of the East and is the main center for cruises through the Kerala’s picturesque backwaters. After arrival, we board our houseboats and begin our cruise through Meandering waterways. This is one of the highlights of the trip. The enchanting Houseboat, built of Anjili wood and bamboo, was the traditional method of transport of goods for hundreds of years. Now these boats are decorated and made into comfortable Cruise boats. The network of rivers, streams, lagoons and canals occupies the alluvial plain between the Western Ghats and the Indian Ocean. As our boat meanders through areas of lush tropical vegetation we have the opportunity to view not only the prolific bird life but to gain a different perspective of village life around these canals. Our overnight stay is in the middle of Vembanad Lake where our boat stands anchored.
Day 12 - 13Tranquility along the beach of Varkala
Alappuzha (Alleppey) - Varkala
After a relaxing breakfast on the Houseboats, we disembark and drive along the scenic Malabar coast to laid-back Varkala, a famous beach frequented by a large number of domestic and foreign tourists. The place greets us with coffee bars and yoga schools perched along the cliff top.
Today we explore tranquil Varkala, visiting Papanasam Beach, Janardanaswamy Temple and Anjengo Fort. For lunch (Optional), we can choose from a wide variety of beach shack restaurants which serve excellent seafood along with the Traditional Indian cuisine. Try some of the Tandoori dishes - the clay ovens give a more authentic taste to breads and curries.