14
Days South India Rail Tour (Rail-08)

Chennai (Madras) - Madurai - Periyar (Thekkady) - Trivandram - Cochin (Kochi) - Bangalore - Mysore - Madras

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Day 01:- Arrive in Chennai.

This morning on your arrival in Chennai earlier known as Madras, you will be transferred to your hotel. The name Chennai was derived from Chennaipattanam, built by the English in 1639. The earlier name- Madras was a short form of Madraspattinam a fishing village. Chennai is the capital of Tamil Nadu and is the largest industrial and commercial center of South India and also an important centre for Carnatic music. The city is also famous for the Tamil movies and known as Tollywood. Chennai came into prominence because of the British who defended the town against several attacks from the French and converted it to a major naval port. Rest of your day is at leisure. Overnight is in Chennai.

Today, you will have a full day excursion to Mamallapuram and Kanchipuram. Kanchipuram was the ancient capital of the Pallavas and was the town of a 1000 temples. Kanchipuram sight-seeing takes you through some of the known temples such as Siva temple from the 7th century, Ekambareswara temple, Sri Kailasanathar Temple from the 8th century, the Sri Vardaraja Perumal Temple, the Sri Kamakshiamman Temple, etc. Kanchipuram is a paradise for the shoppers as it offers the world famous Kanchipuram silk and saris.

Mamallapuram is also known as Mahabalipuram or Mamallapattana. This is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and a historic town and seaport. It was also known by the ancient mariners as the city of "Seven Pagodas". Out of the Seven Pagodas, only the Shore Temple survives. Mamallapuram was a bustling seaport and the traders went to countries of South East Asia from here. It was an important port for the Pallavas and most of the monuments portray events from the Mahabharata and date back from the 7th to the 9th century. In an ancient text, this place was noted as Sea Mountain where ships rode at anchor bent to the point of breaking laden with goods

The tour of Mahabalipuram takes you through the cave temples and mandapams cut in the rocks showing depiction of incidents from Hindu legends, epics and mythology. The temples were built during the rule of Narasimhavarman and Rajasimhavarman. The city was mostly developed by Narasimhavarman. The bas relief Arjuna's Penance with life size images carved on the rock wall is the largest Bas-relief in the world. The five chariots are carved out of a single rock. The twin structure of the Shore Temple is one of the oldest in South India and is worth visiting. The Shore Temple built from dressed stone has bas reliefs, one 100 ft long and 45 ft. high, carved out of granite. Overnight is in Chennai.

This morning, you will be taken around Chennai for visiting the various places of interest. The Government Museum of 1857 is one of the oldest museums of India and has 46 galleries and different sections for Archaeology, Zoology, Geology, Bronze, etc. The Museum is closed on Fridays and other public holidays. The Bronze Gallery with its beautiful statues going back to a thousand years is worth visiting. San Thome Basilica from the 16th century was built by the Portuguese and later in the 19th century was rebuilt by the British as a church. Drive through the Flower and Fruit market, High court, Marina Beach, and other places of interest. Check-out time from the hotel is at 1200 hrs. Late evening you will be transferred to the rail station for your Madurai overnight train. Overnight is on board the train.

This morning on your arrival in Madurai, you will be transferred to your hotel. Madurai is one of the oldest living cities in the world and the recorded history dates back to 3rd century BC. Madurai comes from the word Madhura which means sweetness. The people of Madurai celebrate many festivals and one of the important festival is the annual 10 days Chittirai festival. Rani Mangamma's palace has been converted into Gandhi Memorial Museum and houses the blood-stained garment worn by Mahatma Gandhi when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. Mahatma Gandhi had adopted the loin cloth as his mode of dress after seeing agricultural laborers in Madurai wearing it. Meenakshi Temple is in the list of nominees of the "New Seven Wonders of the World".

The afternoon tour of Madurai includes Meenakshi Temple, Tirumala Nayak Palace, Alagar Hills and Tirupara Kundran Rock temple. The Meenakshi Temple complex is one of the largest and oldest in India. The temple was built 2000 years ago and was expanded Thirumalai Nayak. This is a temple of Lord Siva and his wife Meenakshi. The temple has a Hall of Thousand Pillars with every pillar showing life like features. The outermost corridors have musical pillars of stones which when tapped, produce different musical notes. Thirumalai Nayak Palace was built in 1636 by the king Thirumalai Nayak and is famous for its domes and arches. Overnight is in Madurai.

Today morning you will drive from Madurai to Periyar animal sanctuary which is also known as Thekkady. Your evening is free for game viewing. Periyar is famous as an Elephant and Tiger Reserve and shelters various animals like Bengal Tiger, Indian elephant, wild boar, sambar, tiger, leopard, wild dog, langur, monkeys, etc. It has an abundance of birds and plants. A boat ride in the Periyar Lake gives you the possibility of watching the different animals. The Park is surrounded by various plantation regions for coffee, tea, etc. and a visit to these plantations is a worth. If time permits, you could make a soft trek to the nearby areas. Overnight is in Periyar.

Today morning you will drive to Thiruvananthapuram viewing the scenic beauty enroute. Kerala is lush green and is full of lakes and rivers. Rest of the day is at leisure in Thiruvananthapuram. Thiruvananthapuram earlier known as Trivandrum means the "City of Lord Ananta". The name comes from the deity of Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple. In the temple, Padmanabaha (Vishnu) is reclining on Anantha (Sheshanag). The city shot into fame globally when recently some of the vaults of the temple were opened, a treasure worth billions was discovered making it one of the richest temples of this world. A few more vaults still are to be opened. Only those who profess faith in Hindu religion are permitted and you have to adhere to a dress code for entering the temple. Overnight is in Thiruvananthapuram.

You have an entire day free in Thiruvananthapuram. You could go for an optional city tour or an excursion to Kanya Kumari or Kovalam beach. In Thiruvananthapuram, the Napier Museum, an art and natural history museum was named after Lord Napier, an erstwhile Governor of Madras. It is closed on Mondays, Wednesday afternoons and also on some public holidays like January 26, August 15, etc. The rulers of Travancore took a lot of interest in art and culture. Some of the famous artists from here are Maharaja Swathe Thirumalai, Drayman Hampi and Raja Ravi Varma. Raja Ravi Varma is known globally for his paintings. You could see his paintings as well as paintings of Nicholas Roerich at the Sree Chithra Art Gallery in the city which is a part of the Napiers Museum. The museum has a good collection of bronze idols, old ornaments, etc. and also a temple chariot. One of the oldest zoos of India is also a part of the museum.

Kanya Kumari also known as Cape Comorin is the land's end of India where the water of the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean meet. Kanya Kumari is a holy place for Hindus with two of the 51 Shakti Peethas Bhagavathy temple and Shuchindram present here. The legend goes that Kanya Devi an incarnation of Parvati was to marry Siva. As Siva failed to show up at the wedding, rice and other grains meant for the feast remained uncooked. The uncooked grain turned into stones and it is believed that the stones on the shore look like un-cooked rice. You will take a ferry to reach the Vivekananda Rock Memorial with a 133 feet tall statue of Tamil saint–poet Thiruvalluvar. Swami Vivekananda had meditated here for three days. Gandhi Memorial was built where the urn with Gandhi's ashes was kept for public viewing before immersion. Kanya Kumari is known for its spectacular sunrise and sunset.

Kovalam meaning a grove of coconut trees is a town at the Arabian Sea and is a paradise of the south. Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore had built the Halcyon Castle here in the 1920s. Kovalam has a lot of salons for Ayurvedic treatments. Kovalam has many beach resorts offering Ayurvedic treatment for recuperation and regeneration. Kovalam has one of the best beaches of India and is an important city in Kerala's honeymoon tour packages. The Lighthouse Beach derives its name from the Vizhinjam Lighthouse located on a rocky promontory. Eve’s Beach also known as Hawa Beach offers calm blue waters. The Samudra Beach is used more by the local fishermen. Vizhinjam sea port is only 3 km away and known for its temples, churches and a mosque. You could enjoy an Ayurvedic oil massages and oil bath given by experts. Overnight is in Thiruvananthapuram.

This morning you will drive to Kochi passing through the numerous villages of Kerala. In Kochi you have rest of the time at leisure for exploring the city. Kochi earlier known as Cochin is referred as the Queen of Arabian Sea. Kochi has remained the popular centre in across the world for the trade of spices for number of centuries. The name of the city comes from Malayalam term “Kochazhi” that actually means small lagoon. Kochi was put on the world map by Vasco-de-Gama. The Arabs, Portuguese, British, Dutch, all have left their impression on the history of Kochi. After Mumbai, Kochi is probably the second most important city on the west coast of India. In the evening, you could enjoy a Kathakali dance show. Overnight is in Kochi.

During the morning city tour of Kochi, you will be taken to some of the renowned spots of Kochi that will include the Portuguese churches, mosques and temples along with the Jewish synagogue. You will be taken to watch the Chinese style fishing nets which are mostly seen in Kerala. It holds around 10m of height and consists of cantilever along with an outstretched net that is suspended in the sea and one huge stone suspended on other end with ropes for the counterweights. Every installation of this fishing-net gets operated by group of six fishermen. Checkout at 1200 hrs. You have time at leisure in the afternoon. Optionally you could visit the other popular destinations of Kochi like Kochi Fort, Hill Palace, Marine Drive, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi International Marina, Cherai Beach, etc. Later transfer to rail station for your Bangalore overnight train. Overnight on board the train.

This morning on your arrival in Bengaluru earlier known as Bangalore, you will be transferred to your hotel. Bangalore is the Silicon Valley of India and is one of the top preferred entrepreneurial locations in the world. The story goes that a 12th century king lost his way and met a poor woman who offered him boiled beans. The grateful king named the place "benda-kaal-uru" which means town of boiled beans. The Karaga Shaktyotsava an important festival dedicated to Goddess Draupadi is celebrated annually over a period of nine days in March or April. Bangalore is also an important place for classical music and dance.

This afternoon you will be enjoying a tour of Bengaluru. The tourist spots in Bengaluru are Lal Bagh, Maharaja's Palace, etc. You could also include the various temples in the Bengaluru sight-seeing. Bengaluru is also known as the "Garden City of India". The Lal Bagh started by Hyder Ali and finished by his son Tipu Sultan has India's largest collection of tropical plants - over a 1000 species of flora and also trees over 100 years old. The construction of the Bangalore Palace was started in 1862 and completed in 1944 and looks similar to the Windsor Castle in England. Drive past different Government buildings. Overnight is in Bengaluru.

This morning you will drive to Mysore. You have time at leisure in Mysore. Mysore also known as Mysooru served as the capital city of the Mysore Princely Kingdom nearly from the 14th century to 1947. Mysore is known as the city of palaces and is quite famous for its Dussehra festival. Mysore was ruled by the Wadiyars except for some time in the 18th century when Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan ruled this place. The Wadiyars were great patrons of art and culture which benefitted the cultural growth of the city, due to which Mysore is called the Cultural capital of Karnataka. Overnight is in Mysore.

The morning city tour of Mysore will take you to the Mysore palace that was originally built by the Maharaja of Mysore in the year 1911-1912. The palace is of harmonious synthesis of the Hindu and Saracenic styles of architecture having archways, domes, turrets, colonnades and sculptures. Visit the art gallery. Drive to the Chamundi hill to visit the Chamundeshwari Temple. From the hill itself you will get a panoramic view of the city of Mysore. On your way back to Mysore, visit the Nandi bull. You have an afternoon at leisure. Optionally you could visit the Krishnarajasagar dam and the Brindavan Gardens in the evening. Mysore is a good place for buying the famous "Mysore silk". Overnight is in Mysore.

You have time at leisure today. Check-out time is at 1200 hrs from the hotel. Later you will be transferred to rail station for your Chennai train. On arrival in Chennai you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight is in Chennai.

Today morning you will be transferred to airport for your connecting flight.