16
Days Traditional South India Tour (I-57)

Chennai - Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry - Thanjavur - Chettinad - Madurai - Kodaikanal - Munnar - Alappuzha(Alleppey) - Cochin - Mararikulam - Cochin

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Day 01:- Arrive Chennai. Drive to Mahabalipuram (51 kms).

On arrival in Chennai, you will be transferred directly to your hotel in Mahabalipuram 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. Mahabalipuram 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.

Your morning 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. After the visit of Mahabalipuram, you will be transferred from Mahabalipuram to Puducherry. Overnight is in Puducherry.

Puducherry is also known as Pondicherry or Pondy. Puducherry is beautiful city with a colonial influence. Puducherry was acquired by the French in 1674 and has colonial buildings, churches, temples, and statues. The systematic well planned French style avenues, preserves and gives a look of the colonial ambiance. Puducherry has a number of well preserved heritage buildings and monuments. Promenade Beach, Paradise Beach, Auroville Beach and Serenity Beach are the well known beaches of Puducherry. This morning you will be visiting Pondicherry which traces its origin to the revered sage Saint Agasthya.

Puducherry is divided into the French Quarters "Ville Blanche" and the Indian quarter "Ville Noire". Some of the streets still have their French names. In the French Quarters, it is common to see French style villas and colonial style buildings. Sri Aurobindo Ashram is globally quite popular. Auroville is a universal town where people from all nationalities live together in harmony and peace. The Lord Ganesha Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple is a quite visited Hindu Temple. Afternoon is at leisure. Overnight is in Puducherry.

In the morning you will drive from Puducherry to Thanjavur. Thanjavur also known as Tanjore was the capital of the Chola dynasty and is famous for the Tanjore paintings and Bharatanatyam the famous form of classical dance has originated from this land. The Brihadeeswara Shiva Temple which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site was built by King Raja Raja Chola in the 11th century AD. The temple is capped by a monolithic cupola made of a single granite block weighing 80 tons which was taken to the top with the help of a 6 km long ramp, an old technique used by the Egyptians for building pyramids. The walls are covered with paintings from the Chola and Nayak periods. The other places of interest are the Thanjavur Maratha Palace constructed by the rulers of Thanjavur, the Saraswati Mahal Library with more than 30,000 manuscripts written on palm leaf and paper and the Raja Raja Chola art gallery with a huge collection of stone and bronze idols dating back from the 9th to the 12th centuries. Overnight is in Thanjavur.

This morning you will be transferred from Thanjavur to the Chettinad region with numerous villages. You will have free time to visit the Chettinad villages. Chettinad is quite famous for its cuisine which is very spicy and aromatic. The Chettinad mansions with wide courtyards and spacious rooms were built with marble and teak. The furnishings were imported from East Asian countries and Europe. Marble was from Italy, teak from Burm, crystals from Europe and mirrors from Belgium. The wood- and stone-work was inspired by the great houses in France and other European countries. Visit the Vairavan Kovil, Karpaga Vinayakar, Kundrakudi Murugan, Kandanur Sivan and other temples. Overnight is in Chettinad.

Today you will drive from Chettinad to the temple town of Madurai. You have an afternoon at leisure. 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 festivals 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". Overnight is in Madurai.

The morning 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 by 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. Later you will drive to Kodaikanal. Overnight is in Kodaikanal.

You have a free day to explore Kodaikanal. Kodaikanal which means "The Gift of the Forest" is known as "Princess of Hill stations" and is in the Palani Hills of Western Ghats at a height of 2,133 meters. Kodaikanal Lake is a 5 kms circumference manmade lake where you could hire boats, horses and bicycles. Kodaikanal is famous for its meadows, grasslands, cascading streams, waterfalls and gardens. Pear, cypress, eucalyptus and acacia trees are plentiful. Kodaikanal has many religious places like Church of South India, St. Peters Church, La Salette, Lutheran Mission, Union Church, Durgai Amman Kovil, Kurinji Andavar Kovil, Mariamman Kovil, Ellis Villa, Munjikal, etc.

Bryant Park is a beautiful botanical garden with a large species of trees, shrubs, cactuses and hundreds of varieties of roses. Shembaganur Museum of Natural History (closed on Tuesdays) offers a taxidermy collection of about 500 species of animals, birds and insects and a good collection of live exotic orchid species. Green Valley View offers you a beautiful view of the plains. Dolphin's Nose is a flat rock projecting over a 2000 meter chasm. Silver Cascade is a waterfall formed from the outflow of Kodaikanal Lake. Bear Shola Falls is a waterfall where you need to climb a bit. Pillar Rocks are three giant rock pillars which stand 122 meters high. Overnight is in Kodaikanal.

This morning you will drive from Kodaikanal to Munnar. You have free time to explore Munnar. Munnar which means three rivers derives its name from the Madhurapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly rivers; situated on the Kannan Devan Hills is a beautiful hill station, and was the summer resort of the British. Munnar is a popular honeymoon destination in Kerala and viewing the vast tea plantations in this area is a pleasure for the eyes. Anamudi, the highest peak in South India is here. Munnar is surrounded by different wild life sanctuaries which shelter the grizzled giant squirrel, elephant, gaur, Nilgiri langur, Sambar, etc. The Neelakurinji is a blue flower which blooms once in 12 years is found in this region.

You have the afternoon at leisure in Munnar to explore the nearby areas of Munnar. Atukkad Waterfalls which is a very beautiful waterfall set amidst hills and jungles. Chithirapuram is known for its tea plantations. Floriculture Centre is a garden with different species of flower and herbal plants. Take a short elephant ride at the Elephant Arrival Spot. Top Station gives you spectacular views of the Western Ghats. At the Tata Tea Museum, you will be taken around to know how the tea is processed. Around Munnar, you could visit the numerous waterfalls and animal sanctuaries. Overnight is in Munnar.

Today morning you will drive from Munnar to Alappuzha by road. Rest of the day is at leisure for exploring this beautiful place. Alappuzha earlier known as Alleppey is a picturesque town and is known as Venice of the East. The city is crisscrossed with canals and offers you backwaters, beaches, and lagoons. A cruise in the backwaters is an unforgettable experience. Every year, on the second Saturday of August the Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held on the Punnamada Lake. Kuttanad with continuous paddy fields and lush green coconut palms is known as the rice bowl of Kerala. This is one of the few places in the world where rice is cultivated below sea level. Coir is the most important commodity manufactured in Alappuzha.

Alleppey on the Arabian Sea with numerous canals meandering through the town is a very important destination for tourists visiting Kerala. The Kerala backwaters are a network of large lakes linked by canals and fed by rivers. The backwaters are formed because of the waves and shore currents creating low barrier islands. Here you will board a houseboat in Keralas backwaters. The charm of staying a night in the houseboats known as kettuvallam in the backwaters is great. These boats were used to ferry the grain. Thatched roof covers provide protection from the sun and rain. The boats are like floating cottages with a sleeping area, toilets, dining area and a sit out on the deck. The food is cooked on board by staff. Overnight is on board of the houseboat.

Today you will be driven from Alappuzha to Kochi. 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. You have a free time 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. Overnight is in Kochi.

This morning you will drive from Kochi to Mararikulam. Rest of your day is free for relaxing at the beach. Mararikulam a beach village is known for its very beautiful beach known as Marari Beach or Mararikulam beach. It is one of the most beautiful beach destinations in India and was rated as one of the worlds top five hammock beach by National Geographic survey. Mararikulam the sleepy little village is about 11 kms from Alappuzha and is an idyllic location for a vacation. Overnight is in Mararikulam.

Your full day is free to relax at the Mararikulam beach. Optionally you could visit nearby places. Cherthala is about 12 kms from the Mararikulam village and has many religious places. The famous temples which draw a large number of devotees are Karthyayani Devi temple, Muttathu Thirumala Devaswam temple. The Karthyayani Devi temple complex also has temples of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Ayyappa and Kshethrapalakan. One could see many roosters around the temple premises which are offerings of the devotees. In the Muttathu Thirumala Devaswam temple, the deities are Saligrama and Sree Venkatachalapathy Moorthy with Bhoo Devi and Sree Devi. Goddess Mutharamma and Annapoorneswary are the deities in the Sree Mutharamman Kovil temple. The annual festival around March at the Kandamangalam Sree Rajarajeshwari temple attracts a large number of people. Overnight is in Mararikulam.

You have another day free to relax at the Mararikulam beach. Optionally you could visit the nearby places of Mararikulam. Saint Augustine Church is one of the oldest Latin Catholic churches and is located near Aroor. Also located here are the Karthyayani Temple and the Vattakkeril Temple. The St. Andrues Basilica is located at Arthunkal. There is a Devi Temple and Christian church at Thycattusserry. Kandamangalam Rajarajeshwari Temple is located at Kadakkarappally. The Kandakarana temple and Vyathara Trimurthi temple dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma temple is located in Andhakaranazhy. Overnight is in Mararikulam.

Today you will drive from Mararikulam to Kochi airport to board flight fo your return journey. END OF YOUR KARNATAKA KERALA VACATIONS.