This itinerary covers two of the best travel destinations of India - Tamil Nadu & Kerala. With 5 star or equivalent accommodation, this trip is a luxurious experience through the splendors of South India.
Tamil Nadu - a land of cultural and religious heritage, offers every chance to the travelers to be enchanted with the vast abundance of history and beauty that it has. It is a blend of the modern and the ancient, which makes Tamil Nadu a beautiful destination to explore and experience India's past cultural heritage with all the amenities of the present. While north India has faced the brunt of Persian and Arabian invasions in history, south India was a bit farther away from their reach. So the temples and other historic monuments could be well preserved in time. No wonder Tamil Nadu is known as "the temple city of India". With almost all the temples built during ancient and medieval times, a visit to these temples provides you with a deep insight into the brilliant architectural, sculptural, and artistic skills of the engineers, architects, and artisans of the bygone era. These temples also showcase the opulent and lavish tastes of the erstwhile royal kings, be it Cholas, Pallavas or Nayakas.
Everything about Kerala is heaven. That's why it's called "God's Own Country". There is hardly any place in the world, so small in the area yet has an amazingly vast variety in terrains and landscapes. Kerala is all about the breathtaking views of tea-plantations, well maintained national parks & wildlife sanctuaries, pristine beaches, and enchanting back-waters (one of the best in the world).
Arrive at Chennai by flight. Among Chennai’s greatest assets are its people, infectiously enthusiastic about their hometown; they won’t hit you with a lot of hustle and hassle. Recent years have thrown in a new layer of cosmopolitan glamour: luxe hotels, sparkling boutiques, quirky cafes, smart contemporary restaurants, and a sprinkling of swanky bars and clubs.
With its sweltering southern heat, roaring traffic, and lack of outstanding sights, Chennai has often been seen as the dowdier sibling among India’s four biggest cities. But even if you’re just caught here between connections,
A private car will pick-up from Chennai airport and transfer to the hotel for check-in. Evening at your leisure. Overnight stay will be at the hotel in Chennai.
After breakfast check out from the hotel and head towards Mahabalipuram. The beauty of this place is not only due to the magnificent ancient architecture but the vast casuarinas trees, the silvery sandy beach the classical hand male crafts around have made them all form what is a collective splendor. On the way visit the DakshinaChitra, an exciting cross-cultural living museum of art, architecture, lifestyles, crafts, and performing arts of South India.
Reach Mahabalipuram by noon. Check-in at the hotel. After a little rest head out for Mahabalipuram sightseeing in the afternoon. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage monuments of Mahabalipuram. Visit Shore Temple, the most famous monument in the town. It is a structural temple, built with blocks of granite, dating from the 8th Century CE. Afterward, visit Pancha Ratha. The Pancha Ratha is a set of 5 different monuments. Each one is called a ratha and is named after the Pandavas and their family. Then visit Cave Temples, located on the hillock of the town. They are cut and decorated with panels in the Mamalla style of the Pallava period in the 7th century.
Overnight stay will be at the hotel in Mahabalipuram.
After breakfast take a day trip to Kanchipuram. The city was also a religious center of advanced education for Jainism and Buddhism between the 1st and 5th centuries. Out of the 108 holy temples of the Hindu god Vishnu, 14 are located in Kanchipuram. The city is well known for its hand-woven silk sarees. Visit Kailasanathar Temple which is the oldest structure in the town dedicated to Lord Shiva. This Hindu temple in the Dravidian architectural style was built from 685-705 CE. The low-slung sandstone compound contains a large number of carvings, including many half-animal deities which were popular during the early Dravidian architectural period. Later visit Varadharaja Perumal Temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Spread across 23 acres of land, it is not just one temple but a complete temple complex with many temples, pillared halls & pavilions, and tanks. Later visit Ekambareswarar Temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to the deity Shiva. The temple complex covers 25 acres and is one of the largest in India. It houses four gateway towers known as gopurams. The tallest is the southern tower, with 11 stories and a height of 58.5216 meters (192 ft), making it one of the tallest temple towers in India.
Reach back Mahabalipuram by evening. The evening is at your leisure. Overnight stay at will be at the hotel in Mahabalipuram.
After breakfast check out from the hotel and head towards Pondicherry. The union territory of Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry; generally known as ‘Pondy’) was under French rule until 1954. Some people here still speak French (and English with French accents). Check-in at the hotel. At the noon head out for sightseeing. Visit Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple, dedicated to the worship of Lord Ganesha. The monumental interiors of the temple are decorated with forty incarnations and forms of Lord Ganesha, carved on the stone walls of the temple. Then visit the French Quarter. Many of the structures in the French Quarter of Pondicherry are colonial buildings and were built by the French during their rule. Some of the buildings in White Town have been deemed as heritage sites and are breathtakingly beautiful. In the evening hangout at Promenade Beach. The Pondicherry beaches have a unique charm where its inherent serene atmosphere contrasts the wild, roaring sea rushing onto it. Overnight stay will be at the hotel in Pondicherry.
After breakfast the entire day at your leisure. The private car will be at your disposal to visit any place in Pondicherry. You could visit markets or beaches. Overnight stay will be at the hotel in Pondicherry.
After breakfast check out from the hotel and head towards Thanjavur. Thanjavur (or Tanjore) is a temple site in the Tamil Nadu state of southern India. Thanjavur was the capital of the great Chola (Cola) king Rajaraja I, and it was he who commissioned the site’s magnificent temple. On the way visit, Nataraj Temple Chidambaram also referred to as Thillai Nataraj Temple. The architecture of the temple represents the link between arts and spirituality. The temple was constructed during the 10th Century when Chidambaram used to be the capital of the Chola dynasty. Afterward visit Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is considered as one of the largest temples in the country and is a fine example of the grandeur of the Dravidian style of architecture of the Chola dynasty. The temple was built by Rajendra Chola I and was completed in the year 1035 CE.
Reach Thanjavur by late afternoon. Check-in at the hotel on arrival and relax. Dinner & overnight stay will be at a hotel in Thanjavur.
Meals: Breakfast & Dinner
After breakfast at the hotel, head out for a day tour to Kumbakonam. Visit Airavatesvara Temple built by Rajaraja II in 12th Century CE. It is a Lord Shiva temple located in Darasuram, near Kumbakonam. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and it is referred to as "Great Living Chola Temples”. Constructed in the chariot structure and built-in stone, the temple has smaller shrines dedicated to several Vedic and Puranic deities.
Reach back to Thanjavur by noon. Visit Thanjavur’s Royal Palace & Museum, a mixed bag of ruin and renovation, superb art, and random royal collections. The big complex was constructed partly by the Nayaks who took over Thanjavur in 1535, and partly by a local Maratha dynasty that ruled from 1676 to 1855. Afterward, visit Thanjavur brass-work shops. The brass idols manufacturing of Thanjavur is the traditional handicraft of Tamil Nadu. These beautiful brass idols showcase the careful workmanship of the artisans.
In the late evening head out to see the pooja ceremony at The Brihadeeshwara Temple. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this temple is a perfect illustration of the great heights achieved in the field of architecture by the Chola rulers. Dinner & overnight stay will be at a hotel in Thanjavur.
Meals: Breakfast & Dinner
After breakfast check out from the hotel and head towards Madurai. On the way take a short trip to Tiruchirapalli and visit Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple occupies an area of 155 acres (63 ha) with 81 shrines, 21 towers, 39 pavilions. This temple is the largest temple compound in India and one of the largest religious complexes in the world. Temple is mentioned in Tamil literature of the Sangam Era 1st to the 4th Century CE.
Reach Madurai by late afternoon. Check-in at the hotel on arrival. Overnight stay will be at the hotel in Madurai.
After breakfast head out for exploring Madurai. Start with a visit to the Madurai Flower Market. This flower market is one of the biggest in Tamil Nadu and transacts as much as 10 tons of flowers each day. Then visit the renowned Meenakshi Amman Temple. The temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2,500-year-old city of Madurai. It is one of the oldest and most important temples in India. Located in the city of Madurai, the temple has a great mythological and historical significance. It is believed that Lord Shiva assumed the form of Sundareswarar (the handsome one) and married Parvati (Meenakshi) at the site where the temple is currently located. Meenakshi Temple was nominated as one of the wonders of the world, but couldn’t make it into the list of ‘Seven Wonders of the World’. However, the temple is definitely one of the ‘Wonders of India’. Afterward visit the Gandhi Museum in Madurai, a memorial museum that was built in 1959 for Mahatma Gandhi. It is one of the five great Gandhi Museums in the country which depicts the life of the Father of the nation and India's freedom struggle from 1757 until 1947.
In the evening enjoy the Food tour. Foodies will love this evening tour which will take you through the bustling Madurai street food scene. Go to several popular local food stalls and savor delectable south Indian flavors at a famous local restaurant. Later visit the market area through Rickshaw ride. Later in the evening head out for the Pooja ceremony at Meenakshi temple. Overnight stay will be at the hotel in Madurai.
After breakfast check-out from the hotel and head straight to Munnar. One of the biggest tea-plantation regions of South India, Munnar is one of the most beautiful and popular hill-stations of Kerala. The blissful hill station Munnar - famous for its tea estates, soothing lush greenery, and craggy peaks, is located in the Western Ghats in the state of Kerala. It serves as the commercial center for some of the world’s largest tea estates. Munnar has many protected areas that are home to endemic and highly endangered species like the Nilgiri Thar and the Neelakurinji.
After around 4-5 hours journey reach Munnar by late afternoon. Check-in at the hotel on arrival. In the evening head out to see Kalaripayattu Show. Kalaripayattu is an ancient Indian martial art, which originated as a style in Kerala. It is considered by some to be the oldest martial art still in existence, with its origin dating back to the 3rd century BCE.
Dinner & overnight stay at hotel in Munnar.
Meals: Breakfast & Dinner
After breakfast head out for sightseeing. Visit Munnar Tea Museum. The tea museum preserves the aspects of the genesis and growth of tea plantations in Kerala's mountain region of the Western Ghats. Afterward, embark on a jeep tour to the villages & tribal areas.
Munnar is always synonymous with tea plantation, as it also one of the highest tea growing regions of the world. A trip to Munnar will be incomplete without having a visit to these tea plantations. Enjoy a tea plantation walk tour. After that visit a spice plantation. Reach back at the hotel by evening. Dinner and overnight stay will be at the hotel in Munnar.
Meals: Breakfast & Dinner
After breakfast check-out from the hotel & head towards Periyar. The very sound of the word Thekkady conjures up images of elephants, unending chains of hills, and spice scented plantations. The Periyar forests of Thekkady is one of the finest wildlife reserves in India. Spread across the entire district are picturesque plantations and hill towns that hold great opportunities for treks and mountain walks.
Reach Periyar by late afternoon and check-in at the hotel on arrival. Evening at your leisure.
Dinner & overnight stay at hotel in Periyar (Thekkady).
Meals: Breakfast & Dinner
Early in the morning, set out for a half-day guided jungle walk & Bamboo rafting at Periyar National Park. This activity takes close to 6 hrs. The wildlife sanctuary is also famous for its tiger reserve and elephant reserve. Visiting the sanctuary will be like exploring the nature around, enjoying the pristine and peaceful atmosphere around and getting relaxed from your busy schedules. There are bright chances to spot the elephant herd in the jungle while you are walking. Reach back to the hotel by the afternoon.
In the evening, head out to see Kathakali Show. Kathakali is a very famous form of Indian Classical Dance. It is a "story play" genre of art, but one distinguished by the elaborately colorful make-up, costumes, and facemasks that the traditionally male actor-dancers wear. Dinner & overnight stay at hotel in Periyar (Thekkady).
Meals: Breakfast & Dinner
After breakfast check-out from the hotel & head towards Kollam, the southern approach to Kerala’s backwaters, surrounded by the calm waterways of Ashtamudi Lake, fringed with coconut palms, cashew plantations, and traditional villages – a great place to get a feel for the backwaters without the crowds. Also known as Quilon, Kolam is considered as one of the oldest ports on the Malabar Coast and has long been drawing the attraction of international travelers. The town served as the leading spice market in medieval and modern times. The name of the place “Kollam”, is believed to have been derived from the Sanskrit word Kollam meaning pepper. Kollam is the place that takes the credit for being the hub of the country’s cashew trading and processing industry. Affording an impeccable blend of scenic surroundings, tradition, and hospitality, Kollam is often referred to as the dreamland of Kerala.
Reach Kollam by evening. Check-in at the hotel on arrival. Evening at your leisure. Overnight stay at the hotel in Kollam.
After breakfast head out for a sightseeing tour to Varkala Beach. Varkala is an amazing place where you see the sea coasts along with cliffs. Popular for its natural fisheries and springs, and the samadhi of Kerala's saint Sree Narayana Guru, Varkala is a coastal town with pristine beaches, hills, lakes, forts, and lighthouses - all of this together makes this town a little paradise located on the uniquely formed Cenozoic sedimentary cliffs in Kerala. There are numerous water spouts and spas on the sides of these cliffs. Varkala Beach is a haven for sun-bathing and swimming.
In the afternoon reach back to Kollam and enjoy a boat ride from the resort jetty. The boat ride will take you through the backwaters & mangroves of Paravur Lake. Evening at your leisure. Overnight stay at the hotel in Kollam.
After breakfast check-out from the hotel & head towards Alleppey (a.k.a. Alappuzha). Welcome to the “Venice of the East” – Alleppey, world-famous for its vast mesmerizing backwaters. Also known as Alappuzha, Alleppey is a city in the South Indian state of Kerala. Bordering the Laccadive Sea, it is known for its wide network of interlinking, palm-fringed canals called backwaters and rejuvenating Ayurvedic resorts. Allepey is also popular for its Houseboat cruises that pass through the serene backwaters, where you can catch glimpses of green paddy fields, choir making activities, beautiful avifauna, and witness the life of locals in Kerala.
Reach Alleppey by noon. Check-in at a private houseboat. Have lunch on the houseboat. Enjoy a boat cruise through the magnificent Vembanad lake for an unforgettable experience of backwater cruising. Dinner & overnight stay at the houseboat in Alleppey.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & Dinner
After breakfast check out from the houseboat and transfer to Kochi (Cochin). The serene Kochi (a.k.a. Cochin) has been drawing traders and explorers to its shores for over 600 years. Nowhere else in India could you find such an intriguing mix of giant fishing nets from China, a 400-year-old synagogue, ancient mosques, Portuguese houses, and the crumbling remains of the British Raj. The result is an unusual blend of medieval Netherlands, Portugal, and an English village grafted onto the tropical Malabar Coast.
Arrive at Kochi (Cochin) by noon and check-in at the hotel. In the afternoon head out to explore Kochi. Visit the Old Paradesi Synagogue, is the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations, located in Kochi, Kerala, in South India. Constructed in 1567, it is one of seven synagogues of the Malabar Yehudan or Yehudan Mappila people or the Cochin Jewish community in the Kingdom of Cochin. Then visit Mattancherry Palace, is a Portuguese palace popularly known as the Dutch Palace, in Mattancherry, which features Kerala murals depicting portraits and exhibits of the Rajas of Kochi. Afterward, visit Cochin Spice Market & Chinese fishing nets.
Evening at your leisure. Overnight stay will be at the hotel in Kochi.
After breakfast check out from the hotel and transfer to Kochi Airport. The private car will drop you at the airport to catch your return flight.
To all the good things, comes an end. Bid farewell with the memories of amazing fun-filled 18 days of travel through the Southern Splendors, worth remembering for a lifetime!
Moods: The Unforgettable