Welcome to South India, where your experience of culture and history are combined with fabulous architecture. Start your journey in the city of Chennai, and visit many other enticing metropolises such as Pondicherry, Tanjore, Tiruchirappalli, and Madurai. In each of your destinations, visit the most stunning temples southern India has to offer. Walk under the grand arches of Thirumalai Nayakar palace in Madurai, and gaze upon the intricate sculptures of Brihadeshwara Temple in Tanjore. Ride a rickshaw to a local market in colonial Pondicherry.
But don’t worry, India’s natural beauties are just around the corner in Periyar National Park, a reserve for tigers and elephants - and you even have the chance to get up close to these majestic giants! Like no other, southern India will leave you awestruck by its beauty, charm, and culture.
Day 01: Namaste & Welcome to Chennai
Assistance upon arrival at Chennai airport and transfer to the hotel.
Day 02: Chennai - Mahabalipuram (56 km/ 1.5 hrs)
After breakfast, visit St. George Fort before heading to the colorful Kapaleeswarar Temple. A temple of the goddess Shiva, the temple was built in the 7th century and features intricate Dravidian architecture. Learn about the history and mythology behind the temple’s beauty. After that, drive to Mahabalipuram, with a stop on the way at Kanchipuram. Continue your drive to. Mahabalipuram. Rest of the day at leisure.
Day 03: Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry (95 km/ 1.8 hrs)
Today explore the best sites in Mahabalipuram. visit the Five Rathas, intricate carvings each from a single piece of granite. Move on to visit Arjuna Penance, a beautiful relief of enormous size. Carved in the 7th century, this immense piece of work is stunning to admire. Your last stop in Mahabalipuram is Mandapams, after which you will depart the town for Pondicherry. Upon arrival check into your hotel. The afternoon is reserved for exploring the city. Visit Auroville Ashram and the French Colonial district. In the evening, take a rickshaw ride to visit a local market and see what the vendors are hawking at their stalls.
Day 04: Pondicherry - Tanjore (168.5 km/ 4 hrs)
The morning after breakfast drive to Tanjore. On the way visit the temples of Chidambaram Swamimalai and Gangaikonda Cholapuram. Built in medieval times, Gangaikonda Cholapuram was the capital of Cholas for nearly 250 years after its erection and controlled commerce and politics in most of southern India. Today the ancient city is part of only a small village. After you’ve explored the area, continue your journey to Tanjore, where you will head to your hotel upon arrival.
Use the afternoon to visit the beautiful Brihadeshwara Temple, a stunning piece of architecture, famous for its intricate sculptures and impressive structures.
Day 05: Tanjore - Madurai (189 km/ 3 hrs)
This morning drive to Madurai en route visit to Tiruchirappalli, or Trichy as it is popularly called. Here, explore the Srirangam Temple, built in the Tamil style. Learn about the temples tumultuous history as you admire its colorful tiers. Move on to discover Trichy’s Rock Fort Temple, a famous historical site and an impressive city landmark. Continue traveling to Madurai where you will arrive in the afternoon. The rest of the afternoon is yours to rest your feet. In the evening, attend an Aarti Ceremony at the Meenakshi Temple before returning to your hotel for your overnight stay.
Day 06: Madurai
Morning visit to the grand Tirmumalai Nayakar palace, whose archways display a blend of Islamic and Dravidian styles of architecture. Built in the 17th century. Continue your visit to Madurai at Vandiyur Mariamman Temple, dedicated to the Hindu goddess of the rain. In the evening pay a visit to one of the city’s bustling markets and stroll through the colorful wares. This may just be the perfect place to pick up a souvenir or two. Return to your hotel and spend the rest of the evening relaxing.
Day 07: Madurai - Periyar (225 km/ 6.2 hrs)
Today drive to Periyar, upon arrival check in at the hotel.
Periyar National Park over 900 square kilometers in size, has earned its name as both a tiger and an elephant reserve. It is a fantastic spot to view these creatures in the wild and get in touch with the wild side of India.
Afternoon enjoys a boat ride through the park where your guide can acquaint you with the large variety of rare plant life along the riverbanks. In the evening take a short rest at your hotel before joining a Kalaripayattu martial arts show.
Day 08: Periyar
After a delicious breakfast at the hotel, it's time to meet the elephants. Spend half the day with these gentle gray giants. Ride on the back of an elephant, help to give them a bath and prepare their meal. Take the unique chance to paint an elephant according to the rules of ancient traditions.
Late afternoon visit a coffee and spice plantation where you can learn about growing and harvesting these delicious plants. In the evening join a cooking class where you will learn how to prepare your own typical Indian dinner. Who knows when these skills might come in handy!
Day 09: Periyar - Alleppey (98 km/ 3 hrs)
The morning after breakfast leave for Alleppey, also known as the "Venice of the East". As its nickname suggests, the town is interspersed with a grid of canals and backwaters.
Upon arrival check into your accommodation, a houseboat. Take the afternoon to enjoy the beauty of these waterways from the terrace of your boat. Dinner will be served on board and you will spend a relaxing night on the boat.
Day 10: Alleppey - Cochin (53kms/ 1.5 Hrs)
This morning embarkation from houseboat drives to Cochin. Upon arrival check in at the hotel. Then visit the Jewish Paradesi Synagogue. The synagogue was constructed in 1567 and is named after for "foreigner" in several Indian languages. The Jewish community here mostly consisted of Spanish-speaking Jews that were exiled from Syria. Take a tour of the synagogue and learn about the interesting history of this place. Then move on to visit the Dutch Palace, an illustrious building that today hosts a portrait gallery and contains some of the most valued mythological murals in India. In the afternoon watch a Kathakali dance show which is undoubtedly a breathtaking art!
Day 11: Cochin departure
This morning transfer to Cochin airport to board the flight back home.