Explore the best of Southern India, travelling from Chennai on the east coast and ending in Kochi on the west coast. Discover the coastal region from Chennai down to Pondicherry before taking in some exquisite UNESCO listed temples in the state of Tamil Nadu. End in the idyllic coastal town of Kochi, full of history and fantastic flavours.
Chennai - Mahabalipuram. Saturday. Welcome to Southern India! On arrival at the airport you’ll be transferred to our hotel in Mahabalipuram, which is around a 90 minute drive away. The rest of the day is free to explore. Perhaps visit the giant Krishna’s Butterball - this 250 ton boulder is perched on a slope - and looks like it could roll down at any moment, when in fact it has stood here for 1,200 years.
We start our day meeting the rest of our group and guide for a welcome meeting at 8:00 before visiting the ancient city of Kanchipuram to see some of its impressive temple sites. Explore the northern Shiva temples and some of the 15 temples dedicated to the god Vishnu. <br/><br/> In the afternoon we return to Mahabalipuram and delight in a tour of the town’s highlights. We’ll explore the impressive Shore Temple overlooking the beautiful Bay of Bengal before continuing to the world’s largest bas-relief carving, Arjuna’s Penance, which tells the story of the descent of the sacred Ganges from the heavens to Earth. Our final stop is to the Five Rathas, five giant temples that were all individually carved from five rocks and covered by sand until the British rediscovered them around 200 years ago.
Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry. This morning we depart Mahabalipuram and travel to the former colonial city of Pondicherry, where the French influence is still visible in the architecture. Visit Pondicherry Beach and the beautiful 19th century Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
Pondicherry - Tanjore. After breakfast we head away from the coastal Pondicherry to an important centre of South Indian religion, art and architecture - Tanjore (Thanjavur). En route we'll visit temples in the towns of Chidambaram, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Darssuram. Continue to the UNESCO-listed Airavateswara Temple and marvel at the stone carvings here before we reach Tanjore, our final stop for the day, for an afternoon at leisure.
Tanjore - Madurai. This morning we discover the ancient fortified town of Tanjore, with a guided tour exploring the glorious history dating back more than 1,500 years. Take in the incredible Brihadishwara Temple. The dome on top of this giant temple was hauled into place in a similar way to the construction of the pyramids in Egypt. <br/><br/> Continue to Madurai this afternoon, where we check in to our hotel, before making our way to Meenakshi Temple to enjoy an Aarti Ceremony, a Hindu ritual of worship, where candles are lit and songs are sung in honour of the gods
Enjoy a half day city tour of Madurai today, taking in highlights including the impressive Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal temple and Thirupparankunram Murugan, which is cut straight into the rock. Gaze in awe at this colourful site before our tour ends at the bustling Madurai bazaar.
Madurai - Trichy - Kochi. Leave Madurai today and stop at Ranganathaswamy Temple. This colourful temple is located on an island in the river and is one of the largest functioning Hindu temples in the world. Our next stop is the most prominent landmark in the city: the famous Rock Fort Temple in Trichy (Tiruchirappalli). Originally a temple, its strategic location on top of a giant ancient rock meant that it became an important fortification in the 16th century. In the evening we board the overnight train to Kochi.
On arrival in Kochi this morning you’ll be transferred to our hotel. The rest of today is free to explore Kochi as you please. Why not enjoy a Kathakali dance show? This traditional form of dance originated in Kerala and is known for its exciting costumes and use of make up.
Sunday. Our Indian adventure comes to an end today with an included departure transfer to the airport.
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