The flavor, the sights, the sounds and people of South India can be best experienced on this exclusive tour beginning in Mumbai, India's commercial hub on the Arabian sea. One moves to Bangalore-India's silicon valley to visit the magnificent historical wonders of Belur, Halebid and Mysore.
Coorg is nestled in the beautiful setting surrounded by the forested slopes of the Western Ghats. The next surprise is the verdant environs of Cochin and Periyar to sample seafood, spices the backwaters and view wildlife from boats. The south is not complete without visiting the imposing temples in Madurai and Mahabalipuram and interesting city of Chennai.
Day 1: Mumbai
Flight to Bombay. Arrival in Bombay and transfer to the hotel. Check in time is 1200 hrs.
Day 2: Mumbai
India's most cosmopolitan city, an ancient port and trading centre. This palm- fringed shore of the Arabian Sea was the British Empire's entrance to its `Crown Jewel'. Mumbai is also the centre for Hindi films. It is called Bollywood, with a credit of almost 900 films a year.
Half day sightseeing of Mumbai city, rich blend of East and West. The tour includes the 26 meter high British-built Arch "Gateway of India", Mumbai's landmark built to honour the visit of George V and Queen Mary in 1911. Marine Drive dubbed as the Queen's Necklace is Mumbai's most popular promenades and a favourite sunset watching spot. The Kamla Nehru Park from where you have a picturesque view of the city, Hanging Gardens are so named since they are located on top of a series of tanks that supply water to Mumbai. Pass by the `towers of silence' the crematorium of the Parsis. Also visit Mani Bhawan a private house where Mahatma Gandhi used to stay when he visited Mumbai. It is now a museum and research library with 20,000 volumes.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 3: Mumbai - Banagalore
Transfer to airport for flight to Bangalore. On arrival in Bangalore transfer to the hotel.
Bangalore the capital of Karnataka, famous as the `Garden City', was once a summer resort of the British Raj. It is one of the most attractive cities in India with its beautiful parks, avenues and impressive buildings. It is referred to as the `Silicon Valley' where most of the big electronic and computer companies have their centres.
Today, tour the garden city including a visit to the Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens. The gardens are said to be laid out by Haidar Ali and his son Tipu Sultan as a summer garden in the 18th century, has numerous flowers, hundred year old trees from many countries and the lotus Pond. There are over 1800 species of tropical, subtropical and medicinal plants and a Floral Clock. The Glass House holds temporary exhibitions. Then to Bull Temple in dravidian style with the huge monolith statue of Shiva's vehical, the sacred Nandi Bull, nearly 5 m high and 6 m long., in grey granite polished. Vidhan Sabha (legislative assembly) with its impressive facades and portals of pure sandal wood. Finally to City Museum that was opened in 1886, one of the oldest in the country. Has 18 galleries including Neolithic finds from the Chandravalli excavations, and from the Indus Valley, especially Mohenjodaro antiquities. Also antique jewelry, textiles, coins, art, miniature paintings and geology.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 4: Bangalore - Hassan (180 km)
Today begins your fascinating South India journey. Drive to your hotel in Hassan. Afternoon proceed for a guided sightseeing tour of Halebid the last capital of Hoysala rulers in 11th/12th century. The Hoysalas were a mighty martial race, but did not let that interfere with their culture and fostering of some of the greatest masterpieces of the world.
The Hoysala rulers commissioned some of the most unique temples in the south as beautiful prayers to their gods to assist them on the battlefield. Victory imbibed art with an incredible intricacy. Hoysala temples are not huge like the usual temples in the south, but smaller by comparison and aptly perched on star-shaped foundations, every niche and corner studded with genius.
The Hoysalesvara Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva at Halebid is perched on a star-shaped base. Outside there is a Nandi Bull, the mount of Shiva, was never completed despite 86 years of labour. Every centimeter of the outside wall of this temple and much of the interior is covered with an endless variety of Hindu deities, sages, animals and birds. The infant Krishna frolics, battle rage, Shiva and Parvati embrace, the demon king Ravana lifts Mount Kailasha and Shiva dances. 800 year old statues flaunt hairstyles seen even today.
A few kilometers further we reach Belur. The religious capital of Hoysala. Visit the ornamental gopuram of the Chennakesava Temple dedicate to Lord Vishnu, which appears unexpectedly around a bend. It took 103 years to complete.
After sightseeing return back to the hotel.
Overnight at the hotel.
Day 5: Hassan - Mysore (120 km)
After breakfast drive to Mysore. Enroute visit of Shravanabelgola, one of the oldest and most important Jain pilgrim centres in India with a 17m high monolithic statue (nearly 1000 years old). The nakedness is symbolic of the renunciation from worldly possessions. A spectacular ceremony, Mahamastakabhisheka is held once in 12 years when the statue is anointed with milk, curd, ghee, saffron and gold coins.
Continue drive to your hotel in Mysore. Mysore, the former capital of the princely state is the second largest city in Karnataka. It is a beautiful city of stately palaces, gardens, parks and museums. Sandalwood and a centre for the manufacture of incense sticks. The city is famous for the scent of jasmine in the spring.
On arrival visit the Maharaja Palace (1857): that was once the residence of the Wodeyars, Built in Indo-Saracenic style in grand proportions, with domes, arches and colonnades of carved pillars and shiny marble floors. One of the largest palaces in the country with some art treasures,
The Chamundi Hill has the temple of Durga (Chamundeswari) celebrating her victory over the buffalo god. She became the guardian deity o the Wodeyars. On the road to the top is the giant Nandi Monolith carved in 1659 (4,8m x 7,6m huge bull sculpture).
Overnight stay at hotel.
Day 6: Mysore
Morning an excursion to Somnathpur East of Mysore. This tiny village has one of the best preserved and the only complete magnificent Hoysala Temple (13th century) of approximately 80 Hoysala temples dedicated to God Keshava. Small but exquisite the temple has excellent ceilings which show the distinctive features of the late Hoysala style.
Continue excursion to Srirangapattnam, a fortified Island site in the Kaveri river, it has been the home to religious reformers and military conquerors. The fort was built under the Vijaynagar kings in 1454. 150 years later the last king handed over authority to the Hindu Wodeyars of Mysore. In the second half of the 18th century it became the capital of Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan from where they ruled southern India before being finally defeated by the British.
Return to Mysore.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 7: Mysore - Coorg - Coorg International
After breakfast, enjoy a pleasant and interesting drive through the beautiful wooded hills to Kodagu (Coorg). Occasionally you can see elephants working in the teak forests, pass through coffee estates scattered with beautiful poinsettias with really trimmed hedges along the roadside. Pepper vines are interspersed through the estates, in places towering silver oaks form a shady canopy. En route, visit coffee and spice plantations. Situated in south-western Karnataka, Coorg is the land of warriors and the epitome of nature haunts and pleasant temperate climate all the year round. The temperatures never exceed 30 degree C. This unspoiled mountainous area is home to the Kodava people proud of their martial traditions and hospitality, and still follow a life-style full of culture. Upon arrival at Coorg check-in to the hotel. Evening at leisure to relax in the lap of nature.
Overnight at hotel in Coorg.
Day 8: Coorg - Calicut
After breakfast drive to Calicut (Kozhikode). Kozikode is a major commercial center for northern Kerala with a strong Arab connection. Its main export today is not spices but workers to the Gulf. It is also a center for Kerala's timber industry.
Overnight at the hotel.
Day 9: Calicut - Cochin
After breakfast drive to Cochin. On your way you pass through tea, coffee, pepper and cardamom plantations. En-route visit a spice garden. Evening arrival in Cochin, check-in to the hotel.
Day 10: Cochin
If Kerala is India's most beautiful state, which many tourists believe, then the lovely port of Cochin is its jewel. It has been variously hailed as Queen of the Arabian Sea, Venice of Orient, etc. Some choose to call it simply a museum city for its rich past and colorful present. Cochin displays a blend of peoples and architecture. It is one place where you can see a Jewish synagogue, Portuguese churches, Dutch architecture, a couple of mosques, Hindu temples and Chinese fishing nets all in one day.
After breakfast sightseeing of Cochin, a city till today influenced by medieval Portugal, Holland and England. You visit St. Francis Church, built in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan friars where Vasco da Gama was buried for 14 years before his remains were transferred to Lisvon. His tombstone still stands. Nearby is the Mattancherry Palace or "Dutch Palace". The central hall on the Ist floor was the coronation hall of the rajas of Cochin. Other rooms depict scenes from the Ramayana and Puranic legends connected with Hindu gods. Amazing are the Chinese fishing nets. These cantilevered fishing nets line the entrance to the harbour mouth. They were introduced by traders from the courts of Kublai Khan. You also see the Jew City with the Jewish Synagogue , constructed in 1568, with hand-painted, willow-pattern floor tiles brought from Canton in the mid-18th century by a Rabbi, who had trading interest in that city.
Evening enthrall yourself with a special presentation of the colourfully costumed Kathakali Dance Drama. This mask dance form is originally from Kerala and 1500 years old. This classical dance has 24 mudras expressing the nine emotions of serenity, wonder, kindness, love, valor, fear, contempt, loathing and anger.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 11: Cochin - Periyar (185 km)
After an early breakfast, drive to Alleppey, where you board boats and drift through the backwaters of Kerala for a couple of hours to Kottayam. The back waters of Cochin, is an idyllic experience. You pass through the lagoons watching the waterside local activities of the villagers - coir-making, toddy tapping, fishing, rice growing along the palm lined banks and narrow strips of land that separate the water-ways, and the constant traffic are typical. It also offers the opportunity to see tropical vegetation, bird life and crops. At Kottayam you again board a your transport and drive to the Periyar.
Afternoon visit the Periyar National Park. This unique wildlife sanctuary is about 780 sq. km centered around an artificial lake fed by the Periyar River. This afternoon game viewing is on board boats, which carry you through the jungle along convoluted waterways and afford sightings of elephant, bison, deer and occasionally, tiger. Small animals include black Nilgiri langur, bonnet and lion tailed macaque, Giant and Flying squirrel. There are some 246 species of birds and 112 species of butterfly. There are trees more than 100 years old and over 50 m high.
Overnight in the hotel at Periyar.
Day 12: Periyar - Madurai (145 km)
After breakfast drive to Madurai. It is the cultural capital of Tamilnadu. Here, the Dravidian culture reached its zenith in art, architecture, palaces and temple buildings. Once the capital of powerful Nayaka kings, a bustling city packed with pilgrims, businessmen, bullock carts and legions of rickshaw pullers. Its narrow overcrowded streets seem to be bursting at the seams with activity. Southern India's oldest center for pilgrimage and learning. Upon arrival check-in to the hotel.
The Meenakshi – Temple an outstanding example of the Dravidian temple architecture from the Vijaynagar kingdom. Meenakshi, the fish eyed goddess and the consort of Shiva has a temple to the south and Sundareswarar (Shiva) a temple to the west. One of the biggest temples of India. Its nine "Gopuram"-Temple towers (23-30m ) have wonderful stucco images of gods, goddesses and animals from the Hindu mythology.
In the evening enjoy a rickshaw ride to Meenakshi temple to watch the night ceremony. The temple is a hive of activity, colorfully decorated temple elephant, flower sellers and performances by musicians. At 21:30 hours, the image of Shiva is carried in a procession accompanied by musicians, temple singers and priests from his shrine. Enroute Shiva visits the other deities before entering Parvati's (Meenakshi) temple to sleep with her for the night.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 13: Madurai - Trichy
After breakfast visit the Thirumalai Nayak Palace, a palace in Indo-Saracenic style built in 1636, with huge domes and 240 columns rising to 12 m, a beautiful garden and a attached museum. The celestial Pavilion, an arcaded octagonal structure is curiously constructed in brick and mortar without any supporting rafters.
After sightseeing drive to Trichy. En-route visit Brihadisvara Temple in Tanjore. This Jewel of South India, was built in 9th century. The magnificent main temple has a 62 meter high vimana ( the tallest in India), which is topped by dome carved from an 80 ton lock of granite. A 6.5 km long wooden ramp was built to climb it. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Proceed to Trichy, check in at the hotel.
Day 14: Trichy - Mahabalipuram
After breakfast short sightseeing of Trichy. Visit the Rock Fort built on a 84m high rock, from where you can have a memorable view of the surroundings, although you need to climb 437 rock cut steps. After sightseeing drive to Mahabalipuram. En-route visit Srirangam, the big temple city, which lies on an island on the Kaveri. The Ranganathasvami Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one of the largest temple in South India, is famous for its superb sculpture – the 21 impressive gopurams and its rich collection of temple jewellery. There is a huge statue of Lord Vishnu. Not to forget the hall with 1000 pillars and horse sculptures. Finally visit the Jambukeshwara-Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, is one of the oldest and largest temples of Tamil Nadu, has five walls and seven gopurams. Here the unusual lingam under the Jambu tree always remains under water. After sightseeing drive to Mahabalipuram.
On arrival in Mahabalipuram check in at the hotel.
Day 15: Mahabalipuram
After breakfast transport yourself to the yesteryears, the magnificent rock temples and carvings. Five Rathas (chariots) ceremonial chariots, rock-cut monoliths, named after the 5 Pandavas - heroes of the Mahabharata epic and Draupadi their wife. The Shore Temple by the sea surrounded by gardens designed according to descriptions of the original layout from ancient times. Built in sandstone in the 7th century. Bhagiratha's Penance is a bas- relief (27 to 9m) sculptured on the face of two enormous adjacent rocks, depicts, the penance of Arjuna, myraid characters from the Mahabharata, realistic life-size figures of animals, gods and saints watching the descent of the river goddess Ganga to earth. After sightseeing drive back to hotel.
Overnight at the hotel.
Day 16: Mahabalipuram - Chennai - Fly back home
Morning free. Drive to Chennai.
Formerly Madras is now Chennai. The city traces its origin to 1639 when Francis Day a trader with the British East India Company, built a trading post – Fort St. George, near the village of Madraspatnam. Today Chennai is the fourth largest city of India with a population of 5,5 million people. Also called as "Hollywood of India" it is the center for making South Indian films.
Enjoy a tour of Chennai, visit Kapaleshvara Temple in Mylapore, dedicated to God Shiva and offers a good example of South Indian colourful temple architecture. An opportunity to mingle with the pilgrims. Fort St. George – a British trading post and powerful bastion and entrance to South India. The 16th century Portuguese old Cathedral of St. Thomas Church in which the remnants of St. Thomas is buried who came to India in 52 AD. Pass by the University built in Indo-Sarscenic style, as well as 5 km long Marina Beach, a lovely esplanade by the sea, and National Museum with sculptures from Pallava, Pandava and Chola time which houses archaeology, art, exceptionally beautiful bronzes statues, with exhibits of stone and iron age.
Later in the evening transfer to airport to connect flight back home.