India’s Diverse South

14 days / 13 nights

$2,895

(Land Only, based on Double Occupancy) | November 11 – 24, 2017

Tour Highlights: Chennai, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Madurai, Thekkady, Cochin

The Gil Travel Group brings you a tour of south India’s diversity, a considerable contrast to the north of India. The influences of India’s communities; including but not limited to Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Jews, all find their place in this special tour. Colorful festivals, beautiful seaside settings, the backwaters of Kerala and wonderful weather, all of which is nearly assured.

During this tour you will enjoy deluxe seaside resorts, village Eco-lodges and boutique hotels… the diversity of places alone will be among the highlights that await you!

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14 days | 13 nights | 12 touring days

What is included

  • All ground transportation and transfers as per itinerary or similar
  • All accommodations as specified in this itinerary or similar, (including first day early morning arrival)
  • Airport transfers are included for those arriving/departing on the designated dates.
  • All meals as specified within the budget as outlined in itinerary by B, L, or D
  • Entrance fees for all tours and excursions specified in the itinerary or similar
  • Professional English-speaking local guides

What is NOT  included

  • International flights
  • All airport departure taxes (international departure taxes to be paid in USD)
  • Excess baggage charges
  • Passport and visa fees. A visa is required for this trip
  • Meals not specified in this itinerary
  • All drinks except bottled water with meals
  • Personal items such as laundry, email, fax, telephone, souvenirs, etc.
  • Gratuities for tour and site guides and drivers
  • Trip cancellation, travel delay, and baggage insurance (Note: This optional coverage is highly recommended and can be purchased through your local insurance company)


Note
: No credit/refund for any unused services.

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Day 1 - Saturday, November 11
Arrival in Chennai

Following your arrival at Chennai International Airport and clearing of customs formalities and baggage collection, our India colleagues  will meet you and transfer you to your hotel in central Chennai.

Chennai was formerly known as Madras. The East India Company established its presence in southern India on the Bay of Bengal in 1639 with the establishment of Fort St. George. The city of Chennai, formerly known as Madras, grew up around the fort area. The city grew up around the English settlement of Fort Saint George and gradually absorbed the surrounding towns and villages. However, despite the strong British influence, Chennai has retained its traditional Tamil Hindu culture and effectively blended it with the foreign influence.

Rest and relaxation from your flight. Dining tonight with your fellow travelers.

Overnight in Chennai. (D)

Day 2 - Sunday, November 12
Chennai / Mahabalipuram
Chennai, South India

San Thome Basilica Cathedral, Chennai

After breakfast, explore Chennai city visiting the museum, with the bronze gallery’s superb collection of Chola art. Drive through the flower and fruit market, past the High Court built in Indo-Saracenic style, the Fort Museum with its collection of colonial memorabilia and Marina Beach. Visit the San Thome Cathedral said to house the remains of St Thomas the Apostle, Kapaleeshwara temple and the Snake Park.

Later drive to Mahabalipuram, approximately two hours away. Upon arrival check-in at your hotel for relaxing evening and an  official welcome dinner with  your fellow travelers.

Overnight in Mahabalipuram. (B, D)

Day 3 - Monday, November 13
Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram, India

Temple at Mahabalipuram

After breakfast, visit Mahabalipuram. Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram as it was called in earlier times, was the port city of the Pallavas in the 7th century. In this picturesque setting, amidst sand beaches and the sea one can see some of the most important temple forms that influenced temple architecture in Tamil Nadu for centuries to follow. There are seventy monuments, rock-cut monoliths displaying fine sculpture. The most important group is the Five Rathas, named after the five heroes of the epic Mahabharata. Some are unfinished, and in them can be seen the carving technique used to form temples out of living rock. Visit the famous Shore Temple and the Arjuna’s Penance with its plethora of sculpture on pure rock face. Return to the resort after sightseeing.

Overnight in Mahabalipuram. (B)

Day 4 - Tuesday, November 14
Mahabalipuram / Pondicherry

After breakfast drive to Pondicherry, about two hours of scenery. A former French colony, Pondicherry shows an unusual combination of European culture and Indian traditions. Its history can be traced back to Agastya, the revered sage of the south who built his hermitage here in 1500 BC. It became a part of India in 1954, but traces of its history as a French colony still remain in its churches, cuisine, grid-pattern streets and some colonial buildings. An added attraction is the town of Auroville, an oasis of peace and enlightenment.

Pondicherry, India

Rice fields

In the afternoon, take a tour of Pondicherry, visit Sri Aurobindo Ashram founded by the philosopher-saint Sri Aurobindo in 1926 to put into practice his ideals of a peaceful community. Its spiritual tenets represent a synthesis of yoga and modern science. It is also his final resting place. Also visit the Pondicherry museum, which has sculptures, archaeological finds, and memorabilia of the French colonists. See the Sacred Heart Church with its Gothic architecture and stained glass windows.

Overnight in Pondicherry. (B)

Day 5 - Wednesday, November 15
Pondicherry / Thanjavur
Thanjavur, India

Thanjavur

After breakfast, drive to Tanjore. En route, you will visit Swamimalai Temple.

In Swamimalai, Lord Muruga is known as “Balamurugan” and “Swaminatha Swami”. The specialty of the temple is that it has been built on an artificial hill. In Tamil language, such an artificial hill is called “Kattu Malai”. The next important feature is the steps of this small artificial hill. There are 60 steps and each is named in one Tamil year. There are a total number of 60 Tamil years and hence the 60 steps. Another name for this place is “Thiruveragam”.

Continue your drive to Thanjavur, located on the eastern coast. Thanjavur has the distinction of having been the capital of the Cholas, one of the greatest dynasties of the south. The Cholas were great temple builders and Thanjavur bears witness to this, having no fewer than seventy-four temples, the most famous of which is the Brahadeeswara temple, a World Heritage Monument. The city is also known for its bronzes, silks and the famous Tanjore paintings.

Upon arrival check in at hotel. Evening at leisure to relax at your hotel or to explore city on your own.

Overnight in Thanjavur. (B)

Day 6 - Thursday, November 16
Thanjavur
Tanjore, India

Tanjore

After breakfast, visit the 11th century Sri Brahadeeswara temple, built mainly of granite blocks and decorated with sculptures and frescoes. It is topped by a monolithic dome constructed from a single eighty ton piece of granite, which was dragged to the top using a 6 km long ramp, in a technique similar to that used by the Egyptians to build the Pyramids.

Your touring will include The Art Gallery something that should not be missed while at Tanjore. It has a collection of around two-hundred and fifty Chola bronze statues and one-hundred and fifty stone statues dating back to the 9th and 12th century and belonging to many groups, including the Bhairava, Umasahita Shiva, Kali and Rama Lakshmana.

Overnight in Thanjavur. (B)

Day 7 - Friday, November 17
Tanjore / Chettinad / Madurai
Madurai, India

Madurai Meenakshi temple – one of the biggest and oldest Indian temples

After breakfast, drive to Madurai. During this excursion you will visit Chettinad, which is famous for its fortress like homes that are architectural marvels. Visit the Chettinad mansion and villages of Karaikudi followed by a walk on the Muneeswaran Street. If one is interested in antiques, Chettinad has lots to offer and is gaining a lot of appreciation among collectors and dealers of Indian antiques. Examples of the market for antiques will be seen visiting Karaikudi, Muneeswaran street or Palaniappa Chettiar street, all of which have many antique shops. Collector or not, it is a visual treat to enjoy. Later continue your drive to Madurai.

Madurai is the oldest city in Tamil Nadu, said to date back some 2500 years. Its origin and name emerges from the myths of a wonderful legend. In a forest near a lotus pond, Indra, the King of the Gods worshipped Shiva. At this honored spot, the Pandiyan monarch built a great temple, and raised a lotus-shaped city around the temple. On the day the city was to be named, Lord Shiva appeared. As he blessed the land and its people, it is said that divine nectar was showered on the city from his matted locks. The city was henceforth named Madhurpuri, which grew and prospered and became the capital of the Pandiyan Kingdom.

Dinner and overnight in Madurai. (B, D)

Day 8 - Saturday, November 18
Madurai
Madurai, India

Kerala festivals appear seemingly everywhere…

After breakfast, visit the Meenakshi temple. The Temple is dedicated to the consort of Lord Shiva. It is an outstanding example of Dravidian temple architecture, with towering Gopurams covered with stucco images of gods, goddesses and animals.
NoteForeigners (Non Hindus) are not allowed inside the Inner Sanctum of the temple
The remainder of the day is independent to enjoy Madurai or the beautiful grounds of your hotel.

Overnight in Madurai. (B)

Day 9 - Sunday, November 19
Thekkady
Thekkady, India

Scenic image of Thekkady

After breakfast drive to Thekkady, a scenic drive of some three and a half hours. In Thekkady, you will enjoy a boat ride on Lake Periyar, and see the wildlife around the lake as you cruise along its banks. Apart from elephants, bison, wild boar, otter and flying squirrels are common. There are also 246 species of birds and 112 species of butterfly.

Overnight in Thekkady. (B)

Day 10 - Monday, November 20
Thekkady / Kumarakom

After breakfast, drive towards the lush backwaters of Kumarakom, Kerala’s heartland of lagoons; palm fringed lakes and paddy fields, inter-linked with hundreds of winding canals.

Kerala's backwaters, India

Kerala’s backwaters

In the lush backwaters of Kottayam in Kerala, lies a veritable paradise, which is called Kumarakom. Palm fringed narrow canals winding through the vast expanse of paddy fields, and tiny hamlets line up along either side of the canals providing a visual delight. Not only do the backwaters of Kerala link the state together, they are an integral element in maintaining ecological balance and creating harmony with nature. In the evening, enjoy dinner and a sunset cruise on Lake Vembanad.

Overnight in Kumarakom. (B, D)

Day 11 - Tuesday, November 21
Kumarakom
Kumarakom, India

Kumarakom

Breakfast is at the resort. After so much travel, as interesting as it has been, you have today to be independent to enjoy this beautiful and relaxing resort. Indulge yourself, if you choose, in total relaxation in this pristine environment. You may opt for Ayurveda, relaxing massages; rejuvenation therapies offered by your resort or visit the nearby Bird Sanctuary. The choices are yours!

Overnight in Kumarakom. (B, D)

Day 12 - Wednesday, November 22
Kumarakom / Cochin
Cochin

Cochin

After breakfast, you will have the opportunity to enjoy cruising the canals of Kumarakom on a houseboat, providing a unique vantage point to appreciate the region through the backwaters.Following the cruise, you drive to Cochin, a scenic drive of approximately one and half hours.
Overnight in Cochin. (B)

Day 13 - Thursday, November 23
Cochin
Cochin, India

Mattancherry Synagogue

Today is devoted to seeing Cochin City, including visits to the Dutch Palace, which has some of India’s most beautiful murals, the Jewish Synagogue in the heart of Jew Town and the cantilevered Chinese fishing nets. In addition, visit St. Francis Church where Vasco da Gama was originally buried and the Santa Cruz Church with its pastel colored interior and carved wooden panels.

In the evening, enjoy a Kathakali dance show performed by trained dancers in Kerala Folk dances and a “Farewell Dinner”.
Overnight in Cochin . (B, D)

Day 14 - Friday, November 24
Cochin / Mumbai / Departure

Breakfast is at leisure. Later, transfers will be made to Cochin airport to board your flight to Mumbai to connect to your homebound flight. (B)

(B) Breakfast  (L) Lunch  (D) Dinner

Note: All itineraries are subject to change
* A minimum of 10 passengers is required for tour service.
This tour is limited to 18 participants.

 

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Dates: November 11 – 24, 2017

Please contact a travel agent about airfare for this tour: 1.800.223.3855

Land Only Rates

$2,895 per person (based on Double Occupancy)

Single supplement $850

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Hotels

CityHotelDescription 
ChennaiCourtyard by MarriottThis modern hotel is located near the Thousand Lights Mosque and a 15-minute drive from Marina Beachchennai-hotel
MahabalipuramRadisson Resort Temple BayThis beautiful 44-acre property is walking distance from the beach. It features an infinity pool and a spa.mahabalipuram
PondicherryThe PromenadeAt the heart of the town's ancient "French Quarter". While interiors are ultra modern with its clean minimalist design, the outside is colonial French. The Promenade's beautifully landscaped porch overlooking the sea is a great place to spend a relaxed evening.pondicherry
TanjoreIdeal River View ResortIdeal River Resort has strategically combined the idyllic settings of the historic city of Tanjore with stylish accommodations and seamless service.tanjavur
MaduraiThe Gateway Hotel PasumalaiSitting on the top of Pasumalai Hill, The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai stretches over 62 acres of peaceful landscaped gardens.
The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai enjoys beautiful views of the famous Meenakshi Temple, Madurai City and Kodai Hills.
madurai
ThekkadySpice VillageResembling a traditional tribal village, Spice Village offers thatched-roof cottages.
The rustic cottages come with a private verandah which overlooks fruit trees and herb beds.
thekkady
KumarakomKumarakom Lake ResortThis award-winning resort on the banks of Vembanad Lake offers contemporary cottages decorated with heritage materials and state-of-the-art facilities.kumarakom
CochinLe MeridienAs the largest and one of the few internationally branded hotel in Cochin, the resort stands secluded from the outside word and enables the guests to get in touch with nature and tranquillitycochin

 

 

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