|Day 1 Arrival in Mumbai (Bombay)|
Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met and assisted with the transfer to your hotel.
Lodging: Vits Hotel or similar
Arrive in Mumbai, capital of India's state of Maharashtra
|Day 2 Mumbai Sightseeing/Bangalore |
In the morning, you will have a guided city tour of Mumbai, which is noticeably tropical. Its weathered Victorian mansions, some still privately owned, and grand public buildings, many beautifully lit at night, stand as a reminder of the days of the British Raj. You visit the Gateway of India, hastily created as a symbol of welcome to Queen Mary and King George V of England on their trip to India in 1911. Afterward, visit the Hanging Gardens, perched at the top of Malabar Hill and providing lovely views over the Arabian Sea. In the afternoon, take a short flight to Bangalore, a city full of well-laid-out gardens, wide tree lined avenues, impressive buildings, and lively bazaars.
Lodging: 37 Crescent Hotel or similar
Explore Mumbia and its many sights, old and new
|Day 3 Bangalore/Sravanabelgola|
After breakfast, enjoy a guided tour of Bangalore, beginning with a visit to the Lal Bagh, which has a variety of old trees, fountains, lotus pools, terraces, and an assortment of tropical and sub-tropical herbs. You also visit the 300-year-old Venkataramanaswamy Temple, built by the Waidiyars in the Dravidian style. In the afternoon, depart for Hassan (116 mi/4.5 hrs) where you check-in to your hotel for the night.
Lodging: Hotel Southern Star or similar
See Gommateshvara statue in Sravanabelgola (photo by Bob Walker)
|Day 4 Belur/Halebid/Mysore|
In the morning, visit the towns of Belur and Halebid. Belur is situated on the banks of the Yagachi River and was the first capital of the Hoysala dynasty. The Channekeshava Temple, built in the 12th century, is one of three major Hoysala sites still in daily use. The temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna, is built on a star-shaped platform and stands in a courtyard surrounded by a rectangular wall. Halebid, an ancient capital of the Hoysala Empire, was founded in the early 11th century. Its famous temple, Hoysaleswara, dates back to around 1121 AD and was never completed. This temple, similar to the one at Belur, is set in a well-tended garden. The Jain temples nearby form another major attraction in Halebid. These 12th century temples stand in a garden enclosure where you can walk around and have a look at the dark interiors with carved ceilings. After exploring, drive to Mysore (84 mi/3 hrs) and transfer to your hotel.
Lodging: Royal Orchid Metropole or similar
Explore the intricate Channekeshava temple (photo by Calvin Krishy)
|Day 5 Mysore|
Today you visit Sri Rangapatnam, a fort that was the stronghold of Tipu Sultan, son of Hyder Ali. Among the many fort buildings still intact are Tipu’s airy Summer Palace and his tomb at the Darya Daulat Bagh garden, as well as the celebrated Sri Ranganatha Temple. In the afternoon, enjoy a guided tour of the sites of Mysore, beginning with a visit to the palace of the Maharaja, built in 1911-12. This palace is built in Hindu and Saracenic styles of architecture with magnificent archways, domes, turrets, colonnades, and sculptures. You also visit the Art Gallery, followed by a drive up to Chamundi Hill to see Chamundeshwari Temple and to enjoy a panoramic view of Mysore. On the way back to your hotel, stop at the Nandi Bull, one of the largest solid rock carvings in India. Overnight again in Mysore.
Lodging: Orchid Metropole or similar
See the Nandi Bull (photo by Benjamin Preciado)
|Day 6 Ooty (Ootacamund)|
This morning, you will be driven to Ooty (102 mi/3 hrs), referred to as the Queen of the Southern Hill Stations. It got its name, Nilgiri, or Blue Mountains, from locals more than 850 years ago, because of the blue haze of clouds that cover the hill slopes. After checking in at your hotel, visit the Botanical Gardens where there is a large variety of exotic and colorful plants. You also visit Ooty Lake, where boating is a favorite pastime, and Doddabetta Peak (8600 ft), the highest point in the Nilgiri mountains.
Lodging: Holiday Inn Gem Park or similar
Enjoy scenic Ooty Lake (photo by Vivian Richard)
|Day 7 Cochin (Kochi)|
Today after breakfast, you will be driven to Cochin (192 mi/7 hrs) via the major fishing harbors of Beypore and Garuwayur. Beypore is an ancient port town with one of the oldest ports in Kerala and from where trading with the Middle East took place. The town is also known for its wooden ships (dhows) usually bought by Arab merchants. In Guruvayur, visit the famous Sree Krishna Temple, one of the most important places of worship for Hindus. Arrive in Cochin by late afternoon and check-in to your hotel. Cochin is the commercial capital of Kerala and has a magnificent natural harbor created by the underwater Malabar mud banks that ensure calm waters.
Lodging: Old Lighthouse Bristow or similar
Explore Cochin, meet fishermen, and see the famous fishing nets
|Day 8 Fort Cochin/Houseboat Overnight|
In the morning, visit the historic city of Fort Cochin, an ancient capital of the Dutch, Portuguese, and British. Your visit will include the old spice market at Mattancherry, the antique shop on Jews Street, the Synagogue, Dutch Palace, and the church of St. Francis, where the remains of Vasco Da Gama were buried before later being taken to Portugal. Afterward, transfer to the backwaters of Cochin (37 mi/1.5 hrs), which run from the sea through lush tropical countryside. Your trip on the water may feel a bit like a cruise down the Amazon, with jungle foliage hanging down along the banks, and bird calls in the bush. This relaxing boat trip is fascinating, as your guide discusses the history of the early explorers and traders who used this route as the main course to the sea. Many locals still travel this route on their way to markets and their jobs. On the boat ride, enjoy the magnificent scenery of these palm-shaded backwaters. Overnight on the houseboat.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Lodging: Deluxe Houseboat
Relax on a comfortable houseboat while exploring the backwaters
|Day 9 Periyar|
After breakfast, disembark from the houseboat and then drive to Periyar (90 mi/4hrs). Here in this 8,608 square foot park, preservation of wildlife is very sacred. In the afternoon, enjoy a boat ride on Lake Periyar to watch the animals in their natural habitat. While cruising on the lake, you are likely to see wild animals such as elephant, water buffalo, deer, and spectacular bird life.
Lodging: The Elephant Court or similar
Cruise Lake Periyar and look for wildlife
|Day 10 Madurai|
Your day begins with a drive to Madurai (68 mi/3.5 hrs), a city with a history that goes back to about 600 B.C. The Pandyan rulers made this their capital until the 14th century and, in its heyday, the city blossomed with writers, builders, poets, and academics. Later, the Nayaks ruled from the middle of the 16th century to 1743. The ten tall Gopurams of the Meenakshi Temple were raised during the Nayaks' dynasty. Spend a full day visiting this huge complex of temples, the Palace of King Triumalay, Gandhi Museum, and the Temple at Alaghat Koli, where you can see its beautifully-carved stone lattice windows. Overnight in Madurai.
Lodging: Hotel Sangam or similar
Tour Meenakshi and other temples in Madurai (photo by Yashi Wong)
|Day 11 Trichy|
After breakfast, drive to Trichy (70 mi/3hrs), famous for its ancient temples dedicated to Lord Ganapati. A total of 434 steps were cut out in the rock and interspersed with shrines leading to the temple. Yet another flight of steps leads to the temple of the Lord Shiva. The ascent is accompanied by magnificent views of the sacred Kaveri River. You also visit Sri Rangam, a massive temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, which contains a bazaar within its walls. Continue on with the drive to Tanjore (35 mi/1.5 hrs) where you check-in to your hotel for the night.
Lodging: Hotel Sangam or similar
Marvel at massive Sri Rangam temple (photo by Melanie Sissou)
|Day 12 Tanjore/Pondicherry|
In the morning, enjoy a city tour of Tanjore, or Thanjavur as it is now known, visiting the beautiful Cholda Temple of Brihadeeshwara. Its bronzes and handicrafts make Tanjore one of the highlights of your visit to India’s south. It is also famous for its silk, among the very best in India. In the afternoon, transfer by vehicle to Pondicherry (118 mi/4 hrs) for your overnight.
Lodging: The Promendade or similar
Indulge yourself with a purchase of Tanjore's amazing silk
|Day 13 Pondicherry/Mahabalipuram|
Today you have a morning tour of Pondicherry, whose association traces its origin to St. Agasthya, the revered sage of the south. Visit Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the final resting place of Sri Auribindo Ashram, a saing-cum-yogi who combined yoga and modern science. You also visit the museum, which has rooms furnished with furniture from the French-India period. Afterward, drive to Mahabalipuram (62 mi/2.5 hrs) with visits to Gangaikondacholapuram and Darasurm en route. The temple at Gangaikondacholapuram was built by the Chola emperor Rajendra I in the style of the Brihadishwara Temple at Thanjavur. The small town of Dharasuram contains the Airatesvara Temple, a superb example of 12th century Chola architecture. Arrive in Mahabalipuram, once the principal port of the Pallavas, who ruled between the sixth and ninth centuries A.D. Mahabalipuram offers a breathtaking display of masterful sculptures carved out of solid rocks of granite. After checking into your hotel, you'll have the rest of the afternoon free to relax.
Lodging: Ideal Beach Resort or similar
Note the chariot style of Airatesvara temple in Dharasuram
|Day 14 Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram|
After breakfast, visit Kanchipuram, once the ancient capital of Pallavas and previously one of the seven sacred cities in India. It was famous as a city of 1,000 temples and still to this day has 124 shrines. This city is also famous for its cottons and Kanjivaram silk. The important temples of Kanchipuram are the 16th century Ekambasreshwar Temple, fairly new and the largest of the Shiva temples; Kamakshi Temple, dedicated to Parvati, "the goddess with the eyes of love;" and Vaikunta Perumal Temple, which dates back to the eight century. Afterwards, return to Mahabalipuram where you visit the Shore Temple, a splendid example of early temple construction in South India, and Penance of Bhagirata, the world's largest bas relief also known as "Argon's Penance." Overnight again in Mahabalipuram.
Lodging: Ideal Beach Resort or similar
See temples and other sights in Kanchipuram, one of India's seven ancient sacred cities
|Day 15 Chennai/Onward|
After a leisure morning, you will be driven to Chennai, (33 mi/1.5 hrs) where you enjoy a guided tour that include visits to the Art and Bronze Museum, the Flower and Fruit Market, High Court, Fort Museum, Marina Beach, and San Thome Cathedral. Later in the evening, transfer to the airport for your onward flight. A day room can be booked for the evening before departing on an onward international flight (not included in land cost.)
Bid farewell to serene south India