Day 1: Australia – – Chennai
Depart Australia today on your flight to Chennai. On arrival into Chennai International Airport follow customs, immigration formalities and baggage collection. A Webjet representative will meet you as you exit the arrivals hall.
Chennai (formerly known as Madras), the largest city in South India and the fourth largest city in the country, the capital of Tamil Nadu is located on what is popularly called the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. The varied aspects of traditional South Indian culture existing alongside the lifestyle of a modern city complete with its plush hotels, restaurants offering a range of continental to typical South Indian cuisine, long and uncrowded stretches of beaches, modern shopping malls, and cinema halls. While moving around in the city one cannot overlook the obvious British influence that is so evident in the various cathedrals, buildings in Indo-Saracenic style of architecture and wide tree lined avenues. However, despite the undeniable strong English legacy, Chennai has retained its traditional Tamil Hindu culture and effectively blended it with the foreign influence.
Please note: Some flights will depart late the night before Day 1. However, most flights departing Australia will arrive late at night on Day 1.
Day 2: Chennai (B,D)
This morning, explore some of the colonial sights on a sightseeing tour of Chennai. Begin with a visit to the site of the first British outpost in India – Fort St. George and the commercial centre, George Town. Visit the Fort house and the museum exhibiting a vast collection of portraits, regimental flags, weapons and coins. Afterwards we proceed to Mylapore in the south which is the site of the famous Kapaleeswarar Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It has a typical Dravidian gopuram (Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple premises).
Near the temple, is the San Thome Cathedral, which is said to feature the remains of St Thomas the Apostle (Doubting Thomas). Located on Triplicane High Road is the Parathasarathy Temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna. Built in the 8th century during the Pallava reign, it was later renovated by the Vijayanagar kings in the 16th century. The morning tour ends at the Government State Museum and the National Art Gallery (Remains closed on Friday) showcasing an interesting archaeological section and a bronze gallery. It houses items right from the Cholas, Vijaynagar, Hoysala and Chalukya periods to some very recent artwork.
The rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
This evening, we’ll enjoy a walking tour of Channai’s Bazaars. Crowded markets, narrow lanes, chaotic traffic, and noisy hawkers… Majestic buildings, fascinating history, vivid colours and mesmerizing images… The pulse of any city is in its markets. From the early morning flower bazaars to the ever bustling vegetable markets, these vibrant pockets of life in this city are great places to gauge the local way of life. This walk takes you through one such market place, Georgetown. Fascinating history, streets teeming with life and spilling over with colour, noise and exuberance; one is never short of sights to take in on this tour.
Tonight, get to know your fellow travellers with a welcome dinner.
Day 3: Chennai – Kanchipuram – Mahabalipuram – Chennai (B)
After breakfast we drive to the impressive town of Kanchipuram, 70 km from Chennai and 66km west of Mahabalipuram, known as the Golden City of a Thousand Temples, one of the oldest towns in India. It is famous for both its temples, many of them remarkably well preserved and for its hand-woven silks. Kanchipuram is one of the seven sacred cities of India and it is the only one associated with both Shiva and Vishnu. Visit Ekambareshwar Temple, Kailashnath Temple, Kamakshi Temple, the Vaikunthaperumal Temple, all built in the 7th and 8th centuries. With a weaving tradition dating back to the Pallava era (when silk was the royal cloth), Kanchipuram is justly famous for its particularly fine silk saris, embellished with stunning patterns. Apart from the temples, you will also have an opportunity to visit the local homes of the weavers and watch them create magic out of silk thread into saris.
Following Kanchipuram, continue drive to Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram), a small seaside village that was once the main port of the Pallava Dynasty from the 5th – 9th centuries.
Today it is the site of several antique sculptural marvels. Declared as the world heritage site by UNESCO, Mahabalipuram boasts of some of India’s most sublime rock-cut art. The town was earlier called Mahabalipuram, but was later renamed as Mamallapuram or the place of the great wrestler – Narasimhavarmam I. He made this port a flourishing trade centre. The only shore temple, which remains here, is the spectacular two-spired shrine, which is unique in that it houses both Vishnu and Shiva in its sanctum.
The open-air bas-reliefs, structured temples, man-made caves and the five monolithic “rathas” (chariots carved from single processions) reflect this art at its best. “Arjuna’s penance” here is the world’s largest bas relief measuring 27 meters by 9 meters. The hillside is scattered with eight temple porches with bold sculptures inside and there is also still one surviving shore temple, built in the 1st century. A row of Nandi Bulls surrounds its walls and Mahabalipuram also boasts an excellent openair museum where you can watch stonemasons at work. After we head back to Chennai where to rest of the evening is at leisure.
Day 4: Chennai – – Bangalore (B)
This morning, you will be met at your hotel and transferred to the railway station (with a packed breakfast) for your train to Bangalore.
Departure Chennai At: 0600 hrs Train Shatabdi Express-12007
Arrive Bangalore at: 1050 hrs
CLASS: AC Chair Car Class
Upon arrival in to Bangalore, you will be met at the railway station and transferred to your hotel before we head out on a tour of the garden city. We start with a visit to Lalbagh, the botanical garden spread over 240 acres and having a wide variety of exotic trees and plants. Visit Tipu Sultan’s Palace – dating back to 1790 and made mostly out of wood, it was used as the summer residence of the legendary ruler Tipu Sultan. Continue to visit the Bull temple believed to have been constructed in the 16th-century it has been carved out of a single granite block.
Day 5: Bangalore – Shravenabelagola – Hassan (B)
After breakfast, we drive to Hassan (180 kms/ 4.5 hrs approx) en route visit Shravenabelagola.
Shravenabelagola, renowned for its colossal Gomateshwara statue. (Note: There are around 700 steps to climb on to reach the Gomateshwara statue).
Shravenabelagola is one of the most celebrated Jain pilgrim sites and the gigantic statue of Lord Gomateshwara has been carved out of a single block of granite and stands majestically atop a hill. The carved nude statue is shown standing on a lotus and captures the tranquility typical of much Buddhist and Jain art. The depth of the saint’s meditation is depicted by the creepers shown growing up his legs and arms. After, we continue our drive to Hassan.
Upon arriving in Hassan, we visit Belur & Halebid. The serenity of Belur is attributed to the celebrated temple of Channakeshava, built by the Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana in 1117 A.D. to commemorate his conversion from Jainism to Vaishnavism. The main structure of the temple, which is star shaped, is a homogenous architectural unit on a raised platform. Everything is carved in black stone, looking like metal. Facing the temple, at the entrance, stands the winged figure of Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s carrier. The 650 charging elephants on frieze around the walls outside are all different from each other.
Halebid was the ancient capital of the Hoysala Empire. Founded in the early 11th century as Dwarasamudram (Gateway to the seas), it was destroyed by the armies of the Delhi Sultanate in 1311 and 1327 AD, after which it was deserted and later renamed Halebid (Old Capital). The Hoysaleswara temple at Halebid, the largest of the Hoysala temples, was started in 1121 AD, about 10 years after the temple at Belur, but despite 86 years of labour, it was never completed. Nevertheless it is easily the most outstanding example of Hoysala art. Every centimeter of the outside walls and much of the insides are covered with an endless variety of Hindu deities, stylised birds and animals and friezes depicting the life and times of the Hoysala rulers.
The rest of the evening is at leisure.
Day 6: Hassan—Mysore (B)
After breakfast we drive to Mysore (130 km/ 3.5 hrs approx). Mysore was the political capital of the Wodeyar dynasty which ruled the state of Karnataka for some 150 years till the independence of the country from the British. These kings were great patrons of art and culture and Mysore was the cultural capital of the south under the rule of the Wodeyars. Mysore still carries on its placid shoulders the aura and glamour of palaces, the grandeur of festivals of times gone by, but all of it with a quiet, unhurried dignity. It is often called the Jewel of Karnataka – its arts, culture, buildings, festivals, gardens and parks being the quintessence of the state’s heritage.
We head our for a walking tour of Mysore markets. The 125-year old market with more than 700 stalls will hold your interest for its vibrancy and colours. You also get to discover Mysore’s specialties ranging from sweets, flowers, fruits to natural incense and a variety more. The rest of the evening is at leisure.
Day 7: Mysore (B)
After breakfast, we take an in-depth tour of Mysore. The infatuation with Mysore begins with the Maharaja’s Palace, at the heart of the city. It is a veritable treasure trove of exquisite carvings and works of art from the world over. Overlooking the city of Mysore are the Chamundi Hills, where stands a monolithic statue of the Nandi Bull. Proceed to the Rajendra Art Gallery which has some remarkable selections of paintings by Raja Ravi Verma, Nicholas Roerich and traditional paintings in the Mysore style.
We then proceed to Somnathpur, which is known for the Keshava Temple. Built in 1268, the temple is a marvellous example of Hoysala architecture. The walls of this star studded temple are covered with exquisite sculptures in stone depicting various scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata and the life and times of the Hoysala kings. The rest of the evening is at leisure.
Day 8: Mysore – Ooty (B)
Post breakfast we drive to Ooty (a journey of 165 km/ 6.5 hrs approx). Called the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’ picturesque, green Udhagamandalam better known as Ooty is the most
popular hill station in the South. Located in the Western Ghats at a height of 2240m, Udhagamandalam is the headquarters of the Nilgiris district where the two ghats meet. Nature has been generous with this region which is by far the most beautiful in the state. Apart from coffee and tea plantations, trees like conifers, eucalyptus and pine dot the hillside in Ooty and its environs.
We begin with a visit to the Botanical Gardens which were laid out in 1847. The picturesque gardens that are maintained by the Horticulture department of the state, cover an area of about 22 hectares. The Gardens have well over 650 species of plants and trees, including a fossil of a tree, which is believed to be more than 20 million years old. Continue to Ooty Lake built in 1825 and is about 2.5 km long. Finally we finish off with a visit to Dodabetta Peak which stands at an altitude of 2,623 meters. It is the highest point in the district, making it possibly the best vantage point around Ooty. The rest of the evening is at leisure.
Day 9: Ooty – – Coonoor – – Ooty (B, L)
No visit to Ooty is complete without the Toy Train experience. In the morning, we head to the railway station to board the Toy train at 0915 hrs to Coonoor. Arrive Coonoor at 1025 hrs. Upon arrival we will be taken to a Tea Plantation followed by Tea Tasting and lunch. After lunch we head back Ooty (an hour drive approx.). Rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 10: Ooty – Cochin (B)
After breakfast we leave Ooty, and drive to Cochin (a journey of about 300 km/ 7 hrs drive approx.). The commercial capital of Kerala and the most cosmopolitan of the state’s cities, Cochin or Kochi have long been eulogized in tourist literature as the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’. Strategically located on the east–west sea route, Cochin is Kerala’s major port,boasting of one of the finest natural harbours in the world, which forms the hub around which the city revolves. With its wealth of historical associations and its setting on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsula, the city of Kochi perfectly reflects the eclecticism of Kerala. Apart from being a major commercial hub, Kochi is also a major tourist attraction in southern India. Cochin served as a very important seaport and centre of trade with the Chinese, Arabs, Phoenician, Romans and Greeks. One is able to catch a glimpse of the past through the old colonial churches, tiled houses built in the Chinese pagoda style, the famous Chinese fishing nets, colonial buildings, synagogues and mosques – all narrating fascinating tales of this enriched harbour town.
The rest of the evening is at leisure.
Day 11: Cochin (B)
Today we Explore the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’, Cochin. Unravel the ancient treasures of this quaint harbour port town visiting the fascinating sights partly by boat and partly on foot. Visit the Chinese Fishing Nets, the St. Francis Church, walk through the narrow cobbled streets, lined with antique and handicraft shops of the Jew Town to the Jewish Synagogue, the oldest living synagogue in the world.
(Note: Visitors to the Jewish Synagogue should be modestly dressed. Admission will be denied to men and women wearing short pants/skirts, sleeveless t-shirts/blouses. Bare shoulders and mid-riffs are not permitted and should be covered with shawls).
This evening, watch a mesmerising Kathakali performance. Kathakali represents a synthesis of all that is best in dance, drama and music and has been recognized by connoisseurs of art, the world over as a `total art form of immense sophistication and power’. It is the impression created by make-up and the costumes that make Kathakali a visual par excellence. Let the magic of this unique art form envelope you as you watch the emotions displayed by the performing artists.
Optional Tour: Dinner at Fort Cochin Seafood Specialty Restaurant—Considered one of the state’s best seafood restaurants, this casual catch-of-the-day semi-alfresco pad is something of a Kerala institution. The atmosphere is charmingly rustic. The excellent food is prepared at an open grill adjacent to a large waist-level fish tank filled with Chinese carp. Tables are set around a huge banyan tree and under light shades made from Chinese fishing baskets. Rather than a daily menu, a trolley contains the catch of the day, straight off Cochin’s fishing nets. You can expect king prawns, lobster, Indian salmon, snapper, pomfret, squid, mullet, seer fish and more. Once you’ve selected your fish, you get to decide how it’s cooked – whether stir-fried in the spices of the East, steamed, baked, or poached, and served with Kerala’s famous string hoppers, rice or naan.
Day 12: Cochin – Thekkady (B)
This morning after breakfast visit the Mattancherry Palace built by the Portuguese for the Raja (King) of Kochi in exchange of trading rights. Later we drive to Thekkady (191 km/ 4.5 hrs approx.). Upon arrival, proceed for check in to your hotel. Visit a local spice plantation. Let a guide take you through a plantation as you discover crops such as cardamom, nutmeg, pepper, coffee and tamarind in their native environment and learn about their varied uses. For centuries Kerala has grown and exported spices around the world and a walking tour of a plantation will allow you to gain a first-hand experience of the cultivation and growth of spices
In the evening, explore the Kumily spice market renowned for the various forms of spices, perfumed soaps, chocolates and other local articles.
Day 13: Thekkady – – Alleppey (B,L,D)
This morning, we drive to Alleppey (130 km/ 3.5 hrs approx). Upon arrival, board your traditional riceboat to sail through and explore Kerala’s backwaters. Embark on an enchanting journey across sun-dappled backwaters on a kettuvallom – fully furnished traditional rice boats. Rightly called the ‘Venice of the East’, this verdant area surrounded by coconut plantations is famous for its narrow maze of canals and backwaters. Float through the placid waters passing palm fringed canals, lakes and villages. Treat yourself to a sumptuous lunch and dinner of local delicacies. The rest of the afternoon is free to relax and watch the world go by on your traditional houseboat.
Day 14: Alleppey – Kumarakom (B)
This morning, we disembark from the houseboat at Kumarakom. Today is a free day for relaxation.
Optional Tour: Island Farm visit with Traditional Lunch – Proceed by boat to an Island Farm, situated in the backwaters. Enjoy a traditional lunch, following which your host will escort you on a tour of the 50-acre farm, as you witness the various farm activities of coconut harvesting or toddy making, the variety of spices cultivated on the farm.
Day 15: Kumarakom – Cochin – – Australia (B)
After breakfast the rest of the morning is at leisure. This afternoon we’ll head back to Cochin where you’ll be transferred to Cochin international airport for your on ward flight home.
Day 16: Australia
Arrive home today