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South India - Temples & Spices 

The alien invasions that rocked the Indian sub-continent from 800 AD onwards somehow left the South relatively unaffected. Thus, if you want to understand the original Indian civilization, you have to bypass the more wellknown northern areas. The Dravidian civilization of the area around Madras, Mahaballipuram, Madurai, and Cochin is truly a survivor of ancient India in its purest form - before the Mongols, before the Muslims. The tour explores all the exuberance and beauty of the Dravidian culture: dances, unique sculpture and architecture, the religion, and the water ecology of the area. The art and architecture of South India manifest vividly in its temples, forts and palaces. Impressive carvings and sculptures on these structures are a testimony to the rich heritage of South India left behind by the rulers of the bygone era. You will have time to enjoy the wonderful architecture of the temples, and take a leisurely houseboat trip through the villages, canals, and backwaters of the countryside.   

Day 1 Los Angeles/Dubai/Chennai

Day 2 Chennai (B, L, D)
Today you take an excursion to Chennai for an orientation. Formerly called Madras, Chennai is capital city of Southern State of Tamil Nadu. The history of this area goes back 4th century BC and the local language, Tamil, is the oldest existing language in India.

Day 3 Chennai - Mahabalipuram (B, L, D)
Depart for Mahaballipuram. The coastal town of Mamallapuram as it is called today is famous for its ancient history and stunning collection of rock temples and carvings.

Day 4 Mahabalipuram - Swamimalai (B, L, D)
In the morning leave for Pondicherry, a two hour drive. In the morning you will visit Auroville, which developed around the ashram of the Indian yogi, Sri Aurobindo. Later  continue to Chidambaram. The great temple complex of Nataraja, the  dancing Shiva, in Chidambaram, is one of the holiest Shiva sites in South India. Continue on to Gangaikonda-cholapuram to  see the Brihadishwara Temple. Proceed to Swami-malai for overnight stay.

Day 5 Swamimalai - Thanjavur (B, L, D)
An hour’s drive will bring you to Tanjore this morning. The capital of the Great Chola Empire, Thanjavur also served as the capital for the Nayaka empire and Maratha rulers.

Day 6 Thanjavur - Madurai (B, L, D)
Drive to Madurai, a city whose history dates back over 2000 years. The temples of Madurai are concrete representation of the mythology of the city and each has its story.

Day 7 Madurai (B, L, D)
Today you will visit the Shree Minakshi Temple. The temple is a busy place with a temple elephant, musicians, a spice and flower market, and pilgrims of all sorts bathing in tanks.

Day 8 Madurai - Periyar (B, L, D)
Today you will turn to the Nature by driving to Periyar National park. This National Park is one of the major homes of the Asian Elephant. In the afternoon, you will visit the park and then take a boat ride on Lake Periyar.

Day 9 Periyar - Kumarakom (B, L, D)
Leaving Periyar, you drive to the backwaters in Kumarakom. Today you can relax on the shore of the Verabal Lake and treat yourself to some relaxing ayurvedic massage in your hotel.

Day 10 Kumarakom - Backwater-boat ride (B, L, D)
Today you will board a houseboat for a tour of the backwaters of Kerala on a kettuvallam, or rice boat. You will travel on these kettuvallam through a shimmering, jade, palmfringed land, threaded by a silver network of canals, lakes, and estuaries. Life in Kerala is governed by the canals.

Day 11 Alleppy - Cochin (B, L, D)
Disembarking in Alleppy, you will pay a visit to the Snake Temple at Manarsala. In the late afternoon you will reach Cochin.

Day 12 Cochin (B, L, D)
Today you will tour Cochin. An ancient harbour town, the city reflects the influence of the many foreign traders who visited. The Jewish Synagogue, one of the oldest in India, is set in the art of the area known as “Jew Town”. The town is famous for its aromatic spice market and shops selling antiques.

Day 13 Cochin (B, L, D)
This morning, you will go to the theater. South India has a rich tradition of classical music and art. Kathakali is one of the many dance forms of Kerala.

Day 14 Cochin/Dubai/Los Angeles
Begin your homeward journey

Tour date:
November 5 - 18, 2016

Tour Price;
including flights $ 6,730 per person
excluding flights $ 4,880 per person

Included in tour price:
Flights, tour coordinator/guide, accommodation on full meal basis, Monument admission fee, ground transportation, internal flights

Excluded in tour price:
Insurance, visa fee for India, additional programs, gratuities

Flights:
Los Angeles/Dubai/Chennai & Cochin/Dubai/Los Angeles

 

Our Hotels (or similar):
Chennai: Taj Coromandel*****
Mahaballipuram: Fishermen’s Cove*****
Swamimalai: Swamimalai
Thanjavur: Ideal River Lodge ****
Madurai: Taj Gateway ****
Periyar: Spice Village ****
Kumarakom: Coconut Lagoon*****
Houseboat: Spice Cruise (Deluxe)
Cochin: Brunton Boatyard*****