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Expedition At A Glance

12 days, 11 nights

Difficulty Level: 1

Price (US$): From $2,595.00

Months Available: October through March

OVERVIEW


South India Coast to Coast

From earth to sky, markets to mangroves, temples to beaches, South India soothes with a scintillating mix of elevations and experiences. Travel coast to coast to sample Tamil Nadu’s rich history and artisan culture, and Kerala’s lush jungles and beckoning backwaters. Experience Indian family life and learn how to cook South Indian cuisine with an esteemed Chettinad chef. Search for elephants and Bengal tigers high in the misty mountains, and sample cinnamon bark from the tree. Relax into the ayurvedic culture for which this area is known, and try an authentic massage. South India has it all!

Highlights:

  • Search one of India’s most famous wildlife reserves for the elusive Bengal tiger
  • Watch in wonder as Mahabalipuram’s stone carvers magically transform stone into sculture before your eyes
  • Visit a temple complex larger than any you’ve ever imagined!
  • Cruise the Keralan backwaters in a luxurious rice boat (kettuvallum) watching fishermen and farmers at work
  • Experience the thrill of riding an autorickshaw
  • Taste your way through a working spice garden
  • Admire Cochin, South India’s former trading colony, and experience myriad cultures present there

DETAILED ITINERARY


Day 1 - Chennai Arrive in Chennai, the chaotic capital city of Tamil Nadu province.  Spend the afternoon getting acclimated to Indian time and culture. Meet your other tour mates at a group dinner at the hotel. Stay: Hotel Raintree Day 2 - Chennai to Mahabalipuram

After a short drive, we will spend the day exploring Mahabalipuram (formerly Mamallapuram), the historic, picturesque town that is world-renowned for their highly skilled stone carvers. The sweeping stretch of golden sands lacing the Bay of Bengal has defied time and retained its pristine nature, and is the setting for the amazingly well preserved shore temples that date back to the 8th century. Visit the World Heritage Site Five Rathnas and you’ll see five impressive shrines carved out of pink granite and named after five famous characters from the Mahabharata. In the afternoon, watch the Indian fisherman practice the labor intensive ancient art of pulling in their haul by hand from the beach.

Stay: Ideal Beach Resort

Day 3 - Mahabalipuram Known for being the “City of a Thousand Temples”, it is also the home of the widely acclaimed Kanchipuram hand woven silk sarees. The temples, an excellent example of Dravidian architecture, were built by the rulers of the various dynasties over the millennia, each elevating and refining the structures to their own liking. The Vaikuntha Perumal Temple should be on everyone’s “must-see list” of South India! Then you’ll visit a silk weaving factory, a centuries-old tradition in South India, made famous here for their double warp and double weft that make these sarees some of the finest quality in all of India. Return to Mahabalipuram to spend the evening.

Stay: Ideal Beach Resort

Day 4 - Mahabalipuram to Chettinad After breakfast, you’ll depart for Chennai where you will catch a flight to Trichy. Situated on the banks of the river Cauvery is the fourth largest city in Tamil Nadu, Tiruchirappalli or Trichy. A fine blend of tradition and modernity built around the Rock Fort, it is home to many churches, colleges and missions dating back to the 18th century.  From here, you’ll head towards Chettinad where you’ll relax for the evening. Stay: The Bangala Day 5  - Chettinad Known for its cultural heritage and culinary delicacies, Chettinad is the You’ll visit the Chettinadu Mansion, a 100-year-old architectural marvel that contains more than 100 rooms with classical features reminiscent of a bygone era. The mansion was originally created by the Chettiars, the business tycoons of the South . In the evening, you’ll learn the art of authentic South India cuisine at a cooking class, and then dine on the delicacies that you’ve helped to prepare. Stay: The Bangala Day 6 - Chettinad to Madurai From Chettinad, you’ll make your way to the second largest city in Tamil Nadu, Madurai. Endowed with a rich cultural heritage and glorious traditions, Madurai is considered one of the “antique” cities of India. With history dating back to the 6th century BC, it’s often called “The Athens of the East”. In the afternoon, you’ll visit the elaborate Meenakshi Amman Temple complex, which is the largest dedicated to Shiva; in the world. The soaring towers rise from solid granite bases and are covered with intricate stucco figures of deities, mythical animals and monsters painted in vivid colors. You’ll end the evening with an adventurous auto rickshaw ride through town, returning to the hotel for dinner. Stay: GRT Residency Day 7  - Madurai to Periyar After breakfast you’ll make your way to Periyar, literally “land where pepper grows”, into a new climate, state and elevation. Located in Kerala, Periyar is home to a tiger reserve, abundant wildlife, lush forests and spice plantations. For centuries people have been drawn here by the romance and wild beauty of the land. You’ll see every conceivable shade of green in a fertile outpouring, flecked with the crimson and gold of mountain flowers. Stay: Shalimar Spice Garden Day 8 - Periyar Rising early, you will explore Periyar, searching for the wide variety of birds, reptiles and mammals that call this home. Periyar was originally the hunting grounds of the Maharajah of Travancore, and was declared a wildlife reserve in 1933.  Animals you might spot include Bengal tigers, Nilgiri langur, Asiatic elephants, monkeys, hyenas, wild boar, porcupines, sloth bear, otters and numerous varieties of exotic birds. Binoculars are a must!  Beginning with a three-hour cruise on a bamboo raft you will traverse a variety of habitats while searching the shoreline for signs of life. You will have panoramic views of the forest clad hills reflected on the lake. We will eat a picnic lunch en route, and make our way back to the boat landing by foot around 5:00 pm. Stay: Shalimar Spice Garden Day 9  - Periyar to Kumarakom You will depart after breakfast heading towards Kumarakom, deep in the tropical heart of Kerala. “God’s Own Country” as the locals call it, Kerala has the country’s highest literacy rate at 91%. It’s mostly known for its lush backwaters, which are a peaceful slice of heaven far away from the clamor of India. Kumarakom is an emerald peninsula jutting into the beautiful Vembanad Lake, where you’ll see plenty of traditional country crafts, boats and canoes. The fresh water of the lake runs through the flat lands of Kerala. You’ll enjoy a delicious, traditional Keralan dinner bursting with local flavors and seafood at the hotel. Stay: Coconut Lagoon or Philip Kutty Farm House Day 10 - Kumarakom to Allepey Today we will board a “rice barge” for a tour through the backwaters where land, sea and sky come together. Cruise comfortably on an air-conditioned boat through quiet canals lined with coconut palms and rice paddies. Before roads were built the waterways were the highways of South India and they still are in a different way as you’ll see. Stay: Evergreen House Boats Day 11  - Allepey to Kochi After disembarking from the houseboat, you’ll travel about an hour north to Cochin, the distinctive colonial town that has been home to Jewish settlers, Portuguese and Dutch traders, Chinese visitors with threads of Syrian, Christian and Portuguese merchants. Cochin clings to its vibrant historical traditions such as Kalarippayat, a gravity-defying martial art, and a trance-induced ritual Kathakali, a blend of religion and dance. Wake up and meet the fishermen at Cochin’s famous Chinese fishing nets during their morning catch. The strong are invited to help pull in a net! Enjoy a fascinating walking tour of Cochin’s heritage sites including St. Francis Church, the Jewish Synagogue, Mattancherry Palace, and the world famous spice markets. Shopping opportunities abound! If all that walking has you tired, indulge in one of Kerala’s famous ayurvedic massages. Stay: Malabar House Day 12 - Final departure Depart from Cochin airport to home, or extend your stay with one of our post-tour extensions.

PHOTO AND VIDEO GALLERY


COST AND INCLUSIONS


Per person price for 2016 STANDARD HOTELS (3 and 4 STAR HOTELS) 2 to 3 persons: $2,845 USD per person 4 or more: $2,595 USD per person Single Supplement: $1,195 USD DELUXE HOTELS (5 STAR AND BOUTIQUE HOTELS) 2 to 3 people: $3,195 USD per person 4 or more: $2,845 USD per person Single Supplement: $1,445 USD (Final prices may vary based on hotels selected. A December and January peak season surcharge may apply) Price includes:
  • All airport transfers
  • Sightseeing as indicated in the itinerary; all entrance fees
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary
  • Double occupancy accommodation
  • Transfers by private air-conditioned vehicles
Price does not include:
  • Your international airfare
  • Tips
  • India visa fee (must be obtained prior to arrival in India)
  • International airport tax, if applicable
  • Travel Insurance
  • Bottled/canned beverages including soft drinks, alcoholic beverages and mineral water
  • Expenses of a personal nature

DATES AND AVAILABILITY


Private departures for a minimum of two participants can be arranged for a date of your choosing.

BOOK THIS TRIP


 

“ I can't speak highly enough of traveling with Grand Asian Journeys. I recently  went on a trip to South India with them and it was one of the best trips of my life, and may I say the best food I've ever eaten in my life. The professionalism, flexibility, and just plain fun of the leader made the trip very special. I am already planning another trip to North India with GAJ next year. I would recommend them to anyone who wants a tailored small group travel experience.”

-Jo Benwell., Healdsburg, CA: South India 2014

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