Southern escapes

Day 01. Arrive at Chennai International Airport. On arrival, you will be met by the driver and representative and driven 3 hours south to Pondicherry, A city that has a fascinating history closely tied to the French and their imperial aspirations in India. The French connection has survived Pondicherry’s union with the Indian republic through language, food, and the many visitors and residents of French origin. The day is kept free to explore Pondicherry on foot. Evenings at leisure.

Pondicherry has a wealth of heritage buildings of both French and Tamil architectural styles. Take a Day.

Day 02. After breakfast, today guided tour through these distinctive heritage quarters along the way, indulge in two of Pondicherry’s highlights – eating and shopping – with high-quality French-influenced restaurants and shops in abundance. This is a great way to soak up the local culture and the city’s leisurely approach to life.

Day 03. After breakfast, you will be visiting the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The ashram grew out of a small community of disciples who had gathered around Sri Aurobindo after he retired from politics and settled in Pondicherry in 1910. On 24 November 1926, after a major spiritual realization, Sri Aurobindo withdrew from public view to continue his spiritual work. At this time, he handed over the full responsibility for the inner and outer lives of the sadhaks and the ashram to his spiritual collaborator, "the Mother", earlier known as Mirra Alfassa. This date is therefore generally known as the founding-day of the ashram, though, as Sri Aurobindo himself wrote, it had “less been created than grown around him as its centre

In the afternoon, take an excursion to Auroville, a ‘utopian society’ inspired by Aurobindo. Visit the huge golf ball-like hall as well as interesting shops selling locally made wares and a good café. Return to y our hotel for Dinner. Overnight at Pondicherry.

Day 04. After early breakfast, today morning drive to Madurai. {350 km – 7 hours}.

A quintessential southern Indian temple town, Madurai – “City of Nectar” – has been a centre of Hindu pilgrimage for centuries, attracting millions of devotees to its celebrated Meenakshi Temple.

Check into your hotel pre-booked. Day at leisure or a walk along the main street leading to the temple gives a taste of the colour, liveliness, and atmosphere of this fascinating city. Return to your hotel for Dinner. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 05. Wake up to the sounds of priests chanting at the Meenakshi temple, the physical, spiritual, and cultural heart of the city. Post early breakfast visit the Meenakshi Temple covering six hectares, with 50 meter high towers and a 1000 pillared hall covered in a profusion of multicoloured images of mythological figures, this is one of India’s most awe-inspiring temples. Spend the morning exploring this amazing complex.

Madurai is an absorbing city to walk around; it’s small enough to wander from your hotel without fear of getting lost, as many of the roads lead to the temple. Spend today exploring endlessly fascinating, chaotic, and colourful streets and bazaars. Visit the insightful Gandhi Museum and in the evening attend a light and sound show at Nayak Palace. Return to your hotel for Dinner.

Day 06. Today marks a change of pace from south Indian city life. Take a 5-hour drive through the Tamil Nadu countryside, ascending the Western Ghat mountain range, to the Kerala border town and the exotic hill station of Kerala. Munnar.

 

Munnar is a small but energetic hill station located in Kerala. In the past, it was an important summer retreat spot for the British. 

 

This place is an iconic romantic destination because of its exotic scenic value, natural beauty, and climatic condition. The local language translates the term ‘Munnar’ as three rivers. This indicates the three rivers, the River Periavaru, River Mattupeeti, and River Nallathanni that flow through the region.

 

Enjoy the view of the Tea Garden from your room on a cup of coffee or enjoy a dip in the pool to relax. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 07. After a lavish breakfast today on an early morning sightseeing tour around Munnar. The day begins with exploring the Christ Church, one of the most revered churches built in 1910 during the British era. This holy site is known for its gothic architecture style, brass plaques, and stained glass window panes. The tour continues to Eravikulam National Park, the first in the state of Kerala. It is the home to the endangered mountain goats, Nilgiri Tahr. This park is also known for the Neelakurunji flowers that bloom once every 12 years. Later reach Mattupetty. This pristine hamlet near Anamudi Peak is a visual delight. The main attractions here are the dam and the lake. This is a hotspot for vacationers where they can soak up the scenic views and enjoy the pleasant weather. Mattupetty also offers immense trekking opportunities for adventure enthusiasts. The day ends after returning to the hotel. Dinner and overnight at Munnar.

Day 08. This is kept free to walk in the markets of Munnar and do shopping. You can also enjoy Ayurveda Therapy at the resort if not keen on shopping. Evening visits the Punarjani Traditional village to experience The World famous Kathakali dance and Kalaripayattu art from 4.00 pm to 6.00 pm. Return to your hotel for Dinner. Overnight in Munnar.

Day 09. After breakfast drive to the Wilderness town of Thekkady, the location of Periyar Tiger Reserve. Check into your hotel pre-booked. The day is kept free to explore Thekkady by walk to experience the Kerala Culture.

Day 10. After early breakfast today spend time with working elephants, washing, feeding them, and having a ride; visit a spice farm to see how various spices are grown and processed, or take a walk in the Tiger Reserve with a naturalist guide. {Elephant ride may remain closed without prior notice}. Dinner and overnight in Thekkady.

Day 11. Post early breakfast drive to Alleppey - City on the Laccadive Sea. Known for houseboat cruises along the rustic Kerala backwaters, a network of tranquil canals and lagoons. Check into your scenic resort pre-booked. The day is kept at leisure to enjoy nature.

Day 12. After breakfast set out on an enchanting backwater cruise in traditionally decorated houseboats. While cruising, let your eyes settle for the bowed-down paddy fields, local inhabitants, rustic homes, ancient churches/temples, and swaying coconut groves. Return to your hotel. Evenings are kept free for shopping. Mullakkal Market is considered to be the main market of the city. It sells a variety of things at very reasonable prices and attracts hundreds of locals and tourists each day. The market is primarily known for its gold and silver offerings. There are also several things like incense, metal utensils, handicrafts, animals, and wooden boxes available here which makes this place a favourite spot for shopping in the wedding seasons. Also, the fabulous coir products that Alleppey is famous for are available here in a huge variety, some of the reputed shops like St. Thomas Fine Arts is a shop that has a premium collection of the finest quality wooden statues, icons, and handicrafts. It has been there for many decades now creating a name for itself in national as well as international markets. Aishwarya 1 Gram Designer Jewellery is a famous jewellery shop in Alleppey that is trusted by its locals for its excellent quality and unique designs. If you want to buy some jewellery when in this picturesque city, then you must visit this place. You can find both traditional and modern jewellery designs here in a wide variety. The store offers an excellent collection of chains, lockets, necklaces, rings, and studs.

Return to your hotel for Dinner. Overnight at Alleppey.

The option of staying in a luxury houseboat is available. {Houseboat cruise is not permissible after 5.00 pm}.

 

Day 13. After breakfast disembarks the houseboat and drives to Cochin. Known as the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea, Kochi was an important spice trading centre from the 14th century. The Arabs, British, Chinese, Dutch, and Portuguese helped Fort Kochi emerges as a bustling centre of commercial activity, each leaving their indelible and distinctive mark on the area. With virtually no traffic, it’s the perfect place to relax and explore on foot.

Day 14. Take a morning tour of Fort Kochi, including visits to the Dutch Palace, St Francis Church, and the iconic Chinese fishing nets. In the afternoon you may like to explore the Jewish culture and influence on Kerala, visiting the Jewish Synagogue and old Jewish settlement.

In the evening attend a traditional Kathakali performance, comprising impressive facial expressions, hand gestures, and dance moves that depict the Hindu epics.

Day 15. This morning is free for relaxing, walking, and exploring, or for last-minute obligatory gift shopping. You may like to take a cooking class and enjoy a Kerala style vegetarian meal served on banana leaves. In the evening transfer to the airport for your flight home.