10-day tour to explore culture, nature and spirituality of Tamil Nadu and Kerala
This 10-day tour will give insights of the active spirituality and traditions of South India. Kerala and Tamil Nadu are two states in the South of India, whose exotic names promise an abundance of interesting destinations. Here a traveler discovers a colourful culture amongst palms, rice fields and tea plantations. The tour begins with a ascent on the citadel of pictorial fortification and a visit to a traditional ashram. The center of activities of the following days will be exploration of large Dravidian temple complexes. Followed by the spice garden on the South Indian mountains, with a visit to wildlife sanctuary to view elephants and other protected species of animals. The trip finishes in the Malabar coast of Kerala which is known for its marvelous backwater channels, lagoons, and various inland waterways surrounded by rice plantations, palm grooves and varied culture.
Gingee – Tiruvannamalai – Thanjavur – Madurai – Thekkady – Backwaters – Cochin
Day 01: Transfer from Auroville to Tiruvannamalai via Gingee
After breakfast transfer to Tiruvannamalai enroute visit Gingee Fort. An interesting fort complex constructed in the 16th century during the Vijaynagar Empire. Gingee Fort is built on three separate hills, joined by kilometers of fortified walls. The buildings within the Fort have remains from the former palace complex, which consist of a granary, audience hall, and a Shiva Temple. A climb to the citadel on Raja hill will be well rewarded with beautiful views of the patchwork of terraced fields. On completion transfer to hotel for overnight stay.
Day 02: Tiruvannamalai
After breakfast visit Arunachaleswara Temple on the foothills of the Arunachala hill. The town is dominated by the Arunachaleshwara temple, one of the most important Shiva temples in South India, focusing on Agnilingam or Fire-lingam. This temple was built over a period of almost a thousand years incorporating several distinct styles of architecture. Also in the town is the ashram of Sri Ramana Maharshi, one of the great spiritual Masters of the 20th century. Overnight stay at Tiruvannamalai.
Day 03: Full day transfer to Thanjavur
After breakfast transfer to Thanjavur. Overnight at Thanjavur.
Day 04: Sightseeing Thanjavur
After breakfast visit the Brihadeswara Temple and the Art Gallery. Built by the great Chola king, Raja Raja I in the 10th century AD, the Brihadeswara temple is an outstanding example of the Chola architecture. Guarding the inner shrine of the temple is the gigantic statue of Nandi, the Bull, while the walls of the sanctum are covered, with the wall paintings of Chola and Nayak periods, comparable to the famous Ajanta cave frescoes. The Art gallery has a superb collection of bronze statues from the 9th to 12th centuries. On completion overnight stay at Thanjavur.
Day 05: Transfer from Thanjavur to Madurai and sightseeing
Transfer to Madurai. A highlight of the Dravidian art of temple construction is the Meenakshi temple built in the 16th century under the Nayak rulers of Madurai. Following the mythology Lord Shiva wed his partner Parvathi in the form of a beautiful Pandya princess Meenkshi. The Sundareshvara temple build for Shiva in the form of the beautiful groom connects to the Meenakshi temple on the northern side. The combination of these two temples as a whole presents an impressive complex of half dark passages ways, stone reliefs, and traditional rituals which draw the visitor into a mystic atmosphere. While circling the temple pond one can view the impressive Gopurams (temple towers) covered with sculptures of deities. Over night stay in Madurai.
Day 6: Tekkady – Where the pepper grow – visit to a spice garden
After breakfast transfer to Tekkady which is around a 5 hour journey. The small town lies surrounded by tee and spice plantations, a typical south Indian mountain landscape. It is one of the best places to buy high quality Indian spices. In a Spice Garden traditional spice varieties like cardamom, pepper, anis, and many others can be seen on a guided tour. Overnight stay at Thekkady.
Day 07: Periya national park – Trekking, bamboo rafting or a boot ride on the lake
Periyar Nation al Park is one of the most famous Nature and Animal reserves in south India. In the 77km2 protected area live 800 elephants and around 35 tigers. Visitor have several options. Early morning or late afternoon boat ride on the Periyar Lake running through the sanctuary provides an opportunity to watch wild animals like elephants, deer and scores of water birds. Also to be recommended is a trek with a reserve guide. The highlight is a singular program that combines the trekking and bamboo rafting which takes the visitor deep into the national park. Often on such an excursion wild elephants can be observed.
Days 08: Transfer from Thekkady to Kumarakom
After breakfast transfer to Kumarakom. Kumarakom is an island in the Vembanad Lake, on the backwaters of Kerala. It is an ideal starting point for a backwater trip. The various rivers, lagoons, channels and lakes here form a unique scenic network of water routes. The romantic houseboats converted from former rice boats, can be used for a comfortable stay overnight. Overnight in Houseboat.
Day 09: Transfer from Alleppey to Cochin, sightseeing
On Completion of Houseboat trip at Alleppey, immediate transfer to Cochin. In the evening you can enjoy the spectacular Kathakali dance-drama performances in one of the many studios. Kathakali represents a synthesis of all that is best in dance, drama and music. The actors do not speak but enact dialogs called ‘padams’ sung by singers from behind. The acting is done through facial expressions and ‘mudras’ (hand gestures). It is the impression created by the makeup and the costumes that make Kathakali an excellent visual experience. Overnight stay at Cochin.
Day 10: Cochin Sightseeing
After breakfast visit Fort Cochin, with its stunning location between the Arabian Sea and the backwaters and its historical association. Along its winding narrow lanes are some Old Dutch houses, spice markets, a Dutch palace, India’s oldest European church built in 1503 and a Jewish synagogue. Cochins Huge, elegant Chinese fishing nets that line the tip of Fort Cochin are a must-see and when you’re there, you can savour the fresh catch of the day at nearby restaurants.
Transfer to the Train station or airport and travel to Chennai; pickup from Chennai and transfer to Auroville.