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16 Day Spiritual Southern India 2020 (Monday Departure)

16 days with Gate 1 Travel   Rating: First Class

Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices

DAY 1, Monday - Depart for India
Depart for India.

DAY 2, Tuesday - Arrive in Chennai
Welcome to India! Arrive in cosmopolitan Chennai on the Bay of Bengal, gateway to South India; transfer to the hotel. Time to rest, relax and acclimate to your new time zone or venture out to get acquainted with some of the city's extraordinary sights and the lively shops selling vibrant handmade silk sarees.

DAY 3, Wednesday - Government Museum, St. Basilica Church, Marina Beach
This morning, begin your exploration of the city at the Government Museum, with its fascinating exhibits about ancient Chennai. Then, enjoy lunch before a scenic drive along the coast that takes you to Marina Beach, a surprising combination of colonial buildings, churches, and monuments accented by the natural beauty of endless skies and sea. Afterward, visit St. Basilica Chruch built in the 16th by Portuguese explorers over the tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle. The Basilica is one of the holiest Christian sites in India and one of the world's only surviving Apostolic burial sites. Continue to the beautiful Kapaleeshwarar Temple. Walk around this centuries-old temple and admire the elaborately decorated gopuram, a fine display of Dravidian architecture before returning to the hotel. This evening, join your Tour Manager and fellow travelers at an orientation meeting on the exciting discovery of South India that lies ahead, followed by dinner at the hotel. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

DAY 4, Thursday - Kanchipuram, “City of a Thousand Temples”, Silk Weaving Artisans 
This morning, travel to Kanchipuram, the "City of a Thousand Temples," one of Hinduism’s most sacred cities. Here, you tour the historically important Ekambareswarar Temple with its 540 pillars. Then, visit the stunning Kailasanathar Temple with its elaborate carvings before enjoying lunch. Kanchipuram, world-famous for its hand-woven silk sarees, is the center of silk production and design in India for over four centuries. As you walk along the lanes of the city, view colorful displays of sarees waving in the breeze, woven on hand looms by artisans throughout the city out of dazzling bright silks, embellished with golden threads. On your exclusive visit to a traditional silk weaving factory, meet with some of the artists and learn how to drape and wear a sari. Afterward, on to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram, an ancient archaeological wonder rising on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Bay of Bengal. Once a major seaport, these magnificent temples, and carvings are remarkable examples of exquisite architecture, illustrating tales from mythology and highlighting the development of the Dravidian temple style. Spend your evening at leisure. (Breakfast, Lunch)

DAY 5, Friday - Mahabalipuram’s Temples
Early this morning if you wish, join a yoga session. After breakfast, embark on a guided tour. Admire the Shore Temple standing by the sea for over 12 centuries, with an impressive bas-relief and imposing twin towers. At the southern end of the site, see the Five Rathas carved from large boulders and Arjuna’s Penance, a massive bas-relief that magnificently depicts the flow of the Ganges down from the Himalayas coupled with scenes from Indian daily life. This temple complex is considered the finest early example of medieval southern Indian architecture. This afternoon, enjoy the lovely beaches this coastal city has to offer before dinner tonight at the hotel. (Breakfast, Dinner)

DAY 6, Saturday - Pondicherry's French Quarter, Auroville Meditation Center, Paper Factory
Your journey along the coast takes you to enchanting Pondicherry, a former French colonial settlement that still retains its carefree French atmosphere and architectural legacy. In the charming Old Quarter, with its tree-lined cobbled streets, colonial villas are draped with fragrant bougainvillea, and sidewalk cafes abound. Even the policemen are dressed in traditional French red hats and belts! Lunch is followed by a visit to serene Auroville, City of Dawn famous for the meditation center inspired by the teachings of the Indian yogi Sri Aurobindo. Many spiritually minded visitors come here and stay to nurture his vision of human unity. Next, view the golden-domed Mother Temple. Later, tour a factory where delicate individually handcrafted papers are produced followed by a visit to Aurobindo Ashram. Enjoy a rickshaw ride around the French, Hindu and Muslim quarters of Pondicherry. (Breakfast, Lunch)

DAY 7, Sunday - Chidambaram Temples, Thanjavur, Maratha Palace
Depart Pondicherry for Chidambaram, home to the massive temple complex of Nataraja, one of the holiest of all Shiva sites, a spectacular architectural marvel spread over 50 acres in the heart of the city. After time to relax over lunch, travel to Thanjavur (Tanjore) once a thriving capital of the celebrated Chola Empire, known as the "rice bowl" of the Tamil Nadu region. On arrival, visit the spectacular Maratha Palace, within a maze-like complex; walk through the open courtyard Art Gallery displaying priceless collections of superb Chola bronzes and stone carvings and visit the Saraswathi Mahal Library. The remainder of the day is at leisure in Thanjavur. (Breakfast, Lunch)

DAY 8, Monday - Brihadeeswarar Temple, Amma Mandapam, Ranganathaswamy Temple
Begin the day with a visit to the grand Lord Brihadeeswarar Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where thousands of people worship daily. Built by King Raja Raja Cholan over a thousand years ago, this impressive temple is one of South India’s most magnificent architectural accomplishments. Continue with a drive to Trichy. Here, visit Amma Mandapam, a religious bathing ghat on the banks of the Kaveri River. Witness pilgrims immersing themselves in a ritual bath before proceeding to worship at the sacred Ranganathaswamy Temple. Stop at this famous temple, one of the most illustrious in the country, nestled in an ethereal setting on the island of Srirangam. Following lunch, return to Thanjavur. Tonight, enjoy dinner with your group at a local restaurant. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

DAY 9, Tuesday - Chettinad’s Palaces, Ghandi Museum
Your travels take you to Chettinad, land of the Chettiars, a community that dates back to the Chola period making its fortunes as money lenders, merchants and jewelry dealers. Here, see lavish palaces and mansions that reflect the opulence of a bygone era. Also known for its food and Master Chefs, enjoy a distinctive traditional lunch of local favorites. Next, you reach the vibrant city of Madurai on the banks of the Vaigai River, a center of learning and pilgrimage for many centuries. A visit to the Gandhi Museum follows with an opportunity to learn about this remarkable man lovingly called the "Father of the Nation" instrumental in India’s fight for independence. Before dinner, visit a local dance school practicing Bharatnatyam. Meet with students to learn more about the dance and attend a performance. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

DAY 10, Wednesday - Madurai's Temples, Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace, Madurai’s Bazaars
Don’t miss this morning's optional Vanakkam (means welcome in Tamil language) private interactive walking tour of Madurai! At the first light of dawn, walk the quiet streets as the city awakens. Observe first-hand how everyday life begins in this Indian city from prayer rituals at the temple to market shopping -- truly a total immersion into the culture. Return for breakfast, followed by a visit with the group to the ancient Meenakshi Amman Temple, an enormous Nayak complex built between 1623 and 1655, as a majestic testament to their ruler. Later, head to the massive Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace with its imposing courtyard, grand throne chambers and entry flanked by stone carved horses before returning to the hotel for lunch. In the evening, shop at the bargain-filled bazaars bursting with treasures and jewelry shops galore. (Breakfast, Lunch)

Optional: Vanakkam Madurai Tour (AM)

DAY 11, Thursday - Periyar National Park, Spice Plantation
Today, drive to Periyar National Park perched high in the Cardamom Hills, the best-known wildlife sanctuary in South India, home to elephants, antelope, deer and many species of birdlife. Its variety of flora and fauna, pristine lakes and magnificent forests will surely make this visit most memorable. After time to relax and settle in at the hotel, stroll leisurely through one of the area’s spice plantations. You’ll hear about the many different ways to use these spices in both medicines and in the preparation of food. In the evening, join the optional Kalaripayattu Martial Art Show with dinner. Kalaripayattu, one of the oldest fighting styles in the world, is believed to have been adapted from various martial art forms like karate, kung-fu, and judo. (Breakfast)

Optional: Kalaripayattu Martial Art Show with dinner

DAY 12, Friday - Periyar National Park
Thrilling activities await you today at the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Begin the day with a nature walk inside the National Park. Pass through evergreen and deciduous forests accompanied by your local guide, who informs you about the local flora. A highlight of the day is a scenic Jeep ride to Ottakathalamedu, 1300 meters above sea level, for panoramic views of Thekkady. Afterward, a boat ride on the picturesque lake. At the end of this exciting day, perhaps treat yourself to a rejuvenating and soothing Ayurveda massage. Tonight, enjoy dinner together at the hotel. (Breakfast, Dinner)

DAY 13, Saturday - Alleppey Back Waters, Houseboat Cruise, Kochi
The drive to Alleppey reveals this tranquil backwater region of Kerala. Boarding a houseboat, you cruise along this very intricate network of canals, lakes, lagoons and rivers called the "Venice of the East." Observe Kerala’s rural lifestyle as you glide past tiny villages sprinkled with rice fields and witness a way of life that has changed little through the ages. With women washing clothes on the river banks while children play in the shallows, kingfishers dart among the palm trees and the fishermen stand with water up to their necks, seeking out fish with their feet. Enjoy a specially prepared lunch of Keralan cuisine cooked on board just for you. Arrive in Kochi, a principle port and center of the Malabar Coast spice trade since the 14th century. Known as the "Queen of the Arabian Sea," it was here that the first European settlement in India was established by Vasco da Gama. Subsequently, the city was ruled alternatively by the Dutch and the British until its independence. (Breakfast, Lunch)

DAY 14, Sunday - Home Hosted Cooking Class, Kathakali Dance Performance
Today you’re treated to a specially arranged cooking class at a private home in Kochi. Join your hosts in the preparation of lunch while learning some of the secrets of Indian cuisine. Afterward, view 16th century St. Francis Church, before proceeding to the Santa Cruz Cathedral with its pastel-colored interior and impressive murals. Head to the harbor where local fishermen continue to use cantilevered Chinese fishing nets, distinctively unique to Kochi, living symbols of a centuries-old Chinese influence on this coast dating back to the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan. Spend the rest of the day on your own in Kochi. Time to relax before tonight’s colorful Kathakali dance performance, Kerala's popular classical and emotional form of dance, drama and music that combines storytelling with music and rigorous physical training. Following the performance, enjoy dinner at the hotel restaurant. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

DAY 15, Monday - Mattancherry Dutch Palace, Paradesi Synagogue, Farewell Dinner
This morning depart on a tour of the Mattancherry Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese and later renovated by the Dutch in the 17th century. Then, continue to the heart of the Old Quarter. Here, visit the Paradesi Synagogue, the oldest existing Jewish synagogue in India. Magnificently decorated with hand-painted Chinese tiles and Belgian chandeliers, the synagogue has preserved four important scrolls of the Old Testament. Back at the hotel, time to freshen up before tonight's festivities. Embark on a cruise on the lagoons before enjoying a very special Farewell Dinner - a perfect conclusion to your wonderful journey through South India. Bid farewell to your Tour Manager and fellow travelers. (Breakfast, Dinner)

DAY 16, Tuesday - Depart India
Your vacation ends today after breakfast. (Breakfast)


Map
All This Included
  • Small groups of maximum 22 travelers guaranteed
  • 14 nights accommodations
  • Hotel taxes, fees & service charges
  • Hotel porterage
  • 30 meals: 14 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 7 dinners with wine♦
  • Sightseeing per itinerary in modern air-conditioned vehicles
  • Services of English-speaking tour manager throughout
  • Comprehensive, guided sightseeing and entrance fees per itinerary
  • Comfortable wireless earphones for enhanced touring
  • Active itinerary with unique cultural features

♦Due to regional laws, hotels and restaurants will not serve alcoholic beverages on the first day of the month and certain holidays. On these days, no wine or beer will be included with dinner.
Highlights
  • Thanks to our small group size, we can get to the heart of our destination, visit places that other tours miss, and get to know the locals.
  • Visit the UNESCO site of Mahabalipuram, an ancient archaeological wonder rising on a rocky outcrop
  • In Kanchipuram, "City of a Thousand Temples," tour the Ekambareswarar and Kailasanathar Temples
  • Exclusive visit to a traditional silk weaving factory - meet with artists and learn how to drape and wear a sari
  • Journey to enchanting Pondicherry, a former French settlement that retains its carefree French atmosphere
  • At serene Auroville, visit the Meditation Center inspired by the teachings of the Indian yogi Sri Aurobindo
  • Witness pilgrims immersing themselves in a ritual bath at Amma Mandapam on the banks of the river
  • Tour the spectacular Maratha Palace with its priceless collections of Chola bronzes and stone carvings
  • View the impressive UNESCO listed Lord Brihadeeswarar Temple, a magnificent architectural achievement
  • In vibrant Madurai on the banks of the Vaigai River, view the 1000-year old Meenakshi Temple
  • Visit the Gandhi Museum dedicated to this remarkable man lovingly called the "Father of the Nation"
  • Enjoy two nights at Periyar National Park, the best-known sanctuary in South India, home to Bengal tigers
  • Attend a colorful Kathakali Dance performance that combines storytelling with music and physical strength
  • Visit the Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi the oldest existing Jewish synagogue in India
  • Specially arranged cooking class in Kochi reveals some of the secrets of Indian cuisine
  • In Alleppey, board a houseboat that cruises along the intricate network of canals, lakes, lagoons and rivers
Accommodations
Chennai: Grand Chennai By GRT Hotels
Mamallapuram: Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay Mamallapuram
Pondicherry: Shenbaga Hotel
Thanjavur: Sangam Hotel
Madurai: Courtyard by Marriott Madurai
Thekkady: The Elephant Court
Kochi: Forte Kochi
Notes
  • Land only prices do not include arrival/departure transfers.
  • This is an active trip. Our small group covers a lot of ground each day, and we spend three to four hours on our feet during tours and four to seven hours driving between cities. Some of our tours require walking over uneven surfaces or up and down steep slopes. We have many early mornings. This tour is not recommended for people who have difficulty walking. Air pollution is a problem in many of India's major cities. Please see the CDC website and/or consult with your healthcare provider for specific recommendations. The use of a bandana or light scarf may help screen out some of the pollutants in the air. A variety of airfare options are available for this program, including some low-cost fares which may exclude complimentary checked luggage and advance seat assignments. Please read each offering to ensure you choose the option that best fits your wishes. During this tour, you may come into proximity of wild animals whose actions can be unpredictable. Certain inherent risks are involved which should be considered at your own discretion. This is a Small Group program.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Gate 1 Travel terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.