16 Day Spiritual Southern India

$1949
Land Only
$2819*
Air & Land
From

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Select a Departure Date

2018 Dates & Prices
Dates Air & Land Land Only
Sat, Nov 17  (Sold Out) $3249* $1999
Thu, Nov 22  (Sold Out) $3199* $1999
Thu, Nov 29  (Sold Out) $3579* $1999
Thu, Dec 06  (Sold Out) $3619* $1999
Mon, Dec 10  (Sold Out) $3669* $1999
$4349* $2159
2019 Dates & Prices
Dates Air & Land Land Only
$3519* $1999
$3309* $1999
$3169* $2059
$3139* $2109
$3119* $2059
$2999* $1999
$2979* $1999
$2999* $1999
$3109* $2109
$3109* $2109
$2819* $1999
$2999* $1999
$2999* $1999
$2819* $1999
$2999* $1999
$2819* $1999
$2819* $1999
$2929* $1949
$2949* $1949
$2999* $1999
$2929* $1949

*Not Included:
Optional tours and gratuities.


Additional Information:
Land only prices do not include arrival/departure transfers.

Entry Requirements:
Passengers traveling abroad require a passport valid for six months beyond their travel dates. All travelers are responsible to check if a visa is required for all countries on their itinerary. For visa information, check our Visas page.



Is This Trip Right for You?

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. This is a Small Group program. For more information, click here.

Booking Details

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Accommodation Details



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Itinerary

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
Overnight: Chennai

DAY 3, Wednesday - Government Museum, St. George Fort, 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 heading on to Fort St. George built in 1653 by the British East India Company. A scenic drive along the coast then takes you to Marina Beach, a surprising combination of colonial buildings, churches, and monuments accented by the natural beauty of endless skies and sea. Leisure time in this lovely setting before returning to the hotel. This evening, join your Tour Manager and fellow travelers at a briefing on the exciting discovery of South India that lies ahead, followed by dinner at the hotel
Overnight: Chennai
Meals: 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. The rest of the day is at leisure for independent activities
Overnight: Mahabalipuram
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 5, Friday - Mahabalipuram’s Temples
Early this morning if you wish, join a yoga session. After breakfast, embark on a walking 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
Overnight: Mahabalipuram
Meals: 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. Tonight, dinner together at the hotel
Overnight: Pondicherry
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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
Overnight: Thanjavur
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 8, Monday - Amma Mandapam, Ranganathaswamy Temple, Lord Brihadeeswarar Temple
The early morning drive to Trichy is highlighted by a visit to 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, stop at 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. Afterward, visit a local dance school practicing Bharatnatyam. Meet with students to learn more about the dance and attend a performance. Tonight, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant
Overnight: Thanjavur
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9, Tuesday - Chettinad’s Palaces, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai’s Bazaars
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. View the 1000-year old Meenakshi Temple, the principal attraction of the city esteemed as one of India’s largest pilgrimage sites with 12 towering gopurams. In the afternoon, shop at the bargain-filled bazaars bursting with treasures and jewelry shops galore. This evening, dinner at the hotel
Overnight: Madurai
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 10, Wednesday - Madurai's Temples, Ghandi Museum
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, to the massive Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace with its imposing courtyard, grand throne chambers and entry flanked by stone carved horses. 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
Optional: Vanakkam Madurai Tour (AM)
Overnight: Madurai
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

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
Optional: Kalaripayattu Martial Art Show with dinner
Overnight: Periyar National Park
Meals: Breakfast

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
Overnight: Periyar National Park
Meals: 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
Overnight: Kochi
Meals: 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 a local restaurant
Overnight: Kochi
Meals: 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
Overnight: Kochi
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 16, Tuesday - Depart India
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight
Meals: Breakfast

DAY 1, Thursday - Depart for India
Depart for India

DAY 2, Friday - 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
Overnight: Chennai

DAY 3, Saturday - Government Museum, St. George Fort, 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 heading on to Fort St. George built in 1653 by the British East India Company. A scenic drive along the coast then takes you to Marina Beach, a surprising combination of colonial buildings, churches, and monuments accented by the natural beauty of endless skies and sea. Leisure time in this lovely setting before returning to the hotel. This evening, join your Tour Manager and fellow travelers at a briefing on the exciting discovery of South India that lies ahead, followed by dinner at the hotel
Overnight: Chennai
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4, Sunday - 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. The rest of the day is at leisure for independent activities
Overnight: Mahabalipuram
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 5, Monday - Mahabalipuram’s Temples
Early this morning if you wish, join a yoga session. After breakfast, embark on a walking 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
Overnight: Mahabalipuram
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 6, Tuesday - 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. Tonight, dinner together at the hotel
Overnight: Pondicherry
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 7, Wednesday - 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
Overnight: Thanjavur
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 8, Thursday - Amma Mandapam, Ranganathaswamy Temple, Lord Brihadeeswarar Temple
The early morning drive to Trichy is highlighted by a visit to 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, stop at 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. Afterward, visit a local dance school practicing Bharatnatyam. Meet with students to learn more about the dance and attend a performance. Tonight, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant
Overnight: Thanjavur
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9, Friday - Chettinad’s Palaces, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai’s Bazaars
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. View the 1000-year old Meenakshi Temple, the principal attraction of the city esteemed as one of India’s largest pilgrimage sites with 12 towering gopurams. In the afternoon, shop at the bargain-filled bazaars bursting with treasures and jewelry shops galore. This evening, dinner at the hotel
Overnight: Madurai
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 10, Saturday - Madurai's Temples, Ghandi Museum
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, to the massive Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace with its imposing courtyard, grand throne chambers and entry flanked by stone carved horses. 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
Optional: Vanakkam Madurai Tour (AM)
Overnight: Madurai
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 11, Sunday - 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
Optional: Kalaripayattu Martial Art Show with dinner
Overnight: Periyar National Park
Meals: Breakfast

DAY 12, Monday - 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
Overnight: Periyar National Park
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 13, Tuesday - 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
Overnight: Kochi
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 14, Wednesday - 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 a local restaurant
Overnight: Kochi
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 15, Thursday - 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
Overnight: Kochi
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 16, Friday - Depart India
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight
Meals: Breakfast

DAY 1, Saturday - Depart for India
Depart for India

DAY 2, Sunday - 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
Overnight: Chennai

DAY 3, Monday - Government Museum, St. George Fort, 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 heading on to Fort St. George built in 1653 by the British East India Company. A scenic drive along the coast then takes you to Marina Beach, a surprising combination of colonial buildings, churches, and monuments accented by the natural beauty of endless skies and sea. Leisure time in this lovely setting before returning to the hotel. This evening, join your Tour Manager and fellow travelers at a briefing on the exciting discovery of South India that lies ahead, followed by dinner at the hotel
Overnight: Chennai
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4, Tuesday - 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. The rest of the day is at leisure for independent activities
Overnight: Mahabalipuram
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 5, Wednesday - Mahabalipuram’s Temples
Early this morning if you wish, join a yoga session. After breakfast, embark on a walking 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
Overnight: Mahabalipuram
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 6, Thursday - 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. Tonight, dinner together at the hotel
Overnight: Pondicherry
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 7, Friday - 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
Overnight: Thanjavur
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 8, Saturday - Amma Mandapam, Ranganathaswamy Temple, Lord Brihadeeswarar Temple
The early morning drive to Trichy is highlighted by a visit to 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, stop at 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. Afterward, visit a local dance school practicing Bharatnatyam. Meet with students to learn more about the dance and attend a performance. Tonight, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant
Overnight: Thanjavur
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9, Sunday - Chettinad’s Palaces, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai’s Bazaars
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. View the 1000-year old Meenakshi Temple, the principal attraction of the city esteemed as one of India’s largest pilgrimage sites with 12 towering gopurams. In the afternoon, shop at the bargain-filled bazaars bursting with treasures and jewelry shops galore. This evening, dinner at the hotel
Overnight: Madurai
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 10, Monday - Madurai's Temples, Ghandi Museum
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, to the massive Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace with its imposing courtyard, grand throne chambers and entry flanked by stone carved horses. 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
Optional: Vanakkam Madurai Tour (AM)
Overnight: Madurai
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 11, Tuesday - 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
Optional: Kalaripayattu Martial Art Show with dinner
Overnight: Periyar National Park
Meals: Breakfast

DAY 12, Wednesday - 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
Overnight: Periyar National Park
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 13, Thursday - 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
Overnight: Kochi
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 14, Friday - 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 a local restaurant
Overnight: Kochi
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 15, Saturday - 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
Overnight: Kochi
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 16, Sunday - Depart India
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight
Meals: Breakfast

Virgin Vacations itineraries may contain suggestions for activities for your leisure time; these suggestions do not constitute a recommendation nor an endorsement of any specific service provider and the decision to participate in any such activities should be made independently.

Featured Hotels

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Optional Tours

Take an early morning walk through the narrow alleys of Madurai, the oldest city in South India, to get an up-close glimpse of everyday life. Discovering the morning rituals and daily activities in this ancient temple town is a fascinating and memorable experience. Witness people milking cows, cooking, and women cleaning and decorating their doorsteps with beautifully detailed Kolams (drawings) to welcome guests. Visit the local markets as they open, drink your morning tea in the twenty-four hour tea shop and enjoy sampling local snacks, including a Vada (savory doughnut). For a unique perspective into the local economy, interact with street vendors, visit the fruit and flower markets, and see a roadside hair salon.

Approximate tour duration is 2 hours.

Day #10 01 Sep 2018 - 30 Sep 2020 $25.00
Vanakkam Madurai Tour Thumbnail

Tonight, treat yourself to a Kalaripayattu martial art show. The martial art form of Kerala, dating back to almost 2000 years, is regarded as the oldest of its kind in the world. It derives its name from two words, 'kalari' which means combat arena and 'payattu' which means practice. Following preparation with an oil massage, the performers will execute the art, using weapons such as bow and arrow, swords, spears, and maces. Afterwards for dinner, travel to Spice Village, set in 15 acres of spice gardens and resembling a traditional tribal community. At the restaurant, enjoy the timelessness of the place with its antique rosewood furniture and old-world atmosphere. Savor delicious South Indian cuisine flavored by local spices, prepared with fresh ingredients from the organic farm on site.

Approximate tour duration is 3 hours.

Day #11 01 Sep 2017 - 31 May 2019 $38.00
Kalaripayattu Martial Art Show with dinner Thumbnail

Take an early morning walk through the narrow alleys of Madurai, the oldest city in South India, to get an up-close glimpse of everyday life. Discovering the morning rituals and daily activities in this ancient temple town is a fascinating and memorable experience. Witness people milking cows, cooking, and women cleaning and decorating their doorsteps with beautifully detailed Kolams (drawings) to welcome guests. Visit the local markets as they open, drink your morning tea in the twenty-four hour tea shop and enjoy sampling local snacks, including a Vada (savory doughnut). For a unique perspective into the local economy, interact with street vendors, visit the fruit and flower markets, and see a roadside hair salon.

Approximate tour duration is 2 hours.

Day #10 01 Sep 2018 - 30 Sep 2020 $25.00
Vanakkam Madurai Tour Thumbnail

Tonight, treat yourself to a Kalaripayattu martial art show. The martial art form of Kerala, dating back to almost 2000 years, is regarded as the oldest of its kind in the world. It derives its name from two words, 'kalari' which means combat arena and 'payattu' which means practice. Following preparation with an oil massage, the performers will execute the art, using weapons such as bow and arrow, swords, spears, and maces. Afterwards for dinner, travel to Spice Village, set in 15 acres of spice gardens and resembling a traditional tribal community. At the restaurant, enjoy the timelessness of the place with its antique rosewood furniture and old-world atmosphere. Savor delicious South Indian cuisine flavored by local spices, prepared with fresh ingredients from the organic farm on site.

Approximate tour duration is 3 hours.

Day #11 01 Sep 2017 - 31 May 2019 $38.00
Kalaripayattu Martial Art Show with dinner Thumbnail

Take an early morning walk through the narrow alleys of Madurai, the oldest city in South India, to get an up-close glimpse of everyday life. Discovering the morning rituals and daily activities in this ancient temple town is a fascinating and memorable experience. Witness people milking cows, cooking, and women cleaning and decorating their doorsteps with beautifully detailed Kolams (drawings) to welcome guests. Visit the local markets as they open, drink your morning tea in the twenty-four hour tea shop and enjoy sampling local snacks, including a Vada (savory doughnut). For a unique perspective into the local economy, interact with street vendors, visit the fruit and flower markets, and see a roadside hair salon.

Approximate tour duration is 2 hours.

Day #10 01 Sep 2018 - 30 Sep 2020 $25.00
Vanakkam Madurai Tour Thumbnail

Tonight, treat yourself to a Kalaripayattu martial art show. The martial art form of Kerala, dating back to almost 2000 years, is regarded as the oldest of its kind in the world. It derives its name from two words, 'kalari' which means combat arena and 'payattu' which means practice. Following preparation with an oil massage, the performers will execute the art, using weapons such as bow and arrow, swords, spears, and maces. Afterwards for dinner, travel to Spice Village, set in 15 acres of spice gardens and resembling a traditional tribal community. At the restaurant, enjoy the timelessness of the place with its antique rosewood furniture and old-world atmosphere. Savor delicious South Indian cuisine flavored by local spices, prepared with fresh ingredients from the organic farm on site.

Approximate tour duration is 3 hours.

Day #11 01 Sep 2017 - 31 May 2019 $38.00
Kalaripayattu Martial Art Show with dinner Thumbnail