Extend your stay in India with a relaxing week in Goa, offering a more western version of the sub-continent, where exhilarating local markets, stacked with spices and silks, teem with activity and vast sandy beaches are lapped by the Arabian Sea. Colonial churches, the streets of the capital and the temples of Ponda add local colour and are all richly rewarding. The former Portuguese colony of Goa is a treat. On the last day of your tour fly from Chennai to Goa for a seven night stay at the Alila Diwa or Cidade de Goa.
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On arrival you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. This beautiful city on the Bay of Bengal, formerly known as Madras, has grown from a small fishing village into India's fourth largest metropolis. (B)
This morning enjoy a sightseeing tour, visiting Fort St George, San Thome Cathedral, the National Art Gallery and the Government Museum. Next, travel to Dakshinachitra - a unique heritage centre for the living traditions of art, craft and architecture of India. Afterwards journey to Mahabalipuram, once the main port of the Pallava Kingdom and now a UNESCO World Heritage site, this ancient city showcases some of India's finest rock-cut art and architecture. (B)
Today's sightseeing begins with a visit to Kanchipuram. Featuring more than a hundred shrines, the Kanchipuram sky line features a stunning cluster of temple gopurams (ornate towers marking temple entrances). The city is also famous for its silk industry, with weavers making luxurious saris following designs which are hundreds of years old. Back in Mahabalipuram visit the Five Rathas, a monolithic temple complex, each carved from a single piece of pink granite. Next you will see Arjuna's Penance - one of the largest open-air rock canvases in the world; and Krishna's Butterball, a puzzling geological wonder. Your visit to this remarkable site concludes with the Shore temple, comprising two Shiva temples and a carving of Anantasayana Vishnu. (B)
Depart this morning for Kumbakonam, a holy city renowned for its many temples, art, brassware and handloom saris, stopping for lunch en route. This afternoon visit Darasuram, famous for its Temple of Airavateshvara, a UNESCO World Heritage site, dedicated to the Lord Shiva and a well preserved example of 12th century Chola architecture. (B, L)
Today journey to Karaikudi, the capital of the Chettinad region - well known for its cuisine, elaborate mansions and temples. Here you will have an included lunch at the much-revered Bangala, sampling the celebrated Chettinad cuisine. Later, learn about the rich cultural heritage of the Chettiar community on a visit to a tile making centre where patterned tiles are manufactured by a unique process. Also visit a sari weaving centre, where traditional hand looms are used to weave myriad coloured threads into metres of cotton sari fabric. Tonight you will experience real old colonial charm as your overnight is at The Bangala. (B, L, D)
Travel to Madurai, which at 2500 years old, is one of south India's oldest towns. Visit the Thirumalanayak Museum, before getting a glimpse of Madurai's devout religious culture on a visit to the atmospheric Meenakshi Temple at prayer time. (B)
This morning drive to Periyar with the rest of the day at leisure. High in Kerala's Western Ghats this magnificent reserve boasts wooded hills, a picturesque lake and a cool climate, creating perfect conditions for exotic wildlife, including elephants, deer, boar, kingfishers and the elusive tiger, of which there are thought to be around 40 living in the park. (B)
Before breakfast, embark on a truly wonderful experience - a 'Green Walk' trek through Periyar National Park offering an excellent opportunity to watch birds, butterflies and other wild life. Return to your hotel for breakfast and the rest of the morning at leisure. Why not take this time to visit Thekkady town which is a short walk from your hotel and is brimming with locally run spice shops? This afternoon, visit a spice plantation where you will learn more about the pepper and cardamom which famously grows in this area, as well as a host of other spices. In the evening, watch a thrilling Kalari Payatyu (local martial arts performance).
Head to Kumarakom this morning and board your houseboat for a cruise along the still backwaters. You'll pass a mosaic of palm plantations and local people swimming and washing their laundry on the riverbanks, giving you an enthralling insight into hidden Kerala. Overnight stay on Lake Vembanad.
Say goodbye to your houseboat this morning at Alleppey and drive to Kochi (Cochin), a hugely important spice trading port since the 14th century, and now a cosmopolitan business centre. This afternoon, see the city's Portuguese-built Mattancherry Dutch Palace, Jewish Synagogue and St Francis Church, which holds the palm-leafed title deed that the Raja handed to the occupying Portuguese in 1503. Also, marvel at the intricate beauty and rhythm of Kochi's legendary Chinese Fishing Nets, unique to this part of Kerala. In the evening, enjoy a spectacular show of Keralan classic dance. (B)
This morning we head to Ooty. Known as the 'Queen of Hill Stations', Ooty nestles in the slopes of the picturesque Nilgiri mountains and is encircled by lush vegetation and sweeping valleys. (B)
Today, board a miniature, narrow gauge 'toy train' for a wonderfully evocative journey meandering through green hills to Connoor, returning by road. This afternoon, soak up the delights of Ooty's famous Botanical Gardens with their exotic flora and fauna, and the 20 million year old fossilised tree trunk. Also visit the St Stephen Church. (B)
This morning, drive to Mysore. Charming and peaceful, this historic town has hardly been touched by modernity and overflows with magnificent palaces, decorative gardens and sacred temples. This afternoon's sightseeing takes you on a drive past Mysore's colonial buildings to the stunning Mysore Palace. The former residence of the Wodeyar rulers, the palace is a fine example of the Indo-Saracenic architectural style. From there travel to Chamundi Hill, the site of a summer palace complex housing an ancient temple and the Nandi, a giant depiction of a sacred bull carved from a single boulder. (B)
Today brings a visit to Srirangapatnam, a fortress built on a long island on the Cauvery River. Inside the fortress walls, visit the mosque and the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, the summer palace of Tipu Sultan, the legendary 18th century ruler. In the afternoon, travel to Bengaluru for an overnight stay. (B)
After breakfast, transfer to Bengaluru Airport for your flight to Goa. (B)
Spend a week relaxing in the beautiful resort of Goa. Experience colonial churches, the streets of the capital and the temples of Ponda; and visit exhilarating local markets, stacked with spices and silks.
Today you will be taken to the airport for your flight back to the UK.
A memorable tour of the mystical temple towns of southern India, including tranquil Periyar National Park and a cruise along Kerala's serene backwaters.View Details
From the golden triangle temples of the north, to the tropical beaches and backwaters of the south, join us for the ultimate tour of India.View Details
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