If you dream of seeing the “real” India–the exotic India–then the South IndiaTempleTour with Backwaters is the trip for you. Not only will you experience the colorful culture, but go back in time as you travel through the countryside rich with palm trees, rice fields and tea plantations. You’ll think you’ve stepped back in a time.
Your trip begins in Tamil Nadu which lies at the gulf of Bengal. At the Coromandel Coast, you will visit the world cultural heritage rock temple of Mahabalipuram that is called the “cradle” of the south Indian art. Thanjavur, the former capital of the Chola dynasty, will surprise you with its exquisite Dravidian temple architectures. In the middle of an impressing mountain landscape, you visit the famous Periyar wild protectorate and explore a traditional spice plantation. In Kerala, you experience a romantic trip on a houseboat while floating down the famous Backwaters. And while in Cochin you will be spellbound by the magic of the Indian legends at the Kathakali dance theater.
Upon your arrival at the Chennai International airport you will have a reception at the airport and then be transferred to the hotel. Chennai is the capital of State Tamilnadu and one of the four largest metropolises of India.
After breakfast, you will go on a city excursion. Madras is a pulsating metropolis with over 6 million residents. Because many south Indian feature films are shot here, the town is called the “Hollywood of India”. On the city excursion, you will see the Kapaleshvara temple, which is dedicated to God Shiva and is a good example if the colorful south Indian temple architecture. After that you will visit the Fort St. George which was the trade post during 1639. You’ll also visit the 16th century St. Thomas Church. At the National Museum, you will see sculptures out of the Pallava, Pandava and Chola time. Your excursion also includes a visit to the National Art Gallery and Marina Beach.
Chennai – Kanchipuram – Mahabalipuram
After breakfast you will drive about 40 miles to the far temple city, Kanchipuram. It is among the “sevens holy cities of” India. After each Kanchipuram was the capital of the Pallava, the Chola and the Vijayanagar kings. While the country is dotted with fabulous temples, you will visit the three most important temples in South India: the Kailasanatha-temple, the Vaikunthaperumal temple, as well as the Ekambareshwara temple. Kanchipuram is also very well known for its hand woven silk materials. You’ll then drive to Mahabalipuram which is well known for its 7th century Five Rathas. These are the world’s largest stone relief.
After breakfast you will start your tour by visiting the 7th-century Shore temple which is surrounded by lush gardens. In addition you’ll visit the 7th- century Five Rathas, which are the world’s largest stone relief; Bhagiratha’s Penance, a 1900-square-foot rock block; and rock cut caves from the 6th and 7th centuries. In the evening, you can explore this small town, where you can also see the soap stone workers making designs and sculptures with chisel and hammer.
Mahaballipuram – Pondicherry – Tanjore (Thanjavur)
After breakfast, you will drive to Tanjore. En route you’ll visit Pondicherry, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the city Auroville, which covers more than 2000 acres. Today also, you can see the influence of French rule in Pondicherry, because the Frenchmen strongly were represented here until 1954. Many residents still speak French in addition to Tamil.
Tanjore – Trichy (Trichurapalli)
After breakfast you’ll visit the 9th-century Brihadeshwara Temple. This temple gave Tanjore it’s name of the “Jewel of South India”. The temple–dedicated to the God Shiva–features a 200-foot-high tower shaped like a pyramid. It is crowned by a heavy cupola weighing 88 tons. You’ll also visit Raja Rajan Art Gallery which houses bronze statues of the 9th through 16th centuries. You’ll continue on to Trichy where you’ll be transferred to your hotel for refreshment and rest. During the afternoon you’ll visit the famous Rock Fort Temple that is carved out of rock that is about 300 feet high. Wear your walking shoes because you’ll have to climb 345 steps to get to the top of the temple. Once there, you will have a wonderful view of the city. You’ll also have time to visit Srirangam, home to 21 temple towers on an island in the Kaveri River. The Ranganathasvami temple, dedicated to God Vishnu, is one of the largest temples in South India and is famous for its beautiful sculptures. After that, you will visit the Jambukeshwara temple, dedicated to God Shiva, and one of the oldest and largest in Tamil Nadu with five walls and seven Gopurams (soaring towers).
Trichy – Madurai
After breakfast you will drive to Madurai where you’ll be transferred to your hotel for refreshment and rest. Madurai is home to many: Pilgrims, beggars, business persons, cow vehicles and many awaiting Rickshaw drivers. It is one of the oldest cities of South India and a center for Pilgrimage. The main attraction which lies in the middle of town is the Sri Meenakshi Temple. It was built during the 17th century in the Dravidian style with many Gopurams (soaring temple towers)and features colorful pictures of God, Goddesses, animals and mystical figures. Religious ceremonies take place here from early morning to late night. Pilgrims from all over the world visit here and sometimes up to 10000 persons are at the Temple. One of the largest temple complexes of India, within the Sri Meenakshi Temple is a market. Evenings you can pursue a temple ceremony.
Madurai – Periyar (Thekaddy)
After breakfast you’ll drive to Thekaddy. This trip through the mountains, spice plantations and tea plantations will definitely reenergize your senses. After your arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel for rest and refreshment. In the late afternoon you’ll enjoy a boat trip in Periyar Wildlife National Park. This park is one of the world’s best places to see elephants in their natural surroundings. Before sunset, you’ll also be fortunate to see other wild animals visit the bank of Periyar Lake to drink and eat.
Periyar – Kumarakom (Backwaters) – Cochin
After breakfast you’ll drive to Cochin. On the way you’ll visit a Spice Farm (optional), where you can see various spice plantations such as cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, peppermint, clove, vanilla, ginger, chili, tea and coffee plants. Then you’ll continue on to Kovalam where you will enjoy a boat ride in the Backwaters. Along the bank, you will see the traditional life of people living on the banks nestled in coves of coconut and palm trees. After the boat trip, you will continue your drive to Cochin. After your arrival, you’ll be transferred to your hotel for a short break. That evening you will enjoy a Kathakali Dance Show which depicts 400 years of history and old legends in this breathtaking dance drama. The dancers wear painted fantastic costumes and color their faces with red, green and black inks.
Cochin – Mumbai/Chennai
For the last day of your South India temple tour with Backawters, visit Cochin, the St. Francis Church, the Mattancherry Palace or “Dutch Palace” and the Jewish Synagogue, which was built in 1558. After breakfast, you will go on a Cochin expedition. First you’ll visit the St. Francis Church, built in 1503 by the Portuguese. Then on to the Mattancherry Palace or “Dutch Palace” built by the Dutch and subsequently on handed over to the local queen. At the harbor, you can view unusual Chinese fishing nets, which marks the visit of Chinese folk in Cochin. You’ll also discover the Jewish Synagogue, built in 1558. Around the Synagogue, you can purchase a lot of unique and old products.