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India: South India Culinary & Cultural Discovery (15 days)

Elephant FestivalThis special journey will mesmerize you as experience the cuisine, architecture, rich culture and nature of Southern India.

2017  Departure Dates & Costs

Daily based on minimum 2 persons
Tour Cost based on atmospheric first class hotels: $ 2,890 USD / $ 3,550 CAD per person based on twin share
Single Room Supplement $ 1,250 USD / $ 1,475 CAD


Itinerary

Day 1 ARRIVE CHENNAI
You will arrive early morning at Chennai International Airport. Following customs, immigration formalities and baggage collection, our representative will meet you and transfer you to the hotel. Ovenight at the GRT Grand Hotel.
Culinary

Day 2 CHENNAI - MAHABALIPURAM (B,D)
Located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal is Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu and the fourth largest city of India. The Gateway to South India, the city is famous for its temples, beaches, and silk saris. Known earlier as Madraspatnam or Madras, the city of Chennai has grown tremendously from a small trading post under the British to a bustling metropolis. It is now a large commercial and industrial centre also known for its rich cultural heritage and temple architecture.  Sleep in after your long flight or join the go-getters for a morning of sightseeing. Chennai has a rich history, a good collection of temples and some of the countires finest art galleries and museums. Afterwards we will all drive to Mahabalipuram (58 Km, 1.5 hours). Built in the 7th century, this was an ancient Pallava port and today is a UNESCO world heriage site. Dinner. 2 nights at the GRT Temple Bay Hotel in Mahabalipuram.

Day 3 MAHABALIPURAM (B,D)
Optional early morning Yoga session in the hotel near the sea shore. Today we will enjoy a tour of Mahabalipuram visiting the Shore Temple, the last work of the Pallava dynasty and one of the oldest temples in South India. We also visit Arjuna's Penance, the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world and the finely sculptured and carved Cave Temple. Dinner.

Day 4  MAHABALIPURAM - TANJORE (B,D)
After buffet breakfast, you will be driven from Mahabalipuram to Tanjore (293 Kms / 6.5 hours), en-route stop at Chidambram, the capital of the Cholas from AD 907 to 1310, Chidambaram lies 9 km north of the Coleroon River, the northern limit of the Kaveri delta. It is one of Tamil Nadu's most important holy towns. After visiting Chidambaram, continue your drive to Tanjore. Upon arrival, proceed for check-in at your hotel. About a thousand years ago, Tanjore, or Thanjavur was the capital of the powerful Chola dynasty. Today, it is the little town set amidst the lush green rice fields of the Cauvery delta. Magnificent temples still bear witness to the splendour of Chola architecture. Dinner at hotel. 2 nights at the Parisutham Hotel.

Kerala BackwatersDay 5 TANJORE - TRICHY - TANJORE (B,D)
After buffet breakfast proceed to visit Tanjore city. Our sightseeing will start with a visit to Brihadeeshwara Temple, built in the 10th century by Raja Chola. It is considered to be artistically the most perfect of Dravida temples. Besides the temple, you will visit the Palace, housing the Tamil University Museum; the Art Gallery; and the Saraswati Mahal Library which houses palm leaf and paper manuscripts.

In the afternoon, an excursion to Trichy (55 km / 1.30 hours). Tiruchirappalli is situated on the banks of the river Cauvery and is the fourth largest city in Tamil Nadu. It was a citadel of the early Cholas, which later fell to the Pallavas. Trichy is a fine blend of tradition and modernity built around the Rock Fort. The town and its fort were built by the Nayaks of Madurai. A visit to the Rock Fort, one of the oldest in the world, approximately 3.800 million years, making it as old as the rocks of Greenland and older than the Himalayas. A climb of 434 steps leads to the ancient temple of Ganapati on top and a further climb to a Shiva Temple. Al visit Sri Rangan Temple and return back to the hotel. Dinner.

Day 6 TANJORE - MADURAI (B,D)
After breakfast, you will be driven to Madurai (175 km/ 4 hours). Upon arrival, proceed for check-in at your hotel. One of the oldest cities in South India, Madurai has been the centre of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. Spread along the rocky banks of the river Vaigai in the state of Tamil Nadu, this modern industrial city is today famous as a temple town.

This evening, experience the richness of Chettinad cuisine, one of the spiciest and the most aromatic in India. Famous for its use of a variety of spices used in preparing mainly non-vegetarian food, the dishes are hot and pungent with fresh ground masalas (spices), and topped with a boiled egg that is usually considered essential part of a meal. The use of sun dried meats and salted vegetables, reflects the dry environment of the region. The meat is restricted to fish, prawn, lobster, crab, chicken and mutton. Chettiars do not eat beef or pork. Most of the dishes are eaten with rice and rice-based accompaniments such as dosais, adais and idlis. The Chettinad people through their mercantile contacts with Burma, learned to prepare a type of rice pudding made with sticky red rice. Dinner of Chettinad cuisine at a local family house. 2 nights at the Taj Garden Retreat.

Day 7  MADURAI (B,D)
Breakfast at the hotel. Enjoy a culinary day in Madurai will include a visit to the local market where we will learn about spices and ingredients used in regional cooking. In the afternoon there will be a cooking demonstration and then we will dine on our creations.

Day 8  MADURAI - PERIYAR NATURE RESERVE (B,L,D)
Breakfast followed by a morning drive from Madurai to Thekkady, which is also known as Periyar (160 km / 4.0 hours). We will stop for lunch at Plantation Bungalow, a sprawling farmhouse where coconut, pineapple and rubber are farmed. Upon arrival at Periyar, check-in at our wildlife resort for 2 nights.  Situated within the confines of the Western Ghats in the southern Indian state of Kerala, Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve is one of the most captivating wildlife parks in the world. The park has a picturesque lake at the heart of the sanctuary. Herds of elephant and sambar, gaur and wild pigs and wander down to the lakeside and can be observed from the launches that cruise the lake. Periyar also harbours the leopard, wild dog, barking deer and mouse deer. On the rocky outcrops along the lake, monitor lizards can be seen basking in the sun. Return to the hotel after your boat ride Late afternooon boat ride in Periyar. 2 nights Tree Tops Wildlife Resort

Day 9  PERIYAR NATURE RESERVE (B,L,D)
Early morning game drive. Return to the hotel for breakfast.
Full day of wildlife viewing including light treks and a game drive. In the evening get ready for a Cooking Demonstration at the hotel, where Chef will give you a demonstration on regional cuisines & delicacies.

Day 10 PERIYAR - KUMARAKOM (B,L,D)
After buffet breakfast, you will be driven from Thekkady to Kumarakom, (135 km / 3.0 hours). Enroute we will stop at a tea plantation. Upon arrival, proceed for check-in on our houseboat. In the lush backwaters of Kottayam in Kerala, lies a veritable paradise, which is called Kumarakom, or the "Venice of the East." Palm fringed narrow canals winding through the vast expanse of paddy fields, and the neat tiny hamlets lined up along either side of the canals are panoramic sights one can never forget. Kumarakom is Keralas heartland of lagoons, palm fringed lakes, and paddy fields, inter-linked with hundreds of winding canals, with the typical low slung country boats that carry everything from people to fish, rice and coconuts to the milkman and newspaper boy, local politicians and priests to wedding parties. Enjoy an overnight backwaters cruise.

Day 11 ALLEPEY - COCHIN (B,D)
Breakfast. Continue cruising. Disembark in the late morning and drive to Cochin (2 hours). Upon arrival, proceed for check-in at your hotel. Kochi, or more familiarly, Cochin is a city of many parts. Kochi played a pivotal role in the development of shipping and trade in the region. Kochi's prime location on the west coast, its fine bay and protected harbour made it popular with seafarers and merchant ships who made frequent stops to stock up on spices, coffee and wood enroute to the rich markets of Europe and West Asia.

Later explorations will take us to Mattancherry, where you will visit the oldest Jewish Synagogue in India, built in 1568; see the Chinese fishing nets lining the entrance to the harbor; visit St. Francis Church where Vasco da Gama died; and the Dutch Palace built in 1555. In the evening, you will visit a local theatre to watch Kathakali dance performance that represents a synthesis of all that is best in dance, drama and music. It is the impression created by make-up and the costumes that make Kathakali a very impressive visual experience. Return to your hotel after the dance performance. Dinner. 2 nights at the Malabar House Hotel.

Day 12 COCHIN (B,D)
Yoga in the morning. Breakfast and some leisure time. In the afternoon indulge in preparing your own meal, Kerala style in Cochin, in a local family's house. The unusual cuisine of Kerala brings to the fore the culinary expertise of the people of Kerala. Producing some of the tastiest foods on earth, the people of Kerala are gourmets with a difference.

The cuisine is very hot and spicy and offers several gastronomic opportunities. The food is generally fresh, aromatic and flavoured. Keralites are mostly fish-and-rice eating people. The land and the food are rich with coconut, though one can not imagine Kerala food without chilies, curry leaf, mustard seed, tamarind and asafoetida. Just a pinchful of tamarind can substitute tomatoes, but there is no real substitute for curry leaf. Since time immemorial, coconut has been an integral part of the cuisine of Kerala. These people put to good use whatever the land offers and the result is a marvellous cuisine that is simple yet palate tickling. They relish equally a dish as simple as kanji (rice gruel) or as extravagant as the sadya (feast). At some point during our tour we will visit a Spice Mill which will us to witness the stocks of famous raw spices and the process of grounding and packing for export.

Day 13 JANUARY COCHIN - KOVALAM (B,D)
Morning yoga. Breakfast at the hotel. Begin our drive to Kovalam (236 km / 5.5 hours). "Kovalam" means a grove of coconut trees and true to its name the village offers an endless sight of coconut trees. The crescent-shaped beach has three parts. The southern most beach, and the most popular, is light house beach. It offers an amazing sight of Vizhinjam mosque. The northern Samudra is a laidback one and time seems stands still here. The middle, hawah, in the early day, is a beehive of activities with fishermen setting out for sea. With a high rock promontory and a calm bay of blue waters, this beach paradise creates a unique aquarelle on moonlit nights. Upon arrival, proceed for check-in at Trivandrum Heritage Resort for 3 nights.  A very special place to enjoy the essense of Kerala! Dinner.

Day 13 & 14  KOVALAM (B)
Two full days to enjoy the Malabar Coast at leisure. 

Day 15 TRIVANDRUM - DEPARTURE (B)
You will be transferred from Kovalam to Trivandrum International airport for your flight back home or for your India extension.

Extensions can be arranged on an individual basis according to the desires of each traveller. A group extension will be offered to Rajasthan - please ask for details.


Additional Information

Elephant FestivalThe prices include:

  • Accommodation on twin/dbl sharing at the hotels mentioned above
  • Meals as specified by B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner
  • Culinary program
  • All transfers, excursions and sightseeing tours will be by Air-conditioned Large Coach
  • Entrance fees at all monuments, road taxes, parking fee, fuel charges, interstate taxes, and porterage at all hotels & airports
  • English speaking local guide

Does not include:

  • International airfare
  • Meals not specified
  • Indian Visa fee
  • Optional but recommended travel insurance (Tours of Exploration can provide rates for insurance)
  • Tips at the discretion of the traveller
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Domestic airfare to join up with post trip extensions or to fly from home from airports other than Trivandrum