Upon arrival in Cochin, you will be greeted and escorted by Hi Tours Executive to your hotel.
Cochin, as it is called now, is till date influenced by medieval Portugal, Holland and England. The city displays a blend of different people and architecture and it is one place where you can see a Jewish synagogue, Portuguese churches, Dutch architecture, Mosques, Hindu temples and Chinese fishing nets all in one day.
On arrival, transfer to the hotel (Rooms will be available from 1400 hrs).
After breakfast enjoy the city tour, which includes the visit to the following:
Jewish Synagogue: The synagogue, built in 1568, is magnificently decorated by Chinese tiles and Belgian chandeliers. Giant scrolls of the Old Testament can be found here. It is located near the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry.
St. Francis Church: It is the oldest church built by Europeans in India. On his 3rd visit to Kerala, Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese trader who reached India from Europe by sea, fell ill and died in Kochi. He was buried in the St. Francis Church. Later his remains were taken back to Portugal. In spite of that, his burial spot inside the church has been clearly marked out.
IMP: It remains closed on Fridays and Saturdays. Timings for the visit: 0900 hrs to 1200 hrs and from 1500 hrs to 1700 hrs.
Dutch Palace: The Dutch Palace was originally built by the Portuguese. Later, in 17th century, the Dutch modified it and presented it to the Raja of Kochi. Coronation of many Rajas of Kochi was held here. The palace has a fine collection of mural paintings depicting scenes from the Hindu epics Mahabharatha and Ramayana. The palace is located in Mattancherry.
IMP: It remains closed on Fridays. Timings for the visit: 1000 hrs to 1700 hrs.
Chinese Fishing Nets: The Chinese fishing nets (Cheenavala) are distinctly unique to Cochin. It is believed that traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan introduced these nets here. Oddly, these nets are found only in Kochi, outside China! Many fishermen earn their livelihood by fishing using these massive nets. A whole stretch of the coast along Fort Kochi and Vypeen are dotted with these nets.
Later, drive to Alappuzha. Arrive and check-in.
Today, enjoy the day at Lake Vembanad in Kettuvallam Houseboat.
Board the Malabar escapes houseboat discovery at 12 noon from purity and cruise through lake Vembanad. Cruising through rivers and canals, you enter a world only accessible by water. Enjoy the panoramic views and glimpses of life on the water and along the banks, while you are served lunch at the upper deck. Visit Kuttanad with its paddy fields below sea level. Stop at Patharamanal island, a paradise for rare species of flora and fauna. Have a high tea served in the afternoon.
Disembark towards sunset at purity.
Today drive towards Munnar, at 1600 meters above sea level. Once the summer retreat in the South for British, still maintains its colonial charm and is famous for its tea plantations, most of which are now privately owned. With its lush colors and sparkling waterfalls, one gets the impression of being inside a postcard.
Arrive and check-in at hotel. Remainder of the day at leisure.
After breakfast visit of a Tea plantation & Team Museum (closed on Mondays) & Eravikulam National Park (closed between February to March)
Eravikulam National Park is 15 kms from Munnar and has an area of 97 km². The park is located along the Western Ghats and has the largest viable population of the Nilgiri Tahr ,one of the rare mountain goats which are fast becoming extinct. The sanctuary is playing a major role in preserving these species. The number of Nilgiri Tahrs in the park is estimated to be over 1300.The park also has other animals such as Nilgiri marten, ruddy mongoose, small clawed otter, dusky striped squirrel, Sambar Deer, Golden Jackal, Wild Dog, Indian Porcupine, Funambulus etc. There are many species of birds too such as Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, White Bellied Shortwing, Black-and-orange Flycatcher etc. Tourists are allowed up to the Rajamala part of the sanctuary .This is frequented by both domestic and foreign tourists.
Evening free at leisure.
Today drive towards Rajakkad Estate - Originally constructed in the 18th century, this building is a fine example of the southern vernacular, a jigsaw of wooden parts influenced by the house building traditions of Kerala. Drawn from the forests of the Western Ghats, it is a construction of many thousands of interlocking beams, panels and screens, sheltered by a roof canopy that appears to float above, making light of a structural complexity that reflects a forgotten refinement.
Arrive and check-in at hotel.
Rest of the day at leisure.
Rajakkad is a working estate and farm, growing spices, fruits, vegetables, coffee, pepper with
cows, goats and chickens in the farmyard. Guests can enjoy a tour of the farm, with spices and
interesting species explained.
After the walking tour, proceed towards Madurai - Legend says that once Lord Shiva appeared in the dream of King Kulasekhara Pandya. The King was amazed to see drops of nectar or madhu falling down on the Earth from Lord Shiva's matted hair. The "madhu" was so sweet that the place where it fell came to be known as Madhurapuri, which in course of time became "Madurai."
Madurai is also called the Athens of the East. It is a place of great historical and cultural importance. It is the oldest city in Tamil Nadu and lies on the banks of the River Vaigai. On arrival in Madurai, transfer to hotel and check in.
In the evening, visit the Meenakshi Temple to attend the evening ceremony known as 'Bedtime of the God'. A colorful procession, in which the image of Shiva is carried accompanied by musicians, temple singers and priests from his shrine. En-route Shiva visits the other deities before entering Parvati's (Meenakshi) temple to sleep with her for the night. This ceremony is worth witnessing.
After breakfast, enjoy the city tour of Madurai, which includes the visit to the following:
Meenakshi Temple - This temple is nearly 2000 years old placed in the heart of the old town - a splendid example of Dravidian architecture. The present temple was designed in 1560 by Vishwanatha Nayak and subsequently built during the reign of Tirumalai Nayak. There are four entrances to the temple with an area of six hectares. Each of its 12 towers has the height of 45 to 50 meters. The Potrama Raikulam or the Golden Lotus Tank is the place where the Tamil literacy society, called Sangam used to meet to decide the merits of the work presented to them. The temple museum has 985 richly carved pillars and each one surpasses the other in beauty.
IMP: Meenakshi Temple remains closed from 1200 hrs till 1530 hrs.
Enjoy paddle rickshaw ride in Madurai.
Thirumalai Nayak Mahal - This Indo-Saracenic building was constructed in 1523 and was originally four times large are today. Sound and light show on the life of the Thirumalai Nayak and the story of the Silapathikaram are conduced daily.
Later visit the Gandhi Museum.
Today leave for Chettinad. Renowned for its houses that are embellished with marble and teak (a quality of fine and robust wood from Burma). The large and beautifully embellished houses reflect the prosperity of the Nagarathar community that has resided here. Chettinad is also famous for its cuisine. At your arrival, check in at the hotel.
Culinary Experience - The celebrated Chettinad cuisine is one of the spiciest and the most aromatic in India. The fresh ground masalas give it the distinctive integrity in taste. The cuisine that is pre-dominantly non vegetarian stretches out into interesting snacks and delectable vegetarian dishes too. At Visalam, one can learn to cook Chettinad cuisine with the Aachi( elderly lady) from the village.
Day at leisure to explore the surroundings.
Explore Chettinad Architecture - Chettinad is the home to the Chettiars, a prosperous mercantile community. Apart from many other things this place is well known for its fiery cuisine and architecture. Most of the palatial 18th century mansions that one will get to see here were built using materials imported from east Asian countries and Europe about 100 years ago.
Temples of Chettinad - Each of the 73 villages have traditional chola style temples that stand testimony to the spiritual beliefs of local people . Each temple has its own tank called an Oorani and most of the village activities are centered around the temple.
Athangudy Tile Makers - Aathangudy, a village situated about 10 Kms from Visalam is a place famous for its hand made tiles.There are over one hundred small scale tile factories in this village where the entire tile making process is carried out by human hands.
Handloom Cotton Weavers - The famed Chettinad's Cotton sarees and textiles are woven on in small handloom home units across Chettinad. A couple minutes walk away from Visalam is one such handloom unit making the most vibrant Indian textile.
Bullock Cart Ride - You can explore Chettinad's old streets , temples , markets and antique stores from the comfort of a bullock cart ride; taking you back in time to a forgotten era.
Today drive to Thanjavur. Arrive and check-in at hotel.
Later enjoy the visit to Tanjore which includes the following:
Brihadeshwara Temple & Fort - Built by great Chola king in the 10th century it is an outstanding example of Chola architecture and is listed in world heritage. On the top of the apex of 63 metres high, a dome is said to be constructed from a single piece of granite, weighing an estimated 81 tones. The dome was hauled into place along a 6 km earthwork ramp in a manner similar to the one used by the Egyptian Pyramids. The temple has been the sense of continuous worship for over thousand years. Only Hindus are allowed inside.
IMP: Brihadeshwara Temple remains closed from 1200 to 1600 hrs.
Thanjavur Palace & Museum - The palace near the temple is a vast building of masonry built by the Nayak as around 1550 and partly by the Maratha. Two of the palace towers, the Armoury and the observation tower are visible from all parts of the city. The palace houses an art gallery, a library and a hall of music. The art gallery occupies the Nayak Durbar Hall. It has a superb collection of Chola bronze statues from the 9th to 12th centuries.
IMP: Thanjavur Palace remains closed from 1300 to 1500 hrs.
After breakfast excursion to Trichy. The name Tiruchirappalli might have been derived from Tiru-chinna-palli meaning "holy little town".
It has a long history dating back to the centuries before the Christian era when it was a Chola citadel. During the first millennium AD, it changed hands between the Pallavas and Pandyas many times before being taken by the Cholas in the 10th century AD. When the Chola Empire finally declined, Tiruchi passed into the hands of the Vijayanagar kings of Hampi and remained with them until their defeat, in 1565 AD by the forces of the Deccan Sultans.
Enjoy the visit of the following-
Rock Fort Temple: The temple tops an 83m high outcrop. This smooth rock was first hewn by the Pallavas who cut small cave temples into the southern face, but it was the Nayakas who made use of its naturally fortified position. It's a stiff climb up the 437 steps cut into the stone to the top but well worth it for the views. Non-Hindus are not allowed into the Vinayaka Temple at the summit nor did the bigger Sri Thayumanaswamy Temple dedicate to Siva, halfway up. Occasionally temple priest waive this regulation.
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple: This superb temple complex at Srirangam, about three km from the Rock Fort, is surrounded by seven concentric walls with 21 gopurams and is probably the largest in India. Most of it dates from the 14th to 17th centuries, and many people have had a hand in its construction, including the Cheras, Pandyas, Cholas, Hoysalas and Vijayanagars. The largest gopuram in the first wall on the southern side was completed as recently as 1987 and now measures an astounding 73m. The temple complex is very well preserved, with excellent carvings throughout and numerous shrines to various gods, though the main temple is dedicated to Vishnu. Even the Muslims are said to have prayed here after the fall of Vijayanagar Empire.
IMP: Temples remains closed from 1200 hrs till 1500 hrs.
After visit drive back to Thanjavur.
Today drive towards Pondicherry. En-route visit
Darasuram - This temple is a storehouse of art and architecture. The vimana is 85 feet high. The front mandapam itself is in the form of a huge chariot drawn by horses. The temple has some exquisite stone carvings. The main deity's consort Periya Nayaki Amman temple is situated adjacent to Airavateshwarar temple. The Great Living Chola Temples. (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) at Thanjavur, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Darasuram were built by the Cholas between the 10th and 12th centuries CE and have a lot of similarities.v
GangaiKonda Cholapuram - Gangaikonda Cholapuram was built during medieval India and was erected as the capital of the Cholas by Rajendra Chola I, the son and successor of Rajaraja Chola, the great Chola who conquered a large area in South India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Sumatra, Kadaram (Kedah in Malaysia), Cambodia and others at the beginning of the 11th century A.D. It occupies an important place in the history of India. As the capital of the Cholas from about 1025 A.D. for about 250 years, the city controlled the affairs of entire southern India, from the Tungabhadra in the north to Ceylon in the south and other south east Asian countries. As of 2014, the ancient city exists as a small forlorn village in the Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu, India. The great temple of Brihadeeswarar Temple at this place is next only to the Brihadisvara temple at Thanjavur in its monumental nature and surpasses it in sculptural quality.
Arrive Pondicherry and check-in at hotel.
After breakfast enjoy the city tour which includes the visit to the following:
Sri Aurobindo Aashram - The foundation of Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry is credited to Sri Aurobindo way back in November 1926. Initially the Ashram comprised of only 24 disciples. The Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry has come a long way from its initial days of inception. It now features among the major places of tourist interest in Pondicherry.
Auroville - Located about 10 Kms north of Pondicherry, Auroville is described as "the City of Tomorrow". Auroville was envisioned as a Universal Town, where people from different nationalities, faiths and beliefs could live in peace and harmony in Auroville attractions.
Imp: Auroville remains closed from 1230 hrs till 1400 hrs.
DAY 15 : END OF ITINERARY
Today depart for Chennai airport to connect your flight for the onward journey.