South India has a unique charm and mystique of its own, spanning the famous pilgrimage centres, each with its own exemplars of temple architecture, plantations where the spices India is famous for are harvested, to say nothing of coffee and tea, lush forests, quiet backwaters, sunny beaches and centres where age-old traditions of music and dance are kept vibrantly alive. This Southern Itinerary is a vacation amidst the riches of the South, from the Dravidian culture of the deep south in Tamil Nadu and Kerala to the Mughal influence in Aurangabad to Goa, with its Portuguese past.
Chennai – Mahabalipuram – ChennaiDays 1, 2 & 3
On day 1, you arrive in Chennai, formerly, Madras. A city with a rich colonial past, Madras is today a major cultural, commercial and educational hub. Your Madras experience includes the National Art gallery and Museum, the neo-Gothic San Thome Basilica and Mylapore, a cultural hub where you will witness captivating performances of traditional music and dance.
During your stay in Chennai, you’ll go on a half-day excursion to Mahabalipuram, the ‘city of seven pagodas’, a historic port town with several fine temples, including the justly famous 7th century Shore Temple.
One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It’s a favoured pilgrimage spot owing to its wealth of ancient temples, built by the Pandyan and Madurai Nayak kings. Even for non-believers, these exemplars of Dravidian temple architecture are a must-see, especially the famous Meenakshi Temple with its many architectural and sculptural attractions.
Periyar Days 5 & 6
A drive through the Western Ghats takes you through coffee and tea plantations and market towns en route to Periyar, home of the Periyar National Park. You’ll stay in spice plantation in the Cardamom Hills and visit the wildlife sanctuary, which includes elephant and tiger reserves and wealth of other flora and fauna.
KumarakomDay 7 & 8
In the backwaters of Kerala, Kumarakom is pleasant, quiet place to rest and rejuvenate. You’ll stay in a houseboat for the full backwater experience, taking in the sights of the Kumarakon Bird Sanctuary as well as a leisurely cruise to soak up local colour and even a relaxing stint at a traditional Ayurveda centre.
KochiDays 9, 10 & 11
An important trading centre for centuries, Kochi was the first European colony and was held by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. Your visit to this post city includes a harbor cruise at sunset, visits to a 16th century synagogue, to Mattancherry, a palace with vivid murals depicting scenes from the Indian epics, strolls through markets and streets with old Portuguese houses, a traditional dance performance and more. On Day 11, you will fly out to your next destination: Goa.
Goa Day 12
'The pearl of the Orient', sunny Goa is a land of sun, sea, and an atmosphere redolent of its Portuguese past. Visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which houses the remains of St. Francis Xavier who brought Christianity to Goa in the 16th century and stroll through Old Goa with its charming multi-coloured traditional homes.
AurangabadDays 13, 14 & 15
There’s much to see and explore in and around Aurangabad, named for the Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb. You will visit some of the Mughal relics in the city as well as make trips to the nearby Ajanta and Ellora Caves. The Ajanta Caves are ancient rock-cut cave monuments which contain gorgeous Buddhist cave paintings and sculptures. On day 15, you will visit the Ellora Caves, which comprise Buddhist, Jain and Hindu rock-cut monuments before leaving for Mumbai.
Ruled by successive empires, including the Portuguese and the British, Mumbai is the nerve centre of India’s financial, business and entertainment sectors. Experience British Bombay at the Prince Of Wales Museum. Take in the Indian side of things at the Jehangir Art Gallery, the Gateway of India and the Gandhi Memorial , known as Mani Bhavan. Other attractions include the Dhobi Ghat, Hanging Gardens, street shopping and more!