Small Group Journey – South India with Backwaters 15 Days from $5,450pp* Depart 06 Nov’19

Departs 06 November 2019

Minimum 2 guests / Maximum 16 guests

This tour will take you on a journey through the heart of the Dravidian South. Visit the famous temples of South India with their elaborate carvings and architectural styles. Glide through the backwaters of Kerala – God’s own country. The backwaters give you an opportunity to Experience the Living Cultures of Kerala at close quarters. The incredible festivals of the south, with gold caparisoned elephants and garishly decorated chariots moving in processions through the temple towns, complete the cultural experience.

Itinerary

Day 1 : Wednesday, 06 November 2019 - Arrive Chennai (drive to Mahabalipuram 1.5 hour drive)

After clearing immigration and customs, our representative will meet you at the receiving area and escort you to your hotel. Rest of day at leisure.

Overnight at Hotel (No meals)

Day 2 : Thursday 07 November - Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram is commonly known as the “City of the Seven Pagodas,” even though five of the seven pagodas are actually rathas (stone chariots). The Pallavas, the ruling power of South India during the 7th and 8th Centuries and prolific patrons of the arts, reached their greatest architectural achievement in the visually dramatic temples at Mahabalipuram. A wealthy maritime trade with Southeast Asia enabled the Pallava monarchs to construct a large number of temples and sculptural programs, which garnered them both religious merit and promoted the political and social ideals of South Indian society.

You will visit the photogenic and windswept Shore Temple, dramatically perched near a promontory overlooking the Bay of Bengal. We can see the aforementioned Panch Rathas (Five Stone Chariots), at the southern end of town. The rathas, which date to the 7th Century, are extraordinary examples of rock shrines hewn from monolithic stone, and are named for the heroes of the epic Indian tale- Mahabharata.

In the centre of Mahabalipuram is the main cluster of temples and rock sculptures. Life size stone statues of an elephant, bull and a lion guard these delicately sculptured temples. Depictions of scenes from Indian mythology carved out of stone cover the temples. One of the most elaborate is the Bhagirathi’s Penance, which despite its mammoth proportions, is intricately carved. So large is the bas-relief that it is often described as a “fresco in stone.” In fact, a number of stonecutters still work in Mahabalipuram and continue to produce high-quality traditional sculptures.

Visit the Krishna’s Butterball a giant balancing rock, perched on a smooth slope.

Overnight at Hotel (Breakfast)

Day 3 : Friday -8 November 2019 - Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry (approx. 3.5 hours drive)

Today after breakfast, we will proceed for Pondicherry.

Pondicherry is a union territory that retains the borders of former French India. It consists of four small unconnected districts- Pondicherry, Karaikal and Yanam by the bay of Bengal and Mahe by the Arabian Sea. Of these, Pondicherry is the largest. Steeped in history, this quaint world charms you with Cathedrals, French-styled villas and tree-lined boulevards. A perfect setting for you to relive an era, straight out of history books.

Amidst all this, the Aurobindo Ashram and the Auroville village usher in a new way of living. We will stop at Aureville village. Aureville wants to be universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Aureville is to realize human unity. Visit the Matrimandir view point. 

Later explore Pondicherry by Cycle Rickshaw. Pondi has a lot to offer be it White town, Tamil quarters, Muslim quarters, temples, churches, government heritage buildings or the lively fruit and vegetable market. We will finish our exciting rickshaw ride at the vegetable market and from there we will board our vehicle to continue our sightseeing by visiting the Ganesha temple and Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Overnight at Hotel (B)

Day 04 : Saturday 09 November'19 - Pondicherry to Thanjavur (approx. 7 hours drive)

After breakfast, check-out and drive to Tanjore. En-route stop to explore, Chidambaram Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in the heart of the temple town of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. (Special Note: Chidambaram Temple remains closed from 12 noon till 4 pm every day).

The temple complex spreads over 50 acres in the heart of the city. It is an ancient and historic temple dedicated to Lord Shiva Nataraja and Lord Govindaraja Perumal, one of the few temples where both the Shaivite and Vaishnavite deities are enshrined in one place. The word Chidambaram may be derived from chit, meaning “consciousness”, and ambaram, meaning “sky” (from aakasam or aakayam); it refers to the chidaakasam, the sky of consciousness, which is the ultimate aim one should attain according to all the Vedas and scriptures.  

              Overnight at Hotel (B)

Day 05 : Sunday 10 November'19 - Thanjavur to Madurai (approx. 5 hours drive)

After breakfast,  visit the magnificent Brihadishwara Temple, the crowning glory of Chola temple architecture and is dedicated to Shiva as Nataraja, king of the cosmic dance. Its beauty is particularly enhanced in late afternoon, when its sandstone tower is bathed in the golden hues of sunset. The vimana, or tower, over the temple sanctuary soars to a height in excess of 200 feet, and is adorned with several exquisite pieces of Chola sculpture. The temple sits in the middle of a spacious courtyard, faced by a massive 20-foot long sculpture of Shiva’s vahana (vehicle), the great bull Nandi, carved from a single piece of granite.

Then we visit Tanjore’s second great historical site, the Royal Palace complex, with its impressive observation tower. The Nayakas, who ruled this area in the 16th and 17th Centuries, constructed the palace. Aside from the historical significance of the palace itself, the complex also houses several important museums and libraries.

Late evening,visit the night ceremony at the great Meenakshi temple where the Lord Shiva is reunited with his wife Meenakshi for the night.

Overnight at Hotel (B)

Day 06 : Monday 11 November'19 - Madurai

We will start the visit of Thirumalai Nayak Palace, built in the 17th Century and partially restored by the British in the 19th Century. The Palace is built on a grand scale, with towering pillars and a large courtyard, where the ruler Thirumalai Nayaka received his audience in bygone days. 

We will take the cycle rickshaws riding into the streets of Madurai and exploring the banana market, vegetable market and other activities on the street.

Visit the Tailor’s market next to the Meenakshi temple at the east entrance. It is where all locals go to get their clothing made or tailor work done. You can bring the fabric and they will give you the tailor made stitched clothing in just 2 hours.

Thereafter, explore one of the most important temples in the South, the awe-inspiring Meenakshi Temple, whose complex occupies an area of six hectares. The Meenakshi temple of Madurai is estimated to receive 10,000 pilgrims every day. A riotously baroque example of Dravidian architecture with twelve gopuras (towers), ranging in height from 130 to 165 feet, the towers are covered from top to bottom in a breath-taking profusion of multi-coloured images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. Legend has it that the temple was founded by Indra (King of Gods) himself. Every point in the temple has a legend attached to it. While exploring the temple, visit the “Hall of a Thousand Pillars,” with its fascinating study of “human expression” carved on the pillars, the walls and the ceiling. Just outside you will find the “musical pillars,” each emitting a different musical note when struck. Explore the Kambatti Mundapum (yet another hall) containing pillars sculptured with various manifestations of Lord Shiva. The Meenakshi Temple is arguably the preeminent example of South Indian temple architecture, and is also one of India’s most important places of pilgrimage.

Overnight at Hotel (B)

Day 7 : Tuesday 12 November'19 - Madurai to Munnar ( approx. 5 hours drive)

Today morning post breakfast start drive to Munnar.

Munnar is a magnificent hill station in the Western Ghats at about 5000 feet above sea level. This is one of the best hill stations in Kerala and is the major centre of Kerala’s tea industry. Munnar means three rivers and the town is located at the confluence of 3 mountain streams – Muthirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala. These 3 stream confluence at the heart of the town and meet all the water requirements of the settlers and visitors. Munnar has lakes, forests and several tea estates. Anaimudi, the highest peak in South India (2695 m/8883 ft.) is nearby. Munnar was the British Government’s Summer Resort in the South and it has been the favorite summer resort of the European sellers for centuries.

On arrival check into your hotel. Rest of day at leisure,

Overnight at hotel (B)

 

Day 8 : Wednesday 13 November'19 - Munnar

Today meet your guide and go for sightseeing visit of Munnar. It is famous for tea gardens, waterfalls, tea museum, Eravikulam national park and nature walks.

Munnar is perhaps the choicest of places to preserve and showcases some of the exquisite and interesting aspects on the genesis and growth of tea plantations in Kerala’s high ranges. With special emphasis to Munnar, and to the delight of tea lovers and tourists, Tata Tea recently opened a Tea Museum which houses curious, photographs and machineries, each depicting a turning point that contributed to a flourishing tea industry, as seen today in the region.

This incredibly beautiful hill town is positioned at a height of 6000ft and is the most privileged summer resort. Munnar was a significant resort even during the British monarchs in those colonial days. Opulent with unique species of flora and fauna, the place also has an extensive stretch of tea plantations amidst the high mountains and unspoiled valleys, giving a pleasant feeling. The scented cool air is filled with the aroma of spices. The rising and falling terrain of Munnar is covered with forests and grasslands.

Overnight at the hotel (B)

Day 9 : Thursday 14 November'19 - Munnar to Palakkad (approx. 5 hour drive)

After breakfast, leave for your next destination Palakkad also known as Palghat. Your accommodation will be at the Kairali’s Ayurvedic Healing Village. Kairali is famous for the Ayurvedic treatment, although the accommodation and food will be very simple (only vegetarian food) but you can experience the traditional Ayurveda massage here (On Direct Payment).

Overnight at the hotel (B, L, D)

Day 10 : Friday 15 November'19 - Palakkad

Today, participate in the Chariot Festival.

Most people wouldn’t expect giant chariots sweeping through their city streets. Well, to this day, one can view exotic, colourful chariots during the annual Ratholsavam (chariot festival) at Sree Viswanatha Swamy Temple at Kalpathi in Palakkad. The temple, dedicated to Lord Viswanatha and built over 700 years ago, usually celebrates the festival during November. This event has been celebrated for centuries and devotees crowd the streets in large numbers. As the chariots pass, people can be seen dancing and celebrating throughout the route. Recitations of Vedic rituals and cultural programmes are held. The final three days bring three gigantic chariots to the roads and revelry reaches its crescendo. It is among the most extraordinary sights that God’s Own Country has to offer.

(In Kerala, festival dates are decided in accordance with the Malayalam calendar and the local traditions and customs. We have calculated the festival dates based on these. But there can be changes in the dates according to the customs and rituals associated with each place of worship. As such, these should be considered only as approximate dates and have to be confirmed with the local authorities.)

Overnight at the hotel (B, L, D)

Day 11 : 16 November'19 - Palakkad to Cochin (aaprx. 4 hours drive)

After breakfast,drive to Cochin. Kochi, “Queen of the Arabian Sea” (formerly called Cochin), was the first of Europe’s colonies in India and the southern state of Kerala’s commercial capital. From antiquity the prosperous spice trade drew seafarers to Kochi: Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Jews, Chinese, Portuguese, the Dutch, and finally the British.

In the evening, we attend a performance of Kathakali dance, where facial expressions and hand gestures combine with movement to create this highly expressive traditional Kerala art form which depicts great Indian epics.  Distinct among the six classical Indian dances, Kathakali is a highly dramatic and mimetic dance depicting various stories from Indian epics. It originated in Kerala during the 17th century and has developed over the years with improved looks, refined gestures and added themes besides more ornate singing and precise drumming.

Overnight at the Hotel (B)

Day 12 : 17 November'19 - Cochin

Today, we have a walking tour of Mattancherry, the bustling part of Old Fort Cochin and the epicentre of the spice trade for centuries. It remains a densely populated place housing people from different ethnic groups and faiths in very close quarters. Mattancherry is home to a small Jewish community whose origin dates back nearly 2000 years, during the period of King Solomon, when large scale trade took place between the Middle East and the Malabar Coast. Our touring today reveals Kochi’s multi-layered past, a rich brew of Arab, Portuguese, British, and Dutch influences.

We begin with the Dutch Palace, actually built by the Portuguese as a gift for the Raja of Kochi in 1555.  The Dutch renovated and expanded it a century later, earning it its name. The palace also contains some of India’s finest mythological murals; the walls depict scenes from the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (please note: the Dutch Palace is closed on Fridays and Saturdays – We can visit the Dutch Palace next morning before we leave for our next destination).  Then we see St. Francis, India’s first European church (ca. 1510), famed as the original burial site of Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama, who died in Kochi in 1524 while on his third visit to India.  Not immune to the turbulence of the colonial era, the originally Catholic St. Francis changed hands – and denominations – with each new power that took control of Kochi, becoming a Protestant Dutch Reformed church under the Dutch in 1663 then Anglican under the English in 1804.

Next we pay a visit to the picturesque Chinese fishing nets unique to Kochi.  These iconic land-based nets combine elegance and ingenuity with their massive frames balanced by counterweights manipulated by teams of up to six men.  Long believed to have been introduced by the Chinese explorer Zheng He in the 14th century or possibly travellers from Kublai Khan’s court, these nets actually trace their origin to Portuguese settlers from Macau.

Overnight at the Hotel (B)

Day 13 : Monday 18 November'19 - Cochin to the Backwaters (approx. 3 hour drive)

Today you will be driven approximately 3 hours along the Kerala coast to the docks at Thottappally in the Alleppey district to board your private houseboat- an environment-friendly vessel, unique to Kerala’s placid waterways.  Prior to their conversion to passenger boats with all the modern comforts, these traditional crafts known as kettuvallom once plied these waters as rice barges.  Coir (coconut fibre rope) and resin from cashew kernels, not nails, hold the kettuvallom together – a ship-making practice passed down through the centuries.

The uniqueness of Kerala has always been its backwaters, and no place in the world is blessed with this mesmerizing beauty. It is the reason; this heaven is called “GOD ‘S OWN COUNTRY!!” 

Overnight on-board Houseboat (B, L, D)

Day 14 : Tuesday 19 November'19 -

On this comfortable floating home you may spend your day relaxing and unwinding. As you slowly cruise along the backwater canals of the Arabian Sea, you may choose to stop and explore some of the many small villages, farmlands, old temples and churches that you come across. 

We see Indian life up close as we slowly cruise along the palm-fringed backwater canals of the Arabian Sea, a distinctive region whose beauty and tranquillity have earned it the sobriquet “God’s own country.”  A vast network of lagoons, lakes, and canals formed by the confluence of Kerala’s numerous rivers and the Arabian Sea, the Kerala backwaters run alongside the coast for more than 550 miles. These labyrinthine waterways have served as a thoroughfare for boats like ours from ancient times, and the daily existence in the communities here has changed little over the centuries. 

Overnight on-board Houseboat (B, L, D)

Day 15 : Wednesday 20 November'19 - Backwaters to Airport (approx. 2.5 hours drive)

Today check out from your hotel and transfer to the airport to board your onward flight.

Please note: Your room will be available for use till 12 Noon

 (B)

 

PRICE

 

No. of Guests Prices per person
2 Guests on Twin Share basis AUD $5,450
Single room supplement AUD $2,289

 

OUR QUOTE INCLUDES:

  • Accommodation on twin sharing basis as per the above mentioned hotel & meal plan.
  • Air-conditioned vehicles with drivers
  • Daily Breakfasts
  • Tipping
  • One time Entrance fees at the Monuments as per the itinerary
  • Services of English speaking local guides during sightseeing as per the itinerary.
  • Kathakali dance performance in Cochin
  • Rickshaw ride in Pondicherry
  • Rickshaw ride in Madurai
  • Spice Plantation in Thekkady
  • Bamboo rafting in Thekkady
  • Half day hiking tour in Munnar
  • Kathakali dance performance in Cochin
  • All arrival & departure transfers with representative at the airports.
  • Assistance and porterage at the airports.
  • Govt. service tax 5%

 

THE ABOVE COST DOES NOT INCLUDE: –

  • Expense of personal nature like laundry, telephone/fax calls, alcoholic beverages, camera/video camera fee at monuments, medical expenses, airport departure tax etc.
  • Travel Insurance.
  • Any meals or beverages that are not specified in the above inclusions.
  • Expenses caused by factors beyond our control like rail and air plane delays, roadblocks, vehicle malfunctions, political disturbances, taxes, lost luggage, etc.
  • Any other services not mentioned in the inclusions.
  • Any force majeure liability
  • Any further tax levied by the government of India.

Terms & Conditions of Booking 

Quotations

We will provide a quotation in writing for the arrangements requested. The quotation is valid for 7 days from date of issue. A quotation will be converted to a confirmed booking on payment of the deposit. If a quotation expires we reserves the right to re-quote the arrangements requested.

Deposit

A non refundable deposit of $440 per person is required at time of booking. Payment of the deposit confirms you have read and agree with these booking conditions.

Balance of Payment

The balance of your payment is due no later than 90 days prior to your departure. If balance payment is not received by the due date we reserve the right to cancel your booking and apply the appropriate cancellation charges.

Payment to Airlines

Note airlines may require full payment of airfares  prior to 60 days before departure and the airlines fare rules will apply to any changes or cancellation of flight arrangements.

Cancellation Policy

Should you need to cancel these arrangements, please advise us immediately in writing.

Cancellation fees are applicable as follows:-

  • Cancel more than 90 days before departure Loss of deposit
  • Cancel 89 -61 days before departure               50% of tour cost
  • Cancel 60 days or less before departure        100% of tour cost

No refund is applicable for any unused services once your tour arrangements have commenced.

Booking Amendments

We will make every reasonable effort to accommodate changes and additional requests from you.  However the following fees will apply:

  • Prior to airline tickets being issued, requests to amend flights are subject to availability and any change to airfares.
  • If airline tickets have been issued, changes to flights may not be allowed or may be subject to amendment fees charged by the airline as per the airline fare rules applicable to your airfare.

India Tourist Visa

Clients travelling on Australian Passports require an India Tourist Visa. Australian passport holders can apply for an India Visa on-line. Please refer to https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/index.html

Please ensure your passport has at least six (6) months validity from the date you arrive in India. Should you need assistance with your India Visa application, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to assist you.

Comprehensive Travel Insurance Policy

It is strongly recommended that guests have taken out a comprehensive travel insurance policy which includes cover for cancellation fees, medical expenses and emergency evacuation.

Health & Vaccinations

Please refer to your doctor for advise on health and vaccinations’ precautions for the areas visited in your itinerary. Information is also available at www.traveldoctor.com.au .Note it is the guests responsibility to have the appropriate vaccinations.

In general, tours will require guests to have a reasonable level of fitness. Guests with any pre-existing illness or medical dietary requirements should consult their doctor to determine whether they are able to participate in the activities in your itinerary.

Responsibility and Exclusion of Liability

We are responsible for providing the travel services or products based on the arrangements requested by the client or their travel agent.

We only act as an agent for the persons & companies providing  or offering the means of transport, accommodation or other services included in your booking. We  do not own, manage or control any hotels, restaurants, transport companies, cruises or other service providers. All itineraries, vouchers, tickets are issued subject to the terms and conditions specified by the suppliers of these travel services. While We takes all necessary care in selecting the suppliers or service providers, we  do not accept responsibility for any act or omission of these service providers. We  exclude all liability for any loss or damage whatsoever (including but not limited to physical and psychological injury and loss or damage to property of whatever nature) that may arise in any way in connection with the offer or supply of goods or services through us or any third parties or in connection with the supply of such goods or services.

We do not accept any liability for any injury, loss, damage, delay, additional expenses or inconveniences caused directly or indirectly by events, which are beyond our control, including, without limitation, war, acts of God, riots, strike, terrorist activity, natural disaster, industrial disputes, epidemics, medical or customs regulations.

We suggest you contact us should you have any questions or require any clarification of our Booking Conditions.

 

 

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