Tour in India – 12 days
The itinerary here proposed is an unusual and innovative path to discover the most extraordinary places and the natural and cultural variety of the South of India. You could admire the most famous and noted temples of Tamil Nadu and, at the same time, you could dive in the cultural heritage of these peoples. The tour will start in Chennai (before Madras) and it will ends in Malabar, coastal region of Kerala. If a shortening of the trip will be needed, it will be possible to take an international flight in Kochi. The tour will continue in Mahabalipuram, a thriving port city of the Pallava’s dynasty, famous to be a real open air sculptures museum. The visit in Dakshina Chitrawill show the work of this ONG involved in the conservation of arts, traditions and architectures of the South of Asia. In Pondicherry, you could visit the international community of Auroville, and its projects of renewable energy, biological agriculture ect.. on the way to Kumbakonam, you will visit Chidambaram, where the only one temple of India dedicated to Shiva Nataraja (dancing Shiva) stands. Here the interesting project of a local ONG who supports women and children will be shown. Then we’ll continue with Airavateswara’s temple in Kumbakonam and Meenakshi’s temple in Madurai. We’ll arrive at the ancient city of Kochi, where you’ll find some hindu temples, one of the most important is Ernakulam Shiva, dedicated to Shiva and located in Ernakulam, in the eastern part of the city. Other important temples are the Ettumanoor Shiva, the Chottanikkara, the Kaduthuruthy and the Poornathrayesa, going through the national park of Periyar, one of the most beautiful park of India, situated in Theddaky. The accommodation will be in Heritage Resort’s rooms and period hotels. Many activities which enhance cultural and natural uniqueness of the South of India will be proposed: trekking in the rainforest and in the plantations, interactions with the communities of the villages, safari, bird watching, butterfly watching, and discovering of the wildlife. Even if some of the destinations are not usual in a tourist circuit, the accommodations have been carefully selected to ensure the best comfort in every moment.
1° DAY: ARRIVAL IN CHENNAI
Chennai – Mahabalipuram
Arrival in the morning at Chennai’s airport, meeting outside the terminal with one of our representatives and transfer to the hotel in Mahabalipuram to rest. Visit to Dakshina Chitra, an ONG who takes care of keeping the arts , local crafts and traditional architecture of South of India alive. A two hours guided tour in the period buildings of the city, exploring every corner. Possibility of having a direct experience with the local crafts.
2° DAY: VISIT OF MAHABALIPURAM
After breakfast, all day will bededicated to the discovering Mahabalipuram. Also called Mamallapuram, the town dates back to the VII-IX century, during the kingdom of Pallava’s dynasty. The buildings, almost all made from granite, are one of the most ancient examples of Dravidica’s architecture. In the morning, visit at the temple on the beach, the oldest structure in the area, built from king Pallava to protect the sculptures from the ocean. Free afternoon to explore the village, walk on the beach or just relax by the poolside in the hotel. Overnight stay in Mahabalipuram (B).
3° DAY: TRANSFER TO PONDICHERRY
Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry
With the promenade, the wide streets, the evident French cultural and architectural legacy and the famous Ashram, Puducherry (original name) is an unique Indian city. The previous French colony was founded at the beginning of XVIII century as a colony and with time the French style was superimposed on the characteristic Indian style. This is why of its cultural and architectural richness. A guided tour will show you the main tourist attractions such as the Ashram founded by Sri Aurobindo in 1926 and then entrusted by him to his disciple “The Mother”; the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the memorial museum of Bharti and Bharthidasan. Pondicherry’s district is also the birth place of some relevant personalities such as the poet Subramanya Bharathy and the movie director M. Night Shyamalan. Free time to visit the city, the beaches and the promenade, which is always kept clean so as not to spoil its fascinating beauty.
Overnight stay in Pondicherry (B).
4° DAY: VISIT TO AUROVILLE
Pondicherry – Auroville – Pondicherry
Transfer early in the morning to Auroville, which shows itself as an international town where men and women of every country can live in peace and harmony, overcoming religious, political and cultural differences. Born in 1968, it is a constantly evolving project. At 8:30 at the visitors center you’ll see an explicative video and then discover the heart of the city, the gardens of Matrimandir, a wonderful modern architecture with a golden globe 30 mt high with lotus urns at the base. The tour continues with a visit of two hours about Sri Aurobindo and Yoga, and with a bicycle tour to discover Auroville.
During the tour the Auroville Charter which acts as a silent guide for the inhabitants of the town and the various projects pursued will be illustrated: architectural projects for its expansion, agricultural projects for sustenance and financial projects to experiment new solutions for the future. Overnight stay in Pondicherry (B,L).
5° DAY: VISIT TO CHIDAMBARAM
Pondicherry – Chidambaram – Kumbakonam
Departure for Chidambaram. Visit to the interesting development project of the ONG Ekta, which promotes campaigns against women violence and it creates meeting places to share knowledge and experiences. This ONG is pressing for policies that are more interested in women. From 2007 it has a structure, the Nambikkai center, in which 30 girls havingthe chance to study are hosted, do some sport, learn a job. It also works as a reception center for mothers and children in difficulty. The lunch will be prepared by the women of the village. Following this, the visit to the mangroves forest of Pichavaram, which is located on two estuaries and covers an area of over 10,000s qm, where you can have a ride on a traditional rowboat to observe the mangroves closely. Being very dense trees and immersed in water, mangroves attract many birds, both native and migratory, which are easily visible. In the late afternoon, visit of Chidambaram’s temple to attend the Aarti puja ceremony. Transfer to Kumbakonam, called the temple-city or the city of temples, because of the high number of temples built in and around the city. Check-in at the hotel.
Overnight stay in Kumbakonam (B,L).
6° DAY: VISIT TO KUMBAKONAM
After breakfast, visit to the Gangaikonda Cholapuram’s temple, whose name means “the city of Cholas that catched the Gange”. Following this, the visit to Dharasuram’s village, situated 3 km from Kumbakonam, noted for the Airavateswara’s temple, this too built under the Chola’s dynasty in the XII century . The temple is dedicated to Airavata, the white elephant of Hindu mythology that carries the god Idra. Both the temples have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 and they are great examples of the architectural mastery of the dynasty. (B)
7° DAY : VISIT TO TANJORE
Kumbakonam – Tanjore – Madurai
Departure early in the morning to Madurai. Short stop along the way to visit the Brihadishvara’s temple in Tanjore. Also known as Thanjavur, this was a Chola’s city that gained importance under this dynasty between the XI and the XIV centuries. According to the legend, the name would derive from Tanjan, nome of an asura demon of Hiundu mythology, that was killed from Vishnu and Sri Anandavalli Amman for devastating the area but who was allowed to name the city as a last wish before he died. The temple was built by will of chola’s emperor Raja Raja and shows the liveliness of Indian architecture. It is one of the favorite pilgrimage destination for the visitors of the city. After lunch, transfer to Madurai and touristic tour of the city to discover the main attractions: the royal palace; Sri Meenakshi’s temple dedicated to Shiva (here called Sundareshvara) and to his consort Parvati or Meenakshi, which attracts many people from different part of India; the Alagar Koil’s temple, dedicated to Vishnu.
8° DAY: TRANSFER TO PERIYAR
Madurai – Periyar
Early in the morning, possibility of visiting the Sri Meenakshi’s temple. After breakfast, transfer to Periyar (about five hours). Check-in at the hotel in Thekkady. Visit at the Periyar reserve which covers an area of 777kmq. It is one of the twenty-seven reserves for the protection of the tiger of India; in 1982 its innermost area, not available to tourism, it was elevated to the rank of a national park. It is considered an example of the generosity of the nature that, with its several panoramic views and rich biodiversity, offers a great experience to the visitors. Ecotourism projects run by local people, responsible for monitoring the most vulnerable areas of the reserve, take place there. Free time to relax, stroll and enjoy the park. Overnight stay in Periyar (B).
9° DAY: TRANSFER TO KOCHI
Periyar – Kochi
After breakfast, possibility of trekking along natural paths that go into very different habitats. The start is about 7 o’clock and lasts about three hours, the groups can have a maximum of 5 people and will be accompained by a local guide. The routes are 4-5 kilometers long and offer the opportunity to observe birds, butterflies and wildlife and to discover the incredible natural variety of the area, passing through evergreen or deciduous forests interspersed with swampy grasslands. After lunch, transfer to Kochi (about four hours) and check-in at the hotel in the ancient quarter of Fort Kochi, a very charming place, with its european heritage and a cosmopolitan attitude. Free time to stroll through the streets of the city to discover its natural harbor and historical sites.
Overnight stay in Kochi (B).
10° DAY: VISIT TO KOCHI
After breakfast, guided tour of an half day in the city to discover the Jewish town, the synagogue, the spice market, the Mattancherry Palace, also noted as Dutch Palace, the St.Francis Church, the most ancient European church of India, the Cheena Vala, typical Chinese fishing nets (the only place outside of China where they are used). Return at the hotel. Free time for the rest of the day. In the evening, dancing exhibitions at the Greenix village. The only cultural village of Kerala, the Greenix is an avant-garde istitution in promoting art and the various forms of Kerala’s culture. It has been active since 2006 and it covers a 4000 mq area. The cultural program in the afternoon (from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) includes traditional art forms such as the Mohiniyattom, typical welcome dance of Kerala; the Bharathanatayam, typical of South of India; the Kalaripayattu, martial art of Kerala; the Kathakali, a form of the eater-dance with very elaborate costumes and movements; the Theyyam, a religious dance. At the end it attends at the fusion of all dance styles. Overnight stay in Fort Kochi (B).
11° DAY: VISIT TO THE BACKWATERS DI KUMARAKOM
Fort Kochi – Kumarakom – Kochi
Early in the morning transfer to Kumarakom (1 hour) for a day cruise in Kerala’s most beautiful Backwaters. Another major tourist attraction is the bird reserve which spans more than 14 acres. Agriculture, fishing and tourism are the major economic activities of the city, declared in 2005 Special Tourism Zone by the government of Kerala . Participation at the conscious tourism initiative called the ‘Village life experience’, which consists of a half-day package that allows you to live the experience of life in an authentic village.
It is a way to include in the itinerary a tourist service linked to local communities, according to the principles of conscious tourism. After lunch, return in Kochi. Free time and the possibility to undergo ayurvedic treatments. Overnight stay in Kochi (C,P).
12° DAY: TRANSFER TO KOCHI’S AIRPORT
Transfer to Kochi’s airport and departure with international flight.
All the itinerary in the South of India has been designed in order to promote direct or indirect benefits for local communities, environment and cultural heritages. When possible we have selected traditional accommodations sensible to social and environmental issues, following general principles and practices of responsible tourism. In particular, the INDeco resort in Mahabalipuram and the period hotel of the Neemrana’s group in Pondicherry, have been created with the specific intention of generating a source of financing for the social, cultural and economic development of the rural areas in which they arise. One of the fundamental prerogatives of these hotels is that they develop always keeping in mind the pre-existing context of the villages, with their culture, traditions, lifestyle, habits and above all talents and knowledge. Both the INDeco’s group and the Neemrana’s group they take care of restoring the historical properties of India to preserve them and to enhance the cultural heritage of the country. The Neemrana’s group likes to define its structures hotel not-hotel because no one of them it has been built with this purpose. In fact, these are monuments of historical importance (from the fourteenth to the twenty-first century) that tell different moments of the glorious Indian history. The restoration has given a new meaning to the word hospitality, transforming stays into unique experiences, which show the most authentic India and create job opportunities for young locals.
Many of the activities and the visits included in the tour in the South of India will allow you to know the local culture and the actions undertaken in favor of marginalized communities. A special attention is dedicated to the promotion of children’s education and rights and to the activities for the protection of the environment and for the promotion of alternative livelihoods for local communities.
The Dakshinachitra ONG, near Mahabalipuram, works to preserve the arts and the traditional handcraft. Its name means “an image of the south” and in fact, it is a living museum where arts, architecture, lifestyles and crafts typical of South India cross. It is possible to visit 18 historic buildings, from different areas of the country, which have been saved from demolition, interact with local artisans and attend theatrical performances and traditional dances.
In Pondicherry you’ll visit the international city of Auroville, discovering the innovative sustainable development projects.
Near Chidambaram, you’ll visit another ONG, Ekta, that works to supportwomen’s rights. While visiting the local village you could know the traditional shrimp fishermen.
Both in Pichavaram and in Kumarakom the boats used belong to the local communities, which will receive fair compensation.
In Kumarakom, you will participate in the “Village life experience” initiative managed by the Nodal Agency for responsible tourism in Kerala. Among the many places where conscious tourism was started by the government, Kumarakom is considered the most successful.
Moreover, with a contribute of 70 euros, you could support the development of the projects in favor of one of the most marginalized tribal communities in southern India, the Kattunayakan community of the Nilgiri district in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The projects supporting these tribes focus on two main aspects: the protection of biological and cultural diversity and the promotion of regular education for the children of the community.
During the journey it is advised to follow a conduct which respects local culture to avoid any hassles or unwanted troubles along your journey. In particular, avoid displays of affection in public places, such as hugging, kissing etc., as this behavior is not appreciated by local people. Smoking is considered offensive and is punishable by law. Although this news may surprise, in Kerala there is a ban on smoking in public places. If you are a smoker, remember that you can only do so in your room, if permitted by the hotel.
It is also important to follow a certain dress code. There are basically two reasons why it is recommended to be careful about what clothes you wear here. The first reason is to avoid hurting local people’s feelings and second is to protect yourself from the unstable weather conditions. Besides, mosquitoes are a huge issue and it is advised to keep your arms and legs covered ( don’t forget to bring mosquito nets and repellents, especially for backwaters cruises).
India’s time zone is +5:30 hours, so you could have some problems with the jet lag. It is advised that you get onto this time zone as soon as you leave home and try to eat and sleep according local time. Also, if you reach India early in the day, try to stay awake – this will help the body’s internal clock to reset.
A conscious approach to travel requires a considerable capacity and willingness to adapt and adjust to the local environment and culture. If you wish to travel with us, we request you to be open enough to experience local culture, religious and traditions without bias and preconceptionsyou might have before the departure and which belong to our Western cultural way of thinking.
Exploring with fresh eyes, with patience and openness, you will be able to access the real essence of Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage through the places and people you meet. With this little effort, you will truly enjoy the beauty of a totally different culture, the wonder of nature, the solemnity of Dravidian’s temples and palaces, of the sacredness of the waters of the infinite rivers that flow through this magical land.
We selected beautiful and traditional heritages resorts with all the facilities throughout the tour. When possible resorts have been selected carefully according to criteria of social and environmental impacts. In Madurai and Kochi the accommodations are traditional city hotels complete with all services.
Private vehicles or mini-buses with air conditioned according to the number of participants for all the transfers from Chennai to Kochi; ride on bicycles in Auroville.
The climate in both states is essentially tropical. The highest temperatures, above 40 ° C, are recorded from April to June. The coldest period is between December and January, but in particular on hilly areas such as Ooty, Kodaikkanal and Yercaud, where the temperature can reach 5 ° C during the night. The best period is from October to March, especially for Kerala, which is hit by monsoons from June to September. Although most tourists avoid this period, visiting Kerala during monsoons is a fantastic experience.
Itinerary available for:
Private trips (at least 2 people)
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