Saturday January 6 – Friday, January 19, 2018
January 6: Chennai. (D) A warm welcome to South India! You will be met at the airport in Chennai and taken to our hotel to rest and recuperate. For those arriving by mid-day, there will be some optional choices of places to visit and explore in this old city, once known as Madras and the center of British commercial dominance in this southern part of the Raj. Dinner and overnight in Chennai.
January 7: Chennai-Kancheepuram-Mahabalipuram. (B/D) Our voyage together begins this morning with a visit to Kancheepuram, home of one of the seven Hindu temple sites for spiritual release. It is also known for its silk weaving industry creating magnificent saris and we will visit a weaving center to see this art in progress. We then travel down the coast to the archeological site of Mahabalipuram to learn about the two thousand years of this areas history. Dinner and overnight at a seaside resort in Mahabalipuram.
January 8: Mahabalipuram-Pondicherry-Tranquebar. (B/D) Shri Aurobindo was an Indian spiritual leader who, with his followers, created a small self-contained community in South India. We will head down the coast to visit Auroville, his experiment in rural living, and then the main ashram in the center of Pondicherry, an old French port and commercial center. At the end of the day we travel further down the coast to Tranquebar, a Danish colony founded in the 17th century, where we will have dinner and stay the night in historic buildings along the coast.
January 9: Tranquebar-Kumbakonam-Swamimalai. (B/D) A morning tour of Tranquebar will allow us to explore some of the remains of Danish India before we drive to Gangaikonda Cholapuram and then visit Darasuram, two magnificent South Indian temples. If time, we will see how South Indian bronzes are still being crafted. Our final stop is a lovely antique-filled resort in a small village for dinner and overnight.
January 10: Swamimalai-Tanjore-Kanudakathan. (B/D) This morning we take a leisurely drive to the Tanjore area to visit the Brihadeshwara Temple, a thousand year old Chola period temple still alive with worshippers. We then go further south into the Chettinadu region, a culturally and historically important region famous for its unique cuisine, agriculture and architecture, now a quiet area of faded glory. If time permits we will visit Namanasamudram, a temple known for its hundreds of terracotta horses and elephants. We will have a special dinner tonight at Visalam, a beautifully restored historic mansion. Overnight in Kanudakathan.
January 11: Chettinad Region. (B/L/D) Today we will visit the fascinating remains of this once vibrant trading community of the Chettiar community. Visit the local craft of tile-making at Athangudi and hand weaving of kandangi sarees at Karaikudi. Kanudakathan is a perfect place to slow down, walk the quiet streets and meet the local people. You may also wish to visit the local markets and explore the rural life of the people. Dinner and overnight in Kanudakathan.
January 12: Chettinadu – Madurai.(B/L/D) We will leave Chettinadu behind and take a morning drive to Madurai, the major city in the central heart of South India. We will participate in a cooking class and eat the result for our lunch. Among our options is a visit to Vilachery to see a doll making unit and to Thathaneri where people make bamboo baskets. Evening is scheduled for a food safari where we can sample a variety of local South Indian foods. Overnight in Madurai.
January 13: Madurai. (B/D) Enjoy an early morning guided walking tour of the Vanakkam area of Madurai to understand something of the town and the routine life of the people and their culture. You will get an opportunity to mingle and interact with the local people. Later in the day visit the Nayak Palace and the magnificent Meenakshi Amman temple. In the evening you have the option to return to this temple to witness the night ceremony at the Meenakshi temple as well. Dinner and overnight in Madurai.
January 14: Madurai – Kovalam. (B/D) This day we take our longest drive and the largest change of culture as we enter Kerala and drive down close to the tip of the country and then up the coast to the famous beach destination of Kovalam, making several stops along the way. Dinner and overnight at a beach resort in Kovalam.
January 16: Kovalam – Emerald Isle Housestay near Alleppey. (B/L/D) This morning we drive North along the Kerala coast with a possible stop, if time, at Amma’s large and modern ashram along the way. We take a small boat to a fabulous traditional local home now offering a homestay on a small island among the canals. We will have lunch and dinner at this fabulous rural home, with the opportunity to bicycle or walk around the area and visit some local sites.
January 17: Emerald Isle – Backwaters Houseboat Cruise. (B/L/D) This morning we will pick up our private houseboats outside our homestay and spend the day drifting among the canals and seeing an ancient way of life along the water. Lunch and dinner will be served on your houseboat. In the evening the boat will be anchored near a village for our overnight stay.
January 18: Alleppey – Cochin (Kochi). (B/D) After breakfast on board, we will disembark from the houseboat and then drive to Cochin, the commercial capital of Kerala in time to visit the Jewish Synagogue and Jew Town as well as the Dutch Palace. In the evening, we will watch a Kathakali dance performance before our final group dinner together.
January 19: Cochin. (B) We must begin to say goodbye as our tour officially ends after breakfast. Depending on your flight schedule, you will be transferred to the airport to board your flight for your onward journey. If your flight is later in the day, we will have time to relax and perhaps we can visit the Kerala Folklore Museum, the Santa Cruz Basilica and St. Francis Church. In any case, I know your time will be long remembered.
B = Breakfast; L = Lunch; D = Dinner
Travel times on our air conditioned mini-bus will vary day to day, with about 2-3.5 hours per day of traveling, and one long driving day of 6 hours, with rest breaks as needed and some interesting travel stops along the way.