15 Day Classic South India

09/25/2020 through 12/14/2021
08/01/2020 through 12/31/2021
Kensington Tours

15 Day Classic South India

First-time travelers to India, invariably, express a desire to see Delhi, Agra and Jaipur with, perhaps, another stop in the north added to the itinerary. It’s a classic itinerary, for sure. There is, however, another classic Indian route, this one shaped like a scimitar and connecting Chennai on the Bay of Bengal side of the ocean with Cochin (or Kochi) on the side of the Arabian Sea. It’s an inspiring journey that offers plenty of magnificent temples, lots of spices, palm-fringed silvery-white beaches, calm backwaters with houseboats and a very diverse history.

Start this intriguing journey in Chennai, the fourth-largest city in India, and the commercial soul of this part of the country. The town’s famous temple is called Kapleeshwarar, but just half a mile down the road is the Santhome Cathedral Basilica Church. The point of interest here is that it was built over the tomb of the Apostle St. Thomas. Only two other places in the world share this notoriety; St. Peter in the Vatican and St. James in Compostela, Spain. To show how well religion and culture can mix: the statue of Mother Mary in Chennai’s Portuguese church dons a new sari every day. The city also boasts the world’s second largest beach, stretching some 8 miles, with a 150-feet tall lighthouse offering a superb view over the city and the bay.

On the way to Pondicherry, enjoy a brief stop at Mahabalipuram, known for the intricate stone carvings dating back to the 7th century AD, many of which have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Pondicherry, meanwhile, six thousand miles from France offers fresh-baked baguettes and croissants for breakfast and the locals celebrate Bastille Day as might be expected from a former enclave of French India. Little quirks of this colonial town lie in widely spoken Tamil accented with French and its police force wearing bright-red kepis.

Next stop is Tanjore (Tanjavur), once considered the cultural capital of India. Visit the ‘Big Temple’ with its unique architectural features and the gigantic statue of Nandi, the Bull, guarding the inner shrine. A plethora of splendid temples is waiting for you just 50 miles further south in Chettinad. There are nine temple compounds spread within a radius of 16 miles, however, the intriguing aspect of Chettinad is its century-old mansions, with open courtyards, Italian marble, Spanish tiles and Burmese teak pillars displaying grandeur and opulence.

The number of temples in India is presumed to be around six million. The Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai is thought by many experts to represent the peak of South Indian temple architecture. It’s not just a temple but a 6-hectare complex with a staggering array of gods, goddesses and demons encrusted on many tall gatehouse towers. Not surprisingly, it is known as the Athens of the East and its history can be traced back 2,500 years.

The final portion of your journey in the classical South embraces Thekaddy, Alleppey and, finally, Cochin. Wildlife, spices and the backwaters of Kerala are in full focus here, including a spice garden and bird sanctuary tour, plus an overnight on a comfortable and elegant houseboat. The tranquility of the water, the enchanting landscapes and the melodies of the evening birds turn this into an incredibly delightful part of the trip.

Arrive, at last, in Cochin, known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea from the 14th century onwards. Let your private guide take you to the Dutch Palace, the Synagogue and Jew Town and the Chinese Fishing Nets on the shore at the tip of Fort Cochin. The city’s rich multi-cultural heritage will become clear almost immediately, after visiting those historical places and buildings with its Portuguese, Dutch, Jewish and British influences. No visit to Cochin is complete without attending a Kathakali dance performance where you watch the actors apply their make-up – a very detailed process – and well worth attending before the actual start of the show.

Kensington Tours creates private trips from the world’s finest ingredients. Tailor-made with care by your personal Destination Expert, your personalized trip is always a one-of-a-kind experience made just for you. Expert local guidance and 24/7 service come standard.

Itinerary

Day 1 Chennai
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Day 2 Chennai
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Day 3 Chennai To Pondicherry
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Day 4 Pondicherry
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Day 5 Pondicherry To Thanjavur
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Day 6 Thanjavur
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Day 7 Thanjavur To Chettinad
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Day 8 Chettinad To Madurai
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Day 9 Madurai
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Day 10 Madurai To Thekkady
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Day 11 Thekkady
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Day 12 Thekkady To Alleppey
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Day 13 Alleppey To Cochin
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Day 14 Cochin
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Day 15 Cochin
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