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Periyar National Park

Discover Southern India

Chennai to Cochin - Example 14 Day Tour
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Journey through southern India on this 14-day tour from Chennai to Cochin while discovering its rich cultural heritage. Visit the port of Mahabalipuram in the Bay of Bengal, where a group of monuments and shore temples are located, before departing to Pondicherry, where you may experience French colonial life. Stroll around Pondicherry and visit the French Quarter, where French cultural influence remains. Next, head to Periyar National Park, home to large herds of Indian elephants, Nilgiri langurs, tigers, and more than 30 species of mammals. Stay in a boathouse in Alleppey while enjoying your backwater cruise along with the Kerala network of lagoons, lakes, and rivers. Your trip ends in the city of Cochin, which is on the Indian peninsula's southwest coast in the beautiful state of Kerala.
Details of Kapaleeswarar temple, Chennai, IndiaSrirangamnathaswamy TemplePeriyar National ParkPeriyar Nature Reserve Boat RideImmerse yourself in incredible Indian cultureBrihadeeswara TempleLocal Kerala VillageWayanad BoathouseKathakali Dance PerformancePeriyar National Park
Highlights
  • Visit the magnificent Shree Meenakshi Temple in Madurai
  • Explore Periyar National Park, paradise for birdwatchers
  • Stroll around Pondicherry and explore the French Quarter
  • Watch local farmers harvesting on the pepper plantation
Places Visited
  • Asia
  • India
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Alappuzha
  • Cochin
  • Kerala
  • Kumarakom
  • Madurai
  • Mahabalipuram
  • Periyar National Park
  • Puducherry
  • Thanjavur
  • Tiruchirappalli (Trichy)
Activity Level: Relaxed
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Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrive in Chennai | Mahabalipuram

On your arrival at the International airport in Chennai and after clearing customs & immigration, the representative will greet you and will assist you on a drive to Mahabalipuram (1 hrs)

Mahabalipuram, or the place of the great wrestler - Narasimhavarmam I, is located around 60km from Chennai, a small seaside village that was once the main port of the Pallava Dynasty from the 5th – to 9th centuries. Today it is the site of several antique sculptural marvels. Declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, Mahabalipuram boasts of some of India’s most sublime rock-cut art. The only shore temple, which remains here, is the spectacular two-spired shrine, which is unique in that it houses both Vishnu and Shiva in its sanctum.
 

Day 2: Mahabalipuram | Pondicherry

After breakfast, proceeds for the sightseeing of Mahabalipuram and visit Shore Temples, Five Rathas.

The Shore Temple (built-in 700-728 AD) is so named because it overlooks the shore of the Bay of Bengal. It is a structural temple built with the block of granites, dating from the 8th century AD. It was built in the Bay of Bengal at Mahabalipuram, a village south of Chennai, India. A busy port during the 7th and 8th-century reign of the Pallava dynasty during the reign of Narasimhavarman. As one of the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, it has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest structural (versus rock-cut) stone temples in South India. Post sightseeing, drive to Pondicherry (2-3 hrs) en-route visit Auroville, for making registration/booking for meditation at Matrimandir.

The Matrimandir (Sanskrit for Temple of The Mother) is the center of spiritual significance for practitioners of Integral yoga in the center of Auroville, established by The Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It is called the Soul of the city and is situated in a large open space called Peace. Matrimandir does not belong to any particular religion or section. The Geodesic dome is covered by golden discs and reflects sunlight, which gives the structure its characteristic radiance. Inside the central dome is a meditation hall known as the inner chamber - this contains the largest optically-perfect glass globe in the world. The Matrimandir, and its surrounding gardens in the central Peace Area, are open to the public by appointment. The four main pillars that support the structure of Matrimandir, and carry the Inner Chamber, have been set in the four main directions of the compass. 

Visit The Ashram & Pondicherry French Quarter walk.

Close to a century of French occupation has left a distinct stamp in the cultural inheritance of Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo Ashram is an integral part of the town. Its associated organizations & buildings and several cultural organizations & private residences make up what is remaining of the White Town or Pondicherry’s French Quarter. Many of these structures are colonial buildings, some of been deemed heritage sites, and many are breathtakingly beautiful. In addition, to an engaging introduction to the French influence, this walk is also about the journey of Sri Aurobindo. He was a revolutionary freedom fighter from East India who introduced integral yoga to the world.

Day 3: Pondicherry

After breakfast, a morning mediation session at the Matrimandir in Auroville (subject to permission).

A half-hour drive from Pondicherry is the experimental township of Auroville. Auroville is located in a forest, wherein they plant and are nurtured from barren land by the Aurovilleans themselves. This fascinating society and based on the concepts of sustainable and holistic living in Auroville is an experimental commune made up of people from over 50 countries. It aims to be an ideal society, a place of human unity where people can live and work, irrespective of creed and nationality.

Learn from your local expert guide how they facilitate local tourism by engaging with the locals through farm visits, experiences with food, and involvement with local livelihood. 

Start your village visit by sampling delicious goodies at the Auroville bakery before heading to the Visitors Centre. From here, you will get a visual tour of Auroville through several exhibits and a short video. Witness how the community turned hundreds of hectares of barren land into lush forests and used various methods to develop waste management, women's empowerment, and organic farming. The Visitors Centre also has a large shopping complex for Auroville's high-quality products, such as food, clothes, crafts, books, and home accessories. You can visit several workshops and projects that include women's empowerment through handicraft making using old newspapers, a creative musical instrument workshop, an indigo dyeing workshop, a bamboo experiment center, organic farming, and food processing.

Take your lunch in Auroville's Solar Kitchen, where you can see the massive solar panels and learn how Auroville meets its energy needs. During the tour, you will be able to witness the grand Matrumandir (Mother's Temple), an architectural marvel.
 

Day 4: Thanjavur

  • Hotel
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Dinner
After breakfast, take a 4-hour drive to Thanjavur.

Thanjavur is an important center of South Indian art and architecture. Most of the Great Living Chola Temples are UNESCO World Heritage Monuments located in and around Thanjavur. The foremost among the Great Living Chola Temples, the Brihadeeshwarar Temple, is located in the center of the city. Thanjavur is also home to the Tanjore painting, a painting style unique to the region. 

Culinary Experience: In the early evening, experience the cultural and culinary adventure of the Tamilian cuisine that will expand your palate. Take this chance as a special guest to experience the kitchen at Svatma, its techniques, and its recipes. The flavors and textures are sublime, and the preparations are being simplified by the in-house chefs for guests to learn.

Day 5: Thanjavur

After your leisurely breakfast, visit the Brihadeeswara temple built by Raja Raja Chola. This temple is considered “the grandest temple in South India” and the second-largest monolithic sculpture of its kind in the country. Proceed for The Palace, which was built partly by the Nayaks and partly by the Marathas. In the evening, experience the Vedic Chanting and listen to Vedic discourses at Svatma. It has the unique ability to calm your mind and purify the soul. The chanting has you experience a divine vibration that resonates in every corner of Svatma. The priest engages our guests by explaining the meaning and purpose of these ancient scriptures.
 

Day 6: Thanjavur | Trichy | Madurai

/> After breakfast, leave the hotel at 8 AM and drive 4-hours to Madurai and an en-route visit to Srirangamnathaswamy Temple.

Srirangamnathaswamy Temple: Srirangam is the foremost of the eight self-manifested shrines (Swayam Vyakta Kshetras) of Lord Vishnu. It is also considered the first and the most important of the 108 main Vishnu temples (Divyadesams). This temple is also known as Thiruvaranga Tirupati, Periyakoil, Bhoologa Vaikundam, and Bhogamandabam. In the Vaishnava language, the term "KOIL" signifies this temple only. The temple is enormous and has a complex size of 156 acres. 

Continue your journey to Madurai for a 2 ½ hrs drive until you reach your hotel and rest of the day at leisure.

Madurai (formerly Madura) is the third-largest city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It served as the capital city of the Pandyan Kingdom and the administrative headquarters of Madurai District and is famous for its temples built by Pandyan and Madurai Nayak kings in the Dravidian style of architecture. It is also one of India's prominent Hindu pilgrimage centers.

The driving time from Thanjavur to Trichy is approximately 1 ½ hrs, and from Trichy to Madurai is 2 ½ hrs.

Day 7: Madurai | Periyar National Park

After breakfast, visit the Shree Meenakshi Temple.

Meenakshi Temple: Synonymous with Madurai, is Meenakshi Sundareswarar twin Temples, pivot around which the city has evolved. The temple complex is one of the largest in India and undoubtedly one of the oldest too. The temple grew with the contribution of each dynasty and victorious monarchs into an enormous complex extending over an area of 65000 Sqm. The temple first came into being 2000 years ago and was substantially expanded during the regime of Thirumalai Nayak (1623-55 AD). Lord Siva, his incarnation as Sundareswarar, and his fish-eyed spouse, Meenakshi, are enshrined in this twin temple. There are four massive gateways enclosing these two shrines. Even a casual visitor is fascinated by the many paintings and sculptures.

After visiting the temple, take a 4-hours drive to Periyar National Park. Located in the hills of the Western Ghats, it is the centerpiece of the Park, with a 5500-hectare Periyar Lake - a rich habitat for large mammals - providing excellent cover and an abundance of succulent shoots and grasses for grazers. It is possible to see large herds of Indian elephants, Nilgiri langur, tigers, gaur (Indian bison), sloth, and more than 30 species of mammals. The birdlife is vibrant and includes numerous aquatic birds and the great Indian hornbill. The game viewing is only allowed by boat rides on the lake.

Late afternoon, visit the plantation area famous for spices in the region like cardamom, cinnamon, and pepper after a visit back to the hotel.

Day 8: Periyar National Park

After breakfast, visit the Wildlife of Periyar Nature Reserve. Today experience a Boat ride (shared boat ride) - this is a boat ride through some of the richest forest tracts of Periyar Tiger Reserve. The forests are rich in birdlife and arboreal animals like giant squirrels and Nilgiri langur. The boat ride will be two-three hours, and one gets a panoramic view of forest-clad hills reflected on the lake. Animals like elephants, gaur, and sambar are sighted that keep close to the edges of the lakes. 

Late afternoon, proceeds for Naturalists-led Walk, a gentle walk for about 12 acres of e-education in botany. Bird watching and fishing enthusiasts will find new experiences to take home. You can get the assistance of the naturalists in explaining the flora and the fauna of the region, followed by an in-house Spice Plantation visit. Depending on the season, you can take a visit to a neighboring pepper plantation and walk amidst the rows of vines creeping upwards on trellises. The correct time to pluck the peppercorns is when they begin to redden, just before they are completely ripe. Try your hand at it, but be sure to wash up before touching your eyes or nose. The scent of pepper mingles with the fresh mountain air, and this is the starting point of the centuries-old spice trade and that delicious flavor that makes such a difference to foods worldwide.

Day 9: Periyar National Park | Alappuzha

  • Hotel
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
After breakfast, take a 4-hour drive to Alleppey to Kottayam Jetty to embark on a backwater cruise on your private houseboat, locally known as a Kettuvallom. 

The Kettuvallam, literally ‘tied together boat,’ is a comfortable and traditional way to get around the Backwaters. In times past, this was Kerala’s equivalent of a container ship, up to 100 feet long and able to carry 30 tons of cargo. Great planks of seasoned and oiled Jack wood were lashed together with coir rope and seams stuffed with coconut fiber before being slathered with a nice goop of boiled cashew shells to keep it watertight. Climb aboard and relax in bamboo and palm-thatched canopy to provide shelter from the sun, comfy cane chairs to watch the world go by, and a table to take your meals. 

Be relaxed for a popular peaceful backwater experience in Kerala like no other while the houseboat crew finds a quiet spot to moor for the night. After a cold beer during sunset, dinner is served, followed by fabulous star-gazing in the open skies. Fringing the coast of Kerala and winding far inland is a vast network of lagoons, lakes, rivers, and canals. These backwaters represent a unique geographical formation & are the basis of a distinct lifestyle.

Day 10: Alappuzha | Kumarakom

After breakfast on board, take a drive to Kumarakom. On arrival in Kumarakom, check in at the hotel and stay overnight at Kumarakom. 

Day 11: Kumarakom

Take your breakfast and rest of the day at leisure / own activities while staying overnight at Kumarakom.

Day 12: Kumarakom | Cochin

After breakfast, drive a 1 hr to Cochin. Cochin is a vibrant city situated on the southwest coast of the Indian peninsula in the breathtakingly scenic and prosperous state of Kerala. Its strategic importance over the centuries by the sobriquet Queen of the Arabian Sea. Cochin is also referred to as the Gateway to Kerala.

In the evening, witness the performance of the famous Kathakali Dance show. The Kathakali is a traditional dance form of Kerala, and the impressively facial expressions, hand gestures, and dance moves will leave one spellbound. The Kathakali dance performance is represented by colorful costumes, different hands, and facial gestures with cosmetics made from various natural pigments. This cosmetic is ground on a stone and mixed with coconut oil before the performance. These traditional colors used in the make-up are obtained from natural substances and locally available herbs mixed with a base of coconut oil. 
 

Day 13: Cochin

After your morning breakfast at the hotel, get ready for Muziris Heritage Tour. This tour offers an introduction to the many faiths and cultures of the Malabar Coast. Muziris is an ancient port city on the Kerala coast, an hour’s drive north of Cochin. The city is known for trading spices, silk, and precious stones exported to Rome, Greece, Egypt, etc. Enriched by trade contacts, Muziris became a melting pot of world cultures. The earliest Jewish settlers in India landed on the Malabar Coast and flourished in Muziris. It is also where St. Thomas the Apostle is said to have first landed in 52AD, bringing Christianity to India.

After lunch at the hotel, be ready for the highlights of the city of Kochi. The tour begins with visiting the Jewish Synagogue (closed on Friday & Saturday), built-in 1568 by the prosperous Jewish trading community. The oldest synagogue in India was partially destroyed in the war in 1662 and rebuilt by the Dutch. In the mid-18th century, the clock tower was added, and paved floors with exquisite hand-painted blue willow tiles from China.

Continue to the Dutch Palace (closed on Friday). Build by the Portuguese in the middle of the 16th century. The structure was taken over in 1663 by the Dutch, who added some improvements before presenting it to the Rajas of Cochin, who made further improvements. This palace is notable for some of the best mythological murals in India.

The next stop will be St. Francis Church, the oldest European church in India. Build-in 1503 by the Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, who died in Kochi in 1524 on his third visit to India. His body was buried in St Francis Church before his remains were returned to Lisbon 14 years later. The Santa Cruz Basilica is considered one of the finest and most impressive churches in India.

Driving back to the hotel, witness the iconic Chinese fishing nets (Cheenavala). Believed by traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan introduced these nets. These nets are found only in Kochi, where many fishermen use these massive nets, with a whole stretch of the coast along with Fort Kochi and Vypeen dotted with them. Your tour concludes with a visit to Fort Cochin - a small community with a natural harbor and one of the most important trade centers in the south of India, Kochi Fort of Kerala is one of the most important towns in the state. 

Day 14: Cochin | Return Home

  • 1 Breakfast
After breakfast, transfer to Cochin airport for a 1-hr drive to connect flight for onward destination.

Accommodations

Old Harbour Hotel - Cochin

Lakes & Lagoons Houseboat

Coconut Lagoon - CGH Earth Resort

Coconut Lagoon - CGH Earth Resort
Coconut Lagoon - CGH Earth Resort
Coconut Lagoon - CGH Earth Resort

Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay - Mamallapuram

Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay
Hotel Wharf
Swimming Pool Area

Palais de Mahe - CGH Earth

Hotel Swimming Pool
Reception Area
Palais de Mahe - CGH Earth

Svatma Heritage Hotel

The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai

The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai, Madurai
The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai, Madurai
The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai, Madurai

Amritara Shalimar Spice Garden, Thekkady

Cottages
Amritara Shalimar Spice Garden
Amritara Shalimar Spice Garden

Dates & Prices

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Per person starting at
$3,960

Notes

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Included
  • 13 Breakfasts, 1 Lunch, 2 Dinners
  • 13 Nights Accommodations
  • 8 Days Locally Hosted Guide Service
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Excursions and activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • English Speaking Expert Guides & Resident Naturalist
  • Mandatory Government Service Tax.
  • Live Kathakali Dance Performance in Cochin
  • Shared boat ride in Periyar National Park.
Excluded
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Internal and International Airfare
  • Electronic Visa upon Entry
  • Personal Expenses (such as laundry, telephone, tipping, etc.)

Map

When to Go

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Dec
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The trip might have been the absolute best of our lifetime (thus far). We particularly want to commend our guide Peter in the Guilin area-he was so incredibly attentive, energetic, enthusiastic-and absolutely dedicated to ensuring that our meals were 100% vegetarian.
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