South India holiday

“Explore historic cities, sacred temples and sweeping coastline as you follow in the footsteps of ancient traders in the beguiling state of Tamil Nadu. ”

Highlights

Chennai | Mamallapuram | Kanchipuram | Pondicherry | Gingee | Thanjavur | Chidambaram | Chola Nataraja Temple | Swamimalai | Chettinad | Madurai

Description of South India holiday

Our 15-day South India holiday takes in this astoundingly historic state in the manner of the traders’ caravanserai from the centuries of yore. We take you through these ancient trading cities and towns with the hope of unwrapping the culture, architectural splendour and rich history of this powerful and progressive Dravidian State.

The caravanserais of ancient South India were established to facilitate the barter of spices, precious jewels and silk between the kingdoms of the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Vijaynagars and the West. From the 4th century onwards trading partners included the Greeks, the Arabs and Mughals of the Middle East and North, the Dutch, the French and finally the British.

Price includes: Accommodation (5 star/eco where possible), transportation, entry fees, guide charges, camera fees, road/toll taxes & soft drinks (water, tea coffee, juices).

Please note: I would be delighted to telephone you to discuss your individual travel arrangements, so please leave your telephone number when you complete the online enquiry form.

Day-by-day itinerary

Day 1:You arrive in Chennai where you proceed to Mamallapuram, once the ancient naval seaport and capital of the Pallava Kings in the 7th century. We use this as base for travel around the region over these next few days. We spend the afternoon of the first day visiting a Heritage Village allowing you to dwell among re-creations of traditional houses, sample the cuisines and experience the art, crafts and dances of the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.
Day 2-3:We spend these next two days exploring the city of Chennai, formerly known as Madras. Madras has come a long way from being a group of villages amidst palm fringed paddy fields before the British, to a modern, yet diversely cultural capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu.
Day 4:We spend this day exploring the magnificent rock cut caves and stone carved temples of Mamallapuram. While in Mamallapuram, we also interact with the local stone carvers and visit the Sculpture Museum that displays their work in stone, metal, brass and wood. We spend the afternoon visiting a bird sanctuary, home to upto 30,000 water birds, both migratory and resident.
Day 5:We spend day 5 in the ancient temple and silk town of Kanchipuram. The first half of the day we spend exploring the town’s oldest temple complexes from the 7th and 8th centuries, built by the last great Pallava Kings. We tour the silk weaving industry in the afternoon, the village it supports and generally gaining an insight into the process of manufacturing the famous Kanchipuram Silk Saree; tempting your wardrobe in the process.
Day 6:Proceeding further south, we make base at the former French colony of Pondicherry for the next three days. We spend the afternoon visiting Auroville or “The City of Dawn” as envisioned by its creators. We peek into the lifestyle of a community that hails from all over the world living and working in peace and harmony for the past 40 years. We also visit the Matri Mandir, a meditation center and the highlight of the visit to Auroville.
Day 7:Pondicherry is best experienced walking or on a bicycle. Keeping this in mind, we spend our second day exploring this city; the confluence of its colonial past with today’s progress, the Aurobindo Ashram and its influence on the city’s citizens, their lifestyle, arts and crafts.
Day 8:Moving west of the city, we travel to the historic military town of Gingee on our last day in the state of Pondicherry. Gingee was the military fortification of the great Vijaynagar Kings of Hampi during the 15th and 16th centuries. Here we give you an insight into this remarkable feat of military engineering that spreads over three mountain tops in the shape of a triangle and covering a distance of 1.5 kilometers in one direction alone.
Day 9:We head further south to the heart of Tamilnadu, using this ancient capital of the Chola Kings at Thanjavur as base for the next four days. Stopping en-route at the sacred town of Chidambaram, we get to experience how often history and mythology are interlinked in religion. We visit the 9th century Chola Nataraja Temple; where Shiva is believed to have performed the “Tandava Nritya”; the ancient representation of the Bharatanatyam dance form as is known today.
Day 10:We spend the next day in Thanjavur exploring this town. Tanjore, as it gets referred to sometimes, is a veritable treasure store of history and architectural marvels. We feel that true justice to this ancient Chola kingdom is only done if one spends the whole day exploring it.
Day 11:Our exploration of temples continues on the third day with a visit to a 12th century Chola temple located north-east of Thanjavur. We proceed to the town of Swamimalai where we experience first-hand the 5000-year old tradition of Lost Wax Bronze casting and interact with the sculptors who keep this ancient vedic craft form alive today.
Day 12:Our last day in Thanjavur involves a drive to the east coast. Here we explore the former Danish East India Company’s port of entry to India during the 17th and 18th centuries and the fort that survives until this day. We spend the day exploring this well restored and immaculately maintained fort complex which sits on the serene Bay of Bengal which gives this place its name; Tranquebar or Tarangambadi – “The place of the Singing Waves.”
Day 13:Proceeding further south and inland into Tamilnadu, we arrive at the ancient town of Chettinad – the ancestral land of the Chettiars. The Chettiars were astute businessmen who traveled through Europe and Asia making fortunes through trade. This wealth they poured back into ornate and lavishly styled mansions here in Chettinad. We attempt at experiencing a part of that bygone lifestyle by living in a perfectly restored Chettinad mansion homestay. We not only sample the unique cuisine but explore the town’s history and culture.
Day 14:We spend the near end of our journey at this famed temple city of Madurai which for centuries has been the repository of Tamil literature and knowledge. The prosperity of the city flourished under the Pandya Kings owing to the trade of spices and silks with Rome and China during the 7th through 13th centuries. We visit the Meenakshi temple complex; a tribute by the Pandyas to the culture and religion of this ancient literary city, spending the rest of the day at leisure.
Day 15:No journey through India can be capped without a train ride. We end your trip with us with one such ride that sees you through from Madurai to the Malabar coastal port city of Cochin.

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

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Departure information

This trip can be tailormade at a time to suit you and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary
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Accepted
Holiday type

Travelling with a local operator

This holiday is operated by a company based in the holiday destination and they will be able to provide expert local knowledge. They will be able to tailor make your holiday to suit your requirements not only concerning the dates of travel but also typically the standard of accommodation, and thus price. It is rare for local operators to be able to help with the booking of your flights.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: South India holiday

This operator was created with the vision to run and manage a business that would offer our guests traveling to India an extremely personal form of travel, shared with members of the family.

We are based in the Nilgiri Hills of TamilNadu situated in the forested Western Ghats. These forested hills used to be home to the Toda tribes of the Nilgiris whose art consists of traditional garments spun from fibers and natural fruit and berry dyes sourced from the surrounding forests. With development, the tribes were forced out of their forest dwellings and were ‘rehabilitated’ in villages outside. However this drastic change in their life, threatened the very art that defined their identity and the means to the only livelihood they knew. Being a part of the local community here in the Nilgiris, we took it up to make sure this art form doesn’t die out like the ancient Toda lifestyle sadly has. We further their art today by sourcing all their products from their Community Center and encourage all our guests visiting us here in the Nilgiris to buy some artifact as a gesture of support towards the Toda lifestyle.

We support of the local village ‘tea shops’ along our routes and the use of only local gasoline sourced from Indian Oil Wells and distributed by Indian Gas Stations. We use the local tribal guides on our teks. Their dedication and knowledge with regards to the forests is commendable and we make sure we give back with some monetary help after every trek and also in kind by supplying them with trekking shoes or clothes that we know they could use.

As long serving members of the Nilgiri Wildlife & Environmental Association (a local affiliate of the World Wildlife Fund), we had actively campaigned to halt the process of timber logging or for that matter clearing of natural forests for any reason whatsoever. As an organisation we represented our case in the Supreme Court, India's Highest Judicial Body, and received a decree that placed a blanket ban on any form of logging in natural forests in the Nilgiri Hills.

We have procured land on which, as a family we currently have planted 350-saplings with a 99% success rate. In addition, we sponsor the trees on lands owned by the forest department where over these years they have afforested with over 100,000 saplings, in this case with a 97% success rate.

Today we have seen a rise in the bird species that thrived in these rain-forested areas. Within our property itself we have seen an addition of close to twenty-five bird species. we actively encourage our guests to plant and own a tree or tree saplings of their choice. As of date, our guests have planted over 125 tree saplings of which all have survived. We keep our guests involved in this experience by emailing them progress photos of their sapling/saplings.

By contributing regularly to a Blind Orphan Childrens Home in a nearby town, we attempt to give these children back a life affected by blindness.

18 Reviews of South India holiday

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 16 Apr 2018 by

All of our trip was a real delight. Highlights were the temples at Mahabalipuram and Madurai, the backwaters of Kerala and Nagarhole wildlife park. Read full review

Reviewed on 27 Feb 2018 by

Wonderful interactions with fascinating local people, including story-teller guides, a classical dancer, a maker of beautiful bronze statues of gods from a prestigious family of temple bronze makers, an English literature student-guide in the Kerala backwaters... Read full review

Reviewed on 11 Feb 2018 by

Most memorable was not a specific place or activity, but instead having the opportunity to meet a variety of people in southern India and getting a better understanding of south India's culture and daily living conditions. Read full review

Reviewed on 23 Feb 2017 by

It was just wonderful; well organized; filled with activities we really enjoyed; the accommodation was lovely and we have great drivers. All in all a very memorable trip. Read full review

Reviewed on 02 Feb 2017 by

There were so many it us hard to pick one but the most outstanding was the friends and acquaintances we made along the way. From the drivers. Guides and of course Ravi and Rajat's family hospitality was second to none. A lovely family who made our stay relaxed, comfortable and thoroughly well looked after. They are very special people who feel like friends now. Read full review

Reviewed on 05 Jan 2017 by

All of Kerela was stunning. My favourite was the tea estate in Munnar and my family loved the houseboat. Read full review

Reviewed on 23 May 2016 by

The holiday was fantastic. There isn't anything we could fault, I wouldn't hesitate in recommending the company to anyone. The organisation, attentiveness and flexibility to suit our preferences was second to none. Read full review

Reviewed on 07 Apr 2016 by

Kerala was incredible from start to finish. As we came to each destination the only word that fit was ' paradise' Read full review

Reviewed on 20 Dec 2016 by

Excellent Read full review

Reviewed on 22 Mar 2016 by

A holiday to suit a wide age range. Safe, friendly and we were able to learn so much about the culture of Kerala. One of the best holidays. 10/10 Read full review

Reviewed on 08 Feb 2016 by

It was marvellous. We had local drivers and guides, stayed in locally owned guest houses/hotels, ate local foods, bought souvenirs from co-ops and government stores. Read full review

Reviewed on 12 Feb 2015 by

Stay as long as you can, it will be too short. We had three weeks and wished it was longer. Read full review

Reviewed on 11 Feb 2014 by

The holiday was completely wonderful in every way. The whole holiday was memorable beyond expectation but if I have to chose one element that was most memorable it's the organiser Ravi Kumar and his wonderful family at Aakriti who treated me like a loved family member Read full review

Reviewed on 07 Mar 2012 by

It was fascinating to experience a little part of this remarkable mixture. The visit to the backwaters - which included 24 hours on our boat - was particularly worthwhile. This is an area of lakes, rivers and small canals quite unlike any other we have visited. Read full review

Reviewed on 10 Nov 2011 by

Most memorable parts were - sharing the Diwali Festival during a homestay at Aakriti. The choice of hotels and the mixture of interests including an overnight journey on a train. Read full review

Reviewed on 11 Jan 2011 by

I think 4/5 reflects our holiday perfectly, we got out of the holiday what we wanted and with the help of our guide Rajat and the team we had some great adventures and lots of wonderful memories and pictures. Read full review

Reviewed on 25 Nov 2010 by

This tour company, tailormade holiday specialists for India are sincere and honest people, who I would recommend to book and arrange your holiday... The time that we spent with a mahout and his elephant was unforgettable. Read full review

Reviewed on 13 May 2010 by

Every step of the trip went very smoothly and having English speaking guides and drivers made the whole experience very personal. Often the local guides enriched our experiences as they espoused more than mere information, passionately imparting their knowledge and opinions. Read full review

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