Places Covered: Chennai – Mahabalipuram – Kanchipuram – Kumbakonam – Tanjore – Madurai – Munnar – Periyar – Backwater – Cochin
A journey through Tamil Nadu is always a journey on the trail of Tamil civilization and the diverse landscape of God’s Own Country, Kerala, offers a welcome change. Wonderful mountain landscapes, endless tea plantations, picturesque hill stations, species-rich animal reserves and the “backwaters” await enthusiastic travelers as well as endless, palm-fringed beaches along the Arabian Sea. Unlike in northern India, the former British colonial rulers left far fewer marks than in many a North Indian region. Here, where India is still the most “Indian,” Muslims and Mughal rulers of the North have never really gained influence.
Experience the best of Temple Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram, Darasuram, Madurai much more, & the showcases the religion, culture and architecture of ‘The City of Thousand Temples’. Gain a deeper understanding of Hinduism, sample a typical Indian lunch and watch a traditional silk weaving demonstration as part of this tour of Tamil Nadu. We have some of the best South India tour packages for you. Tamil Nadu, famous for its magnificent temples, art, fabrics and culture is a place worth visiting. It is one of the most urbanized states of India, though most of the people still live in villages. Nothing like exploring God’s Own Country – Kerala famous for its backwaters, lakes, coconut trees, beaches and diverse culture will mesmerize you. You can savor the local cuisine rich in spices that grow in this region. The warm hospitality of the people will impress you so much that you will come back for more visits.
Upon arrival we drive to our beach hotel in Mahabalipuram. The rest of the day is after the long journey to relax in the resort directly on the sea at leisure. We enjoy the warm waves of the sea on a beach walk or just let the soul dangle a bit to arrive in peace.
The small town of Mahabalipuram is located directly on the Bay of Bengal on the kilometer-long sandy beach and is a popular resort – with both Indian and foreign visitors. In ancient times, it was a very important port city, which brought the city to some prosperity. This created a variety of temples, cultic caves and bas-reliefs, which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. The Shore Temple is due to its location on the beach especially in the morning and in the late afternoon to sunrise and sunset a wonderful photo opportunity. The famous rock relief fascinates by the varied scenes. Heading south from the wall relief, you come to a series of cave temples cut into the rock, the walls of which are decorated with beautiful reliefs. The temple group of the five Rathas dates from the 7th century. and was cut out of a single huge granite rock at that time. The lighthouses of Mahabalipuram are an ideal place to look at the beautiful landscape within a raised viewing area.
On an excursion we explore the about 60 km away Kanchipuram, one of the seven holiest places in India. Of the total of over 100 temples – of which we can only visit a few or the most important – the Kailasanatha Temple is considered the most important. The Shiva Sanctuary was commissioned by Pallava ruler Narasimharvan at the beginning of the 8th century. Due to the extremely artistic sculptures he represents one of the most perfect examples of Hindu Hindu architecture in India.
Compared to the Kailasanatha, there is an atmosphere of religious fervor as well as outright profiteering in and around the Ekambareswara Temple. By far the largest temple of Kanchipuram with a total area of 9 ha can be seen from a far on its all-towering, 57 m high, ten-story Gopuram in the south. Inside the temple complex, enclosed by a high wall, one first encounters the “Thousand Pillars Hall”, an important component of almost all the larger South Indian temples. In fact, there are 540 beautifully decorated pillars between which pilgrims can rest and chat.
Today our way leads us to Kumbakonam, also known for its wonderful temples. An Indian legend tells why there are a lot of temples around Kumbakonam: the village is located right at the mouth of the Chauvery and Arasalar Rivers. Here the nectar pot landed with the trunk of immortality after a tidal wave washed it away from its original place on the sacred Mount Meru in the Himalayas. Shiva destroyed the vessel with his arrow and the trunk of immortality spilled over Kumbakonam. On the way we visit the temples in Chidambaram and Darasuram.
On a day trip through rural India, we explore the city of Tanjore. We visit the atmospheric Brihadeshvara Temple and the mighty Palace of the Nayaks. The quite simple, but still worth seeing Schwartz Church is also on the program. After the brightly colored, lively Indian temples a small oasis for eyes and ears. After extensive sightseeing we drive back to Kumbakonam and enjoy the afternoon at leisure.
We drive to Tiruchirapalli, which is called by the Indians briefly Trichy. Impressive rises the great fortress Rock Fort on a 84m high cliff above the city. From up here we have a magnificent view. Heading north across the Chauvery River, you will already see the temple towers of Srirangam, our next destination.
The temple complex of Sri Ranganathaswamy is one of the most important Vishnu sanctuaries and since the 10th century, a famous pilgrimage site. From the 13th century from the original main temple built by the Pandyas, over the centuries, through the additions of various dynasties, the largest Vishnu temple in South India developed today. The total area of this classic temple city is almost one square kilometer. The rather inconspicuous main temple in the center is surrounded by seven walls, which are interrupted by 21 magnificent gate towers. They form the already visible from a far, the actual landmark Srirangams. We walk across the Chinese Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar before continuing to Madurai.
Madurai is often referred to as the “secret capital of the South”. Unlike many other cities in India, which have little to offer apart from a temple, Madurai is a place to stay. In addition to the excellent tourist infrastructure with numerous hotels, good restaurants and great shopping, the vibrant city of Sri-Meenakshi Temple in the center offers a unique atmosphere of activity and religiosity. We spent a lot of time exploring this huge temple city. In addition to the twelve Gopurams, shrines, halls, sculptures and murals impressed above all the hustle and bustle in the daily attended by more than 10,000 people temple city. The temple, where Shiva and Meenakshi are worshiped, is located along with other side temples and shrines within a walled rectangle measuring 254 x 237 meters. The tall outer wall, shaped like a fortress wall, is interrupted by four gate towers – one in each direction, which is the landmark of Madurai. Then we visit the magnificent Thirumalai Nayak Palace and stroll through the wide, ornate halls. About 2 km away from Meenakshi Temple is the artificially created Teppakulam Lake with a temple on a small island in the middle. We walk over the colorful flower market. In the evening we visit the Meenakshi Temple again for the solemn closing ceremony.
A scenic drive takes us today to Munnar. The fresh air and well-preserved colonial buildings have made Munnar a popular destination for explored Indians. We visit the local tea museum and take a walk in the tea garden region. In the evening we visit the local market.
The journey continues through the endless forests of the Cardamom Mountains to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. On the way we visit a spice garden and learn more about the origins of pepper, about the production of curry and many other spices and plants that we use every day and eat, but about which we know very little. On a guided hike (about 2 hours) with a member of the Forest Department we explore the national park and the surroundings of the lake in the footsteps of wild elephants and other interesting jungle dwellers. The wildlife sanctuary is approximately 800 square kilometers one of the largest national parks in India. About 40% of the reserve is covered by lush Shola forest and another 40% is covered with moist tropical deciduous forest. The remaining area consists of grassland and the extensive reservoir. Depend on luck, some of the approximately 1,000 wild elephants that live in the park can be spotted here. Also Sambarh dear, wild boars, wild dogs, sloth bears, leopards and about 50 tigers are among many species of birds to the inhabitants of the reserve.
In the morning we drive towards Allepey to the starting point of our houseboat trip through the backwaters. Just the variety of landscapes and the various vegetation zones from the mountains down into the coastal lowlands make the trip a real experience. The backwaters are a vast network of picturesque lagoons, lakes and shallow alluvial lands stretching from Kollam in the south to Cochin in the north and Kottayam in the east. The various lakes are networked through artificial channels, which have been used by the locals as important traffic arteries for many centuries. We glide past rice terraces, overgrown banks and coconut palms and make stops on the way to small villages and explore the surrounding area.
After breakfast we drive to Cochin, one of the largest cities in Kerala, and the busy Indian life has us back. The scenic location of Cochin on several islands and headlands on the Arabian Sea, a long history, cultural diversity and an excellent tourist infrastructure make Cochin the most visited city in Kerala. Even today, the city has one of the most important ports on the Malabar coast.
Founded in 1503 by the Portuguese under the name of Fort Manuel, the Old Quarter is considered the first European settlement on Indian soil. In fact, while strolling through the narrow streets, one still feels much of the spirit of that time when Portuguese, Dutch and English were in charge here. The most important building in Fort Cochin is St. Francis Church, the first European church in India. The Jewish quarter is also very interesting with its narrow streets and many souvenir and antique shops. Here used to be the center of the spice trade. Worth seeing are the Santa Cruz Basilica, the Dutch Palace and the old synagogue. In no case will we miss the sunset on the west bank of Fort Cochin, which is lined with the mighty Chinese fishing nets, which are a kind of landmark of Cochin.
No other city in India offers so many opportunities to attend a Kathakali dance performance. Every evening, Kerala’s most famous art form is presented on various stages. Before the actual beginning, a medalist gives a longer introduction to the symbolic meaning of movements, facial expressions, make-up and clothes. Tales are told from the important Hindu epics Mahabarata and Ramajana. It’s almost always about the fight between good and evil, ghosts, gods and demons.
On a short trip by boat into the hinterland we explore the village Kumbalangi and get to know the everyday life of the villagers. After an interesting stay we drive to the beach hotel on Cherai Beach, where we can enjoy the afternoon at leisure.
2 full days are at leisure to relax on the beautiful beach.
Depending on the flight time, we will be transferred to the airport in Cochin and start the return flight to home.