9 Nights Itinerary Covering: Chennai - Pondicherry - Thanjavur - Karaikudi - Madurai – Chennai
South India has always been the epitome of art and culture. Despite urban developments, the region has preserved its heritage, which now also, in the modern times, is the face of this part of India.
Keeping all this in mind, our 10 day Heritage tour of South India is designed to keep our guests indulge in exploring the rich past, through visits to magnificent temples, monuments and museums. And as the southern part of India has a good coastline, visits to prominent beaches are also in our schedule.
Note: This is just a suggested itinerary indicative of what could be possible. We tailor holidays for your specific needs. Contact us if you want modifications so that we could tailor a holiday to suit your need for an unforgettable India tour.
Day 1 and day 2 of Heritage of South India tour are set out to explore the capital city of Tamil Nadu, Chennai (309 km away).
Best-known for its rich culture and heritage, Chennai is one of the most important destinations to visit in South India. The city boasts of a number of attractions representing very culture, spirit and the essence of the land. From pristine beaches to historically significant places, the city houses numerous attractions.
Although there are several must-visit places in Chennai, the series of concerts and performances add on to the absolute experience in the city. The city has all that a traveler requires for a perfect holiday.
On your arrival at Chennai International airport, meet our tour representative and get transferred to the hotel. Check-in at a pre-booked luxury hotel, settle down and later, leave for a short city tour. Some of the important places of interest you will be surely visiting in Chennai are Marina Beach, Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Semmozhi Poonga and Government Museum.
Marina Beach - Stretching at a distance of 13 km, Marina Beach in Chennai is the longest natural urban beach in India. Spend your time sun basking on the sandy shores of the beach. Besides the fun of a beach, guest can also indulge in sightseeing of the historical monuments built along its stretch. It includes memorials, statues, monuments and Indo-Sarcenic buildings.
Kapaleeshwarar Temple- A perfect example of the Dravidian style of temple construction, Kapaleeshwarar temple is located in the Mylapore area of Chennai. Built by the Pallavas in 7th-century BC, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva's wife Parvati.
Government Museum - Located in the Egmore area of Chennai, the Government Museum is a huge storehouse of archaeological artifacts that include antiques and palm-leaf manuscripts from ancient India as well as from the Romanian world. The interiors of the museum are divided into four main galleries, which are known as Bronze gallery, Hindu sculpture gallery, National art gallery and Amravathi art gallery.
Thereafter, return back to the hotel for an overnight stay.
On the second day, you proceed for a short sightseeing trip to Mahabalipuram; around 55km away from Chennai and 265km from the state of Tamil Nadu. Settled in the Kanchipuram district, Mahabalipuram is one of the oldest and historically significant cities in India. The place boasts of various attractions which depict the rich historical past of the state.
Listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the group of monuments (a monument complex dating back between 7th and 9th-century) is the prime highlight of the place. Other major attractions you will visit in Mahabalipuram are Shore Temple, Arjuna's Penance, Krishnamandapam, Mandapams, Rathas, Crocodile Farm, Covelong Beach and Thirukkazhukundram.
Shore Temple - Overlooking the shores of Bay Bengal, the Shore Temple is put up with huge slabs of granite and is a masterpiece of brilliant Dravidian architecture boasting of amazing carvings and mythical figures. The religious complex houses three shrines dedicated to the Hindu Gods.
Arjuna's Penance- A big open-air monument with intricate carvings on rock representing different scenes from Arjuna's penance and Pancha Rathas- another example of the Dravidian style, Pancha Rathas are open-air rock-cut monuments designed in form of five chariots.
Get back to your hotel for an overnight stay.
On third and fourth day you visit in and around Pondicherry.
Post an unhurried breakfast and leave for Pondicherry, 169km away from Chennai/ around 3 hours drive.
Renamed as Puducherry, Pondicherry in earlier times was the largest French colony in India. Though, the city still marks the influence of French culture and heritage through its attractions, cuisines, customs and traditions. The city has various tourist places to keep a traveler engaged for hours.
Some of major attractions you get to explore in Pondicherry are- Sree Aurobindo Ashram, Auroville, French institute and Raj Niwas.
Auroville- Around 8 km from the city of Pondicherry, lies the cultural city of Auroville, which is actually a place where different communities of the world live together. Built on the idea of promoting harmony and peace, Auroville was developed in the year 1968. Centrally located on the premises of Auroville is the Mantrimandir, which is renowned for its architectural grandeur, and is the prime attraction.
The French Institute-the institute is under the supervision of French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the French National Center for Scientific research; Aurbindo Ashram- a peaceful place where Aurbindo lectured his ideas on peaceful community. The members of the ashram are engaged in different activities like farms, gardens and small industries. You also get to see Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and Mother Mirra Richard.
Other prime highlights of the place are Villianur, Pondicherry beach, French Colony and Pondicherry museum.
Thereafter, get back to the hotel for overnight stay.
If time allows, enjoy shopping in Pondicherry in the evening. The best buys of the place are traditional and contemporary Indian art and craft, shimmering jewelries, miniature paintings and excellent furniture designs of rattan and cane.
Fifth and sixth day are set to explore Thanjavur.
On fifth day check-out from the hotel and straight away drive to Thanjavur (around 166km away from Pondicherry/ three and a half hours drive.
Thanjavur is one of the essential cities of South India, renowned for its blessed temples which are listed among UNESCO world heritage monuments. The city is also an important pilgrimage center attracting a lot of tourists and devotees from all parts of the globe. Some of the important sanctified spots that should not be missed during your visit to Thanjavur are Brihadeeswarar temple, Ragavendar temple and Punnainallur Mariamman temple.
Brihadeeswarar temple, a world heritage site, also popular as Peruvudaiyar Kovil, is a pious shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. Showcasing Dravidian architectural style at its very best, the renowned temple is a creation of legendary Chola ruler, Raja Raja Chola I.
The temple is totally constructed of granite and has a tower which is raised at a height up to 216ft. As you will move inside the temple, a huge statue of Nandi the bull will welcome you at the entrance.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple has frescoes of the lord painted on the walls of the inner sanctum. Images of Lord Shiva dancing and fighting with demons are amongst the highlighted ones. Besides Lord Shiva, the Brihadeeswarar temple houses idols of other deities like Indra, Yama, Agnu, Varuna and Vayu.
Other than just strolling around the temples of Thanjavur, you may also visit Art Gallery- the gallery exhibits wide collection of artifacts from Chola period and Thanjavur Royal Palace- located within the Vijayanagara Fort Complex, the palace was the home to Nayak Kings of Thanjavur.
Overnight stay in Thanjavur.
Today, leave for Karaikudi, around 102 km away from Thanjavur / two hours drive.
Karaikudi is a heritage town and a part of Chettinad, a region in Sivaganga district. There are a number of attractions you may visit in and around Karaikudi namely Kundrakudi Shanmuganathan temple, Thirumayam Permual temple, Chettinad Raja Palace and Kannadasan Mandapam.
Later, you visit Chettinad, a region known for its local food, holy temples and architecture. You can enjoy a royal stay in the 18th century Chettinad mansions; which boasts of amazing decorative items from East Asian countries and Europe. Almost all the attractive stuff here is bought from different parts of the world- marble from Italy, mirrors from Belgium, chandeliers and teak from Burma and crystals from Europe.
Chettinad is also famous for its numerous temples like Vairavan Kovil, Iraniyur and Karpaga Vinayakar, which are built according to Vaastu- Shastra.
Overnight stay in Karaikudi.
Eight and Ninth day of Heritage of South India is set out to explore Madurai, around 87km away from Karaikudi/ one and a half hour drive.
Better known as the city of temples, Madurai is one of the most ancient cities in southern India. Being ruled by dynasties like the Pandyas, Cholas, Madurai Sultanete, Vijaynagar empire, Carnatic Kingdom and finally by the British, the city has so much to narrate to the present day generation. Owing to such an enriching past, Madurai is dotted with numerous historical monuments that reflect the true heritage of the bygone era.
As you will reach the city, you would be checking into a hotel. Spend the rest of the day at leisure in your hotel. Feel free to explore the nearby shopping area or market in the evening.
On the next day you would be heading on a sightseeing trip in the city of Madurai. Under this, you will be covering Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, Gandhi Museum, Vaigai Dam, Meenakshi temple, Thirupparankundrun, Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam, Alagar Koyil and Athisayam Water Theme Park.
Meenakshi Amman temple or simply Meenakshi temple is a historic Shiva temple that is located at the banks of Vaigai river in Tamil Nadu. It is believed that the original temple was built by Kulasekra Pandya, but later on it underwent some changes, and the temple form which you will be visiting, was built by the Nayaks of ancient Madurai.
One of the largest temple complexes in Madurai, Meenakshi temple is divided into a number of enclosures which are surrounded by high walls. Right at the center of the temple complex lies the sanctums of Meenakshi and Sundareshwara. You can even visit various other small shrines, built near the central sanctums.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace, is amongst the most prominent tourist attractions in Madurai. The magnificent palace was built in 1636 AD by King Thirumalai Nayak. Highlighting fact about the palace is its architecture, which is an amazing blend of Islamic, European and Dravidian style. Contrary to the richly decorated interiors, the exteriors of the Thirumalai Nayak Palace reflect austerity.
Near to the city of Madurai, lies AlagarKoyil, which is a prominent Vishnu temple and among the top tourist attractions in the region. The temple has a finely crafted gold idol of Lord Vishnu, which belongs to the ancient times.
Post all the sightseeing, you will be returning back to your hotel by dusk.
Overnight stay at hotel.
Post breakfast, check out from your hotel and bid goodbye to Madurai. You will be transferred to Madurai airport, so that you can board the flight for Chennai/Mumbai International airport. This brings the end of our luxury South India tour.