You'll start your tour at Chennai, the fourth largest city in India, and the cultural centre of Southern India. Admire beautiful frescos and bas-reliefs, as well as its colonially influenced architecture. Other highlights include the Kanchipuram - or the Golden City Temples - a spectacular collection of ornate temples and religious monuments on the banks of the Vegavathy River.
Finish your trip in Kerala, home to some of India's most impressive spice plantations. Sprawling tea estates cover much of the landscape, as well as cardamom, rubber, vanilla and coffee. Wander through terraced farms, mist-shrouded hills and occasional streams as you discover the breathtaking natural beauty of this stunning region.
Day 1: Depart UK
Depart the UK on an overnight flight, arriving in Chennai to begin your luxury holiday on day two.
Day 2: Arrive India
Arrive at Chennai's International Airport and transfer to your hotel.
Chennai is the fourth largest city in India, and the site of the East India Company's first settlement. Today, it is the cultural hub of Southern India, and has become a major centre for commerce. The city's rich colonial influence is reflected in the architecture.
Day 3: Chennai to Mahabalipuram
After breakfast, take a tour of Chennai, a typical Indian city and the capital of Tamil Nadu. Despite being the oldest British settlement in India, it still retains its own character. Your tour will feature historic as well as contemporary places of interest, such as the Victoria Art Gallery, the Bronze Gallery and the Madras Museum.
Part of your tour of the city will be taken by car, as you drive towards Mahabalipuram - your evening destination. Drive through Edmore to Georgetown stopping at Fort St George, where you'll visit St Mary's Church, and the fort museum housing relics of the Raj. Drive along Marina Beach, where you'll visit San Thome Cathedral - the site of the remains of St Thomas, Christ's apostle and the earliest Christian missionary in Asia. Your final stop is at the Kapaleeswarar Temple, devoted to Lord Shiva. Continue your drive to Mahabalipuram, where you will spend the rest of the evening enjoying independent activities.
Day 4: In Mahabalipuram
After breakfast go to the Kanchipuram, also known as the Golden City of Temples. It is one of the seven sacred cities of India and a major centre of Hindu worship and Tamil history. Of the original 1,000 temples, there are still about 125 left spread out across the city.
Continue to Mahabalipuram, an ancient coastal port south of Chennai. Built as a seaport, the town holds many sculptures and temples of typical south Indian architectural design. Among them are Five Radhas - a group of monolithic monuments and animal figures carved out of solid rock. Also see the world famous Shore Temple; the huge fresco The Penance of Bhagirath; and the world's largest bas-relief, Arjuna's Penance or Descent of the Ganges.
Day 5: Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry
After breakfast drive to Pondicherry, and check in to your hotel. The Union Territory of Pondicherry is situated on the Coromandel Coast, about 160 km south of Chennai. The French ruled the territory for 300 years, and today it stands as a monument to French culture in India. The city exudes a Mediterranean aura with its chic streets, elegant houses and ornamental gardens, but is also imbibed with Tamil culture.
In the afternoon, take a tour of Pondicherry, and visit Sri Aurobindo Ashram and its offshoot, Auroville, 10 km outside the town. The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is located on the rue de la Marine, and is one of the best-known and wealthiest ashrams in India. Sri Aurobindo Ghose, one of India's great philosopher-poets, set up the ashram in 1926. After your visit, drive around the town of Pondicherry and spend the rest of your day at leisure at the beach. In the evening, take a walk on the shore looking out over the ocean.
Day 6: Pondicherry to Tanjore
After breakfast, drive to the town of Tanjore, and check in to your hotel upon arrival. In the afternoon, visit the Brahadeeswara Temple, or the Big Temple, which was built by the Chola emperor Raja Rajan Chola. It sores 65 meters in a 14-tiered pyramid that's decorated with carved pillars, pretty balcony windows, and beautiful carved images. Other highlights include superb frescos depicting mythological and social themes in the temple's inner courtyard.
Not far from the temple is a palace built by the Nayak Kings and renovated by the Maharathas, dating back to 1550 AD. It houses an art gallery, a library and hall of music, manuscripts, and beautiful bronze and stone sculptures. Also visit the Royal Museum that houses weapons, fashion, utensils and musical instruments used by the royal family.
Day 7: Tanjore to Chettinad
After breakfast at your hotel, drive to Chettinad, a region well known for its beautifully furnished 18th century mansions. They have wide courtyards, and spacious rooms embellished with marble and teak sourced from all over the world.
Day 8: Chettinad to Madurai
In the morning, drive for approximately 2 hours to the city of Madurai on the banks of the Vaigai River. The city is Southern India's oldest centre of pilgrimage, and bustles with pilgrims, businessmen, bullock carts and legions of rickshaw wallahs. It was the capital of the Pandyan Empire until the 14th century, and is one of the oldest cities in India.
Day 9: Madurai
Take a morning tour of Madurai and visit the Shree Meenakshi Temple - one of the biggest temple complexes in India and built in the 17th century. A rectangular twin shrine, one shrine is dedicated to Meenaksh, and the other to Shiva. The highlight of the temple is the Hall of a Thousand Pillars, which is a great work of structural engineering and art.
Also visit the palace of Tirumala Nayak, a blend of Hindu and Saracen architecture with an enormous roofed arcade suppor...
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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