In Southern India, spiritual cities submerge you in mesmeric culture, always ensuring immersive experiences with local people and lifestyles. India is home to 29 individual states, each remarkably different from other. India has been offering aristocratic opulence since long before the nation was conceived. It’s now safe and pamper yourself on its hospitality & luxury. Stay at the former palace of the Nizam, perched 2,000 feet above the city of Hyderabad, is a jewel amongst the clouds. Built in 1894, the palace hotel overlooks the twinkling City of Pearls. Cruise the Kerala Backwaters, with more canals than Venice. The iridescent Kerala backwaters provides one of India’s most tranquil excursions. Live aboard deluxe house boat, cruise past tiny villages and buffalo ploughed rice paddies & the serene waterways. Experience timeless beauty and mesmerizing cultures on this South India Luxury Tour.
Day to Day Program:
DAY 1: ARRIVE CHENNAI (MADRAS)
On arrival, you will be greeted with a traditional Indian welcome and escorted to the hotel. Chennai, located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, was established in the 17th century by the British, who developed it into a major urban centre and naval base. By the 20th century, it had become an important administrative centre, as the capital of the Madras Presidency Today it is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. Rest of the day is at leisure.
TAJ CONNEMARA HOTEL– Offering a fusion of rich South Indian design cues and classic European elegance, the Taj Coromandel gives guests the best of both worlds – business and leisure in the heart of the city. A preferred venue for Heads of State, royalty and the who’s who of the corporate world, this hotel is a member of the exclusive “Leading Hotels of the World”.
DAY 2: CHENNAI CITY TOUR
Visit Fort St. George, constructed in 1640 AD, St. Mary’s Church, the oldest surviving British building. Mylapore, site of the famous Kapaleeswarar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. San Thome Cathedral, Parathasarathy Temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna; Government Museum and Art Gallery housing an excellent collection of items from all the major South Indian periods. Visit Kalakshetra, an artist’s colony where ancient arts and crafts are practiced and taught to students. Afternoon is at leisure to explore the city on your own, chauffeur driven car provided.
DAY 3: CHENNAI- day at leisure
This day, is at leisure to explore the city on your own with a chauffeured car at your disposal within city limits.
DAY 4: KANCHIPURAM EXCURSION – MAHABALIPURAM
Tour Kanchipuram also known as Siva Vishnu Kanchi, one of the seven holiest Hindu cities also famous for its spectacular temples. Many of the temples are the work of the later Cholas of the Vijay Nagar kings. Kanchipuram is renowned for hand woven silk fabrics, originated under the patronage of Pallava kings. Weavers were employed to produce clothing and fabrics for kings. After the tour, travel overland to Mahabalipuram, known for its beaches and shore temples. Check into the hotel and relax by the beach.
Taj Fisherman’s cove: is a scenic seaside resort which was once an impressive 18 century Dutch fort. It is the finest beach resorts in Southern India. Enjoy the sand, the surf and the sea breeze with lush gardens and swinging palms. Explore the open spaces, which are refreshingly breezy. Lounge on a deck chair. Take a Dutch history trail or stay in and soak up the decor in your room. Gaze out at the Bay of Bengal in the distance with stylish, state-of-the-art furnishings enveloping you.
DAY 5: MAHABALIPURAM
Mahabalipuram, the 7th century city of the Pallavas is considered pioneer in the Dravidian architectural style. Built in the 5th and 8th centuries AD, temples strike a romantic theme. The sculptures in particular are interesting as it depicts scenes from daily life. Visit Arjuna’s Penance, the world’s largest bas-relief measuring 27 meters and 9 meters along its length and breadth respectively. This huge whaleback shaped rock contains figures of Gods, Demigods, men, beasts and birds. Continue to the Five Rathas, which are actually five monolithic temples. The most mesmerizing aspect of this monument is that the four of the Ratha’s are believed to be carved out of a single rock formation.
DAY 6: MAHABALIPURAM- day at leisure.
Day free to relax at the beach, explore the temple or visit nearby villages, artists colonies, sculpture gardens etc. A chauffeured car will be at your disposal within city limits.
OPTIONAL: PONDICHERRY EXCURSION
This morning follow the scenic south coast of India to French-influenced Pondicherry. Pondicherry has a long history dating back 2000 years when it was an important Roman trading post. Though the Portuguese were the first Europeans in Pondicherry, it is the French connection that made this city famous. Pondicherry still maintains something of its French flavor in its street names, policemen’s kepis, spellings, and the French accent, a mixture of French words in ordinary conversation, and research institutions and monuments which are named after and dedicated to French heroes.
Visit Auroville (City of Dawn), an “experimental” township founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa “The Mother” and designed by architect Roger Anger. Auroville is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, politics & nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity. Conceived by The Mother as “a symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s inspiration for perfection”. The Peace area in which the structure is situated is characterized by three main features: the Matrimandir, with its twelve gardens, twelve petals and future lakes. The Amphitheater and the Banyan Tree, Inside the Matrimandir, a spiraling ramp leads upwards to an air- conditioned chamber of polished white marble – “A place to find one’s consciousness”. At its centre, a 70 cm crystal ball on a gold mount glows with a single ray of sunlight, directed on the globe from the top of structure. According to The Mother, this represents “a symbol of future realization.” Next visit Shri Aurobindo Ashram, home to the great seer, poet and prophet of the twentieth century. His vision and ideals continue to draw people from all over the world. Pondicherry Museum displays the findings of Arikamedu, the Chola bronzes and sculptures, glimpses of French heritage, specimens of modern and traditional handicraft, paintings, armories, carvings and many other things of historical interest. You may also want to visit the Botanical Garden, established by C.S. Perrotet in 1826; it preserves a large variety of exotic species of plants from all over India and abroad. Return back to Mahabalipuram where evening is free to relax on beach etc. HOTEL
DAY 7: MAHABALIPURAM/CHENNAI/KOCHI (COCHIN)
Travel to Chennai to fly to Kochi. This city is set on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas. The influence of Chinese, Jews, Arabs and Europeans is evident in Kochi and its people.
HOTEL TAJ MALABAR – Situated on Willingdon Island with a magnificent view of Cochin harbor, the hotel combines old-world elegance with modern day convenience. In its heritage wing, built in 1935, graceful Victorian interiors aptly reflect the inherent beauty of Kochi. The tower wing houses newly renovated guestroom suites, each a delicate mix of classic with contemporary.
The Jiva Spa: Blending ancient Indian wisdom with contemporary therapies, Jiva Spa offers the best in Indian rejuvenation therapies ranging from Indian aromatherapy massages, time-honored Indian treatments, body scrubs and wraps. Signature Jiva Spa experiences bring guests the essence of traditional royal wellness and therapeutic experiences.
DAY 8: KOCHI Touring
Morning, visit Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1557 and presented to the king of Kochi, Raja Verra Kerala Varma, as a gesture of goodwill. The Dutch substantially renovated it after 1663, hence, called the Dutch Palace. St. Francis Church is India is India’s oldest European-built church. Vasco de Gama the first European to reach India by sailing around Africa died in Kochi in 1524 and was buried here for 14 years before his remain were transferred to Lisbon. The Jewish Synagogue was constructed in 1568; is the oldest synagogue in the region. Proceed to the Chinese Fishing Nets, reflecting the traditional method of fishing. Continue to the spice markets, a rich trading centre in medieval times. This afternoon is at leisure to explore the island on your own or visit the nearby town of Ernakulum, to attend a Kathakali dance performance. A chauffeur driven car will be at your disposal within city limits.
Day 9: KOCHI- Backwater Cruise- Houseboat stay
Transfer to Alleppey where you will board the Oberoi `Vrinda’ houseboat- Once all guests are on board, Vrinda sets sail along the main waterway on Vembanad Lake and enters the Alleppey canal. Guest could actively participate with the local fishermen and understand the life cycle of “karimeen” also called as “pearl spot”. Lunch will be served on board. The cruiser sails along the scenic waterways for four hours and returns to the Vembanad Lake in time to watch the sunset. Later in the evening, guests enjoy a performance of the highly ritualized “Kathakali” dance which tells stories from the ancient Hindu epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata. Performances begin with the application of elaborate makeup which is based in traditional Ayurvedic principles. The vessel will anchor for the night at the Vembanad Lake jetty. Dinner & overnight at House Boat
Day 10: On board Vrinda – a rice boat excursion
Motor Vessel Vrinda will sail from the Vembanad Lake jetty and head south, towards Alleppey. Breakfast will be served on board. Sailing through scenic backwaters, guests can observe life along these “water highways” while passing through one of the few areas in the world where farming is done below sea level. Guests will be transferred to a traditional rice boat to navigate through the narrower sections of the backwaters. For the next few hours, guests will observe and experience a way of life unique to this region, accompanied by a guide. This section of the cruise includes a visit to the half-statue of Lord Buddha at Karumadi and a traditional Kerala Theravada (family residence). Later in the day, guests return to Motor Vessel Vrinda where lunch will be served as the boat passes through picturesque stretches of the backwaters on the way back to Alleppey, known as the “Venice of the East”. Motor Vessel Vrinda will return to Vembanad Lake, where guests can enjoy Vrinda Vadiyam a musical fusion of classical instruments. Motor Vessel Vrinda will anchor for the night at the Vembanad Lake jetty. Dinner on board
DAY 11: KOCHI/BANGALORE/MYSORE
Motor Vessel Vrinda will sail North along the main waterway channel on the Vembanad Lake and head South, past Pallathurathy. Breakfast will be served on board; following which guests will check out and transported by air-conditioned vehicle back to Cochin airport. A short flight brings you to Bangalore. After a brief city tour, travel overland to Mysore stopping en route at Srirangapatnam, an island in the Cauvery River where Tipu Sultan built his Summer Palace. Arrive in Mysore, the abode of untold grandeur and glory. The capital city of the Wodeyars Kingdom has always enchanted its admirers with its quaint charm, rich heritage, magnificent palaces, beautifully laid-out gardens, imposing buildings, broad shady avenues and sacred temples.
Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel: Set on a ridge commanding a panoramic view of the gently sloping and curving valley, at the foot of the Chamundi hill, stand a shimmering white palace – a splendid Italianate palazzo, double-columned and domed – set in sprawling terraced and landscaped gardens. This is the Lalitha Mahal Palace, built by the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore to host his most important guest, the Viceroy of India. This dream-like palace was built in the year 1931 for special guests of the Maharajas.
DAY 12: MYSORE TOUR
Mysore or Mahishur as it was called earlier traces its history back to the mythical past, when Goddess Chamundeshwari killed the wicked buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura. Tour the palace, built between 1897 and 1907 in Indo-Saracenic style with domes, turrets, arches and colonnades. The Palace is a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world. Intricately carved doors open on to luxuriously furnished rooms. The majestic Durbar Hall has an ornate ceiling and many sculpted pillars. The palace is illuminated on Sundays and during Public Holidays, presenting a spectacle of breathtaking beauty. Continue to Chamundi Hill, a well known 335 meters high landmark. Stop en route to see the Nandi, Lord Shiva’s Bull, a majestic 4.8 meter monolith. At the top of the hill is a 12th century temple of Chamundeshwari, the patron goddess of the Wodeyars and a gigantic statue of the demon Mahishasura. The summit also offers a panoramic view of Mysore’s lakes, parks and palaces.
Day 13: MYSORE / HYDERABAD
Travel overland to Bangalore and board flight to Hyderabad, richest and largest state at the time of India’s independence. The city is nearly 400 years old and is perched on the top of the Deccan Plateau. A multitude of influences have shaped the city’s character. Its palaces and buildings, houses, tenements, gardens and streets have a history coupled with an architectural individuality of its own, making Hyderabad a city of enchantment.
TAJ FALUKNAMA PALACE HOTEL: Experience Nizami grandeur at Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad’s pièce de résistance that epitomizes 19th-century magnificence. The former residence of the Nizam has been lovingly restored, and presents you the most spectacular city view. The five-star luxury hotel, spread over 32 acres, allows you to journey to the gilded ages, where opulence and excess is celebrated and savoured in equal measure. The 60 rooms and suites are beautifully refurbished and lovingly restored by Her Highness Princess Esra, the Nizam’s Turkish wife. Each provides marvellous views of the palace courtyard and the 400-year-old city of Hyderabad. Go on a sumptuous, gastronomic ride at our Indian fine-dining restaurant, Adaa, and savour multi-cuisine specialities at Celeste. Enjoy breakfast and afternoon tea on the Jade Terrace or private dinners at the terraced Gol Bungalow with a spectacular, heart-stopping night-time view of Hyderabad city.
DAY 14: HYDERABAD- City Tour
Tour of Hyderabad reveals an amalgam of old world charm coupled with modernity. Visit Char Minar, Mecca Masjid, Birla Temple and Salar Jung Museum housing the Nizam’s private art collection. This afternoon, is at leisure to explore the city on your own with a chauffeured car at your disposal within city limits.
DAY 15: GOLCONDA FORT Excursion
Visit the Golconda Fort, former capital of the Qutab Shahi dynasty, a mud structure evolving into a magnificent citadel fortress. The Qutb Shahis ruled the Deccan for almost 171 years, contributing to the growth and development of Indo-Persian and Indo-Islamic literature also culture. During the Qutb Shahi reign, Golconda became one of the leading markets in the world
for diamonds, pearls, steel for arms and printed fabric. The glory of the Golconda kingdom ended in 1687, after a valiant struggle. Aurangzeb, the last great Mughal ruler, captured Golconda after a siege that lasted eight months. Abul Hasan Tana Shah, the last king of Golconda, was imprisoned at Daulatabad, where he died after twelve years in captivity. Return to Hyderabad where the rest of your day is at leisure. A Chauffeur car is available should you wish to venture out to shop, sightsee etc.
DAY 16: DAY AT LEISURE
This day is at leisure to explore the city on your own with a chauffeured car at your disposal within city limits.
DAY 17: HYDERABAD/HOME
Your spectacular journey through Southern India comes to an end as you board your flight home taking with you fond memories, sights, sounds and spiritual facets of India.