South India Culture and Temple Tour

Group at Temple in South IndiaSouth India Tour for Women

Sorry you missed this tour! We are working on details for the 2014 tour right now. Please contact us for details and check out the 2013 North India Cultural Tour for Women.

Number of days: 15

Itinerary dates: January 27 – February 10, 2013

WanderTours Giving Program – A portion of your tour cost will go to supporting a non-profit program in South India. You will have a chance to visit this and learn more about the program during the tour.

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Highlights
* Explore fantastical temples and caves from the 7th century
* Soak up the former French colonial town of Pondicherry
* Learn the intricacies of South Indian cuisine in a cooking demonstration
* Visit the idyllic tea-growing region of Munnar
* Overnight on a lovely air-conditioned houseboat in Kerala
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Itinerary
Day 1
January 27, 2013 – Arrive in Chennai

Upon arrival in Chennai (usually at night), you will be met by a driver and taken to your hotel.

Day 2
January 28, 2013 – Chennai and Mahabalipuram (Meals: B, L, D)
Brihadeeshwara Temple in South India
After a welcome breakfast, the group will take a tour of Chennai, including Fort St. George, St. Mary’s Church, Indo Saracenic High Court building, Kapaleeswarar Temple and San Thome Cathedral.

After lunch, the group will drive about 3 hours to Mahabalipuram where you’ll check into your hotel. Overnight in Mahabalipuram.

 

Day 3
January 29, 2013 – Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry (Meals: B, L, D)

After breakfast, the group will visit a few of the spectacular sights in Mahabalipuram including the Shore Temple and the incredible temple chariots carved from granite. Afterward, you’ll driving about 2.5 hours to Pondicherry, where you’ll have lunch and check in to the hotel. Overnight in Pondicherry.

StarHIGHLIGHT! The complex at Mahabalipuram is a feast for the eyes with 14 cave-temples, nine monolithic rathas (chariots), three stone temples and two relief sculpted rock panels. The Shore Temple includes many bas-reliefs, including one 100 feet long and 45 feet high, carved out of granite.

 

Aurobindo AshramDay 4
January 30, 2013 – Pondicherry (Meals: B, L, D)
After breakfast, the group will enjoy a half day of sightseeing around Pondicherry, including a visit to Auroville, the city of Dawan and the fascinating Aurobindo Ashram and Museum which is known for the originality of its architecture. In the afternoon, you’ll return to the hotel and have a chance for an evening walk along Promenade Beach. Overnight in Pondicherry.

StarHIGHLIGHT! Pondicherry is a former French colony and, as such, is a unique destination in India. It consists of four non-contiguous enclaves, or districts, and is named for the largest. It is also known as The French Riviera of the East. You’ll be able to wander along the city’s waterfront promenade and meander the streets, discovering the unique shops, markets and cafes, many of which are European-influenced.

Day 5
January 31, 2013 – Pondicherry – Thanjavur (Meals: B, L, D)

After breakfast, the group will drive to Thanjavur, about 4.5 hours away. This is an important center for South Indian art and architecture. You’ll visit some of the great Chola Temples which are are UNESCO World Dancer at TempleHeritage Monuments and are located in and around Thanjavur. This is also home of Tanjore painting, a style quite unique to the region, yet known nationwide. The city is also an important agricultural center and is often referred to as the Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu. Overnight in Thanjavur.

Day 6
February 1, 2013 – Thanjavur (Meals: B, L, D)

After breakfast, the group will head off to Trichy, about an hour away. This is a very famous Hindu pilgrimage site and the morning will be spent at Srirangam.

This area is surrounded by the waters of River Kaveri on one side and its tributary Kollidan on the other. It’s a 600-acre island town enclosed within seven walls of the gigantic Sri Ranganathaswami Temple. Originally, there was just a small shrine where the temple is today, but it was added on to by the local rulers and today stands as the biggest temple complex in the country.

After lunch, the group will then visit Sri Bragadeeswarar Temple, India’s largest temple and considered to be one of Temple South Indiathe greatest accomplishments of Indian architecture. Overnight in Thanjavur.

StarHIGHLIGHT! Sri Bragadeeswarar is one of India’s most prized architectural sites and the world’s first completely granite temple. The vimana – or temple tower – is 216 feet high and is among the tallest of its kind in the world.

Day 7
February 2, 2013 – Thanjavur – Chettinad (Meals: B, L, D)

After breakfast, the group will head off to Chettinad, about 3 hours away. Today, you’ll have a couple of options. You can take a bullock cart ride around the village or have your future predicted by a parrot – this is an unusual method in which a specially trained parrot selects a card from a Tarot-like deck and the card is then interpreted by a fortune teller.

The unique cuisine of Chettinad is a major focus for visitors here. The food is rich and includes more meat than Chettinad Dinnermost Tamil food (but there are plenty of options for vegetarians!) and is a style that is quite famous throughout India. You’ll be able to taste test this style yourself and try it in its purest form – spicy but not too hot, with a complex combination of flavors which makes every dish distinct and unforgettable. Overnight in Chettinad.

StarHIGHLIGHT! To shine a spotlight on this region’s phenomenal cuisine, a cooking demonstration will be organized where you will have the chance to partake in the preparations and then enjoy a wonderful meal.

Day 8
February 3, 2013 – Chettinad – Madurai (Meals: B, L, D)

After breakfast, you’ll drive to Madurai, about 1.5 hours away. Madurai is the third largest city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It served as the capital city of the Pandyan Kingdom and is the administrative headquarters of Madurai District, now famous for its temples. It is also one of India’s most prominent Hindu pilgrimage centers.

Upon arrival in Madurai, you’ll check in to the hotel and, after lunch, visit Thirumalai Nayak Palace and then Shree Meenakshi Temple. Overnight in Madurai.

StarHIGHLIGHT! Madurai is best know for the Meenakshi Temple. The complex is literally a city – one of the largest of its kind in India and undoubtedly one of the oldest. The area now flows over more than 65,000 square meters.

Munnar Sunset

Day 9
February 4, 2013 – Madurai – Munnar (Meals: B, L, D)

After breakfast, the group will drive about 5.5 hours to Munnar, which has some of the world’s highest tea-growing estates. The drive through the tea estates and rolling mountains will take your breath away – you will hardly believe you are still in India! After lunch, you’ll tour a tea plantation and then overnight in Munnar.

StarHIGHLIGHT! Munnar is an idyllic hill station with its velvet lawns and exotic flora and fauna. Breathing in fresh, cool mountain air is a rare experience in India and you’ll have plenty of it here. This area is also home to large numbers of birds, many of them endemic, as well as plenty of wildlife.

Day 10
February 5, 2012 – Munnar (Meals: B, L, D)

After breakfast, the group will take a light hike near Munnar, which will include a leisurely meandering walk through beautiful tea plantations to give you the chance to enjoy the natural surroundings of this pristine region. The day includes a packed lunch.

You’ll then return in the afternoon for spice and souvenir shopping in Munnar. Munnar’s many shops carry Munnar Tea Plantations incense, food, spices, tea, carvings, jewelry, clothing and tapestries. Overnight in Munnar.

HIGHLIGHT! During today’s hike, you’ll see man-made lakes and mountains for miles. The tea plantations also stretch out far in front of you. It’s not unusual to see elephants (and remnants of the pachyderms) along this hiking route.

Day 11
February 6, 2013 – Munnar – Periyar (Meals: B, L, D)

Today, the group will head onward to Periyar, about 4.5 hours away. Periyar National Park is situated in the hills of the Western Ghats, the centerpiece of which is Periyar Lake – a rich habitat for large mammals.

After lunch, you’ll take a plantation tour (plantation is relative, these are usually quite small) where you’ll have a chance to see numerous spices growing including cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, coffee and tea. Overnight in Periyar.

Day 12
February 7, 2013 – Periyar – Alleppey (backwaters) (Meals: B, L, D)

You’ll start this day with a yoga class (optional and appropriate for yoginis of all levels)! Enjoy the peaceful cool of morning while stretching your muscles.

Group on Boat in Kerala BackwatersAfter breakfast, you’ll drive to Alleppey (about 4 hours away) and board your private houseboat.

The embarkation point for the houseboat fringes on the coast of Kerala. Winding far inland is a vast network of lagoons, lakes, rivers and canals. Commonly called the backwaters, this region represents a unique geographical formation and is the basis of a distinct lifestyle. Overnight on houseboat.

StarHIGHLIGHT! These are no ordinary houseboats. You’ll have your own private room (unless you’re sharing) with air conditioning and a private bathroom. Food is prepared fresh on board by an excellent chef and you’ll enjoy the peace and quiet while listening to the water lapping against the boat.

Day 13
February 8, 2012 – Allepey – Kochi (Meals: B, L, D)

Today you’ll have breakfast on board the houseboat before you start cruising the waterways, passing through lush green spice plantation areas and local villages. You’ll disembark the houseboat in the morning and drive onward to Kochi, about 2 hours away.

In the evening, you’ll see a genuine Kathakali dance performance. Kathakali DancerOvernight in Kochi.

StarHIGHLIGHT! Kathakali is the traditional dance form from Kerala. The performers are known for their impressive array of facial expressions, hand gestures and dance movements – all integral to the storytelling.

Day 14
February 9, 2013 – Kochi (Meals: B, L, D)

Today, you’ll have another chance for an early morning yoga session (again, optional and appropriate for yoginis of all levels).

After breakfast, you’ll take a guided tour of Kochi, visiting Fort Cochin and Jew Town (yes, that is what it’s called), Dutch Palace (Mattancherry) and see how Chinese fishing nets are used.

Here, you’ll see wholesale shops where owners sit behind scales surrounded by sacks of spices. The architecture of the quiet streets in this enclave is most definitely European, with fine houses built by wealthy British traders and Dutch cottages with split farmhouse doors. Overnight in Kochi.

Day 15
February 10, 2013 – Kochi – Departure home (Meals: B)

After breakfast, transfer to Kochi International airport for your onward flight.

Star

Add-on Option: Delhi and Agra

Day 15
February 10, 2013 – Kochi – Delhi (Meals: B)
After breakfast, you’ll be transferred to the Kochi airport for your flight to Delhi. Upon arrival, you’ll be met by your guide and taken to your hotel where you’ll have the rest of the day at leisure. Overnight in Delhi.

Day 16
February 11, 2013 – Delhi (Meals: B)
After breakfast, you’ll head out for a full day of sightseeing including both Old Delhi and New Delhi.Women at the Taj Mahal India

In Old Delhi, you’ll visit Raj Ghat, the memorial site where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated; Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India; and the Red Fort, once the most opulent fort and palace of the Mughal Empire. You’ll have a chance to take a rickshaw ride in one of the busiest market areas of Delhi, frenetic and fantastic Chandni Chowk.

 

In New Delhi, you’ll visit Qutab Minar, the 72.5 meter tower that dates back to the 13th century and take a drive along wide tree-lined boulevards and upscale homes. It’s here that you will see beautiful parks, the magnificent Parliament Building, Rashtrapati Bhawan (the official residence of the President of India) and India Gate. Overnight in Delhi.

Day 17
February 12, 2013 – Delhi – Agra (Meals: B)
After breakfast, you’ll drive 4 – 5 hours to Agra. Along the way you’ll visit Sikandra, where Akbar’s Mausoleum is located.

 

In the afternoon, you’ll visit Agra Fort, a massive structure with 70-foot high, 1.5-mile long walls encompassing an astounding collection of well preserved buildings. In the afternoon, you’ll enjoy a beautiful sunset visit at the Taj Mahal. Overnight in Agra.

StarHIGHLIGHT! The Taj Mahal is a breathtaking memorial to Shah Jahan’s wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It took 22 years to complete and was designed and planned by Persian architect Ustad Isa. It’s recognized for its stunning design, perfect symmetry and its elegant domes, intricately carved screens and some of the best inlay work ever created.

Day 18
February 13, 2013 – Agra – Delhi (Meals: B)
After breakfast, you’ll drive back to Delhi with an optional visit to Fatehpur Sikri – a veritable fairytale city that has now fallen into ruins (but is still quite fascinating!). Overnight in Delhi.

 

Day 19
February 14, 2013 – Delhi (Meals: B)
After breakfast, you’ll have time on your own for final sightseeing and shopping before departing for your onward flight. A late checkout can be arranged if you have an international flight that departs late at night.

** Itinerary subject to change without notice.

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Costs:
* Sorry you missed this tour! We are working on details for the 2014 tour right now. Please contact us for details and check out the 2013 North India Cultural Tour for Women.

Interested in sharing? We do our best to pair up travelers so as to avoid the single supplement. However, priority is given to the first deposits received. If you’re interested in sharing – PLEASE send in deposit as soon as possible in order to take advantage of this benefit. (Why a single supplement charge? See this FAQ page for an explanation.)

Final payment due immediately.

Price includes: 14 nights accommodation in 4-5 star hotels, all ground transportation within India, sightseeing entrance fees, English-speaking guides and meals as noted.

Price does not include: Flights to and from India, visas, evacuation insurance (highly recommended), souvenirs, personal purchases (such as snacks), beverages and tips (suggested for all guides and drivers).

We recommend World Nomads for travel and/or evacuation insurance.

This trip is limited to 15 women and requires an $800 deposit on a first come, first served basis.
Minimum required: 6 people

Read Booking Terms & Conditions

Registration Form South India 2013 (PDF)

For deposits and payments, please make payable and send check to:

WanderTours
PO Box 16102
Seattle, WA 98116

For questions, please contact Beth:
beth (at) wandertours (dot) com
888-818-9918

South India Packing List: Provided upon registration

South India Culture and Temple Tour 2013 Itinerary (PDF)

Tour Leader: TBD

Related Links:
Read India FAQs and learn about what to expect in India
See Hotels in South India
View South India Photo Gallery
See Beth’s recommended books on India