Trip Code: AITTAM
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This itinerary will give you a sense of the epic dynasties that have dominated the social and cultural landscape of the Tamils for the last 1500 years.
The Tamil people have one of the strongest cultural identities in India. With that identity comes a fierce independence, yet also a surprising humility and warmth. This trip highlights the best of Tamil hospitality – good food, lovely accommodation and great hosts.
Day 1 Chennai
Arrive Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Chennai, know as a land of temples and priests, is the gateway to the South, and its culture is distinctly different from that of any other city in India.
Day 2 Chennai
Morning tour of Chennai including visits to: Fort St George and St Mary’s Church, built by the British in the 1600s; Chennai Museum, which houses some of the finest 10th to 13th-century bronze sculpture in India; Kapaleeshwara Temple, a classic example of Dravidian architecture, marked by a 36m goparum (gateway) tower adorned with detailed figures and inscriptions dating from 1250; and Kalakshetra Dance School, dedicated to the preservation of traditional Bharatanatyam dance and Gandharvaveda music. [Image: Wenkey27].
Day 3 Mahabalipuram
Proceed 2 hours down the coast to Mahabalipuram, visiting Dakshinachitra Cultural Centre en route, which will give you an overview of South Indian culture and lifestyle. Observe working artisans weaving and potting.
Afternoon arrive at your beach resort. Remainder of the day free.
Day 4 Mahabalipuram
Enjoy a guided tour of Mahabalipuram’s 7th century UNESCO World Heritage monuments this morning. Visit the Shore Temple, Five Rathas and Arjuna’s Penance.
Afternoon free for your own activities or relaxing on the beach.
Day 5 Pondicherry
This morning drive 2 hours to Pondicherry. This is one of India’s most unique destinations – a seaside colony with a mix of French colonial heritage charm, Tamil warmth and culture and cosmopolitan flair.
Afternoon free to take a leisurely stroll around the tranquil, broad tree-lined boulevards and avenues of the French Quarter where colonial heritage villas line straight, clean streets.
Day 6 Pondicherry
Day free in Pondicherry for your own activities. There are various places to visit here – Catholic churches, temples, monuments, museums and Botanical gardens, in addition to art galleries, cafés, bookshops, etc – reflecting the past and present of this unique town.
End the day with an early evening seaside promenade (together with half the town) to enjoy the sunset and cooling breeze blowing off the sea.
Day 7 Tranquebar
Drive 5 hours to Tranquebar, visiting the Shiva temples at Chidambaram en route.
Your hotel in Tranquebar is in the former Danish governor’s beach bungalow, built in the 17th century and recently restored to the beautiful hotel it is today. Very few travellers make it to this part of Tamil Nadu.
Day 8 Tranquebar
Day free to explore the town. Sights of interest include: the 17th century Danish Fort Dansborg; the Danish Zion Church, consecrated in 1701 (the oldest protestant Church in India); the New Jerusalem Church, built in 1718 after the arrival of German missionaries; the Old Danish Cemetery; and the Masilamani Nathar Temple – dating back to the Pandian era, it was erected in 1306.
Day 9 Tanjore
After breakfast, begin the 4 hour drive to Tanjore, en route visiting the UNESCO World Heritage listed temples at Darasuram.
Tanjore is blessed with possibly the finest Dravidian (South Indian) style temple, the 1000-year old Brihadeeswara Temple. Significant for its very tall vimana or central tower and the 80 tonne piece of granite, which sits atop the tower, it is considered the crowning glory of Chola temple architecture.
Day 10 Madurai
In the morning there is the option to visit Tanjore Art Gallery and Palace. Later in the morning begin the drive to Madurai, stopping at a Chettinad mansion en route for lunch.
After lunch continue on 2 hours to Madurai, a city famous for its temples built by Pandyan and Madurai Nayak kings in the Dravidian style of architecture. It is also one of India’s most outstanding Hindu pilgrimage centres.
Day 11 Madurai
Today you will visit the sprawling Meenakshi temple with a local guide. The temple is an amazing amalgam of sights and experiences, with many important facets of Hindu life taking place within the temple grounds.
Madurai has many other activities to offer: a tailors’ market, a Gandhi museum, and a silk weaving colony to name just a few. Your guide will help you to choose the activities that most interest you.
Day 12 Chennai
Fly to Chennai for onward flight to another Indian city or return international flight home.
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