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Closer to the Gods

Closer to the Gods
13 nights / 14 days

Day 1- Chennai- Mahabalipuram (65kms/1 hour 30 min)     
Arrive in Chennai, be met and assisted by a Tamarind representative. Drive straight to Mahabalipuram. Check in to hotel. Overnight in Mahabalipuram.

Day 2- Mahabalipuram
After breakfast, proceed on a tour of Mahabalipuram. Mahabalipuram lies on the Coromandel Coast, and was a well-established seaport between the 7th and 10th centuries. Visit the Panch Rathas or Five Ratha temples…. of the nine monolithic rock-cut temples found in Mahabalipuram, the most important are these, dedicated to the five Pandava brothers from the epic Mahabharata. The Dharmaraja Ratha is named after the eldest Pandava, and is the largest one in the line up. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Visit Arjuna’s Penance, the massive rock cut bas relief sculpture. It measures 27 meters in length and 9 meters in height, and depicts the story of Arjuna. Later, visit the Shore Temple … a five-storied structure made out of finely cut granite, and one of the earliest and most important structural temples. UNESCO has listed it among the world heritage sites.
Overnight in Mahabalipuram.

Day 3- Mahabalipuram -Pondicherry (130 kms/3 hours)
Drive to Pondicherry. Check in to hotel. Afterwards, explore the city of Pondicherry. The city is referred to by names such as 'India's Little France' and 'The French Riviera of the East'. This territory was under French rule for around 280 years. It still retains its French flavor, seen in the colonial mansions, beautiful boulevards, promenades, and street names on signboards. Visit the Shri Aurobindo Ashram. This world-renowned ashram was founded in the year 1926, by Shri Aurobindo, a revolutionary turned Yogi from Bengal along with The Mother (Mira Alfassa), a French painter and sculptor. The ashram attracts people from all over the world. Later, visit the Government Museum… this multipurpose museum houses sculptures from Pallava, Chola and Vijaynagara temples. The terracotta figures, amphorae, burial urns, glass beads have been excavated from the surrounding historic environment. Thereafter, drive past the beach promenade. Overnight in Pondicherry.


Day 4-Pondicherry-Tanjore (180 kms/4 hours)
Drive to Tanjore. Check in to hotel. Proceed for sightseeing in Tanjore, or Thanjavur…. the centre of Tamil learning and culture.  Thanjavur was the royal city of the Cholas, Nayaks and the Marathas, and the original home of Dravidian art and architecture.  Visit the Brihadeshwara temple, also known as the Big Temple; it is the crowning glory of Rajaraja Chola’s reign in 1005 AD. The temple has a gigantic lingam cut from a monolithic rock, about 8.7mtrs height. There is a huge Nandi Bull within the inner shrine of the temple… the second largest monolithic Nandi in the country. Continue your tour with a visit to Tanjore Palace & Museum, which houses an art gallery, a library, the hall of music, and the audience hall. On display here are relics of royalty - clothes, hunting weapons, headgear and much more. The other two great Chola Temples in Thanjavur are the Temple of Gangaikondacholapuram and the Airavatesvara Temple. Overnight in Tanjore.

Day 5- Tanjore-Chettinad (110 kms/2 hours)
Today proceed for Chettinad and enroute visit Trichy, which is situated on the banks of the river Cauvery. The town and its fort were built by the Nayaks of Madurai. Visit the Rock Fort Temple, a spectacular monument perched on a massive rocky out crop which rises abruptly from the plain to tower over the old city. At the very top is the ancient temple dedicated to Ganapati. Continue your tour with a visit to Srirangam … the foremost of the eight self-manifested shrines of Lord Vishnu . It is also considered the most important of the 108 main Vishnu temples (Divyadesams). The temple complex covers 156 acres of land, and comprises seven concentric walls, and twenty one gopurams or towers. Non-Hindus are not allowed the innermost sanctum of the temple. On arrival in Chettinad relax and unwind yourself. Overnight in Chettinad.

Day 6-Chettinad
The Chettinad region is the home of the Chettiar families, one of the richest business communities of South India. Old Chettiar Families built large homes known as Nattukottai, meaning home/local fort, which have an amazing array of antique furniture, with a traditional feel and exquisite architecture.  They are embellished with marble and Burma teak. Local craft includes basket weaving, cotton weaving and farming. Chettinad is famed for its typical cuisine. Overnight in Chettinad.


Day 7-Chettinad-Madurai (100 kms/2 hours)
Today drive to Madurai, which was the capital of the Pandya kings, and an important cultural and commercial centre as early as 550 AD. Visit the Meenakshi Temple- the heart and lifeline of the 2500-year-old city of Madurai. The complex houses 14 magnificent Gopurams or towers, including two golden Gopurams for the main deities. Next, visit the Gandhi Memorial Museum at the Tamukkam Palace. The museum houses the history and relics of the freedom movement. Continue to the Koodal Azhagar Temple, one of the 108 temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Three separate altars feature three figures of Vishnu, in standing, sitting and reclining postures.

Day 8- Madurai-Dindigul(70 kms/1 hour 30 min)
Post breakfast; explore the local markets in Madurai before returning to your hotel for lunch. Afterwards, you will head to Dindigul. Dindigul has a glorious past associated with Tipu Sultan. It is famous for its lock manufacturing and weaving industries.

Day 9- Dindigul-Munnar(200 km/4 hours)
Today proceed for Munnar, on arrival relax at hotel and unwind yourself. It is famous for its lush green surroundings, lakes, reservoirs, forests, and tea estates. Walks and hiking around this small town offer an exhilarating experience. Munnar has a legacy of its own when it comes to the origins and evolution of tea plantations. The Kundala tea plantations and the Kundala Lake are renowned as a place of exquisite beauty, with undulating mountain slopes and thick, evergreen tea plantations. Take a stroll in a tea estate, and enjoy the refreshing mountain breeze. Overnight in Munnar.

Day 10-Munnar
Today, enjoy sightseeing tour of Munnar. In the morning, visit the Tea Museum in the Nallathanni Estate of Tata Tea, which showcases some of the exquisite and interesting aspects of the genesis and growth of tea plantations in Munnar. This Tea Museum houses curios, photographs and machinery. Also visit Mattupetty, located about 13 km from Munnar. Mattupetty is known for its dam and the beautiful lake, which offers pleasurable boat rides. Later visit the Kundala tea plantations and the Kundala Lake… the mountain slopes here are thick with undulating, evergreen tea plantations. The shimmering blue lake is the most photographed part of Kundala. Take a stroll in the tea estate, and enjoy the refreshing mountain breeze. Here you can view the entire process of making tea, right from plucking of tealeaves to their processing.


Day 11-Munnar-Kumarakom (200 kms/5 hours 30 min)
Today drive to Kumarakom. Check in to hotel. At leisure on the backwaters. Kumarakom is Kerala’s heartland of lagoons and mangrove fields, inter-linked with hundreds of narrow winding canals. Soak in the panoramic sight of the serene, palm fringed canals winding through the vast expanse of paddy fields, and the neat tiny hamlets lined up along either side of the canals. Vembanad Lake in Kumarakom is home to the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. An ornithologist's paradise, the sanctuary is spread across 14 acres. Overnight in Kumarakom.


Day 12- Kumarakom   
At leisure. You can avail of some Ayurveda treatments if desired. Ayurveda is the ancient healing system of India and has been practiced continuously for over 5,000 years. The various treatments are individually prescribed, and involve the use of medicated herbal oils, herbs, powders and poultices, and natural ingredients… and qualified therapists trained in traditional Ayurvedic schools. The therapies can cure a variety of ailments ranging from colds, blood pressure, and obesity to insomnia, arthritis and rheumatism. However, to avail of the benefits of Ayurveda, one does not need to be is a wonderful way of life, which promotes health, de-stressing and general well-being. Overnight in Kumarakom.

Day 13- Kumarakom- Cochin (60 kms/1 hour 30 min)  
Drive to Cochin. The twin cities of Fort Cochin and Mattancherry have preserved an extraordinary wealth of really old colonial architecture spanning the Portuguese, Dutch and the British eras. Visit Fort Cochin… walk to the church of St Francis, the oldest European-built church in the country. Also explore the 282-year-old Dutch Cemetery in Fort Kochi. Continue your tour with a visit to Mattancherry, where you will visit the historic synagogue in the Jewish Quarter, built over 400 years ago. The Synagogue itself is elaborately decorated. You will also visit the Mattancherry or Dutch Palace, constructed in 1555. The palace has a fine collection of mural paintings depicting scenes from the Hindu epics. Thereafter, drive past the amazing Chinese Fishing Nets, strung out along the tip of the peninsula. In the evening, witness a Kathakali dance performance. Kathakali dates back to the seventeenth century and is deeply rooted in mythology, taking it themes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Costumes and makeup are dramatically characteristic of the dance, and the technique involves highly intricate gestures and expressions. Overnight in Cochin.


Day 14- Cochin- London (By Flight)  
Board the flight to London.
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