You will arrive at Chennai International Airport. Following customs, immigration formalities and baggage collection, a MECH representative will meet you as you EXIT the ARRIVALS TERMINAL building after which you would be transferred to your hotel. Chennai (formerly known as Madras), the largest city in South India and the fourth largest city in the country, the capital of Tamil Nadu is located on what is popularly called the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. The varied aspects of traditional South Indian culture existing alongside the lifestyle of a modern city complete with its plush hotels, restaurants offering a range of continental to typical South Indian cuisine, long and uncrowded stretches of beaches, modern shopping malls, and cinema halls. While moving around in the city one cannot overlook the obvious British influence that is so evident in the various cathedrals, buildings in Indo-Saracenic style of architecture and wide tree lined avenues. However, despite the undeniable strong English legacy, Chennai has retained its traditional Tamil Hindu culture and effectively blended it with the foreign influence. Overnight in Chennai
Buffet breakfast at the hotel. This morning, explore some of the colonial sights on a sightseeing tour of Chennai. Begin your sightseeing with a visit to the site of the first British outpost in India-Fort St. George (Closed on Friday) and the commercial centre, George Town. Visit the Fort house and the museum exhibiting a vast collection of portraits, regimental flags, weapons and coins. Proceed to Mylapore in the south which is the site of the famous Kapaleeswarar Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It has a typical Dravidian gopuram (Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple premises). Near the temple, is the San Thome Cathedral, which is said to contain the remains of St Thomas the Apostle (Doubting Thomas). Located on Triplicane High Road is the Parathasarathy Temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna. Built in the 8th century during the Pallava reign, it was later renovated by the Vijayanagar kings in the 16th century. The morning tour ends at the Government State Museum and the National Art Gallery showcasing an interesting archaeological section and a bronze gallery. It houses items right from the Cholas, Vijaynagar, Hoysala and Chalukya periods to some very recent artwork. Afternoon you will be driven to Mahabalipuram (approx 50 kms/ 1 ½ hrs). Upon arrival, proceed fro check-in at your hotel. Mamallapuram (earlier called Mahabalipuram) or the place of the great wrestler -Narasimhavarmam I, located around 60km from Chennai, a small seaside village that was once the main port of the Pallava Dynasty from the 5th – 9th centuries. Today it is the site of several antique sculptural marvels. Declared as the world heritage site by UNESCO, Mahabalipuram boasts of some of India’s most sublime rock-cut art. The only shore temple, which remains here, is the spectacular two-spired shrine, which is unique in that it houses both Vishnu and Shiva in its sanctum. Overnight in Mahabalipuram
Buffet breakfast at the hotel. Today proceed for visit to the site of several antique sculptural marvels. Declared as the world heritage site by UNESCO, Mahabalipuram boasts of some of India’s most sublime rock-cut art. The town was earlier called Mahabalipuram, but was later renamed as Mamallapuram or the place of the great wrestler - Narasimhavarmam I. He made this port a flourishing trade centre. The only shore temple, which remains here, is the spectacular two-spired shrine, which is unique in that it houses both Vishnu and Shiva in its sanctum. The open-air bas-reliefs, structured temples, man-made caves and the five monolithic “rathas” (chariots carved from single processions) reflect this art at its best. "Arjuna's penance" here is the world's largest bas relief measuring 27 meters by 9 meters. The hillside is scattered with eight temple porches with bold sculptures inside and there is also still one surviving shore temple, built in the 1st century. A row of Nandi Bulls surrounds its walls and Mahabalipuram also boasts an excellent open-air museum where you can watch stonemasons at work. The tour of the temples ends with a visit to the ‘Shore temple’ designed according to the description of the original plan from ancient Hindu texts, consisting of a compact temple with two spires with the main alter facing east. Following visit, you will be driven to Pondicherry (approx 140 kms/ 3 ½ hrs). Upon arrival proceed for check in at your hotel. Pondicherry has a rich French cultural heritage, having been the capital of the French colonies in India since the 17th century. The French legacy is visible in the well-planned town, neatly laid roads, wide and vibrant beaches, beautiful promenades, architecturally imposing churches and public buildings and the statues. Split into two parts, Pondicherry on one side is a bustling Indian Market town, and in its old French quarters, the cobbled streets, waterfront pavements and promenades were designed to resemble any seaside town, south of France. Rest of the day at leisure for independent activities. Overnight in Pondicherry
Buffet breakfast at the hotel. Morning enjoy orientation tour of Pondicherry Enjoy a tour visiting the Aurobindo Ashram (open daily from 0800 – 1200 & 1400 – 1800). Situated in a bustling city of a quarter-million people, the Ashram is not a quiet place of retreat secluded from the world but a vibrant centre of life in a modern urban setting. It consists of an interconnected block of houses, including those in which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother dwelt for most of their lives. At its centre under a tree-shaded courtyard lies the Samadhi, a white-marble shrine where their bodies are laid to rest. Continue to the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, noted for its Gothic architecture and stained glass panels, which depict the entire life of Jesus Christ. Post your visit, you will be driven to Tanjore (approx 177 kms/ 4 ½ hrs) enroute visiting Swamimalai. Upon arrival proceed for check in at your hotel. Thanjavur is situated halfway between Tiruchirappalli (60km) and the coast. It is 35km southwest of Kumbakonam and 334 km south of Chennai. Thanjavur was the capital city of Chola kingdom from the 9th to the 13th centuries. It is the granary of South India and is known as the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu. This royal city has a rich and varied heritage for which it is known across the globe. There are more than 70 temples in Thanjavur, the most important being the famous Brihadeeswara Temple. Rest of the day at leisure. Overnight in Tanjore.
Buffet breakfast at the hotel. Today, you will proceed on a full day tour visiting the Sri Brihadeshwara Temple built by the great Chola king, Raja Raja I in the 10th century AD; this temple is an outstanding example of the Chola architecture. Guarding the inner shrine of the temple is the gigantic statue of Nandi, the Bull, while the walls of the sanctum are covered, with the wall paintings of Chola and Nayak periods. This superb monument has been listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Continue on a visit to the Tanjore Palace and Museum. The Palace, adjacent to the temple is a vast structure of outstanding architecture built partly by the Nayaks and partly by the Marathas around 1550 AD. The Royal museum displays many items of the kings who ruled the palace in past. The Royal clothes, hunting weapons, the head gears and many more such items. The Nayak hall of the palace is converted into an Art Gallery which has an excellent collection of artefacts from the Chola dynasty during the 8th and 9th century. Next to the art gallery is the Saraswathi Mahal Library with an amazing collection of manuscripts on palm leaves and paper. The library is not open for the public. But one can always go in the museum to have a look at the full Ramayana written on Palm leaf or a set of explicit prints of prisoners under Chinese torture. The Sangeetha Mahal is an acoustically perfect musical hall that testifies to the skill of its boundaries. East of the palace in the garden is the Schwartz Church which was built in 1779 by Raja Serfoji in honour of Revered Schwartz of Denmark. Return back to your hotel, following sightseeing tour. Overnight in Tanjore
Buffet breakfast at the hotel. Morning you will be driven to Madurai (approx 190 kms/ 5 hrs) enroute visiting Chettinad. Upon arrival proceed for check in at your hotel. Known as the Athens of the East, Madurai, the second largest city in Tamil Nadu is situated on the banks of the river Vaigai. An ancient city, more than 2,500 years old, Madurai is believed to have been built by the Pandyan King Kulasekara in the 6th century BC. The city is said to have got its name from the drops of nectar (Mathuram) that fell from Shiva's locks when he came to bless its people for constructing a temple for him. Originally named Madhurapuri or the 'land of nectar', the name later got modified as Madurai. From such legendary beginnings, the actual history of Madurai emerged sometime during the 3rd century BC. Overnight in Madurai
Buffet breakfast at the hotel. Today proceed on a sightseeing tour of the city commencing with a visit to the Meenakshi Temple. One of the most important places of Hindu pilgrimage, the temple is the very centre of cultural and religious life for the residents of the city. It is a riotously baroque example of Dravidian architecture with gopurams (spires) covered from top to bottom in a breathtaking profusion of multi coloured images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. The temple complex has two main shrines one dedicated to Sundareswarar (Shiva) and the other to His consort Meenakshi (Parvati). The Kampathadi Mandapam (pillared hall) in front of the Sundareswara shrine depicts the various manifestations of Lord Shiva. The 1000-pillared hall in the complex houses the Temple Art Museum, which contains friezes, stone and brass images and the best exhibits on Hindu deities. Continue to the Palace of Tirumalai Nayak, an Indo-Saracenic building constructed in 1523. There is no other building in Madurai which can better illustrate the architectural style of the Nayaks. The most remarkable part of this palace is the Swarga Vilasam which served as the audience hall. Its dome which lies beyond a huge courtyard is a magnificent example of the engineering skill of its builders, rising as it does to a height of 20m without support of any kind. Return back to the hotel. Rest of the afternoon is free for relaxation. Evening you will visit the Meenakshi Temple to witness the evening Aarti ceremony. Overnight in Madurai
Buffet breakfast at the hotel. Morning you will be driven to Thekaddy (150 kms/ 3 ½ hrs). Upon arrival proceed for check in at the hotel. The heart of God's own country! Thekkady is located about 4 km from Kumili in Idukki district. The very sound of the name conjures up images of elephants, unending chains of hills and spice scented plantations. Here, in the crisp, cool air of the Western Ghats you will experience the most enchanting holiday. In the Periyar forests of Thekkady is one of the finest wildlife reserves in India, and spread across the entire district are picturesque plantations and hill towns that hold great opportunities for treks and mountain walks. Rest of the day at leisure for independent activities. Overnight in Thekkady
Buffet breakfast at the hotel. Morning enjoy visit to Spice Garden. The spice plantation in Thekkady is one of the major spice plantations in Kerala. The spice plantations in Kerala are captivating farms to wander in, since different spices are cultivated in different sections of each plantation. Later you will be driven to Kumarakom (approx 130 kms/ 3 & ½ hrs). Upon arrival proceed for check in at your hotel. Located 16 km away from Kottayam town is an enchanting backwater destination on the picturesque Vembanad Lake. The village of Kumarakom is a cluster of little islands that have been converted into a number of tourist resorts, and is part of the Kuttanad region. Kumarakom is an unbelievable beautiful paradise. The blue backwaters and the surface of Vembanad Lake reflect the azure sky. The amazing shades of green of the vegetation that include mangroves, coconut palms, and paddy fields cover the verdant countryside. Channels and waterways wind their way through this green paradise. Water lilies and lotuses bloom in the water and birds from the bird sanctuary on Vembanad Lake call as they fly across the clear tropical sky. Kumarakom is an idyllic holiday destination. Enjoy sunset cruise on Lake Vembanad. Overnight in Kumararkom
Buffet breakfast at the hotel. Full day at leisure for relaxation. (No transport services included on this day) Optional: Enjoy backwater cruise Fringing the coast of Kerala and winding far inland is a vast network of lagoons, lakes, rivers and canals. These backwaters represent a unique geological formation and are the basis of a distinct lifestyle. Tranquil and alluring, they offer you the experience of a lifetime. Travelling through the backwaters of Kerala is a marvellous experience with the simple, unique pleasures it offers. Life on your houseboat will be interrupted by delightful surprises. Flocks of graceful ducks; small restaurants on the banks which offer delicious kapa (boiled tapioca) and fried karimeen (a kind of fresh water fish); women in little canoes selling tender coconuts; the song of the cuckoo; the heady fragrance of rich green paddy fields - A journey with no traffic jam! An experience to breathe life back into your engine! Overnight in Kumarakom
Buffet breakfast at the hotel. Morning you will be driven to Cochin (approx 90 kms/ 2 ½ hrs). Upon arrival proceed for check in at your hotel. The commercial capital of Kerala and the most cosmopolitan of the state’s cities, Cochin or Kochi have long been eulogized in tourist literature as the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea.’ Strategically located on the east–west sea route, Cochin is Kerala’s major port, boasting of one of the finest natural harbours in the world, which forms the hub around which the city revolves. With its wealth of historical associations and its setting on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsula, the city of Kochi perfectly reflects the eclecticism of Kerala. Apart from being a major commercial hub, Kochi is also a major tourist attraction in southern India. Main attractions are Fort Kochi, Mattanchery Palace, and Synagogue. Evening proceed for Harbour Cruise Overnight in Cochin
Buffet breakfast at the hotel. Morning enjoy sightseeing tour of Cochin. Proceed for visit to Mattancherry (closed on Friday), was built in 1555 and its coronation hall and murals at Ramayana are noteworthy features. You will visit the oldest Jewish Synagogue in India [closed on Friday and Saturday] built by a thriving Jewish community in 1568 A.D. Now the community has dwindled in numbers, however the synagogue is beautifully preserved. Continue visit Chinese fishing nets. The cantilevered fishing nets line the entrance to the harbour mouth. The long rows of Chinese Nets silhouetted against the sunset present a spectacular sight of Cochin's waterfront. These are large nets, which hang from bamboo or teak posts, still used by the local fishermen of Fort Cochin. Continue your tour to the St. Francis Church [closed on Sunday during Mass], originally named after Santo Antonio and dedicated to him as the Patron Saint of Portugal. Five Portuguese priests who arrived with Albuquerque built St. Francis church in 1510. This church, said to be the oldest European church built in India, was the original burial site of Vasco da Gama in 1524. Following sightseeing tour, return back to your hotel Rest of the day at leisure for independent activities. Overnight in Cochin
Buffet breakfast at the hotel. Morning at leisure for independent activities. Check out from your hotel at 1200 hrs. Later you will be met at your hotel by a MECH representative and assisted transferred to airport for your International flight for onward journey.