2 December THU Arrive in Chennai
Arrive Chennai and after customs and immigration formalities met at the arrival gate and transfer to your hotel. Rest & recuperate from the long haul. Chennai is generally quite safe to walk around in the bazaars and is a great way to imbibe the local culture.
3 December FRI Chennai
After breakfast we set out to visit the old and historic city of “Madras”. First visit the famous Theosophical society center. Founded in 1875, the society follows teachings from the Brahmanical and Buddhist ideology. Visit the very well known Museum here – the 2nd oldest in India with a lot of historic artifacts. Complete your visit after visiting the beautiful church of St. Thome. Built in the 19th century by the British it is only of the 3 churches built for the apostles of Lord Jesus. Return to your hotel. The evening is at leisure
4 December SAT Chennai – Kalahasti – Vellore (7 – 8 hours)
Early start with your guide and a 2.5 hrs drive will take you to the first temple of Lord Shiva’s Five elements – Wind at the Srikalahasti (temple timings in nearly temples is from 6am till 12 noon and then from 4pm – 10pm. After understanding the concept of the Five Elements you visit the temple complex (unfortunately some temples do not allow non Hindus in the sanctum sanctorum). After the visit and some light refreshments drive to Vellore.
Visit the Sri Laxmi Narayan Golden Temple – this is a recently made temple and it’s unique feature is that it is made in 1500 kilograms of gold.
Overnight in Vellore
5 December SUN Vellore – Kanchipuram – Tiruvannamalai (7 hours)
Breakfast and later leave for the important visits of Kanchipuram. The Kanchi Amman temple is considered to be one of the most important temples in India. Dedicated to Godess Parvati (Wife of Lord Shiva) this is the seat of Hindusm in South India. The city is considered one of the seven great sacred Hindu cities in India, it contains 108 Shiva and 18 Vishnu temples. One of the most important Shiva temples is the Ekambareswarar temple – representing the Lord as Earth. Later and time permitting, visit the Kailasha temple – with it’s most intricate stone carvings and a real marvel of art.
Drive to the holy city of Tiruvannamali and stay overnight
6 December MON Tiruvannamalai
After breakfast leave for a visit of the important Shiva temple – representing Lord Shiva as Fire. Most devout Shiva followers must visit this temple first before going onwards to any other Shiva temple.
Visit the famous Ramanna ashram here. The knowledgeable Guru lived here and has a worldwide following of his life’s teaching and is visited by many people through the year. A visit to the ashram teaches one the life of simplicity yet high knowledge.
Overnight at the lovely garden hotel.
7 December TUE Tiruvannamalai - Pondicherry – Auroville
After breakfast drive out to Auroville (approx driving time 2 hours) – An experimental community living by the followers of The Mother and Shri Aurobindo. Visit the Matri Mandir and after self introspection there visit the information center for an introduction to the way of life.
Relax for a while and then drive to Pondicherry in the evening (half hour away). The evening is free to visit the bustling sea side promenade and its many excellent French and other international cuisine restaurants. This is a very relaxed evening.
Return to Auroville for overnight.
8 December WED Auroville
After breakfast, take time to introspect in the peaceful surroundings of Auroville, visit the Matri Mandir to energize and discover yourself.
We will organize a workshop on integral learning and yoga or wellness. These workshops help you practice detachment from one’s physical being to connect within for finding peace and the eternal. Overnight at Auroville.
9 December THU Pondicherry – Chidambaram – Trichy – Tanjore (7 hours)
Leave after breakfast for Chidambaram – the temple complex is one of the largest dedicated to Lord Shiva as Space. In one of the several temples of Shiva – you have another manifestation as Natraj – the famous dancing pose. After visit, drive onwards to the last of the temples dedicated to Shiva as the Five Elements – Water. The famous lingam is above an underground perennial source of water and thus quite unique.
Drive to Tanjore for the evening and rest.
10 December FRI Tanjore – Madurai (6 hrs)
After breakfast visit the outstanding marvel of architecture – The Brideshwara temple. It has confounded architects and builders from across the world for centuries. A must visit.
Later drive to Madurai. Rest of the day at leisure.
11 December SAT Madurai
The day is in Madurai to visit the important Meenakshi temple and the elegant Naiker palace. The Meenakshi temple is dedicated to the consort of Shiva – Parvati and is also an important place of pilgrimage. The masterpiece of Dravadian architechure, the temple complex is the center of the old city of Madurai. It consists of monuments inside a number of concentric enclosures, each layer fortified with high masonry walls. The outer walls have four towering gateways, allowing devotees and pilgrims to enter the complex from all four directions. A closer examination of the temple plan, as well as the old city, suggests that it is Mandala, a cosmic diagram laid out based on principles of symmetry. The four towers are covered with stucco images, some of whom are deity figures and others are figures from Hindu mythology, saints or scholars. Each group or sets of panels in each storey present an episode from regional or pan-Hindu legend. The four tallest “gopurams” (the decorated gates) on the outer walls alone depict nearly 4,000 mythological stories.
A special Hindu prayer ceremony will be organized for the general well-being of the group members and their families within the temple premises.
Later visit the very impressive Thirumalai Naiker Palace. This Palace, built in 1636 AD is a classic fusion of Dravidian and Rajput styles of building. The building, which can be seen today, was the main Palace, in which the king lived. The original Palace Complex was four times bigger than the present structure. In its heyday, the palace was considered to be one of the wonders of the South.
Overnight at Madurai
12 December SUN Madurai – Kuttikanam (4.5 hrs)
Breakfast and then drive out for an overnight stay in one of the most beautiful and green countryside at a this small village known for it’s tea, coffee, pepper and cardamom plantations. This small Homestay is lovely with views of the hills and after the crowded and hot cities, this is a welcome relief. The afternoon and evening is at leisure to explore and walk in the plantation and see how these famous spice varieties are grown. The old but well preserved villa is like a museum with rare artifacts. The hosts are very knowledgeable
Overnight at this Homestay
13 December MON Kuttikanam – Backwaters Ayurveda Resort (Kollam)
The drive through the plantations and hills is very pleasant and you arrive at the backwaters. This unique phenomenan is the main attraction of this “Venice of the East” with large tracts of inland waterways dotted with villages, Churches, Temples and terraced fields is the perfect antidote for a hectic city and temple hopping. Arrive by lunch time and settle for a incredible 3 night stay at the resort.
14 – 15 December TUE Backwaters Resort
Days at leisure for getting various Ayurveda spa treatments, massages, or simply just to sit back and enjoy this tranquil nature. Personalised service and good food is the hallmark of the resort. You must take a backwaters trips in a country boat and see how village life is lived in these parts of the world.
16 December THU Backwaters – Kochi (4 hrs)
After breakfast leave for the well known city of Kochi (Cochin) and arrive by lunch time. In the afternoon visit Fort Kochi and at sundown visit the fishing nets area. The beautiful backdrop makes for many beautiful photos.
17 December FRI Kochi
Day in Kochi. Called the "Queen of the Arabian Sea", Kochi was an important spice trading centre on the west coast of India from the 14th century onward, and maintained a trade network with Arab merchants from the pre-Islamic era. Occupied by the Portuguese in 1503, Kochi was the first of the European colonies in colonial India. It remained the main seat of Portuguese India until 1530, when Goa was chosen instead. The city was later occupied by the Dutch and the British, with the Kingdom of Cochin becoming a princely state later. The early influence of the Portuguese and the Dutch has left an incredible stamp on the city and one has to visit the Fort Kochi area to see it. Amongst other places you see the beautiful stain glass window churches, the Dutch palace and the oldest synagogue (built in 14th century).
A must do is to go for spice shopping. Easily the best place to buy authentic spices is the Broadway market.
Overnight in Kochi
18 December SAT Depart Kochi for home
Transfer to airport in time for your flight back home. Kochi in is well connected by many international airlines.