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Splendours of the South
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Here’s What Your Amazing Holiday Could Look Like...
Head for India’s sensational south, a steamy, sun-drenched land of exquisite temples, historic neighbourhoods and tropical coastline. Add in a sizzling cuisine, some lush landscapes and a smattering of wildlife and you’ve got yourself a diverse journey covering the rich splendours of this evocative region.
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Your Example Itinerary
Fly from the UK to Chennai
Touch down in the diverse city of Chennai, the fourth-largest city in India. Here, shiny glass-fronted hotels sit side by side with pretty colonial churches, throngs of traffic pass ancient temples, and British-built forts and cathedrals peek out from behind modern shopping malls and trendy bars. Discover the military history of Fort St George, marvel at the bright white neo-gothic San Thome Basilica and visit the oldest Anglican church in India. Take a look around the contemporary art galleries and museums and feel the sand between your toes on one of the longest beaches in the world.
5* Taj Club House, Chennai
Head for the sacred town of Kanchipuram, known as the ‘Golden City of Temples’ due to the 125 sacred structures dotted across the city. Souvenir-hunters will be pleased to note that it’s also an excellent place to pick up a good quality sari, woven by hand in the surrounding villages. Finish the day in the ancient seaport of Mahabalipuram. There are World Heritage sites aplenty in this town, with oodles of temples, sculptures and monuments, one of the most impressive being the Five Rathas, a collection of monolith carved temples adorned with animal statues.
4* Chariot Beach Resort
Feel the French influence in Puducherry, seen in everything from the Gallic road names and the 19th-century Hotel de Ville, to the steak-and-crepe-filled menus. Fans of The Life of Pi will know Puducherry as Pondicherry, and the town has had numerous names over the years, including the French Pondichéry and the affectionate nickname ‘Pondy’. The most recent incarnation became official in 2006. After taking a stroll around town, head down to the spiritual Sri Aurobindo Ashram and learn about the yoga-inspired philosophy of its founder, Sri Aurobindo Ghose.
4* The Promenade
Admire the world-renowned Chola temples and Nayak palaces of Thanjavur, formerly known as Tanjore. An important agricultural centre, Thanjavur is surrounded by a green fields filled with banana, coconut, sugar cane and maize farms, and dotted with 74 religious monuments and shrines. Admire the rare paintings and fine sculptures in the Saraboji Palace, and crane your neck up at the Brihadeeswarar Temple, aptly nicknamed the ‘Big Temple,’ as it is dominated by an impressive 14-tiered, 66-metre-high pyramid.
3* Sangam Hotel
Discover Chettinad’s marble-clad mansions decorated with chandeliers and mirrors, found sporadically around town and worthy of a look around. The town is another good place to pick up a sari, with bold colours, checks and stripes being popular patterns. Don’t leave without sampling the delicious local cuisine, bursting with mouth-watering flavours and aromatic spices. Lentils, eggs, ghee and chicken are popular curry ingredients here, but be sure to check the chilli levels before ordering, because Chettinads like it hot!
Visit Madurai, a riverside city where suited businessmen rub shoulders with rickshaw wallahs, pilgrims and ox carts mingle in the streets, and shops and markets throng with energetic traders and shoppers. Visit the glorious Shree Meenakshi Temple, one of the largest in India and Madurai’s most famous landmark. With 12 ornate monumental towers, known as gopurams, it’s less of a temple and more of a town within a town, an enormous complex of religious sculptures, shrines and bazaars. Check out the Hall of a Thousand Pillars, where an endless line of carved columns fades into the distance. In the evening, head back to the temple to witness the Aarti ceremony, an unforgettable spiritual experience in an incredible setting.
Evening visit to Shree Meenakshi Temple to witness the Aarti Ceremony
3* Courtyard by Marriott, Madurai
Drive through verdant spice plantations and lush tea gardens to Periyar National Park. Spend the afternoon on a nature walk exploring the park, keeping a look out for elephants, bison, birds and butterflies. The next morning, breathe in the aromas as you walk among the lush cardamom, rubber, vanilla and coffee plantations, a serene landscape of emerald green crossed by twinkling streams. Perhaps sip on a hot cup of the ubiquitous cardamom tea as you learn fascinating stories of the spices and their uses.
4* Cardamom County
Soak up the history in the seaside city of Kochi, where you’ll tour the synagogue, the Dutch Palace which, despite the name, is actually Portuguese, and the delightful St Francis Church. Learn the ingenious mechanics behind the Chinese fishing nets found down on the seashore, then, as the sun sets, enjoy a performance of traditional Kathakali dance. As a final treat, tuck into an authentic Keralian meal with a local family and taste those spices in action.
Evening Kathakali Dance Show
Journeys exclusive: Lunch with local Keralian family
3* Hotel Trinity, Kochi
Depart Kochi and return to the UK
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