TEMPLES OF SOUTH INDIA
6-day tour of Chennai, Kanchipuram, Mamallapuram, Thanjavur, and Madurai
From Chennai to Madurai
Months: All Year Round
Visit ancient temples from the Chola and Pallava era
See UNESCO World Heritage archaeological sites
See traditional silk weaving at its finest
Experience ancient art forms of Tamil culture
Worship at the powerful Meenakshi Amman Temple
DAY 01 : ARRIVE IN CHENNAI
Arrive at Chennai international or domestic airport. You will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. Check in at the hotel after 12 PM (requests for early check in are at the hotel’s discretion and subject to availability at the time of arrival). Spend the rest of the day at leisure. Overnight stay in Chennai.
Accommodation, 1 Night
Hyatt Regency or similar.
DAY 02 : KANCHIPURAM - MAMALLAPURAM
Meet your tour driver-manager at 7 AM in the hotel lobby to start the tour.
Drive to Kanchipuram (75 kms, 2 hours). Known for its high-quality silk saris, Kanchi was capital of the Pallava dynasty during the 6th to 8th centuries and is famous for its important and vibrant temples dating from 300 CE.
Visit the Vaikuntha Perumal Temple. This 1200-year-old Vishnu temple is a Pallava creation. The passage around the central shrine has lion pillars and a wealth of weathered but extremely detailed wall panels, some depicting historical events. The main shrine, uniquely spread over three levels and with jumping yalis (mythical lion creatures) on the exterior, contains images of Vishnu standing, sitting, reclining and riding his preferred mount, Garuda. Offer prayers at the temple.
Heritage, history, and handloom converge in this quaint town to produce the legendary Kanjivaram sari. Thicker than most other silks, the Kanjivaram sari is crafted to last many lifetimes. Step into the traditional world of sari-making with a visit to a master silk weaver's workshop. Watch skilled artisans use traditional looms to transform pure mulberry threads into unique hand-made works of art containing intricate decorative motifs and dominated by bold, bright, and contrasting colors.
Drive to Mamallapuram (70 kms, 1.5 hours). Located on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, this ancient seaport of the Pallava kingdom holds magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Archaeological Sites.
Upon arrival, check in at the hotel. Visit the twin-spired Shore Temple, a glorious stack of carved tiers which once opened directly onto the sand, Arjuna’s Penance, a house-sized boulder carved with scenes from the Mahabharata, and Five Rathas, sculptured temples in the shape of chariots, carved from single large rocks.
Return to the hotel. Overnight stay in Mamallapuram.
Accommodation, 1 Night
Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay or similar.
DAY 03 : THANJAVUR
Drive to Thanjavur (300 kms, 6 hours). Upon arrival, check in at the hotel.
Thanjavur was an early 9th century capital of the Chola empire, one of the few kingdoms to expand Hinduism beyond India and a bedrock for aesthetic styles that spread from Madurai to the Mekong. It is the site of the magnificent Brihadishvara temple, a 11th century World Heritage–listed architectural wonder that ranks among the most visited historical sites in India today.
Visit Brihadishwara Temple in the evening when it's ochre rocks capture a hot palette of reds, oranges, yellows and pinks as the rays of the setting sun fall on the crowning glory of Chola temple architecture. Built between 1003 and 1010 by Raja Raja I, the temple contains one of India’s largest statues of Nandi (cut from a single rock) and a 4m-high Shiva lingam beneath the superb 61m-high vimana (tower). The compound also contains a colonnade along the west and north walls, with hundreds of lingas and walls lined with exquisite lime-plaster Chola frescoes, which for years were buried under later Nayak-era murals. Have darshan and explore the temple before returning to the hotel.
Overnight stay in Thanjavur.
Accommodation, 2 Nights
Svatma or similar.
DAY 04 : DISCOVER TAMIL ART & CULTURE
Spend the day today discovering the ancient art forms of Tamil culture.
Chola bronzes have been celebrated as among the finest examples of bronze casting in the world. Sculptors in Thanjavur have been engaged in metal-casting work for generations. Watch a demonstration of Chola bronze casting by a master craftsman. Observe the sculptor as he shows how a bronze sculpture is cast and made from the initial wax-process.
Thanjavur paintings are a traditional style of art work that originated here during the 11th century. Visit a master craftsman and see how a Thanjavur painting is made using the gilded and gem-set technique - where gold leaves & sparkling stones are used to highlight certain aspects of the painting like ornaments and dresses.
Participate in a lecture demonstration on the Thanjavur style of Bharatanatyam, the South Indian classical dance form, by proficient dancers. The experience will be insightful with interesting & informative demonstrations of the various aspects of this dance form.
Enjoy a Carnatic music concert by a small ensemble of musicians, and participate in the musical discussions as they introduce you to the intricacies of this traditional music form.
DAY 05 : MADURAI
Drive to Madurai (200 kms, 3.5 hours). You will pass by the southern city of Trichy, the geographical centre of Tamil Nadu and famous for its bustling bazaars and the Rock Fort Temple. Upon arrival in Madurai, check in at the hotel.
The soul of Tamil Nadu, Madurai is Tamil-born and Tamil-rooted. It's one of the oldest cities in India, a metropolis that traded with ancient Rome and was a great capital long before Chennai was even dreamed of.
In the evening, visit the celebrated Meenakshi Amman Temple, a dazzling maze-like structure ranking among India's greatest temples. This colourful abode of the goddess Meenakshi is generally considered to be the peak of South Indian temple architecture, as vital to the South's aesthetic heritage as the Taj Mahal to North India. It’s not so much a 17th-century temple as a 6-hectare complex with 12 tall gopurams, encrusted with a staggering array of gods, goddesses, demons and heroes (1511 on the 55m-high south gopuram alone).
After getting the darshan of the Goddess and Lord Shiva (in a separate shrine), spend time exploring the temple. Visit the Thousand Pillared Hall, housing the fascinating Temple Art Museum. Wander round the Golden Lotus Tank, where a small pavilion jutting out at the western end has ceiling murals depicting Sundareswarar and Meenakshi's marriage. Leave the temple via a hall of flower sellers and the arch-ceilinged Ashta Shakti Mandapa – lined with relief carvings of the goddess' eight attributes and displaying the loveliest of all the temple's elaborately painted ceilings;
Return to the hotel. Overnight stay in Madurai.
Accommodation, 1 Night
Courtyard by Marriott or similar.
DAY 06 : DEPARTURE
Check out of the hotel in the morning and transfer to Madurai airport for your departure.
Chennai: Hyatt Regency or similar.
Mamallapuram: Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay or similar.
Thanjavur: Svatma or similar.
Madurai: Courtyard by Marriott or similar.
5 nights in 5-star hotels with complimentary breakfast.
Services of an experienced English-speaking Tour Driver-Manager with transfers in a comfortable vehicle.
Sightseeing and admissions as per itinerary (Special-entry tickets will be provided wherever available).
WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED
Domestic or International flights, Meals, Travel Insurance, Optional activities, Tips, and Personal services.
Travelers can book their flights on own with any airline of their choice. Suggested timings for arrival and departure are as follows:
Arrive at Chennai domestic or international airport after 11 am. Depart from Madurai airport anytime on Day 6.
Price per person is based on accommodation for two adults in a double room.
PAYMENT AND CANCELLATION POLICY
Booking: A $250 deposit per guest is required to reserve a place on the tour. The remaining balance must be paid at least 15 days prior to departure.
Cancellation: Reservations can be changed or cancelled at no charge, up to 15 days before the scheduled tour date. No refunds will be provided for cancellations made within 15 days prior to tour departure.
Please familiarize yourself with Gentle Turtle booking, payment, and refund conditions.
We place the highest priority on passenger safety and comfort, so we use vehicles that meet high global safety standards. Our drivers are licensed, skilled and highly experienced, with an excellent driving record.
We use a range of luxury vehicles to ensure your journey is safe and comfortable, including:
Toyota Innova Crysta - Seating Capacity: 7/8
Volkswagen Crafter - Seating Capacity: 9/10
Toyota Coaster - Seating Capacity: 11/13/16
* During transfers, we may use an alternative vehicle.