Your journey will begin on India’s south-eastern coast in the city of Chennai, staying in the newly established Leela Palace close to the city’s main attractions. During your time in the capital of Tamil Nadu you will enjoy a private sightseeing tour of the Fort Saint George area and the Government Museum with its impressive collection of art, sculpture and historic relics.
From Chennai, you will venture to the ancient capital city of Kanchipuram where you will find hundreds of temples including the 7th century Vaikunta Perumal temple and the vast temple complex of Ekambareswara. Combining hundreds of towering carved pillars, sculptures and cloisters that blend Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagara influences, they are truly a wonder to behold.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe sea view room at Leela Palace
Next your journey will take you to explore the religious and historic landmarks of Madurai, the second largest city in Tamil Nadu. It has been a religious and cultural centre for nearly 2,000 years and, according to legend, Lord Shiva performed sixty-four wonders called “Thiruvilaiyadals” here. Home to a number of living temples, the town is best known for the 16th century Shree Meenakshi – one of India’s largest and most important temples – which has nine gopuras as high as 50 meters.
Stay: Two nights in an executive room at The Gateway, Madurai
In the morning, you will drive 2.5 hours south to Chettinadu. Little known to the outside world, Chettinadu’s rarely visited temples, architecture, crafts and rural life are a must for anyone interested in the history and culture of South India. You will have a full day to explore its interesting villages, mansion houses and markets.
Stay: Two nights in a standard room at Visalam
Trichy – Tanjore
Your trip continues through the Tamil Nadu countryside to Trichy where, visible for miles, is the mighty Fort Rock Temple. The rock fort is reached by climbing a tunnel of 437 steps, where you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the Ragunathanswami temple at Srirangam. The vast Srirangam temple complex is also worth a visit, with its concentric walls, gates, bazaars and remarkable carvings and painted ceilings.
You will also visit Tanjore, the ancient capital of the Chola kings, and home to the world heritage Brihadeshwara temple. You can spend the day wandering around the old town’s maze of winding streets and alleys, full of colourful markets, to the extensive ruins of the palace of the Nayaks.
Stay: Two nights in a new wing deluxe room at Svatma
On the eleventh day you will be driven to Pondicherry, stopping along the way to visit the temples of Darasira and the great Siva Nataraja temple.
The capital of the French colonies in India since the 17th century, Pondicherry’s French legacy is visible in the well-planned town, neatly laid roads, wide and vibrant beaches, beautiful promenades and imposing churches. Pondicherry is, on one hand a bustling Indian market town, and on the other, towards the sea, emptier, cleaner and decidedly European. After breakfast, you will be taken to see the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the most popular attraction in Pondicherry located on Rue de la Marine.
Stay: Two nights in a standard room at Maison Perumal
Mamallapuram – Covelong
Covelong is an enchanting three-hour drive away. On route you will stop to admire the sublime rock-cut art of Mamallapuran, a UNESCO World Heritage site home to the magnificent Shore Temple and several antique sculptural marvels.
In the afternoon you will check-in to your luxurious resort. You can expect ultimate relaxation on a palm-lined beach featuring fine sand, a warm sea and hot sun. End your trip in style as you enjoy indulgent pampering at the spa, take a dip in the infinity pool and enjoy delectable cuisine.
Stay: Three nights in a sea view chalet at Radisson Blu Temple
You’ll be transferred to Chennai to catch your early morning direct flight to London, arriving shortly after midday local time.
It was an extraordinary, wonderful and memorable holiday. Thank you to everyone.- EE, Kenya & Zanzibar, 2014