Tamil Nadu in South India is the homeland of one of humanity’s living classical civilisations with more than 4,000 years of continuous cultural history. The state depicts the heart of Dravidian culture in India, and is very much alive today in the Tamil language, dance, poetry and forms of Hinduism.
Tamil Nadu has some of the most remarkable temple architecture in India, from the sculpted stonework at Thanjavur to the sprawling halls in Madurai. Apart from boasting cultural opulence at heritage sites and in temple towns, the state is also renowned for its beautiful coastline, hill stations, waterfalls, national parks, French colonial B&Bs, mansions, yoga and meditation retreats, and local cuisine.
Destinations Covered: Chennai, Kanchipuram, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Madurai and Tiruchirappalli (Trichy)
Tour Price: Price will vary depending on no. of people, types of activities as per guest's interests and preferences.
Please send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will give you a quote.
Best time to travel: Sept & Oct, Dec – Mar
Note: This travel program can be customized in terms of reducing/extending the number of days, removing or adding the places of interests, to suit your interests/tour purposes. Other places of interests that you could consider as well are, for example, Kumbakonam, Chidambaram, Coimbatore, Rameshwaram, Kanyakumari, etc.
To see program details, click on Program tab.
Day 1: Arrival in Chennai
Meeting assistance on your arrival at the airport and transfer to hotel in Chennai.
Day 2: Chennai city tour and Mahabalipuram sights (Drive to Mahabalipuram 1.5 hours) (B)
Chennai (formerly known as Madras) is the capital of Tamil Nadu and the commercial soul of South India.
After breakfast, you will be able to see some of the historic sites of the city including the remnants of Fort St. George which currently houses the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly, official buildings, St. Mary’s Church (the oldest Anglican church in India), and Wellesley House.
Among the popular places to visit in Chennai is Mylapore, a bustling district where Chennai’s oldest and renowned temple is located - Kapaleeshwara Temple. Built by the Pallavas in the 7th century, destroyed by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and subsequently rebuilt again by using the remains of the old temple, Kapaleeshwara Temple features remarkable Dravidian architecture while the main deity of the temple is Lord Shiva.
Later visit St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica (also known as Santhome). Built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, Santhome Church houses the mortal remains of St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus. It is said that St. Thomas arrived in present-day Kerala from Judea in AD52, after which he preached and converted many Indians to Christianity until AD72. The church is one of the only three known churches in the world built over the tomb of an apostle of Jesus, the other two are located in Vatican City and Spain.
After city tour, transfer to Mahabalipuram, a town situated on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. Post-lunch, visit the 7th and 8th Hindu religious monuments which consist a giant open-air rock relief (Arjuna’s Penance), monolithic structures (Pancha Rathas), Krishna’s Butter Ball (gigantic rock boulder), cave temples and the famous structure of all, the Shore Temple.
Another name by which Mahabalipuram has been known to European mariners since Marco Polo’s time is “Seven Pagodas”, alluding to the Seven Pagodas of Mamallapuram that stood on the shore of which one, the Shore Temple, survived, while the other 6 temples remain submerged under the sea.
Transfer to beach resort and overnight stay at hotel.
Day 3: Kanchipuram tour (Drive 1 hour 45 minutes) (B)
After breakfast, drive to Kanchipuram (sometimes called Kanchi), a small town in Tamil Nadu but is one of the seven holiest cities in India and an important spiritual centre of Hinduism. You’ll be visiting two important temples in Kanchipuram – Kamakshi Amman Temple and Ekambareswarar Temple.
Kamakshi Amman Temple is dedicated to Kamakshi, one of the forms of goddess Parvati. Kamakshi comes from the conjunction of three words – Ka, Ma & Aksh. Ka means Saraswati, Ma means Lakshmi and Aksh means eyes – she is whose eyes are Saraswati and Lakhsmi. This temple sprawls across an area of 5 acres, and is the most beautiful Amman temple next to Madurai’s Meenakshi Amman.
Ekambareswarar Temple is a vast temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and is famous for its huge gopuram which dominates the skyline of Kanchipuram. The temple’s main entrance – the ‘Raja Gopuram’ is among the tallest in South India and is carved with graceful art forms and sculptures.
Interestingly, there is no separate shrine here for Parvati, the consort of Shiva. There is an interesting story that Parvati was worshipping Shiva in the form of a Prithvi Lingam, improvised out of sand from under a mango tree. However, the neighbouring Vegavati River overflowed and threatened to destroy the lingam. In consternation, Parvati is believed to have hugged the lingam to protect it. Shiva was so touched by this gesture that he materialized in person to her and married her. That mango tree where all this had happened still exists in the temple, under which lies a Shiva-Parvati shrine.
Kanchipuram is also widely known for their high-quality handwoven silk sarees weaved from pure mulberry silk thread. Ranging in length from 6-9 yards, these silk sarees are worn by women during auspicious occasions such as weddings or birthdays. There are more than 5,000 families in Kanchipuram who are in the business of silk weaving.
Post-lunch, we will visit a weaver in action and see how silk sarees are made on the loom. Any trip to Kanchipuram is incomplete without shopping for these silk sarees. Time spent in the afternoon is available for your shopping.
Transfer back to Mahabalipuram and overnight stay at hotel.
Day 4: Transfer to Pondicherry, visit Auroville and walking tour of French Quarter in Pondicherry (Drive 2 hours) (B)
After breakfast, drive to Pondicherry, the largest French colony in India until the 1950s. Pondicherry, also known as Pondy, or officially called Puducherry is a Union Territory in South India. French influence is still strong in this coastal town especially in the old quarters with Rues and Boulevards lined with colonial mansions and houses, bakeries and cafes, though the town centre remains very much Indian.
En route to Pondicherry - just 12kms from town centre – you’ll visit Auroville, an experiential spiritual community set up in 1968 with the objective of human unity free of religion, politics and nationality. Auroville was founded by a French woman, Mirra Alfassa (known as “The Mother”) who was the successor of Sri Aurobindo, a renowned Indian spiritual leader whose teachings were based on the concept of integral yoga and surrendering to a higher consciousness.
A kilometre from the Visitor’s Centre of Auroville is a dedicated viewing point of the Matrimandir. Matrimandir, often described as “the soul of the city” is Auroville’s gold-plated meditation dome and shrine to The Mother.
Later, you will be driven to your hotel to check-in. In the evening, enjoy a heritage walking tour of Pondicherry’s French colonial past as you traverse through its quaint boulevards and sleepy streets, and visit attractions such as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Barathi Park, Government Park and Old Town. The walk also includes a visit to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram which was set up by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.
Post-walking tour, do take an evening stroll by Pondicherry Beach and promenade.
Overnight stay at hotel.
Day 5: Transfer to Thanjavur (Drive 4-5 hours) (B)
After breakfast, transfer to Thanjavur. Thanjavur or Tanjore thrived as the ancient capital of the Chola kingdom, later of Marathas and Nayaks. Thanjavur was at the height of its glory during the Chola period between the 10th and 14th century, and became a great centre of learning and culture.
Upon arrival in Thanjavur, proceed to hotel and check-in. Rest of the day at leisure.
Overnight stay in hotel.
Day 6: Thanjavur Tour (B)
After breakfast, visit the important landmark in Thanjavur – the Brihadeeswara Temple, also known as the Big Temple. Brihadeeswara Temple was built by Raja Raja Chola I, completed within 6 years by 1010. Made entirely of granite, the temple is already 1000 years old and is known as one of the Great Living Chola Temples. The temple tower is about 200 feet high and is the tallest in the world. There is also a large statue of Nandi (the sacred bull, carrier of Shiva) carved out of single rock.
Later, visit the Royal Palace Museum Thanjavur to explore its Art Gallery of bronze and stone Chola sculptures from the 9th to 13th centuries; the Saraswathi Mahal Museum (library) which contains a priceless collection of more than 60,000 volumes of rare books and manuscripts including palm-leaf manuscripts; and the royal palace’s colourful Durbar Hall.
Your tour ends with a visit to the bronze-casting workshop where you can see how artisans make beautiful handicrafts. You may also shop for Thanjavur paintings and dancing dolls.
Rest of the afternoon at leisure. In the evening, you may return to Brihadeeswara Temple to experience the site at sundown.
Overnight stay at hotel.
Day 7: Transfer to Madurai (Drive 3.5 hours) (B)
After breakfast, transfer to Madurai. Madurai is the third largest city in Tamil Nadu, and has been a major settlement for two millennia, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Madurai is famous for its temples built by Pandyan and Nayak kings in the Dravidian style of architecture, and is also one of India’s most incredible Hindu pilgrimage centres. The city is famous for its rich heritage and promotion of Tamil language through sangam literature.
Upon arrival in Madurai, proceed to hotel for check-in. Rest of the day at leisure.
Overnight stay in hotel.
Day 8: Tour of Madurai (B)
After breakfast, visit the Meenakshi Amman Temple which is dedicated to Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, and her consort, Shiva. The temple is situated right in the heart of Madurai, and forms the heart and lifeline of the city for 2,500 years.
The Meenakshi Amman Temple is a major pilgrimage destination, its shrine is enclosed within huge stonewalls and elaborately sculptured towering gopurams. Inside the temple walls are pillared halls, carved sculptures and stone iconography.
Note: Photography, mobile phones and bags are prohibited inside the temple. Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the main sanctums for Meenakshi and Shiva.
Later, visit the Thirumalai Nayak Palace which was originally built as a residential palace for King Thirumalai Nayak in 1636. With the input of an Italian architect, the palace is a classic fusion of Dravidian and Islamic styles.
Rest of the day at leisure. Overnight stay at hotel.
Day 9: Transfer to Tiruchirappalli (Trichy) (Drive 2 hours) (B)
After breakfast, transfer to Tiruchirappalli (commonly known as Trichy). Trichy is a substantial city in Tamil Nadu, and it has an ancient and diverse history that can be traced as far back as the early Chola dynasty in the 3rd century BC. This makes it one of the oldest inhabited cities in the state. Over the course of time, Trichy has had 10 different rulers who have left their mark on it, including the British.
Upon arrival in Trichy, proceed to hotel and check-in. Rest of the afternoon at leisure.
In the evening, visit the Rock Fort Temple Complex which presides over Trichy, perched on an immense rock that is said to be 3.8 billion years old! The Rock Fort Temple is the city’s most prominent landmark, and it comprises three Hindu temples as well as a fort. The temple complex provides an ideal sunset spot with a captivating view over the city.
In addition to the temples, highlights include a 100-pillared hall where Carnatic music concerts were held over the last century, a British-era Indo-Saracenic bell tower topped with colourful Dravidian vimana, and art and sculptures depicting Hindu mythology.
Note: You’ll need to take your shoes off to climb up 200 steps to the top because of the holy temples.
Overnight stay at hotel.
Day 10: Transfer to International Airport for onward journey (B)
After breakfast, proceed for departure transfer to the airport for onward journey.
4-star hotel on twin-sharing/double basis with breakfast
- Airport transfers in private A/C car or van
- Ground tour and activities as per itinerary
- 4-star accommodation on twin-sharing/double basis with breakfast
- Accompanying English-speaking local guide service
- Meeting and assistance by local representatives on arrival/departure at airport/hotel
- Private transfers and transport between airport, hotel and sightseeing spots
- 2 Mineral water bottles per person per day
- International flight to India
- E-Visa Fees
- Travel Insurance
- Lunch & beverages
- Personal expenses
- Optional activities
- Excess baggage charges
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