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We invite you to call Sarah or Gwen at 1-800-762-4216 to request the full brochure. The brochure will include Important Traveler Information (and answers to most questions) and a Reservation Form. We can send the brochure through the Postal Service or as a PDF attachment. If you would like to receive a PDF, probably the best way to keep the message from going into a SPAM filter is to send a message to sarahb@serioustraveler.com. If you are already on our mailing list, no need to complete the entire brochure request form.

Chennai (Madras) • Dakshina Chitra • Mahabalipuram • Pondicherry
Thanjavur • Karaikudi • Madurai • Periyar • Kumarakom • Alleppey • Cochin • Bangalore
Shravanabelagola • Hassan • Belur • Halebid • Mysore • Srirangapatnam

January 10 - 23, 2015 • 14 days
including the Pongal Festival

$4250 per person based on double occupancy
beginning in Chennai and ending in Bangalore
plus India visa processing of $208
Airfare Additional
$1390 Single Supplement

Day-by-Day Itinerary


Welcome to India! Arrive Chennai by your international flight. Meeting and assistance upon arrival and transfer to the hotel. Chennai, formerly Madras, is the fourth largest city in India and the capital of Tamil Nadu. Retaining much of its traditional charm, this 350-year-old city is the gateway to the south, providing many fascinating vignettes of southern heritage. Please let us know if you wish to arrive early and need extra nights at the Taj Connemara.

Overnight in Chennai at
TAJ CONNEMARA Superior Charm Room

January 11 IN CHENNAI

After breakfast at the hotel, visit the Pantheon Complex which has the Government Museum and the Bronze Gallery. Later visit the Kapaleeswarar temple, with its massive and intricately carved gopurams reaching out to the skies. Continue the tour of Chennai visiting Fort St. George to see St. Mary’s Church. This is where most of Chennai’s early history was written. St. Mary’s Church was built between 1678–80, and Robert Clive was married in this church in 1753. Elihu Yale, who in his later years founded the famous Yale University in the U.S., was one of the early governors of Madras as it was then known. Today, the Fort houses the Secretariat and the Legislative Assembly. Later the Chennai Museum (closed on Fridays) is famous for its splendid collection of Chola bronzes. After the visits return to hotel.

Indian dresses will be presented as gifts to all participants at the hotel (sarees for the ladies & kurta-pajamas for the men). Ladies will learn how to wear a saree. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Chennai at
TAJ CONNEMARA Superior Charm Room

January 12 CHENNAI

After an early breakfast, drive to Mahabalipuram visiting Dakshina Chitra (approx. 3 hrs including visit). Dakshina Chitra is a center for the living traditions of art, folk, performing arts, craft and architecture of India with an emphasis on the traditions of South India. It is a project of the Madras Craft Foundation (MCF), a non-profit organization. The center occupies ten undulating acres overlooking the Bay of Bengal, fifteen and a half miles south of Chennai, on the East Coast Road to Mamallapuram.
Later arrive Mahabalipuram and visit the Shore temple, Five Rathas and the Bas-relief “Arjuna’s penance”. Mahabalipuram is a historical retreat set amidst natural beauty, which is 36 miles south of Chennai. This is the ancient seaport of the Pallavas who were great connoisseurs of art. Its monuments hewn out of solid rock, though ravaged by the sea and wind, still bear testimony to the magnificent heritage of Dravidian architecture. The glorious Shore Temple, one of the oldest in South India, stands on the sea shore with its paved forecourts. See the great Bas-relief of Arjuna’s penance, the five Rathas, the Mahishasura Mardhini, Krishna and the Varaha Mandapas. There is also a School of Sculpture, which merits a visit. The village was built during the reign of Veera Rajendra Chola and Kulothungan-III. With the settlement of the village Cheyyur, they built three temples among which the Kandaswamy Temple is one. The other two temples are dedicated to Vanmikhanathar i.e. Lord Siva, and the other one to Perumal or Kariya Manicka Perumal. The Kandaswamy temple is in between the Shiva and Vishnu temples. Lord Kandaswamy or Shiva is the principal shrine of this temple. There are also the shrines of Lord Someswara, Goddess Meenakshi and Muthukumaraswamy, which is also called Samharamurthy. There are also many other deities like the Vinayaka, Dakshinamurthy and Chandikeswara. You can also see the deity of Muruga who is the other son of Lord Shiva. The Muruga deity stands in five different positions.

Later leave for Pondicherry (approx. 63 miles/ 3 hrs). Arrive Pondicherry and check in at our hotel. Dinner at the hotel. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Pondicherry at


In the morning enjoy a sightseeing tour of Pondicherry visiting Auroville and Matri Mandir (Matri Mandir can be seen from outside only). Pondicherry—a quaint enclave in Tamil Nadu upholds the French tradition to this day. The town which rose phoenix-like after the British literally razed it to the ground in the 18th century, is home to the much acclaimed Aurobindo Ashram and is noted for its lovely French architecture and cuisine. Visit the Ashram, which was founded by Sri Aurobindo, a onetime Bengal revolutionary who later took to the spiritual path.

Auroville, the City of Dawn was started in February 1968 as a unique experiment in international living, where people live and work in total harmony. It was set up as the place of constant progress of an unending education and understanding. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future and belongs to humanity as a whole. The Matri Mandir (pavilion of the Mother) is the soul, the living symbol of Auroville’s aspiration for the Divine. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Pondicherry at


After breakfast at the hotel, leave for Thanjavur (112 miles /4 hrs). Thanjavur was the capital of the powerful Chola dynasty. Today, it is a little town set amidst the lush rice fields of the Cauvery Delta. Lunch is at a local restaurant. Visit the Delta. Arrive Thanjavur and visit the magnificent Brihadeeswara Temple completed in 1010 A.D. by Raja Raja Chola. It is a living testimony to the sculptural and architectural excellence of the Cholas, and must be seen to be admired and believed. Visit Thanjavur Palace, which was partly built by the Nayaks in 1550 A.D. and partly by the Marathas. Also visit Saraswathi Mahal Library, which has an extensive collection of over 30,000 manuscripts, palm leaf inscriptions and books.

Later visit the Thanjavur Palace & Saraswathi Mahal Library (closed on Wednesdays). Drive to Karaikudi (64 miles/ 2 1/2 hrs). Arrive Karaikudi and check in at the hotel. The Chettinad region comprises of Karaikudi and 74 other villages and is the homeland of the Nattukottai Chettiars. The Chettiars were a prosperous banking community who ventured overseas to do business in Southeast Asia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Their legacies are the fascinating houses of Chettinad they built. To see these houses would justify a trip to Chettinad (B-L-D)

Overnight in Karaikudi at VISALAM

January 15 KARAIKUDI

After breakfast, visit more of the Chettinad region. Today you will attend festivities on the occasion of the Pongal Festival (festivities will take place in the morning). Pongal is the harvest thanksgiving festival in praise of the sun, land, and the cattle. Festivities begin with cooking the first harvest rice in a special way, symbolizing a good fortune, and offering it to the Sun God.

On the second day of the Pongal Festival, a special rice preparation is made in every house. It is a sweet rice pudding, which is also the main offering. People rejoice over the new harvest and wear new clothes. Making fun and laughter is all around in the atmosphere.

The last day of the festival is devoted to honoring the valuable cattle. The bulls are decorated with garlands, bells and balloons. Their long horns are painted in bright colors before being taken out in procession around villages.

Later leave for Madurai (55 miles/ 2 hrs). Arrive Madurai and check-in at our hotel. Madurai is situated on the banks of the Vaigai River. It is the ancient capital of the Pandyan Kings and is a sacred place. Legend has it that the divine nectar falling from Lord Shiva’s locks gave the town its name.

After dinner, attend the Night ceremony at the Meenakshi Temple. We leave for the temple by tuk-tuks. The Night ceremony takes place every evening at 9 PM, when the temple bronze of Lord Shiva is carried to the bed chamber of Parvati. The procession is accompanied by religious prayer and temple music. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Madurai at
Superior Room


Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before we depart for a sightseeing tour of Madurai visiting Meenakshi Temple and Tirumal Nayak Palace. Constructed in the Indo-Saracenic style in 1639 A.D., the curved dome of the palace stands without the support of a girder or rafter, and it is an architectural feat. Pass by the Mariamman Teppakulam, the tank with a mandapam in the center.

Visit the Meenakshi Temple—a superb example of Dravidian architecture and sculpture, the focal point around which the city has developed. The temple has two sanctoras, one dedicated to Shiva and the other to Meenakshi. The splendidly carved temple complex, with its immense gopurams towering over the city has colourful stucco images of gods, goddesses and animals and tales from Hindu mythology. See the beautifully carved “Hall of a Thousand Pillars” which houses the Madurai Museum.

The stories continue to flow as we visit the Thirupparankundram temple dedicated to Lord Muruga and the Sanskrit school where young priests are trained. Thirupparankundram, 6 miles south of Madurai, is one of the six famous temples dedicated to Lord Muruga. At the entrance to the cave temple there are 48 pillars with artistic carvings. It is said here Lord Muruga was wed to Devayanai, daughter of Indra, after annihilating Surapadman. There are separate shrines dedicated to Siva, Ganapati, Durgai, Vishnu and other deities.

After lunch drive to Periyar (approx. 87 miles/ 3 hrs). Arrive Periyar and settle in to our rooms at the hotel. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Periyar at SPICE VILLAGE

January 17 PERIYAR

After breakfast, spend the morning at a spice plantation. Return to the resort for lunch. The afternoon is spent on a pleasant drive to Kumarakom (approx. 49 miles/ 4 hrs) en-route visiting a local school and interact with students and teachers (please note that if school visit is not possible on this day, it will be arranged either on January 21 or 22 in Mysore). Arrive Kumarakom and check-in at hotel. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Kumarakom at
COCONUT LAGOON Heritage Bungalow

January 18 KUMARAKOM

Leisurely enjoy breakfast at the hotel. Board a houseboat for a day cruise on the backwaters with lunch on board.

In the late afternoon, disembark the houseboat and drive to Cochin (1 ½ hrs). Cochin—the palm green commercial town of Kerala, has one of the finest natural harbors in the world and is the gateway to Kerala.

Once in Cochin attend a Kathikali dance performance. Kathikali is the dance form of Kerala, and it is recognized as one of the four major classical Indian styles. Virtually nothing about Kathikali is naturalistic because it depicts the world of Gods and Demons. Although it bears the unmistakable influences of Kutiyattam and indigenous folk rituals, Kathikali literally means “story-play”, which is thought to have crystallized into a distinct theater form during the seventeenth century. The plays are based on three major Hindu epics—the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Bhagavata Purana. Men play both the male and female roles. Dinner is at the hotel. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Cochin at
Superior Sea View Room

January 19 IN COCHIN

In the morning we have a sightseeing tour of Cochin visiting St. Francis Church, Santa Cruz Basilica, Matancherry Palace (Dutch Palace) and Jew Street. The Synagogue was built in 1568 A.D. and contains Grand Scrolls of the Old Testament and the copper plates containing the privileges granted to the Jews by the Cochin rulers. The floor of the synagogue is paved with exquisite Chinese hand-painted tiles. Continue to the Dutch Palace, which was built by the Portuguese and presented to the Cochin Raja in 1555 A.D. 17th century murals depicting scenes from the Indian epic, Ramayana, can be seen here. St. Francis Church, built originally by the Portuguese in 1510 A.D., is believed to be the first church built by Europeans in India. Vasco da Gama was originally buried here. Also see the Chinese fishing nets. The nets can be seen at the entrance of the harbor. This technique of catching fish was taught by the Chinese through trade contact. These nets along the backwaters are a fascinating sight. Then the afternoon is free. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Cochin at
Superior Sea View Room

January 20 COCHIN

After an early breakfast at the hotel transfer to airport to board the flight to Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka Jet Airways [0700/ 0855 hrs]. Be met on arrival in Bangalore and drive to Hassan visiting Shravanbelagola enroute (99 miles/ 6 to 7 hrs including visit and stop for lunch at a restaurant enroute).

Shravanbelagola is sacred to the believers of Jainism and is a popular Jain pilgrim center. The serene 56 foot monolith, granite statue of Bahubali, a prince and son of the first Jain Thirthankara (saint and teacher) stands majestically atop the granite hill. The prince, though not one of the Thirthankaras, was a realized soul. He attained enlightenment at an early age. This statue was erected between 980 - 983 AD. A climb of around 500 gentle steps up the granite hill takes one to the statue. Those who find it difficult to climb have the option of using a ‘Doli’, a chair, which will be carried by four persons and is very comfortable and safe.

Arrive Hassan and check in at the hotel. Hassan is a picturesque town in the heart of the Malnad region, having a pleasant climate. The Hoysalas brought world-wide acclaim to the district through their unique style of temple architecture. It is surrounded by 6 districts namely Chikmagalur, Mangalore, Madikeri, Mysore, Mandya and Tumkur.

Enjoy dinner and a good rest at the resort. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Hassan at
Superior Cottage

Wednesday BELUR - MYSORE

This morning we have an excursion to Halebid and Belur. Halebid was the capital of the Hoysalas and is dedicated to Siva, the attribute of destruction for creation, as per Hindu mythology. Though similar to the one in Belur it is different in its carvings. There are two shrines - one for Siva and the other for his vehicle, Nandi the bull. Started in 1121 AD, the superstructure was never completed (reasons unknown). The most magnificent part of the temple is its outer wall, every inch of which is covered with freezes of amazing variety.

Belur was one of the capital cities of the Hoysala Empire 800 years ago. The Hoysala rulers were not only great conquerors but patrons of art and architecture. Around 80 temples were built during their 250 years of rule, of which the temples at Belur and Halebid are considered the best. The plinth of the temples are star shaped (Vesara style) and the stone used was the soft steatite, excellent for carving in detail as it hardens when it oxidizes. The temple is dedicated to Krishna, an attribute of Vishnu the Preserver of the Universe. The outer wall of the temple is decorated with freezes of elephants, mythical animals, geese, lotuses and floral and geometrical scrolls. The outer and inner brackets are decorated with female figures, 38 in all and carved in great detail. The stories from Hindu mythology are carved in the outer walls and the inner ceilings and are excellently polished.

Later drive to Mysore (71 miles/ 3 hrs). Dinner is at the hotel. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Mysore at

January 22 IN MYSORE

Following breakfast we begin with a sightseeing tour of Mysore visiting the Chamundi Hill and the Mysore Palace. Mysore is the former capital of Karnataka. A city of palaces, the princely city of Mysore is worth a visit whatever the month or season. Mysore is a dream city that never lets down visitors with its clean, light and easygoing environment. Even with the growth of the city in response to modernization, Mysore has acquired only a mild change of pace.

Chamundi Hill is a well-known 1,110 foot high landmark. It can be reached by an 8 mile road or by climbing up the 1,000 steps laid out by the Mysore Maharaja in the 17th century. Half-way up along the stone steps is Nandi, Lord Shiva’s Bull, a majestic 16-foot monolith. At the top is the 12th century temple of Chamundeshwari, the patron goddess of the Wodeyars. Close to the temple is the gigantic statue of the demon Mahishasura. The summit offers a panoramic view of Mysore’s lakes, parks and palaces. Mysore Palace—The Maharaja’s Palace—is one of the most important sights in Mysore. Built in Indo-Saracenic style with domes, turrets, arches and colonnades, the Palace is a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world. Intricately carved doors open on to luxuriously furnished rooms. The majestic Durbar Hall has an ornate ceiling and many sculpted pillars. We also visit a local market.

In the afternoon, visit Srirangapatnam, once the capital of Hyderali and his son Tippu Sultan, “The Tiger of Mysore”. In the 18th century, Marathas attacked Srirangapatnam and forced heavy payments. Hyderali pushed back the Marathas and saved the Kingdom. In 1799 Tippu fought a fierce battle (Battle of Mysore) against the British and fell bravely defending his capital. Srirangapatnam remains in a ruined state recalling the battles fought and glories past. Dinner at the hotel. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Mysore at

January 23 MYSORE

After breakfast, the morning is at leisure. Perhaps you’ll want to do some shopping. After lunch at the hotel, leave for Bangalore airport (approx 5 hrs). Dinner at an airport hotel. After dinner, transfer to the airport to board your international flight home. Many flights out of Bangalore will leave just after midnight on January 24. If you’d like extra time at the Goldfinch Retreat Hotel near the airport before your flight, please let us know. (B-L-D)

B=Breakfast L=Lunch D=Dinner


We invite you to call Sarah or Gwen at 1-800-762-4216 to request the full brochure. The brochure will include Important Traveler Information (and answers to most questions) and a Reservation Form. We can send the brochure through the Postal Service or as a PDF attachment. If you would like to receive a PDF, probably the best way to keep the message from going into a SPAM filter is to send a message to sarahb@serioustraveler.com. If you are already on our mailing list, no need to complete the entire brochure request form.

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