Day 1: Depart from origin
. You can ask us to include international flights - we offer discounted consolidator fares (First, Business & Economy) on the best airlines and we know the best routes and travel routings, including seasonal advantages.
Day 2: Arrive at Cochin
(most international flights arrive either in the evening or at night). Our services begin here
. You are greeted at the airport by an Easy Tours Travel Facilitator and ushered to a chauffeur driven vehicle. You are then driven to your hotel where you are assisted with your check in. The next day’s plans are briefly reviewed and you are presented with your welcome package. Among other things, this package includes a beautiful handcrafted journal for your explorations, travel documents such as your air tickets and hotel vouchers, as well as copies of documents (such as our General Travel Guide) that were sent to you earlier.
Day 3: Cochin
. Start your exploration of South India
with a guided visit to the island of Cherai. Visit the 19th century
Azheekkal Sree Varaha Venkateswara Temple – the temple Ratha (Chariot) is unique and very impressive. Also visit the Portuguese Fort, which was built in 1503 and is the oldest European structure in India. You will also stop at the Pallipuram Church, completed in 1577 by the Portuguese. There are some amazing artifacts in the church.
There is a break for lunch, followed by a walk on Cherai beach.
Return back to your hotel. You are at leisure for a couple of hours.
– Your Guide or Easy Tours Facilitator will pick you up from your hotel and accompany you to a local theatre where you get to experience Kerala’s ancient performing art, a Kathakali dance performance. Kathakali literally means the art of storytelling through dance and the dance form is an ancient forefather of many Asian dance forms.
After the dance performance
you are driven to an experience that is the highlight of many of our guests’ time in Kerala. You will be hosted by a famous Keralan Chef and her family at their home. A delicious dinner will follow, and cooking lessons are included. At the end of dinner you will be driven back to your hotel.
Day 4: Cochin – Start your exploration
of the fascinating port city of Cochin and marvel in its culture and architecture, a result of centuries of various European influences combined with rich indigenous history. The guided tour begins from the Jewish Synagogue (closed on Fridays and Saturdays), which was built
in 1568 and is still an active house of worship for the few remaining Jews in the area. If the synagogue is closed on this day the visit can be facilitated on one of the other days that you are in Cochin. Next to the synagogue is Cochin’s ancient and colorful Jew Street with its antique stores and souvenir peddlers. There is evidence of a Jewish presence in Kochi from 70 AD. After the synagogue you visit the St. Francis Church, which was established by the Portuguese Franciscan friars in 1503. This is one of the first European churches built in India and the famed Vasco Da Gama was buried in its courtyard for a few years before his remains were returned to Portugal.
You now visit the most photogenic of Cochin’s attractions, the Chinese fishing nets. Folklore will have it that these enormous nets (or at least their design) were brought here by famed Chinese Explorer Zhang He about 600 years ago. Local fishermen manipulate these massive nets with an ease that comes from centuries of practice – it is a vocation handed down by generations. The lowering and raising of the nets has a synchronicity and rhythm that is quite an amazing experience. Some of the nets are more than a century old as the fishermen patch them up and keep going. Finish your exploration with a short guided walk through Fort Kochi and experience the unique local culture and architecture – Fort Kochi is one of India’s best cities to explore on foot. You will be driven back to your hotel after your walk.
Day 5: Cochin - Backwaters cruise.
You are assisted with your check-out by an Easy Tours Travel Facilitator and driven to the backwaters.
Arrive at Alleppey & you are assisted in boarding your houseboat.
Take our word for this
, your backwaters cruise will very likely become one of your most treasured travel memories. The incredible lushness of the vegetation around the fresh water canals, rivulets and lakes, the beauty of the water bodies themselves and the abundance of coconut trees and other exotic plants create a subtropical environment not found elsewhere on this planet. When you combine this with the opportunity to be part of a unique way of life that hasn’t changed much for a few centuries, it results in most visitors’ second highest rated experience in India (after the Taj Mahal). Relax and have a great time until the next morning as you cruise the amazing backwaters. The cook and other staff make sure that all your needs are taken care of, while serving you with delicious Kerala cuisine. You have the option of taking shore excursions at one or two of the tiny rural communities as you cruise by – the locals are very friendly and communicative.
Day 6: Backwaters Cruise – Thekkady (Periyar National Park).
Disembark from your houseboat in the morning and enjoy the fascinating drive through the Western Ghats as you to head for Thekkady. This is one of the most beautiful drives
in all of South India. Arrive at Thekkady and check-in to your scenic nature resort. You are now in the heart of spice country, and, if you breathe deeply, the air carries a faint aroma that will delight you.
There is a break
for a late lunch.
This is the heart of spice country and the pleasant, mild aroma from the surrounding plantations will fascinate you when you arrive.
Periyar is located around a picturesque artificial lake that was formed in 1895 by building a dam on the Periyar River. The terrain is hilly and the elevation of the park ranges from a few hundred feet to about 6000 feet above sea level. The lake occupies the valleys of the thickly forested hills, serving as a permanent source of water for wildlife in the Park. Although it falls under “Project Tiger”, the main attractions of the park are definitely elephants.
Periyar is home to just under a thousand elephants and also over 60 other mammal species including tigers, bison, deer, wild boar, and wild dog. There are over 300 species of birds, and even 160 species of butterflies. Prominent among the birds are Cormorants, Kingfishers, Darters, the great Malabar Hornbill, and the racket-tailed Drongoes. Unlike Ranthambore, your chances of seeing a tiger in this park are extremely slim.
Thekkady is a great stopover on this itinerary for a variety of reasons, only one of them being the National Park. The Spice plantations are another reason to stop here, as is the fact that this rural area happens to be located in one of the most picturesque parts of the Western Ghats.
– visit a neighboring spice plantation where an experienced naturalist will guide you through scores of different spice plants and illustrate their medicinal and gastronomical properties.
Day 7: Periyar.
your day with a drive up to Lake Periyar and embark on a lake cruise on the spectacular lake. Periyar is a manmade lake that was created by the building of a dam in 1895. The scenery is both gorgeous and surreal, as ancient tree stumps still protrude from the waters of the 26 sq kilometer lake. Although Lake Periyar is officially a Tiger Reserve, chances of you seeing a big cat here are almost non-existent. What is very common is to see elephant herds as they come to the lake to drink, or as they traverse the terraced hills surrounding the lake. Wild boars are also a common sight.
There is a break
for Lunch after the cruise.
- visit a scenic village that lies hidden in the valley behind the mountains of Periyar Tiger Reserve. You will travel in a bullock cart. The village is rich in bird diversity and has diverse agricultural crops such as mango, tamarind, onion, sunflower, jasmine and dozens of other fruits and vegetables. The village is very scenic and the experience is fascinating, especially when your guide starts to interpret how farming has woven itself inextricably with the culture and the life of the natives. Return to your resort in the evening.
Day 8: Thekkady - Madurai.
In the morning you are at leisure to experience the flora (and other attractions) of your nature resort. The resort staff will be happy to give you a guided tour of the variety of plants and trees there, as well as their organic gardens. Upon request you can spend time with the chefs who will give you insights into the preparation of the delightful local cuisine that they offer. There is also a great Ayurvedic Spa that you can try – advance reservations are recommended.
Check out from the hotel and then you drive to Madurai.
Arrive at Madurai
and check in to your hotel. Over 2500 years old, Madurai is the second largest city of Tamil Nadu. It is an important cultural and commercial centre. It was once the seat of Tamil learning and still the place where the Tamil language is spoken in its purest form. The city is planned in the shape of a lotus. Incongruously, modern Madurai is a burgeoning industrial centre, even though the vast stretches of paddy fields, dusty roads and crowded bazaars make it seems like an overgrown village.
- attend the ancient & impressive evening “Palli Arai” ceremony at the mammoth Sree Meenakshi Temple Complex with your guide. This elaborate and ritualistic ceremony has been written up in many international publications.
Day 9: Madurai.
Proceed for a guided city tour of Madurai. The main attraction of Madurai is the great Sree Meenakshi Temple. This awe-imposing
monument is the finest example of Dravidian temple architecture on this planet. Its Hall of a Thousand Pillars is a fabulous collection of elaborately sculpted and painted deities as well as other creatures from Hindu religious annals. The temple is always a beehive of activity as pilgrims from all over India come to seek the blessings of Meenakshi (Goddess Parvati) & Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva) and is filled with worshippers at all hours of the day. You will witness Hindu priests performing various ceremonies in different parts of the temple complex as you explore this huge structure, including religious aspects of traditional weddings. According to Tamil belief the temple has existed for about 2000 years, but this current structure is a mere four centuries old (the previous majestic temple was destroyed by Muslim invaders in the 14th century). The massive complex includes 14 magnificent Gopurams that jut into the sky from different parts of the temple. These Gopurams have thousands of elaborate sculptures carved into them and these have been colorfully painted. The most significant of these Gopurams are the two golden towers dedicated to the two main deities, the tallest one reaches 170 feet.
After you leave the temple you are driven to nearby Thirumalai Nayak Palace. Constructed in 1636 AD by an Italian architect, the palace is an interesting confluence of Dravidian, Islamic & European architectural styles.
You are at leisure
for the balance e of the afternoon with your Tour Director and chauffeur.
Day 10: Madurai – Karaikudi (Chettinad).
Check-out from your hotel in the morning and then you proceed on the drive to nearby Karaikudi. There is a stop along the way for a tour of an old fashioned brick kiln, and you can try your hand at forming the bricks. Arrive at Karaikudi and check-in at your boutique lodging.
There is a break
for lunch (included).
enjoy a guided exploration
of Chettinad. Karaikudi is the capital of the Chettinad region, a fascinating rural area made up of 76 villages and small towns. This region has enjoyed a relatively affluent lifestyle for centuries and this is reflected in some unique and amazing architecture, as well as culture. Visit one of the famous Mansions of Chettinad, where wide open spaces are enhanced by generous use of Burma teak and marble, and the ambiance created puts most modern mansions to shame. Also enjoy a brief visit a local temple, which also has differences when compared to most Tamil temples.
Day 11: Chettinad – Tanjore - Trichy – Mahabalipuram.
Check-out from your hotel today and proceed on the two hour drive to Tanjore. The Great Living Chola Temples are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and your day will start with a guided visit to the most amazing example of these, the Brihadishwara
awe-inspiring Temple Complex is constructed solely of granite, a material so hard that no architect today, with all our current technology, would even dream of building a structure with the incredible detail and mammoth scale of the Brihadishwara. These are just a few of the reasons why this monument is one of India’s most treasured architectural achievements.
This ancient temple’s crown
is a massive granite monolithic cupola. This temple was built by the great King Rajaraja Chola. Construction commenced in 1003 AD and the height of the main structure is 216 feet, which means that the 80 ton cupola had to be raised about 200 feet and placed at the top of the structure. The temple itself is decorated with carved panels depicting mythological events. An immense Nandi (the Bull) stands in front of the main shrine – carved out of a single piece of granite and measuring 16 feet long & 13 feet high. The incredible detail and complexity of the carvings is matched by the vibrant colors and talented artistry of the elaborate frescoes inside the structures. The colors used are said to have lasted this long because they were achieved by locating stones in those natural shades and grinding those stones to a paste.
After your exploration of the Brihadishwara there will be a break for lunch that is included.
you will proceed on the short drive to Trichy. Arrive at Trichy & you will stop for a photo opportunity at the ancient Tiruchirapali Rock Fort & Temple Complex. The complex is perched on an immense boulder that is 256 feet high. This boulder is one of the largest such formations on our planet and is also one of the oldest at 3.8 million years of age. The Vinayak temple, dedicated to Lord Ganesh and built in 580 AD, is located at the very summit. An ascent to the top is not included as you have to climb 437 steps that have been cut into the rock itself, and it takes a lot of time to climb up and then return. At the base of the boulder is the Manikka Vinayakar temple, a large and impressive Hindu house of worship and you a brief exploration of this is included. There is also a tank and a pavilion which are used during the float festivals of the temples. Among all these temples you will find an 18th century Church that was built by Reverend Schwartz, a Danish Priest who was part of the British occupying garrisons.
The next stop is
the spectacular island temple complex of Srirangam, dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This complex covers 156 acres and is one of the largest religious complexes in the world. Although this temple is mentioned in Tamil mythology as having existed for many millennia, archeological studies of the current structure date it back to the 10th century AD. It is surrounded by 7 concentric walled courtyards that add up to over 6 miles of walls. There are 21 magnificent Gopurams (Tower gateways) and there are festivals celebrated in this complex on about 322 days every year. Within the temple there are many impressive shrines as well as a colorful mix of flower markets, restaurants and other stores catering to the worshippers. Non-Hindu’s are not allowed past the 6th wall and thus cannot enter the gold crowned inner sanctum. If you are feeling a little ‘templed’ out at this point of your discovery of India, you may want to pass up on this part of your itinerary as Srirangam’s design and other attributes have quite a bit in common with the Sree Meenakshi Temple at Madurai.
There is a break
for refreshments or an early dinner.
you are driven to the Trichy airport and assisted in boarding the late evening flight to Chennai. You are greeted at the Chennai airport and then driven to Mahabalipuram where you are assisted with your check-in to your ocean front resort.
Day 12: Mahabalipuram.
Start your day at 11 am with a guided exploration of the ancient port of Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This laid back coastal town south of Chennai is world famous for its 8th century shore temple & other historical marvels. Mahabalipuram was the second capital of the Pallava Kings of Kanchipuram, the first Tamil dynasty after the fall of the Gupta Empire. The massive rock sculptures carved into softly sloping hills, monolithic temples, ancient manmade caverns with incredible sculptures, and the world’s largest bas-relief in stone, all combine to make Mahabalipuram a living museum. Vying with this splendor is a beach and the picturesque Bay of Bengal. The famous Pancha Rathas (Five Chariots) Temples, the Penance of Bhagirath (also known as Arjuna’s Penance), the Shore Temple, the massive bas-relief Descent of the Ganges and the eight Mandapams (Shallow halls carved out of sheer rock) are all located within the small coastal community. A captivating sight can be experienced from the beach twice a day as the local fisherman head out in their colorful fishing boats early in the morning and then again when they return in the afternoon with their catch.
– You are at leisure to explore the ocean front resort and surroundings. The afternoon is a great time to walk 50 yards down the beach as this allows you to mingle with the local fishing community and their colorful wooden boats. You will see a variety of activities going on - many of the fishermen are returning from their days work and they are going through various processes of pulling their boats up on the beach and organizing their nets and other gear. The fish are stacked into plastic bins which are then weighed right there on the beach. Now the negotiating takes place. You will witness women repairing nets and a lot of other similar activity. Boats will be coming ashore and one of the larger boats will actually head out at this time of day. Photo opportunities abound, including the famed 8th century Shore Temple, from which you are only a stone’s throw away.
Day 13: Mahabalipuram.
Enjoy a guided excursion to Kanchipuram
. If you are feeling “templed out” by this time, you may
want to not take this excursion. You can, on your own, enjoy your resort or the neighboring fishing community and bazaar. The ancient holy city of Kanchipuram is known as the ‘golden city of a thousand temples’ and is one of the seven sacred cities of Indi a. Its many Gopurams (temple domes) can be seen from a long ways away as you approach the city. Kanchipuram history can be traced back for about three millenniums and it was successively the capital of many South Indian dynasties. It was a great center of learning and great sages of the Buddhist and Jain faith originated here. The occupation of many residents of this city is silk weaving and Kanchi silk sarees are considered to be the finest on the planet – a visit to a silk weaving family’s home is part of the tour.
After touring Kanchipuram
you will return to your resort in nearby Mahabalipuram.
Day 14: Chennai – International Flight OR Mumbai/Delhi.
You are assisted with your check-out by noon and then driven to Chennai airport in time for your outbound flight.
An optional city tour (small surcharge applies) of Chennai is available for those that do not have to board a flight out in the morning. Experience India’s fourth largest city. The tour of Chennai begins from St. Mary’s Church (built in 1678 – 80); this was the first English Church in Chennai. After the church you visit the National Art Gallery & Museum and explore the beautiful temple friezes, the bronze gallery, and the Archaeological section. After the cathedral you continue on to visit the Saint Thomas Cathedral (originally built in 1504, then re-built in neo-gothic style in 1893), this Roman Catholic Church is said to house the remains of St. Thomas the Apostle.
Board your international flight or your flight to Mumbai/Delhi.
As most international flights
depart in the evening, if you are boarding your international flight from Chennai a personal vehicle and chauffeur are available to you until your assisted check in at the airport.
If you are boarding a daytime flight
to Mumbai/Delhi (flight cost not included in Flight Supplement Quotation)
in order to connect with your international departure from that city, you will have two options. When Easy Tours makes your international travel arrangements, we are usually able to include this domestic flight as part of your international travel booking, thereby saving you money and enabling you to check your baggage through to your final destination.
If your international flight
departure is around three hours from your scheduled arrival time at the domestic terminal at Mumbai or Delhi, you will ask the airline staff to assist you in locating the shuttle that takes you to the international terminal.
If your international flight
departure is around four or more hours from your scheduled arrival time at the domestic terminal at Delhi or Mumbai, you are greeted at the Mumbai/Delhi airport by an Easy Tours Facilitator & your personal chauffeur. Your vehicle and chauffeur will stay with you until your assisted check in at the international terminal. This is a good time to do some last minute shopping and/or sightseeing if you are so inclined.
If your flight departs
early the next morning you may want us to arrange a room for you so you can rest.
Our services end
Day 15: Arrive at your next destination.