Oct 21st: Arrive at Delhi
(most 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 or your Tour Director, and then 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 the Travel Facilitator or Tour Director hands over your welcome package to you. 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 that were sent to you (such as our General Travel Guide) earlier.
Oct 22nd: Delhi. Start your exploration
of India with a guided city tour of Old Delhi. Drive, walk and ride through the ancient city’s streets and alleys;
explore crowded and colorful bazaars. This excursion includes explorations of the Jama Masjid (finished in 1650 AD), the largest mosque in India, and the amazing Red Fort that was finished a decade before the mosque. Both structures were built by Shah Jahan, the emperor that created the Taj Mahal. The Masjid (Mosque) is a magnificent example of Mughal architecture and is constructed of red sandstone and white marble. It is an active place of worship and its courtyard can hold 25,000 worshippers.
The great city
inside the massive sandstone walls of the Red Fort offers visitors a large number of architectural and historical attractions; it was once known as the 8th wonder of the world. The Red Fort was the seat of the Moghul Empire for more than two hundred and fifty years and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an amazing example of a blend of Persian, Indian, and European architecture.
Once you leave the Fort you will experience a rickshaw ride in the alleys of the ancient bazaar at Chandni Chowk. After experiencing the crowded and colorful bazaar you will proceed to your last destination in Old Delhi. The cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi (Raj Ghat) is a simple yet stirring memorial to the father of the nation.
Lush lawns extend beyond the enclosure that surrounds the black marble platform occupying the spot where the Mahatma was cremated. An eternal flame burns next to the platform.
There is a break for lunch
Afternoon - Enjoy a city tour
of New Delhi. This excursion begins with a drive past Safdarjang’s Tomb (1753 AD) while driving to the awe-inspiring Qutab Minar (1193 A.D.). This 239 ft tall medieval tower is a symbol of victory and a beautiful example of Persian architecture from that period. There is a winding stairway inside the tower that goes up all the way to the balcony at the very top of the tower - unfortunately they are no longer accessible for visitors. The Qutab Minar and its Monuments are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Within the Qutab complex
, amidst the ruins of the Quwat-ul-Islam Mosque, stands one of the legendary Ashoka Pillars. This large iron pillar has withstood the ravages of Delhi’s weather (and recent pollution) and has not rusted in over 1500 years. After the Qutab complex you will be driven to visit the magnificent tomb of the Moghul Emperor Humayun.
Delhi has such an abundance
of amazing monuments that this Tomb Complex (1562 A.D.) does not quite get the acclaim that it deserves. It is Delhi’s third UNESCO World Heritage Site and its amazing architecture and the elaborate gardens will captivate you.
From the tomb
you will proceed on a drive to Lutyens’ New Delhi. Time permitting, this drive will include photo opportunities at some of the following attractions - the exterior of the massive and awe-inspiring Rashtrapati Bhawan (known as Viceroy’s House during the British era), Delhi’s landmark structure India Gate, a golden domed Sikh Temple (Bangla Sahib Gurudwara), & the Birla Temple. The last part of this excursion is a drive through Connaught Place, which is New Delhi’s downtown.
Oct 23rd: Delhi -Varanasi.
You are assisted with your check-out from your hotel and driven to the airport. Board the mid-morning flight to Varanasi.
You are greeted at the airport and driven to your hotel where you are assisted with your check-in.
- Experience a city tour of Varanasi that includes visits to some of the ancient temples that lie along the banks of the holy river. You will walk through the narrow lanes through the crowded bazaars to discover a way of life that has not changed much over the past few millennia.
Sunset cruise on the Ganga
- Two of the highlights of your time in Varanasi are the sunset and sunrise cruises on the Ganga. You can float your own oil lamps while you watch the ancient prayer and oil lamp ceremony at sunset. Your personal boat enables you to enjoy a great view of the hundreds of lamps as they are sent floating on the holy river.
Varanasi is famous
for silk manufacturing.
Oct 24th: Varanasi - Khajuraho.
Start your day with an early morning boat cruise on the Ganga. The best time to visit the Ghats is dawn when the pilgrims take their morning dip. It is also the ideal opportunity
to experience some of Hinduisms ancient and iconic rituals. The most famous Ghat is the Dasadwamedh Ghat from where we begin this tour. You can simultaneously witness the ceremony of a recently deceased Hindu’s ashes being immersed in the river while another Brahmin priest orchestrates the naming ceremony of a newborn. Just like the previous evening, your boat offers an excellent view of all the activity on the Ghats - women bathing discreetly while still wearing their sarees, the priests offering prayers as they immerse themselves in the holy water, men that are oblivious to their surroundings as they practice yoga or meditate on the banks of the Ganga.
Return to your hotel
to freshen up and pack.
Late morning -
You are assisted with your check-out from your hotel and driven to the airport.
Board the flight to Khajuraho. You are greeted at the airport and driven to your hotel where you are assisted with your check-in.
Start your guided tour
of the famed temples, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These magnificent examples of Hindu religious art were constructed about a thousand years ago. Thousands of extremely detailed rock sculptures adorn the facades of these temples and the subject matter includes some very explicit erotic scenes. The sophisticated design and building techniques that were used in the creation of these temples and the detailed artistry of the sculptures cannot be described in words - you have to experience them personally to grasp their impact. You have the option (no charge) of attending the sound and light show at the temples in the evening - it is not impressive by western standards.
Oct 25th: Note: Moonlight Taj Visits - Click to view Calendar
Khajuraho - Agra.
Return to the temples in the morning and finish your tour if you were unable to do that on the previous afternoon.
- Check-out of your hotel and drive about 3.5 hours to Orchha. Have a late lunch here and explore the magnificent ruins at Orchha on your own (local guides may be available for you to hire). The archeological treasures of Orchha were built between four and five centuries by Hindu kings that ruled this area. After your exploration of the ruins you are driven to nearby Jhansi and assisted in boarding the express train to Agra. You are greeted at the railway station in Agra and driven to your hotel where you are assisted with your check-in.
Agra’s artists are famous
for their creations in inlaid marble.
Oct 26th: Note: Moonlight Taj Visits - Click to view Calendar
Agra. You now start your exploration
of Agra with a half day city tour of the magnificent monuments of this city. This exploration includes a visit to the famous tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah. This was built by Mughal Emperor Jehangir’s queen as a memorial to her father. The tombs sheer beauty will surprise you - the
only reason it does not get more accolades is because it shares the stage with the incomparable Taj Mahal. Like the Taj it has amazingly intricate ‘Pietra Dura’ inlay and lattice marble screens. The mausoleum rests in a walled garden with a view of the river Yamuna. Constructed in the year 1628, most historians believe that its design provided the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. After your exploration of the tomb you will visit the first red sandstone fort of North India, the Agra Fort. It was built in 1565 by India’s greatest Mughal ruler, Emperor Akbar. Its royal audience halls, immense stone courtyards, marble mosque and the private royal chambers give us a glimpse of the grandeur of the Mughal Empire.
There is a break for lunch
- Visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the incomparable Taj Mahal. The world’s greatest monument dedicated to love is obviously a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Taj Mahal was completed by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1653 AD as a memorial to his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal. This spectacular white marble mausoleum was created by about 22,000 skilled craftsmen and it took twenty two years to complete. When you experience the Taj Mahal with an Easy Tours Guide and have them provide unique insights into its innumerable facets, some of their passion for this masterpiece may rub off on you! Explore the amazing Taj and its surroundings till it is time to admire the sun’s rays setting on the façade of the world’s finest monument.
Oct 27th: Agra - Ranthambore.
You are assisted with your checkout from your hotel after breakfast and then you are driven to Fatehpur Sikri
- a packed lunch is provided by your hotel. Enjoy a guided exploration of this beautiful uninhabited city. It was built by Emperor Akbar between 1570 and 1585 A.D. and is constructed primarily out of red sandstone. The Emperor moved his capital from Agra to this city and then, a few years later, abandoned it, returning back to Agra. Visit the tallest gateway in the world, the towering Bulund Darwaza (The Gate of Victory). In the northern part of the courtyard is the superb white marble tomb of Shaik Salim Chishti, built in 1570.
Continue on with
your journey to Sawai Madhopur (Ranthambore National Park). The second half of this drive is through rural Rajasthan and there are multiple photo opportunities of the colorful villagers as they go about their daily activities. You will also encounter many camels and other livestock on this drive.
You are greeted on arrival at your jungle lodge and assisted with your check-in.
All three meals are at your boutique resort while at Ranthambore.
Since 2006, Easy Tours of India
has tracked the percentage of tiger sightings for our guests in Ranthambore National Park. More than 85% of our guests have had tiger sightings during this period, with many of them getting multiple sightings.
Oct 28th: Ranthambore.
Covering an area of 410 sq. km, Ranthambore National Park runs along the eastern spur of the Aravali mountain range until it meets with the Vindhya ranges. Ranthambore used to be the private hunting ground of the rulers of Jaipur. In 1972 it was declared a Sanctuary and was brought under the
Project Tiger Conservation platform.
Dry deciduous forest covers most of the park, and the vegetation is lush around the many small lakes and ponds. The open grasslands that are the tiger’s favoriteterrain account for much of the land on the higher slopes. This varied flora supports a large number of animals including a variety of deer, the sloth bear, the shy caracal, leopards and of course, the tiger.
Enjoy wildlife safaris
in to the park in the morning and evening.
In between safaris, you have the option of a guided visit to the Ranthambore Fort.
This excursion does have a fairly steep climb - approximately 700 feet of stairs. The massive Fort is one of the finest examples of the ancient Hindu concept of “Vana-Durg”, or a fort protected by a jungle. The history of this Fort (originally built in 944 AD) is a chronicle full of tales of blood and valor. Successively occupied by the Muslims, Rajputs and Mughals, the insides of the fort today lie partly in ruins, and there are superb views of the park to be had from the ramparts. There is an ancient temple located in the fort and it attracts a continuous stream of pilgrims from the surrounding villages. A large number of aggressive langurs (South Asian monkey) have made the Fort area their home and it is not advisable to have food visible in your hands as you tour the fort.
Oct 29th: Ranthambore - Jaipur.
Enjoy your last safari into Ranthambore in the morning.
You are assisted with your check-out from your hotel and then you are driven to Jaipur. Sawai Madhopur is
a rural small town and you will drive though it to get a glimpse of life here.
Arrive at Jaipur and you are assisted with your check in at your hotel.
There is a break for lunch.
Proceed for a city tour of the walled city of Jaipur, including the magnificent City Palace. Visit the unique Jantar Mantar magnificent stone observatory built by Raja Jai Singh in 1728. View the ‘Hawa Mahal’ (Palace of the Wind), the intriguing facade built in 1799 to allow the ladies of the court to view the city and bazaar from the windows without being seen themselves. Continue the tour to visit the City Palace, the former royal residence (a part of it is still occupied by the Royal family and is not accessible to the public), built in a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles. This immense complex also houses a number of museums that offer a large and impressive collection of miniature paintings, costumes, and armory.
Jaipur is famous
for its carpets, jewelry & handicrafts.
Oct 30th: Jaipur.
Start your day with an excursion to Amber Fort & Palace, located 12 kilometers from the center of the City. Just like the Emperors of a few centuries ago,
enjoy the ascent up to the ramparts of the fort on top of a colorfully caparisoned elephant (if you so desire, jeeps are available instead of the elephants). The massive Fort complex was originally built by Raja Mansingh and is one of India’s finest examples of Rajput architecture. Explore the chambers and hallways of the Palace which are famous for their exquisite designs and handcrafted embellishments. “Return to the valley beneath the Fort on your elephant or jeep and proceed back to the Pink City” to “Return to the valley beneath the Fort and proceed back to the Pink City”
There is a break for lunch
- you are at leisure with your guide and chauffeur, who are available to you till 5 pm. This is a good time to shop for Rajasthani specialties if you are so inclined. There are other options that your guide can offer you.
- You are driven to a nearby venue where an Easy Tours facilitator is your host at a cultural show and dinner. An alternative to this is that there is usually a cultural performance at your hotel in the evenings. You can choose to watch this instead (if available) and then drive to the home of a Rajasthani family where you can enjoy a traditional dinner with them. This selection needs to be made when you reserve your tour.
Oct 31st: Jaipur - Pushkar. Drive to Pushkar
in the morning. Arrive at Pushkar
in the mid-morning and check in to your Luxury Tent or Cottage.
Participate in Pushkar Camel Fair festivities (Cattle Fair).
Easy Tours ‘Tour Directors’
will guide you to various activities and events around the Fair, and are available to assist you with your individual needs should any arise.
- Tour the Fair camp grounds to view the cattle. Experience the trading activity with the cattle, which is at its peak.
Nov 1st: Pushkar.
Participate in Pushkar Camel Fair festivities (Cattle Fair), including the camel race which is currently scheduled for this morning (subject to change).
Easy Tours ‘Tour Directors’
will guide you to various activities and events around the Fair, and are available to assist you with your individual needs should any arise.
- Tour the Fair camp grounds to view the cattle, and this is a good day to explore the small town of Pushkar and its monuments.
Nov 2nd: Pushkar - Ranakpur - Udaipur.
Check out of the resort in the morning and proceed on the drive to Udaipur. Stop at Ranakpur for a guided tour of the awe-inspiring Jain Temple Complex. Tour the famous 15th Century marble temple that is located 90 km's north of Udaipur and is still an active place of worship. The main temples 29 halls are supported by 1444 massive yet intricately carved marble pillars, and no two are of the same design. There is an abundance of exquisite sculptures and friezes and the enormous scale of the monument and the exquisite details of its design have to be experienced to be believed.
Lunch is included
Continue on to Udaipur
after the tour. Arrive at Udaipur and check in to your hotel.
Udaipur is famous
for its artists and paintings, including exquisite miniatures.
Nov 3rd: Udaipur.
Proceed for a city tour, including a tour of the fabled City Palace. At this Palace complex, explore the beautifully decorated rooms with thousands
of exquisite, handcrafted mirrors that cover the walls, the ancient ivory doors that are a dark reminder of royalty’s passion for hunting, the brightly colored glass windows, expansive inlaid marble balconies and the unique peacock courtyard. Enjoy a private tour of the amazing Crystal Gallery which houses the world’s largest collection of priceless crystal. Marvel at pieces like the complete bedroom furniture set in crystal, discovered recently in a store room in the palace. There are amazing views to be had from this structure, especially of Lake Pichola, the Lake Palace hotel and Jag Mandir.
After your tour of the City Palace you have the option (no charge) of a visit to the lovely Sahelion-ki-bari gardens and the local Museum.
There is a break for lunch.
- Enjoy an exclusive cruise on Lake Pichola and visit the historical and beautiful monuments at Jag Mandir Island (if available - the royal family at Udaipur will occasionally rent out the island for large celebrations and on those occasions the island cannot be visited by tourists).
Nov 4th: Udaipur - Mumbai.
You are assisted with your check-out from your hotel and then you are driven to the airport where you are assisted in boarding
the morning flight to Mumbai. Arrive at Mumbai and you are greeted at the airport by our Easy Tours Travel Facilitator or your Local Guide, and then ushered to a chauffeur driven vehicle. You now proceed for a half day guided city tour of Mumbai.
The tour begins at the Prince of Wales Museum, built to commemorate King George V’s first visit to India in 1905. Designed in the Indo-Saracenic style, the museum has sections of art, paintings, archeological exhibits and natural history. After the museum tour you will visit the famous ‘Dhobi Ghat’ & observe the age old tradition of the Dhobi’s doing Mumbai’s laundry!
Continue the tour
with a drive up to Malabar Hill, where the hanging gardens give a panoramic view of the city and the "Queen’s Necklace" (Marine Drive). The tour then takes a drive through the Flora Fountain and Fort area, where you can view the impressive Gothic and Victorian buildings that were constructed during the British ‘Raj’. Visit the Victoria Terminus (now known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus). It is India’s finest example of a Gothic architecture and one of the world’s busiest railway stations.
Drive around Horniman Circle and visit the Town Hall, right besides the docks of Mumbai. Visit the city’s signature landmark, “The Gateway of India”, situated overlooking Mumbai’s harbor. This structure was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai.
Check in to your hotel
after the tour.
Nov 5th: Mumbai - Aurangabad.
You are assisted with your check-out and then driven to the airport. Board the early morning flight to Aurangabad. Upon your arrival at Aurangabad you are greeted at the airport and ushered to a waiting vehicle and your chauffeur. You now proceed for a half day guided excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ellora. Explore the magnificently sculptured cave temples and monasteries of Ellora. They are 34 ‘Caves’ at Ellora and any of them would individually be considered a significant attraction in most nations. They were built between 600 AD & 1000 AD and are devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
17 of these caves illustrate a resurgence of Hinduism in this area, as reflected by their Hindu themes, sculpture, and art. The epitome of this is Cave 16, the awe-inspiring "Kailash Temple". It was finished during the 8th century and is supposed to evoke one of the abodes of Lord Shiva, Mount Kailash in the Himalayas.
The Kailash Temple
is notable for its vertical excavation; meaning that the creators started sculpting from the top and worked their way down. More than 200,000 tons of rock was excavated over more than a century to create this masterpiece. After exploring the caves at Ellora you drive to Aurangabad where you are assisted with your check in at your hotel.
Nov 6th: Aurangabad.
Enjoy a full day guided excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ajanta. Buddhist monks and other
craftsmen began excavating, sculpting, and painting at Ajanta in the 2nd century BC. The incredible variety of paintings and sculpture were created in hard rock by using elaborate and ingenious lighting, tools, and materials. These 28 caves are a testimony to the devotion of the Buddhists, as well as the talents of their skilled craftsmen.
Although the caves themselves are very impressive in their design and volume of massive sculpturing and excavation, it is the art inside the caves that will take your breath away. The incredible artistry and colors of the paintings and sculptures is unique - such art has not been seen anywhere else, not just in India but anywhere in the world. Ajanta's incredible paintings are even more impressive considering that the color and texture you're admiring today was created by artists about two thousand years ago.
Nov 7th: Aurangabad - Trivandrum.
You are assisted with your check-out by an Easy Tours Travel Facilitator and then driven to the airport. You are assisted with boarding the morning flight to Mumbai. Connect with the flight to Trivandrum. Upon your arrival at Trivandrum you are greeted at the airport and ushered to your chauffeur driven vehicle. You are driven to nearby Kovalam and assisted with your check-in at your ocean front resort.
You are at leisure
for the balance of the afternoon.
Nov 8th: Note: Jewish Synagogue is closed on Friday / Saturday, during Jewish festival
Kovalam (Trivandrum) - Cochin.
You are assisted with your check-out by an Easy Tours Travel Facilitator in the mid-morning and driven to nearby Trivandrum. If today is a Thursday, you may want to start out early from your hotel in the morning as that will enable you to visit the Jewish Synagogue during your time in Cochin. Enjoy a guided city tour of the ancient city of Trivandrum. Explore the temples, monuments and statues, all of which are great examples of pure Dravidian Temple architecture.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant (included) and then proceed on the picturesque journey to Cochin. There is a plethora of opportunities for photography of great scenery and local rural cultural experiences on this drive.
Arrive at Cochin
and you are assisted with your check-in at your hotel.
Nov 9th: 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 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 the day before or the day after. 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 to your hotel after your walk.
- An 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.
Nov 10th: Cochin - Backwaters cruise.
You are assisted with your check-out by an Easy Tours Travel Facilitator and driven to the
backwaters. If the previous day was a Saturday, you can visit the Jewish Synagogue on your way to the backwaters. Proceed on the drive to Alleppey in the morning & board 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 till 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.
Nov 11th: Backwaters - Periyar National Park.
Disembark from your houseboat in the morning and embark on your drive to Thekkady (Periyar National Park). Arrive at Thekkady and check-in at your hotel. 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.
- Drive up to Lake Periyar and embark on a boat ride around the lake. Enjoy the incredible scenery and view the wildlife as you cruise around the spectacular lake -elephants, wild boar and deer are the most commonly sighted wildlife.
Nov 12th: Periyar - Madurai.
Start your morning with a visit to a neighboring spice plantation where an experienced naturalist will guide you through scores of different spice plants and illustrate their medicinal and gastronomical properties.
After you return to your lodge and freshen up, you will check-out and eat lunch before you leave Thekkady.
After lunch you will proceed
on the picturesque drive to Madurai with your chauffeur.
Arrive at Madurai where you are assisted with your 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.
Nov 13th: 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 dropped off at your hotel in the afternoon for a late lunch.
- you are at leisure. This is a good day to turn in earlier than usual as an early departure the next morning will avoid Madurai traffic and let you get more out of a rather full day of sightseeing and traveling.
Nov 14th: Note: Tanjore Art Gallery colsed on Important Government Holidays
Madurai - Trichy - Tanjore.
You are assisted with your check-out and then you proceed on the 3 hour drive to Trichy. Arrive at Trichy & begin a guided exploration of 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. You may not want to ascend to the top as you have to climb 437 steps that have been cut into the rock itself. The Fort complex was built much later and has a legacy full of tales of blood and valor; it changed hands numerous times as it was conquered by various dynasties till it eventually landed in the control of the British in the late 18th century. There are a few cave temples in the complex with beautifully carved panels and pillars as well as a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
At the base of the boulder is the Manikka Vinayakar temple, a large and impressive Hindu house of worship and you may want to explore this if you choose not to make the climb. 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.
There is a break for lunch.
lunch you can explore 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.
- After your exploration of Srirangam temple you are driven to your hotel in Tanjore (Thanjavur).
A Note about Hotels in this area: The Hotels in the central parts of Southern India do not offer the world class luxury offered at most destinations in India. At Tanjore the options are very few - the best lodging would equate with a Highway motel in the western world. At Pondicherry there are a few small boutique establishments with a colonial flavor and one or two small business hotels that are fairly luxurious, but nothing that compares with the luxury hotels in the rest of India. Easy Tours routinely monitors these establishments for changes in management and service standards and makes changes as the need arises. For guests that require luxury in all their lodging we recommend that you select one of our shorter tours that do not include the central part of South India. Talk to an Easy Tours India Specialist for recommendations.
Nov 15th: Tanjore - Pondicherry.
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
. This 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, if time permits, you can enjoy a guided tour of the Saraswati Mahal Library and Art Gallery. The Gallery houses a large collection of ancient Chola bronzes, and the building is an architectural marvel.
- Return to your hotel to freshen up and pack. Check-out of your hotel and break for lunch. After lunch you drive with your chauffeur to Pondicherry. Check in to your hotel on arrival.
Nov 16th: Pondicherry - Mahabalipuram.
Start your day with a guided tour of Pondicherry. Pondicherry was a French colony for about two hundred and eighty years and became a part of India in 1954. Some claim that its history can be traced back to Agastya, South India’s revered sage, who built his hermitage here many millennia ago. There is evidence that the Romans had a trading post here in the 1st Century AD. However, most of what a visitor will experience today has a distinct colonial flavor. The culture presents an unusual combination of European culture and Indian traditions - French is still spoken here in some parts of the population, along with Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and English. As you tour the city you will be captivated by its architecture as well as the friendliness of its inhabitants. Traces of the French colony still remain in its churches, cuisine, grid-pattern streets and colonial buildings. Return to your hotel after the city tour.
Check-out of your hotel and drive to the nearby town of Auroville (City of Dawn) for a guided exploration. Auroville is a utopian oasis of peace and enlightenment. We recommend that you read up on this unique community before your visit. Most visitors walk away from here with a feeling of contentment that they can’t quite explain. In the late afternoon, after exploring the Ashram at Auroville, you will be driven to Mahabalipuram. Arrive at Mahabalipuram and check-in to your ocean front resort.
Nov 17th: Note: Crocodile Farm
is closed on Monday.
Start your day 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 Ganga 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 surroundings on your own or you can relax at your ocean front resort.
Nov 18th: Note: Dakshin Chitra is closed on Tuesday.
Enjoy a guided excursion to Kanchipuram and Chennai
. 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 India. 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 largest enterprise in 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 drive to Chennai so as to experience India’s third 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 continue on to visit the Saint Thomas Cathedral (originally built in 1504, then re-built in neo-gothic style in 1893), thisRoman Catholic Church is said to house the remains of St. Thomas the Apostle. After the cathedral you visit the National Art Gallery & Museum and explore the beautiful temple friezes, the bronze gallery, and the Archaeological section. Finish your exploration of Chennai with a drive by the High Court, Fort St. George, and the popular Tamil film studios that put out hundreds of movies every year.
Return to your resort in nearby Mahabalipuram at the end of the day.
Nov 19th: Mahabalipuram - International Flight (OR Mumbai/Delhi).
You are assisted with your check-out by an Easy Tours Travel Facilitator and then driven to Chennai airport. Board your international flight or your flight to Mumbai/Delhi. Upon your arrival at Mumbai/Delhi you are greeted at the airport by an Easy Tours Facilitator & your chauffeur. You are provided with a personal vehicle for yourself (if Single traveler), for both of you (If Couple or Two people) or for your family (if a family is traveling). This is a good time to do some last minute shopping and/or sightseeing if you are so inclined.
Your vehicle and driver
stay with you until your (usually late evening) assisted check in at the airport. If your flight departs early in the morning you may want us to arrange a room for you so you can rest.
Our services end
at Chennai/Mumbai/Delhi airport.
Flights included in travel supplement:
Delhi - Varanasi - Khajuraho; Udaipur - Mumbai - Aurangabad - Mumbai - Trivandrum.