Jan 30th: Arrive at Cochin
(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 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.
Jan 31st: Cochin. (B,L,D)
If you did not meet him the previous evening, you will be introduced to your Tour Director prior to beginning this excursion. 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 that allows you to experience coastal Keralan culture.
You are taken back to your hotel. You are at leisure for a couple of hours.
– Your South India Tour Director 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.
Feb 1st: Cochin. (B,L,D) Explore 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 – will be facilitated on other days for some departures), 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 A.D. 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.
In the evening 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.
Feb 2nd: Cochin - Backwaters cruise. (B,L,D) You are assisted with your checkout by an Easy Tours Travel Facilitator and driven to the backwaters. Arrive at Alleppey and 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.
Feb 3rd: Backwaters cruise - Kanchipuram - Mahabalipuram. (B,L,D) Disembark from your houseboat in the morning and enjoy the scenic drive to Cochin airport. You are assisted with boarding your flight to Chennai. Upon your arrival at Chennai, you will proceed on a drive to nearby Kanchipuram. A packed lunch will be provided for this journey. Enjoy a guided exploration of Kanchipuram. 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. It was successively the capital of many South Indian dynasties, along with being a great center of learning, with many famous sages of the Buddhist and Jain faiths originating here. The occupation of many residents of this city is silk weaving, and Kanchi silk saris 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 your resort in nearby Mahabalipuram.
Feb 4th: Mahabalipuram. (B,L,D) 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 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.
Late afternoon – Enjoy a guided walk 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 some 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.
Feb 5th: Chennai – International Flight OR Mumbai/Delhi. (B) You are assisted with your checkout by noon and then driven to Chennai airport in time for your outbound flight. Board your international flight or your flight to Mumbai/Delhi.
Departure Option 1: If you are boarding your international flight from Chennai, since most international flights depart in the evening, a personal vehicle and chauffeur are available to you until 9 pm for your assisted check-in at the airport.
An optional guided city tour of Chennai can be facilitated for those with late departures upon advance request – a surcharge applies. This tour allows you to experience the main attractions of India’s third largest city. The tour of Chennai begins from St. Mary’s Church (built in 1678 – 80), the first English Church in Chennai. After the church you will visit the National Art Gallery and Museum. The museum is famous for its large collection of temple friezes and the bronze gallery with its amazing collection of ancient lost wax sculptures. The Archaeological section is equally impressive, and, of particular interest (located next to the bronze gallery), is the small but fascinating collection of ancient coins that span twenty five hundred years of India’s history. After the museum 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. End the tour with a drive by the High Court, Fort St. George, and some Tamil Film studios. These studios are second only to Bollywood, producing hundreds of motion pictures every year.
Departure Option 2: If you are boarding a daytime flight to Mumbai/Delhi (flight cost not included in Domestic Flight Supplement) in order to connect with your international departure from that city, you will have two options.
Departure Option 2A: If your international flight departure is less than four hours from your scheduled arrival time at the domestic terminal at Mumbai or Delhi, you will ask the airline staff to assist you with the shuttle that takes you to the international terminal - OR
Departure Option 2B: If your international flight departure is 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 and your personal chauffeur. Your personal vehicle and chauffeur are available to you until 9 pm for your assisted check-in at the airport. This is a good time to do some last minute shopping and/or sightseeing if you are so inclined - OR
Departure Option 3B: 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 at Mumbai/Delhi/Chennai airport.