A flamboyant showcase of Rajasthani architecture and a firm favourite on tourist itineraries as the third corner of India’s ‘Golden ...
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Welcome to incredible India! Arriving into Chennai in the early hours of the morning, our representative will meet you and transfer you to your hotel - The Leela Palace in Channai. After breakfast we head out of the city along the coast towards for Mahabalipuram. It's a free afternoon to - relax poolside, have a beach-side stroll, or perhaps wander in town which is very close to your hotel.
Ancient temples with breathtaking architecture! Our day begins with a visit to the famous Shore temple, exploring the huge rock-cut sculptures and mandapams (pillared pavilions) that date from the 5th to 8th centuries. This afternoon we head out for a short drive to Kanchipuram, one of sacred cities in India. capital of the Pallava kingdom from the 4th to the 10th century, and a centre of learning for all the major religions of South India.
It's a quick drive this morning to the former French colony of Pondicherry. With charming colonial architecture, a quaint seafront promenade and an interesting spiritual heritage, the small city of Pondicherry, has been drawing discerning travellers for years, in search of enlightenment and that authentic southern Indian experience. Now the city is attracting a new kind of traveller, those who wish to visit the home of the teenage boy who captured our hearts with his epic journey in the award-winning novel and film, the Life of Pi.
This morning, with our local guide, we explore the tranquil streets of Pondicherry, taking in the colonial sites and sounds and the enormous Brihadishwara Temple. As part of the tour today, we also head out to visit the world famous Sri Aurobindo Ashram home to a community of around 1,000 people from 20 nationalities studying/following the teachings of Aurobindo.
Back on the road again, it's a scenic drive inland to Tanjore. Also known as Thanjavur, Tanjore is an ancient fortified town, with a glorious history dating back more than 1,500 years. Thanjavur was the ancient capital of the Chola kings whose origins date back to the beginning of Christianity. This afternoon we visit the enormous Brihadishwara Temple. Built by Raja Raja in 1010, this World Heritage protected temple has a dome weighing an estimated 80 tonnes which was hauled into place along an earth ramp in a manner similar to that believed to be used for the Egyptian pyramids.
Departing Tanjore we drive to Chettinad, breaking the journey in the town of Trichy. Here, we explore the fascinating Rock Fort it's intriguing ancient temples. Arriving into the peace village of Chettinad this afternoon, take your time to explore the surrounds of your own - this is rural South India at it's simplest and best!
This morning we continue to journey South to Madurai - an ancient city that has been around literally since the dawn of civilisation in southern India. Spend the afternoon exploring the colourful bazaars of the city - bustling with rickshawallas, pilgrims and traders.
We explore the city further today with our local guide. Notable highlights include the Sri Meenakshi Temple built in 1560 and the Koodal Alagar Temple (devoted to Vishnu) which dates back to the beginnings of the city. This evening we return to the Meenakshi temple to witness to the ancient Bedchamber ceremony.
Bidding farewell to beautiful South India today - it's time to head to the contrasting North. Our morning flight to Delhi is is via Chennai, arriving into Delhi early this afternoon. Our team in Delhi will met you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel - the Imperial - in the heart of New Delhi.
Spend the day taking in the impressive Red Fort, Jama Masjid (India’s oldest and largest mosque) Raj Ghat (the site of Gandhi’s cremation) and much more. This evening why not head out by rickshaw or taxi and enjoy shopping in some of the country's biggest and most varied markets.
Today, we drive to desert-like Shekhawati region in Rajasthan. The small towns in this region became important trading posts, a lasting legacy of which are the beautiful painted havelis (mansions) constructed by wealthy merchants in the 18th and 19th centuries. Arriving this afternoon to your gorgeous palatial hotel in the town of Samode - not far from the famous Pink City of Jaipur.
Look out for the snake charmers that dot our route, as we travel to the 16th century Amber Fort. An exotic elephant ride transports us to the lofty fort, where we’ll enjoy a tour of this Rajput extravaganza. Later in the afternoon we tour the City Palace, which boasts an interesting museum of regal attire and Jantar Mantar, an ancient astronomical observatory.
Departing Jaipur for Agra (home to the Taj Mahal), we stop in the village of Abhaneri to see Chand Baori, which is the largest and deepest step well in the world. This incredible well has a staggering 3500 steps and is 13 stories deep. Arriving into Agra later this afternoon, the rest of the day is free.
Rise early this morning to witness sunrise over the legendary Taj Mahal. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan in loving memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz, who tragically died in childbirth in 1631, the Taj Mahal in Agra is described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love and remains one of India’s most enduring symbols. This afternoon, we explore Agra fort, which boasts some of India’s finest Mughal buildings behind it’s fortified walls. During its history it has been a palace, a fort and a prison!
After a leisurely morning, we drive back to the capital city, Delhi. With a car and driver at hand, perhaps do a bit of shopping and exploring as you wish. We've also organised day-use of at a hotel for you to freshen up before a late evening transfer to the airport to catch your BA flight back to London.