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Spice of the South

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 12 day(s)
Group Size: 1 - 15 people
Destination(s): India  
Specialty Categories: Cultural Journey   National Parks  
Season: October - May
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: Yes
Minimum Per Person Price: 1230 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 2900 US Dollar (USD)

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive Mumbai. Arrive at Mumbai. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel for two nights.

Day 2: Mumbai. Enjoy a cruise to the Elephanta caves in the morning. The Elephanta caves are situated on an island about six miles from Mumbai in the Arabian Sea. These are four rock cut temples from between 450 and 750 AD. They were originally called the Gharapuri, the `fortress city'. The Portuguese renamed them Elephanta from the elephant like large stone on the landing place. Elephanta's size and beauty and the power of its sculptures are impressive.

There is one main cave with a number of large sculptured panels and bas-reliefs all relating to the Lord Shiva. The centerpiece is a massive 18 ft three headed bust of Lord Shiva. Enjoy a sightseeing of the city in the afternoon (including the Prince of Wales Museum, Crawford Market & Dhobi Talao). Mumbai a cluster of seven islands derives its name from Mumbadevi, the patron goddess of the Koli fisher folk, its oldest inhabitants.

Once a "Portuguese princess" dowry and later an adornment of neo-gothic British architecture, Mumbai today, is more than just a metropolis. It is in fact an enigma of mud huts and skyscrapers, age old traditions and high fashions, the industrialist’s haven and movie makers Hollywood. The sightseeing of Bombay includes a visit to the Gateway of India, the Prince of Wales Museum, the Victoria Terminus, Dhobi Ghats and the hanging gardens.

The Gateway of India was built during period 1924-1927 to commem¬orate the visit to India of King George V of England in 1911. It’s the most enduring symbol of the city. Next to the Gateway of India is the Prince of Wales Museum built in 1911 - one of the biggest museum in the country. The Victoria Terminus, popularly known as VT is the major railway station and is considered the most beautiful edifice in the city. From Nariman Point to Malabar Hill is a winding stretch of road along the sea with tall buildings on one side, known as the Marine Drive.

Day 3: Mumbai – Kochi – Munnar. Transfer to Mumbai domestic airport for flight to Cochin. You will be met on arrival and driven to Munnar, approx four hours drive. Check in at your hotel for two nights. Rest of the day is at leisure.

Day 4: Munnar. Visit the Eravikulam National Park and a tea estate. Eravikulam National Park, a part of the Idukki district is situated in the south Indian state of Kerala in the higher altitudes of the Western Ghats. Eravikulam is very near to the scenic hill station of Munnar. The Eravikulam National Park was established to protect the Nilgiri Tahr, endangered specie of the wild goat and the only one to be found south of the Himalayas. The park lies along the high ranges of the western coast in the Munnar Forest Division of Idukki district in Kerala.

A hill station at a height of 1525 mtrs., Munnar offers a breathtaking view of the hills draped in folds of green carpet of tea gardens. Munnar - the right royal resort lazily nestled in the verdant slopes of tea country, is a quaint little town that exudes a rare old world charm and strangely reminds one of the days of the Raj in its elegant splendour. Beyond the rolling hills discover the rich tropical forests abounding in exotic flora & fauna. It is here that you will find the Anamudi peak, the highest peak in the Western Ghats, in South India. Munnar’s serene atmosphere, silver streams and pleasant climate welcome you to have a whiff of the cool mountain breeze.

Day 5: Munnar – Madurai. Drive from Munnar to Madurai, approx four hours drive.
Check in at your hotel for overnight stay. Enjoy a sightseeing of the town in the afternoon (including the famous Meenakshi Temple and the busy bazaars). The life of Madurai revolves around the Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple. This magnificently carved temple is the main attraction of Madurai and its huge Gopurams towers over the city.

Meenakshi temple has a thousand pillared 'Mandapam'. Precisely there are 985 pillars and each of them is delicately and exquisitely carved. Among these are the musical pillars, which produce music when tapped. Surprisingly, these musical pillars are carved out of a single granite rock. The temple has been a hub of Tamil culture and has been sponsoring literature, art, music, and dance in the region for a long time. The temple also has an art museum.

Day 6: Madurai – Thekkady (Periyar National Park). Drive from Madurai to Thekkady, approx five hours drive. Check in at your hotel for overnight stay. Afternoon enjoy a boat-ride on Lake Periyar to spot herds of wild elephants. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary lies around the lake, on the cool hills of the Western Ghats; the heartland of which luxuriate in matted coffee, tea, pepper and cardamom plantations. Periyar offers one of the most sybaritic ways of seeing big game.

The tropical jungle around Periyar Lake can be explored on the foot as well but we lounge in a motor launch as it drifts around a bend and comes into sight of elephants, deer or bison coming to the shores of the lake for a drink. It is famous for its wild elephants and boasts a large population of Gaur, Sambar, Cheetal, Sloth Bear, Wild Dog and many species of birds. During the dry season when water-holes within the forest are dry, leopards and tigers also pad up to the lake for water.

Day 7: Periyar National Park – Kumarakom. Drive from Thekkady to Kumarakom, approx five hours drive. Check in at your hotel/resort for two nights. Rest of the day is at leisure. Perched on the eastern banks of the mighty Lake Vembanad is the sleepy little town of Kumarakom in central Kerala. The hartland of Kerala’s famed backwaters, Kumarakom has changed little since the middle ages but for it’s string of exotic resorts that makes it the perfect jumping – off point to explore the backwaters, especially for a first time visitor to this chilli-shaped state in the south-western tip of India endorsed by the National Geographic Traveller as one the 10 paradises on Earth!

Day 8: Kumarakom. Day is at leisure to explore its temples and ancient churches.

Day 9: Kumarakom – Backwaters. Board a private rice boat for a cruise along the backwaters (Boat built in traditional style). The House Boat traditionally known as 'Kettuvallam' is made entirely of natural materials; wood, rattan and bamboo, in harmonious tones of brown and honey. It has neither engine nor machinery of any other sort on board. Sixty eight feet long and ten feet wide, with a slightly unturned prow and rear, it sits low in the water. In front, roofed but otherwise open to air, is the living and dining area, its sides shaded by shutters props open at midway by bamboo poles.

This comfortable space is covered with coir matting and is furnished with four rattan chairs and a little table. Although the superstructure was only few years old, the boat itself is century old - until it was reconditioned as a house-boat, it has transported rice and wood. Two handsome dark, broad wooden thwarts - original features of the boat - lay across the space like benches. Lashed to the ceiling were wooden paddles and a couple of life preservers. Overnight is on board the boat.

Day 10: Backwaters – Alleppey – Kochi. Disembark from houseboat at Alleppey and drive to Cochin, approx one and half hours drive). Check in at your hotel for two nights.

Day 11: Kochi. Enjoy a sightseeing of the town in the morning. This will include the Synagogue, Dutch Palace and St Francis' Church. Note: Jewish Synagogue is closed on Saturdays and Dutch Palace is closed on Fridays. Cochin - formerly a princely state beckoned travelers from distant shores. This commercial city, also called “The Queen of the Arabian Sea” is famous for its exquisite designer Gold Jewelry. The Indian Navy, the Port and the Airport share the largely man-made Willingdon Island.

The sightseeing includes the visit to Dutch Palace built by the Portuguese for a local King in 1555 A.D. The famous Jew Street, a cul-de-sac leading to the beautiful Parsi Synagogue built in 1568. A walking tour of Fort Cochin will take you through the streets still graced with traces of Portuguese, Dutch & British colonial architecture, including a few old trad¬ing factories, the only ones still standing anywhere in the world. Afternoon is at leisure to explore the city.

Day 12: Departure Kochi. Today you will be transferred to Cochin airport for you onward destination flight. (Please note: check in is 3 hours prior to departure).

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Price Includes:
- Accommodation on twin share at the hotels mentioned in the itinerary or equivalent for a total stay of 11 hotel overnights on bed and breakfast basis
- All transfers as per the itinerary in exclusive chauffeur driven non-conditioned transport (Note: Please request us for the air-conditioned supplement if required)
- Services of a qualified local English speaking guide/Naturalist
- Boat ride to Lake Periyar for Animal watch as per the above mentioned itinerary
- Entrances to monuments and National Park visited as per the itinerary
- All currently applicable taxes.