Day 1: Arrive at Cochin
- most flights arrive either in the evening or at night, and we strongly recommend
that our guests consider arriving a day earlier as this allows you to recuperate from jetlag, and serves as insurance against international flight delays and cancellations. The cost of an additional nights Hotel stay can be quoted upon request.
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 boutique hotel and 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 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 2: Cochin.
Start your exploration of South India with a guided tour 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 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.
There is a break
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.
Your Easy Tours Facilitator will pick you up from your hotel and accompany you to a local theatre where you will 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.
Day 3: Cochin.
Start your day 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 interesting artifacts in the church.
This exploration is
followed by a walk on Cherai beach that allows you to experience coastal Keralan culture.
You are then escorted back to your hotel where you are at leisure for a couple of hours.
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.
Day 4: Cochin - Backwaters cruise.
You are assisted with your checkout 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.
Day 5: Backwaters Cruise - Thekkady (Periyar National Park).
Disembark from your houseboat in the morning and enjoy the fascinating drive through the incredibly scenic rain forests of the Western Ghats as you 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.
This is the heart of spice country and the pleasant, mild aroma from the surrounding plantations will fascinate you when you arrive.
There is a break
for a late lunch.
Periyar National Park 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 6,000 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.
is home to just under a thousand elephants and also more than 60 other mammal species including tigers, bison, deer, wild boar and wild dog. There are more than 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 6: Thekkady (Periyar).
Start your day with a drive up to Lake Periyar and embark on a lake cruise on the spectacular lake. The scenery is both gorgeous and surreal, as ancient tree stumps still protrude from the waters of the 26-square-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 boar are also a common sight. Return to your resort after this and enjoy breakfast.
You are at leisure
for a couple of hours to enjoy your scenic pastoral resort and its surroundings, or you can explore the charming rural town that surrounds your resort. The flora (and other attractions) of your nature resort are very impressive, as are the nearby spice shops that sell locally grown products. 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.
There is a break
for lunch at your resort.
you will be driven to Elephant Junction where you will mingle with the elephants, their trainers, handlers and other staff as they go about their daily business.
You will have opportunities to feed and assist in bathing the gentle giants, as well as experience elephant back rides. After this experience you will be driven back to your resort.
Day 7: Thekkady - Madurai.
Check-out from your resort in the morning and you are driven to Madurai. The first part of this drive is through the incredible Western Ghats and you will have photo opportunities at pastoral hamlets and various lush plantations that grow tea and other crops. Arrive at Madurai
where you will break for lunch. After lunch you will be check-in to your comfortable hilltop boutique lodge. You are at leisure to relax and enjoy the scenic surroundings of your hotel.
More than 2,500 years old, Madurai is the second largest city of Tamil Nadu and an important cultural and commercial hub. It was once the seat of Tamil learning; it is still the area where the Tamil language is spoken in its purest form. The city is planned in the shape of a lotus. In contrast with its ancient roots, modern Madurai is a burgeoning industrial center, surrounded by vast stretches of paddy fields, dusty roads and crowded bazaars.
- Attend the iconic and 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. You will be amazed by the incredible scale and colors that you are about to witness. Besides a glimpse of the ancient ceremony, this evening will give you a taste of what you will experience on the next day when you do a detailed tour of this awe-inspiring temple complex.
Day 8: Madurai.
Proceed for a guided city tour of Madurai. By far 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) and Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva). Its vast interior 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 2,000 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 your exploration of the amazing temple complex you will Thirumalai Nayak Palace. Constructed in 1636 A.D. by an Italian architect, the palace is an interesting confluence of Dravidian, Islamic and European architectural styles.
There is a break
- Enjoy a walking tour through the colorful streets of Madurai and get to learn more about the fascinating history and culture of this ancient city.
Day 9: Madurai - Tanjore.
Check-out from your hotel in the morning and then you proceed on the drive to Tanjore. Arrive at Tanjore in the early afternoon and check-in to your charming boutique residence. Please note that this beautiful property serves vegetarian cuisine and beer and wine, and no hard spirits. Lunch breaks at Tanjore will be at a popular rooftop restaurant (with views of the ancient city) that is very close to all the main attractions of Tanjore.
There is a break
you will drive to the Thanjavur Art Gallery. Of main interest here is the gallery’s incredible collection of ancient lost wax process bronzes, gathered from all over the region, that are unmatched in their beauty. There are also ancient temple stone sculptures and murals. The exploration of this gallery is something that everyone, art lover or not, will really enjoy.
Day 10: Tanjore - Pondicherry (Puducherry).
The Great Living Chola Temples are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and your day will start with a guided visit to the most awe-inspiring example of these, the Brihadishwara
. Please note that this massive structure has very little in common with any of the other amazing temples you may have seen in India. This incredible thousand-year-old Temple Complex is constructed solely of granite, a material so hard that, with all our current technology,
no architect today would even dream of building a structure with the amazing 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 made up of ten different pieces totaling about eighty two tons. This temple was built by the great King Rajaraja Chola. Construction commenced in 1003 A.D. and the height of the main structure is 216 feet, which means that the incredibly heavy 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 and 13 feet high. The colors used on the elaborate frescoes inside the structures 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 you will return to your lodging to check-out.
There is a break
you will proceed on the drive to Pondicherry.
Arrive at Pondicherry in the early evening and check-in to your boutique colonial lodging. Picturesque Pondicherry was the location of the entire first act of Life of Pi.
Day 11: Pondicherry.
You are taken for a guided tour of this fascinating town that has been called the French Riviera of the East. With a long history of trade and war, the current city started taking shape under French Governance a few hundred years ago. History here goes back a lot further, as a large number of artifacts from a two millennia old Greek Trading Post (for trade with Rome) have been found just a couple of miles down the road from the city. This extremely laid back city has two distinct parts, the Colonial and the Indian, which are separated by a small canal. The Colonial side is the older one, with Mediterranean houses in tree lined streets still called Rues and Boulevards. The Indian side is typical of a Tamil city, with quite a bit more noise and crowding. There are interesting churches and temples, as well as other fascinating reminders of a grand colonial past.
Your tour ends
Your boutique residence
is in the heart of the colonial quarter and we recommend that you explore the area on foot on your own this afternoon. Delightful little European cafés and restaurants abound, and there is a large European expatriate community living here who you will encounter as you explore. The mix of the local Tamil population and the expats makes for an interesting local culture and lifestyle.
Day 12: Pondicherry - Mahabalipuram.
Check-out in the mid-morning and then you proceed on the scenic drive to Mahabalipuram. This 3 hour drive will take you through coastal villages with frequent glimpses of the Bay of Bengal. You will stop for photo opportunities with villagers selling freshly picked local fruits and vegetables. Arrive at Mahabalipuram and check-in to your ocean front resort after breaking for lunch.
You are at leisure
for the remainder of the afternoon. Mahabalipuram is a quintessential Tamil small town and is a great place to take walks and explore the local culture. The locals are very friendly and welcoming. 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.
Day 13: Mahabalipuram.
Start your day with a guided exploration of the ancient port of Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This laid back coastal t
own south of Chennai is world famous for its 8th century shore temple and 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.
Return to your resort
for lunch and some relaxation.
- 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 day’s 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.
Day 14: Chennai - International/Mumbai/Delhi Flight.
You are assisted with your check-out in the mid-morning and then driven to Chennai airport in time for your outbound flight.
Departure Option 1:
If you are boarding your international flight from Chennai, since most international flights depart at night or the very early morning, we recommend that, those who have late flights, ask us to facilitate a room for them at the Trident Hotel near Chennai airport. The Hotel can also facilitate late night/early morning airport drop-offs.
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 three 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 checking in for your next flight (occasionally this may require a transfer to another terminal - airport coaches are available) OR
Departure Option 2B:
If your international flight departure is four or more hours from your scheduled arrival time at the domestic terminal at Mumbai or Delhi, 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 2C:
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.