Travelers, Sodha Travel is excited to launch a new group tour to South India in January 2016! Drift in the backwater canals of Kerala, savor the coffee plantations in Coorg, view the magnificent caves of Ajanta and Ellora, and explore the temples of Tamil Nadu. To maintain an intimate cultural experience, space is limited to 14 guests.
Dates: January 8 - 25, 2016
Destinations: Mumbai - Aurangabad - Cochin - Kumarakom - Bangalore - Chikmagalur - Coorg - Mysore - Chennai - Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry
This tour was crafted with the intention of visiting both the highlights of South India as well as areas off the popular tourist circuit. The program will be led by Aditya Singh, one of our favorite tour directors. We consider Aditya a "host" as he invites travelers to share in the customs of the community.
The tour will start in Mumbai, considered the commercial and entertainment capital of India. Visit the notable attractions and then enjoy a private boat ride to the Elephant Caves, located one hour from the harbor. Enjoy sundowners while watching the sunset over the bay.
Continue to Aurangabad and explore the ancient caves of Ajanta and Ellora. At Ajanta, the 30 rock-hewn caves are adorned with sculptures and frescoes, portraying in epic form the religious and secular life through eight centuries. Many of the caves house panels depicting stories from the Jatakas, depicting Buddha’s previous births. The next day, drive to the caves of Ellora carved into the side of a basaltic hill. The finest specimens of cave-temple architecture, they encompass 34 rock-cut shrines representing Buddhist, Jain and Hindu art dating from the 4th to 5th century AD.
After a quick stop back in Mumbai, fly to Cochin, one of the principal seaports of India and a growing center of international trade and information technology. The region has Arab, Dutch, French, Portuguese, and Chinese influences. Visit the Dutch Palace, built in 1555; the Jewish Synagogue, housing scrolls of the Old Testament and copper plates inscribed in Hebrew script; St. Francis Church, where Vasco de Gama was buried in 1524; and the Chinese fishing nets at the entrance of Cochin Harbor.
The tour continues to Kumarakom, a charming village on the Eastern bank of Vembanadu Lake surrounded by paddy fields. The lake's majestic canals, streams, and distributaries weave an intricate and enchanting web. Enjoy a backwater canal cruise and lunch at a local farm.
Return to Cochin and fly to Bangalore for an overnight. Drive to Chikmagalur, en-route visiting Belur and Halebid. Then, continue to Coorg. The cultures and traditions of the Coorgs’ embrace Hinduism but are immensely different. Usually a priest oversees none of their births, deaths, marriages, or festivals. Some of the customs and practices by the Coorgs’ are reminiscent of pre-Christian Greek and old Eurasian traditions. Enjoy a guided tour of the 300 – acre working coffee and spice plantations.
Mysore is the next destination, once the capital of the Wodeyar Kingdom. It is presently the second largest city in Karnataka and one of the finest in southern India. Famous for its silks and sandalwood, it is overflowing with fine gardens, tree-lined boulevards, art galleries, and palaces.
Return to Bangalore and fly to Chennai. Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is the capital of Tamil Nadu, the exotic state famous for its temple architecture. It is the fourth largest city in India and the base of South India's classical music and dance performances.
The next stops are Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram. Kanchipuram is one of Hinduism’s seven most sacred cities. The city dates from the 2nd century BC, during the time of the early Chola reign. Successive dynasties built hundreds of temples, resulting in the name The Golden City of a 1000 Temples, with the earliest surviving temple dating from the 6th and 7th century. Apart from being a center of pilgrimage, Kanchipuram is also famous for its silk weavers who settled in this area in the 16th century. Then, drive to Mahabalipuram. The open-air museum of Tamil art in living rock is the work of students under the patronage of the Pallava rulers. Strewn along the coast are some outstanding examples of 7th century sculpture – cave temples, an enormous bas-relief depicting scenes from the Indian epic the Mahabharata, and an amphitheatre of chariot shaped temples. The landmark of this marvelous collection is the Shore Temple, a world heritage monument.
Finally, visit Pondicherry, a former French colony that presents an unusual combination of European culture and Indian traditions. Its history can be traced back to Agastya, the revered sage of the south who built his hermitage here in 1500 BC. It became a part of India in 1954, but traces of its history as a French colony still remain in its churches, cuisine, grid-patterned streets, and colonial buildings.
We would love to have you join us on this enchanting journey to South India! For more information, including a daily schedule, price, and photos, please visit 2016 South India with Aditya Singh.