Cultural Explorations - vacations and travel

South India The Cradle Of Stone Architecture

India, Asia

from $6,985* per person 17 Days January
Boutique accommodations Exertion level: 4
Operator: Cultural Explorations 24 people max
  • Chennai international airport, chennai, tamil nadu
  • Culture & Nature trips
The sweet, splendid south of India remains largely un-overrun by the hordes. This symphony in three movements takes us to the untrammeled temple cities of Tamil Nadu, the spice coast of Kerala and Karnataka's Craddle of Stone Architecture. The southern tip of India is in many ways a soft entry to India. It is also a particularly impressive one.

Our introduction to the south is at the Mahabalipuram temple complex as we watch the waves of high tide sweeping through the Shore Temple. The rock-cut monolithic bas reliefs are among the greatest architectural and sculptural accomplishments in India. It's a short air hop to Madurai where we'll doubtless be caught up in the din of a temple procession heading to the Meenakshi Temple with its Hall of a Hundred Pillars. We'll return to the temple at sunset to be blessed by the holy men and soak up the atmosphere during the evening pooja. Our drive to Periyar takes us through the Western Ghats, past brilliant green tea estates and rubber plantations. Then it's on to Kerala's backwaters where we spend a glorious couple of days in splendid relaxation, cruising the languid waters, trekking through the pepper plantations, practicing yoga or taking Ayurvedic treatments. We'll discover the first European foothold in India in Kochi, the Venice of the East.

Another short flight brings us to the sandalwood city of Mysore with its majestic Maharaja's Palace and overland through the 'Cradle of Stone Architecture'. From our bases in the Raj hill station of Chikmangalore and in the village Hampi, we'll explore the World Heritage site of Badami with its exquisite sculptures of 18-armed Nataraja striking 81 dance poses and the splendid, intricately sculpted and fresco-decorated temples of Belur and Halebid.

But these are not mere ancient relics. We'll take part in joyful village bazaars, witness the faithful performing rituals and ceremonies and hear the chanted Sanskrit verses, passed down in an oral tradition dating more than a hundred generations. The cultural opulence is also expressed in classical Bharatanatyam dancing and Carnatic music, as well as a highly aromatic and most delicious cuisine.

Locations visited/nearby

India, Asia

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Special information

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Day 1:     Arrive in Chennai
Day 2:     The City of the Seven Pagodas
Day 3:     Fly to Madurai
Day 4:     Drive over the Malabar Hills to Periyar
Day 5:     Spice Plantations
Day 6:     Tropical backwaters at Kumarakom
Day 7:     Overland to Kochi
Day 8:     The Venice of the East
Day 9:     Fly to Bangalore; by road to Mysore
Day 10:     Temples on the road to Chikamangalore
Day 11:     Sculptural extravaganzas at Halebid
Day 12:     Belur's exquisite temple
Day 13:     Dreams made of stone at Hampi
Day 14:     81 dance poses at Badami
Day 15:     Overland to Goa
Day 16:     Brilliant beaches
Day 17:     Tour concludes in Goa

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