Cultural Tour

16 Nights

Day 1 : Arrival at Chennai Airport
You must have had a very long flight journey and it is certainly worth the travel. You will get a warm welcome by MJ Tours & Travel crew at Chennai airport and we will go straight to Mahabalipuram (also known as Mamallapuram). Chennai is 55 km far from Mahabalipuram and it's the biggest commercial centre in South India. You will rest at a lovely hotel in Mahabalipuram.

Day 2 : Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram was the port city of the Pallava, the dynasty who had been ruling in the region between the 2nd and the 9th century CE. The Pallava kings left us some wonderful monuments nowadays classified by UNESCO as world heritage sites. In the afternoon we will visit the shore temple, believed to be the oldest of southern India with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Lord Shiva. Then we will move to Five Rathas, five temples in the form of chariots, Krishna Mandapam, a cave sanctuary with Vishnu god, Arjuna Penance a giant open-air relief's such as the famous 'Descent of the Ganges' and Krishna Butterball, is a giant natural rock perched on a hillside (No, it's never fallen!). The Five Rathas village is also home to many sculpture shops. Most of the sculptors will have trained in the government sculpture college on the East Coast Road 2 km from Mamallapuram. Here you can play a game: 'Spot the perfect Buddha'. The perfect Buddha could be the size of your fist or greater than life size, but you will know it because it has the perfect balance of masculine and feminine features (some Buddhas are too masculine; other too feminine). Then we will be a spectator at a Pongal Dance Festival where there will many different cultural performances offered. The cultural dance festival usually starts in the month of December on the 23rd and ends on the 25th January. The timing will be from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Indian Classical Dance is especially interesting as the dancer uses all the parts of the body: feet, legs, arms, hands, fingers, neck, and eyes - in a wide variety of movements. There is at least one Classical Dance per day on the month-long program, and the dancers come from all over India.

Day 3 : Mahabalipuram area
We will relax on the beach until the afternoon. We will drive 20 minutes through the rice fields to head to a small town called Tirukkazhukundram, The word Thirukazhukundram comes from the Tamil words Thiru (Respectful), Kazhugu (Eagle), Kundram (mount). It was known as 'Thirukazhugukundram' in ancient times, which overtime became Thirukazhukundram. Eagles were said to land in the Vedagiriswarar temple around 3 p.m. Now for a bit of exercise! We will get down there and climb up the 600 steps that lead to the Vedagiriswarar temple, perched on top of a hill and dedicated to Lord Shiva. The view from the top is breathtaking. Hindu priests will perform some special Poojas (rituals) for us. Usually Poojas are performed daily from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. The labour that went into building the steps and the temple is amazing, considering it was built in the first millennium. Then we will step down and visit the Tirupurasundari Amman Temple, dedicated to Parvathi, Shiva's wife. and we will visit the Sangu Theertha Kulam. Kulam means pond in English. It is famous because it is said to be one shell is found every 12 years in it. We will be invited to a local fisherman's house for a fresh seafood dinner and drive back to our hotel for a pleasant nights stay.

Day 4 : Pondicherry
After breakfast, we will drive down for 2 hours to go to Pondicherry. Before getting there, we will make a stop at Auroville, an experimental town, founded in 1968 by Mira Alfassa, known as 'The Sweet Mother' by her devotees. We reach 'Pondi' and will rest a bit at the hotel. In the beginning of the afternoon we will go for a guided tour of the old town. A unique opportunity to visit some colonial mansions and Tamil houses. Pondicherry had been ruled by French for nearly 300 years and we can still feel this French flavor. By about 5 p.m. we will visit the ashram founded in 1926 by Mira Alfassa and Sri Aurobindo, two spiritual companions. Sri Aurobindo was an Indian philosopher, poet and theologist. Mira Alfassa known as 'La Mère' was French. They met each other in Pondicherry in 1914. The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is located in the eastern part of Pondicherry. At its centre, in a tree-shaded courtyard, lies the Samadhi, a white-marble shrine where the bodies of Sri Aurobindo and La Mère are laid to rest. Before heading back to the hotel for a nights stay, we have a long walk in the Nehru street, the famous commercial street of Pondicherry. Pondicherry is a planned city (like New York) with the streets laid out in a criss-cross grid.

Day 5 : Pondicherry area
Let us get up with a fresh mind and move to a religious Navagraha temple, which is 7 km from Pondicherry. Navagraha refers to nine planets in English and according to Indian astrology each and every human beings life is closely associated to these planets movements. Once you enter in, you will see a beautiful looking Lord Ganesh's statue, a god with the elephant head, move in further will take you to 27 feet high Lord Saneeshshwara (Saturn God) statue, embodied in the planet Saturn and the Lord of Saturday. We will see the other planets gods and move to an interesting place. If our visit to this temple happens to be on a no moon day or on a full moon day, we could move close to the Kuri medai (Prediction point). Here there will be a priest transformed and give predictions for every one who wants it. On our way back to Pondicherry we will visit Sri Prathyangira Devi Temple, a form of Parvathi with 2000 hands and 1000 heads. Its statue measuring 40 feet high and Poojas performed here are said to have a significant impact against evil spirits. We will drive back to Pondicherry for a nights stay.

Day 6 : Chidambaram
In the morning we will travel to Chidambaram which is 60 km from Pondicherry and on the way we will stop by and look at a natural surprise, the Mangrove forests, the second largest mangrove in the world, which extends to the Chidambaram Thillai Natarajah temple area. The shrine is venerated as Thillai ambalam (literally meaning the open stage of Tillai). We will visit the Thillai Natarajah Temple, is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in the town of Chidambaram. The temple is known as the foremost of all temples (Kovil in Tamil) to Saivites (People who follow Shiva god) and has influenced worship, architecture, sculpture and performance art for over two millennia. It was built between 12th and 13th Centuries. There will be an annual chariot festival held in the month of April every year. After lunch we will travel to Gangai Konda Cholapuram which is known for the Gangaikonad temple, built in 11th Century. The Gangaikondaan temple is an architectural and engineering marvel known because the shadow of the main tower never falls on the ground throughout the year. Let us use this opportunity and visit another nice looking temple in Darasuram: Airavateswara temple constructed by the Rajaraja Chola II in the 12th century AD. The temple is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage monument. Beside the temple we could see the people weaving silk saris and it will be nice to take some pictures here. After reaching Thanjavur we will stay in a hotel for a night stay and enjoy the Thanjavur cultural programs.

Day 7 : Thanjavur
Thanjavur, formerly Tanjore, is one of the important cultural development cities and is the base for the Tyagaraja Aradhana, a Carnatic music festival held annually during January & February at Thiruvaiyaru. We will visit the Saraswathi Mahal Library, established in 1700 where you can see more than 30000 Indian and European manuscripts written on palm leaf and papers. (Saraswathi is the Hindu goddess of learning). Then we will move to Brihadeeshwara Temple, an UNESCO recognized world heritage dedicated to Lord Shiva and travel to Attangudi for a nice nights stay. Athangudi is 176 km from Thanjavur and we will reach it in 4 hours.

Day 8 : Karaikudi area
Athangudi is a small village 15 km from Karaikudi, famous for Chettinad furniture, tiles and various foods. After breakfast we will visit some Athangudi tiles factories, here we will witness the manufacturing process of hand made, sun baked floral Athangudi tiles. Here we will be briefed on the process in a simple way and it's unarguably the world's most famous tiles. We will visit the Nattu Kottai (Fortresses on land) which was built in 19th century and was built by the Chettiyars (Money lenders). It's a classical example of Chettinadu architechture. A culinary treat! Chettinad is known for its culinary delicacies, and the local cooking is one of the many reasons why people visit the area. We will not be different and have our Chettinadu lunch served on a banana leaf with Chettinadu special dishes. After lunch we will visit the Sundareshwarar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort Parvathi. We will move back to the hotel after visiting some spice shops around. We will sleep in Attangudi for a night.

Day 9 : Madurai
It's not surprising that we will travel to Madurai which is 100 km from Attangudi. It is one of the oldest cities in the world and has rich culture and has contributed immensely to Tamil literature. The 2500 years old city, Madurai is known as the 'temple town' and has 14 temple towers with the tallest measuring 51.9 metres. In the evening we will visit Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple dedicated to Parvati as Meenakshi, and Shiva as Sundareswarar. We will slowly go back to the hotel for another refreshing night's stay.

Day 10 : Madurai
After breakfast we will visit the Pillared halls of Thirumalai Nayakar Palace, built during 1636 CE Each pillar portraits the Dravidian (South Indian culture) deities. Just outside this hall, towards the west, are the Musical Pillars. Each pillar, when struck, produces a different musical note. Let us relax in the evening and walk around the streets of Madurai before we return to the hotel for one more pleasant nights stay.

Day 11 : Munnar
In the morning we will leave to Munnar which is 153 km from Madurai. Munnar is a popular hill station, situated 1600 m above the sea level. (Hill stations were designed during the Raj by the British as places they could escape to for a cooler climate from their base in the hot season). The climate in Munnar is on a cooler side and it is pleasant through out the year. Munnar is surrounded by the tea plantations and the beautiful valleys. The name Munnar derived from the Tamil word referring to the three rivers adjoining here. When arrived in Munnar, before check in, we will visit the Tata Tea Factory and learn about the process of tea making. After a tea break, we will visit the Mattuppatty dam, a concrete gravity dam built in the mountains of Kerala. We will go for a lovely boat ride here before we can check in at our hotel. By about 5:30 p.m. we will walk around the tea plantations for about one hour and return to the hotel for a cool evening's rest.

Day 12 : Cochin (Fort Cochin)
It will be another enjoyable journey where we travel 4 hours to reach Cochin. After check into a hotel at Fort Kochi we will visit the Mattancherry Dutch Palace and there we will be witnessing the Rajas life history. Mattancherry Dutch Palace was gifted by the Portuguese as a present to the Raja of Cochin around 1555. It depicts the Hindu Temple art, Portraits and exhibits the Rajas of Kochi. We will also visit the Paradesi Jewish Synagogue, It is the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations. It was constructed in 1568. There are said to be seven synagogues earlier but this is the only one remains in use. Paradesi means refugees or immigrants. In the evening we will walk around St. Francis church, where foot prints of Vasco Da Gama can still be seen and Chinese fishing nets. Let us gear up for a wonderful Kerala Kathakali Dance show and this show start at 5:30 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m. We will get back to the for a night stay.

Day 13 : Alleppey
When we talk about culture it will be difficult to imagine Kerala culture without houseboats. We could start our journey after the breakfast and reach the Alleppey, the Venice of the east. Alleppey is 64 km from Fort Kochi and it will be an outstanding journey along the coast. Alleppey is known for Houseboats, backwaters and Home stays. We will check in to a houseboat and spend our rest of the day as well as a night in it, on the water.

Day 14 : Varkala
On our return we will get transferred to Varkala, known for the Cliff view beaches. Varkala is 117 km from Alleppey and we can reach in 2 hours. Varkala beach an ideal beach for sunbathing and swimming, so we will relax until the evening on the beach. In the evening we will visit the 2000 years old Janardanaswamy temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and spend time on the Papanasam beach, known as a cremation centre. Here we will be invited at a Kerala local house for a dinner and Kerala Thali (The thali is a series of little dishes, served around a plate of rice. Kerala Thali is one of its variations) is a must try here. We will get back to our hotel for a nice nights stay.

Day 15 : Kovalam
We will head to the extreme south of Kerala, where you will reach Kovalam in an hour. Kovalam is 58 km from Varkala and it's famous for the wonderful beaches and an infamous Sree Padmanabaswamy temple. We will relax on the beach until the evening and then we will visit the Sree Padmanabaswamy temple, dedicated to Vishnu god. This temple is one of the richest temple in Kerala and has its own unique culture. The entry to this temple restricted only to those who believe in Hinduism, however it is definitely worth looking at it from outside. We will get back to our hotel and stay for a night.

Day 16 : Kovalam
Kovalam has many attractive beaches and the important ones are The Lighthouse beach, Hawah Beach and Samudra beach. The Lighthouse beach is the south most beach of Kerala and got its name due to the old Vizhinjam lighthouse located on a rocky promontory. Hawah beach is otherwise known as Eve's beach, this beach paradise creates a unique aquarelle on moonlit nights. Samudra beach is where you will the local fishermen ply their trade. We will spend the whole day on the beach and you will be offered an Ayurvedic massage for an hour. We will be received at a nice location for dinner. We will stay in Kovalam for one more night.

Day 17 : Transfer to Trivandrum Airport
You will be transferred to the Trivandrum Airport which is just 30 minutes journey from Kovalam. A hearty farewell from MJ Tours & Travel crew leaving you with the happiness of serving you all in the best possible way.

Happy journey!

From 1268 per person based on 8 people

Package Includes:

  • Above quoted rate is Per Person
  • Accommodation in 2 or 3-star hotels with breakfast included and twin-share rooms
  • AC taxi with English-speaking driver
  • Private English-speaking guide

Package does not include:

  • The Flight tickets
  • Visa Charges
  • Lunch and Dinner
  • Drinks

Depending on your arrival and departure time you may have to pay for the additional nights stay.