Day 01: Arrive Delhi (Flight)
Arrival. Namaste! We are warmly welcomed the traditional Indian way with hands clapped together at the airport and transferred to our hotel. The remainder of the day is free to relax.
Overnight: Hotel in Delhi (2 Nights)
Day 02: Delhi
We start our morning with a tour in New Delhi, with a visit to Birla House, the former residence of Mahatma Gandhi, before his assassination in 1948. We then visit the famous India Gate, a war memorial located astride the Rajpath, on the eastern edge of the ‘ceremonial axis’ of New Delhi. We then drive by the Houses of Parliament and Connaught Place to Humayun's Tomb*. This tomb, built in 1570, is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the Taj Mahal. We continue to the Qutub Minar and its Monuments*. Built in the early 13th century the red sandstone tower of Qutub Minar at 73 metres (240 ft.), is the tallest brick minaret in the world. The surrounding archaeological area contains funerary buildings, notably the magnificent Alai-Darwaza Gate, a masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art and two mosques. In the afternoon we explore Old Delhi, visiting the Red Fort Complex*. Named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone, it is adjacent to an older fort, the Salimgarh, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546, with which it forms the Red Fort Complex. The Red Fort is considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity which, under Shah Jahan, was brought to a new level of refinement. Each pavilion reveals architectural elements typical of Mughal building, reflecting a fusion of Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions. After visiting the Red Fort, we embark on a captivating journey on board a rickshaw, travelling through the narrow lanes of the renowned Chandni Chowk Bazaar, dating to the 17th Century. To this day it remains one of the busiest markets in Delhi. Our rickshaw ride ends at the Masjid-i Jahan-Numa commonly known as Jama Masjid. Built in the 17th century it is one of India's largest mosques. We then proceed to Raj Ghat, a black marble platform that marks the spot of Mahatma Gandhi's cremation. In the evening we enjoy a sumptuous welcome dinner at a renowned local restaurant. (B, D)
Note: Red Fort and Birla House are closed on Mondays and Chandni Chowk is closed on Sundays.
Day 03: Delhi/Amritsar (Flight)
Today we are transferred to airport for our flight to Amritsar. Upon arrival at Amritsar are transferred to our hotel. Amritsar is the spiritual centre for the Sikh religion and it is home to the Sikh’s temporal and political authority, as well as the Sikh Parliament. In the afternoon we visit the holy Sikh site of Sri Harimandir Sahib, the Golden Temple. The holiest text of Sikhism, the Guru Granth Sahib, is inside the gurdwara. The Holy Scripture is brought in a solemn procession from the Akal Takhat (the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs) in the morning to the temple to be returned at night. The temple's construction was intended to build a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religions to come and worship God equally. Next we visit Jallianwala Bagh, a memorial and garden commemorating the massacre of hundreds of innocent Indian men, women and children in 1919. In the late afternoon we head to the border separating India and Pakistan to witness the lowering of the flags ceremony at Wagah. The spectacular Retreat Ceremony is put on by the India’s Border Security Force and Pakistan’s Sutlej Rangers at sunset is characterized by elaborate and rapid dance-like maneuvers.
Overnight: Hotel in Amritsar (1 Night) (B)
Day 04: Amritsar/Delhi/Varanasi (Flight)
Today we are transferred to airport for flight to Delhi, where to connect for our flight to Varanasi, one of the oldest living cities in the world and the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism. On arrival we are transferred to our hotel. The remainder of the day is free for relax.
Overnight: Hotel in Varanasi (2 Nights) (B)
Day 05: Varanasi
In the early morning we take boat ride at sunrise on the River Ganges for a most serene experience. One of the cardinal principles of Hinduism is the belief in the holiness of the Ganges. Every morning scores of pilgrims and priests fill the riverbanks bathing in the holy waters and performing various other rituals. Watching this unique experience literally transports us to another world. We return to our hotel for breakfast and then explore Sarnath, the site of Lord Buddha's first sermon after attaining enlightenment. The Ancient Buddhist Site of Sarnath contains Chaukhandi Stupa, a lofty brick structure crowned with an octagonal tower that commemorates the spot where the Buddha met his first disciples, dating back to the fifth century or earlier and later enhanced by the addition of an octagonal tower of Islamic origin. In recent years it is undergoing restoration. and the remains of several stupas, monasteries and Ashokan column inscribed with edicts by the Mauryan king Ashoka during his reign in the 3rd century BC. In the afternoon we explore old Varanasi, visiting the Bharat Mata Temple, which houses a huge marble relief map of India; the Durga Temple, the Tulsi Manas Mandir beside the Banaras Hindu University and the Mosque of Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb. The city is famous also for its silk sarees and we visit some of the houses where the beautiful silk sarees are woven. In the evening we return to the banks of the Ganges to witness the devotional ceremony of Aarti performed by devout Hindus after sunset. (B)
Day 06: Varanasi/Khajuraho (Flight)
Today we are transferred to the airport in Varanasi to take our short flight to Khajuraho. On arrival in Khajuraho, we are transferred to our hotel. In the afternoon we explore the Khajuraho Group of Monuments* The temples at Khajuraho were built during the Chandella dynasty, which reached its apogee between 950 and 1050. Today only 20 temples remain and they fall into three distinct groups and belonging to the religions of Hinduism and Jainism. They strike a perfect balance between architecture and sculpture. The Temples are decorated with a profusion of sculptures that are among the greatest masterpieces of Indian art.
Overnight: Hotel in Khajuraho (1 Night) (B)
Day 07: Khajuraho/Jhansi/Agra (Drive & Train)
In the morning we drive to Orchha to visit this amazing medieval fortress-city located on the shores of the Betwa River. The fort consists of several connected buildings erected at different times, the most noteworthy of which are the Raja Mahal and the Jahangir Mahal. We continue to the Railway Station in Jhansi to take our express train to Agra. Shatabdi Express trains are fully air-conditioned and travelers enjoy complimentary meals. On arrival in Agra, we are welcomed and transferred to our hotel.
Overnight: Hotel in Agra (2 Nights) (B)
Day 08: Agra
This morning before sunrise we visit one of the most famous monuments in the world, the Taj Mahal*. An immense mausoleum of white marble, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his most beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Situated on the right bank of the Yamuna river in a vast Mogul garden, this funerary monument combines elements and styles of Persian, Central Asian and Islamic architecture. For its construction, masons, stone-cutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome builders and other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from the Central Asia and Iran. After our visit to the Taj Mahal we return to hotel for breakfast. Later we visit Agra Fort*, also known as the Red Fort of Agra. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses, within its 2.5-km-long enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers, dating to the 16th century. It comprises many fairy-tale palaces, such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls, such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and two very beautiful mosques. (B)
Note: Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays. On nights with a Full Moon the Taj Mahal's pure white marble shimmers silver in the moonlight and is open to visitors. We can arrange for an optional tour to enjoy this very special occasion.
Day 09: Agra/Fatehpur Sikri/Jaipur (Drive)
After breakfast we drive to Fatehpur Sikri*. Built during the second half of the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar. Known as the ‘City of Victory’, it was made capital by the Mughal emperor Akbar (1556-1605 AD) and constructed between 1571 and 1573 AD. Fatehpur Sikri was the first planned city of the Mughals marked by magnificent administrative, residential and religious buildings comprised of palaces, public buildings, mosques, living areas for the court, the army, the servants of the king and an entire city. Upon moving the capital to Lahore in 1585 AD, Fatehpur Sikri remained as an area for temporary visits by the Mughal emperors. The complex of monuments and temples, all in a uniform architectural style, includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid and the artistically designed mausoleum of the revered Sufi saint, Salim Chisty. After our visit we take a drive through the countryside to Jaipur, the capital and largest city of Rajasthan. Upon arrival we check into our hotel. In the evening we enjoy our dinner followed by Rajasthani Cultural dance show.
Overnight: Hotel in Jaipur (2 Nights) (B, D)
Day 10: Jaipur
This morning we are treated like the royalty of yesteryear with an elephant ride up to Amber Fort, which is located high on a hill in the Aravalli Range. Amber Fort is known for its artistic Hindu style elements. With its large ramparts and series of gates and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks Maota Lake. Constructed of red sandstone and marble, the attractive, opulent palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. The construction of the fort began in 1592. It shows the evolution from the purely defensive fort settlements of the early medieval period to the palace fortress type of architecture typified in the 16th century. This palace fortress was never attacked or invaded. The fort comprises of number of gardens, courtyards and palatial spaces derived from Mughal architecture and is a distinguished example of 17th century Rajput architecture. After our visit, we return to Jaipur to visit the majestic City Palace, which houses a rare collection of Indian art and the beautiful Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds, where the ladies of the royal harem used to watch the city from behind the intricately carved facade. We also visit the Jantar Mantar*, an astronomical observation site built in the early 18th century that includes a set of some 20 main fixed instruments designed for the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye. It is an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period. Afterwards we have time to wander through the bazaars for shopping or simply soak up the atmosphere and cultural experience. Jaipur is noted for its craftsmen, skilled in brass inlay, lacquer work and stone setting. (B)
Day 11: Jaipur/Delhi/Aurangabad (Flight)
Today we are transferred to airport for our flight to Delhi and transfer to our connecting flight to Aurangabad. On arrival in Aurangabad we are met and transferred to our hotel.
Overnight: Hotel in Aurangabad (2 Nights) (B)
Day 12: Aurangabad
Today we take full day excursion to the Ajanta Caves*. The first Buddhist cave monuments at Ajanta date from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. During the Gupta period (5th and 6th centuries A.D.), many more richly decorated caves were added to the original group. The series of paintings at Ajanta that cover the walls and ceilings are unparalleled in the history of Indian Art, both for the wide range of subjects illustrated and the assured mastery of the medium. The paintings and sculptures of Ajanta are considered masterpieces of Buddhist religious art. (B)
Note: Ajanta Caves are closed on Mondays.
Day 13: Aurangabad/Mumbai (Flight)
In the morning we visit the Ellora Caves*. These 34 monasteries and temples, extending over more than 2 km, were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff. The uninterrupted sequence of monuments dates from A.D. 600 to 1000 and brings the civilization of ancient India to life. Later we also visit Daulatabad Fort and Bibi-Ka-Maqbra, the beautiful mausoleum of Rabia-ul-Daurani, wife of the Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb. In the late afternoon we are transferred to airport for our flight to Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. On arrival in Mumbai, we are transferred to our hotel.
Overnight: Hotel in Mumbai (2 Nights) (B)
Note: Ellora Caves are closed on Tuesdays.
Important Note: Passengers arriving for the Southern Heritage Tour will be received at the Mumbai airport and transferred to the hotel on this day.
Day 14: Mumbai
We start our day with a visit to the Gateway of India, Mumbai's most famous monument. Here we embark on our excursion by motor launch to Elephanta Island, located on an island in the Sea of Oman. We explore the Elephanta Caves*, which contain a collection of rock art linked to the cult of Shiva. Here, Indian art has found one of its most perfect expressions, particularly the huge high reliefs in the main cave. We return to Mumbai and visit the Prince of Wales Museum and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus*, formerly known as Victoria Terminus Station. The station is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival Architecture in India, blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture. The building, designed by the British Architect F. W. Stevens, became the symbol of Bombay as the ‘Gothic City’ and the major international mercantile port of India. Its remarkable stone dome, turrets, pointed arches and eccentric ground plan are close to traditional Indian palace architecture. Our next stop is at Mani Bhawan, a house converted into a museum, where Mahatma Gandhi stayed during the Freedom Struggle. We then explore the Hanging Gardens, the Zoroastrian Towers of Silence, the bustling Crawford Market and drive past Haji Ali, the tomb of a wealthy Muslim merchant. We end our tour at the Dhobi Ghat, the world's largest outdoor laundry. The washers, locally known as Dhobis, work in the open to wash the clothes from Mumbai's hotels and hospitals. The word Dhobi Ghat is used all over India to refer to any place where many washers are present. (B)
Note: Elephanta Caves and the Prince of Wales Museum are closed on Mondays.
Day 15: Mumbai/Goa (Flight)
Today we are transferred to airport for our flight to Goa. Goa is a state in western India with coastlines stretching along the Arabian Sea. Its long history as a Portuguese colony prior to 1961 is evident in its preserved 16th-century churches and the area’s tropical spice plantations. Goa is also known for its beaches, ranging from popular stretches at Baga and Palolem to laid-back fishing villages such as Agonda. On arrival in Goa we are met by our local host and transferred to our hotel. The remainder of the day is free to relax at our resort.
Overnight: Hotel in Goa (2 Nights) (B)
Important Note: Passengers doing only the Northern Heritage Tour will be transferred to Mumbai airport for their departure on this day.
Day 16: Goa
Although best known for its miles of palm lined beaches along the Arabian Sea, Goa holds other, more important attractions. The Churches and Convents of Goa*, the former capital of the Portuguese Indies, illustrate the evangelization of Asia. These monuments were influential in spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art in all the countries of Asia where missions were established. We will visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus, built in the 16th century, where the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier are enshrined. We then visit the Se Cathedral, which is the most imposing of Goa’s churches. Its vaulted interior overwhelms the visitors by its sheer grandeur. The cathedral has five bells of which one is the famous Golden bell, the biggest in Goa. The remainder of the day is free to relax on the beach or to shop in one of the bazaars of Goa. (B)
Day 17: Goa/Hyderabad (Flight)
We are free to relax and enjoy Goa’s beaches in the morning. In the afternoon we take a short flight to Hyderabad, the capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh. Established in 1591 by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, Hyderabad remained under the rule of the Qutb Shahi dynasty for nearly a century before the Mughals captured the region. On arrival in Hyderabad, we are transferred to our hotel. The city and its environs are dotted with mosques, tombs, temples, forts, treasuries, armories and caravansaries. In the evening we enjoy dinner at restaurant featuring delicious Hyderabadi specialties.
Overnight: Hotel in Hyderabad (2 Nights) (B, D)
Day 18: Hyderabad
Our full day exploration of the city starts with a visit to the Charminar, Hyderabad’s most important landmark, built in 1591. The Charminar is a square structure with each side 20 meters (60 feet) long, with four grand arches each facing a fundamental point that open into four streets. At each corner stands an exquisitely shaped minaret, 56 meters (184 feet) high, with a double balcony. Each minaret is crowned by a bulbous dome with dainty petal-like designs at the base. Unlike the Taj Mahal's, Charminar's four fluted minarets are built into the main structure. There are 149 winding steps to reach the upper floor. The structure is also known for its profusion of stucco decorations and the arrangement of its balustrades and balconies. Next we visit the Mecca Masjid, dating to the Qutb Shahi period. It took 78 years to build. It is the second largest mosque in India and reputedly the seventh largest in the world. Its enormous colonnades are monoliths, carved from single blocks of pink granite. Mecca Masjid can accommodate 10,000 worshippers quite comfortably. We drive by Husain Sagar Lake, a large artificial lake built around 1550, which has an island with a statue of Lord Buddha. Next we visit the Salar Jung Museum, one of the three National Museums of India featuring a vast collection of sculptures, paintings, carvings, textiles, manuscripts, ceramics, metallic artifacts, carpets, clocks, and furniture from all over the world. We then explore the Qutb Shahi tombs, the most extensive and best epigraphically documented Indo-Muslim dynastic necropolis in all of India. In the afternoon we visit Golconda Fort, which was the capital of the medieval sultanate of the Qutb Shahi dynasty (c.1518–1687). An outstanding example of military architecture, featuring a unique water supply and distribution system, as well as sewage disposal mechanisms and an extraordinary acoustic system, unparalleled in the architectural history of the Deccan. Golconda is one of Southern India’s largest fortresses and controlled the coveted diamond trade over seven centuries. Golkonda Fort also used to have a vault where once the famous Koh-i-Noor and Hope diamonds were stored along with other diamonds. (B)
Day 19: Hyderabad/Bangalore (Flight)
Today we are transferred to airport for our flight to Bangalore, officially known as Bengaluru. Upon arrival we are welcomed and transferred to our hotel. In the afternoon we explore Bangalore, visiting the Vidhana Soudha, an imposing edifice built almost entirely of dressed Bangalore granite, that houses the Legislative Chambers of the state government. We explore the 3000 acres of verdant tranquility of Cubbon Park, visit the museum in the Tipu Sultan's Palace, one of the most remarkable Islamic buildings in the city. We conclude with a walk through Lal Bagh Garden, India's most beautiful botanical gardens, featuring rare trees brought from far off Persia, Afghanistan and France. The evening is free for some shopping in the local bazaar.
Overnight: Hotel in Bangalore (1 Night) (B)
Day 20: Bangalore/Mysore (Drive)
After breakfast we drive to Srirangapatam, and explore the town, which is enclosed by the river Kaveri, thus forming an island. Srirangapatna has since time immemorial been an urban center and place of pilgrimage. During the Vijayanagar empire, it became the seat of a major viceroyalty. We then continue to nearby Mysore and check in to our hotel on arrival. Mysore served as the capital city of Kingdom of Mysore for nearly six centuries, from 1399 until 1974. The Kingdom was ruled by the Wodeyar dynasty, except for a brief period in the late 18th century when Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were in power. Patrons of art and culture, the Wodeyars contributed significantly to the cultural growth of the city. The cultural ambience and achievements of Mysore earned it the sobriquet Cultural capital of Karnataka. In the afternoon we visit the magnificent Maharajah's Palace, the official residence and seat of the Wodeyars, the royal family of Mysore, who ruled the princely state. The palace houses two durbar halls (ceremonial meeting halls of the royal court) and incorporates a mesmerizing and gigantic array of courtyards, gardens, and buildings. We then head to the Chamundeshwari Temple, located atop the Chamundi Hills and the Nadi Shiva's Mount. Mysore has never failed to mesmerize with its rich heritage, magnificent palaces, beautiful gardens, imposing buildings, broad shady avenues and sacred temples.
Overnight: Hotel in Mysore (1 Night) (B)
Day 21: Mysore/Ooty (Drive)
After breakfast we drive to Udhagamandalam, also known as Ooty. The area came under the rule of the East India Company at the end of the 18th century, featuring verdant hills and lush green valleys. Ooty served as the summer capital of the Madras Presidency and was visited by British officials during the colonial days as a popular summer resort. On arrival in Ooty, we check in our hotel. The remainder of the day is free to rest and relax enjoying pristine natural beauty.
Overnight: Hotel in Ooty (2 Nights) (B)
Day 22: Ooty
Today we explore Ooty, visiting the Botanical Gardens, Lamb's rock and Dodabetta Peak. We then enjoy a trip from Ooty to Coonoor on board of a historical steam train, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway*. The construction of a 46-km long metre-gauge single-track railway in Tamil Nadu State was completed in 1908. This railway, scaling an elevation of 326 m to 2,203 m, represented the latest technology of the time and travels through pristine rain forests crossing streams and ravines on countless bridges and meticulously manicured tea gardens. After enjoying our train journey, we return to our hotel. (B)
Day 23: Ooty/Kodaikanal (Drive)
A scenic drive conveys us to Kodaikanal, a hill station located in the Palini Hills, which has a long history as a retreat and popular tourist destination. Its name in the Tamil language means ‘The Gift of the Forest’. Kodaikanal is known for its rich flora. Of the big trees, cypress, eucalyptus and acacia are the dominant varieties. Pear trees are numerous and the fruits are of high quality. Competing with the fruit trees are the flowering ones, mainly rhododendron and magnolia. Large dahlias of different hues are the main attraction of the area. Upon arrival we take a boat ride on the manmade Kodaikanal Lake giving us a unique opportunity to experience the beauty of the landscape.
Overnight: Hotel in Kodaikanal (1 Night) (B, D)
Day 24: Kodaikanal/Madurai (Drive)
After breakfast we drive to Madurai, the second largest city of Tamil Nadu. The city revolves around the Meenakshi Amman Temple, which forms the heart and lifeline of the 2,500-year-old city and is a significant symbol for the Tamil people. The temple complex is divided into a number of concentric quadrangular enclosures contained by high masonry walls, featuring four entrances facing four directions. Though the present structure was built between 1623 and 1655, the temple dates to the 6th century BC. Built in the Dravidian style of architecture, the complex houses 14 gopurams (gateway towers) ranging from 45-50 meters (135-150 ft.) in height. Each gopuram is a multi-storeyed structure, covered with thousands of stone figures of animals, gods and demons painted in bright colours. The outer gopuram presents steeply pyramidal tower encrusted with plaster figures, while the inner gopuram serves as the entrance to the sanctuary. The temple features two golden sculptured shrines over sanctum of the main deities and houses some 33,000 sculptures. An absolute highlight is the Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam (Hall of a Thousand Pillars), featuring two rows of pillars carved with images of yali, a mythological beast with body of lion and head of an elephant. The Hall of a Thousand Pillars actually contains 985 carved pillars. There are close to 50 priests in the temple who perform the puja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis, allowing us to witness various ceremonies first hand.
Overnight: Hotel in Madurai (1 Night) (B)
Day 25: Madurai/Thanjavur (Drive)
After breakfast we drive to Thanjavur, also known as Tanjore, where we check in to our hotel. In the afternoon we explore the Brihadisvara Temple, one of the Great Living Chola Temples*. The great Cholas established a powerful monarchy in the 9th century. They enjoyed a long, eventful rule lasting for four and a half centuries with great achievements in all fields of royal endeavor, such as military conquest, efficient administration, cultural assimilation and promotion of art. The Brihadisvara temple marks the greatest achievement of the Chola architects and is set in spacious grounds, featuring a circumambulatory path all around the sanctum housing a massive linga. The temple walls are embellished with expansive and exquisite mural paintings, as well as fine bas-reliefs. Inscriptions record the names of dancers, musicians and poets a reminder of the significance of this area to the development of the arts in the 11th century. The tradition of temple worship and rituals established and practiced over a thousand years ago, based on still older Agamic texts, continues to this day and is an inseparable part of life of the people. We then visit the Tanjore Palace & Museum, which features an eclectic collection of regal memorabilia, most of which dates to the early 19th century.
Overnight: Hotel in Thanjavur (1 Night) (B)
Day 26: Thanjavur/Pondicherry (Drive)
After breakfast we drive to Pondicherry. This former French Colonial city in Tamil Nadu didn’t come under Indian rule until 1954. Pondicherry, otherwise known as Puducherry means a “New Hamlet” and is located on the Coromandel Coast. Its main attraction is actually outside of town: The Ashram at Auroville, built by followers of Sri Aurobindo, a philosopher-prophet born in 1870, famous for his Integral Yoga and philosophical literary works. In the International Town where people from all over the world reside. Here we will see the Matrimandir, the famous monument built by the Auroville Society representing a lotus flower. We will also visit the 400-year old Manakula Vinayagar Temple, which features several frescos telling the life story of Ganesha, one of the best-known and most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. The most recurrent motif in these stories is that Ganesha was created by Parvati using clay to protect her and Shiva beheaded him when Ganesha came between Shiva and Parvati. Shiva then replaced Ganesha's original head with that of an elephant.
Overnight: Hotel in Pondicherry (1 Night) (B)
Day 27: Pondicherry/Mahabalipuram (Drive)
After breakfast we drive to Mahabalipuram. On arrival we check in at our hotel. In the afternoon we visit the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram*. This group of sanctuaries, founded by the Pallava kings, was carved out of rock along the Coromandel Coast in the 7th and 8th centuries. It is known especially for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air reliefs such as the famous 'Descent of the Ganges', and the temple of Rivage, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva.
Overnight: Hotel in Mahabalipuram (2 Nights) (B)
Day 28: Mahabalipuram/Kanchipuram/Chennai/Mahabalipuram (Drive)
After breakfast we drive to Kanchipuram, one of the seven sacred cities of India. Ancient Kanchipuram, the city of thousand temples, is one of the most sacred Hinduist pilgrimage centers. About 126 temples remain in Kanchipuram and a few more in the outskirts. This city was under the control of the Cholas as far back as the 2nd Century BC and the Pallava capital between the 6th and 8th centuries. In the afternoon we tour Chennai, visiting the National Art Gallery & Museum, which contains some of the best collections of bronzes in the country, including the famous icon of Natraja. We continue to India's oldest surviving British church, St. Mary's Church, built in 1680. We end our tour with a visit to People’s Park and the beautiful Marina Beach and the clock towers and return to our hotel. (B)
Note: National Art Gallery & Museum is closed on Fridays and national holidays
Day 29: Mahabalipuram/Chennai/Onward Destination (Drive & Flight)
After a memorable journey through incredible India from North to South, we are transferred to the airport for our departure home or to our next exciting destination. (B)