A Compass India Holiday representative will receive you on arrival at the airport and assist you with your hotel transfer.
The ancient port city of Cochin or Kochi comprises a cluster of islands and peninsulas in a serene saltwater lagoon. Ferries connect the islands to Ernakulam town on the mainland. Dotted with lakes and gently swaying palm groves, Kochi’s otherworldly beauty, coupled with the lure of spices and seafood, draw scores of travellers every year to this natural harbour.
Overnight at Cochin.
Breakfast will be served at the hotel. Afterwards, proceed for sightseeing.
Kochi’s famed Chinese fishing nets are perhaps one of the most iconic and oft photographed sights of . Mounted on teak and bamboo poles and supported by large stone counterweights, they hang gossamer-like all along the Fort Kochi seafront. Their origins are obscure with some claiming they were imported by the Portuguese from Macau while according to others, the credit goes to Chinese traders from the court of Kubla Khan himself.
The Old Cochin area is home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, and the Paradesi Synagogue built in 1568 is a must-see treasure of this eclectic corner of South India. Known for its distinctive tiled roof and bell towers, the synagogue’s interiors feature intricately hand-painted blue and white Chinese willow tiles of which no two are alike. Elegant Belgian chandeliers adorn its central area. An exquisite oriental rug and gold crowns received as gifts from visitors are also on display.
Also of interest is the intriguing International Pepper Exchange that deals in the global trade of black pepper. Nearby are Vasco Da Gama Square, the Santa Cruz Basilica that counts among India’s oldest churches, St. Francis Church where Vasco Da Gama was originally interred, VOC Gate and Bastion Bungalow, all of which, according to local records, go back to between the mid fourteenth and early fifteenth century.
Wind up your day with a Kathakali performance later in the evening. A traditional dance drama form involving elaborate costumes, highly stylized expressions and choreographed to hypnotic music, the Kathakali is a truly unforgettable facet of your luxury holiday in exotic .
Overnight at Cochin.
The city of Alleppey or Alappuzha is the headquarter of Alappuzha district and highly popular with travellers for its lush greenery, beaches, lagoons and the famous backwaters of . The name Alappuzha means “the land between the river and the sea” and its intricate network on inland canals earn it the title of “Venice of the East.” This watery network has long been Alleppey’s lifeline, from its days as one of the best known ports on the Malabar coast up until modern times as the world’s gateway to the Backwaters. Alleppey too is an important venue for boat races, in particular the Nehru Trophy Race on the Punnamada Lake on the second Sunday of August. Alleppey is also your gateway into ’s famous Backwaters.
Running along the Malabar Coast of , the Backwaters are a massive 900 square kilometre network of lakes, rivers, streams, lagoons and canals that both connect and divide the land, giving rise to a unique amphibious culture and way of life that’s perhaps unique in the world.
Here, the saline waters of the Arabian sea mix with fresh water from inland streams fed by the Western Ghats, resulting in a knife-edge ecosystem that’s as fragile as it is distinctive. Teeming with fish, mudskippers, crabs, turtles and otters, the lush vegetation on its banks is home to flocks of cormorants and terns.
Human habitation in the region too are a gift of the backwaters, with the brackish channels snaking into the land often being the only means of transportation between villages and towns.
You will be cruising through the backwaters on a traditional thatched houseboat equipped with modern amenities.
Tranquil and mysterious, the backwaters feature prominently among the highlights of your luxury holiday in exotic South India.
Proceed for your Backwaters Cruise on a traditional thatched houseboat fitted with every modern amenity. All meals will be served in the houseboat.
After breakfast start for Kumarokom at a leisurely pace, cruising past traditional villages and startling the occasional otter by the riverbank.
Barely 16 kms from the city of Kottayam, Kumarokom is located by the Vembanad, ’s largest fresh water lake, and is one of the important venues for ’s famous boat races. During the festival of Onam, hundreds of traditional boats, some seating as many as fifty highly vocal rowers, steak down the lake amidst much fanfare, competing for top spot.
Disembark at Kumarokom. A spacious, comfortable Compass approved vehicle will be waiting to drive you to Munnar.
At 1600 meters above the sea level and located at the confluence of three mountain rivers, Munnar is blessed with stunning panoramic views and temperate climate that made it a highly popular summer destination with British settlers in the days of the Raj. Munnar’s soil and climate is ideal for tea and the nearby slopes are dotted with plantations. Munnar serves as a trailhead for trekkers hiking to the 2695m Anamudi Peak, the highest point of South India. Munnar is at its stunning best when its hillsides burst in stunning blue with the blooming of the rare, fragile Blue Kurinji flowers every twelve years.
Proceed for sightseeing.
Built by the British in 1910, Christ Church is known for its beautiful stained glass windows. On the church grounds, plaques erected in memory of British tea planters tell their own poignant story.
From the picking of leaves to the teacup, the Kundale Tea Plantation provides an in-depth insight into what goes into producing the world’s most popular drink. Sundays are a great time to visit as the local planters gather for their weekly get together and swap plantation tales. The plantation’s lake makes for idyllic picnic spot.
Overnight at Munnar.
Proceed to Thekkady after breakfast.
On the banks of the Periyar river, amidst coffee plantations and the fragrant cardamom hills, lies the Periyar National Park, one of India’s major wildlife reserves. Look out for the Asian elephant, antelope, the Indian bison, the elusive Bengal tiger, the dhole or wild dog, and the extremely rare and endangered Nilgiri Tahr, a species of ibex native to the region.
Birdwatchers may be rewarded with sightings of greater hornbills, darters, herons, egrets, owls and brightly coloured kingfishers.
Overnight at Thekkady.
Breakfast will be served at the resort.
In the morning, go for a jungle walk with a highly experienced guide. This is a unique programme where tourists get the chance to get deep into the forest the least obtrusive way - on foot, maximising the chances of wildlife sightings. These walks can be customised depending on how long the guest wishes to spend in the park.
Later, visit the local spice market, reputed to be the largest in Asia. Spices make for a unique and imaginative gift for friends and family back home.
Overnight at Thekkady.
After a leisurely breakfast, proceed to Madurai by road.
The ancient temple town of Madurai traces its history as far back as the 3rd century BC, and finds mention in the writings of Greek explorer Megasthenes.
The breathtaking Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple, a mini-city in its own right, dominates the Madurai skyline. One of the finest living examples of Dravidian art and architecture, its towering gopurams loom over the city, every inch of its outer surface crowded with multicolored carvings of gods, goddesses and beasts of mythology. According to local lore, the foundations of the Sri Meenakshi Amman temple date back to well over two thousand years. Successive generations of rulers built over and added to the work of their predecessors until the compound grew to its current sprawling size of the 65000 square meters. The square-shaped temple grounds are surrounded by high walls with twelve stupendous Gopurams (temple towers) bidding entry to visitors. One of the highlights of your luxury holiday in exotic South India and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In the evening, visit the temple to experience the hypnotic aarti ritual, a ceremonial offering of lights. Your guide will be at hand to explain the nuances of the proceedings.
Overnight at Madurai.
Breakfast will be served at the hotel. Afterwards, proceed for sightseeing around Madurai.
Inside the Meenakshi Amman Temple Compound, defying description, lies the Hall of Thousand Pillars, each pillar adorned by exquisitely detailed sculptures of celestial beings. A marvel of ancient Indian design, the pillars align in perfect straight lines no matter which angle they are viewed from. Outside the hall, a corridor is lined by the temple’s famed musical pillars, each of which produces a unique musical note when tapped. Don’t miss the Thousand Pillar Museum in the temple complex.
The spacious Gandhi Memorial Museum chronicles in loving detail the history of India’s independence movement. The museum organizes regular seminars on Gandhi and his principle of non-violence or ahimsa.
Located a few minutes from Madurai, the Vishnu Temple is one of the most important temples of South India and is unique in the layout of its three altars, arranged as they are one on top of one another. Each altar shows the Lord Vishnu in a different posture. The seated Vishnu on the middle altar, Koodal Alagar, is the main deity of the temple. The temple’s exterior too, covered with beautiful carvings depicting celestial beings, is well worth the traveller’s time.
Built by King Thirumalai Nayak in 1636, the eponymous Thirumalai Nayak Palace fell to ruin after the king’s demise and was restored only partially by the British. Still, the present day structure gives the visitor a good idea of its grandeur in its heydays. Look out for the intricate stucco work on its arches and pillars and the astonishing Sorgavasal or Celestial Pavilion, a 1300 square meter free-standing structure, unsupported by any pillar or girder.
The giant Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam reservoir is fed by a Vaigai River through an invisible maze of underground channels. During Teppam (tr.The Float Festival), hundreds of boats chockfull of devotees crowd the reservoir in a race to reach the temple at its center.
A short drive from Madurai, Thiruparankundram is a highly elaborate emple carved out of solid rock. The chief deity is the Lord Subramanya, but other shrines dedicated to Shiva, Durga, Vishnu and other deities abound in the complex. Adorned with highly complex woodcarvings, the shrine holy not only for Hindus but also the local Muslims.
Overnight at Madurai.
Proceed to the railway station in the morning to board the train to Chennai.
The city of Chennai, formerly Madras and originally Madraspatnam, has its roots in a warehouse built by the British on the beachfront in 1639. In 1654, the Fort St. George was established and eventually, village after neighbouring village was added to the territory to form the modern city we know today. In the days of the British Raj, Madras served as the capital of all of South India.
Overnight at Chennai.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to relax or explore the city at your own pace. Afterwards, the Compass India team will escort you to the international airport for your flight home.