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Itinerary: The Culture and Cuisine of India

Abercrombie & Kent | India Tour

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Immerse yourself in the beauty of Peninsula India on this 16-day journey through the gentler, more relaxed southern states of this kaleidoscopic sub-continent. Prized for its aromatic spices, natural resources and cultural treasures, India’s beautiful south remains a feast for the senses with all the right ingredients for an unforgettable trip. Throughout your journey you will stay in award-winning, cultural luxury accommodation.

Day 1

Chennai

Arrive in Chennai where you will be met by A&K and transferred to your hotel. Situated on the Bay of Bengal, Chennai is a major centre for music, art and culture, revered for its classical dance and Hindu temple. You will stay at the luxury hotel Taj Coromandel  which is one of Chennai’s best-known landmarks and is a member of Leading Hotels of the World. A broad choice of dining options is available including the award-winning Southern Spice, the fine dining Golden Dragon for an appetising mix of Sichuan and Cantonese flavours, and the stylish bar Chipstead is the perfect way to unwind with a cocktail.

Day 2

Chennai

Begin the morning with breakfast before your sightseeing of Chennai. Once the most important seaport for the East India Company, and recognised as Southern India’s cultural, culinary and artistic hub, Chennai is a fascinating mix of old and new with a collection of urban villages and neighbourhoods and a new cosmopolitan appeal. Your tour will visit the city highlights including the ancient Shiva Temple, the San Thome Cathedral, where the remains of St. Thomas are said to be housed, Fort St. George, built in 1653 by the British East India Company and the Government Museum which is home to one of the finest collections of bronze sculptures in the country. Conclude the night with a welcome dinner held in the hotel.

Day 3

Chennai – Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry

This morning you will head southwest to Pondicherry, with a visit en route to the ancient Pallava capital of Mahabalipuram to see its Group of Monuments, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy a lunch of southern Indian delicacies before proceeding to Pondicherry. Then this afternoon you’ll wander through the 18th century French Quarter which is full of colonial mansions, tree-lined bicycle routes, parks, cafés and boutiques. Once you arrive at your hotel, the courtyard pool is the perfect place to cool off and the hotel’s Ayurveda centre offers a range of herbal massages and therapies.

Day 4

Pondicherry

Today you will tour Pondicherry, starting with Sri Aurobindo Ashram, founded by the Indian philosopher, yogi, guru, poet and nationalist Sri Aurobindo in 1926. The ashram is home to 1,200 devotees, including the 400 students of the Centre of Education, who live and work in the complex. You will also visit Manakula Vinayagar Temple, more than 300 years old and dedicated to the elephant-headed deity Ganesha. Over 5,000 devotees flock to this site every day. You will then tour the Pondicherry museum home to a superb collection of sculptures in the Bharathi Park. Lunch will be served at the hotel, and is followed by a walk through the French Quarter, where the strong French influence in Pondicherry is most evident. The roads are lined with elegant Mediterranean style houses and the bakeries are certainly worth a visit.

Day 5

Pondicherry

This morning, visit Auroville, just outside Pondicherry. This experimental, New Age community was founded in 1968 and attracts devotees from over 45 nations who come to follow the teachings of the great Indian philosopher and long-time Pondicherry resident Sri Aurobindo. Later, visit Mohanam Cultural Centre, designed to bridge the gap between the old and the young, traditional and modern. Cultural events and festivals are conducted here throughout the year, aiming to protect and preserve the rich cultural heritage of South India. You will have lunch at local restaurant and then have the afternoon to explore at your own leisure. To conclude the evening, dinner will be served at the hotel.

Day 6

Pondicherry – Thanjavur

Begin today with a drive further south to Thanjavur (formerly Tanjore), the ancient Chola capital, stopping on the way in Chidambaram to visit the vibrant Natraja Temple, famed for its bronze dancing Shiva and one of the holiest of all Shiva sites. Observe the daily Brahmin rituals at shrines throughout the 40-acre complex before continuing our journey to Thanjavur. You will arrive at your accommodations where there is a luxury spa, gym and yoga centre on site plus a choice of restaurants serving southern Indian vegetarian food prepared from organic ingredients by trained specialist chefs.

  • Stay at Svatma (Millennium Deluxe Room)
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Thanjavur is the home of one of India’s most spectacular temples, the ochre-coloured granite Brihadisvara Temple, which we’ll visit this morning. After that, you will visit the magnificent 14th century Tanjore Palace built for Maratha royalty and surrounded by huge fortress walls. Wander through its huge corridors, spacious halls and decorated rooms, and admire its beautiful stucco works, frescoed wall paintings and intricate carvings. Lunch will be at a local restaurant before an afternoon drive to Trichy for a tour of this thriving riverfront city in the heart of Tamil Nadu. You will then visit Srirangam, famous for its massive Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, which has 49 separate shrines dedicated to Vishnu and is so large it feels like its own city. You also view the Rock Fort Temple, a spectacular monument perched on a massive rocky outcropping that towers over the old city. End the night by returning to Thanjavur.

  • Stay at Svatma (Millennium Deluxe Room)
  • Breakfast and lunch

After breakfast, drive to Madurai, one of the oldest cities in South Asia, where the hilltop Gateway Hotel will be your base. En-route, you will visit a Chettinad village and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. The city Madurai is famous for its temples built in the Dravidian style of architecture. It is also one of India’s prominent Hindu pilgrimage centres. Arrive at your luxurious accommodations with breathtaking views of the Meenakshi temple’s towers, and soak up your surroundings at ‘The View’ restaurant, offering local Indian and international cuisine in a relaxed informal atmosphere.

This morning, enjoy a half day city tour of Madurai. The temple town of Madurai is known as the ‘Athens of the East’ with its rich cultural heritage spanning more than 2,500 years. Madurai is also home to a maze of markets and museums. After your city tour, return to your hotel with the afternoon at leisure. Then this evening, witness a Hindu prayer ceremony (‘aarti’) at the 12th century Meenaskshi Temple, a multi-tiered, technicolour wonder of a building, heaving with carved mythical figures and devoted pilgrims.

After breakfast, travel overland into the state of Kerala to Periyar. Your journey takes you into the Western Ghats, a lush mountain range that rises parallel to India’s Arabian Sea coast. Late this afternoon, visit a local spice plantation where you will enjoy the sights and smells of fresh spices and learn about their cultivation process. You can even pick some fresh spices to take home. Your cottage accommodation at Spice Village was inspired by the native tribesmen of Periyar, the Oorali and Mannan, who lived in similar dwellings. A number of comforts have been added, however, to make your stay a luxurious one.

  • Stay at Spice Village (Standard Villa)
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

After a leisurely breakfast, proceed to Periyar National Park. The scenic Periyar Lake in the middle of the sanctuary is a great place for boating and watching the elephants frolic. Later, descend a dramatic escarpment as you journey overland to the village of Kumarakom. Stop en route for lunch at a local restaurant in Kanjirappally, considered the entrance to Kerala’s hill country. Upon arrival, you will check in to your beautiful lakefront resort. With a tranquil setting on the lake, Kumarakom Lake Resort has a wonderful feel. The infinity pool is a delightful place relax, and there are rice boats, fishing trips, spa treatments and farm visits also available.

This morning you will visit a local farming family and experience their way of life with a cooking demonstration and lunch. A tour of their spice plantation is an extremely sensory experience, the aromatic winding pathways can be a truly relaxing experience. Complete the experience with a delicious meal made using these fresh spices. The taste and the memories are sure to stay with you for a long time. Later, return to the resort, where you will have the rest of the day at leisure to relax and enjoy the many resort activities.

You will have this full day at your own leisure. Relax at the resort with a rejuvenating Ayurvedic treatment (extra charge), walk or cycle down to the local village, or try a spot of fishing. While you may enjoy the many activities the resort has to offer, some activities are at additional cost.

After a morning at leisure, board a traditional houseboat for a day cruise on the beautiful backwaters of Kerala. Glide through canals and lagoons shaded by coconut palms and pass sleepy rural villages. You are treated to a lunch of local specialties as you cruise. Then disembark this evening and journey overland to Kochi, also known as Cochin, where you check in at your hotel. Tonight is at leisure, or you may wish to visit the Greenix Theatre for a performance by the extravagantly-costumed Kathakali dancers (optional, additional cost). The hotel has its own private jetty, which doubles up as a ‘café’ overlooking the pool garden and the sea.

  • Stay at Brunton Boatyard (Standard sea view Room)
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Spend the day exploring the tropical coastal city of Kochi, where you will discover an intriguing mix of cultural influences. Visit one of the oldest Jewish synagogues in India, decorated with blue ceramic Chinese tiles and surrounded by an aromatic spice market. You will see the story of Ramayana depicted in the wonderful murals at charming Mattancherry Palace (Dutch Palace) and visit St. Francis Church, both of which were erected by the Portuguese in the 16th century. This evening you may choose to take complimentary harbour cruise from the hotel before a farewell dinner.

  • Stay at Brunton Boatyard (Standard sea view Room)
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Today, your tour arrangements come to a conclusion as you are transferred to the airport for your departure flight.

  • Breakfast

India Culture and Cuisine Tour

Travel Dates 2018

  • Feb 23, 2019 – Mar 10, 2019
  • Oct 10, 2019 – Oct 25, 2019

Prices

  • AU$9,895 per person

For more information and to enquire about this tour visit: www.abercrombiekent.com.au

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