THE GRAND TOUR OF INDIA
Duration : 37 Nights & 38 Days
Destination : Delhi - Shimla - Varanasi - Khajuraho - Agra - Jaipur - Pushkar - Jodhpur - Udaipur - Bangalore - Mysore - Wayanad - Cochin - Alleppey - Thekkady - Madurai - Tanjore - Pondicherry - Mahbalipuram - Chennai
Accommodation : Luxury Hotels / Palaces or Heritage Hotels / Homestays
Best Time to visit : October to March
Journey Type : Group & Private Journey
Royal India Holidays invites you for a Grand Tour of India celebrating its stunning natural beauty, rich culture, ancient heritage, deep spirituality and varied wildlife for a luxury family holiday. Explore the ancient treasures of this culturally and geographically versatile country with the guidance of our highly experienced travel counsellor. We will take you all the way from north Indian cities full of monuments from medieval, Mughal and British periods to the western deserts which reflect the power and grandeur of the erstwhile Rajputana culture and the golden beaches and stunning temples of south India, exemplifying their fine craftsmanship. You will visit historical caves and monuments with ancient paintings, carvings and sculptures which will bring the history of this land alive. It is also a fantastic opportunity for you to enjoy the scenic backwaters of Kerala and the lush green Western Ghats with sprawling spice plantations. Spend a few days in the colourful desert state of Rajasthan with numerous forts, palaces and places of worship with reflecting its grandeur. Our Grand Tour of India will let you explore this incredible country in all its glory
You will get a receive a traditional Indian welcome at the Delhi International Airport by our Royal India Holidays representative who will then assist you in your hotel transfer and check-in. The cosmopolitan city of Delhi is the bright, vibrant and exuberant heart of India. It has abundant bazaars teeming with handicrafts, textiles, clothes and souvenirs. Owing to its intriguing history, the city is full of spectacular monuments from the Mughal period and the British raj in India. Alongside the monuments stand modern multinationals, world class hotels and top notch restaurants making Delhi a world class city.
Spend a leisurely day relaxing in your hotel or visit the Akshardham (the divine abode of God) temple. Built in 2005, this temple devoted to Hindu God Swaminarayan is located near the banks of river Yamuna. Listed as the largest Hindu temple in the world, it houses India's largest step well, a huge open garden, the Narayan Sarovar amongst many other things. With timeless Hindu teachings and devotional traditions intricately carved on the marble walls and a grand edifice made of sandstone this temple offers purity, peace and harmony to spiritual seekers from around the world.
After breakfast, you will proceed for a sightseeing tour of Old Delhi founded by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in 1639. Explore the narrow, winding and colourful streets of Chandni Chowk on a cycle rickshaw accompanied by our guide. Experience the magic of Old Delhi with its havelis, holy places of worship and bright bazaars. You will drive past Red Fort, a 17th century complex which was the seat of Mughal creativity and power. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Red Fort has an incredible amalgamation of Islamic, Persian, and Hindu architectural influences. View Jama Masjid, the country's largest mosque which was an architectural extravagance by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. You will also visit Raj Ghat, the memorial and cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi.
In the afternoon, you will view the soaring Qutub Minar. Built from 1192 to 1368, it said to be the tallest tower in the country. You can sit in quiet contemplation at the Laxminarayan Temple, dedicated to Hindu God Vishnu. It was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi it in 1939 under the condition that people from all castes will be allowed inside the temple. Later, you will drive around the beautifully planned Lutyen's Delhi where you will see India Gate a war memorial, the imperial Parliament House and the majestic Rashtrapati Bhawan (President's House). .
After an early breakfast you will check out of your hotel and get transferred to the New Delhi railway station to board a train for Kalka. On arrival at Kalka station, you will board another train for Shimla. On your arrival in Shimla in the evening you will be assisted by our travel counsellor in your hotel transfer and check in. One of the most popular hill stations in India, Shimla is set in the foothills of the Himalayas with green valleys and breathtaking forests. It was the erstwhile summer capital of the British and still retains its colonial charm with old English estates and the charming mall road
After breakfast, you will proceed for a full day sightseeing tour of Shimla. You will visit the popular Sankat Mochan temple dedicated to Lord Rama and other Hindu gods. You will then visit the Indian Institute of Advanced Study located on the Observatory Hill. This former Viceroy Hall is a majestic structure with Victorian style architecture. Climb up the Jakhoo hill to Jakhu temple, the highest point in Shimla and an ancient mystical site shrouded in legends. It has the world's largest Hanuman statue which attracts a large number of tourists and pilgrims.
Behold the stunning architectural marvel of Christ Church, one of the oldest churches in North India. It is a colonial landmark which dons the looks of a magnificent castle. In the evening you will be free to explore this beautiful hill station at leisure.
You are free to spend the day at leisure in your hotel or explore Shimla on your own. Set amidst beautiful hills and mystical woods, Shimla is the capital and the largest city of Himachal Pradesh. You can enjoy a nature walk on beautiful trails in the woods, green valleys and undulating hills and enjoy a picnic at a scenic location. You can also walk along the pedestrian avenue of the mall road lined with handicraft and souvenir shops, charming cafes, restaurants and bookshops. Soak in the timeless beauty of this land at the Ridge on Mall Road, an open space that offers a spectacular view of the Himalayas.
You are free to spend the morning at leisure. In the afternoon you will drive 3 hours to Kalka railway station to board a train to Delhi. On arrival in the evening you will meet our travel representative who will assist in your transfer and check in at your hotel.
In the morning, you will proceed to the Delhi Airport to board a flight to Varanasi. On arrival, you will meet our travel counselor who will assist in your hotel transfer and check in. In the words of Mark Twain, "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together." Built on the banks of the sacred River Ganges, Varanasi woos tourists and pilgrims alike with its ancient ghats, intriguing maze like lanes, tranquil boat rides and temples as old as time itself. For centuries, pilgrims have come here for blessings and purification in the holy Ganges waters.
In the evening, you will proceed for the sacred Ganga aarti (prayer ceremony) on the Ghats of Varanasi. Behold the spectacular ceremony replete with thousands of glittering oil-lamps, chanting of Sanskrit mantras, resounding temple bells and the sweet scent of flowers, incense and sandalwood floating in the air. This magical experience will stay with you forever.
Early morning you will behold a mesmerising sunrise on a boat ride on the Ganges to see people bathing and offering prayers. After breakfast, proceed to visit the unique Bharat Mata Temple which has a beautiful display of the map of Undivided India with a detailed layout of its mountain, plains, water bodies and plateaus in marble. Constructed in pre independent India, it is a landmark of Varanasi. Next, you will visit Shri Kashi Vishwanath Mandir dedicated to Lord Shiva. This ancient temple has been the core of faith for millions of devotees since time immemorial and its carved faade radiates divinity. You will then pay obeisance at the renowned Tulsi Manas temple. This temple is of great cultural and historical importance since Hindu poet Tulsidas originally wrote the great epic Ramcharitmanas at this place. Finally, visit the largest residential university in Asia, the Banaras Hindu University. It is a beautiful place with Indo-gothic architecture and sprawling lawns with a long list of notable alumni.
Later you will drive half an hour to reach the spiritual city of Sarnath, the place where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon after attaining Nirvana. An important Buddhist pilgrimage, it is known as the birthplace of Buddha's 4 noble truths. It is home to ruins of many sacred Buddhist sites, stupas, age old monasteries, temples, museums and gardens. Visit the Archaeological Museum established in 1910, which has some of the greatest treasures of Buddhist artifacts ranging from 3rd century BC to 12th century AD. You will also visit the renowned deer park which is the site where Gautam Buddha first taught Dharma to his disciples. Explore the Chaukhandi Stupa regarded as one of the most sacred spots of Buddhist culture, built on the exact spot where Lord Buddha met his five ascetics. The unmatched beauty of this magnificent structure will leave you spell bound. . On your return, you will be free to explore the bustling streets of Varanasi full of hawkers, fortune tellers and mouth watering local food.
After breakfast you will be transferred to Varanasi airport to catch a flight to Khajuraho. . On your arrival in Khajuraho in the afternoon, you will be provided assistance with your hotel transfer and check in. Built between 950 - 1050 AD, the three groups of UNESCO World Heritage listed temples of Khajuraho showcase the greatest masterpieces of medieval Indian architecture. They exemplify India's rich cultural and artistic heritage. The intricate sculptures, carvings and frescos adorning these stunning temples celebrate eroticism and sensuality in an aesthetic way. But their stark contrast to the conventional Indian ideals will leave you speechless! .
Conclude your day at the western group of temple complex with a dramatic sound and light show which narrates the history of Khajuraho temples.
After breakfast you will proceed to explore the Western, Eastern and Southern group of Hindu and Jain temples. These temples are often referred to as 'poetry in stone' because of their architectural accuracy, expressive frescos and sculptural features of female beauty and erotic art. Get mesmerized by the engraved figures climbing up to the highest levels of the Vishvanath temple. At Devi Jagdamba temple behold the finest sculpture in Khajuraho - a sardula (part lion and part human) cavorting with a woman. You will visit the oldest and most artistic Lakshmana temple. Also, Kandariya Mahadev the largest temple with more than 800 beautiful frescos will leave you awe-inspired.
Later, you will drive 4 hours to reach Jhansi railway station to board a train to Agra. On your arrival at the Agra railway station in the evening, you will be met by our travel representative who will help you in your hotel transfer and check in.
The city of Agra casts a magical spell with is fascinating history, undying romance and sheer splendour. Legacy of the Mughal Empire's art, culture and architecture still resonates in Agra's forts, mosques and mausoleums. Located on the banks of River Yamuna, the city lures millions of visitors who come to soak in the beauty and magic of the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
At sunrise you will be mesmerized by one of the finest edifices of Mughal architecture, the grand Taj Mahal, made of white marble and inlaid with semi precious gems and stones. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the memories of his beloved wife Empress Mumtaz Mahal in 1653, this stunning ivory white structure stands tall as symbol of eternal love. After breakfast, you will visit the massive Red Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in 1573 by Emperor Akbar on the banks of river Yamuna. In the afternoon visit I'timad-ud-Daulah, the exquisite tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg also known as "Jewel Box" and sometimes described as 'Baby Taj.' It was built between 1622 and 1628 by his daughter as a statement of filial devotion and a symbol of her power. Later, you can also explore the local markets to shop for artifacts and marble handicrafts as souvenirs or gifts.
After breakfast you will drive 5 hours to reach the heritage city of Jaipur. En route, you will stop to explore the magnificent Abhaneri Step wells built a thousand years ago. Also known as Chand Baori after the king who built it, these are one of the largest and most beautiful step wells in the world built for water harvesting in the desert region of Rajasthan. With a precise geometric pattern, the steps form a magical maze making it an extremely photogenic structure. On reaching Jaipur you will be assisted with your hotel check in.
The entire old city of Jaipur was painted terracotta pink to welcome Price Albert during his India tour in 1876. The old city still retains this colour and hence the name Pink City. It is the first planned city of India, located in the semi-arid state of Rajasthan. Its majestic forts, grand palaces and beautiful monuments reflect the glorious history and grand opulence of this fascinating land. Also, the colourful, busy bazaars of Jaipur have always lured visitors from across the globe.
After breakfast you will proceed for a visit to the honey coloured Amber Fort sitting atop a ridge. You will enter this magnanimous fort with tall gateways in a royal style on elephant backs. This ancient capital built in 1592 by Raja Man Singh I reverberates with Rajputana history and tales of Rajput courage and valour. In the afternoon you will tour the City Palace and its museum which has a perfect fusion of Rajasthani, Mughal and European style of architecture. You will be spell bound by the historical observatory of Jantar Mantar and its scientific precision which was way ahead of its times. You will also drive past the most popular landmark of Jaipu - Hawa Mahal or the palace of winds.
In the morning you will drive 4 hours to reach the holy town of Pushkar, famed for hosting the biggest camel fair in the country every year. Nestled in the Aravali hills, Pushkar is an important Hindu pilgrimage with the only dedicated Brahma Temple in the world. On arrival you will be assisted with your hotel check in by our travel representative. Visit the ancient 14th century Brahma temple believed to be 2000 years old. You will also visit the Rangji and Varaha temples. Spend the evening walking along the serene ghats of the holy Pushkar Lake. Later you can explore the narrow alleys of Pushkar full of delightful local shops selling everything from jewellery to colourful clothes.
After breakfast you will drive 3-4 hours to reach Jodhpur. On arrival you will be met by our travel counselor who will help with your hotel check-in. Rao Jodha built the Sun City of Jodhpur in 1459. This city is a cultural treasure full of old forts, 15th century havelis, incense scented temples and narrow lanes reminiscent of a bygone era. Also known as 'Gateway to the Thar' because of its location at the edge of the Thar Desert, Jodhpur draws visitors with its priceless heritage and houses painted in vivid shades of blue, making it a photographer's dream. While in the city, a visit to its crowded bazaars full of stunning silver jewellery, brightly coloured bangles and beautiful textiles is a must.
In the evening you will have an option of enjoying the mouth watering cuisine of Jodhpur full of special local delicacies.
After breakfast, you will ascend to the imposing Mehrangarh Fort which towers protectively over the city. Built in 1459, the fort's burnished red sand stone has earned it the sobriquet "Citadel of the Sun." With its carved panels, latticed windows and exquisitely decorated walls, it is one of the most enchanting forts in India. You can also visit the palace museum which has a rich collection of royal antiques and artifacts. After some relaxation, you will visit the ivory white cenotaphs of Jaswant Thada - a mausoleum for the kings of Marwar built in 1899. This beautiful edifice made of the finest intricately carved marble lies amidst tiered gardens and a placid lake. In the evening, you can walk around the medieval streets of the Old city area encircled by an imposing wall and accessed through eight magnificent gates. Soak in its buzzing spice and antique markets.
After breakfast you will drive 5 hours to reach the incredibly charming city of Udaipur. En route you will stop at Ranakpur to visit a spectacular Jain Temple. An architectural marvel crafted with pure white marble, it has more than a thousand intricately carved columns dating back to the 14th and 15th century.
On arrival in Udaipur you will be provided assistance with your hotel check in. Celebrated as 'Venice of the East,' Udaipur is regarded as one of the most romantic cities in the world. Its fairy-tale marble palaces that seem to rise from the shimmering waters of Lake Pichola, surrounded by the grand Aravali hills give the city a stunning visual definition. Its quaint palaces, heritage havelis, serene waterfronts and bustling markets make Udaipur a must visit destination.
In the morning, venture into a bygone era with a visit to the spectacular City Palace built by Maharana Uday Singh in 1559. A soaring creation of marble and granite perched on the lake's edge, this extravagant palace complex, the largest in Rajasthan, blends medieval European, and Chinese architectural influences. It has a museum which showcases some of the finest elements of Rajput arts and culture. You will also see the grand edifice of Jagdish Temple located in the palace complex. Dedicated to the Hindu Lord Vishnu, with exterior reliefs of alligators, elephants, horsemen etc. rising in tiers, it is one of the most splendid temples of Udaipur. The beautifully landscaped lush greens of the Saheliyon-ki-Bari garden will be your next stop. With lovely fountains, lotus pools, canopied walking lanes and marble elephants, it provides a great setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Spend the day relaxing at your heritage hotel or explore the town at your own leisure. Enjoy the history, traditional architecture and royal atmosphere of Udaipur which attracts tourists from all over the world. Feel like royalty while cruising on a boat in Lake Pichola surrounded by the seductive lights of grandiose palaces and their shimmering reflections. You can venture into the Monsoon Palace of Sajjan Garh situated on a hilltop overlooking the city of Udaipur. You can also stroll around the colourful Udaipur bazaars.
After spending a leisurely morning in Udaipur, you will be transferred to the Airport to board a flight for Bangalore. On arrival you will be met and assisted by our travel representative in your hotel transfer and check in. Known as the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore is an IT hub and one of its most cosmopolitan and urbanized cities in the country. It will charm you with its pleasant weather and beautifully decorated parks and lakes. The city is renowned for its world class restaurants, street food corners, quirky cafes and pubs dotting its every corner. A stroll through the 300 acres of beautiful greens at the Cubbon Park will justify Bangalore's title as the Garden city of India.
In the morning you will proceed for city sightseeing with a private guide and a chauffeur. Begin by visiting the largest state legislative building in India, the magnanimous Vidhan Soudha which reflects the exquisite Neo-Dravidian style of architecture. Your next destination will be the Lal Bagh Botanical Garden, a haven for nature lovers and internationally distinguished for its botanical work, scientific study and plant conservation techniques. You can also visit the varied museums in Bangalore which showcase everything from India's aeronautical journey to its vast and varied musical heritage.
In the afternoon you will drive 3 hours to Mysore en route visiting Sravanbelgola, a renowned Jain pilgrimage centre with a spectacular 57 meters tall monolithic sculpture of Lord Gomateshwara. The size and beauty of this statue will leave you spell bound. On reaching Mysore our travel counselor will facilitate your hotel check in. Mysore, also known as the city of palaces was the erstwhile capital of the Wadiyar dynasty whose kings were patrons of art and culture. Mysore's incredible history, dramatic monuments, beautiful textiles and dedicated yoga centers make it one of South India's most enchanting and popular cities.
After breakfast you will go for Mysore sightseeing. Your first stop will be one of the grandest palaces in India - the Mysore Palace whose stunning faade, elaborate designs and sheer opulence will bedazzle you. Next you will visit the Chamundeshwari temple sitting atop the Chamundi Hills with detailed Dravidian architecture and intricate carvings. Dedicated to Hindu Goddess Durga, it is one of the oldest temples in the city. You will also get an opportunity to visit the second tallest church in Asia, the beautiful St. Philomena's Church. Built in 1941, it is one of the most distinctive landmarks in the city. Also, behold the grand palace of Lalitha Mahal whose architecture was inspired from the St. Paul's Cathedral in London clearly reflecting the history of strong British influences in Mysore. In the evening you will be free to explore the local markets overflowing with fragrant spices, exquisite Mysore silk sarees and aromatic sandalwood products. This is your opportunity to mingle with the friendly natives and understand their culture and traditions.
After breakfast you will drive 3 hours to reach Wayanad. On arrival you will be assisted with your check in into a home stay. Wayanad is a green paradise, located in the Western Ghats hills in Kerala. This pristine and enchanting land is replete with waterfalls, forests, spice plantations, rich wildlife and pre-historic caves. In the evening you will be free to pursue independent activities or enjoy a peaceful nature walk to enjoy the stunning natural beauty of the area.
After breakfast you will leave for a visit to the Edakkal caves. It holds great historical and archaeological significance. It has exquisite rock carvings of animal and human figures that date back to the Neolithic era and the stonework in the caves is estimated to be as old as 5000 BC to 1000 BC. Later, in the afternoon you can visit the sprawling coffee and rubber plantations in Wayanad. Spend a leisurely evening in your home stay where you can interact with the locals and know more about the area and its local traditions.
After breakfast you will drive 6-7 hours to reach Cochin via Calicut. On arrival you will receive help with your hotel check in. Cochin also known as Kochi, is a lagoon of islands and peninsulas separated by backwaters of the Arabian Sea and connected by ferries. This effervescent town is the financial, commercial and industrial capital of Kerala and is distinguished as a world class port. In the past, constant invasions by the Arabs, Chinese, Dutch, British, Portuguese and Jews have resulted in a multicultural city with apparent European influences in its architecture, art as well as the day to day life of its people.
After breakfast you will proceed for a tour of Cochin with a local guide. Get a scenic view of the delightfully silhouetted Chinese Fishing Nets over the clear blue waters of the Arabian Sea, a sight unique to Kochi in all of Kerala. You will then enter the picture perfect neighbourhood of Fort Kochi steeped in history and culture of the many European powers who have ruled Cochin. Its narrow cobbled streets dotted with European structures, churches and charming cafes will transport you to a different era. Here your travel guide will take you to many popular sites like the Jewish Synagogue, The Dutch Palace at Mattancherry which depicts scenes from the Ramayana and St Francis Church which is the oldest European Church in India. Cochin is also a centre for Kerala arts. In the evening you can visit a nearby theatre to see a show of Kathakali, the traditional dance form of Kerala.
After an early breakfast, you will drive 2 hours to reach Alleppey in the beautiful backwaters of Kerala, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. On arrival, you will meet our travel representative who will help you board a delightful Kettuvallum house boat for an unforgettable overnight stay. You will cruise through the day traversing the beautiful lakes, lagoons, canals and rivers. You will be served mouth watering local delicacies on board under the open blue sky. Enjoy the lush greenery and stop en route to soak in the breathtaking natural beauty of your surroundings.
After breakfast on the houseboat, you will check out and drive 4 hours to Thekkady (Periyar). Thekkady is a small town high up in the Western Ghats, close to the famous Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. It personifies nature's pristine beauty adorned with unending chains of hills, scented spice plantations, and the captivating wildlife. On reaching, you will be assisted with your hotel check in and after that you are free to spend the evening relaxing or exploring this beautiful town which features on every traveller's wish list.
Periyar in the mountains of Western Ghats is home to tigers, wild elephants, leopards, deer, and the Indian bison amongst many other animals. The park has a picturesque 100 year old artificial lake and a thick cover of tropical evergreen forests. Early morning you will enjoy game viewing in Periyar National Park from the edge of your seat on a charming boat cruise.
Spread across Thekkady is a green paradise of sprawling spice plantations. In the afternoon you will go for a spice plantation tour with a local naturalist. As you walk along the winding pathways among the plantations, you will be assailed by the aroma of cloves, nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon or cardamom. While exploring this stunning landscape, you can taste the various spices and get an insight into their growing, harvesting and processing. You can also pick up a few packets of the spices grown there.
After breakfast you will drive 3 hours to Madurai, an ancient city on Vaigai River in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of India, Madurai was a great southern capital of the Pandya kings that traded with ancient Rome. With colourful bazaars and fantastic street food, Madurai is a delightful paradox of a city full of medieval temples with an economy driven by IT.
The cityscape is dominated by the 14 colorful gopurams (gateway towers) of Meenakshi Amman Temple. Covered in colourful carvings of Hindu gods, this Dravidian-style temple is a major pilgrimage site. It is a dazzling mazelike structure attracts pilgrims and tourists from across the world. In the evening, you will visit Meenakshi Temple which has a 1,000-pillared hall with stone figures carved on all the pillars. You will also visit the Thirumalai Nayakar Palace built in 1636 AD by King Thirumalai Nayak. The palace is a seamless blend of Dravidian and Rajput styles of architecture.
After breakfast you will drive to Tanjore en route stopping in the town of Tiruchirapalli, also known as Trichy situated on the banks of the Cauvery River. View this fascinating temple town whose most popular landmark is the Rockfort Temple, a spectacular monument perched on a rock towering over the old city. Historically, it is one of the places around which the Carnatic wars were fought in 18th century by the British and French over supremacy in India.
On arrival in Tanjore, our travel counselor will assist you in your hotel check in. Tanjore is a culturally rich town known for its paintings, handicrafts, textiles and saris, its Carnatic music and of course the temples. The town played an important role in the shaping of ancient as well modern south Indian civilization.
In the evening, you will visit Saraswathi Mahal, one of the oldest libraries in Asia. It is an important repository of ancient Sanskrit, Tamil and South Indian literature in the country with palm leaf manuscripts dating back to the 3rd century BC. You will also visit the Lord Brahadeeshwarar Temple, a UNESCO world heritage monument. This grand 11th century temple is one of the most famous living monuments in the world built by the Chola dynesty using some of the most advanced architectural techniques of the time. Apart from its visual grandeur, the temple also features several inscriptions that give a detailed account of the town's history, going back a 1,000 years.
After breakfast, you will drive to Pondicherry, en route visiting the Vaitheeswaran Kovil and the Natarajan Temple. The Vaitheeswaran Kovil is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva who is worshipped as the "God of healing." It is believed that prayers to Vaitheeswaran can cure diseases. Your next stop is the Nataraja Temple which is another Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva as the lord of dance. This temple has mythical roots and is a place of deep religious importance. Spread across a sprawling 40 acres complex, it is an architectural treasure showcasing the Dravidian culture that prevailed during the times of the Cholas
On arrival at Pondicherry, you will be helped with your hotel check in. Known as the French Riviera of the East, Pondicherry has a strong French influence in its architecture and lifestyle. Its monuments, temples and churches carry remnants of French culture mixed with Tamil sensibilities that define the essence of Pondicherry. Its unparalleled cultural diversity offering the best of both worlds has attracts numerous people around the world.
After breakfast you will proceed for a sightseeing tour of Pondicherry. First you will visit the famous Aurobindo Ashram. Located in the White Town of Pondicherry, the Ashram is a spiritual community that promotes Aurbindo's ideas of helping people attain moksha and inner peace. Thousands of tourists from all over the country visit the ashram to experience and achieve spiritual knowledge. Later you will visit Auroville - a unique experiment in which an environment is created where people of all nationalities live together in harmony. Transcending creed, politics, culture and nationalities, this is a place where spirituality and progress take precedence over material gain and pleasure. You will leave Auroville completely awestruck and mystified.
After breakfast you will check out of your hotel and drive 2 hours to reach the coastal town of Mahabalipuram lying between Bay of Bengal and the Great Salt Lake in Tamil Nadu. On arrival assistance will be provided to you with your hotel check in. Mahabalipuram is a UNESCO world heritage site of exceptional 7th-8th century monuments built by the Pallava dynasty. These include intricately carved granite temples, battle headstones and rock cut cave sanctuaries. It has one of the largest open-air sculpted rock reliefs in the world, a marvelous relic which chronicles numerous narratives of ancient India. The alluring white sandy beaches and ancient temples of Mahabalipuram are sure to capture your heart.
After breakfast you will leave for an excursion to Kanchipuram which is 2 hour drive. Kanchipuram, also known as the 'Golden City of a Thousand Temples' is a renowned Hindu pilgrimage destination. The ancient temples in this city are a testimony to the grandeur and magnificence of the South Indian architecture of yore. The city is also known for the stunning Kanchipuram silk sarees. Here, you will first visit the largest temple in the city, the Ekambareswarar Temple spread over a massive 20 acres. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple was built by the Pallavas. It is remarkable for the 1000 lingas carved out of a single stone and the 1000 pillared halls found within it. You will next visit the Vaikuntha Perumal Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Apart from various images of Lord Vishnu in different forms, this temple also has inscriptions on its walls that tell the history of the temple and that of the town itself.
Later you will drive back to Mahabalipuram and proceed for city sightseeing. You will visit the Shore Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built by the Pallava's in 7th century. Situated on the shores of Bay of Bengal, the temple is a work of art. The next place you will visit is the Panch Ratha rock temples. Inspired by the shape of Buddhist pagodas, these temples showcase the evolution of the Dravidian style of architecture. What is fascinating is that the 5 Rathas are dedicated to the five Pandavas and their wife Draupadi from the great Indian epic Mahabharata. Your final stop in Mahabalipuram will be Arjuna's Penance, one of the largest rock cut reliefs in the world. It depicts symbolic events of the Hindu mythology making it equally popular amongst historians as well as tourists interested in the cultural past of India. It is an excellent example of the fine craftsmanship existing in 7th century India.
After breakfast you will drive for an hour and half to reach Chennai where you will proceed for city sightseeing with an English speaking guide and a chauffeur driven car. Regarded as 'The gateway to South India,' Chennai is one of India's biggest metropolitan cities. Historically the city has served as a trading outpost for the Armenians, Portuguese, French, Jews, Americans and finally the British. Chennai therefore has deep multicultural roots and diverse European neighbourhoods. Soak in the architectural marvels and intriguing tales of armed exploits which the city has to offer
In Chennai, you will visit the place of origin of the Indian Army, Fort St. George. It is the first fortress that the British built in India and also the location of the oldest Anglican Church in the country. You can also wander around the bustling bazaars of George Town teeming with historical folklore and colourful goods. The city of Chennai is dotted with heritage temples, you will visit the magnificent Kapaleeshwar temple - a stunning Dravidian style structure. Enjoy a golden sunset at Marina beach, the longest natural urban beach in India, full of stalls with local delicacies and handicrafts
After breakfast at the hotel, you will conclude your Grand Tour of India. Our travel representative will assist in your transfer to the Chennai airport from where you will catch a flight for your onward destination.