This is a unique tour into the religious and spiritual heart of south India, and makes a great academic religious studies tour in India as well as a fascinating holiday. The region has echoed the cries of devotees visiting the ancient temples of Tamil Nadu since time immemorial: their temple towers, soaring skyward, are a riot of colour and a vibrant visual salutation to the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses. Explore this eclectic state with its surprising Christian legacy before mountains and tea plantations into Kerala, home to communities who have been following Christianity since the arrival of Thomas the Apostle shortly after the death of Christ.
Depart from your home country for Chennai.
Arrive early morning and check into hotel to freshen up. In the afternoon, we take you to visit the 7th century Kapaleeshwarar Temple, dominated by its magnificent 37m high gopuram – temple towers covered in colourful carvings of Hindu deities and myths. Overnight at hotel in Chennai.
Today visit St. Thomas Mount, where Thomas the Apostle was martyred after he journeyed to India to spread the teachings of Christ, and then stop off at San Thome Basilica, the church built over his tomb.
Overnight at hotel in Chennai.
Today drive down the coastal road to Mahabalipuram, a popular destination for yoga holidays in India, to see the ancient rock temple on the beach and extraordinary 10th century rock sculptures, considered to be the architectural precursors of the south Indian temple style. Overnight at hotel in Mahabalipuram.
Today take the train to Trichy, passing through the beautiful and varied Tamil landscape. Overnight at hotel in Trichy.
Today is a day for fascinating temple visits. In the morning we stretch our legs before climbing the 326 steps up to the Rock Fort to visit its historic temples, and in the afternoon we explore the magnificent and colourful Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to the reclining form of the Hindu god Vishnu. Overnight at hotel in Trichy
Today take the train or drive to the bustling city of Madurai, and visit the Gandhi Museum with its fascinating collections and exhibitions. Overnight in hotel in Madurai
The Shree Meenakshi Temple in Madurai is arguably the finest and most fascinating temple complex in India, and is a major pilgrimage centre in the south. Dedicated to “the fish-eyed goddess” Meenakshi, the site houses several shrines surrounded by fourteen large colourful gateway towers. Just a mile down the road, you can also visit the impressive 17th century king’s palace of Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal, built in an interesting blend of native South Indian and Islamic styles. Overnight in hotel in Madurai.
A day at leisure to meander through the bustling streets of Madurai, filled with bazaars, textile and craft markets, or return to absorb the atmosphere of the eclectic temple complex. Overnight in hotel in Madurai.
Today leave the frenetic temple city of Madurai, and drive to the cooler climes of Munnar, a delightful hill station surrounded by tea plantations, forests and soaring slopes. In the afternoon enjoy a tour of the colonial era tea plantations. Overnight in hotel at Munnar
Drive through the vivid green Keralan countryside planted with scented spice trees, teak and rubber plantations, stopping en route for a traditional Keralan meal, before continuing to the coastal town of Cochin. Overnight at hotel in Cochin.
Today visit some of Cochin’s historic houses of worship – St. Francis Church, the oldest European Church in India, the 1586 Jewish Synagogue and Mattancherry Palace and in the evening enjoy a performance of traditional Keralan Kathakali dance, which colourfully recreates stories from Hindu mythology. Owing to the extraordinary diversity in its history, Cochin is a truly fascinating destination for religious studies tours in India.
Relax on the famous backwaters of Kerala on a converted traditional rice boat, exploring the river ways and islands of this submerged jungle. The Kottayam area has always been an important centre of the ancient Syrian Orthodox Church. Overnight on houseboat.
Return to Cochin for a day of last minute shopping and relaxation. Treat yourself to a traditional Ayurvedic massage, the perfect end to a spiritual tour of south India. Overnight in hotel in Cochin.
Morning transfer to airport for international departure.