The Taj, Great Temples of South India, Beaches & Backwaters of Kerala


We went on a fabulous tour across South Indi, going from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea in November 2015. Some of the pictures I took are here:

Jaipur, Fathepur Sikri and Agra


Mahaballipuram and Kanchipuram







Cochin & Houseboats

India’s recorded history goes back to 4,000 years, with remarkable examples of civilization well ahead of other countries. Throughout this period, reverence was shown to the many Gods her people worshipped, and the land was dominated by independent kingdoms. Reverence to the Gods led to gold and jewels and the finest of architecture bestowed onto them, and the independent kingdoms accumulated wealth not seen elsewhere. Thus she was a prime target for marauders, attracted by her wealth and attributes of her civilization. Forts for defense and palaces for residence were de-rigor for the independent kingdoms, and though many have not survived the ravages of time, those that have, were either too beautiful not to have been maintained or too well built and withstood the elements. Thus, there are some exquisite examples of architecture that we will not only see, but also live in – most perhaps only 200 to 400 years old, though some forts going back to at least 1,000 years.

We will also visit Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, and one of the oldest cities in the world, Varanasi.

We will see the finest examples of India’s temples and forts, religions, jewelry and wealth - all that has made India famous. And we will stay in the best hotels in the area, some of which are amoung the finest hotels in the world, acclaimed by travel critics from across the world.

This tour will be led by Adrianna Catelazo. Adrianna loves India and starting in the mid 1990s, has been all over the country more than 30 times. Deepak Singh will accompany her.


The main tour is across South India, but a pre-Tour in North India is offered for the Taj Mahal and the splendours of Jaipur in Rajasthan.

ITINERARY, Pre-Tour (Delhi, Jaipur & Agra):

Map of Region – Zoom in and out to change area. (Note this is showing directions by road. We will fly over the longer distances)

November 15 Depart the Americas
Depart this afternoon from the Americas for your journey across India, from Delhi, the Taj, Bay of Bengal on the East coast to the Arabian Sea on the West coast. Overnight: On board your aircraft.

November 16 Arrival at Delhi
Our representatives will meet you as you exit customs and immigration at Delhi airport, and transfer you to your hotel near the airport. Overnight: Delhi.

November 17 Drive to Jaipur
Depart in the morning by road for Jaipur (5 hrs). Upon arrival, spend the rest of the day sightseeing in Jaipur. Overnight: Jaipur.

November 18 Jaipur
Spend the whole day sightseeing in Jaipur, one of the finest cities in Rajasthan. Overnight: Jaipur.

November 19 Jaipur to Agra (via Fathepur Sikri)
Drive to Agra, enroute stopping at Fathepur Sikri (6-7 hrs). Spend a few hours sightseeing in Fathepur Sikri. Overnight: Agra.

November 20 Agra
Spend the day sightseeing in Agra, gorgeous examples of architecture of Islam. Overnight: Agra.

November 21 Agra to Delhi
View the Taj Mahal at dawn. Return to the hotel for breakfast, and then drive to Delhi (4 hrs). Spend a few hours sightseeing in Delhi which has some historic gurudwaras (places of worship of the Sikhs). Overnight: Delhi.

November 22 Delhi to Chennai
Spend the morning sightseeing in Delhi then fly to Chennai and join the rest of the group who will be arriving from Mexico. Overnight: Chennai.

ITINERARY, Main Tour Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea with Breathtaking Temples in Between
Map of Region – Zoom in and out to change area. (Note this is showing directions by road. We will fly over the longer distances)

November 21 Depart the Americas
Depart this afternoon from the Americas for your journey across South India, from the Bay of Bengal on the East coast to the Arabian Sea on the West coast. Overnight: On board your aircraft.

November 22 Arrival at Chennai
Our representatives will meet you as you exit customs and immigration at Chennai airport, and transfer you to your hotel. Overnight: Chennai.

November 23 Chennai
Spend the day sightseeing in Chennai. Overnight: Chennai.

More than a city, Madras as it was earlier known, is a potpourri of impressions: a fistful of colour, a whiff of jasmine, the rustling of silk. It brings to mind the subtle, intricate variations of classical music, the evocative grace of Bharatanatyam and spontaneity of bronzed Dravidian faces. Stray images chase one another: bold colour drawn into the pleats of the Kancheepuram sari; a neat, swaying, ebony plait crowned with a spray of flowers; complicated and exuberant sculpture lacing temple walls. The gateway to the south and the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, Madras or Chennai is a vibrant metropolis and a combination of old world charm and modern day efficiency.

Afternoon city tour of Chennai, visiting Fort St. George, the seat of the state government and the legislative assembly. The Fort was built in 1652 by the British East India Company. The fort contains the fort museum with its collection of memorabilia of the East India co. St. Mary`s Church the oldest surviving Anglican church in India. Very near to Fort St. George is the Indo Saracenic High Court building, said to be the largest judicial building in the world after the Courts of London. Opposite the high courts lies the beautiful Marina beach. Kapaleeswarar Temple, a pure Dravidian temple and one of the most ancient in Madras. The Government Museum with its galleries off Chola Bronzes

November 24 Chennai – Kanchipuram then Mahabalipuram

Depart for Mahabalipuram enroute visiting Kanchipuram (1 3/4 hrs then 1 1/2 hrs). Overnight: Mahabalipuram.

Kanchipuram is the ancient capital of the Pallavas famous as a city of 10 Temples and still has 124 shrines. The first temple dedicated to Shiva was built in the 7th and 8th century and has paintings on the walls. Temples of Ekambaswara, Kailasanatha, Sri Kamakshi and Varadarajaswamy are of interest. Kanchipuram is also famous for its silks.

November 25 Mahabalipuram
Spend the day sightseeing in Mahabalipuram. Overnight: Mahabalipuram,

Later visit the magnificent rock temples and carvings in the beach town of Mahabalipuram. Five Rathas (chariots), ceremonial chariots, rock-cut monoliths, named after the 5 Pandavas. The Shore Temple by the sea surrounded by gardens designed according to descriptions of the original layout from ancient times. Built in sandstone in the 7th century. Bhagiratha’s Penance is a bas-relief (27 to 9m) sculptured on the face of two enormous adjacent rocks, depicts, the penance of Arjuna, myriad characters from the Mahabharata, realistic life-size figures of animals, gods and saints watching the descent of the river goddess Ganga to earth.

November 26 Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry
Drive to Pondicherry (2 1/2 hrs). Overnight: Pondicherry.

Pondicherry was a French settlement that comprised Pondy, Yanam, Karaikal and Mahe. There is a strong influence of French culture on Pondicherry town, especially on its architecture, a result of the centuries-old relations this place maintained with France.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The ashram was founded in 1920 when Sri Aurobindo reached Pondicherry, a French colony and put in place his ideas of peaceful community. The ashram was run by his French companion Mirra Alfassa, known as the Mother. The ashram houses the samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the mother and is open to the public.

Pondicherry Museum has a very good sculpture gallery and a section of archaeological finds from the Roman settlement at Arikamedu. There is also a French section charting the history of the colony. The objects include the four-poster bed in which Dupleix is believed to have slept. There is also a superb collection of the snail shells from the Pondicherry Region.

Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Built in the Gothic style, this massive church is one of the most beautiful churches in Pondicherry.

November 27 Pondicherry – Chidambaram
Drive to Kumbakonam visiting Chidambaram enroute (1 1/2 hrs then 2 hrs). Overnight: Kumbakonam.

The small town of Chidambaram is built around a great temple-complex is a highlight of Dravidian architecture and was built by the Cholas from 907 to 1310 AD. It has four large Gopurams with finely sculptured icons depicting Hindu myths.

Kumbakonam is a major historic and pilgrimage town, filled with the most glorious temples. (Please note that we will stay at the Mantra Veppathur which is the best hotel in Kumbakonam. Our coach cannot enter the property as the street is narrow. We will provide cars for transfers between the coach and the hotel.)

November 28 Kumbakonam – Thanjavur
Depart for Thanjavur (1 hr). Overnight: Thanjavur.

Thanjavur was the ancient capital of the Chola kings whose origins, go back to the beginning of the Christian era. Power struggles between these groups were a constant feature of their early history, with one or other gaining the ascendancy at various times. The Cholas' turn for empire building came between 850 and 1270 AD and, at the height of their power. Probably the greatest Chola emperors were Raja Raja Chola, who held the throne from 985 to 1016, built the greatest of the empire's 74 temples, the Brahadeeswarar, with its soaring tower over the inner sanctum rising more than 62 meters (200 feet) with a single block of granite weighing 80 tons on its dome, and his son Rajendra-I whose navy competed with the Arabs for controls of the Indian Ocean trade routes and who was responsible for bringing Srivijaya under Chola control.

November 29 Thanjavur – Trichy - Madurai
Depart for Madurai visiting Trichy enroute (1 1/2 hrs then 2 1/2 hrs). Overnight: Madurai.

Tiruchirappalli (Trichy) is situated in center Tamil Nadu, was built by the Nayak rulers of Madurai around a rock fort, on the banks of the Kaveri (also Cauvery) river. It was a Chola citadel during the Sangam Age and was also briefly ruled by the Pallavas and the Pandyas. Today, Trichy is a blend of history, a pilgrim center and a thriving commercial city.

Trichy was and is famous for the Ranganatha Temple at Srirangam, 10 km away. The Rock Fort is the center of the city and is a remarkable 83 meter high structure dominating the landscape. The Uchi Pillaiyer Temple dedicated to lord Vinayaka or Ganesha has 344 steps, cut into the rock leading to the temple with the Tyaumanaswami Temple of lord Shiva half way up the hillock. Cave temples in the fort with sculptures date back to the 6th and 7th centuries. The Sri Jambukeswara Temple, at Tiruvankkaikaval, Srirangam is an island in the Kaveri river, north of Tiruchirapalli. The Ranganathaswami Temple here, built around 13th-14th centuries has 21 towers and stone pillars covered with fine carvings. Continue the Drive for Madurai.

November 30 Madurai
Full day sightseeing in Madurai. Overnight: Madurai.

Situated on the banks of river Vaigai, Madurai is more than 2,500 years old and has a rich cultural heritage and history, and even as early as 550 AD, it was an important cultural and commercial centre. Madurai was the capital city for the great Pandya kings.

Visit the Meenakshi Temple & Tirrumalai Nayak Palace and Thirumohur (10 km). This place has its legendary origin in the distant past when Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) churned the ocean to get Amritham (nectar). In the evening visit the Meenakshi temple to attend ceremony every evening where the marriage of Meenakshi (Parvati) and Sundareshwara (Lord Shiva) is solemnized.

December 1 Madurai – Periyar
Spend the morning sightseeing Madurai, and then depart by road for Alleppey, stopping for the night at Periyar (3 1/2 hrs). Overnight: Periyar. If time permits, opportunities of going for a boat ride at Periyar Lake.

December 2 Periyar - Alleppey
Depart early for Alleppey (2 1/2 hrs). Upon arrival, board your house boat and spend rest of day in the backwaters of Kerala. See inner India, schools, places of worship, paddy fields, local village life all on the banks of the water as you slowly chug through. Overnight: On-board your houseboat.

December 3 Alleppey - Cochin
After breakfast on board, disembark and drive to Cochin (1 1/2 hrs). In Cochin, spend the day sightseeing this historic city. Overnight: Cochin.

It is believed that spices originated from Cochin were presented to King Solomon by the Queen of Sheba. In 1000 BC Phoenicians, trading with Cochin, supplied the Pharaohs of Egypt with aromatic oils and spices which were used to preserve the embalmed bodies of the Egyptian Kings and Queens. After Rome conquered Egypt, the Roman galleys were carrying goods to imperial Rome where pepper, the most prized import, was worth its weight in gold.

St. Thomas arrived in the first century AD. The Jews arriving here in the wake of the Diaspora were given sanctuary and titles of land and established a flourishing trading community in Cochin.

For the next thousand years the spice trade was controlled by the Arabs who supplied these exotic wares through the Italian City State of Venice. Marco Polo in his travelogue writes about a flourishing trade between Cochin and China when he visited these parts. In order to break the Venetian stranglehold on this lucrative trade, the Catholic Majesties of Spain and Portugal financed independent explorations to discover a direct sea route to Cochin. Christopher Columbus under the patronage of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain began his journey by sea to Cochin; but eventually discovered the continent of the Americas. Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer (1498) directly established, for the first time, a sea route between western Europe and the Orient.
The Dutch in their quest for colonial expansion fought the Portuguese in a major sea battle in the Harbor of Cochin and established a Dutch trading port. In the 18th century, Cochin came under the British rule and became an integral part of their empire. Being naturally blessed with an all weather harbor it soon became the premier port and commercial hub of South India.

Visit the Mattancherry Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1555 and renovated by the Dutch in 1663. In the ancient rooms are 17th century murals that relate in vibrant color the story of the epic Ramayana. See streets of picture-postcard houses out of another age, in 17th century Dutch and traditional Kerala styles. Visit St. Francis Church, the oldest European Church in India. It has several antiquities including a wealth of records. These include a palm-leaf title deed the local Raja gave the Portuguese in 1503. See the Chinese Fishing Nets, unique to this part of Kerala and living symbols of a centuries-old Chinese influence on this coast.

In Cochin we will visit the Jew Town and the paradesi Synagogue which was built in 1568. This is the first Synagogue that came into existence in the Commonwealth and is also one of the oldest in the world. This Synagogue was built by Samuel Castiel, David Belila, Ephrahim Sala and Joseph Levi. It stands on the grounds of Maharaja of Cochin’s residence overlooking the Hindu Shrine demonstrating cordial relations of the Jews with the people of Kerala. In addition, we will visit some important Hindu religious sites.

December 4 Cochin - Departure
Spend day at leisure, depart this evening for your journey home. Overnight: On board your aircraft.

* * * End of Services offered by Spiritual Journeys, Inc * * *

Additional Information: Please e-mail Deepak Singh (English) or Adrianna Castelazo (Spanish) or telephone Deepak Singh at +1-508-358-4267.