Today explore one of the local weekly markets called a santhai and shop for hand spun cotton fabrics, palmyra leaf baskets, and locally-grown food produce that comes from village farms. Shop for the famous Chettinad sari at one of the local shops and also stop at a tile manufacturing unit at Athangudi.
Early morning this day, drive further south to reach Tanjore. Thanjavur is home to the mighty Brihadeeswara Temple, built over 1000-years ago by the Chola King, Rajaraja I and is considered one of the world’s major architectural feats. Visit this temple at sunset for an unforgettable experience.
Places: Madurai, Karaikudi, Tanjore, Tiruchirapalli,
Drive from Madurai to Karaikudi – the home to the Chettiars, a community of Tamil traders. Visiting the palatial homes and mansions around Karaikudi with a local guide gives you insights into legacy of this vibrant and prosperous community.
Families | Visit August - March | Fly to Madurai
Today you will visit the smaller but magnificent UNESCO-cited Chola era temple in the tiny village of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, 1.5 hours north of Tanjore. The tongue-twisting name means, “The town of the Chola who conquered the Ganges”. On the way back, visit the UNESCO-cited Airavateshwara Temple, in the village of Darasuram which ranks alongside those at Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapuram.
Long Breaks | 7 nights
Fly in the morning from Chennai to Madurai, one of the oldest cities in South Asia. Visit Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar Temple, built to its current form in the 15th century AD. The massive gopuras (pagodas) of this vast temple complex, writhing with multi-coloured mythological figures and crowned by golden domes, remain the greatest man-made spectacle in South India. Also explore the markets of Old Madurai around the main temple.
Start early morning and drive to Tiruchirapalli to visit the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, one of the largest temple complexes in India. Drive down 2.5 hours south west of Tiruchirapalli and reach Athoor. Located just over an hour’s drive from Madurai, Athoor is a small village in the foothills of the Palani Range. Spend 2-nights here experiencing the way of life that is largely Tamil Nadu - an agrarian village community.
Enjoy the delicious food at your farm stay, great village and countryside walks.
You are transferred to Madurai airport to board your flight to Chennai.
Immerse yourself in the ancient history and culture of the Tamils, as you trace the great and ancient civilisations of the Pandyas and Cholas, who ruled over much of South East Asia from the 7th - 11th centuries. Begin your tour in the millenium-old city of Madurai, where you retrace the same path that travellers from as far as China, Arabia and Rome walked, with the help of a local expert. Explore the streets and bazaars that once traded in gems, pearls, silks, and spices, under the gaze of one of India's ancient edifices, the Meenakshi Temple. Witness evening rituals at the temple, as the air is redolent of camphor, incense, candles, and chanting pilgrims. From here, go to the Chettinad District, home to a wealthy merchant community, who built 100-room mansions at the turn of the century, and were generous patrons of craft. Visit the homes and workshops of sari weavers, potters, and beautiful tile-makers. And repast in their wonderfully rich and tasty cuisine reflective of all the spices and produce of the river and rain-fed mountains and plains of Tamil Nadu. Finally travel westwards to the foot of the scenic Western Ghats (mountains) in a small rural hamlet to rest and reflect on how the Tamil Kingdom's ancient soul still burns bright in the culture and values of its villages and people at Athoor.