14 day South Indian Getaway

including a celebration of Diwali Festival

Come on a journey to discover the culture, people and festivals of South India on a trip co-hosted by Julie Rollinson, That Travel Chick and the India Unravelled Team.

Mysuru – Chennai – Pondicherry

23 October to 5 November 2019

$4485 per person twin share
$5705 solo traveller with own room

This is a fully escorted, bespoke trip only for women

  • all prices are in AUD
  • maximum of twelve travellers
  • prices quoted are based on twelve travellers
  • price does not include international airfares

Inclusions

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Accommodation

  • Bengaluru – 1 night in a 5 star hotel
  • Mysuru – 6 nights in a 4 star heritage hotel
  • Chennai – 3 nights in a 5 star hotel
  • Pondicherry – 3 nights in a 4 star boutique hotel
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Transport

  • air conditioned vehicles for longer distances
  • autorickshaw
  • cycle rickshaws
  • horse drawn tonga
  • flight Mysuru to Chennai
  • airport transfers 
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Meals

  • breakfast daily
  • 9 lunches
  • 8 dinners
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Highlights

  • craft workshops to ignite your creativity
  • city tours
  • market and street food walking tours
  • artisan workshop or palace tour
  • day trip to a nearby village
  • dinner in a palace
  • Mahabilipuram – UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • visit Auroville – a global community

Itinerary

Namaste! Welcome to India

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Arrive Bengaluru

This traditional greeting literally means “I bow to the divine in you”. It is a gesture of love and respect and is the way that you will be greeted throughout your time in India. When spoken, it is with our hands in the prayer position, held at the level of our heart chakra and can be accompanied with a slight bow.

Arrive at Bengaluru International Airport. Catherine, Varis and pennie will be there to meet you. After your long journey from Australia, you’ll be needing some rest so we are staying at The Taj Hotel just minutes from the airport.

Bengaluru (also known as Bangalore) is the capital of the state of Karnataka in South West India and is recognised as the IT capital.

Overnight: Taj Bengaluru (Deluxe room)

Thursday 24 October (B) (L) (D)

Today we are doing a textile block-printing workshop at Tharangini Studios, a wonderful hub of creativity set in beautiful grounds by a lake. Surrounded by trees, birds and squirrels, you would never know you are in a city of ten million people. Padmini and her expert printers will teach us how to use natural dyes and the basics of printing, enabling you to unleash your imagination on exquisite silks and hand-woven cotton.

Ravitej will join us today. He has a wonderful eye for colour and is very experienced with design so if you need a little help to get your creativity flowing he will be more than happy to assist.

A delicious vegetarian lunch and as much chai you can drink will be provided throughout the day. After this creative day, we’ll head to the Druid Garden for a drink and welcome dinner before returning to the Taj for the night.

Overnight: Taj Bengaluru

Friday 25 October (B) (D)

After breakfast and check-out, we are going clothes shopping! India is the most colourful country in the world and this is reflected in the beautiful and practical clothing which forms literally the national dress. Saris are usually worn by older women and to special events. There is a real art to folding 6-8 metres of cloth around the body!

A practical combination is a kurta, a straight tunic for women and men with or without sleeves, worn over long trousers such as palazzos or tights. A matching dupatta (long scarf) can be used as protection for your head and neck, and really compliments this outfit.

There are no rules as to colour combinations, however, there is a multitude of colours and patterns from which to choose – unleash your creativity and feel fabulous dressing like a local, a gesture which is sincerely appreciated by the Indian people.

We’ll make a plan for lunch on the day, and leave straight afterwards for Mysuru (also known as Mysore) in a private air-conditioned vehicle. On the 3 – 4 hour journey to what is regarded as the cultural capital of South India, there is ample opportunity to observe the incredible traffic as we travel through smaller towns, each known for a local speciality. We’ll arrive in Mysuru around 7pm and you can enjoy dinner and a drink in the grandeur of The Metropole Hotel’s courtyard while check-in is handled for you.

Overnight: Royal Orchid Metropole (Royal room)

Saturday 26 October (B) (L) (D)

If you wish to start your day with yoga, a free class is held Monday to Saturday mornings at 7 am at your hotel. Mats are provided. Anyone from beginners to advanced is welcome to join.

After breakfast, we are visiting Odanadi, a local NGO that has been operating for 26 years in Mysuru. They rescue children from human trafficking and give them a new start in life by providing a safe environment to learn and grow, education, and some training for the older ones to give them skills to earn a living. After a show around and meeting the team, we will go to the beauty parlour and have traditional Mehendi (henna) applied by the girls. It’s a lovely interaction and gives them a chance to practice their skills as this is one of the beauty treatments they are learning.

A donation is made to this wonderful cause on behalf of each person who travels with us and we bring along our own Mehendi and pay to have it applied which is another way of contributing to this wonderful place.

After lunch we head straight to Mysuru’s oldest market, Devaraja, to explore the narrow rows of fruit, vegetable and flower sellers. There are also stallholders selling kitchenware, incense and oils, essentials for performing pujas (rituals) at home, bags made from recycled rice sacks and so much more. The stallholders are even more interesting than the wares they grow, make and sell, and Catherine has been known to be ‘lost’ for hours in the rows of flowers taking in the perfumes, the vendors’ calls and the riot of colours. Varis can be found chatting to the men who make rustic and beautiful tools from recycled woods and metals; in India, everything is repurposed.

We’ll allow enough time for you to go back to your hotel to freshen up before heading out again. This evening we are going somewhere very special for dinner, so if you choose to, this is a great time to wear one of your favourite outfits.

Early this evening, we will take a city tour in open-top jeeps driving past some of Mysuru’s most beautiful monuments and buildings and winding our way up Chamundi Hills to look out over the city. You will feel a part of the hustle and bustle of the early evening as people wave to you in the back of the open top jeep. Great opportunities for some fun photos during this adventure. Our drivers will drop us at the beautiful Lalitha Mahal Palace, just on the outskirts of Mysuru where we will be having dinner this evening.

Dining in the grand ballroom, you’ll find yourself wondering about the guests and dignitaries who dined and danced here in the early 1900s when the palace was built by the then Maharajah of Mysuru.

Overnight: Hotel Metropole

Sunday 27 October – (B) (L) (D)

Diwali – the festival of lights

Happy Diwali!

This morning we will visit a local temple to watch a special puja (ritual) for Diwali. Those who wish can make an offering and we will explain the significance of what you will see before we enter. We will see people dressed in new clothes as is customary for special festivals.

Later this morning we are invited to a local home where our host, Anu, will teach us how to combine spices to create the amazing flavours of India in this cooking class so we can eat what we prepared – this will be a meal to remember.

This afternoon you will have some time to relax before we go to a rooftop restaurant for dinner and a drink before proceeding to the Mysuru Palace for the weekly illumination.

This evening it is a great chance to dress up if you would like to as we will be entering people’s homes during their Diwali celebrations. Slip-on shoes are also a great idea as we will take our shoes off many times.

The visual of 97,000 incandescent light bulbs outlining these ornate buildings against the dark night-sky is breathtaking and there is a collective and audible intake of breath expressing wonderment when the lights come on.

Straight after the palace, we will go to several homes to see the variety of ways different families celebrate Diwali. It is traditional to bring Indian sweets when you visit someone in their home on a festival, so we will have some fun picking and choosing from the huge range in one of the local sweet stores on our food walk earlier today. You can expect to hear a lot of fireworks well into the night.

Overnight: Hotel Metropole

Monday 28 October (B) (D)

Today we have some options for you so you can personalise your day as you please. Prior to arriving, we will have discussed your preferences so your places at the workshops, and walking tours are already confirmed.

This morning is devoted to creativity with many types of workshops to choose from including textile block-printing for those who wish to explore this wonderful craft further, embroidery, silver jewellery making, wooden inlay work, basket weaving, flower garland making or rangoli (a traditional artform using rice flour to draw patterns) and more.

It is likely that there will be a lot of different activities happening today, so wherever you are we will make arrangements for you to have lunch in a local restaurant, or return to your hotel for lunch and a break if you prefer.

The option is there to do a full day workshop which we would be necessary if you chose silver jewellery making for example. If you don’t wish to explore crafts any further, we also have a choice of two walking tours.

Mysuru Palace – prepare to be wowed by the opulence and the rich history that lies within the palace walls.

Artisan workshop tour – a stroll through the narrow back streets of the old part of the city to visit small workshops where you can see a variety of craftsmen at work. This evening we are going to the Green Hotel, a beautiful heritage hotel that was built for the princesses of the royal family. They have a lovely outdoor dining area where we can relax and chat about our day.

Overnight: Hotel Metropole

Tuesday 29 October (B) (L) (D)

Today we head out of Mysuru for the day to get a glimpse of rural life. As we drive through the countryside, we’ll pass through small villages and see farmers tending their fields, bullock carts and the villagers going about their day to day life.

We offer two trips for you to choose from.

Srirangapatnam – located just 22 km from Mysuru, this town is of religious, cultural and historical importance. You will gain an insight into village life while exploring this lovely riverside location. We will visit the ghats (steps) on the river bank which in many ways is the centre of village life where the local people come to bathe and wash their clothes. This town which is on an island in the middle of the river was a fort and home to the Summer Palace of Tipu Sultan who fought four battles against the British here. If you are interested in the history of the British Raj, this tour is the one for you.

Bylakuppe – a glimpse of Tibet in India. Visit the Golden Temple which is home to over five thousand Buddhist Monks and Nuns. When you enter this place you will feel as if you have travelled to a different country. The Tibetan settlement of Bylakuppe was the first Tibetan Exile Settlement established in India in the 1960s. Home to approximately 70,000 Tibetans making Karnataka the state with the most Tibetan refugees in India. It is named the Golden Temple due to the golden paintings and idols within its walls depicting Tibetan Buddhist Mythology. It is one of the largest Tibetan Buddhism Teaching Centres in the world. There is a calmness and serenity that you can feel.

We’ll be back in time for you to relax for a while before we meet for drinks at Hotel Metropole and decide what everyone would like to do for dinner this evening.

Overnight: Hotel Metropole

Wednesday 30 October (B)

This is our last day in Mysuru so plenty of chance for more shopping, another trip through the city in an auto rickshaw, enjoying an ayurvedic massage or simply inhaling the wonderment of this beautiful city while relaxing alone with your thoughts.

Check out is at 2pm. We will ask you to leave your luggage in your room ready to be collected and stored until we leave this evening.

You are about to have a truly special and unique experience, a singing bowl meditation session. All you have to do is lie back, close your eyes and listen to the sound vibrations.

We will return to our hotel with a couple of hours to spare before transferring to the airport for our flight to Chennai.

No lunch and dinner are included today as everyone may wish to eat at different times depending on how they are spending their day.

Overnight: Taj Connemara (Heritage room)

Thursday 31 October (B) (L)

Situated on the Bay of Bengal in East India, Chennai is the capital city of the state Tamil Nadu.

Today is a day of exploring, visiting St George Fort built by the British in 1640, the museum to see ancient bronze sculptures dating back hundreds of years and the city on the way to a private home to enjoy a typical Tamilian lunch with a local family.

After lunch, we’ll visit a man famous in Chennai for feeding thousands of parakeets every day. Originally, he started by simply feeding a few birds, but over the years, the numbers have grown dramatically. He will explain how it all started and we will make a group donation to assist in the purchase of food for the birds. The spectacle of the birds circling as he lays their food out on planks of timber is breathtaking; excellent photo opportunities!

We don’t have plans for dinner but we won’t go hungry in this beautiful city.

Overnight: Taj Connemara

Friday 1 November (B)

This morning we will do a walking tour through some local neighbourhoods. There are two for you to choose from.

The Bazaar trail….the pulse of any city is in its markets and this tour is through one of its bustling precincts, George Town. This is an area steeped in history, mythology and folklore with colour, aromas, movements and sounds typical of this part of Chennai.

The Peacock Trail……this is an easy walk through Mylapore, a neighbourhood in the central part of the old city. Within the mundane rituals of daily life, we’ll learn about the hidden stories embedded in the ancient walls.

Lunch is wherever you would like it with the rest of the afternoon free to choose from a list of things to see and do.

The early evening is devoted to unleashing your inner Bollywood at a movie shown at the Sathyam Cinema. Indian movie-houses are very modern however, there are a couple of quaint touches which make going to a movie in India a little different from seeing one in Australia!

After the movie, we’ll go somewhere fabulous for drinks and dinner.

Overnight: Taj Connemara

Saturday 2 November (B) ( L)

After breakfast and check-out, we leave Chennai and hit the road for Pondicherry (also known as Puducherry). Located 3-4 hours south of Chennai, also on the Bay of Bengal. Pondicherry was once under French rule and the French influences can still be seen in the buildings, ornamental gardens, boutiques and restaurants.

We’ll arrive in time for a late lunch while the check-in formalities are handled. Our hotel is located in the French Quarter and we will have time this afternoon to roam and absorb the blending of cultures this area is renowned for.

Later we will take bicycle rickshaws to the lighthouse. If you wish to climb the stairs it has a spectacular view. Then we will stroll along the promenade back to our hotel stopping for drinks and dinner along the way.

Overnight: Villa Shanti (Deluxe room)

Sunday 3 November (B)

After breakfast, we will be hopping into auto rickshaws and exploring the French Quarters in town, the Pondicherry Museum and Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The Botanical Gardens is our last stop. They were laid out in 1826 in the ornate French style and are considered one of the most beautiful in South India.

After our tour, we will decide what to do for lunch after which you have the rest of the day free to explore the town on your own. A walk around the French quarters of the hotel is a lovely way to experience the area and perhaps discover a treasure or two, whether it be a lovely place to dine this evening or a little something special to take home.

Dine as you please this evening. We have some lovely recommendations.

Overnight: Villa Shanti

Monday 4 November (B) (L) (D)

Today we will visit Auroville, a universal city in the making dedicated to the ideal of human unity based on the vision of its founders Sri Aurobindo and a French woman who became known as The Mother. We will have lunch in one of the restaurants in Auroville and meet one of the members of this community who has lived here for 35 years.

An excerpt from The Mother’s writings titled A Dream: There should be somewhere on earth a place which no nation could claim as its own, where all human beings of goodwill who have a sincere aspiration could live freely as citizens of the world and obey one single authority, that of the supreme Truth; a place of peace, concord and harmony where all the fighting instincts of man would be used exclusively to conquer the causes of his sufferings and miseries, to surmount his weaknesses and ignorance, to triumph over his limitations and incapacities; a place where the needs of the spirit and the concern for progress would take precedence over the satisfaction of desires and passions, the search for pleasure and material enjoyment.

Tonight we will be participating in an interactive cooking session at Maison Perumal, located in the Tamil Quarter. It is said that the pulse of any city is in its markets, and we will be visiting the markets with the chef to purchase the fresh food needed to cook our own dinner tonight. It’s our last night in India together and this will be a special experience and dinner to share and remember.

Overnight: Villa Shanti

Tuesday 5 November

Pondicherry to Chennai – Departure Day (B) (L)

Today is our last day together and on our way back to Chennai we will visit Mahabalipuram, famous for the shore temple built in 700 CE, the oldest structure in the area.

We will spend some time visiting some of the ancient temples and seeing stone carvings that date back hundreds and hundreds of years. There is a wall done in bas relief where it is said the sculptors practised before starting work on a new sculpture.

We will have lunch together in a nearby restaurant before continuing onto Chennai International Airport for your journey home. Lounge facilities are provided for the next three hours so you can freshen up before your flight.

We hope you go home with a heart full of wonderful memories of our journey to India together. May the memories made on this trip we shared last a lifetime. We feel sure that you will have been touched by the people you have met, that you will have learnt much about India and its culture and perhaps a little something about yourself. We thank you for choosing us for you South Indian adventure.

Namaste

Do you have a question?  Drop us a quick line.

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