You report at the plush Hotel Taj West End in the heart of Bangalore at 3 pm and finish the check-in formalities for our exciting Golden Chariot Tour.
It is highly recommended that you arrive a day earlier in Bangalore. You can seek our help for booking assistance so that you can spend the night comfortably in the city. If you’re concerned about spending quality time until 3 pm, worry not. We take you on a guided tour to the beautiful Lal Bagh botanical garden. Following this, you’ll be taken back to the hotel at 3 pm where we complete the registration formalities. If you choose to arrive on the same day as the check-in, we offer to pick you up from the place of your choice within the city limits and take you to the hotel. Here, following a high-tea in the lavish banquet hall, you will attend a safety presentation. We then head to Chitrakala Parishad Art Gallery for a cultural show. Yeshwanthpur Railway Station is our ultimate destination for the day and we board the train at 8 pm. A grand traditional welcome awaits you at the station, complete with garlands. You will be comfortably seated in the royal cabin of the train as the train heads to Chennai. Dinner is served in the train as you get comfortable with your fellow travelers.
Alternatively, we can also meet at the Native Village Eco Resort at 11 am. Following lunch, we will embark on a tour of the resort. This is followed by an art and culture tour as well as an organic and herbal medicine tour. We also bring you a pottery session in the village, bullock cart ride, and some fun with village games. We finally leave for Yeshwanthpur Railway Station at 8 pm.
The Optional Guided Tour of Bangalore: We bring you a comprehensive yet quick tour of Bangalore, also known as the Silicon City of India. Bangalore is a vibrant city that holds frequent exhibitions and trade fairs, where its IT prowess is proudly displayed.
The great thing about Bangalore is that it still retains its cultural essence despite the immense modernity that exists here. The city is beautifully dotted by British buildings. Today, they are used as administrative offices of the government. Bangalore has been the regional headquarters of administration since 1831 when the British moved their administrative affairs from Srirangapatnam. Cubbon Park – the vast 300-acre lung space of the city designed by Lt. General Sir Mark Cubbon in the year 1864 is flush with tall trees, lakes and manicured lawns.
Lal Bagh is another garden that you must visit. It dates back to the time of Haider Ali, father of the great Tipu Sultan. This 93-acre garden is home to huge rock formations and lakes. The garden is home to the largest collection of exotic and rare flora and fauna in the country. The huge trees are labeled for inquisitive minds. There is also a glasshouse that draws its inspiration from the Crystal Palace in London.
We also visit the Tipu Sultan Summer Palace, which is entirely made of wood. The Palace stands beautifully tall facing a beautiful garden. The small museum on the ground floor of this two-storey palace chronicles the achievements of Tipu Sultan.
We then drive past the humongous Legislative Chambers of Karnataka – the Vidhana Soudha. This majestic structure brings together Dravidian and Indo-Saracenic styles of architecture.
3 PM: Registration at the lavish Hotel Taj West End
4 PM: Explore the heritage gardens at the Taj
5 PM: High tea in the banquet hall
5:30 PM: Presentation as well as orientation on South India Train Tour. This will comprise of issues such as dos and don’ts, security and safety to name a few.
6 PM: The cultural dance act
6:45 PM: Visit to the renowned ISKCON temple. ISKCON is the acronym for The International Society for Krishna Consciousness
8 PM: Grad traditional welcome at the Yeshwanthpur Railway Station. We finally board the Golden Chariot. Dinner is served in the trail
9 PM: The train leaves for Chennai
On this day, our Golden Chariot Train Tour takes us to Mahabalipuram, 56 kilometers from our ride. As you enter this historic town, you are greeted by a sea of sculptures and ancient carvings.
Mamallapuram was both a religious destination and a major port city during the Pallava rule. The city is named after Narasimhavarman who was also popular as “Mahamalla” or the great wrestling warrior. The trade reach of the port city was such that the businessmen of the time explored China, Persia, and Rome, evident by the coins that were found in the port city. The Hindu temples and monuments built by the Pallava Dynasty in the 7th and 8th century are found here. The prime piece of stone art however is “Arjuna’s Penance” which is a rock relief.
Arjuna is a major character in Mahabharata, the Hindu epic, and was part of the Pandava Clan. The ancient piece of art depicts Arjuna standing on one foot trying to please Lord Shiva to grant him power. Various themes have been engraved into the rock here, one of which is a cat assuming a similar posture to Arjuna, as mice stare at it. There are also depictions of devotees performing rituals and an elephant procession. Each of these is symbolic of some sort of wisdom. There is a narrow cleft in the center of the rock which becomes a pathway for river water during the rainy season, and is also the reason for Arjuna’s Penance being referred to as the Descent of Ganga. Spend time deciphering the intricate details in the carvings that impart ancient wisdom. There are five monolithic temples in the town, known as the Five Rathas or chariots of temple procession. These are actually the remnants of seven temples. The town is also known as Seven Pagodas due to its existence. Collectively, they belong to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram.
Tamil Nadu is famous for its cuisines and we get a taste of it at the Radisson Blu Temple Bay Hotel, located by the scenic beach of the area. We get enough time to unwind by the beach post-lunch. After this, we enjoy high-tea and head back to the Golden Chariot. Dinner is served in your royal carriage and then we retire for the night as our journey continues.
7:30 AM: Arrival at Chennai Central Railway Station
8 AM: A delightful breakfast aboard the train
10 AM: We set out to Mahabalipuram
11:30 AM: Arrival at Mahabalipuram and sightseeing
1:30 PM: Sumptuous South Indian lunch at Radisson Blu Temple Bay Hotel
4 PM: We head back to the Golden Chariot after high-tea
5 PM: The journey towards Puducherry begins
7:30 PM: Royal dinner aboard the Golden Chariot
Puducherry is also known as Pondicherry or simply Pondi. We reach this beautiful coastal town early in the morning. This present-day Union Territory was once a French stronghold. The town retains the French flavor even today. Pondicherry only became a part of India in 1950 – 3 years post-independence from the British Raj. The French had voluntarily given up this territory leaving behind a rich wealth of European architecture. The streets in Pondicherry still have Gallic names and the police wear white garbs with gendarme cap. You’ll be forgiven for mistaking the town to be in France as you tread the cobblestone laid streets where French is extensively spoken.
On our excursion away from the Golden Chariot, we visit Auroville, located 15 kilometers away. Auroville is the brainchild of a French woman who is known here as “The Mother.” She was a staunch disciple and ultimately the successor of Sri Aurobindo who preached a lifestyle of universal brotherhood. He was a spiritual leader who preached self-realization and surrendering to higher consciousness while following a yogic lifestyle. Auroville celebrates the concept of universal brotherhood with more than 2200 people from around the world calling it their home. This includes about 900 Indians. People here are sans caste, religion, nationality and all forms of divisions. This non-religious township is devoid of currency and practices sustainable living, while being in peace with nature, leading a harmonious life. The township itself spans 8 square kilometers covered by thick greens all around with walkways dotted by tall trees on either side. The residents of Auroville are usually well educated and come from all walks of professional life. They put their knowledge to good use for the society by undertaking projects such as organic farming, schools, renewable energy, handicrafts, information technology, and even cafes and restaurants. They gainfully employ around 5000 people from the nearby villages.
From Auroville, we head to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram which came into existence in 1926. Here, people from around the world come for self-discovery by taking the path of yoga. Sri Aurobindo was a strong proponent of integral yoga. This form of yoga is without laid-down rituals or paths to spirituality. Each devotee is free to choose his or her own path to salvation. The ultimate goal, however, remains the same for everyone – higher consciousness. One of the prime spots to visit here are the burial sites of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. The memorial constructed using marble is at the center and is adorned by tall trees around it. There is plenty to explore here in the form of library, art gallery, publication department, visitor’s information center, and photo section. There is also the International Center of Education. After sightseeing, we head back to the Golden Chariot for dinner.
8 AM: Breakfast on Golden Chariot
10 AM: We reach Pondicherry
1:30 PM: Lunch at a grand hotel in Pondicherry
3 PM: Back to the Golden Chariot
5 PM: We head to Aurobindo Ashram and also visit Ganesh Temple in Pondicherry
7 PM: We are back on the Golden Chariot
7:30 PM: It’s time for dinner aboard the Golden Chariot
The Golden Chariot brings us to another temple town in Tamil Nadu – Thanjavur, also known as Tanjore. After breakfast we drive towards Brihadeshwara Temple, the most majestic of the three Chola Temples that stand strong today. Together these temples are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Don’t be surprised if you feel a sense of déjà vu when you view this beautiful temple. You’ve probably seen it on TV. Standing like a minuscule organism before this humongous piece of ancient architecture is an experience hard to describe. The Hindu shrine itself is located within a walled fortress. This abode of Lord Shiva was built in the 11th century by the great Rajaraja Chola I. The temple stands as a testament to the emperor’s sense of beauty and devotion to the lord with its opulent size and beautiful carvings. All shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva have a Nandi (divine bull) statue facing the main idol in the sanctum sanctorum and Brihadeshwara Temple is no different. The distinction with this Nandi, however, is its sheer size. The idol stands 13 feet high and 18 feet wide.
Several murals and frescoes adorn the temple throughout, with each narrating a scene from the legends of Lord Shiva. Notice the intricate workmanship that each of the temple walls exhibits. The meticulously stacked up stone poles and granite stone interlocks have withstood the test of time for centuries together and show no signs of dilapidation whatsoever – an admirable feat for the architects of the time. The thought that the temple was built far back in the 11th century almost seems mythical.
After we savor the beauty of Brihadeshwara Temple, it’s time for some local shopping followed by lunch at the River View Resort. The resort is located by the banks of River Cauvery and brings you a magnificent view of the beautiful waters. After lunch, we proceed towards Tiruchirapalli or Trichy 58 kilometers away.
In Trichy, we first head to the Srirangam, the temple town located amidst River Cauvery. Here we visit the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world dedicated to Lord Vishnu or Sri Ranganathaswamy. You’ll find that the temple sports different architectural styles throughout the 8 kilometers (156 acres) that it covers since the temple was patronized by various South Indian Hindu dynasties since its inception in the 9th century. The temple is of extreme religious importance for Hindus even today, especially for Vaisnavaites (followers of Lord Vishnu). The legends that surround the temple take us back to the era of Ramayana.
The Sri Ranganathaswamy temple complex is home to numerous structures made of granite. These are so vast that a whole town can assemble in them. There are seven huge enclosures in total and 21 temple towers, known as gopurams. There are archways for entry and exit on all sides. There are three outer enclosures that host a myriad of stores and homes. The inner enclosures of the temple complex are reserved for artisans, priests, workmen as well as vendors of Pooja (worship) essentials like coconuts, flowers, and incense sticks. In all over 10,000 people are housed within the enclosures on an ongoing basis.
Although the main temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, you will find hundreds of deities being worshiped in the temple complex. The structure makes for an ideal example of South Indian stone artistry with every idol and wall being intricately designed. You’ll find battle scenes engraved on the walls comprised of kings, elephants, and tigers. There are even a few Chinese-looking carvings giving us a glimpse of the reach that the empire of the region once had. The extensive exploration of this temple will take us quite some time. We head back to the Golden Chariot in the evening.
7:30 AM: Arrival at Thanjavur
8 AM: Breakfast on Golden Chariot
10 AM: Visit to renowned Brihadeshwara Temple which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site
2 PM: Lunch
4 PM: We proceed towards Trichy
6 PM: Visit the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world in Srirangam
7:30 PM: We’re back on Golden Chariot in time for Dinner
Ask a Tamil man whether he’s heard of Madurai Meenakshi Temple and he’ll look at you as if not knowing the temple is a sin, such is the fame of this revered shrine. We head to the Meenakshi Temple after breakfast aboard the Golden Chariot once we reach Madurai.
A sense of deep appreciation for the reverence and artistic bent of the South Indian kings engulfs you as you stand before the Meenakshi Temple. Find yourself exploring a bygone era of architectural wonders that ooze of spirituality in the temple complex. The temple itself is a contemporary of the Taj Mahal and is a prime example of the Hindu architecture of South India. Drenched in multicolored stucco images are nine gopurams that crown the temple towers. Each tower is decorated by intricately carved images of various deities and creatures from the Hindu scriptures. The temple tells you a lot about the godly dedication that the Hindu kings of yore had.
Find yourself surrounded by scores of pilgrims and watch the devotion that reflects in their eyes. These Hindus visit the temple to seek blessings from Meenakshi or Parvati, the cohort of Lord Shiva or Sundareswarar. You’ll see several bare-chested priests busy performing rituals and praying on behalf of the devotees throughout the temple complex. Your olfactory perception is filled by the sweet scent of flowers mixed with burning incense sticks and ghee. You might even find a colorful Hindu wedding taking place in some part of the temple complex.
Explore the traditional bazaars teeming with people around the temple complex. To say that these bazaars are a color riot is an understatement. Everything from kitchen tools to colorful bangles is sold in these corridors. You’ll even find tailors busy stitching glossy attires for the deities. Observe the stone pillars between these shops. Scenes such as the wedding of Shiva and Parvati, Shiva with his distinctive Nataraja (Emperor of Dances) pose with his hair spread wide apart, the demon king Ravana lifting Mount Kailash is beautifully carved on these pillars. Watch the furious three-breasted avatar of Meenakshi before she met her companion Lord Shiva carved beautifully here.
For lunch, we go back to the Golden Chariot and make some time to explore our royal abode on wheels. To add to the feel, opt for a relaxing massage to sooth your tired muscles or simply barge into the kitchen for a quick-cooking lesson from the experienced chefs. A beautiful sound and light show awaits us at the Thirumalai Nayaka Palace in the evening after which we head back to the Golden Chariot for dinner and retire for the day.
This day begins quite early as we leave for Kanyakumari from Nagercoil Railway Station. Our target is to reach the Sunrise Point in Kanyakumari, 20 kilometers away, by 5:15 am. You’ll find that the effort is worth the visual treat of watching the sunrise. This is also the southern most part of India where the three great seas – Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Sea –meet. Kanyakumari is also known as Cape Comorin.
After this great experience, we return to the Golden Chariot and head towards the erstwhile royal city of Travancore in Kerala. Yes, we’re heading to Kerala by Golden Chariot now!
Padmanabhapuram Wooden Palace is the first place we visit in Kerala. You’ll find that the architecture of the palace is unique when compared to others found in the southern part of India. This 16th century marvel was built by Maharajas of Travancore. In the palace, you’ll suddenly find yourself in an era gone by as you are surrounded by around 60 rooms that are adorned by extensive rosewood carvings. Look at the floor of the Durbar or the royal hall and you’ll find it glistening. The glistening floor of the beautiful durbar has been built using a combination of burnt shells of coconuts, lime, egg white, charcoal and sand from the riverbed. Kerala has long had an inclination towards Ayurveda – the traditional Indian medicine. This fact gets a solid backing in the form of the Raja’s bed in the Padmanabhapuram Wooden Palace. The bed is made of 64 pieces of wood, each taken from a tree with medicinal properties.
Of the many exhibits in the palace are a collection of Chinese jars gifted by the Chinese traders of the time. Other artifacts are murals that go back to the 17th and 18th century, windows that are adorned with multicolored mica, brass lanterns that have been burning without interruption for centuries, columns made of jack-fruit wood, lamp-holding wooden figures, and the breath-taking fish carvings on the ceiling.
The palace is also home to a museum that has on display several collectible artifacts and household items of an ancient era. For lunch, we return to the Golden Chariot and our home on wheels leaves for Kocchuveli Station. We arrive here by 3:30 PM and head to Vivanta by Taj in Kovalam. Evening snacks and tea by the Kovalam beach is something that you’ll enjoy immensely. A cultural show in the hotel will be followed by dinner after which we return to Golden Chariot for a good night’s sleep
5 AM: Travel towards Kanyakumari by coach in time for the sunrise
7:30 AM: Return to Golden Chariot for breakfast
9.30 AM: Head to Padmanabhapuram Wooden Palace
1 PM: Return to Golden Chariot for lunch
3.30 PM : We arrive at Kocchuveli station
4 PM: Leave for Vivanta by Taj, Kovalam to enjoy high-tea by the Kovalam Beach, a cultural show and dinner
10:30 PM: Return to Golden Chariot
After our morning fill, we head to the backwaters in Alleppey and our houseboat. There is no better way to explore the natural serenity of Kerala than venturing on a relaxing houseboat ride through the backwaters. The narrow canals that open up into wide waterways are a scene of natural beauty. You will encounter several shades of thick greens as you travel through the canal in a pace that allows you to savor every bit of beauty around you. You watch rustic villages, grazing cattle, and fishermen pass by you. You’ll enjoy navigating through the many mangroves, paddy fields, coconut palms, and papaya trees behind village homes as you explore the calm waters. Watch birds swooping by you in search of fish as you sip on some cool coconut water through the comfort of your luxurious houseboat.
Lunch will be enjoyed in Punnamada Lake Resort, by the Vembanad Lake, the largest of its kind in the country. After lunch, we take a coach to Kochi. Here, we visit the old town, Fort Cochin. The town itself gives you a laid back feel. The port town was occupied by the Portuguese and the Dutch at various times. You’ll find a Caribbean flavor to this sleepy town. However, the town retains its rich historical roots like the British Fort that has stood strong through the years. The town is historically, culturally and religiously rich with 50% of the population comprised of Hindus and the rest an even mix of Muslims and Christians.
A guided tour of this beautiful town awaits you. Among the famous attractions is the Church of St. Francis which was once the final resting place of the great explorer Vasco da Gama, who was later exhumed to his hometown. You will visit the age-old synagogue in Jew Town. Watch the cantilevered Chinese fishnets that are cast through the day and form a scene to behold in the evening sun. We explore the local markets that are flush with silk garments, spices, teak-wood souvenirs, hand-woven carpets, and jewelry made of silver. We also visit a small palace, which was once the favorite among the Maharajas of the region.
By this time it’s evening already and we head back to Golden Chariot at Ernakulam South Railway Station from where we depart to Bangalore in a little while, effectively bringing our Kerala by Golden Chariot to an end.
8 AM: Breakfast on the Golden Chariot
10 AM: We leave for Alleppey Jetty to board the houseboat and explore the backwaters of Kerala
1 PM: It’s lunch time and we head to Punnamada Lake Resort
2:30 PM: We reach For Kochi and enjoy some shopping and sightseeing
6 PM: We leave to get onboard the Golden Chariot again at Ernakulum South railway Station
7:30 PM: It’s dinner time onboard Golden Chariot as we head back to Bangalore
It’s sad but Golden Chariot Train Tour comes a full circle as you reach Yeshwanthpur Railway Station in Bangalore. You would have already relished your last breakfast of your South India Train Tour.
8 AM: Breakfast aboard the Golden Chariot
10 AM: You bid adieu to the crew and disembark the Golden Chariot at Yeshwanthpur Railway Station
This is also the point where Vacation India Services resume. Our representative will be waiting for your arrival at the train station along with a chauffeur. If you’ve missed shopping for your loved ones, now is the time to take care of it. Sightseeing is another option that you might want to explore. The vehicle to ferry you around and the chauffeur will remain with you until you check-in at the airport, which usually is in the evening. In case, your flight is scheduled early the next day, we can always arrange a comfortable stay for you. The option of extending your stay through our many touring options is at your disposal. All you need to do is simply let us know. We bring you several Extension Trips!
My sister and I recently came back from our 2 week holiday in India. Thanks to Vacation India (Classic Holidays India) we had a fantastic time. From our first communication until we were dropped off at the airport everything was perfect. We flew from Atlanta to Delhi via Amsterdam and visited Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Pushkar, Jodhpur (our favorite) and Jaisalmer. Our driver, Jai, was with us through out the whole trip. He was fantastic. We had very knowledgeable local guides in every place we visited. Mr. Vikas, the manager at Vacation India was available over the phone 24/7 during our trip…More Feedback
– Maria and Laura, Atlanta (USA)
In 2014 I was working in Delhi and an Indian colleague fixed me up with a day at the Taj Mahal, organised by Vacation India. It all went smoothly from being met at the train station, taken round the Taj Mahal, the Mini Taj and the Red Fort, entertained to tea with Vikas followed by a stroll round the back streets of Agra.
I like to wander round different parts of India on my own each year but advice from Vacation India on where to go and how to get there is always sought and is invaluable. I include a photo of me with some local boys in a temple in wonderful Hampi in Karnataka…More Feedback
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8-days individual travel to / from New Delhi, 7 nights in hotels of your choiceTravel Destinations: Bangalore – Tamil Nadu (Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Tanjore and Trichy, Madurai, Kanyakumari) – Kerala (Kovalam Beach, Alleppey (Backwaters), Kochi/Cochin) – Bangalore
|Season||Hotel Category||Per person in double room|
|October 2015 to December 2015||Deluxe Cabin||Price on Request
|January 2016 to April 2016||Deluxe Cabin||Price on Request
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