The next episode and follow-up to our highly successful and popular India Unveiled experience where we witnessed the opulence of the Moguls and rise of the British Raj, is a journey of discovery combining Southern India and close neighbour Sri Lanka. The delicate scent of spices, colonial hill stations and tea plantations, cruising palm fringed tropical backwaters for an insight into rural village life. Catching a glimpse of rare wildlife and exploring rich cultural and historical heritage is only a foretaste of the many amazing experiences that await. Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, whilst very similar in many aspects to its larger cousin and neighbour, has a distinct flavour of its own and earnt a reputation in its own right as a Jewel in the Indian Ocean. It too is blessed with many ancient sites, and the remnants left by cultures lured to its shores in the quest for exotic riches, now infused to form a beautiful cultural melting-pot. Happy people, vibrant colour, amazing experiences and delectable food are just some of the adjectives that partway describe what our journey to Southern India and Sri Lanka encompasses.
“The use of travelling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.” - Samuel Johnson
19 SEPTEMBER - 16 october • 28 DAYS
NEW ZEALAND – SINGAPORE – CHENNAI – MAHABALIPURAM two nights Mahabalipuram
Days 1-3 We depart New Zealand for another chapter and adventure to the Indian sub-continent. Stopping overnight en route we arrive on India’s southern East Coast in Chennai, formerly Madras and the British East India Company’s manufacturing hub. Chennai is India’s 4th largest city and capital of Tamil Nadu. We transfer directly to Mahabalipuram located on the Coromandel Coast on the Bay of Bengal. This 7th century town has UNESCO World Heritage status and over 400 Hindu temples and monuments, some regarded as the nest in India. We won’t see all 400, however rest assured we’ll see a few of the nest, and you won’t be disappointed!
MAHABALIPURAM – PUDUCHERRY two nights Puducherry
Days 4-5 Puducherry’s a union territory located on the Bay of Bengal where age-old heritage meets modern innovation. En-route we’ll stop at the only remaining fortress in Tamil Nadu, Gingee Fort, regarded as the Troy of the East by the British and the most impregnable fort in India. Puducherry was under French rule until 1954, the remnants being the Old French Quarter, a popular haunt where you find a wonderful fusion of French, Gallic and Indian influences in the arts, design and of course cuisine. Wide roads, well laid out gardens, beautiful French colonial mansions, historical monuments, and for India’s standards, clean and orderly. 12kms south is Auroville, an experimental community founded in 1968 where people from all nationalities, religions, politics and creeds live together in harmony. We also explore the bustling Tamil Quarter, and discover Puducherry’s rich architectural heritage along the heritage walk.
PUDUCHERRY – KUMBAKONAM one night Kumbakonam
Day 6 Following breakfast we depart for Kumbakonam, en-route we visit Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram, a stunning example dedicated to Nataraja Shiva, the lord of dance. The temple's sanctum roof is covered in plates of solid gold. To Hindus, Kumbakonam is a sacred destination where pilgrims come to worship at four large temples dedicated to Sarangapani, Kumbeswarar, Brahma and Nageswarar, as well as Navagraha or Planetary temples, dedicated to the nine planetary deities.
KUMBAKONAM – TIRUCHIRAPPALLI one night Tiruchirappalli
Day 7 More to see in and around Kumbakonam, including a village and school visit and a local market before departing for Tiruchirappalli. On our way we’ll visit Brihadeshwara Fort, Thanjavur Palace and time permitting, the Rock Fort Temple of Thanjavur.
TIRUCHIRAPPALLI – MADURAI two nights Madurai
Days 8-9 A leisurely day and drive to Madurai today. On arrival we’ll have an orientation tour and settle in to our hotel for the night. Madurai is an energetic city and an ancient one situated on the banks of the Vaigai River. Its skyline is dominated by 14 colourful gateway towers or gopurams of Meenakshi Amman Temple. Covered in bright carvings of Hindu gods, (not all 33 million of them), this one temple draws millions of pilgrims to the Chithirai Festival held in April each year. An opportunity is available to attend the colourful and famous evening ritual and prayer ceremony at the temple for those interested.
MADURAI – PERIYAR one night Periyar
Day 10 We make our way to Periyar, our overnight stop en-route to Kerala. This afternoon we’ll visit a spice plantation and learn why during the middle ages spices such as nutmeg, pepper and cinnamon weight for weight were more valuable than gold. This evening you will be introduced to Kalaripayattu an ancient martial art that dates back over 3,000 years. Kung-Fu, made popular by Shaoline monks from China trace its ancestry back to Kalaripayattu.
PERIYAR – KERELA two nights houseboat
Days 11-12 The next two days are spent cruising the palm-fringed river systems and lagoons of Kerela in our well-appointed, air-conditioned houseboat. A world away from the colourful frenzy which is India, we’ll experience village life as it is for the small farming and fishing communities that make Kerela their home. Our friendly crew are only too happy to share with you how to prepare the simple but delicious meals we’ll partake in, created from fresh locally sourced produce.
KERELA – KOCHI one night Kochi
Day 13 Located on the coast of the Arabian Sea, Kochi is the oldest European settlement in India. Like a magnet, Kochi has been enticing traders and explorers to its shores for over 700 years and is the only place in India where you find giant ‘Cheena Vala' Chinese fishing nets, a 400 year old synagogue, an ancient mosque, Portuguese and Dutch architecture, and crumbling forts leftover from the British Raj. Historical Kochi exudes remnants of its colonial past and is wonderfully atmospheric, with its rich blended heritage encompassing a swath of heavy aromatic fragrances. The markets, antique shops and boutiques in the old town are a wonderful and interesting distraction even for the non-shoppers among us!
KOCHI – COLOMBO (SRI LANKA) one night Colombo
Day 14 We bid farewell to India bound for the island nation of Sri Lanka; a country almost identical in many aspects to India yet a country with subtle but distinct differences. Ceylon, as it was known up until 1972, was under British Colonial rule, however prior the arrival of the British, Sri Lanka was colonised by the Portuguese followed by the Dutch, all three leaving their imprint on Sri Lanka’s cultural development.
COLOMBO – DAMBULLA three nights Dambulla
Days15-17 We’re travelling north today through lush country side to Sigiriya, an area of prehistoric importance where evidence of human habitation has been found dating back 125,000 – 500,000 years. Many of the rock shelters and caves found in the surrounding area were occupied by Buddhist Monks and puritans from as early as 3rd century BC. We’ll visit the magnificent Royal Rock Temple at Dambulla, the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka with rock paintings dating back to the 1st century BC. Over the next two days we’ll visit the 5th century stronghold of King Kasyapa, Lion Rock where atop once stood his formidable fortress. Today we can still see the beautiful Sigiriya Frescos and gain commanding views from the ‘Sky Palace' for those keen to attempt the climb. We’ll visit the 9th century capital Pollonaruwa, where the Sinhalese Buddhist civilisation reached great heights, as can be seen by the incredible structures including palaces, monuments, temples and an epic irrigation system that transformed the region into what became known as the ‘Granary of the Orient’.
DAMBULLA – KANDY two nights Kandy
Days 18-19 We depart Dambulla, travelling south to the British Hill Station of Kandy. En route we’ll visit a spice garden at Matale and learn about their therapeutic values, the development of the spice industry in Sri Lanka and Matale’s role in the rebellion of 1848.
Renowned for its lush forests, soothing climate, tea, cinnamon, and nutmeg plantations, Kandy was the last Royal Capital of the Sri Lankan Kings, who’s legacy remains in the 18th century Royal Botanical Gardens, the Royal Palace housing the Holy Temple of the Tooth Relic, Sri Lanka’s holiest Buddhist shrine containing the relic of Buddha’s tooth. Kandy’s town centre has a wonderful atmosphere with bustling colourful markets and bazaars bundled together with shops and boutiques selling the latest fashion and brands.
KANDY – NUWARA ELIYA one night Nuwara Eliya
Day 20 We continue our journey through the mountains to the hill town of Nuwara Eliya. En route we’ll see tea pickers, baskets on their backs, deftly plucking the tips of the plants. We’ll visit a tea plantation and factory to see the process of making one of the world’s favourite drinks from start to finish and where you can purchase some of the best tea in the world.
NUWARA ELIYA – ELLA – YALA NATIONAL PARK two nights Yala National Park
Days 21-22 Today sit back and admire picture perfect scenery travelling one of the most scenic train journeys in the world. Travelling through tea estates framed against a backdrop of lush forested mountains and plateaus we wind our way to Ella, where we meet our coach to continue the journey to Yala National Park home for the next two nights. Home to elephant, deer, fox, jackal, jungle cats, crocodile, Asian bear and one of the highest leopard densities in the world, and a plethora of bird species, six endemic to Sri Lanka.
YALA NATIONAL PARK – GALLE two nights Galle
Days 23-24 Today we make our way to Galle located on Sri Lanka’s southern coast. En-route we’ll visit a local turtle hatchery where the work done has significantly improved the survival chances of four endangered species, and famous Stilt Fisherman perched on poles out in the sea, casting their lines. Lured by spices the Portuguese were the first Europeans to colonise Sri Lanka in the 16th century, followed soon by the Dutch then British. Preceding the arrival of the Portuguese, Galle had strong trading ties with Persia and the Arabian Peninsula, India, China, Malay, Greece and even Rome. Today Galle, pronounced 'Gaar-le', exudes a bursting scent of spices mixed with a salty sea breeze. It has a wonderful collection of colonial buildings surrounded by a World Heritage historic fort built in 1663 by the Dutch. Within the walls can be found wonderful boutique shops, cafés, artisans both foreign and local. When meandering through the old town every turn yields a new surprise!
GALLE – COLOMBO one night Colombo
Day 25 Sadly our journey is almost at an end. Travelling north we follow the coast to Colombo and back to where we began our Sri Lankan odyssey. Tonight we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner to share memories and experiences of our fabulous journey!
COLOMBO – SINGAPORE one night Singapore
Day 26 Late morning we depart Colombo bound for Singapore and an overnight stay.
SINGAPORE – NEW ZEALAND
Days 27-28 A full day in Singapore for some last minute shopping, sightseeing or relax around the pool. Leave Singapore early evening arriving Christchurch mid-morning tomorrow.