Experience the cultural highlights of Southern India with this magical 14-day luxury itinerary, taking in the sights of Mumbai, Hampi, Bangalore, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Karakkudi (Chettinad) and Madurai. Experience the rich culture of the south through visits to ancient ruins and a slew of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, food and market tours, and more.
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Arrive in thrilling Mumbai, the flamboyant home to India’s rich and famous and the renowned Bollywood scene, and transfer to your plush suite at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, where you’re likely to spot celebrities and/or royalty alike, who often frequent the hotel.
Today you’re going to become well-acquainted with Mumbai. Your first stop: the Elephanta Caves, a network of sculpted caves located on the island of Elephanta in the Arabian Sea. Next, you’ll be off on a market tour, where you can haggle for everything from fresh fruits, to scarves, to jewelry. Finally, you’ll head to the Kala Ghoda Art District, home to a slew of art galleries, universities, museums, and more.
Head to Hampi today, home to the ruins of the ancient Vijayanagara Empire, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll fly to Hubli Airport, and then drive three hours to Hampi. Check in to your room at one of our two recommended luxury hotels, Hampi Boulder or The Hyatt Place, and get settled in.
Take a peek into India’s past today with a tour of Hampi’s temples, many of which are decorated in fascinating ancient motifs and elaborate frescoes. See the city from atop Matanga Hill, a special Hampi attraction known for its particularly magical sunrise and sunset views. Finally, if you happen to be visiting in November, take part in the Utsav Festival, Hampi’s largest festival, featuring music, dance and puppet performances, as well as fireworks and more.
Take off for Bangalore today, well-known as the country’s information technology capital, and India’s third-largest city. Transfer to your suite at the Taj West End, which holds the title of the city’s first hotel, and become acquainted with your new surroundings.
Explore Bangalore today, on a tour that takes you to Lal Bagh, a botanical garden with India's largest collection of tropical plants; Dodda Basavana Gudi, also known as the Bull Temple, representing a sacred Hindu demi-god, and Bangalore Palace. Spend the rest of your day relaxing in the palatial surroundings of your hotel, or exploring the city as you like.
Today you’ll fly to Chennai, and then drive for two hours to Mahabalipuram, an ancient historic town that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Check in to your room at Vivanta by Taj - Fisherman's Cove, and get settled in. Relax at your hotel for the evening.
Get acquainted with Mahabalipuram today, starting with a visit to the Five Rathas, believed to have once been a learning tool for teachers to instruct young students the art of carving. Next up, visit the Shore Temple, overlooking the Bay of Bengal, one of the oldest structural stone temples of South India.
It’s back on the road for 2 hours again today, your destination: the charming city of Pondicherry, or as the locals know it, Pondi. The city was once the largest French colony in India, and still retains much of its colonial elegance. The Old Quarters are lined with Mediterranean-style houses and bakeries, though this “French Riviera of the East” is still true to its Indian roots. Check in to your hotel, located in the Old French Quarter, La Villa Shanti.
Discover Pondicherry’s historical sights today, on a Heritage Walk that will take you through the city’s Old Quarters, where you’ll take in both French and Tamil style architecture. Learn more of the city’s history and culture with a visit to Pondicherry Museum. Afterwards, unwind on one of the unspoilt beaches nearby. Spend the night once again at La Villa Shanti.
Today you’re off on a drive to Karakkudi (5 hours away), a Heritage town in Tamil Nadu, famous for its palatial limestone structures. Check in to your suite at the mansion-cum-hotel Visalam. Relax there today - the hotel’s stunning pool is calling your name.
Karaikudi is known for its non-vegetarian delicacies, and is a haven for foodies. See what all the fuss is about on a food tour of the city. Follow this up with a private palace tour, before enjoying some retail therapy during a market visit. Relax back at your hotel for the evening.
It’s back on the road today. This time your destination is Madurai, 2 hours away on the banks of River Vaigai. Check in to your hotel, the Taj Garden Retreat, which has a lovely view of Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. Once settled in, venture to the temple’s grounds to see it close up. Next, pay a visit to Thirumalai Nayak palace, a sprawling royal abode once considered one of the wonders of the South.
Say goodbye to Madurai and India today. Fly to Chennai, from where you can catch a flight to your next destination.
For over a century, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower has been the haunt of India's elite, and has played host to princes, kings, maharajas, presidents, CEOs and countless celebrities. Built in 1903, it is an architectural marvel, bringing together Moorish, Oriental, and Florentine styles. Inside, the hotel showcases contemporary Indian art framed by vaulted alabaster ceilings, onyx columns, graceful archways, hand-woven silk carpets, crystal chandeliers, and an eclectic collection of furniture. There are 519 rooms and 46 opulent suites with panoramic views of the Arabian Sea and the Gateway of India. The Taj's excellent dining options include Golden Dragon - voted the best Chinese restaurant in Mumbai; Masala Kraft - Indian cuisine with a contemporary twist; Souk, which has stunning views of Mumbai from its rooftop location and serves Middle Eastern cuisine; The Zodiac Grill, where a special menu is offered for each month's star sign, and the stellar Wasabi By Morimoto - Mumbai's first contemporary Japanese restaurant, helmed by the Iron Chef himself. There is also the Harbour Bar, Mumbai's first drinking establishment, and the Insomnia nightclub, filled with "Bombabes" and their millionaire boyfriends. Guests can unwind at the luxurious spa, the fitness center, equipped with cardiovascular and weight training equipment, steam shower and sauna and swimming pool, or with a game of badminton, squash, tennis or billiards. The hotel also has a private yacht available for day trips on the Arabian Sea or to nearby Elephanta Island. There is a business center with wired and wireless Internet access, secretarial services and cell phones and laptops for hire. Wi-fi available throughout the hotel. The Taj Mahal Palace is 45 minutes from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM).
Hidden behind a discrete facade, this nineteenth century house is located in the old French town. After receiving a series of expansions and renovations, La Villa Shanti's redesign resulted in a hip, modern lodge that nonetheless celebrates its distinct, French heritage. The hotel itself comprises fifteen well-decorated and spacious rooms built around an inner courtyard; all its rooms feature bright, cheery spaces, plush, comfortable beds, modern, immaculate bathrooms, air-conditioning, cable television, in-room Wi-Fi, and a minibar. Dining options include a restaurant which serves fresh, organic produce and meats in a variety of preparations, and a casual, comfortable cafe bar. While La Villa Shanti does not have a gym or spa, its courtyard does feature a beautiful, verdant garden that matches its unique architecture.