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 Skillstourism 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

Accommodation

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

Transport

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

Meals

  • breakfast daily
  • 9 lunches
  • 8 dinners

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

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.

After your long journey from Australia, you’ll be needing some rest so we will stay at The Taj Hotel just minutes from the airport.

As there is more travelling to do today, enjoy a relaxed breakfast before we head off around 10.30am by private air-conditioned vehicle to Mysuru.

During the 3-4 hour drive, you will have your first introduction to the somewhat ordered chaos that are the roads of India. You’ll be amazed as you watch bikes, scooters, cars, trucks, buses and more weave their way along the road with seemingly no lanes and no road rules. The cacophony of beeping horns as the locals communicate with each other means your road trip to Mysuru will be an experience to remember and you can expect to see many wonderful and interesting things along the way.

Catherine will be at the hotel when you arrive to ensure an easy check-in process. You will have time to freshen up and unpack before meeting Catherine and Varis for welcome drinks and dinner.

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 helping.

Next, we’ll have lunch at a local restaurant followed by our first introduction to shopping in India. If shopping isn’t your thing, we will arrange for you to be dropped back to your hotel. We will visit a fabric store or two, so this is a great opportunity to buy some fabric for those who are going to try their hand at block printing.

Tonight we will enjoy an evening city tour by autorickshaw and finish up with a walking tour through the local market and city where we will sample the local street food. Rest assured we know the places that are safe to eat, and you can relax and enjoy the delicious variety of food on offer. We are having dinner Indian style tonight, but if you aren’t satisfied with the street food we can arrange something else for you.

Today we will attend a workshop where you will work with a local artisan and try your hand at a traditional handcraft. We have a range of crafts to choose from including textile block printing, silver jewellery making, embroidery, and basket weaving.

Lunch will be delivered by tiffin. Has anyone seen the movie The Lunch Box? If you haven’t it’s a fun one to whet your appetite for India! Not saying you’ll be getting the love notes, but having a tiffin delivered is like having a picnic Indian style.

Tonight you will have the evening free to relax or explore. We are always available to offer suggestions of places to dine or things to do.

Today we will be invited into a local home where we will meet our host and learn how to combine spices to create the amazing flavours of India. Enjoy the delicious food you helped prepare after your class. This will be a meal to remember!

We have a choice of two different tours depending on your interests.

  • Mysore 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.

Following your walking tour, we will meet for a drink and light dinner before proceeding to the Mysuru Palace for the weekly illumination.

The outline of the palace is lit with 97,000 incandescent light globes creating a dramatic sight against the backdrop of the dark night sky. It seems all of Mysuru are in the palace grounds waiting. Hearing the collective intake of breath when the lights go on is a pleasure in itself.

We’ll be back at the hotel around 8 pm so you can take rest early after a busy day.

Today we will enjoy another workshop of your choice. There will be options to do a full day again or to do two different activities today. Some of the experiences such as flower garland making and traditional rangoli only take around 2.5 hours so it can be arranged to do one in the morning and the other after lunch. Anyone with a more ambitious project may be doing the second day of jewellery making or block printing today.

These activities will be discussed with each traveller individually prior to travelling so that we can customise according to your interests. Lunch is included in a local restaurant today.

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 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 and if you love to take photos, a visit to Bylakuppe is a must.

We’ll be back in time for you to relax for a couple of hours before we meet for drinks followed by dinner at the beautiful Lalitha Mahal Palace. Sitting 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 Maharaja of Mysuru.

Tonight is our last night in Mysuru so we say goodbye to Varis and our local guides.

We leave Mysuru today so you have a free morning and late check out until 5 pm giving you time for last minute shopping, packing or relaxing.

At 2 pm we will meet for a truly special experience as this afternoon we are attending a singing bowl meditation.

We will return to our hotel feeling very relaxed in plenty of time to check out and have an early dinner 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.

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast on our first morning in Chennai as we arrived quite late last night.

Today we will enjoy a city tour taking in many of the highlights including the Bronze Gallery Museum. Due to the traffic and distances of a larger city, we will be getting around in air-conditioned vehicles in Chennai.

We will be treated to a traditional home cooked Tamilian lunch in a private home where we will meet the family and learn about life in Chennai. This afternoon we will continue our city tour before returning to the hotel in plenty of time to freshen up for the evening.

This evening is a free evening to explore or relax over a drink in our rather stunning hotel bar. We’ll have lots of suggestions for you if you want some ideas of things to do.

This morning after a leisurely breakfast at our hotel we will head off on a walking tour.

We have a choice of two different tours depending on your interests.

  • Bazaar Trail – the pulse of any city is in its markets. This trail takes you through one such bustling marketplace, George Town. Let the stories walk you through these by-lanes, where plenty of history, mythology and folklore intertwine.
  • Peacock Trail – an easy walk through Mylapore, exploring fascinating stories hidden away in the rituals of daily life. Stories behind everyday sights, stories of Gods and demons, of ancient customs and symbolism, and of Mylapore and Madras.

We will meet in the city for lunch (own expense) and then spend some time exploring Chennai’s shopping areas. We’ll head back to our hotel around 4.30 pm to allow a little downtime before meeting at 7 pm for dinner and a Bollywood movie (the movie will be determined by what is showing at the time)

Today we say goodbye to Chennai and travel in air-conditioned comfort to Pondicherry.

Pondicherry was once a French colony and the French influence is easy to see here. The streets of the French Quarter still have French names and many of the buildings, ornamental gardens, hotels and restaurants are testaments to the French influence that persists here.

On arrival at your hotel in Pondicherry, you will enjoy lunch while Catherine and Julie take care of the check-in formalities.

You will have time to unwind and freshen up before we meet in the late afternoon for a walk along the ocean to the lighthouse to stretch our legs. As the day draws to a close we’ll enjoy dinner and *drinks on the rooftop of a hotel along the waterfront.

*alcoholic beverages not included

After breakfast, we will be hopping into autorickshaws 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.

After our tour, we’ll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant 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.

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.

Today we leave Pondicherry after a leisurely breakfast to make our way to Chennai for our onward journeys. Along our way, we will stop at Mahabalipuram to explore these ancient ruins that are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Before we continue onto Chennai we will enjoy a farewell lunch together as it’s time to say goodbye to our new friends.

On arrival at Chennai Airport, we will have three hours lounge access so we can freshen up before our departing flights.

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 joining us.

Namaste
Catherine, Varis and the Skillstourism Team

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

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