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Once a small group of fishing villages, Chennai, formerly called Madras, is today one of the largest commercial and cultural centres of South India. The city developed its cohesive shape under the British who established their first Presidency here at Fort St George in 1644 A.D. making it a dynamic mix of the old and new. Much of Chennai, even today, lies along Marina Beach – the second longest beach in the world, and a major part of the country’s automobile industry is based here thus earning it the nickname "Detroit of India". The city is also an important centre for Carnatic music and hosts a large cultural event, the annual Madras Music Season, which includes performances by hundreds of artists from across the globe.
Established in 1674 A.D. by the French, Pondicherry was the capital of French territories in India. The town is a treasure trove for the inquisitive traveller with its tantalising blend of spiritual aura, colonial heritage, and pristine beaches. The gallic flavour of the bygone era is retained especially in the old French quarter of the town with its beautiful colonial buildings, churches, temples & tree lined avenues. The numerous bars and cafes here have a European ambience and many old residents still speak in French.
Located on the banks of River Vaigai, the ancient city of Madurai is one of South India’s great temple towns and a rich repository of Tamil culture. It has been a major settlement for two millennia and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Today, Madurai is synonymous with the celebrated Minakshi Temple and religion and culture still remain a vibrant part of the city’s daily life.
Tanjore or the “Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu” lies in the fertile Kaveri Delta region of South India. The city first rose to prominence during the reign of the Cholas in the 11th & 12th centuries when it served as the capital of their empire. It still is a great centre of cultural learning that extends beyond just temples & palaces and encompasses classical music, dance, bronze sculpture and a painting style unique to this region.
With a history of significant antiquity the temple town of Trichy or Tiruchirapalli is dominated by the massive Rock Fort which towers over the plains of the fertile Kaveri Delta and is a dramatic sight to behold. The city, today, is a thriving commercial centre famous for artificial diamonds, cigars, handloom cloth, glass bangles and wooden/ clay toys. The world's oldest functional dam, the Grand Anaicut, is located here.
Known as the “City of Gardens”, Bangalore or Bengaluru is blessed with salubrious climate, beautiful gardens and natural lakes. It is the capital of Karnataka and one of the fastest growing cities in Asia, often being labelled as India’s Silicon Valley because of the thriving software & information technology industry here. The growing influx of young professionals from all over the world has indeed made it a vibrant and cosmopolitan city with a plethora of pubs, shopping malls and restaurants. Yet in spite of rapid modernisation, Bengaluru still retains its gardens and monuments from the 16th to the 19th centuries.
Picturesquely situated in the lush forested mountains of the Western Ghats, Coorg is a beautiful region in Karnataka. It is well known in the world for its coffee and "brave warriors". Madikeri, the district headquarters and a charming hill town, is located 1500 meters above sea level and is surrounded by rich coffee and orange plantations. Pleasant weather, lush greenery, waterfalls and hiking trails across the region make it a very popular destination for tourists, both international & domestic.
Hampi, on the banks of Tungabhadra River, is home to the ruins of the Vijayanagar kingdom. A UNESCO World Heritage Site it’s surrounded by aspectacular barren and boulder-strewn landscape and is a photographers’ delight. The site is significant historically and architecturally as the Archaeological Survey of India continues to conduct excavations in the area, to discover additional artefacts and temples. There are many sacred centres of importance at the site and this ancient city had a well-integrated waterways system which is definitely worth a visit.
Once the capital of the Wodeyar rulers, Mysore gained much of its early fame because of Tipu Sultan, popularly known as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’ for his heroic resistance against the British invaders. The city is noted for its palaces, including the awe inspiring Mysore Palace, and for the colourful festivities that take place during Dasara It lends its name to the Mysore style of painting and the beautiful Mysore silk sarees. Also famous are its ivory work, silk weaving, sandalwood, incense and carvings.
The capital of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad has a rich and interesting past and was at one time home to the richest men on earth, the fabulously wealthy royal family of Hyderabad, the Nizams. The grand palaces, colourful bazaars and exquisite mosques are some the mesmerizing attractions of this beautiful city which is also famous for its gastronomical cuisine. Over the years the area has grown tremendously and now boasts of a world class infrastructure supporting its huge information technology industry.
Better known as Cochin, Kochi is a collection of narrow islands and peninsulas surrounded by palm groves, inland lakes and backwaters which add to the mesmerizing beauty of this enchanting land. Heralded as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, it was an important spice trading centre for many centuries and flaunts one of the finest natural harbours of the world. Occupied by the Portuguese Empire in 1503, it was the first of the European colonies in India. The areas of Fort and Mattancherry still have an old world charm about it with Dutch, Portuguese and English influences.
Arguably, the most beautiful district of Kerala, Kottayam’s landscape, culture and weather make it an ideal holiday destination. It is surrounded by the blue waters of Vembanad Lake, paddy fields of Kuttanad, and lush hills of the Western Ghats. The town itself was the first to attain 100% literacy in India and is the birthplace of Malayalam publishing. It also has an old tradition of Syrian Christianity and house beautiful churches and seminaries.
Backwaters – Kumarakom & Allepy
The backwaters of Kerala aptly add to its reputation as ’God’s own Country’ and offer a unique unforgettable experience to travelers. The labyrinthine network of brackish lagoons weaves through lush vegetation and villages, offering glimpses into rural lifestyle. The best way to enjoy the picture perfect coconut-fringed backwaters is to take a laidback houseboat tour, meandering through the canals while enjoying Kerala cuisine cooked on-board & relaxing with traditional Ayurvedic therapies & yogic treatments.
Situated at an altitude of 1600 meters above sea level in the Western Ghats, Munnar is a quaint town surrounded by sprawling tea, coffee and cardamom Once a summer retreat of the British, this popular honeymoon destination lies at the confluence of three mountain streams and the picturesque beauty of this enchanting land includes misty rolling hills, sparkling waterfalls, beautiful hamlets and lush valleys.
Mahabalipuram is an ancient town on the Coromandel Coast and was a bustling seaport for many centuries. It boasts of various historic monuments including the Five Raths (horse chariots) of the Pandavas, built largely between the 7th and the 9th centuries, and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The beauty & charm of Mahabalipuram is not only due to these architectural wonders but also encompasses vast casuarinas trees, silvery sandy beaches & classical hand male crafts which add to its collective splendor.
Kovalam means a grove of coconut trees and true to its name the erstwhile quaint village offers an endless sight of them. It is also known as ‘Paradise of the South’ for its crescent-shaped sandy beaches, flanked by rocky promontories and coconut palm groves which became famous from the 1970’s after being discovered as part of the “Hippie Trails’.
Periyar National Park is considered as one of the best managed wildlife reserves in India and is famous as a safe haven for elephants and tigers among other animal species. Set high in the Cardamom Hills and Pandalam Hills of the Western Ghats along the border with Tamil Nadu state, a unique feature of this park is that unlike other game sanctuaries, the observation & photography of wildlife is done here while traveling on the Periyar Lake in boats.
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