Tour: Tamil Nadu

Date: 3 - 15 Oct 2020

Duration: 13 Days

Sat 3 Oct - Day 1 - Chennai - Arrival Day

​Day 1 is arrival day in Chennai (formerly known as Madras). Chennai is the capital of Tamil Nadu and a fitting location to start our tour of the region. It is one of the most visited cities in India, as well as being one of the biggest economic and educational centres in South India. On arrival you will be collected from the airport and transferred to your hotel. The first meet up is at 17:00 in the foyer for an introduction to your tour leader and the rest of the group, followed by a stroll along Marina Beach before dinner.

Sun 4 Oct - Day 2 – Chennai

On day 2 we will leave early to photograph fishermen at work at the Royapuram Fishing Harbour (also known as Kasimedu Harbour). We will follow the fishing harbour with a visit to the local flower market, offering us a riot of colour and commotion. We will continue on for a stroll around the two oldest neighbourhoods in the city, making them great for street photography. During our walk we will include a visit to the 8th century Hindu Parthasarathy temple representing the Hindu God Krishna, the San Thome Basilica Cathedral, which if the sky is blue makes for a vibrant background to the churches white facade and finally we will close with a visit to Kapaleeshwarar temple, built in the 7th century and dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. Kapaleeshwarar temple is in the colourfully ornate Dravidian architecture found in Tamil Nadu and will serve as the subject for a sunset capture.

Mon 5 Oct - Day 3 - Chennai to Kanchipuram

On day 3 we will drive to Kanchipuram, which is equally known as the 'Temple and Silk Capital' of Tamil Nadu, due to having 126 temples within its boundaries and a well established community of hand loom weavers (est. 400 years), producing high quality silk saris from within their homes. Kanchipuram is also the home of an NGO called the Rural Institute for Development Education (RIDE). RIDE has produced profound results in reducing child labour numbers from 40,000 in 1997 to under 1000 in 2010, by educating local families and providing schools for children who were formally within the labour system. On day 4 we will join RIDE on a cultural and educational tour of Kanchipuram. The tour will include a visit to a silk weaving village, where we will have the opportunity to photograph weavers and their daily lives, whilst learning from RIDE about the challenges faced in sustaining a cottage industry within modern day India and a visit to one of its educational centres to learn firsthand about RIDE's own journey towards eradicating child labour. Following our tour with RIDE we will visit Vaikuntha Perumal temple built in Pallava style in the 13th century in honour of the Hindu God Vishnu and for sunset we will end with the oldest temple in Kanchipuram, Kailasanathar (Shiva) Temple built in the 8th century.

Tue 6 Oct - Day 4 - Kanchipuram to Mamallapuram via Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary

On day 4 we will set off early for Vedanthangal bird sanctuary, which will take approximately 1 hour. The Sanctuary covers 74 acres and was officially established in 1858, making it the oldest bird sanctuary in India. It attracts over 40,000 birds a year from all over the world, with peak season being from November to March. The most common types of birds are storks, pelicans and herons. We will spend the morning photographing at Vedanthangal before continuing to Mahabalipuram, which will take approximately 1h 20 mins. On arrival we will check into our hotel, before spending the remainder of the afternoon visiting an interesting collection of stone shrines. We will start with Arjuna's Penance, two monolithic boulders dating from the 7th century, with scenes from daily life intricately carved into a fascinating etching of Tamil Nadu's history. Following Arjuna's Penance we will visit the Pancha Rathas (five chariots), each of which is carved out of a single piece of stone and named after a hero from the Mahabharata (one of 2 epic Sanskrit poems). Our final stop will be the Shore Temple, which with its intricate detail and Bay of Bengal location, is the perfect subject for a dramatic sunset capture. 

Wed 7 Oct - Day 5 - Mamallapuram to Puducherry via Marakkanam Salt Pans

On day 5 there will be an optional sunrise capture of the shore temple. After checking out of our hotel we will drive for approximately 1h 25 mins to Marakkanam Salt Pans. Tamil Nadu is the 2nd largest producer of salt in India and the desert type terrain combined with those working the salt flats make for a stark landscape and insight into the hard labour that goes into delivering salt to our tables. Workers work for 6 months of the year on between 35 - 85 rupees per day (35p - 99p) under the shade less sun. Photography is a great medium to promote discussion and thought regarding fair trade objectives, how would you portray their story? Following the salt pans, we will continue our journey to Puducherry, a former French colonial seaside town, charmingly captured in the film the Life of Pi, where we will stay overnight. 

Thu 8 Oct - Day 6 - Puducherry to Chidambaram

On day 6 our sunrise capture will be of Puducherry's Old Port. Following breakfast we will spend the day exploring Puducherry, starting with the French Quarter. As Puducherry was under French rule up until 1954, the architecture is classically French and the French language is still spoken and used on signage. Whilst in the French Quarter we will stroll through Bharathi Park, with its lush green trees offering welcome canopies from the sun above. From here we will visit The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a catholic church built by French missionaries in the early 1900s. Following the French Quarter we will walk through Old Tamil Town, which also has a botanical garden dating back to 1826. On completion of our tour of Puducherry, we will drive approximately 1h 40 mins to Thillai Nataraja Temple, a classic Dravidian Hindu temple and one of 5 Shiva temples representing the 5 natural elements, ether, water, earth, wind and fire. This temple represents ether and will also serve as the location for our sunset capture.

Fri 9 Oct - Day 7 - Chidambaram to Thanjavur via Kumbakonam

On day 7 we will begin our journey to Thanjavur (Tanjore), after approximately 2 hours we will arrive at a town called Kumbakonam and visit the 15th century Mahamaham Temple Tank, which at 6.2 acres is the largest tank Tamil Nadu. Following the tank we will have a short 10 minute drive to Airavatesvara Temple, a 12th century Hindu Temple in Dravidian architecture and a UNESCO world heritage site. Moving on from Airavatesvara we will have another short drive to a small town called Swamimalai, renowned for producing bronze icons, which are often sold in Thanjavur. There are records going back over 1000 years, showing that ascendants of Swamimalai sculptors created the sculptures for both Airavatesvara Temple and the 11th century Brihadeshwara Temple in Thanjavur, one of the largest Chola temples in India. Following Swamimalai we will head on to Thanjavur for a sunset capture of the afore mentioned Brihadeshwara Temple exterior.

Sat 10 Oct - Day 8 - Thanjavur

On day 8 we will return to the 11th century Brihadeshwara Temple, which was created between 1003 and 1010 by the reigning monarch at the time Rajaraja, for a more thorough exploration of the complex and the surrounding streets. Apart from the Brihadeeswarar Temple, we will pop into Thanjavur’s Maratha Palace, which although in a dilapidated condition, elements of its former glory are still visible particularly the intricately decorated ceilings, arches and pillars within the Darbar hall. It also contains one of the oldest libraries in India, The Saraswathi Mahal Library, started in the 16th century, including some rare palm leaf manuscripts. As Thanjavur is known as the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu, and is an important agricultural region we will spend the remainder of the day photographing the surrounding country and riverside, including the regions rice paddy fields.

Sun 11 Oct - Day 9 - Thanjavur to Tiruchirappalli

On day 9 will drive approximately 1h 20 mins to Tiruchirappalli. On arrival we will visit Sri Ranganathaswamy temple compound, which spans 156 acres and houses 49 further shrines dedicated to Vishnu. It is said to be the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world, with Angkor Wat being the largest non functioning temple. There will also be an opportunity to explore bazaars in and around the complex. We will finish the day with a visit the Shiva temple Sri Jambukeshwara, representing water and a sunset capture of Rock Fort temple, which is set on a hill and has a panoramic view of Tiruchirappalli.

Mon 12 Oct - Day 10 - Tiruchirappalli (Trichy) to Madurai

On day 10 we will drive to Madurai, which will take approximately 2 hours. Madurai is one of the oldest cities in India, whose history is documented right through to the 3rd century BC and includes trading with the Romans at the height of its empire. As with many ancient cities it has been governed by a myriad of Cholas, Pandyas, Muslim sultans, Hindu Vijayanagara kings and Nayaks. The main attraction in Madurai is the Meenakshi Amman Temple complex, which was built by Thirumalai Nayak between 1623 and 1659. The complex contains 12 tall gopurams, displaying multiple miniature figurines and scenes in vivid colours (2 of which are pictured). The streets surrounding the complex are for pedestrians only and we can explore the colourful life and activity in and around the temple.  We will also visit the Gandhi museum dedicated to the life of this remarkable man whose life was dedicated to freeing India from British rule as well as the Thirumalai Nayak Palace.

Tue 13 Oct - Day 11 - Madurai to Kanyakumari via Thoothukudi

On day 11 we will drive to the southernmost point of India, Kanyakumari, for an iconic sunset capture of the 133 foot statue of the Tamil poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar, who is considered a saint and penned a divine text on morality and ethics somewhere between the 3rd and 1st century BC. The statue is situated on a small island on the Coromandel coast, where the Arabian Sea converges with the Bay of Bengal. As the direct journey time from Madurai to Kanyakumari is approximately 3h 40 mins without traffic. We will break up the journey by stopping at the first point of interest, Thoothukudi port, which is 2 h 20 mins from Madurai. Thoothukudi is a classic working port, with large cargo ships being off loaded using giant cranes, fishing vessels and men going about their daily duties. Following Thoothukudi we will continue our journey south stopping off at Tirunelveli before finally reaching our destination Kanyakumari, where we will check into our hotel and stroll to the coast to set up for sunset capture.

Wed 14 Oct - Day 12 - Kanyakumari to Kovalam - Rest Day

On day 12 we will drive to Kovalam and check into our beach side resort. Today you have a completely free day by the beach to recharge before your journey home the following day. You can use this day as you please, laze on the beach, develop photos or enjoy the hotel facilities.

Web 15 Oct - Departure Day - Transfer to Trivandrum Airport (allow 3 hour transfer time)

Day 13 is the end of this tour and check out day from the hotel.  In terms of booking flights we advise booking your flight out of Trivandrum airport on 17 Mar 2017 in line with a latest check out time of 11 am. The airport is between 2h 30 mins and 3 hours drive from Kovalam. Once you have booked your flight email us the details and we will liaise with the hotel with regards to booking your transfer to the Trivandrum airport.

The ethical bit...

For each tour we select a charity that works in the area we visit to donate £25 per person to. For this tour we have selected an NGO called The Rural Institute for Development Education (RIDE), which was set up in 1997, to address human rights and gender equality, through education, self-empowerment initiatives and resources, particularly for women and children in poor rural communities. Through its engagement and surveys of local communities it discovered there were approximately 40,000 children working within the child labour system in the textile industry and has worked diligently to educate families and create educational centres for these children, and in so doing reducing child labour numbers to under 1000 in 2010. If you would like to discover more about this charity please do not hesitate to visit their website www.rideindia.org.  

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