President’s Pick: Southern India’s Vijaynagar Empire

"I have always been fascinated with the southern part of India, especially the heritage that dates back to the 6th and 7th century. When I use the phrase ‘the space between’, I am often talking about India and about the locations in this itinerary. They represent India beyond the Maharajas, they represent a different segment of Hinduism and Buddhism. This region of India also represents the best example of sustainable tourism, offering you a window into what India could become."

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President's Pick: Southern India's Vijaynagar Empire President’s Picks

(Countries Visited)


(Interest Type(s))

Adventure Travel

(Tour Length)

14 Days

Tour Highlights

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  • PP FINAL web smDiscover the city of Bangalore with its 16th-cnetury Tipu’s Palace, the original mud-brick fort built, and Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, regarded as one of the most richly diverse botanical gardens in South Asia; and experience Mysore during a bicycle tour along the narrow alleyways through neighborhoods and past historic colonial structures
  • Take in Chikmagalur, the first area in India to plant coffee and it offers the best of the Western Ghats
  • Explore the rich history of Hampi, seat of the fabled 14th-century Vijaynagar Empire, which created an epoch in South Indian history that transcended New copyregionalism
  • See the fascinating Cave Temples of Badami, dating from the late 6th to 7th centuries; and visit the small town Aihole, featuring about 125 stone temples dating from 5th century
  • Delve into the local cuisine of Goa, where food is a way of life, and this culinary adventure helps you understand the basics of this renowned cuisine, the spices that go into making BigFive_Frog_Icon webeach flavorful and well-known fish curry or vindaloo

Day 1: Bangalore, India
Welcome to Bangalore! After clearing immigration and customs, you are greeted by our representative, who assists you with your transfer and check in at your hotel. Taj West End – Luxury Grande Room

Day 2: Bangalore / Mysore
After breakfast, enjoy a look at the city of Bangalore. Tipu’s Palace lies within the original mud-brick fort built by Kempe Gowda in 1537. The palace dates back to 1790. This two-story structure is made mostly of wood with finely embellished balconies, pillars and arches. Lalbagh Botanical Gardens is regarded as one of the most richly diverse botanical gardens in South Asia. The southern part of the city was laid out by Haider Ali in 1740, and spreads across 97 hectares/240 acres. Many of its tropical plants were brought here by Haider Ali's son Tipu Sultan. Cubbon Park was developed in 1864 by Richard Sankey, the chief engineer of Mysore. Continue your drive to Mysore, about four hours, and check into your hotel. Royal Orchid Metropole Heritage Room (B)

Day 3: Mysore
Begin your day at the 125-year-old market that encompasses more than 700 stalls. Then visit Mysore City Palace, designed by an English architect and completed in 1912. A part of the palace is still occupied by the former maharaja from the Wodeyar family. Built in Indo-Sacracenic style with domes, turrets, arches and colonnades, the palace is a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world. The collection of stained glass, mirrors and intricately carved rosewood doors inlaid with ivory is magnificent. Drive to Chamundi Hill on the outskirts of Mysore, a famous city landmark. About halfway up the hill is the famous Nandi Bull statue, which was carved out of a single boulder in 1659. It is 7.62 meters/25 feet wide and 4.9 meters/16 feet high. On top of the hill is the Chamundeshwari Temple that was built in the 11th century. You can opt for additional activities, including a guided walk in the heart of Mysore, a perfect introduction to the city, its British colonial history, and the contributions made by the maharajas that contributed to this city. Or, you can opt for an early morning cycle tour of the city. This is great fun and offers a different point of view. Cycle through the city as it wakes up and travel along narrow alleys and through communities to get a real feel for the city. You pass through grand colonial structures to find the stories behind them. This evening is at leisure for shopping or relaxing. The city enchants you with its quaint charm, verdant gardens, tree lined boulevards and sacred temples. It is widely famous for its palaces, silk sarees and local cuisine. Royal Orchid Metropole Heritage Room (B)

Day 4: Mysore / Chikmagalur
This morning after breakfast, drive to Chikmagalur, about four hours, and check into your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Nestled in the Baba Budan Hills, Chikmagalur is a serene town with hills, valleys, streams and coffee plantations. This was the first place in India where coffee was planted. It is a trekker's delight due to its rugged mountain trails, valleys and fresh water streams, and offers the best of the Western Ghats with wildlife, ancient temples and forts. The Serai – Estate Villa with Private Pool (B)

Day 5: Chikmagalur
This morning, begin visiting temples at Belur and Halebid, two towns built in the early 12th century some 16 kilometers/10 miles apart by people of the Hoysala Empire. They were patrons of arts and architecture, and built massive temples that have survived the ravages of time. Some of the sculptures are so exotic, erotic and eloquent that you almost expect them to speak or move. Halebid was the capital of the Hoysalas until it was destroyed in the early 14th century by attacks from the armies of Malik Kafur. The Hoysaleshwara Temple survived the pillage, but was never completed, even after 87 years of uninterrupted construction. The temple is dedicated to Shiva and has two enormous Nandi bulls at the entrance. The town is renowned for its Chennakeshava Temple, one of the finest examples of Hoysala workmanship. This afternoon is at leisure. The Serai – Estate Villa with Private Pool (B)

Day 6: Chikmagalur / Hampi
This morning after breakfast, drive about six hours to Hampi, stopping at the town of Chitradurga before continuing on to Hampi and your hotel. Orange County (B,D)

Days 7 & 8: Hampi
After breakfast, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi on the south bank of Tungabhadra River. The ruins of 14th century Hampi are all that remain of the seat of the fabled city of Vijaynagar kings. The empire was established in 1336 by Harihara I and his brother Bukka Raya I of Sangama Dynasty, and rose to power as a result of attempts by the southern powers to fend off Islamic invasions by the end of the 13th century. It lasted until 1646, although lost much of its power due to a military defeat in 1565. The empire is named after its capital city of Vijayanagara, whose ruins surround present day Hampi, in Karnataka. Archaeological excavations here have provided information about the power and wealth of the empire. Its legacy includes monuments spread across South India, the best known of which is the group at Hampi. Older temple-building traditions in South India came together in what is recognized as the Vijayanagara Architecture style, which encompassed a blending of religious and secular architectural advances in Hindu temple construction. Trade brought new ideas and technologies such as water management systems for irrigation. Under the empire’s patronage, fine arts and literature flourished, and Carnatic music evolved into its current form. The Vijayanagara Empire created an epoch in South Indian history that transcended regionalism by promoting Hinduism as a unifying factor.

It stretches across 26 sq. km/10 sq. mi on a spectacular barren and boulder-strewn landscape. Protected by a tempestuous river in the north and rocky granite ridges on the other three sides, the ruins silently narrate the story of grandeur and fabulous wealth. The splendid remains of palaces and gateways tell a tale of man’s infinite talent and power of creativity. The 16th century Vitthala Temple is a grand religious monument and the highlight is the great open hall, built on a low platform and supported by intricately carved pillars. The superb Hazara Rama Temple, built in the 15th century, has its outer walls covered with friezes that depict the ceremonies and parades. Around the temple are excavated remains of palaces, baths and a hundred-columned audience hall. Narasimha Monolith was carved out of a single boulder in 1528, and it portrays inspiring image of Lord Vishnu in his half man and half lion incarnation. Boulder Resort   Cottage (B,D)

Day 9: Hampi / Badami
This morning, you set out for Badami and on arrival check into your hotel. This afternoon, discover the fascinating Cave Temples of Badami accompanied by your guide. These fascinating caves encompass four caves, all carved into the soft sandstone cliffs in the late 6th to 7th centuries. The planning of the caves is simple. The entrance is a verandah featuring stone columns and brackets, that leads to a columned main hall, and then into the small shrine cut deep into the cave. The temples are linked by stepped path with intermediate terraces that offer spectacular views across the town and lake. The architecture includes structures built in Nagara style and Dravidian style. An important element of historical heritage here are inscriptions in old Kannada script. There is also the fifth natural cave temple in Badami – a Buddhist temple in natural cave that can be entered kneeling on all fours. Badami Court – Suite (B,D)

Day 10: Badami / Aihole / Badami
Today you explore Aihole, a small town that time seems to have overlooked. On the Malprabha River, its fortifications encircle much of the town and within that is a historic complex of ancient sandstone temples. They feature Chalukyan architecture and consist of about 125 stone temples dating from 5th century. Some brick structures from pre-Chalukyan times have also been excavated here. The largest and finest monument is the Durga Temple, built between the 7th and the 8th centuries. Continue to Pattadakal, a sacred complex set on the banks of the river. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its superb 8th century temples are a fitting climax to the artistic achievements of the Chalukya kings. It was the capital of the Chalukya Dynasty of Karnataka in Southern India between the 6th and 8th centuries. The Chalukyas built many temples here between the 7th and 8th century, with ten temples that include a Jain sanctuary surrounded by numerous small shrines and plinths in a fusion of Indian architectural styles. The ancient temples are simply inspiring. Badami Court – Suite (B,D)

Day 11: Badami / Goa
Today you drive to Goa, and check into your hotel. Famous for its white sand beaches and hypnotic sunsets, Goa is renowned as India’s most irresistible destination. The region’s easygoing ambience, good food and climate make it a popular spot to unwind. Goa combines Old Portuguese architecture with a history that abounds in Indian mythology. The Leela – Premier Conservatory (B)

Day 12: Goa
Today you are free to pursue your own interests, or simply relax and recharge at this luxury five-star hotel, with its pristine beach, a 12-hole, par 3 golf course and world class dining. The Spa offers Ayurvedic spa treatments with an in-house Ayurveda doctor and trained spa therapists. They also offer a full menu of Eastern and Western spa treatments as well as daily yoga and well-being sessions, a fully equipped gym, steam rooms and saunas. The Leela – Premier Conservatory (B)

Day 13: Goa
This morning explore Goa with your guide. After breakfast, drive to Dona Paula, an idyllic spot that overlooks the magnificent harbor of Marmagoa. Then continue on to Panjim via Miramar Beach. In 1843, Panjim, a small fishing village, became the new capital of Goa by royal decree of the Portuguese court in Lisbon. Old Goa is home to the Basilica of Bom Jesus, where the remains of St. Francis Xavier are kept in a silver casket entombed in a marble mausoleum in the Florentine style. Goa’s countryside is dotted with grand colonial mansions, built by the wealthy land-owning Goan gentry who prospered in the 18th and 19th centuries. The homes were built in the traditional style of the region but the furniture was largely European such as Belgian chandeliers, Venetian cut-glass, gilded mirrors, Baroque-style rosewood furniture and Chinese porcelain. Visit Palacio Dos Deao, a 213-year-old mansion built by a Portuguese nobleman, who was the dean of the church and founder of Quepem Town. The house sits on the banks of Kushavati River, and is noted for its blend of elements of Hindu and Portuguese architecture. The lush gardens have preserved their historical features. The Menezes Braganza House is Goa’s grandest and oldest colonial mansion. This enormous house has been handed down through nine generations, and is still run by the same family, members of which personally show you around.

You can take an optional excursion to a spice plantation to learn about the two types of crops. The dry land crops consist of timber trees, traditional medicinal plants, mangoes, pineapples, peppers, cashew and jackfruit trees and bamboo bushes. The wet land crops include spices, betel nuts, coconuts, banana, papaya, chickoo and a variety of local flowers like love apple. On a walk through the plantation, you learn about the surrounding nature and the Goan traditional methods of organic farming. The “sarasvat-kitchen” offers typical Goan Hindu cuisine served in mud pots with banana leaf plates. The lady of the house is the master chef whose hands blend the masalas, powdered spices. If you are a serious foody, you can choose to spend the day exploring local cuisine, including a cooking class, one of the easiest ways to get to know the real Goa. Food is a way of life in this part of India to the extent that you can say that you know a Goan only after sitting at his table. This culinary adventure helps you understand the basics of this renowned cuisine, the spices that go into making each flavorful fish curry or vindaloo, which have become famous all over the world. Discover the fish, fruit and vegetable markets and purchase ingredients you will use later. After the chef provides a cooking demonstration, then you step up to try your hand. The end result is a sumptuous meal shared with a Goan family in their home.

Goan sunsets are famous. Experience this daily event on a romantic boat ride in the Arabian Sea, sipping champagne and sampling canapes served to you by your personal maître d’. You may also see graceful dolphins splashing about against the backdrop of the pink and orange sky. The Leela – Premier Conservatory (B)

Day 14: Goa / Depart
After breakfast, you will be met at the hotel and transferred to the airport to board your flight you’re your journey home. (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$450 per person per day.  Inter India air additiomal. Holiday surcharges apply from December 27th 2016 to January 7th,  2017.


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