2019 Annular Eclipse Tour of South India

Escorted or Guided Tour India
2019 Annular Eclipse Tour of South India
Brimming with natural splendor and cultural diversity, South India is a mystical land of rock-hewn temples, palm-fringed shores, and fragrant spices. Fall under the spell of this captivating region as you journey from multicultural Chennai to the enchanting backwaters of Kerala, stopping to unveil the architectural wonders of Mahabalipuram, meet with locals in their fishing villages and tribal homes. Join them in the local markets, farms and fairs or even on pilgrimage in Coimbatore. Experience the culture, religion and history of this region and discover its small rural towns, quaint fishing villages and scented spice plantations along with the annular eclipse.

10 days visiting: Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram, Coimbatore, Thrissur, Kochi, Backwaters houseboat stay
+ Extension to Sri Lanka

LAND TOUR: $3,145.00 per person sharing

Single: $ $3,855.00

Trip Includes:

  • Hotel accommodations as listed or similar with private bath/shower
  • Daily breakfasts at the hotels, Lunches and dinners as listed in the itinerary (B- Breakfast, L- Lunch & D- Dinner). Vegetarian and special dietary needs arranged upon written request.
  • Transfers and tours as listed by AC Bus
  • Private eclipse viewing arrangements- chairs, tables, hot/cold beverages and snacks served during the eclipse
  • Pre Eclipse site inspection, briefing, lecture/s by our Astronomy expert/s and dinner.
  • Post Eclipse report by our eclipse expert and celebratory dinner
  • Services of local English speaking guide during sightseeing tours and excursions
  • Entrance fees to monuments, guide & driver fees, Parking etc.
  • Services of an expert Tour Manager
  • Astronomy lectures by a well-known astronomer- Prof. Jay Pasachoff
  • Travel Documents- provide one month or more prior to departure
  • Eclipse viewing glasses
  • Eclipse Traveler t-shirt & memorabilia

ITINERARY

Day 1- Dec. 21, SAT: Arrive Chennai (Madras)
Upon arrival at Chennai, on completion with immigration, luggage collection and custom clearance please proceed to the exit where you will be met by A Classic Tours Collection’s representative and transferred to the hotel. Chennai formerly referred to as Madras or Madarasapatinam in Tamil that grew around Fort St. George, constructed by the British in 1640. The region around Chennai served as an important administrative, military and economic centre since the 1st century. Rest of the day is at leisure to adjust to time difference and rest after a long flight.
This evening’s meet fellow tour members, briefing by our Tour Manager is followed by Welcome Dinner including a cultural program at the hotel

Day 2- Dec. 22, SUN: City tour
After Breakfast, embark on a half day city tour, visiting at Fort St. George, built in 1653 by the British East India Company. Continue to the Government Museum, established in 1851. The objects displayed cover a variety of artifacts including archaeology, numismatics, zoology, natural history, sculptures, palm-leaf manuscripts and Amravati paintings. It is also a designated ‘Manuscript Conservation Centre’ (MCC) under the National Mission for manuscripts established in 2003. Proceed to San Thome Cathedral built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers and re-built by the British as a cathedral in 1893. This evening, a lady tailor will meet with you at the hotel to measure you for your own sari blouse!.

This afternoon, visit Kalakshetra, officially known as the Kalakshetra Foundation, art and cultural academy dedicated to the preservation of traditional values in Indian art and crafts, especially in the field of Bharatnatyam dance and Gandharvaveda music. The academy was founded in January 1936 by Rukmini Devi Arundale. We will embark on a fun shopping spree for a Keralite sari and souvenirs. Continue to Naam Foundation, formed in 2010 by Maniratnam, a film director and his wife, Suhasini. Neglected women in the community including widows, unmarried women and single mothers are given an opportunity to learn a trade and their children are provided with free education. Free physical and mental health care is provided to the women and their family members. Stay overnight at the hotel. Rain Tree Annasalai (Deluxe Room) B, L


Day 3- Dec. 23, MON: Chennai /Dakshin Chitra/ Mahabalipuram
After breakfast, travel overland to Mahabalipuram, roughly a 1 ½ hour drive. En route, visit Dakshina Chitra. It was initially established as an institution, celebrating the myriad cultures of Southern India. Inspired by the artisans and folk artists of the villages, Dr. Deborah Thiagarajan, set out to found the Madras Craft Foundation (MCF) in 1984. The museum houses a collection of books and journals pertaining to arts, crafts, performance, anthropology and folklore of South India. The museum highlights the cultural aspects of Brahminical people and the craft traditions of heritage homes of South India. Continue to Cholamandalam Artist Village, named after the Chola dynasty, known to have encouraged the arts, ruled the region from the 9th to the 13th century AD. Cholamandalam means the “realm of the Cholas.” Established in 1966, is the largest artists’ commune in India. Its artists are credited for the Madras Movement of Art (1950s-1980s), bringing modernism to South Indian art. Their work is widely recognized as some of the best art produced in postwar India and exhibited regularly in galleries across the country. Several Cholamandal artists have been showcased in Europe, the United States and South America. Proceed to Mahabalipuram, where you will be transferred to the hotel. Mahabalipuram was a 7th-century port city of the Pallava dynasty. The name Mamallapuram is believed to have been named after the Pallava King, Narasimhavarman I, who took on the epithet Maha-malla (great wrestler), as their favorite sport was wrestling. This afternoon, visit Arjuna’s Penance (Bass Relief), a giant open-air relief carved out of a monolithic rock. The monuments and sanctuaries were built by the Pallava kings in the 7th and 8th centuries. Next, see the Five Rathas or Pancha Rathas, an example of monolith Indian rock cut architecture dating from the late 7th century. Proceed to the famous Shore Temples (700-728 AD), so named as it overlooks the Bay of Bengal. It is a structural temple, built with blocks of granite, dating from the 8th century AD. It is the earliest important structural temple in Southern India. Ideal Beach Resort (Deluxe Room) B, D


Day 4- Dec. 24, TUE:  Kanchipuram Excursion
After breakfast, embark on an excursion to Kanchipuram, one of the oldest cities in South India. It was a city of learning for Tamil, Sanskrit and Pali. It is believed that Xuanzang (Huan Tsang) also known as Yuan Chwang visited this city. It was during the reign of the Pallava dynasty, 4th to the 9th centuries that Kanchipuram gained its fame. First stop will be at Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Hastagiri or Attiyuran, dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is one of the Divya Desams, the 108 temples of Vishnu believed to have been visited by the 12 poet saints or Alwars. The temple was originally built by the Cholas in 1053 and expanded during the reigns of the great Chola kings, Kulottunga Chola I and Vikrama Chola. Continue to Ekambareswarar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is one of the most ancient in India has been in existence since at least 600 AD. Initially, the temple was built by the Pallavas. Housed within the temple is the sthala-virutcham, a 3,500-year-old mango tree whose branches, said to yield four different types of mangoes. Proceed to a weaving center, a family owned business to see how Kanchipuram silk saris are created and the reason why they are famous worldwide. After lunch, visit a Sculpture Studio, to learn and understand the finer details relating to sculpting including an interactive session with a Sthapati (temple architect). Rest of the afternoon is free to explore the town on own or simply relax by the beach. Ideal Beach Resort (Deluxe Room) B, L 

AFTERNOON TOUR OPTION- take a half day optional tour of Pondicherry. 

Day 5- Dec. 25, WED: Mahabalipuram/Chennai/Coimbatore
Breakfast at Hotel and spend the morning at the beach. Retrace your steps back to Chennai and board flight to Coimbatore our base for Annular eclipse. Located in the foothills of the Nilgiri, Coimbatore is an industrial city an important textile-manufacturing centre, referred to as ’Manchester of South India’. Coimbatore’s history dates back to the 2nd century AD when it was a small tribal village called Kongunad. The first of the early Cholas, Karikalan brought Kongunad under Chola control. The Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas. Pandyas and the Vijayanagara have all ruled over the city. British changed its name to Coimbatore. The city’s proximity to the Nilgiri hills imparts a pleasant climate. This evening join fellow tour members celebrating Christmas, pre eclipse briefing by our eclipse expert and Dinner. THE VIVANTA SURYA HOTEL B, D

During our stay at Coimbatore we will visit: Perur Temple, built by Karikala Cholan, this temple is dedicated to Lord Siva. The exquisite sculptures in the hall, Kanagasabi attract visitors from all over the world. The Marudhamalai Temple, popular for the miracles that the resident deity is believed to have performed.

Coimbatore is also home to Isha Foundation a non-profit, spiritual organization The Isha Yoga Center does not ascribe to any particular faith or belief system. Isha’s activities: from its powerful yoga programs to its inspiring social and environmental projects have become thriving models for human empowerment and community revitalization throughout the world. This integral approach has gained worldwide recognition, reflected in Isha’s Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. The Center is dedicated to fostering inner transformation and creating an established state of wellbeing in individuals. Established as a center for inner growth, it is unique in its offering of all the four paths of yoga – gnana (knowledge), karma (action), Kriya (energy) and bhakti (devotion).

A visit to Isha foundation will be arranged depending on participants interest and the center’s schedule, availability etc.

Day 6- Dec. 26, THU: Annular Eclipse
The eclipse begins at 8:06 am local time when the Moon first appears to touch the edge of the solar disc. Actual annularity will occur at 9:29 am. The partial eclipse ends at 11:11 am.  As seen from the center of the eclipse path in this region about 3 minutes 14 seconds of annularity will be seen; At maximum, the Sun will be located about 35 degrees above the southeast horizon. Evening, enjoy Gala Dinner along with cultural program and post-eclipse briefing by our eclipse expert. THE VIVANTA SURYA HOTEL B, D

Day 7- Dec. 27, FRI: Coimbatore/ Pallakad/ Thrissur/ Kochi
After an early breakfast travel overland to Kochi stopping enroute to visit Pallakad fort, commonly known as Tipu’s Fort. Built by Haider Ali in 1766 AD, the fort campus houses Hanuman (Anjaneya) Temple, which will surely leave you spellbound with its unique interiors. The sober majesty of the Fort walls reminds one of the old tales of valor and courage. Presently, the fort is serene, filled with art and offers a spectacular view of the surrounding area. Next visit the Rock garden, housing impressive mosaics, sculptures, and artworks which are conceived utilizing waste like broken crockery, electrical fittings, glass bangles, bathroom tiles, wash basins and bicycle frames etc.. Scenes depicted from Kathakali, Theyyam, Kalaripayattu, Thiruvathirakali, the Mahabali legend, a royal procession of kings in a palanquin, and a scene of a boat race are the major highlights of the park. Our next stop is Kalpathy Heritage Village and Temple complex. Inside the temple complex, one can see the Viswanathaswamy temple, an architectural wonder dating back to 1425. Other then the architecture distinction, the place holds a strong connect with the scholars, musicians and scientists. The residents of this village were well-known scholars of Vedas and Shastras and priests well-versed in their profession. Continue to Thrissur for Lunch.

After lunch visit Punathur Kotta, the largest elephant park in the world with over 60 elephants. All donated by the devotees of Guruvayurappan temple. The elephant race and the feast for elephants are a few of the unique features that take place during the year. Also visit Vadakkekara Palace, reconstructed in Kerala-Dutch style in 1795 by Sri. Ramavarma Thampuran of the erstwhile Princely State of Cochin, the Sakthan Thampuran (Greatest ruler of the Cochin dynasty). Time permitting we will stop at the Archaeological & Art museum which has a good collection of wood carvings, metal sculptures and ancient jewelry. Continue to Kochi or Cochin dubbed as ‘God’s Own Country’. Its strategic importance over the centuries is underlined by the sobriquet Queen of the Arabian Sea also referred to as the Gateway to Kerala. From time immemorial, the Arabs, British, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese have left indelible marks on the history and development of Cochin. THE KILLIANS HOTEL B, L

Day 8- Dec. 28, SAT: Kochi (Cochin)
After breakfast, Begin your tour visiting: the Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1557; St. Francis Church, originally built in 1503, is the oldest European church in India and has historical significance as a silent witness to the European colonial struggle in the subcontinent. Next, visit Santa Cruz Basilica, initially constructed by the Portuguese and elevated to a Cathedral by Pope Paul IV in 1558, was spared by the Dutch conquerors, having destroyed many Catholic buildings. Later, the British demolished the structure and Bishop João Gomes Ferreira commissioned a new building in 1887. Consecrated in 1905, Santa Cruz was proclaimed a Basilica by the Pope John Paul II in 1984. See the Chinese Fishing Nets that are fixed land installations for an unusual form of fishing, shore operated lift nets. It is believed the Chinese Fishing Nets were introduced by Chinese explorer, Zheng He, who was from the court of Emperor Kublai Khan. Embark on a short tuk tuk (auto rickshaw) to Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations, built in 1568 by the Malabar Yehudan people or Cochin Jewish community in the Kingdom of Cochin. Paradesi is a word used in several Indian languages, means foreigners since it was historically used by White Jews, a mixture of Jews from Cranganore, the Middle East and European exiles. The synagogue is located in the quarter of old Cochin known as Jew Town and is the only one of the seven synagogues in the area currently in use.

Our afternoon is free to explore the city on our own. This evening, enjoy a Kathakali dance drama performance. THE KILLIANS HOTEL B, D

Day 9- Dec. 29, SUN: COCHIN Backwater Cruise and Houseboat Stay


Travel to Alleppey and board your houseboat. The backwaters are a gateway for visitors to see first-hand the unhurried village life of rural Kerala, where life is tough, and traditional work is labour intensive. The Vembanad Lake, narrow canals, paddy fields and sleepy villages make Alleppey a beautiful place. Vembanad Lake is the longest in India and is the commercial center of Allappuzha. This evening, witness an incredible sunset (subject to weather) as you silently glide through the various water canals. Look out for a variety of birds such as the white- breasted kingfisher, pied kingfisher and the small blue kingfisher. HOUSE BOAT B,L,D

Day 10- Dec. 30, MON: Depart Kochi (Cochin) 
Wake up to the sounds of bird’s, enjoy a relaxing breakfast before disembarking from the boat and transfer to Kochi where day rooms are provided at a Hotel near the airport. Board your international flight or take an extension to other parts of India, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka.

OPTIONAL: SRI LANKA EXTENSION

English sailors, Dutch traders, Portuguese spice merchants – each called Sri Lanka home. Each left behind a colonial legacy that calls this place the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Home to a range of landscapes, each more exotic than the next, it’s predominantly Buddhist spirituality mingles with the remnants of its history in the spice trade.

LAND TOUR: $2,160.00 per person sharing

Single: $ $2,625.00

Trip Includes:

  • Hotel accommodations as listed or similar with private bath/shower
  • Daily breakfasts at the hotels, Lunches and dinners as listed in the itinerary (B- Breakfast, L- Lunch & D- Dinner). Vegetarian and special dietary needs arranged upon written request.
  • Transfers and tours as listed by AC Bus
  • Private eclipse viewing arrangements- chairs, tables, hot/cold beverages and snacks served during the eclipse
  • Pre-eclipse site inspection, briefing, lecture/s by our Astronomy expert/s and dinner.
  • Post Eclipse report by our eclipse expert and celebratory dinner
  • Services of local English speaking guide during sightseeing tours and excursions
  • Entrance fees to monuments, guide & driver fees, parking etc.
  • Services of an expert Tour Manager
  • Astronomy lectures by a well-known astronomer- Prof. Jay Pasachoff
  • Travel Documents- provide one month or more prior to departure
  • Eclipse viewing glasses
  • Eclipse Traveler t-shirt & memorabilia

Day 10- Dec. 30, MON: COLOMBO- Negombo- SRI LANKA
Walk through markets or try Ayurvedic massage therapy and spa facilities. Enjoy Keralite cuisine, served the traditional way on banana leaf or thali for lunch on own at a local restaurant. Later transfer to airport for flight to Colombo. Meeting assistance by A Classic tours collection representative and transfer to Hotel at Negombo beach. Rest of the day is free to enjoy the beach and other Hotel facilities. JETWING SEA HOTEL B, D

Day 11- Dec. 31, TUE: CULTURAL TRIANGLE- Dambula, Minneriya National Park & Habrana
Breakfast at the Hotel. Travel to Sigiriya visiting Dambula enroute. In the city of Dambulla lies a hub which has been treasured by many kings since the 1st century B.C. Today, an icon in the face of Sri Lanka, Dambulla Rock Temple houses some of the most unique drawings in magnificently constructed 5 cave temples flanking the golden temple of Dambulla. Observe how exquisitely cave paintings are done along walls that shelter 150 statues of Lord Buddha. As you enter the retreat, look straight up to the gigantic Buddha statue glittering in gold over a land, which today houses an important junction in the country’s economic and cultural uplifting. Arrive in Sigiriya in time for lunch (on own). Check into Hotel and rest before embarking on an evening game drive at Minneriya National Park.

If you’re up for a serious rumble in the jungle, then Minneriya is your Coliseum! Spreading over 8800 hectares, this is a sanctuary for elephants. Minneriya is home to herds of deer and ample birdlife, but its spotlight remains between swaying trunks & flapping ears. Park your jeep on the bank of the reservoir and switch off its engine. Watch carefully as herds of elephants – one by one – roll on to the grass-covered banks, to feed on tender shoots. In fact, this is the largest elephant gathering in the world – over 300 at a time – which has garnished the park to become a magnet for wildlife enthusiasts across the globe.  HABARANA VILLAGE HOTEL B, D

Day 12- Jan. 1, WED: CULTURAL TRIANGLE- Anuradhapura & Polonnaruwa
After Breakfast visit the ancient city of Anuradhapura. Commanding a rich Sri Lankan heritage, Anuradhapura is one of the greatest and oldest civilizations in the world starring 113 kings & spanning over 1300 years in its peak – avows of being the greatest city of ancient Sri Lanka. The sapphire of its crown is certainly the Sri Maha Bodhi – the sacred Bo sapling extracted from the tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment – standing more than 2200 years in its pride. Stroll through the sacred trails of the venerated city to adore the legacy that interweaves Ruwanweliseya – the gigantic dagoba resting alongside the Basawakkulama Tank – shading the Samadhi Buddha Statue & Isurumuniya Rock Temple that empower the culture, heritage and supremacy of arguably the strongest kingdom in Sri Lankan history.

After lunch, visit Polonnaruwa, the ancient City, rising with the decline of Anuradhapura,. The medieval capital & crown jewel of King Parakramabahu I remains superior proof of ancient culture & heritage blended with religious beliefs. Walk across its scattered walls of the World Heritage Site blessed by stupas, resting Buddha statues, irrigation canals and fantastically carved Hindu sculptures, while observing the relic house of Watadage: which boasts of beautiful stone carvings. Take a close glance and you will realize a subtle Hindu influence on architecture and statues found in Polonnaruwa. Or sit by the side of Galviharaya and observe the absolute beauty gushing out of every bend of its huge Buddhist statues. Nissankamalla Council Chamber is, however, a head-spinning beauty to just sit back and observe with its swaying pillars reminding the aesthetics of a powerful kingdom which rests beside Parakrama Samudraya. sea of Parakramabahu & masterpiece of irrigation! HABARANA VILLAGE HOTEL B, L

Day 13- Jan. 2, THU: Habarana / Kandy
Breakfast at Hotel. Visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress, the 5th-century rock citadel of King Kasyapa and World Heritage Site. Sigiriya doesn’t only boasts of ancient Sri Lankan engineering & urban planning supremacy but also acclaims to be one of the finest monuments of art & culture. Step through the gigantic ‘Lion Paws’ overlooking the symmetrical royal gardens below to comprehend the absolute splendour that once dominated this rock fortress. Surrounded by ramparts & moats the Lion Rock resembling the mythological ‘City of Gods’ is coated by frescoes that relate to Gupta style paintings found in Ajanta caves of India. Walk in the shade of an eminent ‘mirror wall’ embracing the Western face of Sigiriya representing an artistic hundred meters laminated with graffiti. Wander into the well-fabricated museum downstairs for an epic journey of yesteryears to realize how the citadel floated above citizens with the castle, ponds and irrigation systems that pumped water right onto its summit with an ingenious hydraulic system describing a colossal masterpiece of the great king which remained a wonder in Asia for centuries.

En-route to Kandy, visit a Spice Garden in Matale, an agricultural zone in the Central Province, Matale seldom drops off the maps due to its remarkable contribution through flagship crops of the island extending from tea, rubber & vegetables to spices. Spearheading the Rebellion back in 1848, Matale today takes immense pride in its story woven around spices. Stop by the side of a spice garden to observe the therapeutic values of spices & processes over a refreshing cup of herbal tea! Arrive in Kandy and check-in at HOTEL CINNAMON CITADEL B,L

Day 14- Jan. 3, FRI: Kandy & Surroundings
After Breakfast, visit Kandy Temple of Tooth Relic and Kandy City Tour. Last ruled by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe & before it was brought under the British rule in 1815. Kandy the World Heritage Site & last royal capital of Sri Lankan kings crafts an array of culture, history and heritage in the minds of visitors across the globe. Experience an ancient Kandyan legacy engraved around its crown jewel, the temple of the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha. A stroll across this small lakeside town cradled among the misty hills features the Kandy City Centre. Bundled with latest and world-class brands, bazaar, an arts & crafts centre, as well as a gem museum & lapidary walk in color as you glide through fresh fruits and vegetables in the Kandy market. Next visit Gadaladeniya. No other Sri Lankan village matches authentic cultures/heritage and varied craftsmen richly unique to cottage industries of their own style as this village. Hidden in the suburbs of Kadugannawa, spend your afternoon experiencing typical local life and the different cottage industries.

Fine-tune your evening by stepping to the beat of traditional music & drumming amplified by a cultural show enhancing the rich and vibrant culture of the Wonder of Asia, Sri Lanka. HOTEL CINNAMON CITADEL B, D


Day 15- Jan. 4, SAT: Kandy/ Pinnawala/ Colombo
Breakfast at the Hotel. Retrace your steps back to Colombo stopping first at Pinnawala. As you enter the 25-acre coconut property, you will be surprised to witness baby elephants being bottle-fed or moving around freely causing absolutely no harm to anyone. It is rightly a sincere sight to observe how these gentle giants – orphaned and sometimes three-legged – are taken care of since 1975 at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Over 20 calves have been born here, and it is surprising to hear that some of its inmates have even seen their grandchildren during the past few decades! Watch as they feed at 9:15 and take a river bath at 10:00 am for an experience that could never be felt anywhere else on earth!

Continue to Colombo for lunch and drive through the city’s landmarks and photo stops. Arrive at the airport where rooms are provided at the airport transit Hotel for rest, wash and change etc. before connecting your international flight. THE GATEWAY HOTEL B, L

PAYMENT SCHEDULE:

$750.00 per person deposit due at time of booking with the registration form
2nd payment of $1500.00 due on or before August 1, 2018

Balance payment due on Sep. 15, 2019

CANCELLATIONS:
$350.00 per person after booking
$1000.00 per person from August 1, 2018, to Sep. 14, 2019
100% penalty if canceled after Sep. 14, 2019

PLEASE NOTE: Group air rates from major US cities will be negotiated with the airlines and offered to participants (usually 11 months prior to departure). Airlines may require the purchase of International air to receive low domestic travel rates or rates may be combined for both International and Domestic travel.

Traveler Health
It is each traveler’s responsibility to take all appropriate medical advice prior to booking as to whether or not they are fit enough to undertake this trip. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact us.

Trip Cancellation Insurance
We recommend purchasing travel insurance to protect your travel investment
Terms, conditions and restrictions apply; pricing, availability, and other details subject to change and/ or apply to US or Canadian residents. Please confirm details and booking information with your travel advisor.

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"2019 Annular Eclipse Tour of South India"