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  • WITH ROBERT KINGSFORD SMITH 16 DAYS: 14 FEBRUARY – 1 MARCH 2017

    ON THE GOLDEN CHARIOT AND THE OOTY TRAIN

    • OOTY • MYSORE • CHENNAI • PONDICHERRY • • TRIVVY • TRICHY • COCHIN •

  • IN A NUTSHELL

    • 5 nights aboard the luxury Golden Chariot • 10 nights in premier five-star hotels • Visits to three World Heritage Sites • Executive class train travel to Chennai on the legendary Ooty Train • All meals, tipping and transfers i ncluded • Expert local English-speaking guides • Palaces, temples, colonial outposts, vibrant cities, museums, galleries and bustling markets

    OVERVIEW

    Taste the life of luxury train travel as you traverse the wonders of India’s southern states. The railways of India are the arteries of the nation and its trains are an intrinsic part of the culture. Starring the luxury Golden Chariot train, a veritable hotel on wheels, this extraordinary journey also features an express train trip in Shatabdi executive class, and the Ooty Train, a World Heritage-listed steam powered mountain rack railway to the old British hill station of Ooty.

    These journeys spanning some 2,000 kilometres across four states connect some of India’s most famous sites including World Heritage listed Mahabalipuram Group of Temples and the Great Living Chola Temples. When not on board, you will dine and stay in luxury hotels and restaurants and you will be expertly guided around the vibrant cites and bustling markets.

    The little steam train to Ooty was named a World Heritage Site in 2005 marking its recognition as of one of the world’s great train journeys. In this epic adventure we combine this Indian Railway icon with another, the Golden Chariot, for a rail cruise like no other. Your home away from home for five nights features fine dining, spacious lounge cars, an onboard spa, business centre and shop. Experience a new destination each day without having to pack the bags is the bonus of an onboard holiday.

    YOUR TOUR LEADER

    In the 1960s, Robert Kingsford-Smith expanded a childhood passion for railways and began a quest to record on film the world’s disappearing steam locomotives. His often adventurous travels have taken him to over forty countries. The resulting photographs and articles have appeared in Australian and overseas publications. Robert has led groups of like-minded enthusiasts on tours to places as diverse as South America, Pakistan and South Africa and more recently has been the celebrated tour leader on many Railway Adventure tours through Outback Queensland and also India. A passion for history and wildlife is well served on his travels and he combines his many interests with regular and extensive train travel. Cairns is of special significance for Robert as his great- great-grandfather, R. A. Kingsford, was its first mayor.

  • Day 1 • Tuesday 14 February: Arrive Coimbatore After a late evening arrival at the Coimbatore International Airport and completing the customs formalities, we will transfer to the hotel, Vivanta by Taj Surya, and check in. Coimbatore situated on the banks of the river Noyyal is the textile capital of South India. Located in the shadow of the Western Ghats, Coimbatore enjoys a very pleasant climate the year round, aided by the fresh breeze that flows in through the 25 kms long Palakkad gap.

    Overnight: Vivanta by Taj Surya, Coimbatore

    Day 2 • Wednesday 15 February: Coimbatore

    The morning is at leisure to sleep in, relax by the pool or partake of the facilities at the spa. Later we enjoy an orientation tour of Coimbatore including a visit to some of the finest temple trails starting from the oldest temple dating back to 1500 A.D. – Eachanri Vivnayagar Temple followed by marveling 800 year old Marudhamalai Shri Murugan Temple. Later we will have an excursion to Palakkad where we will have lovely lunch at a heritage home followed by visit to the Brahmin area. We will also see and participate in basket weaving. Alternatively - In the afternoon, you are offered an optional round of golf at Coimbatore golf club set in the foothills of Western Ghats. This course has the unique distinction of being the first “Private” course to be built in the country after World War II

    Overnight: Vivanta by Taj Surya, Coimbatore (B, L)

    Day 3 • Thursday 16 February: Coimbatore—Mettupalayam—Ooty

    Post breakfast, transfer for an hour to Mettupalayam railway station to experience the Nilgiri Mountain Railway which began running in 1899. Continue. The steam hauled rack railway climbs 2,000 meters to the mountains at Ooty. Accorded with a UNESCO World Heritage tag, the leisurely train journey meanders along 208 curves, charming valleys, hills, tunnels and viaducts. The train ride is something special but just one among the thousands of things you can do here, in the beautiful Blue Mountains. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel and check –in; the rest of your day is at leisure Nestled in the Nilgiris, Ooty speckled with colonial bungalows was once the lofty domain of wild beasts and ancient tribes like the Todas, Badagas, and Kurumbas. Today it is carpeted with rolling tea plantations.

    Overnight: Taj Savoy, Ooty (B, L, D)

    Day 4 • Friday 17 February: Ooty

    After a scrumptious buffet breakfast at the hotel, we will enjoy a city tour of Ooty, getting a chance to see the beautiful Botanical Gardens, Ooty Lake and Dodabetta Peak. We will then all have lunch together at the hotel. The afternoon is free to enjoy the facilities of the hotel, explore the town or join Scott for a high tea at the Ooty Club. We will regroup for dinner at a local restaurant.

    Overnight: Taj Savoy, Ooty (B, L, D)

    Day 5 • Saturday 18 February: Ooty—Mysore

    Enjoy a leisurely morning with a buffet breakfast at the hotel and then we will journey down the mountains past numerous waterfalls and through Badipur national Park to the garden city of Mysore. On arrival, we will check into the Hotel Regaalis and freshen up for lunch at the hotel. Followiong lunch, it is a short drive to the gates of the well-curated Railway Museum in Mysore. It is the earliest railway museum to be established in India and has on display the ‘Maharani’s saloon’ carriage with the royal toilet that dates back to 1899. Also at the Railway Museum is the Chamundi Gallery which shows the growth of the Indian Railways through photographs and paintings. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure but we will regroup for dinner at the hotel later in the evening.

    Overnight: Hotel Regaalis, Mysore (B, L, D)

  • Day 6 • Sunday 19 February: Mysore

    Today we will take a guided tour of the city of Mysore starting with the spectacular Mysore Palace. The tour continues to the Chamundi Hill, named after the royal family’s deity. Halfway up the hill is the Nandi Bull, a 4.8-metre monolith. Right on top is the Chamundeswari Temple dedicated to Goddess Durga. After the tour we will head back to the hotel for lunch. You are welcome to explore the city on your own in the afternoon, lounge by the pool or join Scott for a special shopping trip to the local markets. In the evening, a buffet dinner will be presented at the hotel.

    Overnight: Hotel Regaalis, Mysore (B, L, D)

    Day 7 • Monday 20 February: Mysore—Chennai

    Enjoy a morning at leisure to relax by the pool, at the spa or around the city and just after 12 noon we will head to the Mysore Railway Station to board the Shatabdi Express to Chennai. Lunch and dinner will be provided on board as well as a hamper box provided by the hotel. The 480-kilometre is covered by the fast express, averaging 125km/hour on a journey whisking us through Bangalore, Jolarpettai and Katpadi and many other interesting cities, towns and interesting landscapes. On arrival we are met at the station and transfer to our hotel, the Taj Connemara, located in the heart of the commercial and business district. The origin of Chennai is still a mystery with very little historical background. Originally, Madras consisted of several small villages and temple towns. Once a part of the ancient kingdom of Thondaimandalam and ruled as an independent empire it was slowly united by the administrators. Chennai was the first city established by the East India Company (375 years ago) and was the colonial capital of southern India. Today, it is the fourth largest metropolitan city in India.

    Overnight: Taj Connemara, Chennai (B, L, D)

    Day 8 • Tuesday 21 February: Chennai

    In the morning take a walking tour of Mylapore markets as your guide peels back the layers of living history revealing a repository of culture and heritage. We sample all kinds of South Indian delicacies over a brew of South Indian Coffee for morning tea. Our sightseeing tour of Chennai continues with a visit the first British outpost in India—Fort St. George, including the fort’s Museum and Wellesley House. We then head to the famous Kapaleeswarar Temple, as well as the San Thome Cathedral and the astounding Parthasarathy Temple built in the 8th century. The tour ends at the Government State Museum and the National Art Gallery and you are free to continue or return to the hotel for a relaxing evening.

    Overnight: Taj Connemara, Chennai (B, L, D)

    Day 9 • Wednesday 22 February: Pondicherry—Trichy

    After breakfast drive for 200kms to Pondicherry; enroute we will visit Mahabalipuram. Once the major port city for the 7th century Pallava dynasty -Mahabalipuram is now a home to over 500 stone carvers and is known for its rock-cut caves and monolithic shrines called Rat