Dear Friends and Fellow-Travelers,
After our three highly successful trips this Spring -France, Sicily, Ireland-, the time has come to look forward. I am delighted to tell you that we will begin 2019 with a trip to South India.
Harriet Friedlander and I have had a long relationship with our good friends at Micato and we feel privileged to partner with then on this trip to India. Recognized multiple times by the leading travel Press as the top expert in trips you are assured of the highest level of comfort and competency.
Travel + Leisure’s has named Micato the #1 “World’s Best Safari Outfitter and Tour Operator” for an unprecedented nine times. What continues to make this honor significant is that it is not bestowed directly by Travel + Leisure, but by their readers as the result of a survey. Satisfied travelers continue to give Micato the highest rating.
India is, in many ways, more than one country. While the North has been reshaped by the Moghul Empire, the South has kept its direct links to a three thousand-year old civilization. Temples built a thousand years ago are still under worship, and they are in splendid condition. Indeed, splendor is the right word for South India: the lush landscapes, the brilliantly colored sarees, the pilgrimages, all bring to life the many extraordinary qualities of the monuments.
The 12th century Hoysala temples, carved as finely as if they were made of ivory are unique masterpieces; the 7th century Pallava dynasty carvings of live granite have a sweep and spirit that seem remarkably modern; the 11th century Chola dynasty bronzes reach a stunning degree of perfection. And a very small sum will get you a blessing by one of temples’ elephants.
All this will be done in great comfort. We will stay in the best hotels. For those who dislike spices, there will be Western food; for those who like them, South Indian cuisine reaches an apex of sophistication. And, of course the weather in January is perfect: sunny days and temperatures in the high seventies.
India has long been one of my great passions. I hope to share it with you on this special trip.
Center for Khmer Studies
The Gods in Splendor: South India with Olivier Bernier
January 8th – 21st, 2019
Jan 8/ Tue Depart USA for Bangalore
Jan 9/ Wed arrive BANGALORE
Located in the Deccan Plateau of southern India, Bangalore was once a resort when its cooler summer climate attracted people from Tamil Nadu. It is now India’s sixth largest city. Upon arrival in Bangalore, proceed to the hotel, the beautiful Taj Bangalore.
Jan 10/ Thur BANGALORE / CHIKMAGALUR
This morning we drive to Chikmagalur, a picturesque town in the Western Ghats, and one of the key centers of coffee production in India. Nestled within a 70-acre coffee estate, our hotel, the Serai is a tranquil and luxurious oasis. This evening, welcome remarks by Olivier Bernier will be followed by dinner at the hotel.
Jan 11/ Fri CHIKMAGALUR
Following breakfast at the hotel, embark on a tour of the magnificent temples built by the Hoysala dynasty in the 12th century,the Halebid, Belur and Doddagaddavahalli Temples. All three, uniquely star-shaped, are masterpieces of intricate sculpture in which the Gods and Goddesses, carved in steatite, offer a wealth of endlessly fascinating and appealing detail. Lunch is at a traditional restaurant in a charming resort.
Jan 12 / Sat CHIKMAGALUR / BANGALORE / CHENNAI
Drive back to Bangalore this morning. En route stop in Shravanbelagola, one of the oldest and most important Jain pilgrimage centers in India. High above a nearby hill, with 614 rock-cut steps, is a statue of Bahubali, probably the world’s tallest monolithic statue. Its simplicity contrasts sharply with the complexity of the sculptural works of Belur and Halebid. In the late afternoon, fly to Chennai, one of the largest cities in India. Evoking the splendor of a Tamil heritage palace, the Leela Palace hotel also boasts a spectacular location. The spacious rooms are lavishly decorated with local artwork and materials.
Jan 13/ Sun CHENNAI
Tour the highlights of the city this morning with a visit to the Chennai Bronze Gallery. It displays a rich collection of Chola dynasty bronze sculptures, as great masterpieces as the best Italian Renaissance bronzes.
Jan 14/ Mon CHENNAI: MAHABALIPURAM
This morning is spent in Mahabalipuram, home to astonishing ancient monuments including the famous Shore Temple and a collection of exceptional rock sculptures carved in the 7th and eighth centuries from granite outcroppings. The rathas are the world’s first architecture museum and show us the evolution of the South India temple. The Descent of the Ganges is the world’s largest bas-relief, and one of the great masterpieces of Indian art. Afterwards, enjoy lunch at the beautiful Taj Fisherman’s Cove before returning to the hotel for dinner.
Jan 15/ Tue CHENNAI: KANCHIPURAM
Kanchipuram, the golden city of a thousand temples, is our morning visit. It is also a well-known center for silk weaving and produces some of the finest silk sarees in the country. Optional tour: After lunch, we drive on to the city of Vellore to view the Mattu Pongal celebrations. Pongal is the traditional harvest festival of Tamil Nadu celebrating abundance and prosperity. On the third day, cows and bullock are worshipped and celebrated, and the temples are lavishly festooned with flowers. Cattle are bathed, decorated, and taken in massive processions down the roads, complete with music and much fanfare.
Jan 16/ Wed CHENNAI / TRICHY / THANJAVUR
An hour’s flight takes us to Trichy. Upon arrival, we will explore the Srirangam Temple which lies on an island formed by the of Cauvery and Kollidam rivers. It is the best and most splendid example of a 15th century temple in South India. Today still, it offers a fascinating spectacle as pilgrims come to make their offerings. Drive on to Thanjavur, the ancient capital of the Chola kings. Its temple was built in 1010, and its tower is the tallest of all. Stay at the Svatma Hotel a charming and painstakingly restored traditional Thanjavur bungalow which pays homage to the rich art and culture of the region. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Jan 17/ Thur THANJAVUR: GANGAKONDACHOLAPURAM TOURING
This morning, the Brihadeshwara Temple will show us just how great -and devoted to Shiva- the Chola Kings could be. Its compound is still full of life –ladies in brilliantly colored saris, all add to the life of the temple which is still under worship. Continue to the nearby Art Gallery, which has three of the greatest early 11th century Chola bronzes. Following lunch at the hotel, drive to Gangaikondacholapuram, built in 1040, where the majesty of the Thanjavur temple is softened by a new flexibility and elegance. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Jan 18/ Fri THANJAVUR: KUMBAKONAM
In Kumbakonam, one of the chief pilgrimage cities in South India, we will drive past a number of temples, and see the changes in architecture over five centuries. In Darasuram, this afternoon, a late Chola temple, small but of admirable proportions, will introduce us to the late phase of Chola architecture.
Jan 19/ Sat THANJAVUR / MADURAI
After a visit to an Ayyanar, the simplest and oldest kind of shrine in South India, we will continue to Madurai, the city of the Goddess Meenakshi. Its vast Temple, largely built in the 17th century, is home to a fascinating ritual we will attend. Its many courtyards and pavilions are a perfect example of late South Indian architecture. Madurai is also a large and bustling city where some of the best silk can be bought. Our hotel is in a 32-acre garden outside the city and the perfect contrast to the city’s hustle and bustle.
Jan 20/ Sun MADURAI
We will explore the Temple this morning, see the shrines, but also the gallery where various offerings are on sale together with rich and colorful flower garlands. The afternoon is at leisure, a good time to look into the many enticing shops. Our farewell dinner is at the hotel.
Jan 21/ Mon MADURAI / MUMBAI / USA
After an early lunch, fly to Mumbai. Upon arrival, transfer to a hotel where rooms will be available until your international departure later tonight or early the next morning. Dinner will be available.
Arrive in USA on January 22, Tuesday
Main Program Price: Per Person, Double Occupancy: $16,950/Single Supplement $1,950
Prelude To The Taj Mahal
January 5th – 9th, 2019
Jan 5 /Sat ARRIVE Delhi
As you arrive in Delhi, Micato staff members will greet you and take you straight to the elegant Oberoi Hotel.
Jan 6 /Sun Delhi
This morning, as we explore New Delhi, we will see much of the 1920’s half Indian and half Neo-Regency designs of what was meant to be the Raj’s capital for the next few centuries. The plans and actual constructions are the work of Lutyens and Baker, who loathed each other. We will see the Gate of India and Rashtrapati Bhavan, a massive palace built originally for the British Viceroy and now the official residence of the President of India. This newest of Delhi’s nine cities was meant to emphasize the permanence of the Raj; as it turned out, the British were gone within less than thirty years.
We will go on to the late 16th century Humayun’s Tomb. Its style, still partly Persian Persian architecture, marks the beginning of the great Mughal architecture of which we will see more in Agra. Its recently-restored garden is a fine example of the dynasty’s love of a landscape of water, marble and trees.
In the afternoon, our visit to the National Museum will be an introduction to the history of Indian art and its many masterpieces. Then, continue to the home of distinguished diplomats where we are invited for a private reception.
Jan 7 /Mon Delhi to Agra
Today, as we move to Agra, we enter the second of the Mughal Emperors three capitals. Then, at dusk, our first visit to the Taj Mahal will show us its white marble gently tinted by the setting sun. Our hotel, the Amarvilas, prides a view of the Taj Mahal from every room. Afterwards, we will have dinner at Peshawri , an authentic Indian restaurant serving the cuisine of the Western part of India.
Jan 8 /Tues Agra
Our sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal will be at that magical moment when, gently emerging from shadow, the white marble of its majestic dome reflects the pink light of the rising sun. Our day will be spent in Imperial Agra. After the Taj, the most impressive tomb in India, we will move on to the the massive and beautiful Red Fort where the Emperor Aurangzeb imprisoned Shah Jahan, his father. Its marble pavilions inset with semi-precious stones, show us just how splendid the Imperial court could be, and its massive red sandstone walls and towers remind us that, even at the height of their power, the Emperors had to guard themselves against the possibility of sudden raids.
The Taj Mahal is huge and impressive; after lunch we will visit the most refined, the most serenely beautiful of all the Moghul monuments, the tomb of Itmad-ud-daulah. Commissioned by Noor Jehan, the wife of Emperor Jehangir, for her father, it is a stunning display of restrained and elegant splendour.
We will end our afternoon at Mehtabh Bagh, a garden across the river that affords a spectacular view of the Taj Mahal.
Jan 9 /Wed Agra to Delhi to Bangalore
After breakfast, drive to Delhi airport for our flight to Bangalore. Upon arrival, proceed to your hotel to join the main group.
Prelude Price: Per Person, Double Occupancy: $5,895/Single Supplement $1,600
January 21st – 25th, 2019
Jan 21/ Mon MADURAI / MUMBAI
Fly to Mumbai with the main group. Stay overnight at a nearby hotel.
Jan 22/ Tue MUMBAI / AURANGABAD
This morning, a visit to the city’s center will take us to its Art Museum, before we fly to Aurangabad. From ancient times Aurangabad has been a place of great importance due to its location on the famous “Silk Route” that traversed the breadth of Asia to reach Europe. It is the site of a shrine dedicated to the Emperor Aurangzeb’s wife by their son.
Jan 23/ Wed AURANGABAD
The Ajanta Caves date from about 200 BC to 650 AD and are located in a steep crescent-shaped hillside in the densely forested ravines of the Sahyadri Hills. After the late 7th century they were overgrown by jungle and lay unnoticed for many centuries, until they were found and excavated. For several centuries, the caves were homes to about 200 monks, artists, craftsmen and laborers. The carvings reveal the life and culture of the people, royal court settings, family life, street scenes and studies of birds and animals. They also depict the life story of the Buddha, and his previous births. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Jan 24/ Thur AURANGABAD / MUMBAI / USA
The Ellora Caves are an impressive complex of rock shrines representing the 3 different faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. All the caves face west 12 are Buddhist, 17 are Hindu and 5 Jain. The most impressive temple is the magnificent Kailasa Temple or Cave 16. Started by the Rashtrakuta king, Krishna I, and is the largest monolithic structure in the world. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and named for his mountain home in the Himalayas, the snow- peak Kailasa. Later this afternoon, fly back to Mumbai. Drive to the Santa Cruz Hotel where rooms have been reserved until departure later that night or early the next morning.
Jan 25 /Fri ARRIVE USA
Postlude Price: Per Person, Double Occupancy: $3,950/Single Supplement $395
Lectures and on-site commentary by Olivier Bernier
Hotel accommodations as per the itinerary
All Meals: Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with local wine and local beer, bottled water, soft drinks, coffee and tea
All entrances and camera fees
Airport/hotel/airport private transfers
Local taxes and all gratuities, including to the accompanying Micato Travel Director, Guides, and Drivers
Alcoholic beverages other than those included in the meals
Trip insurance (highly recommended –Optional travel insurance for this itinerary is available through Trip Mate. The premium is 7% of the program cost and covers the international air).
For More Information Please Contact Marion Miller at:
Micato Safaris – 15 West 26th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10010