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South India photoblog: Dindigul, Madurai and Munnar

Follow us as we continue our journey through South India; this time from the fresh and fertile countryside of Dindigul, to the cultural hub of Madurai and into 'God's own country', Kerala, to the emerald green mountains of Munnar, carpeted with tea fields.

It is always exciting when you find a new secret gem, and discoveries don’t come more delightful than this one in Dindigul… Opened in October 2012, Rajakkad Estate is an intimate garden hotel with 7 unique bedrooms within an 18th century wooden structure, which was built in the Keralan style with thousands of interlocking beams, panels and screens
The Rajakkad mansion has been re-assembled here at an elevation of 1000 metres above sea level deep within the Palani Hills in Tamil Nadu
Rajakkad's rooms are set around a pattern of courtyards and pools
Rajakkad's building style is traditional and refined, with pretty interior decorations using splashes of colour. Each of the bedrooms leads directly out into the garden, so you can always see this outdoor paradise, a few small steps from your bed
Twinkly lights in the bathroom at Rajakkad
The main living room at Rajakkad is decorated with original antiques as well as contemporary furnishings
Rajakkad's 45 acre estate is bursting with agricultural life; cows wander through the forest, which is made up of coffee, cotton and pepper plantations, papaya trees, jackfruit trees and colourful flowers
Thirumalai Nayak Mahal Palace in Madurai was built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak with the help of an Italian Architect. It is a breathtaking blend of Dravidian and Islamic styles with a sense of Italian flair and extravagance
The palace is a magnificent example of Indo-saracenic style, with incredibly impressive stucco work on its soaring domes and arches
The ceilings of the palace are decorated with beautiful paintings... apparently many Indian carpet makers have come here for inspiration
The palace has 248 pillars which are 58 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter
The Dance Hall at Thirumalai Nayak Mahal
Floor decorations being drawn outside the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai. Photography is currently forbidden inside the temple but take our word for it: it is one of the most beautiful in India!
Night falls over Meenakshi Temple but she remains Madurai's centrepiece, towering high with little lights
The start of the Chithirai Festival outside the Meenakshi Temple. Madurai is known as the city of festivals, and this one occurs every April to re-enact the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Meenakshi, Lord Vishnu's sister. Click on the image above to watch the video or click here to watch the festival in full swing!
An ancient legend unfolds at the Chithirai Festival as Lord Vishnu rides to his sister's wedding on gleaming real-gold horse chariot
Windemere Estate in Munnar is a charming 15 bedroom property perched on a hilltop surrounded by a working cardamom estate - the perfect antidote after the excitement of the Chithirai Festival! It is cool up at this elevation, hence the cosy fireplaces to warm up next to in winter... a blissful welcome to the state of Kerala after saying goodbye to Tamil Nadu
Munnar's hills are carpeted with tea plantations
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Another great new find: Talayar Valley Bungalow in Munnar. Open since October 2012, it is an original bungalow with four suites built for a British plantation manager. Anyone who has experienced Sri Lanka's Ceylon Tea Trails will no doubt love this. Talayar plan to offer tea excursions where you can learn to pluck tea from the field and operate the machinery in the tea factory. We're sure you'll get a cup of tea at the end of it, too!

Next stops on our tour of South India: Kanam, Kumarakom and Alleppey (The Backwaters), and the colonial port city of Cochin...

We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
Ampersand’s details preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet/direct booking age. Shalmali was a delight to work with – before and during our trip.
- Mr David Wallace, North India
Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India

From our Instagram

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📸 courtesy of @zayyarlin84
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📸 Beautifully captured by @soaipham
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Monks in #Myanmar (#Burma) 🇲🇲
Buddhism runs strong through the country’s veins - not only are 90% of the Burmese Buddhist, but many children are monks in training and call ancient monasteries home 🧘🏽‍♂️
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Be tempted to join ‘salarymen’ for an evening drink and #yakitori in restaurants and bar likes this 🏮🏮
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‘Led by Buddhist monks, a butter lamp ceremony offers a guiding light to finding peace and harmony’ @sixsensesbhutan 🕯🕯🕯
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