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The vast delta of the Kaveri River is a fertile rice-growing region, and Tanjore is its busiest rural centre. Once serving as the capital of the powerful Chola dynasty from the 9th century, perhaps the most remarkable civilisation of Dravidian history, Tanjore was historically the most important city in central Tamil Nadu. The Cholas left behind a dizzying historical legacy and were one of the few kingdoms to expand Hinduism beyond India. It was later subsumed into the Vijayanagar Empire, which appointed governors, known as the Nayaks to rule the southern parts of their territory. With the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire, the Nayaks swooped in to form their own dynasty which lasted until 1675. The city changed hands once more before the British took control of the city in 1855. Today Tanjore is a crowded, hectic, modern Indian town, but the past is still very much part of the present; it is an important centre of South Indian religion, art and architecture, with the Brihadishwara Temple, an outstanding example of ancient Chola architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, at the forefront.

The sheer size and magnificence of the temple is in itself an expression of the Chola’s self-confidence. The 62-metre high vimana is topped by an 80-tonne granite dome, and somehow the unpainted ochre foundation blocks makes it all the more beautiful; the stone, with its restrained carvings, glows in the sun, and the shrine entrance is guarded by a six-metre long Nandi. The temple courtyard has stone colonnades decorated with frescoes and tranquil bas-relief figures - the perfect place to shelter from the sun and watch the busy Hindu temple life unfold. We recommend heading there for early evening, as the temple grounds are simple spectacular in the setting sunlight. The Cholas were great art patrons and commissioned exquisite bronzes, and there is a large collection in the Tanjore Museum, located in the city's labyrinthine royal palace. One room in particular houses the Nataraja collection, a group of beautiful bronzes devoted to Shiva as Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance.

Tanjore is perfectly located in between Chettinad and Pondicherry, and is a must visit for anyone who is interested in south Indian history and culture. We recommend spending a few days here, staying at the ultra-luxe Svatma, and from here you can use it as a base from which to explore other Dravidian highlights, such as Trichy and Kumbakonam.

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To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
Bill Bryson

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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.
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Ampersand’s preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet booking age. They were a delight to deal with!
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I would recommend Ampersand without any hesitation!!! The best travel agent that I’ve ever had. Everything – from the individual care and attention in planning the trip, through to the efficiency of the agents on the ground in India – was handled brilliantly. An absolutely first-class service all round!
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, 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!
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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
Ampersand provided a bespoke and flexible holiday, tailored to my every whim. Their highly professional staff had only one goal which was to arrange an exceptional holiday and some unforgettable experiences in India. I have no hesitation in fully recommending them and they will be the first company I approach in the future - 10/10
- Anonymous, India
I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, 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!
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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.
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