Whether it’s the food, culture, wildlife or scenery of southern India you wish to experience and explore, this small group tour is a must. Head out on a soft trek in Periyar National Park, travel inland into the Western Ghats where historic hill stations are surrounded by rolling tea plantations and explore ‘God’s Own Country’ of Kerala, where a tranquil cruise on a traditional houseboat is included.
- Kochi (Cochin): 2 nights
- Munnar: 2 nights
- Madurai: 2 nights
- Periyar: 2 nights
- Alappuzha (Alleppey) (Houseboat): 1 night
- Kumarakom: 2 nights
- Quality accommodation
- Insightful local tour leaders
- Hand-picked itineraries
- Flexible arrival times
- Small groups
- Porterage and guide tips
- Meals where most convenient (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
- All specified flights.
Day 1: UK to Cochin
Depart the UK on your overnight flight to Cochin.
Day 2: Cochin
On arrival, transfer to your hotel where you’ll spend two nights. Your sightseeing begins this afternoon – following a lunch at the heritage hotel Koder House – with a cruise on Cochin harbour. See the famous Chinese fishing nets of Fort Cochin from this unique perspective before heading back on to dry land for an interactive cooking session with the chef at your hotel. Visit the local market to purchase the fish of your choice before returning to the lawn of the hotel where a grill will be set up (for the use of all the hotel’s guests). The chef will then cook the fish. The meal is a great opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers and ask your tour leader any questions you may have. Stay: Eighth Bastion (or similar). B, L, D.
Day 3: Cochin
Your first full day in India begins with a walking tour of Fort Cochin. Visit the rather understated Dutch Palace before continuing on to the Paradesi Synagogue which is located in the Jewish quarter of Cochin, adjacent to the palace. The final stop on your tour will be the early 16th-Century St Francis Church. This evening, experience the culture of the state of Kerala, taking in a Kathakali dance performance. Arrive early to see the dancers ready themselves for the show and witness the care that goes into preparing the elaborate make up and costumes. Then enjoy these traditional, historic and beautiful dances. Your day ends with a cooking demo and dinner in the home of a local family. Stay: Eighth Bastion (or similar). B, D.
Day 4: Cochin to Periyar
Travel inland to experience Kerala’s incredible natural landscapes, as well as its wildlife. Drive towards Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, stopping en route for a demonstration of rubber tapping at a local rubber plantation. Periyar National Park is a notable wildlife reserve. The very sound of the name conjures up images of elephants, unending chains of hills and spice-scented plantations, one of which will be your home for the next two nights. There are a couple of cultural experiences on offer at the hotel this evening including a performance of one of three dance styles typical of the state of Kerala; and a demonstration and talk by the hotel’s chef allowing you to gain a glimpse into the importance of various spices and their use in Indian cooking. Approx. journey time: 6 hours, 115 miles. Stay: Spice Village (or similar). B, L.
Day 5: Periyar
Today the focus is on the region’s wildlife and natural landscapes. The morning begins with the chance to take a soft trek along the various nature trails (3 to 4 miles, approx. 3 hours; a packed breakfast will be provided) that cross the diverse habitats of the national park. You’ll be accompanied by a trained tribal guide who will point out various bird and wildlife species. On return to the hotel, join a naturalist who will take you on a tour through the hotel’s own spice garden. The day will end with a short film on the wildlife of the park and another opportunity to watch a cultural performance. Stay: Spice Village (or similar). B, D.
Day 6: Periyar to Madurai
Continue east to the state of Tamil Nadu and the city of Madurai. This afternoon, visit the Gandhi Memorial Museum, which is located in a 17th-Century palace, and learn about the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Approx. journey time: 4½ hours, 97 miles. Stay: The Gateway Hotel (or similar). B.
Day 7: Madurai
Home to one of the most striking temples in India, Madurai is a popular pilgrimage site with a rich cultural heritage. The city is shaped like a lotus flower with the vast temple complex of Meenakshi at its centre and today’s highlight is a visit to the temple. Your day of exploration also includes a rickshaw ride through the city’s local markets and a visit to the Thirumalai Nayak palace. Stay: The Gateway Hotel (or similar). B, D.
Day 8: Madurai to Munnar
There will be a full day of driving today as you continue on to the hill station of Munnar. Enjoy the opportunity to get to know more about the region as you travel westwards. The final 30 minutes of the journey to your hotel will be by 4x4 vehicle. Approx. journey time: 6½ hours, 96 miles. Stay: Tall Trees (or similar). B, D.
Day 9: Munnar
Sitting at 1600 metres above sea level, the town was once a southern India summer resort of the British government. It is surrounded by sprawling tea plantations, one of which you will visit this morning. Later, return to the town and visit the Tea Museum. Stay: Tall Trees (or similar). B, D.
Day 10: Munnar to Alleppey (Kerala houseboat)
Undoubtedly the highlight of any trip to Kerala is the opportunity to cruise the famous backwaters on a house boat. After boarding, you’ll wind your way through the maze of waterways and enjoy this truly relaxing way to travel. There will also be the opportunity to explore some of the smaller waterways by canoe. Approx. journey time: 5 hours, 115 miles. Stay: Deluxe Houseboat (or similar). B, L, D.
Day 11: Alleppey (Kerala houseboat) to Kumarakom
Your houseboat cruise comes to an end this morning as you disembark and transfer to the shores of beautiful Lake Vembanad by boat. Spend two relaxing nights at the Coconut Lagoon (or similar) in nearby Kumarakom. The region is known for its local family-run homestays, and today you will have the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely lunch at the charming Philip Kutty Farm. Later join a tranquil sunset cruise on the lake complete with refreshments, before returning to the hotel where you can watch a cultural performance. Stay: Coconut Lagoon (or similar). B, L.
Day 12: Kumarakom
There’s an early start this morning for a visit to the hotel’s butterfly garden. You will also have the opportunity to join a bird-watching tour. This afternoon, you will have some free time and the chance to enjoy a relaxing Ayurvedic treatment (payable locally, guests will receive a 25% discount on listed prices). This evening, enjoy a cocktail party and a farewell dinner. Stay: Coconut Lagoon (or similar). B, D.
Day 13: Kumarakom
Transfer to Cochin airport for your return flight to the UK. B.
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