On day one of your Kerala India tour you will arrive in Kochi, known to be Kerala’s most sophisticated city. You will be welcomed by our friendly representative at the airport and transported to the hotel in comfort and spend two nights there.
Formerly known as Cochin it is the earliest European settlement and is famous for its trading of Kerala spices to the Chinese, Romans, Phoenicians and Arabs for about 2000 years. It was there that the once-prosperous pepper trade, also known as black gold along with spices were exported by the Jewish and Arab businessmen for gold coins, brass and copper. As a result of this connection, Islam and Christianity were both established in Kerala, which was also the first place in India where these two faiths were present. It is said that it was the Malabar Coast that Christopher Columbus was going to when he accidentally came across America.
Kochi even to this day still exports pepper, rubber, seafood, and Kerala’s coir products to foreign ports. Indeed a cosmopolitan city Kochi’s landscape has a mixture of Dutch Palaces, Chinese fishing nets, Jewish synagogues, Portuguese churches and British cricket fields which were all products of the Chinese, Arab, Portuguese, Dutch and British past, along with the influences from the Jews who came there for refuge from Jerusalem to escape torture from the Romans in the 6th century BC. It is a blend of both international and Indian communities and a busy capital city of Kerala with many islands and ferries.
Spend the night in Kochi, in a Mediterranean atmosphere, and a climate that is subtropical.
On the morning of day two we will have a guided tour of Fort Kochi. Enjoy browsing around Fort Kochi as you take in the peace and serenity of the place. Learn about its history and the impact that the Dutch, Portuguese and British had on this city over time.
Go into the St. Francis Church, a protestant church that was constructed in 1510 AD by the Portuguese and is said to be the oldest European church to be built in India. The remains of Vasco da Gama an ardent traveler were initially laid to rest here; however, 14 years later they were removed and taken to Portugal.
We then reach the Mattancherry Palace or the Dutch Palace, constructed by the Portuguese and handed over in 1555 AD to the Raja (king) of Cochin. In 1663 after the Dutch repaired it extensively its name was given as the Dutch Palace. Ironically, neither the Portuguese nor the Dutch have ever stayed there. On the inside there are some gorgeous mural decorations from the Ramayana and palanquins and royal costumes are also exhibited.
Not far away is the Paradesi Synagogue and Jew Town which were constructed in 1568 for the Jews who were involved in trade. It is decorated with lovely Chinese tiles painted by hand and stylish chandeliers from Belgium, which were all presented by wealthy merchants. Jew Street is an area around the synagogue designated as a heritage zone that’s great for shopping, with many antiques and handicrafts. This town is called Spice Central and is still the center of the spice trade. One striking feature is the aroma coming from the spice warehouses; scents of clove, turmeric,the best ginger, cardamom and pepper all fill the air. It’s an active business trading spices; trucks and pushcarts can be seen laden going to and fro and workers are busy drying, sorting and packaging these much in demand spices. Even today Arabs and Europeans come to Kochi for their cargo. Here, you can also go to see the Chinese Fishing Nets on the sea-front and view how the local fishermen catch fish at high tide in Kochi; it is mechanical. It is believed that the businessmen of Kublai Khan’s Court, in China brought this method to Kochi. You can also try lunch with a difference; actually purchase your fish and have it cooked just the way you want it in the fish market. If you are up to shopping you can also do so. But if you prefer you can dine at Bolghatty Palace located on Bolghatty Island and constructed by the Dutch in 1744. This palace was transformed into a gorgeous hotel operated by Kerala Tourism on this small island lined with palm trees which can be accessed with ease from the mainland.
Be entertained in the evening at the Kathakali Dance center as you see the most extravagant dance forms in South India: a fusion of music, color, drama, illustration and dance. As an extra if you get there a little earlier you can see the artists get made up and ready for the grand show. This traditional dance form is over 400 years old and is a combination of opera, ballet, pantomime and masque. The training for this dance is intense and thorough, demanding complete control of the emotions and the body.
The themes of the dance focus around the Mahabharata, Puranas and Ramayana, classic Hindu writings that praise a variety of deities through stories of divinity and showing how truth can triumph over lies. Hear the Kelikottu which is the drum beating along with the gong or the Chengila as it proclaims the Kathakali on the grounds of the temple at sundown and enjoy an evening of amazing dance and rhythms. There are extravagant costumes and the extensive making up or Vesham of the face is absolutely vital. It comes in five types – Minukku, Thadi, Kathi, Pacha and Kari which all come together to accentuate the characters as they portray super-humans from other worlds. The make- up is done so that the audience can distinguish depictions like tamakik or demonic, satvik or godlike, rajasik or heroic. You are sure to be entertained as you watch the dancers in their big headgear (kireetam) and large jackets (kanchukam) and the lengthy skirts covering a compact cushion. Overnight in Kochi.
When breakfast is over, we will drive for three hours to Alleppey on the west coast of India. Our 80-foot long private Kettuvallam (traditional thatch-roofed houseboat) awaits us and we get on board and cruise through Kerala’s magnificent and scenic backwaters. The Kettuvallam has been used for centuries as transportation for cargo such as coconuts and rice which are the main crops of Kerala. However these boats have been restored and converted in recent times into very comfortable means of entertainment for tourist. The bedrooms are air-conditioned and there are an open deck and dining area. You even have a cook on board along with a boat driver and an assistant. On this cruise you will enjoy delightful and authentic Kerala meals. The backwaters of Kerala are a network of rivers, bays and canals bordering the Kerala coast. They are one of the most beautiful and scenic areas of South India. As we cruise along you will pass other houseboats, some with their sterns carved in dragon shapes and also the typical boats with large sails. We sail along the backwaters through lakes lined with palm trees, Chinese fishing nets will be seen here and there, rice paddy fields, copra (coconut meat), coconut fiber and boats laden with cashews. It’s a tranquil and beautiful atmosphere as our houseboat cruises past villages and villagers carrying out their day to day business on small plots of land, as they rear chickens and cows and work in their vegetable gardens. Not much is wasted here, as even mussel shells are burnt to produce lime and coconut fiber is used to create coir products. You will be fascinated by the several species and colors of birds: egrets, Kingfishers, herons, Brahminy kite, cuckoos, owls, moorhens, cormorants along with the traveling Siberian crane, teal, lark and parrot.
Relax on your private houseboat and watch the sun go down beyond the coconut trees. Titillate your palate with delightful fried Kerala fish and tiger prawns or with coconut-based curries and healthy fresh vegetables. Later enjoy a romantic night under the stars!
Overnight stay in air-conditioned luxury Houseboat.
When you are done with your breakfast on board we sail on to Kumarakom, a small village snuggled away from the busy urban life in the city. You will disembark and go to a lovely hotel called the Backwater Resort with the setting of the Vembanad Lake, Kerala’ biggest in the background
We will take a walk about the local villages, taking in the environs that inspired Arundhati Roy to write her book, ‘The God of Small Things’.
You can spend the remainder of the day doing your own activities. Perhaps you may want to participate in a yoga lesson or have an Ayurveda spa treatment, go on a cycling tour in the villages on the outskirts or spend sometime just lazing by the lake sipping coffee and watching the lifestyles and business activities of the people.
Spend the night in Kumarakom.
After breakfast, we will drive to the beach at Kovalam. We will travel along the west coast taking in the spectacular scenes as we head to one of India’s world famous beaches with, azure colored waters and green palm trees. It has three main beaches on a coastline that stretches some 17km and great restaurants with a wide variety of food from which to choose.
When you arrive, go to the hotel and spend the remainder of the day as you wish!
On your Tour Kerala spend the night in Kovalam.
If you are looking to enjoy a swim in clear warm waters, Kovalam is the ideal destination. It’s a perfect place to lay back and relax in a hammock, stroll along the beach and get some food from the stalls there or simply laze around. Otherwise, you can opt for a day trip to Kanyakumari, India’s most southern point. It is said that this location is the point where, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal meet.
It’s day seven and we head over to the Periyar wildlife sanctuary passing several rubber plantations and spice gardens.
Believed to be the most famous of all of Southern India’s wildlife reserves, Periyar Tiger Reserve at 800 square kilometer is one of the largest reserves in India. Even though a lot of the low lying forest inside the reserve was destroyed when the dam was built across the Periyar River in 1895, it is still the home to marshes,aquatic habitats and tropical forests. It is a sanctuary to some sixty two types of mammals, 38 species of fish, 27 species of amphibians, 45 species of reptiles and 320 species of birds. You will also find countless medicinal plants and several spice plantations.
When we arrive we go to the hotel and in the afternoon visit the Periyar Tiger Reserve by boat. On our boat excursions we arrive at the Reserve. Periyar is home to approximately 800 Indian elephants which can be seen at the edge of the water moving through the vegetation or taking a bath. Known to be one of the favorite places in India to take a look at the elephants and how they behave our visit to Periyar will be quite exciting.From the boat we get to see the elephants and other wildlife on the lake’s shores. One of the usual mammals to be spotted here is Wild Boar as they travel in groups of about forty to fifty. You will also see the Small Mouse Deer and the Muntjac, that are always on the look-out hoping to escape predators like the packs of Dhole wild dogs that we may see as they hunt along the shores. In the Reserve you will also find the Gaur also known as the Indian bison, the largest bovine in India, the Sambar Deer, Ruddy Mongoose, Golden Jackal, Sloth Bear, Smooth-coated Otter, Leopard, Stripe-necked Mongoose, Rusty-spotted Cat, Eurasian Otter, Fishing Cat and Jungle Cat.
Spend the night in Thekkady.
Early in the morning we get up and take a guided nature walk through Periyar Wildlife Reserve. It will be an unforgettable experience as we make our way through the wild fig, bamboo, and tall teak and jacaranda trees with some as tall as 40m. It is a thick forest with limited sunlight coming through and so the ecosystem is filled with orchids, air plants and ferns that do not need a lot of sunlight to thrive. It is possible that we may also spot a tiger but the population here is small, so keep your fingers crossed. The birdlife is wonderful and if you are a twitcher then it’s a paradise with over 260 species of birds, of all shapes, sizes and colors that converge on the large lake. See the White-bellied Treepie, Malabar Great Hornbill, Ruby-throated Bulbul, Heart-spotted Woodpeckers, Yellow-browed Crimson-fronted Barbet, Malabar Wood shrike, Indian Rufous Babble and the Malabar Parakeet. Here you may also come across some smaller mammals like the four different kinds of primates with two of these species being very prevalent at the UNESCO World Heritage Natural Site in the Western Ghats; the Nilgiri Langur, Lion-tailed Macaque, Bonnet Macaque, and the Common Langur. The list continues with animals such as the Indian Giant Squirrels, Flying Squirrels, and a large number of reptiles. Included also is the sole amphibian the flying lizard, flying snake, and flying frog. Amazing!
With so much to see in this section of our Kerala tours, you can imagine that the walk will take between two to three hours to complete, but it will be well worth it. Afterward, we will go back to the hotel and have our fill of breakfast.
Tour Kerala takes you to the Amazing Elephant Training Camp!
Later in the afternoon, we go over to the amazing Elephant Training Camp as we watch the Asian elephants being trained or taking it easy. Elephants are the national animal of Kerala. You would not want to miss this fabulous opportunity to come face to face with these herbivores with their long and intriguing trumpets. It may be a once in a lifetime experience to get that close to this large animal. As the mahouts who are the trainers of these elephants bring them to the water for a wash, you- yes you get the chance (under the mahout’s strict supervision ) to lay your hands on this leathery skinned animal and discover the feel and what it is like to bathe and massage both the adult and baby elephants. You will use a tiny flat rock and the husks of the coconuts to do so and afterward, you can participate in feeding them some vegetables and fruits from your hands. To add a little more adventure to the tour, why not take a ride on the elephant’s back. Great photo opportunities and of course your trip is not complete without the blessings of the elephant.
A note to consider is that you may find in some instances that these well-loved and taken care of elephants are shackled at the feet. These huge animals live in villages and this is the means of controlling them.
After some time to yourself Later in the afternoon, we will visit the local spice plantations. On our guided tour of the plantations, you will be taught about the culinary and medicinal purposes of spices such as curry leaves, cloves, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, turmeric and more. You are sure to take back home some remedies for illnesses and new tips to spice up your food.
On this tour take some time to chat with locals who are devoted to this spice business, as they share their enthusiasm about the spices, in particular cardamom, where it originated, how it is produced, and its worldwide demand.
Don’t miss Kerala’s Martial Arts Show in the evening, which has reached international recognition because of the Shaolin monks. This art form originated from Bodhi Dharmaa Kalaripayattu master and Indian monk and is believed to be 3000 years old. It’s an ancient art form that you are sure to enjoy.
Spend the night in Thekkady.
It’s the day that we leave beautiful Kerala and drive to Madurai in Tamil Nadu a temple town. The trip takes us through the lovely and colorful prairies and takes about three to four hours. When we get there we will visit what is known to be the most popular and biggest of Asia’s Hindu complexes. The streets of Madurai are packed with pilgrims, who have come to worship at the magnificent Meenakshi temple. In contrast to the majority of Hindu temples, this one is surprisingly not devoted to Shiva but to his wife Parvati in the form of “the Fish-Eyed One” the unblinking, all-seeing goddess -Meenakshi
When we arrive we go to the hotel and have lunch!
We can’t wait to get to the Meenakshi Temple and so after lunch we travel barefooted into the most outstanding and visited landmark and tourist attraction in the city.
This temple was a nominee for the title of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’ and is a remarkable representation of the brilliant Hindu architecture of Southern India. Its structure has nine soaring gopurams covered in flamboyant stucco images portraying gods, animals and demons. It is a spectacle and an environment that exudes Hinduism at its fullest. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world gather; priests with their chest uncovered, shrines lit up by lamps, offerings of flowers with their many scents and that of coconut and ghee filling the air.
This temple complex is like a city within a city, with expansive halls,large pillars and courtyards spilling over with worshipers and offerings being sold in the shops. Come alive with the pulsating rhythms of the trumpets and drums that mingle with the voices of thousands of people. There are piles and piles of garlands, an extensive variety of flowers like red roses, yellow and orange marigolds, pink frangipani and jasmine. There are stacks of coconuts and lots of vibrant colored powders, deep crimson, vermilion and violet. Can you imagine the atmosphere and the blend of these colors? Simply gorgeous! The air is alive with the sound of drums, trumpets, laughter and chatter and saturated with the scents of innumerable jasmine petals. And, if you love to shop, then choose from a selection of conch shells, plastic hair slides, glass bangles and combs, peacock feathers, religious pictures, sandalwood elephants and sweets. Inhale the wonderful aromas from camphor and incense.
We amble through the passageways of the temple and reach the Temple Elephant Laxmi, standing erect in the hallway, as pilgrims place money into its pink trunk to be passed on to the owner. But the pilgrims are not just giving away their money. Oh no! Actually the 10 rupees is the cost of a blessing of health, happiness, good fortune and wedding bells from the elephant a sit touches the top of your head three times with its trunk. When we leave the temple we will get on a tuk-tuk and venture through the small but bustling alleys of Madurai, checking out the traditional markets that are jam-packed with stalls and merchandise with almost anything under the sun. You can even hire a tailor on the spot peddling their old Singer sewing machines. A visit to Thirumalai Nayak Palace that was renovated in the 19th century by the British is a must. It is constructed with a fusion of the Indo-Mughal style and its Tamil décor has been maintained
In the evening you can participate in a cooking lesson done by an expert in Thalavainadu food, which is the traditional Tamil food. Learn as the top chef prepares the authentic culinary delights of Madurai. Overnight in Madurai.
We get on the move early this morning as we visit the biggest flower trading center in South India. It’s a hive of activity here and flowers galore! Madurai’s flower market is an ideal place to discover how widely flowers are used in the culture and traditions of South India. Madurai cultivates over 95% of the jasmines that are used as garlands for occasions such as weddings, ceremonies and offerings to temple deities. These are grown on about 900 acres of land. The remainder of the 489 tons that are produced every year is used in the spa industry and across the globe for fragrances. Trading in flowers is comparable to the stock markets where prices rise and fall on a daily basis depending on the season. If we have any time left we will take the opportunity to visit the largest flower processing factory in India where you’ll find top quality extracts from jasmine, like oil, wax and essence, all ingredients for your everyday products like perfumes and colognes including several top brands
After we have eaten our breakfast, we will take a drive lasting four hours to the Silent Valley of Munnar. Enroute we will bypass numerous plantations and estates. The Silent Valley is 1,600 meters above sea level and tends to be cooler than the coast. Munnar was developed in the early part of the 20th century by the British and is filled with wild life and tea plantations. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Natural site and is frequently seen as the prized feature of the Western Ghats.
The actual meaning of Munnar is three rivers with; waters flowing from Kundala, Nallathany and Muthirapuzha, three mountain rivers. This place is an enchanting display of almost every shade of green thinkable, spread across the thousands of acres of cardamom and tea plantations, grass lands and shola forests. Early in the 1970’s a group called TATA merged with Finlay Company as shareholder. Later on, Tata acquired the shares that remained and formed the TATA Tea Ltd. and maintained their contribution to the region. However, in 2005 TATA withdrew from the business in Munnar and Kannan Devan Hills Company Plantation Ltd took over. Munnar is one of the main centers of Kerala’s tea industry and is enclosed by almost 30 massive tea estates. It is at these estates that several plantation workers, service providers and agriculturalists live. The leaves are picked, dried and also processed at world-class quality.
The hotel looks over the tea plantations. Spend the remainder of your time at your leisure using the hotel’s facilities and indulge your senses in the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere.
You will spend a night in a resort overlooking tea plantations.
In the morning we will go to the Eravikulam National Park, founded in 1978 with the purpose of sheltering and protecting the Nilgiri Tahr- mountain goat, which had become an endangered species and the only one of this type South of the Himalayas. This park spans some 97 square kilometers and is made up of prairies and wooded valleys. You will find the agile Tahr here in herds. They tend to stay some distance from humans and scamper at the hint of them being around. However, you may still be able to get a good view of them as they walk around on the hillside. It is a rough and precipitous territory but we will take our time and walk the best paths in order to see them. In the park, you will also come across some other mammals like the Lion-tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, and a number of other birds like the Blackbird and Nilgiri Pipit with its streaks of brown. The blackbird found here is considered to be of a different species to the one found in Europe according to some scientists.
Please note: Eravikulam National park remains closed for 60 to 75 days during the calving season starting 1 February.
Alternatively, we will go to the Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary which is located 45 km north of Munnar and is part of the area of Kerala that is protected, along with eleven other wildlife sanctuaries. Its altitudes vary from 1300 ft (400 meters) at the east side of the Chinnar River to 8274 ft (2,522 meters) at the summit of the Kumarikal Malai. This sanctuary is the ideal home for several varieties of wildlife:- butterflies, birds, reptiles and several others. There you will also find the sole population of the Grizzled Giant Squirrel in Kerala. In the prairies there are big assemblies of wild gaur (Indian Bison), spotted and sambar deers, and you may also get the chance to spot and track a tiger, with the experienced trackers who know the markings of the largest cat in the world.
In the afternoon, we will drive a short distance to the home of an Indian top chef to see a demonstration of how to use the spices while cooking. As you sip on a cup of Nilgri tea and lunch you can have a passionate discussion about Kerala food and spices and their origins. When we are all done with our delightful lunch we will go back to the hotel to spend the remainder of the day relaxing and doing whatever we wish.
When lunch is finished go to a tea plantation and tea factory.
Get first -hand experience of where the favorite drink of the world comes from.It is in these Kerala ranges that you will find some of the most industrious tea plantations.
There is much to learn on these Kerala tours and you will get a wealth of information from your guide who will explain the daily life and culture of the people who live on the plantations. The reality for the people in Munnar is that their lives rotate around the tea plantation and they live quietly and modestly. You will find that its the women who pick the tea because of their lithe fingers. In the fields the vibrant colors of their clothes fuse wonderfully with the different shades of green on the groves of tea bushes. Take the time to go to the Nallathanni Estate and visit the Tata Tea Museum in Munnar, where you can get a firsthand look at how the tea is processed from the time the leaves are picked, up to the time that it is packaged for exportation. Get more insight about the importance of this drink to the social and economic development of Kerala and India. There is a room specially set apart and designed to let you have a taste of the variety of teas on offer. In the museum you will also find a wide range of remnants such as, the 1905 Rotorvane, old photographs and machinery that give visitors an idea of how the whole process of tea making was done in the past.
The ‘Kurinji Gift Shop‘ in Munnar is also an interesting place to visit. It is operated by the Tata Tea Wives Welfare Association. It shows how the unity of the women in forming this association and managing this shop has been able to assist their families and better their lives while at the same time helping the center. If you opt to go there you will enjoy some delicious homemade chocolates, Nilgiri tea, and Indian pickles, whilst also being able to shop for the natural oil soaps and woven materials that are all hand-made and make wonderful gifts or souvenirs.
As we wind down our Kerala Tour, we will take a drive to Mararikulam a fishing village well-known for its fantastic beaches and incomparable cleanliness. Being here will be a fantastic aspect of your Kerala trip. At Marari beach you can enjoy swimming, snorkeling and sometimes you may be able to catch a wave and do some surfing. The difference between Marari and the other famous beaches in Kerala is that you still get to see the way people in the villages live every day. Life in this fishing village is quite similar to what it was ages ago. The men still fish for a living and the women still employ themselves by making coir mats and brushes.
When you have checked into the Beach Resort you can put your feet up and relax for a while. Laze around, take a stroll on the beach while stopping for a taste of some fish curry or go into the villages nearby for a guided tour, which includes temples, churches and coir factories or just have an Ayurveda massage. The choice is yours!
These final days of your Kerala Tour are all yours; you spend them how you choose. You may opt to hang out at the hotel and enjoy its facilities or just relax on the beach with a good book occasionally taking a dip in the clear warm waters for pleasure and therapy. You can reflect on a fantastic tour of Kerala.
Alternatively, you can go to cooking lessons and participate from start to finish. Purchase the organic vegetables on sale and the fresh fish and let the top chef give you a lesson or two on how to cook the most delightful and sensational dishes with a hint of coconut and aromatic spices..
Overnight in Beach Resort of Mararikulam.
P.S.On your trip to Kerala, cooking classes are not offered by every hotel. Please check with us while booking your tour to Kerala.
It’s the end of an amazing tour of Kerala. You will transfer to Kochi International port for an onward flight. You will take with you unforgettable memories of Kerala and bags with souvenirs from your shopping sprees on your trip to Kerala.
End of our Kerala Tour.
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15-days individual travel to / from Kochi, 14 nights in hotels of your choiceTravel Destinations: Kochi (Cochin) – Houseboat through Backwaters – Kumarakom – Kovalam Beach – Thekkady (Periyar Tiger Reserve) – Madurai (Meenkashi Temple) – Munnar (Tee Plantations) – Mararikulam Beach
|Season||Hotel Category||Per person in double room|
|01/10/2015 – 15/04/2016||Deluxe||Price on Request|
|16/04/2016 – 30/09/2016||Deluxe||Price on Request|
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