Kerala’s, breathtakingly green land, dotted with coconut palms, lagoons, kettu vallams (boats), sunny beaches and waterfalls, offers a soothing and festive mood. Lush plantations rise from the sea, and sweep the entire state in verdant glory and swathing the countryside; the only interruptions to this expanse of green are the azure backwaters, along which coconut palms soar to the skies; the culmination to this nature’s magical spell is in the upward fling of the hills, where tea and coffee plantations nurture the greens to a dense monsoon – washed vegetation. Disarming hospitality of the locals and intriguing ethnic lifestyles unchanged for centuries; herds of elephants, leading giant processions; exotic handicrafts and seafood preparations, fresh from the Arabian Sea; cosmopolitan cities where the past is always within reach, and small towns where time has stood still; all this and more, makes this journey through Kerala an ideal holiday that provides an ample opportunity to experience an ancient, but, progressive civilization.
Day 01: Arrival / Cochin
Meeting and assistance upon arrival as our representatives welcome you and escort you to your car. Whilst the room keys and check-in is organized, our representative would introduce the tour to you and hand over the documents to you. Welcome to India, or as we say ‘atithi devo bhava’ (the guest is an incarnation of God). Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you!
Day 02: Cochin
After breakfast, we proceed on a guided tour of the City. The true character of the city is to be found in the older parts of the Fort Cochin area. It more or less exists as it used to be a 1000 years back, when it was first built. The roads have not been widened because the old haggard buildings, through patchwork repairs over the centuries, still stand on the edges. This part of the city reflects an unusual blend of medieval Portugal, Dutch and English country life grafted on to the tropical Malabar Coast. The fishing community of Cochin is also very interesting. They ancient cantilevered fishing nets called Chinese Fishing Nets. The net is fixed to a pole on the shore. While fishing, the entire net is lowered by a primitive fulcrum mechanism using long bamboo poles. By the same mechanism the pole is lifted along with the catch. We will explore the sights of Photographic as well as cultural interest. We would also visit the 16th century Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace since the Dutch substantially renovated the palace in the 17th century. The double storied quadrangular building surrounds a courtyard containing a Hindu temple. The Central Hall on the first floor was the coronation hall of the Rajas of Cochin; on display are their dresses, turbans and palanquins. The most important feature of this palace, however, is the astonishing murals in the bedchambers and other rooms, which depict scenes from the Ramayana and other religious legends. These murals are u ndoubtedly some of the most beautiful and extensive anywhere to be seen in India. The unique feature here is the unexpected and isolated Jewish community, whose origins date back to AD 52. They are self-contained and have there own Synagogue. The area around the Synagogue, known, as ‘Jew Town’ is one of the main centres of spice trade. Scores of small firms huddle together in old dilapidated buildings and the air is filled with the aroma of ginger, cardamom, cumin, turmeric and cloves. The area is very busy. The potters are loading gunny bags of spices on to carts, which keep running up and down the narrow lanes. We would visit Jew Town, in the Mattancherry section and a short walk from the ferry, is one street long. Jews used to occupy virtually all the houses on Jew Town Road, where they sold fruits, vegetables and spices or worked as oil pressers or carpenters. The spice markets are still located on the narrow street. Kathakali Dance: A special treat awaits us this evening as we proceed to witness the strength and vigor of Kathakali dance drama, as it enacts episodes from great Indian epics. The extremely stylized gestures, the elaborate make-up, the masks and the splendid costumes of these all-male dancers, recreates an incomparable sense of pageantry.
Day 03: Cochin / Munnar (190 Kms) (04 Hrs Drive)
After breakfast, we drive to Munnar, through the scenically vibrant valley of the Cardamom Hills of the Western. We would stop a few times to interact with locals as well as walk through the countryside to explore traditional and ethnic lifestyles. It’s a journey through extensive tea and spice plantations and for most part of our journey; the air is rendered with the fragrance of tea and spices. Munnar, a hill station on the Western Ghats and with its lakes, reservoirs, forests and tea estates is the Nature-Lovers’s Paradise. It is beautifully situated at the confluence of three rivers – the Muthirappuzh, Nallathanni and Kundala. Munnar is a major center of Kerala’s tea industry. Upon arrival check into Camp Noel We have two days at leisure to explore the virgin beauty of the place and its several possibilities at your own pace. Anaimudi (2694 m), the highest peak in the southern India, is nearby and the views from here are incredible. Munnar offers some great possibility for nature walks and visits to nearby tribal villages where people, though poor are extremely friendly, charming and hospitable. The ethnic lifestyles, traditional homes and the traditional occupation with ethnic tools and implements provides an incredible experience. The forests that surround Munnar are still rich in wildlife. The hills surrounding Munnar are home for one of the world’s rarest mountain goats, Nilgiri tahr. The tropical forests are inhabited by elephants, tigers, deer and gaur (bison) Munnar is a birdwatcher delight with a variety of birds that are supported by the evergreen vegetation of the region. If one seek a sense of peace, a desire to communicate with nature and most importantly participate in a journey through a living museum, Munnar is the place that seeks to provide all this in a heavenly setting.
Day 04: Munnar
Day is at leisure. Munnar is surrounded by 30 tea gardens; the atmosphere is fragrant with extensive tea and cardamom plantations. Tea estates are situated mostly on the inner slopes of an elevated basin-like plateau. Estate elevations vary from about 1220 m to over 1830 m. some of the tea plantations, at an elevation of over 2135-m, are among the highest in the world. It would be worthwhile to visit some of these tea gardens to witness the plucking of leaves by women who carry conical bamboo baskets on their back and strapped to their forehead by a cloth band. The work on the field is all done by hand and is a fascinating sight. You may also visit the nearby Lockhart Gap, which provides a panoramic view of the valley and plantation down below. The enchanting high range of lakes and streams, the low-flying clouds and the mist-filled valleys cast a magical spell, which lingers long in the memory. You could also visit the Mattupetty dam and lake, Rajamala, the natural habitat of Nilgiri Tahr, a rare mountain goat and the Eravikulam National Park.
Day 05: Munnar / Cardamom House (190 Kms) (04 Hrs Drive)
This morning, we ride to Cardamom House, situated in stunningly beautiful surroundings on a hillside of the Western Ghats over-looking a monsoon dependent 400-acre lake. Cardamom House is owned and managed by Dr. Chris Lucas, a retired English physician, ably assisted by 6 Indian staff. All rooms have either twin or separate double-bedded accommodation, face south, and have modern western style bathroom facilities en-suite with solar heated hot water. The water comes from deep bore wells and is potale. With just two guests to each staff member we can assure that you will, be personally looked after and “spoiled rotten” during your stay. The meals are prepared using only the freshest produce purchased daily from the local markets and the house takes great pride in the variety of food that they serve.
Day 06: Cardamom House
Besides experiencing a great, traditional accommodation in stunning natural settings, we also want you to experience a typical back of beyond unhurried Athoor village that has remained frozen in time. We suggest that you simply stroll through the village at your own pace, absorbing the atmosphere and watching as the rural life unfolds. On the track you will pass a Hindu Temple situated under a Banyan Tree, Continuing your stroll you will pass Banana Plantations, fields of Chilli and Groundnuts, and of course hundreds upon hundreds of Coconut Trees. The villagers whose Way of life is dependent on agriculture, are Very friendly and will welcome you. Some of the Cardamom House staff either hail from, or are living in Athoor and will ensure that they are there to help you, introduce you to people and help with the devilishly difficult Tamil language, Athoor is truly an unspoiled Indian Village waiting to be discovered.
Day 07: Cardamom House / Periyar (190 Kms) (04 Hrs Drive)
Morning, we will drive to Periyar through the scenically vibrant valley of the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Thekkady in Kerala, is one of the 16 Project Tiger Reserves in India. About a century ago, a British engineer, Col. J. Penn ycuick, chalked out a plan to dam the Periyar River, subsequently, a dam was constructed in 1895. This resulted in the adjoining forests being granted protection, by the Maharaja of Travancore. The 55 sq km reservoir and the surrounding forests, provide protection to the animals within. Today, Periyar is undeniably, one of the most impressive wildlife sanctuaries in the world.
Upon arrival check into the Cardamom County
This evening, we will enjoy a boat ride along the lake into the more inner areas of the reserve. There is probably no sanctuary in the world where elephant behavior can be watched in such absolute comfort and safety. The total population is about 800. From the lake we can get as close as 20 meters to watch placid groups feeding, bathing and mud slinging. We end this adventurous day at our hotel, turning in for the night matching the tranquil pace of the forest around us.
Day 08: Periyar
Following breakfast this morning we would take a short trek inside the forest. The birdlife comprises of darters, cormorants, kingfishers, great hornbills (the great Malabar hornbill) and racket-tailed drongoes. The reptilian population boasts of monitor lizards that can be spotted basking in the sun, on the rocks along the lakeshore, especially in the cooler months. Pythons, king cobras, flying lizards, flying squirrels, flying snakes and to top it all, flying frogs are the other inhabitants of this amazing sanctuary.
There are a few fascinating tribal villages around the Periyar, primarily the Manan and Oorali tribes. The Mana ns are ace fishermen, and a few of them still indulge in the traditional, if dangerous, practice of collecting the honey of large and deadly hill bees. The Ooralis build tree dwellings, though not as residences, but watchtowers to keep wild pigs, and elephants from ruining their crops. Contact us for customized tour to Kerala
After the trek, we board rafts made of bamboos for a rafting experience through some of the richest forest tracts of Periyar Tiger Reserve. The rafting is for about three hours and one gets a panoramic view of forest-clad hills reflected on the lake. Animals like elephant, gaur and sambar are sighted keeping close to the edges of the lake.
The team hitchhikes back to the boat landing by about 5 pm. An armed guard and guides will accompany us. Tea, snacks and packed lunch will be served Enroute
Day 09: Periyar / Kumarakom
Following breakfast, we will drive to Kumarakom
Upon arrival check in to Lemon Tree Vembanand Lake Resort
Day 10: Kumarakom
Day is free for independent activities. You can also enjoy the optional ayurvedic body massage at the resort. You could also choose to explore the surrounding tribal villages, visit the nearby water bird sanctuary or ride through the narrow backwater channels through back of beyond Kerala.
Day 11: Kumarakom / Houseboat
Morning, we will check out from the resort & board the houseboat.
The materials that go into the making of houseboat are all local and Eco-friendly; bamboo poles, coconut fiber ropes, bamboo mats carpets etc. The main wood used is “Anjali “. The Houseboat provides all comforts – Beds, a kitchen, western toilets and an upper deck. Traditional lanterns are used as lights. The cuisine is of traditional Kerala flavour along with the local Specialities – delicious fish and prawns.
We spend rest of the day Cruising on our boat through remote tribal villages along the tranquil backwaters of Kerala is a superb experience. Sensational in its own silent way, the cruise takes you along snake boat docks, friendly cheering villagers, coir (Jute) making communities, toddy (local spirit) shops, fishing nets pitched for the day’s catch, bunded paddy fields and manual canoes of different sizes criss-crossing each other. The experience enables you to reach beautiful untouched areas.
Day 12: Houseboat / Alleppey / Cochin (70 Kms) (01 ½ Hrs Drive) Cochin / Departure
After breakfast, we will disembark at Alleppey & transfer to the airport to board your onward flight.
HOME VISIT & A FAREWELL DINNER WITH AN INDIAN FAMILY :
Upon arrival in Delhi, we would visit an Indian family for an Indian home experience. The evening is designed to give you a ‘feel’ and insight into Indian family life as well as experience typical Indian hospitality and home made Indian food After dinner, transfer to the International airport to board your onward flight