Group Tour 8 days from £1125 per person

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  Places Visited: Cochin, Periyar National Park, Alleppey (Rice Boat), Kovalam

At the southern tip of India lies the oblong state of Kerala, aptly referred to as “God’s Own Country” for its miles of golden sandy beaches dotted with coastal villages, verdant landscapes of the Western Ghats, fragrant spice, tea and coffee plantations and its own vibrant culture.

Our Essence of Kerala tour commences with sightseeing in the historic Fort Cochin and Jew Town to see influences left by the Chinese, English, Dutch, and Portuguese settlers. It also enjoys sweeping views of beautiful tea country, National Parks, spice plantations, and sandy beaches. The highlight is so often an overnight cruise on the backwaters on traditional rice barges.

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Travel Arrangements

  • Group Size 4 -12 people
  • Internal Travel Arrival & departure transfers. Internal travel by road
  • Accompanying Guide English-speaking guides. Accompanying tour escort when minimum group size achieved
  • Accommodation 7 nights
  • Meal Plan Breakfast daily. Lunch on days 2, 3, 5. Dinner on day 5

 

Itinerary for Essence of Kerala

Day 1
Cochin

Greeted on arrival in Cochin and escorted to the Fragrant Nature Hotel or similar for two nights.

For centuries the hub of India’s spice and tea trade, Fort Cochin occupies the northern tip of a peninsula dividing the mouth of the Vembanad Lake from the Arabian Sea. Its low-rise, red-tiled skyline bears the imprint of its former colonial residents: Lusitanian chapels, Jewish synagogues, Dutch burghers’ houses, Armenian mansions, and British bungalows and godowns (warehouses) all survive in the Fort’s grid of narrow lanes – the largest collection of early colonial buildings in Asia.

Visitors can savour the atmosphere of bygone eras by staying in one of the beautiful heritage hotels that have opened around the waterfront. Watch the container ships, oil tankers and local fishing boats chug past the famous Chinese fishing nets over a gin and tonic on your own verandah, then dine on spicy Keralan coastal cuisine in some of South India’s finest restaurants.

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Day 2
Cochin

Spend the morning taking in the sights of historic Fort Cochin. Explore the colonial streets and St Francis, the oldest church in India. Visit the Dutch Palace, with its murals of the Ramayana. In the evening take a sunset cruise on the harbour, a signature Kerala experience, for views of the landmark Chinese fishing nets, which provide a spectacular photo opportunity at dusk.

Your guided tour of the city’s chief landmarks takes in the beautiful Dutch Palace in Matancherry, famed for its traditional Keralan murals, followed by a visit to the old Synagogue in nearby Jew Town. This district holds several huge, and very well stocked, antiques emporia that are well worth a browse. In the evening, the group will be driven up to Fort Cochin for a sunset cruise around the harbour, where you’ll see the iconic Chinese fishing nets in action, along with a variety of craft, both large and small, from dugout fishing canoes to giant container ships.

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Day 3
Cochin - Periyar National Park

Drive along meandering roads through lush, green countryside ascending into the ‘Western Ghats’ at Periyar (5 hours). Enjoy lunch at a rubber plantation. Stay at the Cardamom County Resort or similar for two nights. In the evening attend a Kathakali performance, a traditional dance drama in which the dancers wear elaborate costumes and make-up to enact the story of the Mahabarat epic.

The mountains of inland Kerala, which run the entire length of the state, are one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Tea, coffee and spice plantations dominate many areas, but abundant forest also survives, and the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary encompasses one of the most readily accessible of these. Centred on a flooded valley system, the park is among the largest in India, famous first and foremost for its herds of wild elephant, which congregate in the dry season around the shores of Periyar Lake.

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Day 4
Periyar National Park

This morning take a walk in Periyar Nature Reserve with tribal trackers, in search of wildlife. In the afternoon visit a spice plantation which offers an interesting insight into how various spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon are grown, cultivated and processed.

Boat safaris on Periyar Lake are fun, but too noisy for serious wildlife spotting. A better option is to take to the footpaths in the company of a local guide, who can track and identify the many creatures who live in this well-preserved tract of forest. Malabar giant squirrels, palm civets and sambar deer are commonly encountered, as are hornbills and other spectacular birds. Elephants may be sighted around the water’s edge and are best viewed from the safety of a boat or safari raft.

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Day 5
Periyar National Park - Alleppey (Rice Boat)

Drive down through the hills and plantations towards the backwaters to board a rice boat for an overnight cruise through Lake Vembanad and the backwaters. This is a region that not only shelters unique animal and bird life, but also lush paddy fields. This is one of the few places in the world where farming is done below sea level.

Up until the 1980s, large barges made of oiled jackwood and canopies of plaited palm leaves were used throughout the Kuttinad region to transport rice and other produce through the backwaters. Now, trucks do the haulage work, but the boats – known as kettu vallam in Malayali – take visitors on cruises around the canals, rivers and lagoons of this fascinating region, where most of the population still live in island villages.  A far cry from the oily craft of old, kettu vallam are today fitted with comfortable en-suite, air-con bedrooms, galleys, and viewing decks from which you’ll be able to watch the watery world slip past. Four-course meals of delicious Keralan curries are served by liveried staff in the evening.

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Day 6
Alleppey - Kovalam

Drive to the southern coastal town and the inviting beaches at Kovalam. Stay at the local styled Travancore Heritage or similar for two nights.

An elegant, 150-year-old royal palace forms the centrepiece of the Travancore Heritage, one of our favourite hotels in this region. Smothered in coconut and areca palms, the complex spills down the side of a laterite cliff to a cove of pure, golden sand and churning surf. Accommodation is in traditional nalukettu houses made of carved wood and terracotta, each with their own en-suite bathrooms and sea-facing pillared verandahs; some also have small plunge pools. Behind the main reception building, a large, kidney-shaped swimming pool offers a sunny space to relax, with the breaking waves, cawing of crows and rustle of palm fronds in the sea breeze as a blissful soundtrack.

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Day 7
Kovalam

On this penultimate day of the tour, you’ll be free to enjoy the beach and hotel facilities at your own pace. A number of optional excursions are on offer.

Anyone with an interest in South Asian art or architecture should not miss the chance to visit nearby Padmanabhapuram Palace, where the local rulers lived in great pomp in the 16th and 17th centuries. Framed by a backdrop of jungle-draped mountains, the complex is crowned by typically Keralan, sloping tiled roofs with projecting gables. Inside, the sunlight filters through stained-mica windows and slatted screens made of teak and jackwood to apartments filled with gorgeous antiques. Alternatively, head north to the capital, Thiruvananthapuram, where the main attractions are a splendid Vishnu temple, grandiloquent 18th century royal palace and lively market area heaped with authentic Keralan souvenirs.

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Day 8
Kovalam - Trivandrum

Travel to Trivandrum airport for your onward flight.

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Group Tour 8 days from £1125 per person


What's included


✓   7 nights accommodation
✓   Arrival & departure transfers. Internal travel by road
✓   English-speaking guides. Accompanying tour escort when minimum group size is achieved
✓   Breakfast daily. Lunch on days 2, 3, 5. Dinner on day 5
✓   Entrance fees at monuments. Escorted walks in Periyar

Holiday Extensions for this tour

Essence of Kerala - Kovalam

4 days, 3 nights from £235 per person

Single supplement £ 150 per person
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Day 8 - 10
Kovalam

Stay for an additional three nights at the Travancore Heritage Hotel. Remain at leisure.

Day 11
Kovalam - Trivandrum

Travel to Trivandrum airport for your onward flight.

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Places and Experiences in this tour

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