Kerala in Depth
Trip Code: AITKID
Price from AU$6,430 per person twin share
Price is valid until 30 September 2016 except for the Christmas / New Year period, February and certain festival dates.
Please contact us for a detailed itinerary and current prices.
- Accommodation in a double or twin room with breakfast
- One night stay in an air-conditioned deluxe/premium houseboat with all meals
- All meals at Olavipe Homestay, Olappamanna Mana and Ayisha Manzil
- Air-conditioned Toyota Innova vehicle with English speaking driver for all transfers, touring and sightseeing as per the itinerary
- All expenses related to the vehicle and driver such as fuel, tolls, parking charges, inter-state tax, driver accommodation and meals, etc
- Periyar: 2 hour elephant experience
- Chokkurmundi Trek accompanied by experienced naturalist including jeep transfers and lunch
- Assistance on arrival and departure at airports
- 24 hour support through our local representative offices
- Complimentary mineral water in the vehicles
- Entrance or camera fees at sightseeing places
- Activities other than those specifically mentioned as included
- Meals other than those mentioned as included
- Tips, porterage and personal expenses
- Visa Fees
- Cochin: Eighth Bastion
- Chertala: Olavipe Homestay
- Murinjipuzha: Paradisa Plantation Retreat
- Munnar: The Windermere Estate
- Vellinezhi: Olappamanna Mana
- Kannur: Ayisha Manzil
- Neeleshwar: Neeleshwar Hermitage
- Neeleshwar: The Lotus Houseboat
A visit to Kerala should not be rushed. The leisurely tempo of this itinerary matches the languid and rhythmic pace of life in Kerala, allowing you to appreciate the finer details of its rich culture.
Kerala packs a great deal of variety for a relatively small state. Religiously, its population is the most evenly divided in India – predominantly Hindu but with large Christian and Muslim populations. Each community has a distinct culture associated with it, their own places of worship and, perhaps more obvious to the visitor, their own cuisine. In terms of the natural environment, there are beaches, backwaters, mountains and a range of vegetation types including forests, high-altitude grasslands and cultivated land (spices, tea, coffee, rubber, rice and more).
This itinerary highlights Kerala’s diversity by taking you into different communities and environments – from a beautifully restored Syrian Catholic home in the backwaters, to a Hindu property built according to the principles of Vaasthu Shastra (the ancient Hindu science of architecture) located in the rice growing region of central Kerala, to a Muslim home on the Arabian Sea in North Kerala which features traditional Mapalla cuisine (a specialty of some Muslim families in the area). A heritage hotel in Cochin, boutique guest house in the mountains and simple yet luxurious resort to finish (including a night on a houseboat in the rarely visited northern backwaters) round out the trip.
· This itinerary is ideally suited to lovers of great food.
· It is also suited to families – several three night stays, short travel times and plenty of optional activities allow you to dictate the pace of your trip as you go, and to keep kids of all ages engaged. Please make an inquiry mentioning the age of your kids and we would be pleased to put together a customised itinerary.
Day 1 Cochin
You will be met at the airport on arrival and transferred to your hotel at Fort Kochi. The oldest European settlement in India, Fort Kochi’s heritage buildings and broad, peaceful streets retain an old-world charm and the combination of Portuguese, Dutch, Jewish, British and local influences is evident in its architecture and character.
Day 2 Cochin
Day at leisure to relax or explore the city on your own, or if you have particular interests or would like to see the city from a different perspective – a bicycle tour or a walking tour for example – then you might consider our Insight Activities.
Day 3 Cochin
Day at leisure. If Keralan cuisine is of interest, you may enjoy a cooking class with highly regarded cook and author, Nimmy Paul. Nimmy will host you at her home – a lovely bungalow in a leafy back street – with a personalised cooking demonstration in her outdoor kitchen set in a large garden. She will explain a range of dishes, which you will then eat for lunch! This lunch will be a traditional sadhya, which comprises several dishes served on a banana leaf. ‘Sadhya’ is the word for banquet in Malayalam, and is typically prepared for marriages and festivals. [Image: Nimmy Paul].
Day 4 Chertala
Depart Cochin for the one-hour drive south into the backwaters to Chertala. Rather than driving all the way to the popular area of the backwaters around Alleppey, you will divert slightly inland to a homestay property called Olavipe, which is set in the middle of a forty-acre organic working farm (a mix of vanilla, pepper, nutmeg, fruits, vegetables, fish and prawns) on the on the banks of the Kaithappuzha Backwater, the national waterway between Cochin and Alleppey.
This century-old mansion – with its high ceilings, polished red-oxide floors and cool rooms filled with antiques and family heirlooms – has been in the host’s family (the Parayil Tharakans, a well-known Syrian Christian family tracing their history back over 250 years) for six generations. The family lives in a private wing of the house and is always in residence. The generous meals here comprise mostly traditional Kerala cuisine – with the produce sourced from the farm, lagoon and local village.
Day 5 Chertala
Day free to explore Olavipe and its surrounds. There are a number of activities to choose from: take a village walk; visit nearby villages by bicycle; call in to the traditional Ayurvedic practitioner for a rejuvenating massage; fish in the farm canals – ‘village style’; watch coconut harvesting (and, if you’re interested learn the art of climbing a coconut tree); enjoy a slow boat ride through the Kaithappuzha backwaters with the family boatman; visit the local market and shop for village products (the local tailor can be persuaded to run up something for you overnight).
The farm is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including goats, cows, rabbits, ducks, chicken and emus, making it ideal for young families to visit. The estate’s lagoon is safe, even for the novice, to row a canoe and experience the serenity of this unique environment. You may like to browse through the Family Archives – a treasure-trove of old family letters, photographs and rare documents highlighting Kerala’s social fabric over the last two centuries. Or you may prefer to simply relax on the ‘Kulir Kallu’ (cooling stone) at one end of the house with a book.
Day 6 Chertala
Today you can continue to enjoy the activities on and around the property, or you have the option of spending the day cycling or kayaking. Cycle along quiet, shady roads, through spice plantations, isolated hamlets and rubber estates. This is a wonderful way in which to explore one of the most beautiful regions of south India. Or, observe the life of the Keralan backwaters as you paddle through narrow canals, waterways, rivers and lakes, passing by peaceful villages, smiling children and farmers hard at work. Kayaking along these beautiful waterways is a magical experience.
Alternatively, with advance notice and the permission of the school you can visit a local school. Education has always been a strong point of Kerala and the state has the highest literacy rate in India. Spend a couple of hours here, with the children and their teachers, gaining an understanding of the local education system, including its achievements and the challenges it faces.
Day 7 Murinjapuzha
Depart Olavipe for the 3.5-hour drive to your next destination, Paradisa Plantation Retreat, a remote, sprawling 26-acre property located in an area renowned for its plantations. Set amongst organic coffee and spice plantations, the retreat comprises several private cottages constructed in the traditional Kerala style of wooden houses. Embellished with Chettinad styled antique columns, panelled walls and ceilings in rich red and brown teak, and salvaged artefacts, they create an ambience of quiet cultural richness.
Settle in on arrival and take in the wonderful view from a comfortable recliner on your private veranda. Home cooked meals here are served in an open-sided thatched restaurant – making the most of the views.
Day 8 Murinjapuzha
Day at leisure. There are a number of activities on offer here. You may like to take an early morning yoga class by the pool or indulge in an ayurvedic massage at a nearby therapy centre. There is plenty to do besides soaking up the peace and quiet; take a trek through the plantation and observe the cultivation and harvesting of coffee, cardamom, cloves and pepper. The tea plantations and factory are well worth a visit. The scenic countryside invites long walks – or if you are feeling like something more active there are many trekking routes to choose from. You could have a game of golf, take a cooking class or have an astrology reading.
At the end of the day performances of Indian classical music and dance (Kathakali, Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam) are staged at the restaurant.
Day 9 Munnar
This morning make a short drive to visit the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, situated high in the Western Ghat mountain range, on the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. There may be an opportunity here to spend time with an elephant – leaning about their life and feeding, riding and washing them (including getting showered by the elephant!) – this is a fun and informative activity.
After a short stop here, continue on – about a 3-hour drive – to Munnar, the centre of Kerala’s principal tea-growing region.
Day 10 Munnar
You have the option today of doing a trek – the Chokkarmudi Trek. A drive by jeep along a narrow road of about 4 kilometres brings you to the start of the trail. The trek starts at a tea plantation and leads to rolling grasslands. Most the trail is along mountain ridges that offer fantastic views of the Western Ghats, tea plantations, valleys, villages and patches of shola (tall grass) forest. You will also see Anamudi, the highest peak in South India and the water reservoir of Idukki Dam, which is one of the highest arch dams in Asia. You will need to climb a bit to reach the top most point and later descend through spice and tea plantations to wind your way back to the finishing point where a vehicle will be waiting to pick you up and drop you back at your hotel.
Alternatively you can spend the day at leisure, enjoying the wonderful views over the plains, or explore Munnar town.
Day 11 Vellinezhi
Drive 5 hours to your accommodation for the next two nights, Olappamanna Mana, which is located at Vellinezhi, a small village known for its traditional music and dance. (It was once an important seat of learning for Kathakali classical Keralan dance and traditional Veda and Sanskrit). An eco-friendly heritage home-stay, it serves outstanding Kerala style vegetarian cuisine.
Day 12 Vellinezhi
Day free to enjoy some of the cultural activities on offer and / or to simply relax and enjoy this peaceful environment. If you are interested, you can watch the puja at some point during your stay – dance, prayer and drumming around a giant sand painting of the goddess Kali, which is conducted in the main building.
Day 13 Kannur
Depart this morning for the 5-hour drive to Kannur and your accommodation here, Ayesha Manzil, overlooking the Arabian Sea. A beautiful, old colonial style mansion built in 1862 by an English colonel turned cinnamon planter, it provides warm hospitality and fantastic traditional Mapalla cuisine – the local Muslim food – with an emphasis on fresh seafood.
Afternoon free to relax – perhaps by the unique swimming pool reminiscent of the traditional Kerala temple pools.
Day 14 Kannur
Day at leisure. You may like to visit the local fish and spice market, handloom weaving centres where cloth is still woven in the old way on shuttle weaves or beedi rolling units where pungent smelling cigarettes are hand rolled from dried Tendu leaves.
In the evening visit the Parassinikadavu Temple to observe ‘Theyyam”, a dramatic and colourful religious ceremony which combines temple ritual, music and art and is performed by heavily made up men with masks, elaborate costumes and headgear who perform the ritual while in a state of trance. This is one of India’s most astounding cultural phenomena.
Day 15 Neeleshwar
After a leisurely breakfast, depart for the 2-hour drive north to the tiny market town of Nileshwar. Boats are stationed here for trips along the Valiyaparamba, northern Kerala’s backwaters; less visited than the backwaters of the south, they are yet to be discovered by tourists.
If you opt for the 15-day itinerary you will transfer to Calicut or Cochin airport for your flight home.
Day 16 Neeleshwar
Day at leisure. The beautiful backwaters, hills and beaches make this a perfect place for relaxation. You may like to take a bicycle ride along the quiet local roads – passing by paddy fields, gardens, temples and traditional fishing villages.
Day 17 Neeleshwar
Today you will board an elegant and stylish houseboat to cruise the backwaters of Malabar. It begins from Lotus Point, a small jetty about ten minutes drive south from Nileshwar and covers about 25 kilometres of the Valiyaparamba backwater, a large inland lake. Depending on the time taken for visits en route, the journey lasts about 3 hours.
Places of interest along the way include the Snake Temple, dedicated to the Goddess Badrakali, a delightful spot with many bright carvings sacred to the local fishing community. The nearby fish-landing point attracts flocks of sea-birds; amongst them you will sight black snake-necked cormorants perched on trees and posts in the water, imperiously elegant white Great Egrets and orange-breasted kingfishers with iridescent turquoise wings. Call in to Valiyaparamba Village, a long strip of land between the backwater and the open sea where coloured houses can be seen peeping through the dense fringe of coconut palms lining the water front. The village’s main source of income is producing coir fibre from coconut husks (used to make twine, mats and mattress stuffing); you can visit the production site. Also visit Monkey Island; a short walk through a sleepy village brings you to a thick forest inhabited by friendly monkeys. In its heart sits a clearing with an ancient shrine dedicated to the Naga snake deities.
The further south you go, the quieter the scene becomes; the waterfront activity dies away and the only sounds are the lapping of water or the occasional jumping of huge red snappers. If you wish, you can fish for your own dinner! End your day relaxing on the elevated deck, watch the evening birds and fishing canoes return home for the night, and enjoy the sunset with a drink before a delicious dinner under the stars. The houseboat anchors in the middle of the lake for the night.
Day 18 Mangalore
This morning the houseboat moves south towards the softly rolling contours of the Ezhi Elimala range. Legend has it that on his journey back from the Himalayas bearing the life-saving herbs of Ayurveda, Lord Hanuman let fall part of the sacred mountains to make these seven hills. After an hour or so disembark at Kotti jetty, from where a three kilometre auto-rickshaw ride takes you to the remarkable temple dedicated to Lord Subramanyam, second son of Shiva. The shrine dates from about 800 AD and is the living heart of Payyannur, a town famed all over India for its expertise in the sacred science of astrology. As well as the elegant building with its fine carvings in wood and brass you can observe the daily ritual when the silver image of the deity is processed three times around the temple compound.
Enjoy chai from an open-air teashop by the temple before heading back to the houseboat. A further hour’s sailing brings you to Sultan Canal, constructed in the late 18th century by Tipu Sultan, the ‘Tiger of Mysore’ and implacable foe of the British.
Your cruise will end with lunch on board. Afterwards, disembark and transfer to Mangalore airport – about a two-hour drive – for departure (Mangalore is well connected to Mumbai and Bangalore by 1 hour domestic flight).
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