Become acquainted with the stunning landscapes and exceptional people of Kerala on this custom tailored tour through South India. Decadent temples stand alongside converging seas. Tea plantations cast an emerald glow over an entire mountainside. Large ancient Chinese fishing nets create a skyline over the Arabian Sea. From witnessing tigers in the wild to traversing endless canals, and from dipping your toes into the warm sea to witnessing the enduring luster of the spice trade, you will create...
A Local Charm
Cochin is a city that is steeped in history. Chinese fishing nets are large and graceful as they drape over the water. 600 years of history fills the old neighborhoods and has encouraged a unique culture. The Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace, was a gift to the Raja in the 16th century. The architecture is particular to the state of Kerala, forming a quadrangular structure with a courtyard at the center. When you enter the palace you find magnificent murals that represent the elegance of Hindu tradition. In the king’s bedchamber is a 300 square foot wall covered in 48 paintings. The colors are still vibrant after centuries on display. The images depict legends of Krishna and Sita. Everywhere you turn is another example of pure opulence.
Nearby you can find the 16th century Paradesi Synagogue and the antique shops of the old Jewish quarter. The alluring aroma of spices, from turmeric to cardamom, continues to fill the streets. In the evening you will watch the mesmerizing display of the Kathakali, a dance-drama that dates back to the 17th century. The performance tells a number of stories from 101 classical tales. Abstract movements are synchronized to the music. Dancers wear elaborate makeup to embody a famous character of legend.
The Teas and Greenery
Indulge in a traditional breakfast with your host family. The aromas of fresh ginger and coconut oil are enrapturing. After breakfast your private transfer takes you to Munnar. The rolling mountains of the Western Ghats Range reach an altitude of 5,400 feet above sea level. The hills are emerald green and draped in endless tea plantations. Women dressed in pastel saris blend into the tea fields. Hills rise and fall beneath waves of green. The Mattupetty Dam is a vital source of power for Kerala. The reservoir yields a reflective blue surface against the rising trees. If you stay long enough you might be able to spot wild elephants coming to dip their trunks in for a refreshing sip of water.
Open Space and Blue Sky
You already feel relaxed by the time the sunlight ushers in the lavish blue of the sky. The day can be spent however you prefer, whether strolling through the endless walking trails or sitting alongside a misty waterfall. You could also visit the Kolukumalai Tea Factory. On the way to the factory you stop at Echo Point. The staggering view of the peaks and valleys is exceptional. The lush forest touches the sky and creates a dramatic division between the green and blue hues.
You can scream out against the canyon and listen to your voice reverberate through the landscape. The museum brings a touch of the historic region to the present with displays of its antique past that dates back to the early 1900s. The early 20th century furniture and aged typewriter are in a gallery situated next to the tea tasting room. You learn about the stages of tea production, from planting to post harvest, and even enjoy a tasting that will take your palette on a journey through the varieties of black tea.
The Images of the Wild
The morning light washes over Munnar and makes the mountainside sparkle like a gemstone. The effervescent aroma of tea plantations fills the crisp air. After breakfast you wave goodbye to your host family and make your way to Thekkady. The town is situated adjacent to Periyar National Park, which is known for its wildlife. You meet your local host family and decide to cruise down Periyar River. Nature abounds as you venture along the reflective water. The dense forest reaches to the riverbanks. The water’s gentle trickle is the only sound you hear. Suddenly your guide points to the far bank. Standing on the floodplain is a herd of wild deer. Their brown fur stands out against the backdrop of verdant trees and short grass. They hear the boat edging closer towards them. They perk up their ears and look in your direction. A calf continues to graze. Nature has revealed itself to you and it is only the beginning.
A Home for a Wild Life
The British created Periyar National Park in the 19th century. The lavish landscape stretches over 482 square miles and is filled with elephants, bison, and even tigers. After breakfast you make your way into the tremendous jungle in search of the celebrated wildlife. Once inside the park the overhanging canopy shields you from the sun. The air is cool. The scent of freshly wet earth is trapped beneath the trees. Branches begin to shake and jitter as lion-tailed macaques run through the canopy. Their rambunctious calls echo through the semi-evergreens.
On the banks of the Periya Lake you find open grassland where deer and bison love to graze. The longer you search the wilds the more stunning wildlife you find. Finally you spot a Bengal tiger. The afternoon sun peaks through the branches and lands on the tiger. The tiger stretches its large body in the light. A female Bengal tiger can weigh up to 400 pounds. Their orange fur is bright and you wouldn’t have thought that it could easily disappear into the tall savannah, but it does, and you are left with an incredible feeling of triumph.
Elegant Spices and Graceful Birds
In the morning you will leave behind Priyar National Park headed to Kottayam, a city nestled between the Western Ghats and the backwaters of Kerala. The city was the first in all of India to achieve a 100 percent literacy rate. The waterways make the landscape look like a tropical Venice. Boats float up and down the canals and are filled with mounds of bananas to sell or locals being ferried from one town to another. The large Syrian Christian community creates a unique culture specific to the area around Kottayam. The area’s cuisine is among its most distinctive hallmarks. The scent of almond cheese toast fills your senses. The mixture of succulent cheese and sweet almond, along with a dash of spice from chili powder, bring the captivating flavors to life.
The Canals of India
The aromas of a Kerala breakfast are captivating. The flavors of the state are unlike anywhere else in India due to the blend of local spices and Syrian Christian recipes. After breakfast you will depart from your accommodation and make your way to Alleppey. The town has been called the “Venice of India” because of its incredible canals that wind over the entire area of the district. Cruise down the canals to experience the tranquil waters. Lush green coconut palms curve over the banks. The trees give way to vast paddy fields. Local farmers stand on shallow skiffs and punt down the waterway. In many places you see that the banks are paved with stone to help control flooding and runoff.
Phillipkutty’s Farm stretches over 35 acres of a small island found on Vembanad Lake. The crops are planted about six feet away from the water on sunken land. Geese wander around the marshland. They peck the grass and flap their wings rambunctiously. The alluring aromas of sweet fruits and fresh local prawns emanate from the farmhouse. You continue you exploration of the canals and come to the lighthouse. The candy stripes are easy to spot against the palm trees. The lighthouse was constructed in the 19th century when the Alleppey was one of the busiest ports in the state. It stands 90 feet tall and gives you a marvelous vista of the waterway.
Calling the Arabian Sea
Wake up to the scent of palappam, traditional rice crepes made with coconut milk. After breakfast you will leave Alleppey behind and come to the glistening sands of Kovalam. The town sits alongside the Arabian Sea. The water brushes against the sand. The calm crash of the waves is relaxing. The sweet scent of the salty sea lifts through the air. Rocky outcroppings separate the main beaches that run over 10 miles along the shore. Samudra Beach is a quiet stretch of golden sand alongside the sapphire water.
You notice fishermen in the water balancing on their long, thin boats. They cast nets into the sea and hope for a large catch to bring to shore. The palm trees sway in the light breeze. You enjoy the delicate rush of the water. The waves are warm on your skin. The sand is hot on your toes. The incredible colors of an Indian sunset drape over the sky. In the evening you will return to your accommodation and delight in the scent of a comforting meal.
The Continent’s Edge
The day is at your leisure to venture into the depths of the countryside or linger on the marvelous golden sands of Kovalam beaches; you could even journey southward to Kanyakumari, the Cape of Comorin. The Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Ocean merge at the edge of the continent. The Kumari Amman Temple is a mixture of concrete stone and legend. The complex is open and large. The temple is decorated with elaborate carvings and bright colors. Waves crash in the distance and votive candles flicker through the day and night. Small Ghats are scattered sporadically along the shore. Some worshipers step into the sea to bathe themselves in the warm and refreshing saltwater. Visiting the tip of Asia and marveling in the majestic temple creates an unforgettable memory.
Away from the Edge
You wake up to the large palm leaves rustling in the morning breeze. The scent of coconut and chili has become a treasured aroma that you will come to miss. After breakfast you will have a private transfer take you to the airport at Trivandrum. Kerala’s capital city is both energetic and easy going. You can see colonial architecture and Keralan buildings. The streets expand and contract in size, from wide to narrow. You find pagodas and red-tiled roofs housing local bazaars. Your final exploration through southern India is filled with hidden splendor before you come to the airport to begin your journey home.
- Discover the amazing history and culture of Cochin that dates back over 600 years
- Witness the emerald greenery of Munnar, the tea plantation capital of the south
- Explore the sensational Periyar Wildlife Reserve in search of elephant, bison, and the coveted Bengal tiger
- Enjoy the pristine waters and shimmering sand of the Kovalam beaches
- Traverse the gorgeous and charming canals around Alleppey
- Visit the Cape of Comorin to see where three seas converge
Immerse yourself in the culture of Kerala on this 10-day tour through Southern India. The people are friendly and encompass a diverse range of traditions and religions. From Hindu to Syrian Christian, the eclecticism of the state can be witnessed in the architecture, seen in temples, and tasted in the cuisine. Stay with local families to gather a true and unique experience. From the tea plantations to the Dutch Palace you will find the real culture of India and never look back.
Your cultural exploration begins with your arrival in Cochin. The city is considered the “Gateway to Kerala.” The city’s history is steeped in the spice trade and dates back over 600 years. The elegance and lavishness of its past endures today. Tour through the city to discover the lasting beauty of the old city, from the Chinese fishing nets to the Paradesi Synagogue. The ocean casts a captivating scent of sweet, salty air around the esplanade. The following day you will venture to Munnar.
The resort town area is found high in the Western Ghats Mountains and is the largest tea growing area in Southern India. Waterfalls tumble over the hillside. Elephants linger on the banks of the Mattupetty Reservoir. Explore the area’s pristine beauty along the various walking trails. After two days in the mountains you will arrive in Thekkady. The town is located near the Periyar National Park. Spend two days traversing the woodlands and savannah. Cruise along the lake and game drive through the jungle in search of wild deer and tigers.
Once in Kottayam you will visit the first city in India to have reached a 100 percent literacy rate. The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is always flush with a variety of migratory birds. The next day you will travel the charming and quintessential canals of Alleppey. You will spend the following two days in Kovalam. The soft, sandy beaches are set alongside the Arabian Sea. For a unique and stunning experience you can venture southward to the Cape of Comorin. Your final day will take you to Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala, where you will board your flight home.
$1,495 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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