Luxury Kerala Vacation Tour: Culture & Escape

A 10 day trip to India 
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Step back in time on this 10-day tour through India’s southern state of Kerala. The wealth of spices has created an exceptional history unlike anywhere in the world. From the European neighborhoods of Cochin to the tea plantations of Munnar, you will witness the diverse landscapes and captivating culture. Dip your toes in the sand on Kovalam Beach and indulge in a moonlit dinner as you drift down the serene canals around Alleppey. The depths of history and local magnetism are endless in Kerala. 

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General Information

Photos
Tea plantation Munnar, Kerala.
The sun begins to set over fishing nets in Cochin.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Cochin, Munnar Hills, Periyar National Park, Kumarakom, Alleppey, Kovalam Beach, Trivandrum

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: The Cultural South

Welcome to Cochin, the gateway to Kerala and a city filled with layers of history. The Portuguese built their first stronghold along the northern tip of the peninsula. The scent of spices is still enticing and prevalent. You are met at the airport by a private transfer and escorted to your hotel. The antique Chinese fishing nets create a skyline above the Arabian Sea. The nets are around 60 feet wide suspended on wooden supports that are around 30 feet tall. You can see them dip down into the water, counterbalanced by large stones and guided by agile fishermen.

The depth of the city’s past spans over 600 years and continues to allure both visitors and locals, including Salman Rushdie, whose novel The Moor’s Last Sigh, centers around Cochin’s historic neighborhoods. In the evening you will indulge in a Kathakali performance. The classical Indian dance-drama is filled with elaborate costumes and intricate movement with traditions that date back to the 17th century. You can hear the precision in the drumbeats. The singing is harmonic. The costumes are vibrant and almost tell the story on their own.

What’s Included: transfer, theater, accommodation

Day 2: Southern Insight

The morning sun casts a large beam over the Arabian Sea. The water brushes against the sandy shores. You can see the fishing nets dip into the sea in search of a daily catch. The aroma of fresh brewed coffee mixes with a touch of cinnamon and cardamom spice. In the morning you will tour through the city to find the rich past displayed with pageantry and pride. The Dutch Cemetery was consecrated in the 18th century and continues to stand near Kochi Beach. The headstones are worn but the names and dates are remarkable, each one commemorating a Dutch merchant, soldier, or trader. The Paradesi Synagogue remains a historic jewel.

Sephardic Jews erected the walls in the 16th century. The interior is extravagant. The tiles sparkle a bright blue. Belgian glass chandeliers dangle from the ceiling. Within the opulence there is a harmony, decorating the synagogue and the eclectic past of Cochin. In the afternoon you will find yourself at the Mundackal Plantation. The property is set on a 104-acre rubber estate and is surrounded by pepper and coconut plantations. The large palms sway in the cooling breeze. The scenery is verdant and inviting. The scent of home cooked food fills the air with turmeric and cashews. The evening brings you to Munnar Town where you easily settle into the evening and quiet sounds of the hillsides.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 3: The Mountains of Munnar

The morning is tranquil around Munnar. The hills are verdant and look endless. The greenery of tea plantations stretches over the rolling mountains in the distance. Women tow through the tea fields and pick the budding leaves. Their saris are lively and colorful. The textiles give a flash of sunflower yellow and rich purple to the lush countryside. After breakfast you will venture to Rajamal, a mountain hill that stands over 8,840 feet above sea level. It is also home to the only mountain goat in India, the nilgiri tahr, found south of the Himalayas.

The craggy mountains seem to surround you in every direction. The sound of rushing water is prevalent. Waterfalls cascade along the hilly regions and tumble into fabulous, misty pools. In the altitudinal rocky terrain you can see the light brown coat of the ibex-like goat as the animal grazes on the thin, firm grass. The older goats have horns that arch backwards like slick hair. The marvels of nature can be as simple as watching a wild goat forage in its natural habitat as the sky shines an unencumbered blue.   

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, tour, accommodation

Day 4: The Wildlife Continues

The endless green of Munnar is soon behind you as you make your way towards Thekkady, a city adjacent to the natural splendor of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. The Western Ghats Mountain Range creates a horseshoe-like valley. The mountains are draped in lush foliage. When you arrive at Periyar Lake you will step aboard a boat and cruise on the water in search of the region’s celebrated wildlife. The air is crisp and filled with the aroma of pine as you drift on the lake.

The water is placid. The evergreen forest is vibrant and strong. Thin branches reach up from water. Then you spot a herd of sambar deer at the water’s edge. Their rustic coat stands out against their pearl white legs. They linger on the plain and dip their heads to nibble on the grass. The water glistens; the deer are quiet and graceful. A single male has prominent and powerful horns. His coat is richer than the surrounding herd. The deer disappear into the trees and the night comes soon after.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 5: A Reserve Experience

Periyar National Park covers over 357 square miles and is filled with a remarkable collection of wildlife. The natural majesty of the landscape quickly captivates you. After breakfast you venture out into the expanse of evergreen trees that open up to savannah. You follow your guide alongside the tree line. Macaque monkeys sift through the branches. Their loud calls echo beneath the canopy. The magenta coat of an Indian giant squirrel is both shocking and compelling. Their tale is long and dangles like a fuzzy branch. Their two-toned coat somehow pops out and simultaneously blends in to the surrounding foliage. They can jump up to 20 feet when they travel from tree to tree.

The true splendor of the reserve comes when your guide points into the distant tall grass. A troop of elephants marches through the verdant plain. You can see a baby elephant surrounded by the large bodies of several others, protecting her from possible predators. They dangle their trunks as they walk, often ripping up grass as they trudge along. The mystery and mystique of the troop is undeniable. Soon you will leave the elephants behind but the image will always stay with you.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 6: The Calls of Kumarakom

The elephants and deer of the wildlife sanctuary almost seem like a dream. After breakfast you leave the trundling hills of the Western Ghats behind and make your way to Kumarakom. The foothills and morning mist gives way to the endless blue sky and towering palm trees. The canals around the city have become famous and the preferred means of transportation in the area. You are taken to your hotel by a boat and can see the reflective water up close. The boat causes ripples against the bow. With the afternoon at your leisure you can enjoy the quiet waterways or venture out into the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary to witness some of the celebrated avifauna of Kerala.

The sanctuary covers 14 acres of land. Branches dangle down and touch the marshes. Birdcalls fill the area with remarkable songs. Egrets linger on the wetlands. Their snow white feathers flash against the grass. They dip their beaks into the land and search for food. Siberian crane are known for their migratory patterns and pure white plumage. Their faces are crowned with brick red coloration and their wingspan stretch up to 91 inches. The birds are majestic and fill the wondrous area graced with lush trees, splendid marshes, and a remarkable water highway.  

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 7: Water Bound Alleppey

The canals wind around Alleppey, which caused the area to be known as the “Venice of the South.” The calm water ripples against the lush riverbanks. You board a houseboat and drift down the charming network. The boat is luxurious and comfortable. You can stand on the hull and see the towering palms. Near Vembanad Lake the land surrounding the banks gives way to paddy fields. Shallow wooden skimmers are filled with mounds of produce.

The local vendor paddles down the way in his catamaran. Bananas and coconut groves fill the plantations. It is like you have arrived in a different world made of tropical scenery and lush serenity. In the evening your private chef uses the local ingredients to create a spectacular dish. The scent of chili and cloves emanate from the kitchen. The night sky is rich with twinkling stars. The canal banks are remarkably quiet. You savor the meal, dining beneath the unparalleled starlight as you continue to cruise alongside reaching palms. 

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 8: Tender Sands

The morning sun paints the canals with an orange stripe. Bright green is illuminated along the leaves and grasses. Breakfast brings you the familiar flavors of chai masala. After your meal you will have a private transfer to Kovalam Beach. The lighthouse stands on a rocky hill outcrop and is candy striped. It stands 118 feet tall. The color itself is almost enough to shine over the gentle water of the Arabian Sea. The sand is soft and golden. You can hear the subtle rush of the water against the shore. A salty and sweet aroma sits on the back of the breeze. The large palm trees rustle. You can dip your toes in the water and feel the refreshing cool stroke your skin. In the morning you can watch fishermen pull in their expansive nets. They stand on the shore and play tug-of-war with the tide.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, accommodation

Day 9: A Day at the Shore

The sunrise over Kovalam is soaked in rich orange. The sounds of jovial fishermen fill the air and cover the lapping waves. You can enjoy fluffy rice pancakes soaked in coconut milk or the sweet flavors of fresh banana and mango. The day is at your leisure to experience the beach in your own way, whether stretching out along the warm sand or sitting in a café and watching the day pass you by. Away from the beaches is the Vizhinjam Rock Cut Caves where you will find 18th century temples. The granite walls now house a single narrow shrine. The outer corridors are engraved with images of deities. It feels like you have journeyed into the jungle and found a hidden gem. Between the elegant cave carvings and the rejuvenating sea, the day will be filled with joyful splendor.

What’s Included: breakfast, accommodation

Day 10: A Beachside Departure

The scent of coconut only compares to its luscious taste. The morning blossoms with fabulous flavors and soothing sound. The color of the sea is sapphire. The trees sway gently in the early breeze. You are in a paradise that is hard to leave. After breakfast you will have a private transfer to Trivandrum where you will make your flight home. You can watch the palm trees fade beneath the clouds. The canopy covers the canals. The depths of history and culture are thriving in the cities and backwaters of Kerala. You may be returning home but you are taking a piece of India with you. 

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer

Price

Starting Price 

$1,495
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.