Kumarakom, Alleppey, Kovalam Beach, Kerala, Kochi, Munnar, Thekkady
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
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.
Kochi – The Cultural South
Welcome to Kochi (or 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 Kochi’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.
Munnar – 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 harmony, decorating the synagogue and the eclectic past of Kochi. 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.
Munnar – 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.
Thekkady – The Wildlife Continues at Periyar Lake
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.
Thekkady – Periyar National Park Wildlife 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.
Kumarakom – The Calls of Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
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.
Alleppey – 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.
Kovalam – 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.
Kovalam – 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.
Trivandrum – 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.
- Experience the exceptional history of Kochi (Cochin) that dates back over 600 years
- Enjoy the traditional costumes and music of a Kathakali performance
- Witness the tremendous tea plantations in the magnificent Munnar Hills
- Discover the exquisite wildlife at the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, from wild bison to elephants
- Traverse the charming backwater canals around Alleppey in the private comforts of a houseboat
- Feel the soothing warm sand and rejuvenating waters on the shores of the Arabian Sea at Kovalam
India is a country of rich culture, majestic landscape, and unique history. On this custom tailored tour you will find the charm and wonder of forests filled with elephants, meandering canals lined with lush palm groves, and the quiet Arabian Sea as it paints the horizon with sapphire water. Rare birds perch on the marshlands. The scent of coconut plantations gives sweetness to the air. From tremendous hillsides to magnificent Dutch palaces, you will discover the distinct splendor of the south and the exquisite allure of Kerala.
Your vacation begins with your arrival in Cochin. The city is known as the gateway to Kerala because of its expansive trading history that dates back 600 years, from the Portuguese to the Chinese. In the evening you will enjoy a traditional Kathakali performance that offers insight into cultural mythologies through dance and song. After a morning tour of the city you will visit the Mundackal Plantation en route to Munnar. The plantation offers understanding into the real lives of Kerala, from the farming to the food. Spend the day in the Munnar Hills and traversing the mountain of Rajamal, home to the protected Nilgiri Tahr, a rare mountain goat.
Once in Thekkady you will step aboard a boat and enjoy a cruise on Periyar Lake in search of the surrounding wildlife. In the morning you be able to traverse both the lake and the forest of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in search of Gaur bison, macaque monkey, and Asian elephants. Make your way to Kumarakom and enjoy the secluded wonder of the nearby lake and the natural marshlands of the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. Transfer to Alleppey where you will spend time on a luxurious houseboat exploring the famous southern canals. Find yourself on Kovalam Beach and enjoy two days on the fabulous sand. The water is crisp and clear. The atmosphere is jovial and celebratory. On your final day you will have a private transfer to the Trivandrum Airport to make your flight home.
$8,995 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.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
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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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