This grand verdant mosaic of heart stopping beauty hugging the legendary Malabar Coast offers the most rewarding holiday experiences. From its magical coastal expanses by the Arabian Sea to the hillscapes of the Sahayadris Kerala is truly incredible. You will love the insider perspective of each signpost on this incredible journey in Kerala as you sip a fragrant cuppa at a tea estate in Munnar, soak in the scent of jasmine at Madurai’s Meenakshi Temple, take a slow boat down the Kumarakom or chat up with locals at a spice garden at Thekkady.
A leisurely wander through the maze of squiggly lanes in the Old Quarter of Kochi offers an excellent introduction to the history and heritage of this legendary port town. Etched into the line-up of buildings, temples and bustling markets are traces of a city that’s comfortable with the seamless marriage of its past and present. Explore Kochi’s rich culinary traditions at the home of Nimmy who’s been a professional culinary instructor for over twenty years. Over a lively cooking demo, followed by a yummy lunch, you will also discover the subtle nuances of how family recipes are fiercely guarded from generation to generation.
Another unmissable Keralan tradition on this Luxury India Tour is the fantastic dance drama Kathakali, originally the exclusive preserve of male performers, has its roots in an ancient martial art form. The performance you will be privileged to witness has all the hallmarks of its origins–the intricate hand gestures, the exaggerated facial expressions, and extravagant choreographed movements. Wrap up the night with some amazing Kerala-style seafood at the legendary Brunton Boatyard Hotel.
Hurry through breakfast next morning to soak up the charms of another prospect of Kerala, on the Blue Bus Tour from the laid back atmospherics of old-world Fort Kochi to the frantic Ernakulam city. This is a real fun local-style affair. You get to travel like a local, potter around the bazaars like a local and eat like a local. It is really as good as it gets if you were looking for a richly immersive experience of another facet of Kochi allurements. Soak up the nuances of your local ferry ride from Fort Kochi for lunch at your hotel.
Next morning the drive up to the hilly environs of Munnar will keep you mesmerized for 4-5 hours. This lovely hill station with its bracing mountain air and soothing greenery offers a range of delightful prospects from different vantage points. The rolling hills, a string of waterfalls and silvery streams shed light on its popularity as a summer retreat for the British elite during the Raj era.
A thrilling ride through Munnar’s wilderness expanses takes you to the splendid vistas of the Eravikulam National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The lazy sprawl of this 97sq km game park offers the promise of sightings of the endangered mountain goat known as the Nilgiri Tahr. On the hike to Top Station, you will be blown away with the views of the spectacular prospects of the surrounds.
Our custom India tours offers the privilege of driving to one of South India’s oldest cities and a rich cultural hub. Presiding over Madurai’s since ancient times is the colorful Meenakshi Temple. A more leisurely visit is planned for the iconic shrine for the next day. But post lunch, you will follow the city’s unique Potter’s Trail, where you get to mingle with the local potter community famed for its ancestral skills, which are intrinsic to the city’s crafting traditions.
The jasmine scented trail to the Meenakshi Temple, dedicated to Meenakshi the “fish-eyed goddess” and consort of Shiva is an uplifting experience. ‘Madurai Malli’, the richly fragrant jasmine flower, and an alluring reminder of the city has been given the coveted Geographical Indication (GI) tag. Inside the temple, new wonderments await amidst the almost 33,000 sculptures along with several shrines, corridors, and pillars with religious wonderful artwork.
The Indo-Mughal extravaganza, that is the Thirumalai Nayak Palace dates to 1636. Notable here are the 15 domes and arches adorned with stucco work. What you see is only a quarter of the original structure as Thirumalai’s grandson dismantled large sections to build another palace in Tiruchirapalli.
Tryst with Thekkady
Kerala’s fabled spice heritage can be explored in the verdant reaches of Thekkady famous also as a wildlife habitat for elephants, tigers, and sambars. The 4-hr drive introduces you to the great wealth of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove–and black pepper, the coveted ‘black gold’, which was a goldmine for Kerala for international trade with the ancient western world.
The guided Spice Plantation Tour takes you through the legendary Western Ghats, a 1600 km long mountain range, running alongside the western coast of India. Did you know it’s one of the world’s eight biodiversity hotspots? A precious asset indeed for Planet Earth! A tour of the farm by an award-winning farmer for his best agricultural practices, offers deep insights into the world of spices.
Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, next morning you will set out for a full-day hiking and rafting program through some of the richest forest tracts of the pristine Periyar National Park. Before piling on to locally made bamboo rafts for a water safari on Periyar Lake, you will encounter a mosaic of habitats along the 13-km forested hiking trail. Keep your eyes peeled on the shoreline for sightings of elephants, gaur, and sambar.
Alleppey- Venetian fantasy Kerala-style
It is a 4-hr drive to the picturesque setting of Alleppey where you will indulge yourself in a traditional houseboat cruise. This ‘Venice of the East’ has long been fabled for its houseboat cruises which wend their way gently along the serene palm-fringed backwater canals, past Alappuzha’s little waterside villages scattered across the lush countryside. Soak up the night sounds and sights on this overnight sojourn on the houseboat.
Kumarakom village on Vembanad Lake in the backwaters of Kerala is home to Kumarakom Lake Resort, famous as a leisure hot spot for study yoga, meditation, and Ayurvedic massages. Unwind with the resort activities that include cultural programs. A visit to Philipkutty’s Farm is a treat for an exclusive cooking demo by a family member.
It is with reluctance that you will have to wrest yourself away from this many-splendored holiday destination, to catch your flight home. But so strong is the pull of ‘God’s Own Country’, you will already be planning an early return with our other Luxury Vacations of India ….