KERALA Culture TOUR: LUXURY
If you are looking for extra luxury, this is the tour for you. Highlights include: dance and temple festivals; walking in the hill stations; train journey; over night houseboat on the backwaters; bamboo rafting; small elegant hotels; forest bungalows and homestays in beautiful colonial houses.
Sample Kerala culture tour: 16 days/15 nights
Kerala: (Cochin) Kochi, Munnar, houseboat, Periyar, Alleppey, Kochi.
Cost: £4336 for a couple (not per person) excluding international flights. All our tours are private - you won't be part of a group.
The price quoted is for full board, except at Old Harbour Hotel and Marari Beach Hotel, an English speaking Indian driver, local hosts/guides, other travel costs.
This is a sample tour to Kerala. We can mix and match according to the dates and places you would like to visit. Note that we don't arrange air flights,
Day one and two
Is your arrival in the City of Kochi. Set on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas, Kochi is a city of cultural diversity - winding streets, shady trees, Kathakali dance, modern Indian art, 500-year old Portuguese houses, mosques, a tiny Jewish community with ancient roots - and ferry boats scuttling backwards and forwards.
Once you are settled into your hotel, we can take strolls or three-wheelers to explore the city. You may also want to watch the city's Kathakali dance show.
Overnight: (2 nights) Old Harbour Hotel, Fort Cochin: a 300 year-old building that was home to employees of English tea-broking firms, until it was left empty and then carefully restored. Built in the Dutch style of architecture with hints of Portuguese influences, it has 13 spacious rooms and suites overlooking the courtyard and gardens.
Day three, four and five
We'll make our way to Munnar. The hill town of Munnar is set amidst dramatic mountain scenery: craggy peaks, tall red wood trees, high altitude rain forests and some of the world's highest tea plantations.
Accommodation: Overnight: (3 nights) Windermere Estate. Located within vast swathes of tea and cardamom plantations, and with spectacular views, the estate has 18 comfortable rooms. Most have private balconies or verandas. The owner lives near-by and keeps a close eye on the staff. From here we can visit the village of the indigenous Muduvans, visit the tea museum and the tea factory, and go trekking.
Day six, seven and eight
We'll take the 5 hour drive to Periyar Nature Reserve. En-route we can visit Rajamala for viewing the endangered Nilgiri Tahr and take a peek at the Tea Museum, where the history of tea in South India is vividly captured. We will also stop over at Chellar Koil for a view of the spectacular plains of Tamil Nadu below.
Periyar is a 777 sq km forested wildlife reserve - home to bison, sambar, wild boar, Nilgiri langur, elephants and tigers. Run under the imaginative supervision of the Kerala Forest Department, it is also home to the indigenous Mannan community, who help conserve the reserve in exchange for income from eco-tourism. Living in the outskirts of the reserve, they run many of the activities that we can do - trekking, bamboo rafting, night treks, elephant rides and plantation visits.
The bullock cart ride is one example of the potential benefits of eco-tourism. Few years ago, the riders of the bullock carts were part of a 24-strong gang who logged the reserve for sandal-wood. Just one sandal-wood tree can bring rich earnings for these people. With the security of income offered by the bullock cart rides, they have now become protectors.
The ride starts in Tamil Nadu, over the border from Kerala. You'll travel by bullock cart through immaculately kept agricultural plantations - vanilla, mango, cotton, chilli, beans, tomatoes, pumpkins, guavas, papayas - past women harvesting grapes, herons and kingfishers, a herd of mountain sheep, and men on motorbikes. A light snack - before returning along the banks of the river, fringed by palms.
Overnight: (3 nights) Aanavilasam. Described by one of our guests as “the most luxurious place we have ever stayed in”, this plantation retreat is known for its good food and first class hospitality by the host, Pirkko. Here you can take an early morning 3 hour trek in Periyar Reserve, visit a spice garden, go on the bullock cart ride, and take a boat ride on the lake. Expect to see elephants.
Day nine, ten and eleven
We’ll make our way to Philip Kutty’s - a traditional Keralan backwater house owned by a Syrian Christian family. Over the years they have converted their home to take in guests. You can walk around the farm, which practices organic farming and has coconut, toddy, nutmeg, banana, cocoa and pepper cultivation - not to forget the jumbo prawns and local kuttandan delicacy, karimeen (pearlspot fish)
Accommodation: Overnight: (3 nights), Philip Kutty’s Farm
We'll make our way to the house boat. One of Kerala's most luxurious forms of accommodation, the houseboat is a converted rice-barge. Reclining on cushions, you'll travel through the rivers and a labyrinth of man-made canals that flow through island paddy fields. The life of the people who live here is centered on these backwaters - here women pound their washing, families brush teeth, men linger at the local 'chai' shop, and canoes and ferry boats scurry by.
Overnight: (1 night) on-board the house boat. Lunch and dinner on board.
Day thirteen, fourteen and fifteen
We'll make our way to Marari Beach Resort. Here you can stroll along the beach, go swimming and take cycle rides. This is closer to a conventional resort than most of our accommodation, but it is owned locally, and offers a good clean beach, swimming pools, and plenty of entertainment: ayurvedic and yoga centres, ball sports, martial arts, nature walks, organic cookery and traditional dance demonstrations. The owners are careful about environmental issues, with rainwater harvesting, and solar heat for hot water. No trees were cut down to create the resort and only local materials were used during its construction.
Overnight: (3 nights) at Marari Beach Resort.
After taking you for a farewell meal, we'll take you the airport for your return journey home.
Other things to do in the Kerala culture tour
Farm walks, a visit to Kalamandalam dance school, a visit to the elephant training center at Kodanad.
Seasons for Kerala culture tour
September until the following April are the best months for visiting. June, July and August are the monsoon months. You can still travel during monsoon season if you can put up with the rain. On the second Saturday of August each year is the famous regatta on Vembanad Lake. Scores of long 'snake boats' fill the lake, each boat crewed by up to 100 rowers. The annual event celebrates the seafaring and martial traditions of ancient Kerala.
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