Essence of Kerala

Essence of Kerala

This itinerary really has it all laid out for you – the glorious coast and beaches; and the spice-and tea-covered hills of the Western Ghats; cruising glistening backwaters on a rice boat; indulging in ayurvedic treatments or R&R at the beach; sample it delicious cuisine and its vibrant performing arts. This is one of our favourite itineraries.

A treat for all your senses.

15 DAYS
FROM £1695
Group Tour
Themes:
Activity Levels
Leisurely Active
WHAT'S INCLUDED
  • Activities and excursions as specified
  • Entrance fees/tickets for the above
  • In-destination transfers & transport
  • Accommodation & Meals as specified
  • English speaking guides
  • 24/7 support while you travel

Explore this itinerary

Day1: Arrive in Cochin

On arrival in Cochin Airport, you’re met by your guide and check in to your hotel for 2 nights.The rest of the day is at leisure.

Depending on the arrival time, you may have time to walk along the waterfront to see Cochin’s famous Chinese fishing nets and have some fresh seafood, or just relax at your hotel.

Dinner
Day 2: Cochin

You’ll explore Cochin with your local guide, who can tailor the tour to suit your interests.

Walk around Fort Cochin with its famous Chinese fishing nets and atmospheric streets. There are several old churches, including St Francis Church, the temporary resting place of Vasco da Gama.

Visit Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1557 and rebuilt by the Dutch in 1663. The murals in the king’s bedroom which depict mythical scenes are masterpieces of Keralan painting.

Today, 1st November is Diwali, the festival of lights. Enjoy the spectacle and the festivities at your hotel in the evening.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3: Cochin and Vaikom

After breakfast drive to Vaikom Village (45 minutes) where you’ll be received in a traditional house and see the rural lifestyle. Enjoy a village backwater cruise through narrow canals for 3 hours with a local guide, visiting coconut farms, Coir villages, spices and herbal farms, bird watching and other traditional village activities.

The main occupation of the villagers is making ropes with coconut fibre, mat weaving with leaves of wild-pineapple, pottery, traditional coconut processing, collecting sand from river-bed, fishing and farming.

The cruise glides through the narrow, shallow canals sheltered under a canopy of palm groves. Cnclude this excursion by enjoying a ‘Sadya’ – solemn lunch served on banana leaves during Kerala’s regional festival ONAM and Hindu marriage functions.

After lunch, drive back to Cochin and spend late afternoon and evening exploring Cochin’s famous Jewish Quarter. The Paradesi Synagogue, built in 1568 by European Jews, is tucked away in the heart of the Jewish Quarter. Its airy interior is enhanced by hand painted Chinese floor tiles and European glass chandeliers. The streets of the Jewish Quarter are a delight – full of antique shops that entice you to browse and window shop.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 4: Munnar

After breakfast, drive to Munnar (4-5 hrs). The drive really scenic, and there are some wonderful waterfalls to stop and admire on your way up to Munnar.

Check in to your hotel and relax for the rest of the evening.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 5: Munnar

This morning your guide will accompany you on a trek through the beautiful hills surrounding Munnar. There are several trails of varying duration and effort, and you can select the one most suitable for you with the help of your guide.

Later, visit the Tea Museum where you can watch the process of sorting tea leaf, and learn about the history of Tea in the region. Explore a spice cultivation farm with your guide who will explain how various spices are cultivated.Along the way, you may stop and visit some old colonial buildings and churches dotted around Munnar’s hills, reminders of the Raj.

Visit the colourful town market, and soak in the sights and smell of spices. This is a good place to buy some spices to bring back home.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6: Eravikulam National Park -Periyar

After an early breakfast, your guide will take you to the nearby Eravikulam National Park, where you can spot the endangered Nilgiri Tahr and other wildlife and also explore on short trails around the park.

Later, drive to Periyar (4 hrs)

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7: Periyar

An early start to the morning for an easy-paced gentle jungle walk in the Tiger reserve with a wildlife ranger in a small group. Mornings are a great time to be in the jungle as the wildlife is quite active. You have the chance to spot several mammal and bird species, which your ranger will help identify. The walk begins at 7am and lasts around three hours.

The afternoon is free to relax.

Later, explore Periyar on a boat ride into the Periyar Lake, hoping to spot herds of Elephants, Gaur and perhaps even a big striped cat.

The rest of the evening is at leisure in the lush gardens of the hotel.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 8: Periyar - Marari

This morning, you’ll start early for a dawn boat ride in Periyar Tiger Reserve. The lake looks ethereally beautiful in the morning mist, and you’ll have another chance to spot wildlife from the comfort of your boat.

Back at the hotel, after breakfast, you’ll drive to Marari Beach.On the way, you’ll visit Kottayam, a small busy Keralan town. Rubber plantations abound, introduced by British in the 1820s. Author Arundhati Roy grew up nearby, and based her acclaimed novel The God of Small Things around here.Kottayam’s two thirteenth-century churches stand on a hill attesting to the area’s deeply rooted Christian heritage, and are among the earliest solid traces of Christianity in India.

After admiring the churches (if open), proceed to Marari to check in to your hotel for 2 nights.

Rest of the day is at leisure to enjoy the beach.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 9: Marari

Full day at leisure.

Relax at the uninterrupted stretch of white-sand beach with a book or try an Ayurvedic massage.If you are feeling active, you can hire bicycles at the hotel to explore the surrounding quiet lanes of the quaint fishing village and get to see local life at your pace.

A great optional excursion is to the 16th-century St Andrew’s Basilica, 6km north in Arthungal.The church was built in the 1580s and has a fascinating history. It is a great example of how faiths have always intermingled here – there is an ancient tradition followed to this day by the devotees of the Hindu deity, Lord Ayyappa, that they pay homage to St. Sebastian as they return from pilgrimage at Sabarimala, the abode of Lord Ayyappa.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 10: Backwater Cruise

Enjoy time at the beach early morning.

Drive after breakfast to Allepey, the gateway to Lake Vembanad, and the embarkation point for many houseboat cruises. You’ll be driven around Allepey by your driver to explore the picturesque city, its churches and lighthouse.

Board your houseboat and explore the network of lakes, lagoons and canals with its unique ecosystem on a relaxing cruise.Modern boats are modelled on the traditional riceboats (kettuvallams) once used to carry rice and spices to Kochi.

You’ll spend the night on your houseboat, moored on the lakeside. The crew will serve lunch and dinner cooked on the boat, often using freshwater prawns and fish caught on the lake itself.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 11: Varkala

In the morning, your houseboat cruise will bring you back to Allepey, where you’ll disembark and continue south to Varkala by road (3 hrs).

En-route, you’ll visit the 18th century Krishnapuram Palace, one of the finest and rarest examples of a typical architectural style of Kerala with its gabled roofs, narrow corridors and dormer windows.The museum contains exhibits that belonged to the Palace and its former occupant, the Travancore Maharaja, including a 3m high mural. Its famous large pond is said to conceal an underground escape route.

Late afternoon, you’ll spend time at Varkala or nearby pretty Kappil beach. Perched perilously along the edge of 15m-high red laterite cliffs, the North Cliff part of Varkala has a naturally beautiful and popular setting.The beaches here have strong currents, challenging even strong swimmers. You can choose to enjoy the lovely scenery on a beach walk. An easy 7km route connects Kappil beach and Varkala, passing Odayam beach and a small fishing village. You can choose to walk the full route or in part, and your driver will be waiting to pick you up where you finish.

Check in to your hotel in Trivandrum for 2 nights.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 12: Trivandrum

Trivandrum is a compact, energetic city with a clutch of interesting sights.Yann Martel famously based the animals in his novel Life of Pi on those he observed at Trivandrum’s zoo.At the city’s Museum & Zoo complex, where you’ll visit the small Napier Museum and Shri Chitra Gallery. The museum has an eclectic display of bronzes, Buddhist sculptures, temple carts and ivory carvings. The building exterior and interior is stunning and worth a look in its own right. The Gallery showcases traditional & contemporary Indian works.

After lunch, you’ll visit the Puthe Maliga Palace with the palace’s own guide on an hour long group guided tour. A 200-year-old palace of the Travancore maharajas, it is renowned for its carved ceilings, sculptures and imported Belgian glass. Inside, you’ll find the royal armoury, thrones and other artefacts.

An optional stop is the 260-year-old Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple – Trivandrum’s spiritual heart. The main entrance is the 30m-tall, seven-tier eastern gopuram (gateway tower). Unfortunately, entry is restricted to Hindus only but if you are interested, you can view the temple from outside.

The evening is at leisure at the hotel.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 13: Kovalam

This morning you’ll visit the Kovalam beach, where there are a series of bays to choose from. Relax on the palm-fringed sands or climb up to the top of the lighthouse for a great view.

This afternoon, you’ll be driven back to Trivandrum, and dropped at the Trivandrum Railway Station where you’ll catch your train to Cochin.This is one of India’s most scenic train routes, and we think it is an extremely fitting way to wave goodbye to the sights and scenes you’d have enjoyed throughout your Kerala holiday – you’ll cross numerous lagoons and streams on bridges, pass small sleepy stations and watch local fishermen navigate the lagoons on their dugout canoes or groups of kids returning from school in their bright white uniforms sparkling in the sun. The lush green fields and swaying palms will escort you along the whole way to Cochin.

At Cochin’s Ernakulam Station, you’ll be received and transferred to your hotel near Cochin Airport for the last night of your holiday.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 14: Muziris

Today, embark on a unique heritage tour of about the many faiths and cultures of the Malabar Coast.

Muziris (1 hr from Cochin) is an ancient port city that traded in spices, silk, and precious stones with Rome, Greece and Egypt. Muziris became a melting pot of world cultures. The earliest Jewish settlers in India landed on the Malabar Coast and flourished in Muziris. St. Thomas the Apostle is said to have landed here in 52AD, bringing Christianity to India. The first ever mosque in India was also built here.

After nearly 1000 years of thriving trade, the port of Muziris was damaged in a major flood, and Cochin took its place as the most important trading port in Kerala. However, the Muziris area continues to be as multi-cultural as ever. Old churches, synagogues, mosques and temples attest to the great confluence of cultures that Muziris was. In a world full of strife, the monuments and bazaars of Muziris stand as beacons even today, a testament to the harmonious co-existence of multiple faiths on the Malabar Coast.

On the tour, you’ll visit

– Kodungalloor Bhagavathi Temple: An ancient Hindu temple to Goddess Bhadrakali

– Old synagogues of the Malabar Jews, constructed using Keralan building traditions, but adapted to suit Jewish ritual and liturgical requirements. Near one of the synagogues is also the first Christian Seminary and the first printing press in India.

– A Syrian Christian church, serving a community believed to be the one of the seven originaly established by the Apostle St. Thomas

– Paliam Dutch Palace (Museum): The residence of the Paliath Achans, the prime ministers to the Rajas of the State of Kochi.

– Cheraman Juma Masjid: The first mosque in India, built after the Chera king of Kerala met the Prophet Muhammad.

– Local bazaar: Walk through an interesting and colourful local bazaar, selling everything under the sun

Those who are interested can also visit the excavation site at Pattanam. This is a small archaeological site which contains some artifacts which were traded between Muziris and the rest of the world.

Breakfast
Day 15: Depart Cochin
Today, you will fly back from Cochin. You’ll be transferred from your hotel to the Cochin International Airport in time for your return flight.
Breakfast
Day1: Arrive in Cochin

On arrival in Cochin Airport, you’re met by your guide and check in to your hotel for 2 nights.The rest of the day is at leisure.

Depending on the arrival time, you may have time to walk along the waterfront to see Cochin’s famous Chinese fishing nets and have some fresh seafood, or just relax at your hotel.

Dinner
Day 2: Cochin

You’ll explore Cochin with your local guide, who can tailor the tour to suit your interests.

Walk around Fort Cochin with its famous Chinese fishing nets and atmospheric streets. There are several old churches, including St Francis Church, the temporary resting place of Vasco da Gama.

Visit Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1557 and rebuilt by the Dutch in 1663. The murals in the king’s bedroom which depict mythical scenes are masterpieces of Keralan painting.

Today, 1st November is Diwali, the festival of lights. Enjoy the spectacle and the festivities at your hotel in the evening.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3: Cochin and Vaikom

After breakfast drive to Vaikom Village (45 minutes) where you’ll be received in a traditional house and see the rural lifestyle. Enjoy a village backwater cruise through narrow canals for 3 hours with a local guide, visiting coconut farms, Coir villages, spices and herbal farms, bird watching and other traditional village activities.

The main occupation of the villagers is making ropes with coconut fibre, mat weaving with leaves of wild-pineapple, pottery, traditional coconut processing, collecting sand from river-bed, fishing and farming.

The cruise glides through the narrow, shallow canals sheltered under a canopy of palm groves. Cnclude this excursion by enjoying a ‘Sadya’ – solemn lunch served on banana leaves during Kerala’s regional festival ONAM and Hindu marriage functions.

After lunch, drive back to Cochin and spend late afternoon and evening exploring Cochin’s famous Jewish Quarter. The Paradesi Synagogue, built in 1568 by European Jews, is tucked away in the heart of the Jewish Quarter. Its airy interior is enhanced by hand painted Chinese floor tiles and European glass chandeliers. The streets of the Jewish Quarter are a delight – full of antique shops that entice you to browse and window shop.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 4: Munnar

After breakfast, drive to Munnar (4-5 hrs). The drive really scenic, and there are some wonderful waterfalls to stop and admire on your way up to Munnar.

Check in to your hotel and relax for the rest of the evening.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 5: Munnar

This morning your guide will accompany you on a trek through the beautiful hills surrounding Munnar. There are several trails of varying duration and effort, and you can select the one most suitable for you with the help of your guide.

Later, visit the Tea Museum where you can watch the process of sorting tea leaf, and learn about the history of Tea in the region. Explore a spice cultivation farm with your guide who will explain how various spices are cultivated.Along the way, you may stop and visit some old colonial buildings and churches dotted around Munnar’s hills, reminders of the Raj.

Visit the colourful town market, and soak in the sights and smell of spices. This is a good place to buy some spices to bring back home.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6: Eravikulam National Park -Periyar

After an early breakfast, your guide will take you to the nearby Eravikulam National Park, where you can spot the endangered Nilgiri Tahr and other wildlife and also explore on short trails around the park.

Later, drive to Periyar (4 hrs)

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7: Periyar

An early start to the morning for an easy-paced gentle jungle walk in the Tiger reserve with a wildlife ranger in a small group. Mornings are a great time to be in the jungle as the wildlife is quite active. You have the chance to spot several mammal and bird species, which your ranger will help identify. The walk begins at 7am and lasts around three hours.

The afternoon is free to relax.

Later, explore Periyar on a boat ride into the Periyar Lake, hoping to spot herds of Elephants, Gaur and perhaps even a big striped cat.

The rest of the evening is at leisure in the lush gardens of the hotel.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 8: Periyar - Marari

This morning, you’ll start early for a dawn boat ride in Periyar Tiger Reserve. The lake looks ethereally beautiful in the morning mist, and you’ll have another chance to spot wildlife from the comfort of your boat.

Back at the hotel, after breakfast, you’ll drive to Marari Beach.On the way, you’ll visit Kottayam, a small busy Keralan town. Rubber plantations abound, introduced by British in the 1820s. Author Arundhati Roy grew up nearby, and based her acclaimed novel The God of Small Things around here.Kottayam’s two thirteenth-century churches stand on a hill attesting to the area’s deeply rooted Christian heritage, and are among the earliest solid traces of Christianity in India.

After admiring the churches (if open), proceed to Marari to check in to your hotel for 2 nights.

Rest of the day is at leisure to enjoy the beach.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 9: Marari

Full day at leisure.

Relax at the uninterrupted stretch of white-sand beach with a book or try an Ayurvedic massage.If you are feeling active, you can hire bicycles at the hotel to explore the surrounding quiet lanes of the quaint fishing village and get to see local life at your pace.

A great optional excursion is to the 16th-century St Andrew’s Basilica, 6km north in Arthungal.The church was built in the 1580s and has a fascinating history. It is a great example of how faiths have always intermingled here – there is an ancient tradition followed to this day by the devotees of the Hindu deity, Lord Ayyappa, that they pay homage to St. Sebastian as they return from pilgrimage at Sabarimala, the abode of Lord Ayyappa.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 10: Backwater Cruise

Enjoy time at the beach early morning.

Drive after breakfast to Allepey, the gateway to Lake Vembanad, and the embarkation point for many houseboat cruises. You’ll be driven around Allepey by your driver to explore the picturesque city, its churches and lighthouse.

Board your houseboat and explore the network of lakes, lagoons and canals with its unique ecosystem on a relaxing cruise.Modern boats are modelled on the traditional riceboats (kettuvallams) once used to carry rice and spices to Kochi.

You’ll spend the night on your houseboat, moored on the lakeside. The crew will serve lunch and dinner cooked on the boat, often using freshwater prawns and fish caught on the lake itself.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 11: Varkala

In the morning, your houseboat cruise will bring you back to Allepey, where you’ll disembark and continue south to Varkala by road (3 hrs).

En-route, you’ll visit the 18th century Krishnapuram Palace, one of the finest and rarest examples of a typical architectural style of Kerala with its gabled roofs, narrow corridors and dormer windows.The museum contains exhibits that belonged to the Palace and its former occupant, the Travancore Maharaja, including a 3m high mural. Its famous large pond is said to conceal an underground escape route.

Late afternoon, you’ll spend time at Varkala or nearby pretty Kappil beach. Perched perilously along the edge of 15m-high red laterite cliffs, the North Cliff part of Varkala has a naturally beautiful and popular setting.The beaches here have strong currents, challenging even strong swimmers. You can choose to enjoy the lovely scenery on a beach walk. An easy 7km route connects Kappil beach and Varkala, passing Odayam beach and a small fishing village. You can choose to walk the full route or in part, and your driver will be waiting to pick you up where you finish.

Check in to your hotel in Trivandrum for 2 nights.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 12: Trivandrum

Trivandrum is a compact, energetic city with a clutch of interesting sights.Yann Martel famously based the animals in his novel Life of Pi on those he observed at Trivandrum’s zoo.At the city’s Museum & Zoo complex, where you’ll visit the small Napier Museum and Shri Chitra Gallery. The museum has an eclectic display of bronzes, Buddhist sculptures, temple carts and ivory carvings. The building exterior and interior is stunning and worth a look in its own right. The Gallery showcases traditional & contemporary Indian works.

After lunch, you’ll visit the Puthe Maliga Palace with the palace’s own guide on an hour long group guided tour. A 200-year-old palace of the Travancore maharajas, it is renowned for its carved ceilings, sculptures and imported Belgian glass. Inside, you’ll find the royal armoury, thrones and other artefacts.

An optional stop is the 260-year-old Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple – Trivandrum’s spiritual heart. The main entrance is the 30m-tall, seven-tier eastern gopuram (gateway tower). Unfortunately, entry is restricted to Hindus only but if you are interested, you can view the temple from outside.

The evening is at leisure at the hotel.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 13: Kovalam

This morning you’ll visit the Kovalam beach, where there are a series of bays to choose from. Relax on the palm-fringed sands or climb up to the top of the lighthouse for a great view.

This afternoon, you’ll be driven back to Trivandrum, and dropped at the Trivandrum Railway Station where you’ll catch your train to Cochin.This is one of India’s most scenic train routes, and we think it is an extremely fitting way to wave goodbye to the sights and scenes you’d have enjoyed throughout your Kerala holiday – you’ll cross numerous lagoons and streams on bridges, pass small sleepy stations and watch local fishermen navigate the lagoons on their dugout canoes or groups of kids returning from school in their bright white uniforms sparkling in the sun. The lush green fields and swaying palms will escort you along the whole way to Cochin.

At Cochin’s Ernakulam Station, you’ll be received and transferred to your hotel near Cochin Airport for the last night of your holiday.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 14: Muziris

Today, embark on a unique heritage tour of about the many faiths and cultures of the Malabar Coast.

Muziris (1 hr from Cochin) is an ancient port city that traded in spices, silk, and precious stones with Rome, Greece and Egypt. Muziris became a melting pot of world cultures. The earliest Jewish settlers in India landed on the Malabar Coast and flourished in Muziris. St. Thomas the Apostle is said to have landed here in 52AD, bringing Christianity to India. The first ever mosque in India was also built here.

After nearly 1000 years of thriving trade, the port of Muziris was damaged in a major flood, and Cochin took its place as the most important trading port in Kerala. However, the Muziris area continues to be as multi-cultural as ever. Old churches, synagogues, mosques and temples attest to the great confluence of cultures that Muziris was. In a world full of strife, the monuments and bazaars of Muziris stand as beacons even today, a testament to the harmonious co-existence of multiple faiths on the Malabar Coast.

On the tour, you’ll visit

– Kodungalloor Bhagavathi Temple: An ancient Hindu temple to Goddess Bhadrakali

– Old synagogues of the Malabar Jews, constructed using Keralan building traditions, but adapted to suit Jewish ritual and liturgical requirements. Near one of the synagogues is also the first Christian Seminary and the first printing press in India.

– A Syrian Christian church, serving a community believed to be the one of the seven originaly established by the Apostle St. Thomas

– Paliam Dutch Palace (Museum): The residence of the Paliath Achans, the prime ministers to the Rajas of the State of Kochi.

– Cheraman Juma Masjid: The first mosque in India, built after the Chera king of Kerala met the Prophet Muhammad.

– Local bazaar: Walk through an interesting and colourful local bazaar, selling everything under the sun

Those who are interested can also visit the excavation site at Pattanam. This is a small archaeological site which contains some artifacts which were traded between Muziris and the rest of the world.

Breakfast
Day 15: Depart Cochin
Today, you will fly back from Cochin. You’ll be transferred from your hotel to the Cochin International Airport in time for your return flight.
Breakfast

Departure Dates & Prices

The prices below are based on two sharing and exclude international flights. A deposit is required to reserve a place.

For further information about this or any of our other tours, please contact us.

31-Oct-2024
£1695
Group Size: 8 Max
Available

Dates don't work? Want to make changes? Don't fancy joining a group?
All our group tours can be tailored as private itineraries.

Our prices do not include international flights unless explicitly stated.

The price shown is per person, based on two people travelling and sharing a room, outside peak periods. Prices may vary depending on the time of travel, and single supplements may apply.