Cochin – Munnar – Periyar – Houseboat – Kumarakom – Kovalam (10 nights/ 11 days)
Included in National Geographic Traveller Magazine’s Millennium issue as one of the 50 “must see places in a lifetime”, Kerala now competes with Rajasthan as India’s most popular destination. Endowed with abundant natural beauty and a relative newcomer on the tourist map, seasoned travellers have long appreciated Kerala’s beautiful coastline, its spectacular festivals and cosmopolitan history. This popular tour of Kerala includes the better-known sights of this tropical paradise such as the vibrant port city of Cochin with its Dutch and Portuguese influences and the Jewish settlement at Mattencherry, the tea country of Munnar which is home to the endangered Nilgiri Tahr, the wildlife sanctuary and spice plantations of Periyar, palm-fringed backwaters of Kumarakom with a stay on houseboat, and the inviting beaches at Kovalam. A traditional meal on banana leaves forms part of the rewarding experience.
You will arrive Cochin airport and transfer to your hotel for two nights’ stay. Portugal’s original trading station in the East Indies, Cochin the commercial capital, is one of Kerala’s most interesting places. It is built around a saltwater lagoon of the Arabian Sea and was once known as the Venice of the East. After a relaxed afternoon, you will enjoy a sunset cruise on the backwaters to see the Chinese fishing nets. These nets believed to be introduced by the traders from the Courts of the Chinese ruler, Kublai Khan are unique to Cochin. The numerous nets that dot Fort Kochi and Vypeen Island can be seen only in Cochin, outside China.
The Jews (70 BC onwards), Portuguese (1503-1660), The Dutch (1660-1814) and The British (1814-1947) have left behind an indelible mark on this characteristic port-city. Today morning you will visit the sights including the Dutch Palace, with its murals from the Ramayana, the Jewish Synagogue in Mattancherry and St Francis’ Church in Fort Cochin – the oldest European Church in India. This evening we enjoy a Kathakali performance, a traditional dance form of Kerala.
Today you will undertake a three-hour drive up the hill to the tea country of Munnar for an overnight stay. In the afternoon you will visit the Eravikulam Sanctuary, home to the rare Nilgiri Tahr. There is the option of visiting the Tata Tea Museum.
You will drive on the hill road to Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and stay overnight. Periyar is one of the 27 tiger reserves in India and the park is a repository of rare, endemic and endangered flora and fauna. It is one of the main wildlife sanctuaries of southern India which is 300sq. miles and makes it one of the largest in India. It has a rich variety of wildlife including the leopard, elephant etc. In the afternoon you will enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Periyar, ideal for spotting herds of elephants and other wild animals.
A four-hour drive through rubber, banana and coconut plantations takes you to Kumarakom where you will board a riceboat for the night. You will enjoy a cruise along Vembanad Lake in the afternoon to admire the bird life and village life along the banks.
Disembark after breakfast and drive to the inviting beach at Kovalam. The next two days are spent on the beach resort soaking in the sunshine.
You will be transferred to Trivandrum airport to board your return flight home.