Tailored from £2,250 per person excl. flights
15 days Cochin, Munnar, Madurai, Paradisa, Backwaters, Marari Beach
15 days Cochin, Munnar, Madurai, Paradisa, Backwaters, Marari Beach
On this fantastic holiday you’ll experience the highlights of tropical Kerala in South India. You’ll take a guided tour of the old colonial port town of Cochin, explore the tea plantations of Munnar, witness the nightly wedding ritual of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati at Shri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, stay at the wonderful Paradisa Plantation Retreat, take a cruise through Kerala’s Backwaters and relax on a palm-fringed beach.
Upon arrival you will be met by a representative and transferred to your accommodation. This afternoon you’ll have time to rest, and this evening you’ll be taken to see a spectacular Kathakali Dance Drama show.
Kathakali is Kerala’s very own classical dance-drama form which combines facets of ballet, opera, masque and the pantomime. Kathakali explains ideas and stories from the Indian epics and other story books. Presented in the temple precincts after dusk falls, Kathakali is heralded by the Kelikottu or the beating of drums and to the accompaniment of the Chengila (gong). The riches of a happy blending of colour, expressions, music, drama and dance are unparalleled in any other art form.
If Kerala is India's most beautiful state, which many believe, then the lovely port of Cochin is its jewel. Cochin displays a blend of people and architecture - here you can see a Jewish synagogue, Portuguese churches, Dutch architecture, mosques, temples and Chinese fishing nets all in one day.
Today you will enjoy a guided tour of Cochin which will include visits to the Jewish Synagogue, the Mattancherry or Dutch Palace, St Francis Church and the famous Chinese fishing nets.
This morning you will be driven to Munnar. You’ll arrive around noon and you’ll have the rest of the day free.
Munnar is situated at the confluence of three mountain streams - Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala. At 1600m above sea level, this hill station was the summer resort of the British Government in South India. With its sprawling tea plantations, picture-book scenery, winding lanes and great holiday facilities, Munnar is still a very popular hill station in Kerala.
Today you’ll have a full-day to explore Munnar and the neighbouring regions with a car and driver at your disposal. You may wish to visit Eravikulam National Park (15 km from Munnar) which was established to protect the Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiri Ibex). If you are lucky, you can observe the Tahr from close quarters here. Or, you may wish to visit the Tea Museum where you also get to taste some of the local tea.
This morning you will be driven to Madurai, arriving around noon.
Madurai is one of south India's oldest cities, and has been a centre of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. The city's main attraction is the famous Shri Meenakshi Temple. The temple seethes with activity from dawn to dust, its many shrines attracting pilgrims from every part of India and tourists from all over the world.
In the evening you will be taken to visit the temple to witness the ‘evening temple ceremony’, the nightly wedding ritual of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. A ceremonial procession wends its way through the temple each evening, accompanied by music and chanting. The statue of Lord Shiva is transported to the chambers of Meenakshi, where a ritual wedding is performed and image is left overnight.
Early this morning you will have the opportunity to visit the temple again before heading out on a full day excursion to Chettinadu where you will visit the Tamil traders’ bungalows.
Chettinadu is the homeland of the famous Tamil traders Chettiars, a prosperous banking and business community, many of whose members migrated to various parts of southeast Asia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today Chettinadu is well known for its mansions, embellished with marble and Burma teak, wide courtyards and spacious rooms. Sadly, all these lovely mansions today are vacant, though they are still well-maintained by the Chettiars living in different parts of the world as they come once in a few years to visit their homeland. It is an absolutely amazing experience to wander around a typical Chettinadu village and explore these largely abandoned mansions.
Your lunch will be in Chettinadu and you will sample the unique Chettinad cuisine that has transcended the boundaries of the state to carve a worldwide following.
Later in the afternoon you will return to Madurai.
This morning after a leisurely breakfast you will be driven to Paradisa.
On arrival you’ll check into the Paradisa Plantation Retreat and the rest of the day may be spent at leisure, or explore the neighbouring hills.
Set amidst the tranquil atmosphere of organic coffee and spice plantations, Paradisa Plantation Retreat comprises separately arranged traditional wooden Kerala style houses. Sitting in your cottage, the view itself is enough to rejuvenate your mind and body.
Today you’ll have a full day to explore the local area. From Paradisa Plantation Retreat you can hike through the plantations to see the cultivation and harvesting of coffee, cardamom, cloves and pepper. The tea plantations and factory are also well worth a visit.
This morning you will be driven to the backwaters of Kerala.
On arrival you’ll check into your hotel and this afternoon you can just relax and soak up the laid back life of the locals on these pristine backwaters.
Today you’ll have a full day to explore this area. You may wish to join a guided village walk where you’ll have the opportunity to interact with local people and get a sense of Kerala’s rural life, explore ancient temples and churches, canoe along the shallow waterways, or enjoy a cycle ride through the lush paddy fields.
This morning you will board your houseboat for your backwaters cruise.
The entire state of Kerala is criss-crossed with waterways that provide irrigation and also serve as convenient modes of transportation and commerce. Next to the coastline, these endless stretches of lakes and lagoons are together called the backwaters. Life along these canals and byways is quite different from that seen along the highways. Many of the villages are isolated and entirely dependent on the canals for means of livelihood, transportation and communication. The best way to explore these surroundings is by a ‘kettuvallam’ or houseboat.
Preserving their historic character and style, craftsmen have created a unique atmosphere on board, a comfortable, self-contained world from which to observe rural Keralan life flowing gently by. Most of the houseboats come with bath-attached bedrooms, a living room, open deck and a kitchenette. The crew – an oarsman and a cook will ensure that you have a comfortable voyage filled with simple pleasures, exotic sights and memorable experiences.
Today you’ll enjoy a backwater cruise in your houseboat as it meanders through the tranquil network of water canals, dotted with busy hamlets and lush green paddy fields. A houseboat ride through these placid waters is a magical and memorable experience and it is likely to be the highlight of your Indian adventure.
After a leisurely breakfast you will disembark the houseboat and travel the short distance to Marari Beach.
The name Marari is shortened from Mararikulam, a small and sleepy fisherman's village. Marari Beach itself is quiet and undeveloped, and a bit of a secret (although interest in it is growing). This is the perfect place to relax and unwind.
Today you’ll have a full day to absorb the slow pace of life of Marari Bach and soak up the serenity and tranquility of the deserted sandy beaches.
Sadly your India holiday is coming to an end. This morning you will be collected from your hotel and driven to Cochin airport to board your international flight home.