Day 1- Fly to Cochin
Overnight flight to Cochin.
Day 2 - Cochin
After your flight, you transfer to your first night’s accommodation and check in. After time to freshen up and relax after your long flight, your escort will brief you on your itinerary . The rest of the day is free for you to relax . Today or tomorrow perhaps you’ll also take in a Kathakali show, a traditional dance drama in which performers wear an incredible amount of colourful costume and make-up. (optional). Hotel – 2 nights
Day 3 - Cochin
Today you’ll take a sightseeing tour of Cochin’s main attractions. Cochin (now known by the local name Kochi) – is built around a saltwater lagoon on the Arabian Sea, and remains the commercial capital of Kerala. From the tightly packed streets the scents of cinnamon, cloves and countless other spices mingle in the sea breeze. On the western shore of the Fort Cochin peninsular, rows of cantilevered Chinese fishing nets remind us of Kerala’s trade links with the outside world. The area is also home to a small community of Jews whose descendants sailed into exile some 2,000 years ago - a synagogue still remains. Close by is Mattancherry Palace originally built by the Portuguese and given to the Raja of Kochi in exchange for trading rights. Here you’ll see the remarkable series of murals, which illustrate tales from the sacred epic of the Ramayana.
There is plenty of time to wander through the narrow lanes lined with houses built by the Portuguese, Dutch and British in their own distinctive styles. However it’s not only the extraordinary assortment of architectural styles that can be found but also an array of interesting and tasty local dishes. Still strong on rice, coconuts and fish, local cuisine also embraces influences from Europe and the Arab world. This evening we have included a harbour cruise, a relaxing end to the day!
Day 4 - Cochin to Guruvayur
Early morning you will depart for Guruvayur. On arrival you will visit the Punathir Kota Elephant Camp . Elephants are loved and are an integral part of Kerala culture. Over forty elephants are groomed at the Punathir kota ( kota means 'fort') and are brought as ritual offering to the temple. Watching the naughty baby elephants' playful antics is an entertaining experience. The place provides you an opportunity to watch how the sick elephants are medically treated in the traditional manner. You can also watch the training given to the elephants for various ritualistic performances.
Hotel – 1 night
Day 5/6 - Munnar
After breakfast you’ll leave for Munnar. Munnar was developed by British tea companies in the early 20thC and many buildings still reflect the town’s days as a British ‘hill station’. The following day you explore Eravikulum National Park. This park was established in the 1970’s, primarily as a means of protecting an endangered species of wild goat, the Nilgiri Tahr. The terrain in the park is quite rough and steep but you’ll take a gentle trek along good paths, to spot these animals along with possibly elephants, sambar and macaques. This afternoon there’s time to wander around Munnar’s bazaars. Hotel - 2 nights
Day 7/8 - Madurai
This morning you will leave for Madurai. Madurai is known as “The Temple Towns”. In south temples are graced with slim sikaras (towers) whereas here in the south immense gopurams (gateways) carved with thousands of painted Hindu gods are the most striking elements of the Dravidian temples.
Meenakshi temple is no exception - inside is a maze of halls, pillared cloisters and sanctuaries - all of which seem to be decorated with a profusion of murals, carvings and inscriptions. The heady fragrance of incense is everywhere, as is the chanting of priests whose deities are garlanded with colourful flowers. Outside the temple complex the streets are no less enthralling and seem to resemble one huge bazaar with hawkers, stalls and even the occasional passing elephant! Every morning Shiva is taken from his resting place with Meenakshi to the main temple shrine and returned in the evening with great ritual. Tonight, after an afternoon’s exploration, you should have the chance to visit the Meenakshi temple to witness the daily ceremony of ‘Putting Shiva to Bed’.
The following day you will be taken to visit the Thirumalai Nayak Palace. Built in Indo-Mughal style, the Palace was restored by the British in the 19th century and retains some beautiful examples of Tamil decoration. Or you may visit Trichy. Trichy has the towering Rock Fort Temple. You make your way to the entrance and from there climb the 400 plus steps past several shrines onto a rock plateau. From the plateau there are stunning views over the city, coconut palms and paddy field patchwork of the Cauvery River plains. Back down the steps and you can make your way to the old town where the labyrinth of narrow, 18th century streets are lined with craft workshops and small textile shops.
Hotel – 2 nights
Day 9/10 - Periyar National Park
Early morning you will depart for Periyar National Park, one of the main wildlife sanctuaries of southern India .
Situated in the Cardamom Hills region of the Western Ghats, the park covers 777 square kilometres, at an altitude of between 914 and 1,828m.The park has a rich variety of wildlife - both mammals and birds. You will be lucky to see the elusive tiger and leopard - both of which inhabit the forest, but should certainly see sambar, chital, otter, wild boar and gaur along with a rich variety of birdlife (and the odd leech.
You'll have some free time to relax and get used to the sounds of the wildlife in the park. You might like to take the opportunity to take a bullock and cart ride as part of a community-based eco-tourism project where locals will take you around their village in the valley behind the mountains of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. You could also hire a bike in the village of Kumily and explore the area, visiting the local tea and spice markets, or cycle amongst the cardamom-covered hills. Later on, you’ll spend time at a nearby elephant camp where you can see these majstic animals at close quarters again before rounding the day off with a visit to a local market.
The next day you’ll continue your exploration of the park on foot in a small group; this is one of the few wildlife parks in which visitors are able to walk. You make regular stops to watch for elephant and gaur, as well as monkeys and birds. Hotel – 2 nights
Day 11 - Malabar Backwaters
Early morning you shall leave for Kumarakom. On arrival you shall board a houseboat to begin a cruise through the beautiful lagoons and canals known as the ‘Malabar Backwaters’.
Houseboat – 1 night
Day 12 - Backwaters of Alleppy
Your cruise on the backwaters is coming to an end. Before it does, soak up the surroundings and tranquil atmosphere. You may pass houses, perched on strips of land only a few metres wide. Lined with swaying palms, with shimmering green paddy fields beyond, the backwaters make a beautiful and peaceful setting. You may even encounter traditional boats with their huge sails and dragon-carved prows.
After breakfast on board, your houseboat cruise ends at Aleppy where you'll take a transfer to your hotel accommodation. Hotel – 1 night
Day 13/14 - Kovalam beach stay
This morning you’ll transfer to Kollam railway station and catch the train to Trivandrum (2hrs). Approximately 25 minutes drive from Trivandrum lies your accommodation for the next two nights at Kovalam Beach. You’re free to spend your time here lazing on the beach or by the hotel pool.
Alternatively you could have a traditional ayurvedic massage, where oils extracted from plants with medicinal properties are worked into the head, arms, shoulders and back – a perfect trip end for parents! Or what about making a full day journey to the very south of India, to Kanyakumari and look south towards Antarctica! You can explore locally on foot and sometimes bikes can be found to rent out. supper’. Hotel – 2 nights (Bx2)
Day 15 - Return Home
This morning you transfer to Trivandrum (25 minutes) where clients board the flight home.
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