Trip Duration: 11 Nights / 12 Days (EX DELHI)
Trip Style: Leisure Journeys
Adventure Level: EasyThis is the 'easiest' of our trekking adventures. A moderate level of fitness is required and a flexible, open-minded approach is essential. There treks are shorter in duration and at lower or up to 3000 m altitude. You may be hiking up to 5- 6 hours a day.
Highest Alt: 1828 m
Area: Kerala , South India
Best Season: October – April
The southern state of Kerala consists of a range of jungle-covered hills which undulate gently towards the Indian Ocean – a perfect tropical getaway! Your adventure starts in the colourful ‘spice town’ of Cochin, where you get a glimpse into the region’s rich and multi-cultural history. You’ll also visit an elephant training camp and eco-farm to walk amongst fields of spices. Next you travel to the beautiful ‘hill station’ of Munnar and carry on to Periyar National Park that offers a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of city life, with over 300 square miles of lush tropical forests. It’s the perfect place for getting up close and personal with animals such as wild elephant and otters. You’ll continue to the beautiful Kerala backwaters, exploring the area’s villages on an overnight cruise on a comfortable houseboat. With beautiful unspoilt beaches to finish, this trip provides a great insight into the delights of southern India and this wonderfully friendly and easy-going area.
Highlights & Itinerary
DAY 01: DELHI / KOCHI, FLIGHT
The group will be met by our representative at Kochi Airport. Traditional welcome with garlands. Transfer to your hotel at Kochi for the next two nights. Freshen up and relax after your long flight, your Group Leader will brief you on what to expect in the days ahead. 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. They sway to the music as local legends are retold by this art form dating back 500 years or more (optional).Overnight stay at Kochi.
Meal Plan: XXX
DAY 02: KOCHI
Today you’ll take a sightseeing tour of Kochi’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 harbor cruise, a relaxing end to the day!
Meal Plan: B/fast only
DAY 03: KOCHI / GURUVAYUR, DRIVE
This morning leave Kochi and head to Guruvayur where you’ll check in to your hotel and enjoy some free time to relax. Later you visit the Punathir Kota Elephant Camp – time to get close and personal with these gentle giants. Elephants are loved, revered, groomed and are an integral part of Kerala culture and daily life. Over forty elephants are groomed at the Punathir kota (kota means ‘fort’) and are brought as ritual offering to the temple. You can spend a whole afternoon with these huge mammals here. 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.
Meal Plan: B/fast only
DAY 04 / 05: GURUVAYUR / MUNNAR, DRIVE
After breakfast you’ll board your charter bus for the journey eastward (approx 5-6hrs) to Munnar. You’re now in hill country and should notice the difference in both temperature and humidity from Cochin. Munnar was developed by British tea companies in the early 20th century and many buildings still reflect the town’s days as a British ‘hill station’. Today you will also visit a local family and share lunch with them. 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.
Meal Plan: B/fast X 02 + Lunch
DAY 06 / 07: MUNNAR / PERIYAR NATIONAL PARK, DRIVE
Today you’ll drive through lush pineapple and rubber plantations to Periyar (approx. 4 hrs).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. At its centre lies a large artificial lake, built by the British in 1895 to supply water to the region around Madurai and over 15 square kilometres in area. In 1973 the park became part of Project Tiger in an effort to save this wonderful animal from extinction. The park has a rich variety of wildlife – both mammals and birds. You would indeed 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!). In addition, wild elephants are often seen in the park.
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 majestic 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.
Meal Plan: B/fast X 02 + Dinner X 02
DAY 08: PERIYAR / KUMARAKOM, DRIVE
This morning you descend from the hills and make the three hour drive to Kumarakom. Here you board a houseboat to begin a cruise through the complex system of beautiful lagoons and canals known as the ‘Malabar Backwaters’. These waterways are the principal means of communication and trade for scores of homes and villages. Along the banks, at jetties and ferry stops, there’s often a wonderful array of produce ready for market – sacks of cashews are piled high next to coconuts.
Your houseboat is a converted kettuvallam (rice barge) constructed in a traditional way from anjali (jackfruit) wood. ‘Kettu’ means knot and ‘vallom’ means boat. These giant 80-foot long crafts have been adapted to provide simple but comfortable accommodation. The decks are carpeted with coir matting and furniture made from cane which is of typical southern style. Each boat has air conditioning, an open lounge, deck, kitchenette and a crew, usually comprising two oarsmen and a cook. Traditional lanterns are used as lights.
Overnight stay in Houseboats
Meal Plan: B/fast + Lunch + Dinner
DAY 09: KUMARAKOM / ALLEPEY
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.
Many people are employed in the coconut industry, where the coir (fibres) and copra (white meat) is processed in numerous small, often family-run, mills. Cashews are an important cash crop, and fishing plays an obviously vital role in the economy. After breakfast on board, your houseboat cruise ends at Aleppy where you’ll take a transfer to your hotel accommodation.
Meal Plan: B/fast + Lunch
DAY 10/11: ALLEPEY / KOVALAM, TRAIN
This morning 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 way to end your trip. 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.
On your last evening the Group Leader will no doubt organise a traditional ‘last supper’.
DAY 12: KOVALAM / TRIVANDRUM / DELHI
This morning you transfer to Trivandrum International airport (25 minutes) to board your flight back home.
This trip is suitable for anyone in reasonable health. There is no real physical difficulty involved although humidity can be high, especially on the coast. India is a developing country and the tourist infrastructure in the south is in its infancy. Be prepared to leave Western expectations behind; piping hot water may not be available at all times of the day and cooling fans may well rattle ! A little patience and a sense of humor are essential.
DELAY & UNEXPECTED HINDRENCE
Although it is our intention to operate the itinerary as printed in the brochure and detailed below, it may be necessary to make some changes as a result of alterations to flight schedules, climatic conditions, limitations of infrastructure or other operational factors. As a consequence, the order or location of overnight stops may vary from those outlined.
The decision to partake in any activity not listed as an optional activity is entirely at your own discretion and risk. If you do have any complaint about or problem with, any such optional activity your claim should be directed to the activity provider and not to Freedom 2 Be.
We use a variety of accommodation in this trip to South India. Wherever possible we try to ensure that this is in keeping with the itinerary and the region that you are visiting. We have graded the hotels on this trip as AA – Hotels, lodges or guesthouses, usually with en suite facilities. These are generally simple hotels with adequate amenities. Whilst comfort levels are perfectly acceptable, there are generally no added facilities.
Most trips prices are based on sharing a twin room. Therefore, if you’re a solo traveller you’ll be paired with someone from the group, unless you decide to pay a single room supplement. Details of this supplement can be found in the pricing.
Some or all of the excursions detailed below may be available. Approximate costs are given for guidance only and may depend on the number of participants. Your Group Leader should be able to assist you in
Cochin – Kathakali dance drama INR350
Periyar – elephant ride INR300 for 30minutes
Kovalam – Anchuthengu Fort – INR50.00
Kovalam – Koyikkal Palace – INR50.00
Entry fees to Periyar National Park go towards the maintenance of the park and wildlife conservation. The farm visit really helps out the local family with vital income.
Please be respectful when visiting any temples, take all rubbish with you and wear appropriate clothing if necessary.
Children above the age of 8 with strong sense of adventure are accepted on this trip. These trips encourage children to understand the interconnectedness between humans and nature.
Children under 12 sharing their parents’ room receive a discounted price. There are no babysitting facilities along the route, but extra bedding and special dishes can be arranged with advance notice.
Best for: 08 Years and above
Family friendly accommodation: Extra Beds Available