10 days from £1959pp plus international flights.
A combination of sightseeing, messing around in boats, watching wildlife and lazing by the beach, this holiday is perfect for all the family. You'll be introduced to the laid-back South Indian lifestyle, with plenty of opportunities to meet local people and sample delicious, subtly-spiced food.
Starting in Kochi, with its busy harbour and historic buildings, your South Indian journey will take you deep into the beguiling Kerala backwaters where you'll see daily life in and around the water, watching from your very own houseboat. Back on dry land you'll be shown around a spice plantation and might end up helping with the harvest! everyone loves an elephant so we've included a visit to a training centre where you help bathe and may get a chance to ride on these gentle giants. And finally...there's the beach! Miles of golden sand lapped by the Indian Ocean. You'll have three days to spend doing just what you want. There's loads to do if you want to, but you might just prefer to lie back in a hammock beneath the tall coconut palms...
We've chosen some pretty special places to stay, too. Your Kochi hotel has the best views in town, overlooking the harbour, while your houseboat is blend of traditional design and modern comforts. In Periyar your home is a thatched-roof cottage in a recreated mountain village set in 14 acres of gardens. Your final hotel is an idyllic beach-front resort, where tropical flowers attract an array of birds and butterflies, and the pace of life is totally unhurried. Three days may not be long enough - you can always add more!
You'll be met by a local representative when you arrive at Kochi airport, who will whisk you away to your hotel, Brunton Boatyard. This attractive building is on the harbour front giving you superb views of the endless parade of ships of all sizes. Leaving you luggage in your room, amble out to the gardens and maybe go for a refreshing swim in the pool. Later, you might want to join the harbour cruise that departs each evening from the hotel's jetty, for an enchanting view of the sunset.
Having finished breakfast you'll be collected from the hotel for a guided city tour. Kochi has an illustrious history as an important trading post dating back to Roman times and remains a busy port today. The Fort Cochin district is the oldest part of the city with many historic buildings including Mattancherry Palace, St Francis Church, the Jewish synagogue and a number of fine colonial villas. You also visit the Ernakulam district of the city, with its many churches and temples. This full day trip includes lunch at a local restaurant. On conclusion of the tour you are taken back to your hotel. Breakfast, lunch
This morning you'll be picked up from the hotel for the hour's drive to Allepy, the gateway to the Kerala backwaters where your houseboat awaits. Constructed in the traditional style, it provides surprisingly spacious accommodation with modern comforts like air conditioning. The crew will welcome you aboard and as you settle back into your comfy chair on deck you'll be served drinks. Relax and enjoy the beguiling backwaters views and scenes of everyday life. Later the cook will create a delicious dinner full of local flavours. Full board.
Your gentle backwaters cruise ends after breakfast. Your driver and car will be waiting to transport you to Periyar. The drive will take about 4 hours and you'll be able to stop en-route to break up the journey whenever you wish. You'll arrive at your hotel around mid-afternoon and will have time find your bearings. Later you'll be taken to a nearby spice plantation for a tour and chance to learn about the cultivation and production of these ingredients, so key to South Indian cuisine. Breakfast.
It's an early stay today, as you are driven into Periyar National Park for a safari. The park was established in 1934 and at its heart is Lake Periyar, which attracts varied wildlife including elephant, Indian bison, deer, wild boar and the Malabar giant squirrel. You'll be taken back to Spice Village for lunch and time to unwind, maybe enjoying a swim in the pool. Later this afternoon you'll visit the elephant training centre to learn how these creatures are taught. You can help bathe the animals and, if time permits, take a short elephant-back ride. Breakfast
Take to the water comes this morning as you board a bambo raft for a ride on the lake, a wonderful way to immerse yourself in nature, watching wildlife and taking in the scenery. This afternoon you have a change of scene as you are taken to a nearby spice plantation to learn about the cultivation of harvesting of different species and their importance to the local economy, Breakfast
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast, after which your driver will be ready to drive you to the coast. The overall journey will take about 4 hours and takes you through changing scenery as the green hills and spice plantations of the Western ghats make way for the lowlands. You'll travel through the backwaters with their green rice fields finally emerging at the coast. Your hotel for the next few days is Marari Beach Resort, set in 36 acres of gardens and coconut groves. It's a place that exudes relaxation and you'll soon find yourself succumbing to the gentle pace of life. Breakfast.
There's nothing planned today, so you can be as active or inactive as you wish - set your own pace. You can take a stroll in the gardens, watching colourful birds, maybe spotting some of the resident owls, soak up some sun on the beach, enjoy an energising massage or take part in a yoga session. If you feel like spreading your wings a little you can walk or cycle to the nearby village, meeting local people, watching skilled craftsmen creating coir fibre and being greeted by smiling children. In the afternoon if you're feeling sporty you can enjoy a game of tennis or volleyball. You'll have worked up quite an appetite and you can reward yourself with some delicious fresh fish, served by the beach. Breakfast.
Wake to the sound of birdsong in the garden, drifting through the open window. Another day at Marari! After breakfast take a walk through the gardens, stopping to observe sunbirds and woodpeckers and gorgeous tropical blooms. At the beach watch crabs scuttle along the shoreline among the breaking waves. Later you can adjourn to the pool, lazing in a hammock in the dappled sunshine. In the afternoon you can visit the butterfly garden where you'll see vividly coloured butterflies and dragonflies. Tonight you'll have your last dinner by the beach. Breakfast.
After breakfast, depending on your flight schedule, there may time for one last stroll along the beach before you're driven the 90kms to Kochi airport for your flight home. Breakfast.
Guide price from (pp sharing): £1959 (ex. international flights)
Price notes: 2019 prices based on 2 sharing. 20 Dec to 10 Jan from £2169. 11 Jan to 31 Jan from £1959. Feb from £2132 and 1 Mar to 30 Apr from £1959.
Twin share accommodation; private car and driver; Kochi halfday city tour; Kerala backwaters cruise; spice plantation tour; halfday jeep safari in Periyar National Park; visit to the elephant training centre; meals as specified.
International flights and taxes; visas; vaccinations; travel insurance; meals not specified; drinks; personal expenses.
This holiday starts and finishes at Kochi airport. Return flights from the UK will cost around £650 per person, depending on season and availability. We will be happy to book flights for you.
Departure dates: This is a tailor-made holiday that can begin on the day of your choice
Brunton Boatyard has a great location in the heart of Cochin with the character of a heritage hotel.
A houseboat is the ideal way to see the backwaters of Kerala, providing a comfortable base to watch the world go by.
On the Kerala coast, Marari Beach Resort has been designed in a traditional Kerala style, with private thatch-roofed villas.
Spice Village is an excellent base for exploring the wildlife of Periyar National Park with an excellent record for sustainable development.
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Find the best time to visit India
Time: GMT +5 hours
Flight time: Flight time from London to Delhi is 8 hours 30 minutes and to Mumbai is about 8 hours.
Language: The official language is Hindi, which about 30% of the population speaks. English is very widely spoken and is used for official and commercial purposes.
Visas: Required for British travellers. Other nationalities should obtain advice from their embassy.
Health: There are no compulsory vaccinations.