This Small Group Trip offers you the chance to see Kerala from a local perspective: visits to small towns, local temples and their unique rituals, homestays and their welcoming hosts, different cuisines and the chance to learn how to cook them – join us as we explore Kerala in-depth and way beyond the beaten track.
Kerala is one of the more interesting and exciting places you are ever likely to visit. A narrow strip of land bound by high mountains to the west and the turquoise waters of the Arabian Sea to the east, Kerala is picture-postcard India at its very best. A variety of influences – Chinese, Arab, Dutch, Portuguese and British, among others – is seen throughout the state in an amalgam of architectural styles, religions and cuisines that is unequalled anywhere in India.
Group size: max 10.
Tempo: easy does it.
Included: accommodation, transport, western leader and local guides, all meals, entrance fees.
Accommodation: backwater and Ayurvedic guest houses, plantation homestays and heritage hotels.
Transport: 11 seater air-conditioned van
Combines with: any of our Assisted Independent Travel itineraries, such as Golden Triangle.
Day 1: Arrive Cochin Cochin has international flight arrivals and is well connected domestically. Arrive and transfer to hotel in the historic area of Fort Kochi. This area of the city is relatively car free, making it perfect for an afternoon stroll.
Day 2: Cochin Cochin has an amazing history, having been controlled at various times by the Dutch, Portuguese and British, and influenced by the Chinese and Jewish people. These influences can still be seen today, with the Chinese fishing nets, St Francis of Assisi church, Jewish Synagogue and Dutch Palace – all of which we will see today with a local guide.
Day 3: Cochin - Cannanore Board an early morning train heading north to Cannanore, where we arrive by late morning and transfer to a small guest house set on a semi-private strip of beach by the Arabian Sea. This is about as idyllic a palm-fringed beach as you can imagine. The guest house provides beautiful local home style meals, which is some of the best food we have eaten in India. Afternoon free to relax in hammock, swim, or take a walk in the local area.
Day 4: Cannanore Hopefully at some point today there will be an opportunity to see a ‘Theyyam’ ritual dance, which only takes place in the temples in the immediate area. It involves elaborate makeup and headdresses, a great deal of frenzied movement and lots of loud drumming. Very few people fully understand the ritual, with its origin and meaning shrouded in mystery. This is a unique experience and one not be missed when in this part of Kerala. The day will also include a visit to the town of Cannanore itself, to see its impressive and much fought over fort, as well as other small local sights of interest.
Day 5: Cannanore - Calicut Drive 2 hours south to Calicut, famous as the landing place of the first European to visit India, Vasco de Gama. Our small guest house here is run in accordance with the traditional Indian system of healthcare known as Ayurveda. For guests, this is a chance to sample an authentic Ayurvedic diet and massage treatment. In the afternoon there is the option to have a massage or participate in a cooking class or go for a walk in the local area.
Day 6: Calicut A full day to enjoy some of the many activities offered by the guest house, such as massage, a yoga class, cooking demonstrations, a visit to the Kerala’s oldest spice bazaar and hand loom weaving centre, a walk to ‘sweet meat street’, a market area teeming with small shops selling everything from bangles to brass lamps, or a visit to the local astrologer to have your astrological chart prepared. In the late afternoon drive to Kappad beach, where Vasco de Gama landed more than 500 years ago, for a swim and sunset over the Arabian Sea.
Day 7: Calicut - Palakkad Today we go with our host for a walk in the small local village and temple, to see life unfolding in a typical Keralan countryside town. In the afternoon there is the opportunity to see a traditional but rarely performed ritual called Kalam Ezhuthi Patture, which involves the hand drawing of Goddess Kali using natural colours followed by a series of rituals.
Day 8: Palakkad Today we go with our host for a walk in the small local village and temple, to see life unfolding in a typical Keralan countryside town. In the afternoon there is the opportunity to see a traditional but rarely performed ritual called Kalam Ezhuthi Patture, which involves the hand drawing of Goddess Kali using natural colours followed by a series of rituals.
Day 9: Palakkad - Palai Morning departure for Palai, further south in the foothills of the Western Ghat mountain range. The 5 hour drive will be broken with a stop at an elephant training camp, where captively-bread elephants are trained to be working or temple elephants. Arrive at our plantation homestay in the afternoon, and rest of afternoon at leisure.
Day 10: Palai The highlights of our stay here are the fantastic Syrian Catholic cuisine, walks in the rubber plantation and spice gardens which surround the homestead, and (hopefully) an opportunity to see elephants at work, carefully but powerfully dragging logs in between rubber trees. This last activity has often been rated as a highlight by many past travellers.
Day 11: Palai - Kumarakom In the morning we drive 2 hours to Kumarakom jetty, where we board houseboats for an overnight stay and cruise. With three staff per boat turning fresh local produce into feasts, cane deck chairs perfect for reading, and a sit out area ideal for seeing life in the backwaters drift by – this is a real slice of tropical luxury that has to be experienced to be believed. Overnight on board the boat.
Day 12: Alleppey After crossing Vembanad Lake, our house boat will drop us close to our home for the next two nights, a backwater homestay with a touch of modern class about it. This is a newly built property in a peaceful location; a great spot to wind up our trip through Kerala. Afternoon free.
Day 13: Alleppey Today our host will take us for a walk to the small nearby town, where we will most likely bump into several of his relatives. We can drop in on a small orphanage, where the children will try out their (excellent) English on us – these are the happy and healthy faces of well cared for children. We can also visit the Syrian Catholic church here, of which many local people attend regularly in this majority Christian area.
Day 14: Alleppey - Cochin Morning free before 3 hour drive north to Cochin airport for flights home or to onward Indian destination for further travel.