VERDANT FORESTS, MISTY MOUNTAINS, BACKWATERS TRAILS
Rated by National Geographic traveller as one of the world’s 50 must-see destinations, Kerala is a rich tropical landscape of palm-fringed beaches backed by emerald paddy fields, languorous backwaters, cardamom-scented hills and the lush green forests of the Western Ghats. Combined with fascinating port cities, quaint hill stations and a backwater cruise, it makes for an unforgettable journey and real insight into Kerala and its people.
Our journey begins in the elegant old trading port of Cochin, with its handsome colonial architecture and laid-back charm, before heading inland to the cool mountains of Munnar, a hill station set high in the Ghats, and surrounded by tea plantation. For the next five days, we trek at a gentle pace past spectacular hillside views, ascending towards Meesapulimala peak (2,440m). Crossing into Tamil Nadu, we drive to Madurai visiting the vast and ancient Sri Meenakshi temple, famous for its history, magnificent architecture, prayer halls and gopurams. Then back to Periyar in Kerala for a sighting of wild elephants and other wild life. Finally, we go on a backwater cruise featuring spellbinding emerald scapes before hitting the white-sandy beaches of Kovalam for a spot of Relaxation.
- Western Ghats – trekking through forests and tea plantations
- An overnight stay on a traditional houseboat on the stunning backwaters
- Periyar National Park – abundant wildlife, including wild elephants and Munnar with its lush tea plantations
- Kovalam – tropical white-sand beaches
- Fabulous Keralan cuisine and ancient therapies
Day 1Traditional Welcome on arrival
Arrive at Cochin International airport. After a traditional welcome ‘Swagat’ we transfer to the hotel for check-in. Kochi has a historical sea trade connection with the Middle East, Mediterranean and northern Europe and its cosmopolitan past is reflected in the buildings and structures which represent different parts of the world - a blend of the old Portuguese, Dutch and British influences.
Day 2Heads twoards the beautiful hill station of Munnar
Cochin (Kochi) - Munnar
In the morning we drive away from the coastal plains to Munnar, located in the Western Ghats, approximately 1,600 meters above sea level. Once the summer-resort of the British administration in South India, Munnar is a beautiful hill station which retains its colonial charm and is famous for its tea plantations. The town is situated at the confluence of three mountain streams Mudrapauzha, Naliathani and Kundala. With its rolling hills, sparkling waterfalls, tea plantations and picture-postcard hamlets, the area is perfect for some leisurely hiking. Upon arrival we check into our hotel and spend the rest of the day at leisure enjoying the ambiance of the town or the beauty of its bazaars.
Day 3Hiking Day
After an early breakfast, we drive through the old town of Munnar and arrive in a tiny village of Nagarmudi, from where, accompanied by a local guide, we start our trek. The trail commences with a gradual ascent through the tea plantations and then climbs into Seven Malai hills. Before we reach the top, we enjoy walking through cardamom & coffee plantations. At the top we are rewarded with spectacular views of Anamudi Peak , Changulam Lake , Chittrapuram Dam , Munnar town and some local villages. Later we descend down through the same route and are transferred to our hotel.
In the late afternoon, we may choose an optional visit to a Tea Museum.
Day 4Munnar - Silent Valley - camp in Silent Valley (2000 m)
Munnar - Silent Valley
We would be given a short transfer to Silent Valley from where we begin the trek with moderate steps that winds its way on the plains of the Tea plantations pursued with a gentle ascent to the natural wild grassy lands that goes up to the ridges, crossing sholas with amazing views of the tea plantations around us. Continuing our Trek after a satisfying lunch, we descend to our first halt where we will set up our camp on a meadow by a stream for two nights.
Duration of trek: 3-4hrs
Day 5Hike to Meesapulimala
Silent Valley - Meesapulimala (2630m)
After the breakfast, we set out on a half day trek to Meesapulimala Peak (2,630m), the highest point in this area but the second highest in South India (Anamudi being highest, but falls under restricted area). From the camp the trail ascends through rough grassland until open ridges, from where it winds across wide meadows, and then as on most mountains it gets steeper closer to the summit. However, our efforts are rewarded with breath-taking views from the top across Kerala and Tamil Nadu as it is also the border between these two states. It takes us about 2-3 hours to reach to the top and after a short break at the top we descend to our camp for a late lunch and free afternoon.
Duration of Trek: 5-6 Hrs
Day 6Trek from Silent Valley to Top Station
Silent Valley - Top station (1880m)
Today on a relatively longer day we trek across the plateau of the Western Ghats through an area of plantations of red Rhododendron that enhances the beauty of the entire region. This plateau of the Western Ghats is home to many endemic species of flora and fauna, such as Atlas Moth, Wild Goat and Wild Boar. Walking past the higher reaches of the plantations and tea estates we pass through authentic villages where we may interact with friendly locals.
Duration of Trek: 7 Hrs
Day 7Trek from Top Station till Mundhan
Top station (1880m) - Mundhan
Another longish trekking day lies in store as we descend from the Top Station through coffee plantations, dense forests and cotton plantations to reach Center Station. Here in the rich and fertile lands of Tamil Nadu we continue to walk through the village of Kotakuddi where the landscape gives way to paddy fields and vast tracts of mango plantations. The final stretch of our trek takes us through coconut and mango plantations and ends near the village of Mundhan.
Day 8Journey to most fascinating city of Tamil Naidu
Mundhan - Madurai
After the breakfast, we leave Kerala behind and drive across the plains to reach the colorful city of Madurai, famous for its intricate temple complexes.
Rest of the day is free for visiting the town.Madurai is one of the oldest and most fascinating cities in Tamil Nadu and is a thriving cultural centre with a rich heritage and history. Its great Meenakshi Amman Temple - Sri Meenakshi Sundarewarar Temple Temple, built during the Nayak period between 16th and 18th centuries is at the heart of the city and is one of the biggest temple complexes in India. The five gopurams that surround the temple are known for the stucco-work - the 48.8m high southern gopuram is the tallest. Worshipers bathe in The Tank of The Golden Lily and throng The Hall of a Thousand Pillars, each uniquely carved. Madurai is a perfect place to wander around and to experience the Hindu Culture.
Day 9Gateway to the state of Kerala
Madurai - Periyar (Thekkady)
In the morning, we drive to Thekkady, where we re-enter the state of Kerala. The drive is spectacular as the road climbs through the Western Ghats that has fantastic views across Tamil Nadu. We then arrive in the small bustling village of Thekkady and check-in to the hotel.
This whole area is a center for spice cultivation and after lunch we walk around in a spice garden where many different spices under cultivation can be seen. There is plenty of time in the afternoon to explore the bazaar where there are numerous shops selling cardamoms, vanilla, peppercorns, chilies, turmeric and other spices.
Day 10Periyar National Park
Early morning we leave for a Jungle walk in the park accompanied by forest guides. In the park we can admire abundance of bird life - kingfishers, storks and horn-bills are the most commonly spotted. The Periyar National Park is one of the largest in south India and is set around a large man-made lake. After the jungle walk, we return to the hotel for breakfast.
In the afternoon, there may be possibility of an optional boat ride on Periyar Lake. This is an ideal opportunity to get close to the animals and a good opportunity for spotting elephants, otters, wild pigs, and buffaloes.
Ayurvedic massage is also an option and can be arranged in the nearby Ayurvedic massage center.
Day 11Houseboat stay in the middle of Vembanand Lake
Periyar (Thekkady) - Alappuzha (Alleppey)
After the breakfast, we drive to Alleppey. Also known as Alappuzha, the town is a principal center for backwater cruises in Kerala. We board our houseboats and begin our cruise along the backwaters of Kerala; one of the highlights of the trip. These enchanting boats have been decorated and made into comfortable cruise vessels. We meander along the waterways flanked by lush tropical vegetation, catching glimpses of dazzling tropical birds and watching idyllic villages. Our overnight stay is on the boats in the middle of the famous Vembanad Lake..
Day 12Route to Kovalam
Alappuzha (Alleppey) - Kovalam
After a relaxing breakfast on the houseboats, we disembark and drive to Kovalam. Kovalam is an extremely popular beach resort due to shallow water and low tidal waves. It offers an excellent diversity to suit all desires and occasions. A massive rocky promontory on the beach has created a beautiful bay of calm water ideal for sea bathing. The beaches are backed by precipitously mounting headlands and covered by fertile coconut palms. The southernmost part of light house beach is more beautiful. Some of the leisure options at this beach are sunbathing, swimming, herbal body toning massages, special cultural programs, catamaran cruising, etc.
Day 13Optional tour to Kanyakumari
We have a free day to enjoy the idyllic soft sandy beaches, warm clear waters and wide views of the ocean horizon that Kovalam has to offer. There is also the opportunity to do an optional day's sightseeing tour by taxi from Kovalam to Kanyakumari, the southern tip of India where 2 seas - the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal meet in the India Ocean. The trip also takes in the old wooden palace of the rulers of Travancore at Padmapuhamban - a marvelous building with fantastic woodcarvings; and Hindu temple at Suchindram with its amazing stone carvings.
_Note: (This trip can be booked and paid locally_).