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Kerala Backwater & Beaches




Duration
10 Nights / 11 Days

Places Covered: Kochi, Vaikom, Kerala Backwaters Cruise, Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve, Varkala
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Kerala BeachesIndia is a country of massive contrasts. The peaceful lifestyle of the much of the south with its picturesque beaches and backwaters is vastly different to the hustle and bustle of the big cities and you are sure to be constantly amazed by the diversity. The influences of the British, Portuguese and Mughals can be seen everywhere. The architecture reflects the wealth of the past, but even today it is easy to observe first-hand the gap between the various classes. Very few other countries have religion so intertwined with every aspect of daily life and some of the temples we visit date back over two thousand years. Once we have experienced the history, the culture and the warm friendliness of the people of southern India, we will surely want to come back for more.

Moderate - A moderate level of fitness is required. These trips generally involve some physical activities and occasional long travelling days. Accommodation and travel conditions may be more basic.


Itinerary

Day 1 - Delhi

Route MapToday is an arrival day and no activities are planned, so you may arrive at any time. Our hotel is located in Fort Cochin, the historical heart of Kochi (Cochin). If you are arriving early, please check the noticeboard in the foyer of the hotel for suggestions of things to see and do in Fort Cochin. A pre-departure meeting takes place this evening at the hotel. Please also check the noticeboard for details of this meeting and for any other messages from your tour leader. Please also bring your passport and travel insurance documents to the meeting, where your tour leader will also collect your local payment. Afterwards we have the opportunity to go out for an optional group dinner.

Day 2 - Kochi
Kochi is set on a cluster of peninsulas and islands in the Indian Ocean and is a fascinating blend of cultures. From time immemorial it has been the favourite destination of globe-trotters and explorers. Blessed by one of the finest natural harbours in the world, Kochi has been eulogised as the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea'. We include a tour of the Fort Kochi peninsula where we discover the Dutch Palace, which was restored by the Dutch and presented as a gift to the King of Kochi, and St Francis Church - the oldest Christian church in India, built by Portuguese Franciscan monks in 1503. The church itself is testament to the history of historic Cochin, having been used at various stages by Roman Catholics, Dutch Protestants and Anglicans. We also visit the famous Mattancherry Jewish Synagogue, originally built of wood in 1568. The area surrounding the synagogue is full of spice shops selling cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and a host of other spices. We also take a look at the unique Chinese fishing nets, which are set up close to our hotel.

Day 3 - Vaikom - Kochi
This morning we drive to Vaikom for a day visit, where we include a boat ride through the small waterways and visit various local industries such as like coir making, toddy tapping, spice producing, mat weaving and pot making. We visit a riverine village and meet the families living in this stunningly unique environment. The backwaters of Kerala have become the lifeline of the state, with a number of towns like Allapuzha, Kumarakom, Kollam, Kuttinad located amidst the maze of waterways. Late in the afternoon we drive back to Kochi for our overnight stay.

Day 4 - Backwater Cruise - Alleppey
Today we catch a bus to the small market town of Alleppey (Alappuzha) that is built on a network of canals and surrounded by coconut palms. Upon arrival we board our houseboat, converted from a Kettavallum, or traditional rice barge, and sail the beautiful backwaters of Kerala. This large aquatic area is a vast network of lagoons, lakes, rivers and canals, and the people who live in this region have created their own distinct lifestyles. From our comfortable houseboats we witness the peaceful way of life on these amazing waterways. After watching the sun go down over the backwaters we return to dock at Alleppey and transfer to our nearby backwater hotel.(L)

Day 5-6 - Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Today we catch the local bus to Thekkady, on the edge of one of India's most popular wildlife reserves. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary surrounds an artificial lake that was built by the British in 1895. It is home to gaur, wild boar, sambar deer, langur monkey, wild elephant, various antelopes and a wide variety of birds. We include an early morning cruise on the lake, which is a great way to start the day. The rest of the time is free to explore the area and perhaps take an optional jungle walk with a local guide or visit a nearby plantation.

Day 7-9 - Varkala
We spend the next three days at Varkala - a beautiful beach town on the Arabian Sea about an hour's drive from the capital of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum). The main beach here is Papanasham Beach, which is long and golden with a backdrop of red laterite cliffs from which mineral water springs forth. It is a chill-out place and in the mornings and evenings we can witness fishermen pulling up their nets from the sea. Our tour leader is able to take us to various beaches in the surrounding areas and advise us on various optional activities such as witnessing an evening Kathakali or Kalaripayatt show. It is also a town famous for Ayurvedic massage centres - ideal for rejuvenation!

Day 10-11 - Kochi
We take a morning day train back to Kochi and arrive back there by noon. We have a final free afternoon in Kochi, which offers a great opportunity to do some final shopping for souvenirs to take home. Our trip ends the following morning.

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