Highlights of South India
Day 1 Kochi (Cochin)
Arrive in Kochi at any time. There are no planned activities, so check into to the hotel (check-in time is 12.00 midday) and enjoy the city. In the evening you will meet your fellow group members to go over the details of your trip. Check the notice board to see what time and where the group meeting will be held. After the meeting, we attend the popular classical dance-drama of Kerala "Kathakali". This dramatized presentation of a play usually based on the Hindu epics of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas, has a unique combination of literature, music, painting, acting and dance. This dance drama is famous for amazing costumes, very extensive makeup, and explosive body movement and is performed exclusively by men. There are plenty of things to do in Kochi, this seaside Indian city with its Portuguese and Dutch history, architecture and style. Kochi is renowned for its exquisite gold designer jewellery and is also home to the Dutch Palace (Mattancherry), Jewish Town with its synagogue and the Fort itself. The oldest church in India, the Anglican St. Francis Church, sits near mosques and synagogues, and Portuguese housing sits side by side with English manor homes. Vasco de Gama's tombstone is still here, even if his remains are back in Lisbon, and the Dutch cemetery is worth a quick look. Watch the sunset from the tip of Fort Kochi where you ill spot the old cantilevered fishing nets, common here in Kerala. Originally brought from China, in Malayalam they're called 'cheena vala', and used mainly at high tide. An important stop on the spice trading route due to its strategic location near the tip of the Indian subcontinent, Kochi (Cochin) has been a melting pot of influences since the 14th century. The city’s history stretches back much farther: by 1102, Kochi was already the seat of an eponymous princely state that traced its lineages to the Kulasekhara empire. Ancient travellers and tradesmen made references to Kochi in their writings, and in 1503 Kochi became the first European colonial settlement in India when it was occupied by the Portuguese. Also of interest is the fact that Vasco da Gama, the first European explorer to set sail for India, was initially buried in Kochi’s St. Francis Church until his remains were returned to Portugal in 1539. Later, both the Dutch and British occupied Kochi, resulting in the variety of architecture, food and other influences typical of today’s Kochi. Today Kochi is the commercial hub of Kerala state, and a growing centre of information technology, tourism and international trade. However, like other large cities in the developing world, Kochi continues to struggle with urbanisation problems like poor sanitation and traffic congestion.
Day 2 Kumarakom (1B,1D)
After breakfast we explore the old part of Fort Cochin and Mattancherry. Here you visit Dutch Palace which was built by the Portuguese and presented to the Cochin King in the 16th century and the St. Francis Church, the oldest European church in India, Santa Cruz Basilica - built by Portuguese in the 16th century, the fishing market and the famous Chinese fishing net - believed having been brought by trader from Kubla Khan's court in China. We then travel to Kumarakom, set in the backdrop of the Vembanad Lake which is the largest freshwater lake in the state of Kerala.
Day 3 Alleppey/Kerala backwaters (1B,1L,1D)
This morning we travel to Allepey, a golden streak of land surrounded by rivers, lakes, lagoons and canals and is labelled as the Venice of the East. Alappuzha, meaning the land between the sea and a network of rivers falling into it, evokes a sense of romance and beauty. On arrival we board our private House boat that takes us through the backwaters of canals, lakes and coves. You can sunbathe on the deck and enjoy the scenery. Daily life takes place here on the water, people sail, fish, swim and bathe here. They are so adapted to the water that you can see people talking for an hour, while they are up to their necks in water. Peddlers take care of the supplies and all public transport is by water. The trip goes through a wonderful area full of water birds, palm trees, rice fields and floating water plants that surround the boat like emerald Green Island.
Days 4-5 Marari (2B)
Disembark from the houseboat and drive to Marari Beach in Kerala, considered to be one of the most charming fishing Villages on the whole Indian subcontinent. Life in Marari goes on as it did hundreds of years ago, unperturbed by the worldly commotion and it offers endless miles of beaches kissed by the sun and fanned by swaying palms.
Day 6 Kochi (Cochin) (1B)
Travel back to Kochi for our final evening.
Day 7 Kochi (Cochin) (1B)
Depart at any time, hotel checkout is at 12:00pm.