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KERALA BACKWATERS

India… a country which will enchant you with her beauty and diversity, delight you with her colorful pageantry, enrich you with her culture, stun you with her modernity, embrace you with her warmth, and overwhelm you with her hospitality…a land where the ancient and the contemporary exist side by side, where thousands of brilliant images fill the soul with wonder and where quaint and startling contradictions juxtapose to lend an extraordinary vitality, texture and poetry to life.

India ~ the ancient land of mystery, palaces and kings, romance and intrigue, nobility and grandeur.
A land steeped in a tradition of services and privileges to royalty. A land which has the largest Tiger population in the world.

Kerala – India’s most idyllic state, better known as God’s own Country is today one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Asia. Secluded beaches, palm fringed backwaters, mist clad hill station, lush tropical forests, waterfalls, exotic wildlife, monuments, art form and festival gives it a distinctive charm.

Day 01

ARRIVE COCHIN

Arrive at Cochin International Airport. As guests exit, they are accorded a traditional floral welcome and transferred from airport to hotel.

More popularly known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, Cochin is a cluster of islands on the vast expanse of the Vembanad Lake. The Lake opens out into the Arabian Sea here to form one of the finest natural harbours in the world. It is this natural advantage that has made Cochin a fascinating blend of the cultures and influences of explorers and traders. The Arabs, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, and the British have all left their mark here. The Jewish synagogue, the Dutch palace, the Chinese fishing nets, and other remnants of European and Asian architecture merge smoothly into the traditional fabric of the seaport city.

Evening: Walk through Fort Cochin is the best way to discover historic Fort Cochin at your own pace. Walking along its tree lined avenues and quaint little lanes, you relive an obscure fishing village along the river Cochin that became the first European town- ship in India and later rose to become one of the greatest cities of the world. A unique event in history when a major flood in AD 1341 threw open the estuary at Cochin, till then land locked, turning it into one of the finest natural harbours of the east and a perfect entrance way for a long line of seafaring visitors; the Arabs and the Chinese et al. Its reputation was such that Nicolas Conti, an Italian traveler remarked: "If China is where you make your money, then Cochin surely is the place to spend it.

Overnight: Hotel Brunton Boatyard
www.cghearth.com/brunton_boatyard/index.htm

Kerala
Day 02

COCHIN/MUNNAR (APPROX. 150 KMS, 3-4 HRS DRIVE)
After breakfast, leave by road for an overwhelming scenic journey to Munnar.

Arrive Munnar & Check into Hotel.

Munnar: Located at an altitude of over 6000 feet above sea level, Munnar ranks among the most beautiful hill stations in South Asia. Majestic mountains, lush green forests, pristine mountain streams and sprawling tea, coffee & cardamom plantations give Munnar its unique charm and beauty. It is the home of the endangered Nilgiri Thar (ibex) that roams on a stretch of grassland or is seen climbing the pinnacles of the undulating hills.

Afternoon: Walk through this green paradise or rolling tea plantations, trekking tracks and breathing waterfalls to experience intriguing beauty.

Overnight: Windermere Estate
www.windermeremunnar.com

Day 03

COCHIN
Breakfast at the hotel

Morning:Tour of Cochin or "Kochi" the palm green, commercial capital of Kerala which has one of the finest natural harbours & is known as the "Queen of the Arabian Sea". Visit the Dutch Palace, the Jewish Synagogue, the Church of St. Francis, the Bolghatty Palace & the famous Chinese fishing nets.

It is an interesting experience to walk in the Jew Town – today it is a fascinating mixture of shops.

Evening: Witness traditional Kathakali dance performance. Kathakali dance drama is one of India's most remarkable performing arts. An operatic spectacle involving pantomime, abstract dance, singing, instrumental accompaniment, and elaborate, stylized costumes and makeup, it is truly a multimedia presentation. Kathakali, which literally means "story play," was developed in the 17th century in Kerala as a courtly dance drama enacting mythic stories of the Hindu gods and goddesses.

Overnight: Hotel Brunton Boatyard

Kerala
Day 04

MUNNAR/PERIYAR (APPROX. 160 KMS, 3-4 HRS DRIVE)
Breakfast at the hotel

Depart by surface to Periyar.

Arrive Periyar & Check into Hotel

Periyar – a small town with its unending chains of hills and spice-scented plantations is famous for the Periyar Wildlife Reserve, noted for its diverse wildlife and beautiful landscape.

Afternoon: Boat cruise on the Lake of the famous Periyar wildlife sanctuary to see wild life. Periyar an artificial lake or reservoir created by a dam on Periyar River is the heart of the 777 sq km Wildlife Sanctuary where wild elephants, Asiatic Deer, Black Buck and even Tigers come to the shores of the lake for a drink.

Overnight: Spice Village
www.cghearth.com/spice_village/spice_village.htm

Kerala
Day 05

PERIYAR/KANAM ESTATE (APPROX 90 KMS/2 HRS DRIVE)
Breakfast at the hotel

Depart by surface to Kanam Estate.

Arrive Kanam Estate & Check into Hotel.

Kanam Estate - situated on a small hilltop, surrounded by a rubber plantation, in a very peaceful, solitary location in the heart of the plantation hills, midway between Cochin and Periyar. A delightful old plantation bungalow (built in the 1920’s) which has been beautifully converted and which retains the original woodwork and panelling.

A day with the Elephant
The clients will meet the elephant and mahout and they will be provided with a bunch of bananas to feed the elephant. This ice-breaking exercise will acquaint them with our beautiful tamed young elephant. The elephant earns a living in farm & forest activities. The clients are offered to go for a ride on the back by the picturesque surroundings of the estate bungalow. Later will be guided to a visit of the nearby farms, which are teeming with rubber, banana, papaya, pepper, coffee, pineapple and cocoa plantations. After the visit they may come back to serenity for lunch. This is the time the elephant relaxes a while, preparing herself for some work in the afternoon. The clients may return after the lunch to the courtyard to a spectacular demonstration on how an elephant pulls and carries logs of wood while at work and after work it always prefers a bath after and the mahout obliges. Watching this is again a wonderful experience, especially the way the water is sprayed around and the way a cool bath is enjoyed. If the clients wish, they may again go for an elephant-back ride. By the time the elephant and the mahout bids "good bye" and slowly walk away from the bungalow, you can be sure that the guest takes this day along with their memories.

Serenity – A sister hotel to The Malabar House Residency, Serenity is situated on a rubber plantation between Cochin and Thekkady, making it the ideal stopover on this otherwise rather long journey. A wonderful 1920’s estate mansion, it has been beautifully restored and is decorated entirely in keeping with its historic roots. The timber and paneling throughout the property are exquisite and the warm peach and turquoise colours that dominate the interiors blend perfectly with the colonial furniture. Sitting on a hilltop, the views of the Western Ghats and surrounding rubber plantation rubber are breathtaking. With just 5 rooms, it is always peaceful and the only noise is the sound of nature.

Overnight: Serenity
www.malabarhouse.com/escapes/serenity.php

Kerala
Day 06

KANAM ESTATE/BACKWATERS (APPROX. 42 MILES, 2 HRS DRIVE)
Breakfast at the hotel

After breakfast, check out and drive to jetty to embark the traditional rice boats – “kettuvallam” for a fascinating cruise through the backwaters.

Begin your full day journey through the picturesque backwaters and the small lakes relaxing in the tranquility of Kerala’s beautiful scenery and some lovely inland lagoons, fringed by thin green necklaces of vegetation. You are on the boats' forward sundeck, comfortably ensconced in a rosewood-and-cane easy chair. Your boat moves towards the mouth of the Kavanar River at a scorching 6 miles an hour. Hmmm. It would be a fight to keep your eyelids from closing, except that a refreshingly soft breeze angles in westerly direction, off the Vembanad Lake. It carries the cries of distant birds, surprisingly loud over the waters.

You move upstream, and the gentle life of another world unfolds around you.

Lunch and dinner will be served on board.

Overnight: Marvel Cruises

Kerala
Day 07

BACKWATERS/KUMARAKOM
After leisurely breakfast at the houseboat and disembark at Kumarakom

Arrive Kumarakom & Check into Hotel.

Kumarakom - An unbelievably beautiful paradise of mangrove forests, emerald green paddy fields and coconut groves interspersed with enchanting waterways and canals adorned with while lillies - this is Kumarakom. The village of Kumarakom is a cluster of little islands on the Vembanad Lake, and this small water world is part of the Kuttanad region. The bird sanctuary here, which is spread across 14 acres, is a favorite haunt of migratory birds and an ornithologist's paradise. Egrets, darters, herons, teal, waterfowl, cuckoo, wild duck and migratory birds like the Siberian stork that live here in flocks are a fascination for visitors. The best way to watch the birds of the Kumarakom sanctuary is a boat trip round the islands.

Rest of the day is at leisure to relax at the hotel or enjoy ayurveda treatments and massages.

AYURVEDA - THE NEW BALM FOR FEVERED SOULS

Ayurveda, in Sanskrit means “science of life” – AYU meaning life and VEDA meaning knowledge. Ayurveda is an intricate system of healing, indigenous to India and Kerala in particular. Some say it was a secret revealed to the sages by Brahma the Creator. It employs naturalistic methods based on “Panchkarma” to prevent and treat diseases and also to slow-down the ageing process. The cultural heritage of Kerala and Ayurveda are closely interwoven. Ayurvdeic physicians believe that they can promote perfect health of body, mind and soul by administering drugs and treatments based exclusively on herbs, leaves, bark, roots and even stems of certain shrubs. Also included in the list of ingredients that go into ayurvedic medicines are spices and occasionally precious metals like silver and gold in purified powered form. These drugs complemented by a strict diet and daily medicated oil massages, have been known to lead to complete cures, some quite miraculous. Ayurveda treats the cause of the disease, eradicates it and enhances immunity.

Overnight: Coconut Lagoon
www.cghearth.com/coconut_lagoon/index.htm

Kerala
Day 08

KUMARAKOM/VECHOOR/KUMARAKOM
Breakfast at the hotel

Visit Philipkutty’s farm for a farm visit and lunch.

The farm is located on a small farm island in the backwaters / Vembanad Lake next to Kumarakom within the Vechoor village limits. The farm is about 50 acres (owned by the family and some relatives) and is the largest farm on the island. The island is a reclaimed property which was made in the early 1950’s. The late Philipkutty undertook further development on the farm by bringing in a system of inter-crop farming. The island is called Puthankayal (‘Puthan’ means new) as it was the last island to have been reclaimed in the backwater region for agriculture.

Overnight: Coconut Lagoon

Day 09

KUMARAKOM
Breakfast at the hotel.

Full day is at leisure to relax at the hotel or enjoy ayurveda massages.

Overnight: Coconut Lagoon

Day 10

KUMARAKOM/COCHIN (APPROX 90 KMS, 2 HOURS DRIVE COCHIN/ONWARD DESTINATION
Breakfast at the hotel

Assisted transfer to Cochin International airport to board your flight to onward destination