This trip has it all, trekking high up in the Indian Himalaya to cruising around the Kerala backwaters, we can't put it any better, check it out for this jam-packed itinerary.
Sandwiched between the glimmering Arabian Sea and the lush green Western Ghats mountain range, the narrow sliver of land that makes up the coastal state of Kerala is a real gem. Rated by National Geographic Traveller as one of the world’s top 50 ‘must-see destinations’, Kerala is defined by its layered landscape of palm-studded tropical beaches, emerald paddy fields, spice and tea-scented hills, shimmering backwaters and dense mountain forests. Trek high into the mountains, visit fascinating hill stations and cities and relax on the stunning Arabian Coast on this enchanting and authentic tour of God’s Own Country.
Your adventure begins in the old trading port of Cochin, notable for its elegant colonial architecture and relaxed ambience. Heading inland, breathe the fresh mountain air of Munnar, a hill station surrounded by tea plantations. Next, a gentle five-day trek offers you spectacular views across beautiful rolling hills, before your tour continues with a state border crossing into Tamil Nadu. Visit the ancient city of Madurai where you’ll explore the majestic Sri Meenakshi temple and its amazing gopura towers, before returning to the hills of Kerala for some wildlife-watching at the Periyar National Park. Your tour concludes at the coast, with a cruise through Kerala’s famous backwaters and some rest and relaxation on the pristine beaches of Kovalam.
Active India Holidays are local operators and, as such, have seen first-hand the benefits that tourism can bring to some of India’s most remote regions. They understand that tourism often helps to alleviate poverty and develop communities and, as part of the global tourism industry, acknowledge that they too have a crucial role to play in providing commercial benefits and financial impetus in local communities. The company is conscious of both the negative and positive impacts its operations potentially have within sensitive environments and communities, particularly in the Himalayas where most of Active India’s trekking and adventure operations are conducted.
To ensure that they operate in as responsible a way as possible, Active India trains all of its tour leaders and support staff on sustainability practices. One example is their ‘Leave no Trace’ policy, which ensures that campsites and trails are left free from any waste. The company even extends this policy to include the waste left by travellers who have come before them, collecting and disposing of any extra rubbish in a safe manner. Active India hopes to contribute towards building a tourism industry that brings pleasure to travellers whilst also constructing a future for the local people and places that the industry depends on.
Arrival in Kochi: Receive a traditional ‘Swagat’ (welcome) as you arrive at Kochi international airport, before transferring to your hotel. Kochi’s cosmopolitan past is reflected in its architecture, which blends old Portuguese, British and Dutch influences. Visit some of the town’s main sights, including Fort Kochi, which is thought to be the earliest European settlement in India. Colourful warehouses are packed full of rickety bicycles and hand-painted trucks, and the scent of tea and spices hangs heavy in the air. Later, visit the Mattancherry Palace, the 16th century Jewish synagogue and St. Francis church – the final resting place of the explorer Vasco da Gama. Explore the town’s bazaars and old harbour, and in the evening enjoy a Kathakali (classical dance) display (optional).
Kochi – Munnar: Drive from the coastal plains and into the Western Ghats, to the beautiful hill station of Munnar. Formerly the summer-resort of the British administration in South India, Munnar is famed for its tea plantations and is situated at the confluence of three mountain streams. With tumbling hills, glittering waterfalls, tea plantations and quaint hamlets, the area is ideal for leisurely hiking. Upon your arrival, check in to your hotel before spending the rest of the day exploring the town’s bazaars and enjoying its relaxed ambience.
Munnar (Hiking day): After breakfast, drive through the old town of Munnar to arrive in the tiny village of Nagarmudi where your trek begins. The trail begins with a gradual ascent through tea plantations, before climbing into the Seven Malai hills. Walk through cardamom and coffee plantations to reach the top, where you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of peaks, lakes and villages. Descend via the same route and transfer back to your hotel. Later in the afternoon take an optional visit to a Tea Museum.
Munnar – Silent Valley – Rodo Valley: Drive through tea estates and plantations to reach the Silent Valley, a haven for a number of bird species including the Nilgiri Tahr. From here, your trek begins with a gradual ascent through tea estates to reach natural grassy areas. Here, enjoy excellent views of the surrounding tea plantations. Continue walking after lunch, passing some impressive waterfalls before the trail steepens as it ascends through pinewoods. Finally, you’ll descend to your first camp, which is situated in a meadow and next to a stream – idyllic!
Hike to Meesapulimala: Today’s half-day trek takes you to Meesapulimala Peak, the second highest point in South India (after Annamudi). From your camp, the trail ascends through wild grassland, winding across vast meadows and steepening as you near the summit. Reaching the top, you’ll enjoy breath-taking views across Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The ascent takes around two to three hours; after a short break at the summit you’ll descend to camp for a late lunch and a free afternoon.
Rodo Valley – Top Station: Hike through beautiful red Rhododendron plantations as you cross the plateau of the Western Ghats on this scenic trekking day. The plateau is home to many endemic species of flora and fauna including Wild Boar, Wild Goat and the Atlas Moth. Pass by traditional villages and interact with friendly local people as you walk through the higher reaches of the tea estates and plantations.
Top Station – Central Station – Mundhan: Today’s trek consists of a descent from the Top Station to the Central Station, through coffee and cotton plantations and dense forests. Walk through the fertile lands of Tamil Nadu, and watch as the landscape gives way to vast tracts of mango plantations and paddy fields. The final part of the trek takes you through mango and coconut plantations, and ends near the village of Mundhan.
Mundhan – Madurai: Today you leave Kerala behind as you drive across plains to reach Madurai, a colourful city famed for its intricate temple complexes. Madurai has a fascinating history and rich cultural heritage, and is one of Tamil Nadu’s oldest cities. The great Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar Temple, built between the 16th-18th centuries (during the Nayak period), is one of India’s biggest temple complexes. Its five surrounding gopurams (the tallest standing at 48.8m high) are famed for their intricate stucco-work. Wander around Madurai to experience Hindu Culture; worshippers come here to bathe in the tank of the Golden Lily, and throng the uniquely carved Hall of a Thousand Pillars.
Madurai – Thekkady: Re-enter the state of Kerala as you drive through the Western Ghats to reach Thekkady, and enjoy amazing views across Tamil Nadu en route. Upon your arrival in the lively village of Thekkady, you’ll check in to your hotel before taking some time in the afternoon to explore. The area is a centre for spice cultivation; visit a spice garden as well as the bazaar, which has a plethora of shops selling vanilla, cardamom, peppercorns, chillies, turmeric and a host of other spices. A sensory sensation!
Thekkady (Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary): Depart early in the morning for a jungle walk in the Periyar National Park. Accompanied by forest guides, you’ll see a huge variety of birdlife including kingfishers, storks and horn-bills. The park is one of South India’s largest, and is situated around a man-made lake. After the jungle walk, you’ll return to the hotel for breakfast. Later, take an optional boat trip on Periyar Lake and get up-close to nature with the opportunity to spot elephants, buffalo, otters and wild pigs! In the afternoon, you might decide to treat yourself to an Ayurvedic massage.
Thekkady – Alleppey (Backwaters): Alleppey, also known as Alapphuzha, is the principal centre for backwater cruises in Kerala. Driving to Alleppey after breakfast, you’ll board a houseboat to begin your cruise. Meander along the waterways, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation, and catch glimpses of tropical birds and idyllic villages. You’ll stay overnight on the houseboat in the centre of the famous Vembanad Lake.
Alleppey – Kovalam: Enjoy a relaxing breakfast on board your houseboat before disembarking for today’s drive to Kovalam. This popular beach resort has calm and shallow waters and low tidal waves, making it the perfect place for sea bathing. Some of the leisure options on the beach include: herbal body-toning massages, cultural programmes, swimming, catamaran cruising, or simply sunbathing!
Kovalam (Optional Tour to Kanyakumari): Enjoy a free day in which to relax on the soft sandy beaches, swim in the clear waters and enjoy oceanic views at Kovalam. Alternatively, take an optional day’s sightseeing tour to Kanyakumari, India’s southern tip. Here, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal meet in the Indian Ocean. The Hindu temple at Suchindram and the old wooden palace at Padmapuhamban also feature in this trip.
Tour Concludes: Take a morning transfer to the international airport of Trivandrum where you’ll catch your onward flight.
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- Refunds: 80% refund available until 30 days prior to check-in; 50% refund available 15 days prior to check-in; 25% refund available 6 days prior to check-in; within 5 days of check-in there will be no refund.
- Breakfasts while staying at hotels
- Full board meals during the camp stay
- English speaking monument sightseeing guides at cities
- All land transport
- Government service tax as applicable
- Travel insurance
- Indian visa fees
- Any monument entrance fees
- Flights (domestic/international)
- Any optional activities or services not mentioned in inclusions
- Services of any professional English speaking tour leader/escort during the tour
- Miscellaneous expenses for tips, laundry, drinks, any medical emergencies and souvenirs etc.