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Known as 'God's Own Country', Kerala offers a more laidback pace than its neighbouring states. Travel from the Arabian Sea to the foothills of the Western Ghats, exploring tea and spice plantations along the way. Float along the famed lagoons and canals of the Kerala backwaters on a traditional houseboat. All while immersing yourself in Keralan culture, from art to food and village life.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights simple boat
2 nights simple homestay
3 nights premium hotel
2 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Our trip starts in Kochi, a port city on India's Malabar Coast. Also known as Cochin, it's been a port since 1341 when it was used by Arab, Chinese and European merchants. Built across several islands with criss-crossing waterways, the city has a relaxed feel that speaks to artists and artisans from across the globe. Explore the colourful streets or head to the harbour for sunset to see the fishermen bringing in their catch.
There are no planned activities today, so you're free to arrive at any time. Our tour leader will hold a welcome meeting in the hotel reception at 5pm and there'll be the chance to go for dinner afterwards. If you arrive later, they'll catch you up in the morning.
If you'd like a hotel transfer, you'll need to arrive into Cochin International Airport (COK), which is 40km/1.5 hours from the airport.
Hotel Casino (or similar)
Today we'll dive into Kochi's eclectic past with a tour by boat and on foot. First, we'll visit the Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Extensive renovations by the Dutch hundreds of years later earned it the name the Dutch Palace, and it's home to some of the best murals in India, depicting scenes from the Ramayan. We'll also pay a visit to the Jewish town synagogue and to see the famous cantilevered Chinese Fishing nets that line the harbour.
In the early evening, we'll settle in for a traditional Kathakali performance. Combining dance, mime, ballet and opera, Kathakali portrays stories from great Indian epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. The dance takes years of dedication to master and is characterised by distinct eye movements and facial expressions, enhanced by dramatic, theatrical makeup.
This morning, we'll drive to Munnar. The journey takes around five hours, leading us through tea and spice plantations. Kerala has been renowned for its spices for more than 2,000 years and the coast was frequently visited by the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs and Chinese. 'Black gold' (pepper) became highly valuable and was sent to Europe by Arab and Jewish traders, who, in return, brought copper, brass and gold coins to Kerala. It was this trading link that brought Christianity and Islam to Kerala, making it the first place in India to host both faiths.
Munnar itself is a small town in the Western Ghats Mountain range. Formerly a resort for the British Raj, it's a tranquil place surrounded by green tropical forests and neat tea plantations. This afternoon is free to explore it at your own pace.
Edassery Eastend (or similar)
Today we'll start with a visit to the tea museum, where we'll learn about how the leaves are processed. Traditionally, women pick the tea leaves, their brightly coloured clothing creating a beautiful contrast with the greenery of the plantations.
Leaving the museum, we'll drive for four hours to Thekkady, where we'll take a nature walk through the countryside and visit a spice garden.
Abad Green Forest (or similar)
Our route this morning takes us past rubber plantations and spice gardens to Periyar National Park, close to the border of Tamil Nadu. Whilst Periyar is known as one of the 16 tiger reserves in India, it's probably better known for its elephants. Just 40 tigers live in the 777sq km park and, as they are solitary creatures, seeing them is rare.
We'll set out on a walk in search of other wildlife such as wild boar, giant malabar, porcupine and flying squirrels. The park itself hosts a variety of habitats with open grasslands and semi-even and tropical forests. The ecosystem in this jungle is diverse - trees grow up to 40 metres high, creating a canopy that blocks the sun, so species such as ferns, orchids and airplants flourish.
Leaving the park, we'll head back to the coast to our homestay for the next two nights. We'll stay with local families in a small village and your tour leader will brief you on local customs and traditions. This is a great opportunity to learn about the Keralan way of life - and, of course, try some delicious home cooking like spicy coconut curry.
Our rooms are in traditional Keralan style. All are twin share and the majority have their own bathroom attached, however some have a private bathroom allocated in the corridor. Bathrooms are basic with a toilet and shower and hot water can be limited at times. Bedding and towels are provided.
Gaaby World Homestay (or similar)
Today is free to explore the village and get to know our host families. Take a walk through the surrounding villages or simply unwind and relax. There'll also be the chance to take part in a cooking lesson to get closer to the local cuisine.
This morning, we'll begin our tour of Kerala's famous backwaters. We'll board a simple, traditional houseboat to begin our journey into the network of waterways.
Taking a relaxed pace, we'll meander past riverside village life, spotting locals tending to animals and cultivating vegetables on narrow spits of land. Watch as we pass gardens flourishing with brightly coloured flowers, sharply contrasting the tropical greenery.
After our tour through the network of waters, we'll moor up alongside other houseboats for the night. This means we can hook up to an electricity point and turn on the aircon. The houseboats bring us back to basics with simple, en-suite twin rooms - a unique way to spend a night on the famous waters.
Houseboat (or similar)
After a busy week exploring Kerala, today is free to uncover more of Kochi or relax before heading home.
Our tour of Kerala ends at our hotel in Kochi.
There are no activities planned today, so you're free to depart at any time. If your flight leaves later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you'd like a hotel transfer, you'll need to depart from Cochin International Airport (COK).
There is considerable variation between the different regions of India but, in general, the climate is tropical. Summer temperatures on the plains are very hot, but cooled by the South-West Monsoon, which lasts from June- September. During these months it can be very wet and therefore very humid. At altitude, temperatures can become quite cool at night even in the summer and may drop below freezing between December and February so warm clothing is necessary. In the winter, northern and mid India can be very cool, with cold evenings, so warm clothing, including plenty of layers, are essential. The south of India remains warm and sunny during the winter months.
3 Pin Round
Catholicism, Hindu, Islam and Sikhism
Hindi and English.
Kochi - Tripunithura Hill Palace 150 INR plus shared travel costs, Kumbalanghi Village 1400 INR Thekkady - Kalaripayattu martial art performance 200 INR Alleppey - Village walk & Canoe ride 400 INR, Cycle ride 500 INR, Cooking class 250 INR
Kerala is a tropical region with high humidity. Lightweights are needed all year round with some warmer clothes for the cooler winter evenings (November to March) in Munnar and Periyar. Casual clothes are the most practical: tight fitting garments, brief shorts and skirts should be avoided, since they attract unwelcome attention. A beach towel is also recommended.
Walking shoes or trainers are required for the nature walk in Periyar and sandals are recommended for the rest of the trip.
One main piece of baggage and a daysac. Remember - hotel porters are not always available, so don't overload yourself.
Binoculars, torch, insect repellent and water bottle.
Accommodation in India is as varied as the country itself and standards might not always meet those back home. Service can be slow, especially when travelling with a group and a number of hotels in India don't serve alcohol due to complicated licencing laws or for religious reasons. Hot water is not always available at small properties and with a group staying, you might find the water is cooler if you're showering last. Hotels also don't usually have heating, so it can become chilly in the winter months, however, blankets will always be provided. Due to the growth in tourism in India, it's not always possible to stay at our listed accommodation and occasionally an alternative will be found. On the backwaters, we stay on traditional houseboats made from anjili wood and bamboo, a time-honoured form of transportation. These are set up with twin-share, en-suite cabins that are air-conditioned at night. The houseboat has a large dining area where homecooked meals are served up and a large deck to enjoy riverside life on. At night, we'll moor amongst other boats at the side of the river to allow us to hook up to electricity. Note, depending on the group size, we might be divided between two or three houseboats. Our homestay offers a fantastic insight into local life in the tropical region. The rooms are in the traditional style of a Keralan home, with mattresses made locally using coir fibres, a material taken from coconut husks which allows air to flow naturally - ideal for humid conditions. All rooms are twin-share and the majority have their own bathroom attached, however, some may have a private bathroom located in the corridor next to the room. Bathrooms are simple with a shower and toilet. All towels and bedding are provided. 20
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
India: Holders of passports endorsed British citizen, as well as Australian, New Zealand and US passport holders may be eligible for the e-Tourist Visa to enter India. Unfortunately the Indian government are not currently granting visas for anybody travelling with a Canadian passport. The visa can be applied for through the official Indian government visa website only - https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html . Please check all eligibility criteria that can be found on the website but important points are listed below - You must be arriving into one of 29 selected entry points which can be found via the official Indian Government website link above. However, you can exit from any of the authorised immigration check posts in India. Passports must have at least 6 months validity from the date of arrival in India and at least two blank pages for stamping. Visa applications will take approximately 4 days to process. There are different validity visas and the costs are as follows: 30-day validity (travelling between April and June) - $10 30-day validity (travelling between July and March) - $25 1-year validity - $40 5-year validity- $80 Those applying for a 30 day electronic visa can only apply within 30 days of arrival for your visa to be valid. Furthermore double entry is permitted and you can only obtain two 30-day visas in a calendar year. Please note these costs are subject to frequent change so you should check on the official Indian government visa website mentioned above. Biometric data will be collected on arrival in India. If you are not eligible for the e-Tourist Visa, please refer to VFS Global to apply for your Indian visa - https://www.vfsglobal.com/india/uk/how_to_apply.html Whilst the online form offers a relatively quick way to apply for a visa, some applicants have reported difficulty in completing the form. If you do require assistance, then you may consider applying through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. They can complete the online visa on your behalf for a service fee + the visa cost. See www.travcour.com http://www.travcour.com If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com http://www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against Tetanus, Infectious Hepatitis, Typhoid and Polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.