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India Holidays

Spice Tour

9 Night Itinerary from £2,995

Private Individual Tour

 

Explore colonial Kochi and enjoy a blissful week's cruise exploring the villages, wildlife and scenery of Kerala's magical backwaters.

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Tour Route

Travel Highlights

  • Explore Kochi and enjoy an authentic Kathakali dance performance.
  • Relax on a 7 night cruise on the backwaters of Kerala on the exceptional RV Vaikundam.
  • Discover Kerala's ancient spice trade with local artisans.
  • Observe many species of endemic birds of the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary.
  • Learn how to cook southern Indian cuisine with expert local chefs.
  • Visit local villages where traditions have remained the same for centuries.
  • Option to extend your stay at a beach resort.

This itinerary can be tailored to your preferences by our specialist advisors, who can provide a guaranteed price based on your choice of route, duration, flights, hotels, transport and excursions.

Tour Itinerary

Chinese Nets Kerala Pixabay

Kochi (Cochin) - 2 Nights

Day 1 - Departure from the UK on an overnight flight to Kochi

Day 2 - Arrive Kochi

Day 3 - Guided tour of Kochi

 

  • Full Description

Day 1

Depart UK on overnight flight to Kochi

Depart from the UK on an overnight flight to Kochi (formerly known as Cochin).


Day 2

Arrive in Kochi

Arrive in Kochi. Your local Veloso Tours guide will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your chosen hotel for a 3 night stay on a bed and breakfast basis. Your guide will also give you a brief orientation tour to get you familiar with your surroundings. Rest of the day is at leisure.


Day 3

Guided tour of Kochi

We have a tour of Mattancherry, the bustling part of Old Fort Cochin and the epicentre of the spice trade for centuries. It remains a densely populated place housing people from different ethnic groups and faiths in very close quarters. Mattancherry is home to a small Jewish community whose origin dates back nearly 2000 years, during the period of King Solomon, when large scale trade took place between the Middle East and the Malabar Coast. Our touring today reveals Kochi’s multi-layered past, a rich brew of Arab, Portuguese, British, and Dutch influences.

We walk through the spice market and then we see St. Francis, India’s first European church (ca. 1510), famed as the original burial site of Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama, who died in Kochi in 1524 while on his third visit to India.  Not immune to the turbulence of the colonial era, the originally Catholic St. Francis changed hands – and denominations – with each new power that took control of Kochi, becoming a Protestant Dutch Reformed church under the Dutch in 1663 then Anglican under the English in 1804. 

Next we pay a visit to the picturesque Chinese fishing nets unique to Kochi.  These iconic land-based nets combine elegance and ingenuity with their massive frames balanced by counterweights manipulated by teams of up to six men.  Long believed to have been introduced by the Chinese explorer Zheng He in the 14th century or possibly travellers from Kublai Khan’s court, these nets actually trace their origin to Portuguese settlers from Macau.

Exterior Vaikundam 66 792X526

Backwaters of Kerala Cruise - 7 Nights

Day 4 - Embark RV Viakundam for 7 night backwaters cruise

Day 5 - Vaikom to Kumarakom

Day 6 - Kavalam

Day 7 - Kainakari to Mankompu.

Day 8 - Excursion to Aranmula

Day 9 - Thotapally

Day 10 - Kanjippadom

 

  • Full Description
  • Accommodation

Day 4

Embark the RV Vaikundam

Today we drive from your hotel drive to the nearby village Nettoor to a Kalari centre – the authentic training centre of Kalaripayattu, the traditional martial art of Kerala said to have been the origin of all martial arts including Karate. Drive to the nearby village Marad and embark on our boat by noon. The team on-board welcomes you in the boat and help’s you with smooth check-in. Gather at the lounge for a safety briefing about the boat and about the cruise. We set sail, gently cruising by the islands interspersed along rivers, lake, coastal estuaries and lagoons, leaving the skyscraper lined horizon of the city of Cochin behind. Enjoy a traditional Kerala lunch and relax on-board. Our expert will talk about Cochin, the Queen of the Arabian Sea, and its geographical, cultural and social significance.

By evening we arrive in the ancient village, Vaikom. By tuk-tuk or by foot we proceed to the ancient temple of Shiva. We take a tour around the temple to get to know about its history and architecture. The architecture of temples in Kerala is based on ancient science of construction and geographical features of the land. As per the traditional architecture, each element of temple represents an element of human body and, a temple is not only the space for spiritual enlightenment but also the venue for harmonious social networking. Return to boat and relax.


Day 5

Vaikom to Kumarakom

Following breakfast on the boat, by tuk-tuk or by foot we proceed to the cultural centre in the locality to watch Kathakali, the traditional dramatic and mimetic dance form, which plays stories from epics. It is a unique blend of dance, music, action, literature and make-up.

Commence the cruise to Chenganda village. The people of this rustic village are having a laid-back and peaceful life. Spend time with the coir weavers, the shell harvesters and farmers, engaging in conversation about the riparian life and watching various indigenous techniques of fishing. Return to the boat for lunch.

Cruise through Thanneermukkom barrage. The barrage at Thanneermukkom built across Vembanad, the largest lake of Kerala, divides the lake into two, one half with perennial salty water and the other with fresh water enriched by 5 rivers flowing from the hills. We talk about indigenous practices of paddy cultivation in Kuttanad.

Cruise through the expanses of lake Vembanad experiencing its wetland ecosystem. We visit a farm house. This house is located on an island which was made by the men of the house, by reclaiming land from the Backwaters. A walk in the farm will be educative. The hostess will demonstrate the preparation of traditional Syrian Christian cuisine. You may also try your hand at cooking and listen to the story of her family, of three generations laborious men of the soil, and equally strong women who supported their pioneering spirit. We will have lunch at this house. Return to the boat and cruise till evening.


Day 6

Kavalam

This morning we have an early and light breakfast, and set out by country boat to watch the migratory and endemic birds of the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, which is a cluster of lagoons of lake Vembanad, with the backdrop of mangroves, paddy fields and coconut groves.

Waterfowl, cuckoo, owl, egret, heron and the water duck are some of the endemic species seen here. Parrots, teal, larks, flycatchers, wood beetle, and other birds are seen here during their respective migratory seasons. Return to the boat, refresh and while cruising a more elaborate breakfast will be served.

While cruising the lake we pass by expanses of the oldest paddy cultivating regions reclaimed from the bed of the Lake – Vembanad. These paddy fields are below sea level. Lunch will be served while cruising. We arrive in Kavalam where river Pampa reverses its course and drain into Lake Vembanad. You may take the ferry to explore the region, walk along the dykes surrounding the expanses of paddy fields and interact with the farmers and women’s collective.

As cruise, along the way we interact with toddy tappers, who collect the sap of the stem of blossoming coconut flower and make the alcoholic beverage–Toddy. We can learn from him the process of making toddy and may take a sip from his pot! Cruise through the narrow canal, watching the life at close quarters.

Return to the boat and cruise till dusk, further interior to Veliyanad village.


Day 7

Kainakari to Mankompu

Following breakfast we cruise to Kainakari. We visit Chavara Bhavan, the ancestral home of the Catholic Saint Kuriakose Chavara which is now preserved as a museum. Saint Chavara, the first canonised Catholic male saint of Indian origin, was the co-founder of the first congregation for men, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate-C.M.I., and of a similar one for women, Congregation of the Mother of Carmel-C.M.C. Get closer to the laid-back, yet harmonious, life along the way, paddling along narrow canal by country boat, interacting with the villagers. Return to boat. After having lunch on-board, cruise to Mankompu village. Enjoy a cultural performance.  Relax on-board.


Day 8

Excursion to Aranmula

Following breakfast we drive to an ancient village, Aranmula, of families of craftsmen who still preserve their skill in making mirror out of a special combination of metals. The secret of the trade has been passed down through generations. These mirrors have the distinctive feature of 100% reflection unlike the common mirror. Local people consider it as auspicious to keep it at home to attract prosperity and luck.

Take a walk in the village, interact with the mirror makers engaged in different stages of their work, visit the ancient temple of Krishna. We will have a traditional lunch at a house along the bank of river Pampa. Explore the garden of flowers, fruits and spices.  ‘Palliyodom’- legendary divine vessel, the mural art, the school of traditional architecture explain   the cultural   heritage of Kerala.

The ritualistic regatta of the divine vessels-Palliyodom-of Aranmula and its neighbouring villages, on the Pampa River is a visual delight during the   harvest festival season of August-September. Return to Changankari and cruise to Thotapally.

We have relaxing cruise watching the laid-back village of farmers.

We cruise to Champakkulam village. Kerala’s old spice trade used to pass through this town enroute to Cochin and other ports on the west coast. Settled more than 1000 years ago by Syrian Christian traders, who later converted to Roman Catholicism under the Portuguese, the people chose to keep their syncretic cultural heritage.

This can be seen in the monumental St Mary’s Church on the riverside. Built in 1550, the foundations are said to be as old as 5th century AD. Architecturally, it is a mélange of several European styles, from the Levantine altar and structure to the Dutch arches that tower overhead.

We visit the old church, a school, the local artisans (open on weekdays) who skilfully and passionately craft biblical heroes. Take a look at the narrow and long Snake boat (Chundan Vallom) of the villagers, gracefully docked on the shore. These types of boats, which are being used for races today in modern days, were once maritime war boats and their structure and design reflect the prowess of ancient Kerala architecture and are one of the icons of Kerala culture. Over one hundred oarsmen power these boats in races where they sail at speed generated to the beats of drums at the aft.

Cruise to the remote village - Changankari,  till dusk  passing through the serene canal.


Day 9

Thotapally

Today, enjoy a walk in the village. Have breakfast onboard.

Honouring your cruise with us, we plant a sapling of coconut. Coconut tree is considered as the ‘Kalpavriksha ‘or the Divine tree of Kerala. All parts of coconut tree are useful in one way or the other: the water inside is a healthy drink; the fresh kernel and the oil extract from dried kernel are inevitable components of every cuisine; fibre from the coconut husk is used to make coir, mats and geo textile; the palm fronds are used for thatching roof; the wood suitable for making furniture and all the dried parts of coconut make good firewood. Last   but not the least,  the toddy – the boost for the labourers toiling in the fields.

Take a leisurely walk to the beach to see the life along the coast.


Day 10

Kanjippadom

Following breakfast, we take a short drive to visit an ancient sacred grove where serpents are worshipped. This is the only temple in Kerala having female priests. You can take a walk inside and see the rituals going on.

We proceed to Mannar village (45minutes) to meet the metal smiths engaged in making traditional lamps, ornate locks, bells and various types of vessels being used in temples. (The workplace remains closed on Sundays and religious holidays). You may also choose to visit one of the 7 and half churches built by St. Thomas, the apostle of Jesus Christ, who arrived in Kerala during AD50. Return to the boat.

The spillway at the river mouth at Thotapally prevents the saline water from flooding the low-lying paddy fields. We get to know about indigenous practices of paddy cultivation on reclaimed land at lower altitude that the Sea.

Honouring your cruise with us, we plant a coconut sapling for the village. Coconut tree is considered as the ‘Kalpavriksha ‘or Divine tree of Kerala. All parts of coconut tree are useful in one way or the other: the water inside is a healthy drink; the fresh kernel and the oil extract from dried kernel are inevitable components of every cuisine; fibre from the coconut husk is used to make coir, mats and geotextile; the palm fronds are used for thatching roof; the wood suitable for making furniture and all the dried parts of coconut make good firewood. Last but not the least, the toddy – the local alcoholic beverage that boost for the laborers after toiling in the fields.

After a leisurely sail we arrive in a quaint village – Karumadi village. We take a walk around a small shrine preserving the ruin of a sculpture of Buddha that belongs to the early centuries of current era. Along the way we interact with toddy tappers, who collect the sap of the stem of blossoming coconut flower and make the alcoholic beverage–Toddy. We learn from him the process of making toddy and may take a sip from his pot.

We visit the village Kanjippadom for a leisurely walk. We meet the carpenters at the boat building yard and talk about the traditional method of building wooden boats (Kettuvallom), joining wooden planks using coir, cotton and natural resin. Tonight, we celebrate our sojourn over farewell dinner on board RV Vaikundam.

RV Vaikundam

Kerala & the Backwaters - First River Cruise

The river cruise boats of today are modified version of the traditional Kettuvallom or Rice barges of the past which had been in use for transporting produce and goods from interior farms to the markets. Today they are comfortable cruising homes to unwind and relax immersing in the pristine nature and inexplicable energy along the meandering network of the Backwaters.

RV Vaikundam has nine well-appointed cabins with attached bathrooms on the lower deck and an excellent kitchen. There is an air-conditioned and exquisitely set dining hall and open lounge on the upper deck. The   wooden hull of the boat is made by joining planks of local wood ‘Aanjili,’ using strong coir rope on the segments above waterline while, below waterline copper tacking keeps the hull both strong and traditional. The wood is coated with caustic black resin made by boiling cashew kernel and fish oil. The wood is periodically treated with the Neem oil and Fish oil. The cabins are made using wooden panels, bamboo poles and bamboo mats, following the traditional practices. Each cabin is air-conditioned and has a private bathroom and either double or twin bed.

 

 

Image for: Exterior Vaikundam 66 792X526
Kerala Beach

Fly back to the UK - 0 Nights

Day 11 - Fly back to the UK

  • Full Description

Day 11

Fly back to the UK

Disembark at Alleppey after breakfast. Transfer to the airport and fly back to the UK.

Price Guidelines

Season High Season
Travel Dates October 2020 - March 2021
Room Arrangement First
Multiple Travellers - Twin Room £2,995
Single Traveller - Own Room £4,495

Prices are a guideline and per person. Please request a quote for Special Events, Christmas, New Year's Eve & Easter.


What's Included

  • Guidelines prices are per person based on 2 people sharing a twin room
  • 11 Days / 9 Nights
  • International flights (1 overnight)
  • 9 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners
  • 7 night backwaters cruise on the RV Vaikundam on a full board basis
  • Transfers to and from airports
  • Transport  throughout the itinerary
  • Excursions listed, all with expert, English-speaking guides
  • Entrance fees 

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