Treasures of South India

Kochi, Munnar, Thekkady & Kumarakom
plus Kovalam Resort optional extension

This itinerary is for a past tour program.
Check out our current tour & cruise packages in India.

Photo by Tali Miller
Photo by Tali Miller
Among Asia's most surprising and lovely destinations, Kerala and Tamil Nadu states in South India offer visitors miles of gorgeous beaches, exotic wildlife in pristine reserves and protected parks, the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghat Mountains, dozens of rivers, cascading waterfalls, sprawling tea and spice plantations that perfume the air and a climate that is the envy of the subcontinent. Add to this a lush natural setting, a generous dash of art, festivals that thrill and enchant, history, culture, an exquisite cuisine and even short driving distances between sites on your itinerary, and you have South India, as sublime a vacation destination as we've found anywhere. Savvy travelers from around the world have discovered South India, and they are flocking to its magnificent sites. But don't wait too long to  reserve your place on this inspired tour. Space on our new Treasures of South India tour is limited and at these prices, it's sure to go quickly.


Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: USA/India. Depart from JFK this evening on your overnight flight to Kochi (Cochin), aboard award-winning Emirates Airlines or scheduled carriers. (flight schedule).

Day 2: En Route. Spend the day en route as you cross the international dateline and lose a day. (You will gain this day on your return trip.)

Day 3: Kochi (Cochin), India. Arrive this morning at Kochi International Airport. After customs formalities and baggage collection, our representative will greet you and escort you to your hotel, where you'll have some time to rest and freshen up before this afternoon's sightseeing tour. Kochi - previously called Cochin - the commercial and industrial capital of Kerala, has one of the finest natural harbors in the world. Once visited by King Solomon, mariners throughout history from all over the world have all left their mark on this beautiful island city often called "Queen of the Arabian Sea."

A Kochi fishing net Its beautiful lagoons, lakes and greenery offer a lovely setting from which to begin your exploration of South India. A highlight of your tour is a visit the Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1555 as a gift to the Raja of Cochin and a living legacy of the European presence in the region. More than 100 years later, in 1663, the Dutch added onto this magnificent structure and renamed it for themselves. In addition, you'll visit the Jewish Synagogue, serving a community whose ancestors came to Cochin 2000 years ago and stayed to build a life free of the persecution Jews experienced elsewhere in the world. You'll also visit the Chinese fishing nets that line the sea front using a means of catching fish that was brought from China during the time of Kublai Khan. Trident Hilton Hotel Breakfast provided.

A tea plantation in Munnar Day 4: Kochi & Munnar. After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, enjoy a scenic drive through the rolling velvet green Kannan Devan Hills to Munnar. Nestled in an idyllic landscape dotted by colorful flora and fauna, misty green valleys, rustic churches, and an unending expanse of aromatic tea plantations and with a wonderful, cool climate, Munnar has long been a favorite vacation destination for savvy travelers.

Nilgiri Thar Today, a tour takes you via towering Anaimdi, South India's highest peak at 8,842 feet, to Eravikulam National Park, home to exotic species that roam the park such as the Nilgiri marten, small clawed otter, ruddy mongoose, and elephants as well as over 120 species of birds and 100 species of butterflies that are endemic to the region. Eravikulam is also home to the Nilgiri Thar, the endangered mountain goat that can sometimes be seen climbing to the tops of the hills. Later this afternoon, stroll through the fragrant Tea Estates, where you have a special opportunity to meet with local people who work in the tea industry. Tea County Hotel. (B, D).

Local Kerala girl
Local girl in traditional dress
Day 5: Munnar. Enjoy a day at leisure to explore the beauty of Munnar. Nearby attractions include: Attukal, a panorama of rolling hills and waterfalls; Chithirapuram, a sleepy village famous for its quaint cottages and tea plantations; and the Malankara Reservoir, among other places. Your local guide will be able offer suggestions about full and half-day excursions in the area. Your hotel also provides several options for leisure, including a fully-equiped fitness center, trekking, rock climbing and Ayurvedic herbal body toning massage. This evening, enjoy dinner at the hotel with your travel companions (B, D).

Periyar National Park Day 6: Munnar & Thekkady. Depart after breakfast and drive south to Thekkady. Travel through the Cardamom Hills, where cardamom, coffee, and pepper grow in abundance and scent the air. Arrive at the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve, where you'll enjoy another day of wildlife viewing, this time by boat. The lake inside the wildlife sanctuary is a popular watering hole for elephants, gaur, and wild pigs. On the rocky outcrops along the lake, monitor lizards can be seen basking in the sun.

Indian Spices From your vantage point, you'll also be able to spot the leopards, barking deer, mouse deer, and wild dog that inhabit the area. Return to your hotel, where you'll have the evening at leisure to shop for local spices or enjoy unrivalled panoramic views of the wildlife sanctuary from the rooftop terrace. Elephant Court Hotel. Breakfast provided..

Local boys playing soccer Day 7: Thekkady & Kumarakom. This morning drive westward to Kumarakom, a picturesque tropical town flanked by palm-fringed backwaters on the west and the impressive Western Ghat mountain range on the east. You'll set sail later this afternoon on a sunset cruise on the enchanting Vembanad Lake. This cruise is a bird-watcher's delight as you will come across rare species of birds that inhabit the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, such as the waterfowl, cuckoo, egret, heron, water duck, and the migratory Siberian cranes.

Parrots, teal, larks, and flycatchers can also be spotted here during their respective migratory seasons. Sunset is the ideal viewing time; colorful hues of purple, red, and gold dance on the water and create a stunning backdrop for the birds returning to their nests. Coconut Lagoon Resort. Breakfast provided.

Typical Kumarakom boat Day 8: Kumarakom. Today, you'll have a full day at leisure to experience the beauty of Kumarakom on your own. Your hotel, the eco-friendly Coconut Lagoon Resort, offers an array of optional activities. Nature lovers will surely enjoy a visit to the onsite butterfly farm. Or, take a canoe out into the backwaters, go fishing with simple bamboo poles as the locals do, go water skiing, or enjoy a refreshing swim in the outdoor pool. Afterwards, expert ayurvedic masseurs are on hand to soothe any aching muscles. If you prefer to contemplate your surroundings at a slower pace, relax in a hammock and let the gentle lapping waves of Lake Vembanad lull you to sleep. Breakfast provided.

Local woman  Photo by Tali Miller
Local woman   Photo by Tali Miller
Day 9: Kumarakom, Alleppey, & Kochi. This morning, enjoy leisurely breakfast and some free time to rest or explore on your own. Early this afternoon, you'll embark on a special sightseeing cruise through coconut-palmed backwaters of Alleppey. Often referred to as the "Venice of the East," Alleppey consists of a large network of canals that once served as one of India's busiest centers of trade, as evidenced by the Chinese fishing nets you'll see along the way.

Sit back and enjoy the refreshing breeze and sparkling water as you pass by paddy fields, artfully designed houseboats known as "kettuvalloms," and tiny picturesque villages that line either side of the canals. Because the waters of Alleppey are level with the land, you will be able to get a close look at daily village life, including activities such as Coir carpet making, prawn farming, and fishing. Disembark at Alleppey Jetty and proceed to Kochi by motorcoach.

Kathakali dancer applying makeup This evening's cultural excursion will immerse you in the arts. You'll visit the Kathakali Dance Center, where you will witness one of the most elaborate dance forms in southern India. Developed in the 17th century, Kathakali has its roots in Hindu mythology and is a unique combination of ballet, opera, masque, and pantomime. It interprets ideas and stories from classic Indian epics and Puranas. Dancers drape themselves in decorative costumes that usually consist of huge headgear, oversized jackets and long skirts worn over a thick padding of cushions, creating a larger-than-life appearance. The application of Vesham, a type of very colorful makeup, completes the metamorphpsis into Kathakali dancer.

Arrive early to enjoy a special and unique opportunity to watch the dancers transform their identities as they apply this intricate makeup and explain its significance. The exciting performance will begin with the beating of the Kelikottu drum and the Chengila gong. This happy and expressive blending of color, music, drama, and dance is unparalleled in any other art form. Trident Hilton Hotel Breakfast provided..

Day 10: Depart Kochi (Cochin) After breakfast, bid a reluctant farewell to India as you transfer to the airport for your late morning flight to Dubai (en route to the USA). Arrival in Dubai at 12:45 pm. Your continuing flight to the USA doesn't depart until early tomorrow morning, providing a wonderful opportunity for you to enjoy a bonus afternoon and evening to explore Dubai. Our airport representative will meet you upon arrival and assist you in making optional arrangements during your layover, including a day room to rest if you so desire. If you prefer to sightsee or shop - or both - you can set out on your own or take one of the optional excursions available to you. You'll even have time to enjoy a special evening dhow dinner and cruise on Dubai Creek before your continuing flight. Check in at about 11:00 pm for your overnight flight to New York.

Day 11: Arrive USA. Your overnight return flight arrives at JFK International Airport in New York this morning.


Kovalam Beach Resort Extension

Why not take advantage of your already included airfare to spend a few relaxing days at the Uday Samudra Resort on the Arabian Sea.

Kovalam beach Day 10: Kochi (Cochin)/Kovalam. After breakfast, board your coach and drive to Kovalam, whose name means a grove of coconut trees, and check into your seaside resort hotel. A once-sleepy fishing village, Kovalam has become a popular destination thanks to its miles of white, sandy beaches, palm-fringed bays nestled in secluded coconut groves, and pristine blue waters of the Arabian Sea. Your beachside hotel offers plenty of water sports, relaxing spa facilities, and optional touring. There are plenty of interesting shops where jewelry, hand-woven cloth and other handicrafts are offered for display and for sale. And you'll have ample opportunity to savor the delicious seafood offered in the many beachside restaurants. Uday Samudra Resort. Breakfast provided.

Day 11 & 12: Kovalam. Enjoy two more days at the Uday Samudra Resort. Breakfast provided.

Day 13: Kovalam/Evening Departure. Enjoy a final day at leisure at Kovalam. Late this afternoon bid a reluctant farewell to India as you transfer to the airport for your night flight to the USA via Dubai. Arrive at JFK International Airport in New York later this afternoon.

Day 14:Dubai/USA. Arrival in Dubai just after midnight and connect to your continuing flight to the USA. Your overnight return flight arrives at JFK International Airport in New York this morning.


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