Dip more than your toes in the bountiful backwaters of Kerala, 'God's own country'. This slice of southern India is a lush garden filled with spices, brilliant colours and the enchanting sounds of nature. Relax on the tranquil shores of the Arabian Sea, let the freshest seafood melt in your mouth and sink into a more straightforward way of life - one where nature sets the pace for the day. But first, on arrival at Kochi Airport, you'll be transferred to your hotel. Later, join your Travel Director and fellow travellers for a Welcome Reception with local appetisers.
Your love affair with Kerala's lush landscapes begins today. Head to Periyar, named after Kerala's longest river which winds its way deep through the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, your first stop. Spend the afternoon soaking up the sounds of nature during an immersive Nature Walk with an expert 'Local Specialist'. Tread lightly along the dense forest trails, learning about the endemic flora and fauna, as Banyan, Teak and Bamboo trees provide a serene backdrop for a lesson in Kerala wildlife. You may be lucky enough to see herds of wild elephant and bison seeking to quench their thirst along the quiet shores of Periyar Lake. Or keep a keen eye out for hornbills, flycatchers and kites - some of the many species of local and migratory birds that flock to this pristine sanctuary. Your soul soothed after connecting with nature, you'll head to your hotel to freshen up for an exhilarating 'Dive Into Culture' Kalarippayattu performance. Watch as trained Kalari warriors show off this most ancient of martial arts, jumping and somersaulting in the ultimate coordination between mind and body. After a day of adventure, you'll enjoy dinner at your hotel.
The intoxicating scents of cardamom, cinnamon and cloves will linger long after today's encounter with Kerala's famous spices. Your first stop today is a visit to Kumily Spice Garden. Here you'll learn how the locals grow and share an astounding variety of flavourful spices, ranging from pepper and ginger to vanilla and cardamom, the queen of spices. Gain insights into the entire process of spice cultivation at close quarters and discover how Kerala's spice trade with the world has shaped its culture and heritage to this day. There's more to experience as you head to Kumarakom, a tranquil village set on the peaceful banks of Lake Vembanad, the largest lake in Kerala. Embark on a walking tour and 'Dive Into Culture' as you admire the vibrant day-to-day of village life in the regional market and on its lively streets.
Kerala's intrinsic relationship with water takes centre stage today. Enjoy a leisurely start, then board a traditional houseboat for a cruise surrounded by Kerala's iconic backwaters. Take a deep breath and enjoy the slow, sultry pace of life fringing the narrow canals as you wind your way to Alleppey. Watch villagers wave to each other from their wooden Shikaras (traditional boats), see how life unfolds along the palm-fringed shoreline. Even your ride for the day is rooted in history. These houseboats, known locally as Kettuvalloms, were formerly old barges used to ferry rice and spices. Upon arriving in Alleppey, you'll disembark and return to Kumarakom for dinner and a relaxing evening.
Remnants of Kerala's colourful centuries-old trading history are best explored in the old port city of Kochi. It was here that Chinese, Arab and European merchants would come to buy the fragrant spices that found their way to tables all over the world. In turn, they left their mark on Kochi's architecture, cuisine and traditions. Colonial bungalows, Catholic churches, mosques and a European fort dot the cityscape of what was once known as the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea'. Enjoy some free time for lunch and then embark on a city tour to see this multi-cultural centre first-hand, including views of the Mattancherry Dutch Palace and St Francis Church, built by Portuguese traders. Visit the Fort Kochi area and see the traditional cantilevered Chinese fishing nets, unique to this part of Kerala. Admire how these fixed land installations made on bamboo scaffolding are artfully lowered into the sea to catch the seafood for which Kochi is so famous. This evening, 'Connect With Locals' and enjoy a cooking demonstration with a local family followed by a delicious 'Be My Guest' Farewell Dinner.
Your epic encounter with Kerala's culture and natural wonders has sadly come to an end, but your memories will last a lifetime. Say farewell to your travel companions and take an airport transfer for your onward flight.