This exotic itinerary is the ultimate introduction to South India's state of Kerala—an up-and-coming destination for savvy travelers. Kick-off with an Arabian Sea sunset in Cochin before a private guide drives you through lush, hilly interiors peppered with tea and spice plantations. Continue the journey with an overnight cruise through infamous waterways, followed by a tour of Fort Kochi (by tuk-tuk) to finish the adventure.

Highlights

  • Spend a night in Munnar, a former summer resort for the British administration
  • Get up close to plantations known for cardamom, pepper, tea, coffee, and vanilla
  • Take a peaceful jungle walk at sunrise to admire butterflies and rare birdlife
  • Cruise Kerala's backwater canals and stay overnight on a houseboat
  • Join a fun cooking demonstration at an Indian home to celebrate your last night

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cochin Cochin
Day 2 Transfer to Munnar - Tea Museum Tour Munnar
Day 3 Transfer to Thekkady - Spice Plantation Tour Thekkady
Day 4 Jungle Walk - Transfer to Alappuzha - Boat Cruise Alappuzha
Day 5 Transfer to Cochin - Fort Kochi Tour - Cooking Demonstration Cochin
Day 6 Depart Cochin  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cochin

A tuk-tuk whizzing along a street in Cochin
A tuk-tuk whizzing along a street in Cochin

Welcome to Cochin, a port city located on India's southwest coast in the state of Kerala! Upon arrival (and completion of the immigration and customs formalities), you will be met by a tour representative for a traditional welcome followed by a transfer to your hotel. Your representative will assist with check-in and go over the details of your adventure.

From here, you can relax at your hotel or explore your surroundings. Cochin's history stretches back to the time of King Solomon when it was known as ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’. This is where Arab, Chinese and European merchant traders stopped in search of spices, silks, and sandalwood. Sites reflecting those influences include Fort Kochi, a settlement with tiled colonial bungalows and diverse houses of worship. And of course, the adjoining canals make Cochin a popular destination for travelers in Kerala. 

In the evening you'll have the option to watch a live performance, such as the Kathakali Dance Show at the cultural center, or perhaps join a sunset cruise in the Arabian Sea.

Day 2: Transfer to Munnar - Tea Museum Tour

Beautiful tea plantations in Munnar
Beautiful tea plantations in Munnar

After breakfast in Cochin, you will be transferred from the coastal plains as you make your way uphill towards Munnar (81 miles/140km). Famous for its tea plantations, the town is located in the Western Ghats, approximately 5,249 feet (1,600 m) above sea level with stunning views. It's easy to see that this was once the summer resort of the British administration in South India; thankfully, today, Munnar retains its colonial charm. 

Upon arrival, check into your hotel and join a guided sightseeing tour that starts with a visit to Mattupetty Dam. This important site is a vital source of electricity generation and also a haven for many wild animals and birds due to its constant water availability.

You'll also pay a visit to the Tata Tea Museum located at the Nallathanni Estate. As evidenced by the surrounding tea plantations, the industry has played an integral part in the area's history. Showcasing photographs and machinery, the tea factory museum reveals a detailed insight into how tea is processed from fresh green leaves to the final product, ready to be packaged. The museum also pays homage to the workers who have kept the industry alive for many generations. 

Following this guided tour, you'll have free time to explore Munnar at your own pace. Perhaps you'd like to wander the colorful streets and poke around a few bazaars for potential souvenirs.

Day 3: Transfer to Thekkady - Spice Plantation Tour

Garden landscapes in Periyar National Park
Garden landscapes in Periyar National Park

This morning, keep your camera close as you drive across the lush green hillsides towards Thekkady (65 miles/104 km)—a small town close to Periyar National Park, boasting one of India’s most fascinating wildlife sanctuaries.

Periyar has one of the richest habitats for large mammals, as it provides both excellent cover and nourishment in the form of succulent shoots and grasses. Here it is possible to see up to 30 species of mammals including elephants, tigers, gaur (Indian bison), sloths, and monkeys, not to mention rich birdlife. Wildlife can be viewed on boat tours (optional).

Upon arrival at your hotel in Thekkady, it's time to set off on a guided Spice Plantation Tour. Spice gardens and plantations are abundant in this part of Kerala, and this customizable tour explains the history, growth, and development of wonderful spices like cardamom and pepper, as well as other important crops like tea, coffee, and vanilla. This is an exciting endeavor for many participants since most of the world has only viewed these products on supermarket shelves.  

Following the tour, you'll be returned to your hotel for the rest of the evening.

Day 4: Jungle Walk - Transfer to Alappuzha - Boat Cruise

A local paddles a boat in Alleppey
Check out the local way of life near Alappuzha

Rise and shine! Today is an exciting day that begins with a sunrise jungle walk in Periyar National Park where you can admire butterflies and birdlife like kingfishers, storks, and hornbills. The trails often pass through evergreen and moist deciduous forests interspersed with marshy grasslands. You'll be able to feel, hear, and smell an abundance of nature all around you.

Following the walk, you'll have breakfast at your hotel and then begin the drive to Alappuzha (90 miles/145 km), also known as Alleppey. Whichever way you call it, this is a principal center for backwater cruises in Kerala. Here you'll board a houseboat for a ride along the canals of Kerala—truly one of the highlights of the trip. Learn how these waterways are the lifeblood of the area; local commerce revolves around it with boats laden with everything from fish to the daily newspapers!

For an added experience, you'll stay overnight on one of the boats in the middle of the famous Vembanad Lake for the ultimate Kerala experience.

Day 5: Transfer to Cochin - Fort Kochi Tour - Cooking Demonstration

 Bishop House is a museum in Fort Cochin
Colonial architecture in Fort Kochi

After returning to dry land in Alappuzha, it's time to transfer back to Cochin (37 miles/60 km). Upon arrival, check-in to your hotel and relax before joining a half-day sightseeing tour in Fort Kochi.

The tour starts with the visit of the famous Chinese Fishing Nets of Cochin (introduced by the Chinese in the late 14th century) and the nearby Fort Immanuel. You'll then visit St. Francis CSI Church, the oldest European church in India built in 1503, followed by an open-air tuk-tuk ride—a popular mode of transport among the locals.

Whizzing through the streets, your tuk-tuk will stop at the Dhobi Khana, a laundry station which has historical significance from the Dutch occupation of the 17th century, as well as Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese as a gift for the king of Kochi. You'll also pass by a Jewish synagogue as well as a spice market with pungent scents (great for souvenirs).

For your last night of the trip, get ready to interact with a local Keralan family during a Cooking Demonstration. This special experience begins with a traditional sari draping where you will be shown how a long strip of cloth can be wrapped in various styles. Then, participate in a fun beginner course where you'll be taught how to cook Indian food and use Indian spices—all while getting acquainted with family members of a traditional Indian home. This is an enriching cultural and culinary experience that you won't soon forget. 

Day 6: Depart Cochin

Goodbye, Kerala!
Goodbye, Kerala!

It's time to say goodbye to Kerala! At the designated time, you'll be transferred from the hotel to Cochin International Airport for your departure flight and onward journey. Safe travels!

Map

Map of Magical Kerala Tour - 6 Days
Map of Magical Kerala Tour - 6 Days