Karnataka with 7 nights Backwater Cruise (North to South)

15 NIGHTS | 16 DAYS

BANGALORE | MYSORE | KABINI | CALICUT | COCHIN | BACKWATERS CRUISE

Far Horizon takes you on a journey through the heart of the Dravidian South. Visit the famous temples of South India with their elaborate carvings and architectural styles. Glide through the backwaters of Kerala – God's own country. The backwaters give you an opportunity to Experience the Living Cultures of Kerala at close quarters. 

Visit Kabini where you can see wildlife in its natural habitat. Walk through the Spice Plantations for a glimpse of the exotic spices used in Indian cooking. Kerala is known for its wonderful food, come enjoy the food and learn the secrets of this wonderful cuisine.          

Day 1: Arrive Bangalore
You arrive at Bangalore airport. After clearing India Immigration and Customs, you step into the receiving area where you will be met by our representative.

(No meals)

Day 2: Bangalore - Mysore (Approx. 150 Kms & 4 Hrs. drive)
Morning after relaxed breakfast, check-out and drive to Mysore (also known as Mysuru).  Along the way, we visit the river island town of Srirangapatna, with its celebrated 9th-century Hindu Ranganatha Temple.  The Indian ruler Tipu Sultan made his capital here and opposed the English East India Company forces in four wars until he fell in a siege in 1799, the temple and the island as a whole has become an important pilgrimage site. 

After our touring here, we arrive in Mysore and check-in to the hotel on arrival. 

Overnight at the hotel (B)

Day 3: Mysore
This morning, we visit the Chamundi Hills, site of the 12th-century Chamundeshwari Temple with its 1,008 ancient steps leading to the summit.  The highlight of this lofty temple is the statue of Nandi, the enormous bull used as a mount by Hindu god Shiva, which sits on the 800th step of the temple.  The ornately carved granite bull presides over the temple’s visitors; at over 15 feet high and 24 feet long, it dwarfs the iconic Charging Bull statue in New York’s Financial District. 

Our next stop brings more magnificent architecture, as we visit the Palace of Mysore, the Indo-Saracenic blend of Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic styles that remains the home of the Maharajahs of Mysore and counts among India’s most popular attractions.  The palace before us, among India’s most grand, and the fourth to stand on this site, replaced the last which fire destroyed in 1897.  An exquisite opulence greets us within through a dazzling array of carvings, chandeliers, mosaics, stained glass, paintings, and frescoes.  From these two overwhelming structures, we move to a humbler stop:  a visit to a local workshop to learn how the local sandalwood incense is made by hand.  We have the afternoon free for exploration and lunch on our own.  Options include wandering the local markets to find Mysore’s renowned silk saris and ties, spices, and sandalwood crafts. 

Overnight at the hotel (B)

Day 4: Mysore – Kabini (Approx. 65 Kms & 1.5 Hrs. drive)
Morning after breakfast, leave for Nagarhole National Park, established in 1955, whose abundant wildlife, including leopard, Indian bison, wild dog, deer, antelope, hyena, and more make it one of India’s finest preserves.  In the summer months, this park also hosts the world’s greatest concentration of Asian elephants, estimated at 8,000–14,000, who migrate here to feast on riverbed pastures.

On arrival, check in the hotel and have lunch together. We then set out on a boat safari that takes in some of Nagarhole’s 247 square miles.  If we are fortunate, we may spot the critically endangered Oriental white-backed vulture, or some of the other threatened bird species that find shelter in Nagarhole. We dine at our lodge tonight.
Overnight at the hotel (B, L, D)

Day 5: Kabini
Today morning we take a safari in an open-air 4-wheel-drive vehicle through Nagarhole in search of wildlife.  After our excursion, we return to the lodge for breakfast. You will have free time to relax before lunch together at the lodge. Later, enjoy the coracle ride followed by the village walk. Evening is free at leisure. 

Overnight at the hotel (B, L, D)

Day 6: Kabini - Calicut (Approx. 170 Kms & 5 Hrs. drive)
Today after breakfast, we make the five-hour drive to Calicut, dubbed the “City of Spices” in antiquity for its role in the thriving eastern spice trade.  Stop at the plantation for the lunch, we will take a walk with the plantation owner to learn about the spice crops grown in this area.

Continue drive to Calicut and check-in to the hotel on arrival. Rest of the day is at leisure.

Overnight at the hotel (B, L)

Day 7: Calicut - Cochin (Jan Shatabdi at 0610 / 0947 Hrs)

Early this morning we transfer to the railway station, where we board a train and head south along the coast to Kochi (formerly called Cochin), the first of Europe’s colonies in India.

Overnight at the hotel (B)

Day 8: Cochin
Morning breakfast at hotel. Later we have a walking 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 begin with the Dutch Palace, actually built by the Portuguese as a gift for the Raja of Kochi in 1555.  The Dutch renovated and expanded it a century later, earning it its name. The palace also contains some of India’s finest mythological murals; the walls depict scenes from the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (please note:  the Dutch Palace closes on Fridays and Saturdays.  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, 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. 

Overnight at the hotel (B)

Day 9: Cochin – RV Vaikundam (Backwater Cruise)
Morning after breakfast, check-out and proceed to witness the Kalaripayattu performance, Regarded as the oldest and most scientific in the world, kalaripayattu, the martial art form of Kerala, is an integral of the Malayali culture. Bodhidharama, a Buddist monk, who visited China during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Ling dynasty, is believed to have presented the world with a self-defense system; from which evolved almost all the present day martial are forms. Scholars believe that his philosophy was influenced by the ancient martial culture of malabar - kalaripayattu the mother of all martial arts.

Thereafter, we arrive at Maradu jetty in Ernakulam (the urban area of Cochin) to embark on the River Cruise Boat RV Vaikundam.

After having the traditional lunch on- board, we set sail to explore that magnificent network of waterways formed along the coastal belt by the rivers from the Western Ghats before draining into the Arabian Sea. . Amidst the rapid development in the city, the Backwaters of Cochin remains placid, giving life to many island villages. The serene and scenic sights are heartening. By evening we arrive at an old town Vaikom, in Kottayam–the land of natural rubber latex and spices.

Witnessing civil rights’ movement against discrimination for socially and financially under-privileged entering the temple or even   using the public spaces around the temple, Vaikom got prominence in the history of Kerala during Indian independence movement when unity was of utmost importance.

We take a tour around the temple to get to know about its history and architecture. The architecture of temples in Kerala is unique. It is based on ancient science of construction and geographical features of the land. As per the traditional architecture, the 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. 

Overnight on-board on RV Vaikundam (B, L, D)

Day 10: Cruise Vaikom - Vechoor Village
Morning after having breakfast on the boat, we visit the cultural centre in Vaikom to watch traditional dance performance Kathakali.

Cruise to Chenganda village. We visit a rustic village Chenganda, along the Backwaters, where people are having a laid-back and peaceful life, occupied with coir making and fishing.

Meet the people, the coir weavers, and coconut harvesters and mussel and prawns farmers and discuss about riparian life over a drink of tender coconut water. Watch various indigenous techniques of fishing: using shore-based ‘Chinese nets’, by drifting nets and or by hand.  Return to the boat for lunch.

Cruise through Thanneermukkom barrage. The barrage divides the lake into two– one half with perennial salty water and the other with fresh water enriched by the rivers. Arrive in Vechoor village. You may take a walk or relax on board.

Proceed to the farm house by evening.  This house is located on an island which was made by the men of the house, by reclaiming land from Backwaters. A walk in the farm will be educative. Experience the cordial living of a mother and her daughter-in-law. The hostess will demonstrate the preparation of traditional Syrian Christian cuisine. You may also try your hand at cooking and also ask for their story of family of three generations of hard working men, and equally strong women who supported their pioneering spirit. 

Overnight on-board on RV Vaikundam (B, L, D)

Day 11: Excursion - Kumarakom 
Today having an early and light breakfast, set out for escorted canoe ride to watch the migratory as well as endemic birds of Kumarakom-which is a cluster of lagoons of Vembanad lake at 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 elaborate breakfast will be served. We cruise to the interiors of Kuttanad-the expanses of land reclaimed from the lake for paddy cultivation, when the region was severely hit by famine during the colonial period. These paddy fields are lying below sea level and protected by building dykes around them. The barrages in the region control the flow of Sea water during tides.

Watch a folk dance performance (Kaikotti kali) by the girls of the village. Return to the boat and cruise till dusk, to further interior, to Veliyanad village. Relax on-board overnight.

Overnight on-board on RV Vaikundam (B, L, D)

Day 12: Cruise - Kainakari - Pulinkunnu Village
This day we cruise to another interior yet vibrant village. En route we visit a traditional Ayurveda centre. Interact with the doctor and get to know about this ancient knowledge on the holistic way of life. You may try any of the wellness massages, as per the recommendation of the doctor.

A short cruise ahead we arrive at Chavara Bhavan, the ancestral home of Saint Kuriakose Chavara, the first canonized Catholic male saint of Indian origin.

Saint Chavara was an Indian Catholic priest and social reformer. He 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, the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (C.M.C.) . The ancestral home of the Saint has now been preserved as a museum.  

After having lunch, cruise to Pulinkunnu village. Get closer to the laid-back, yet harmonious, life, paddling along   narrow canal by country boat, interacting with the villagers. 

Overnight on-board on RV Vaikundam (B, L, D)

Day 13: Cruise Kuttanad - Changankari

Morning after having breakfast, we drive through the scenic expanses of greenery and water ways, to the village Mannar (1.30hrs). The village is famous for the traditional ornate locks, and lamps and vessels of different sizes and designs. These items are being used in temples and also in the houses for ritualistic practices. Inspire the craftsmen, interacting with them while they indulge in an indigenous method of casting of lamps, vessels and locks.           

Refresh, have lunch on-board and relax. We cruise to Champakkulam village. Kerala’s old spice trade used to pass through this town en route 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 8th century AD. Architecturally, it is a mélange of several European styles, from the Levantine altar and structure to the Dutch arches that tower overhead.

You may visit an old church, a school, the local artisans (open on week days) who skilfully and passionately craft biblical heroes. We come across the 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. Life in the village comes to  a state of exuberance and enthusiasm during the annual Snake boat race, despite being celebrated at the peak of monsoon rains.

Cruise through canals and arrive Changankari   till dusk, passing through the serene canals. You may relax on board or take a visit around a temple, watching the evening rituals. You may interact with the devotees.

Overnight on-board on RV Vaikundam (B, L, D)

Day 14: Cruise Aranmula - Thottappalli
Morning after having early breakfast, drive to Konni to spend time with elephants at a shelter at the backdrop of forest.  Elephants have significance in Hindu mythology and culture. The trip leader will share interesting facts about role of elephants in temple festivals in Kerala.

Proceed to Aranmula village which is home to a family of craftsmen who are skilled at making mirror out of a special combination of certain metals. The secret of the trade has been passed down through generations. Visit the mirror makers; see the ancient temple of Krishna, see the mural art of the local artists and meet a snake boat builder.

Lunch will be arranged at a local house of beautiful architecture and located on the bank of Pampa, the holy river of natives. The host will talk about the ritualistic annual regatta.

Drive to Thottappalli and relax on the boat. En route, visit temple worshipping serpents. Arrive in Thottappalli and board the boat. Refresh and have tea/coffee with snacks during a short cruise to a tiny settlement. Take a walk to the beach. On the way, you may visit a toddy shop. Toddy is a local alcoholic beverage made from the sap of tender flower of coconut palm and had accompanied by tapioca. 

Overnight on-board on RV Vaikundam (B, L, D)

Day 15: Cruise Kanjippadom - Pallathuruthy Village
We plant a coconut sampling for the village. Arrive in Karumadi village. Here 11th century statue of Buddha preserved in a small shrine. After taking a walk through this quiet and rustic village, cruise to Kanjippadom village to visit a dock where on week days you can watch building or repair of wooden boats. You might be able to see the art of traditional Kettuvallum or, coir rope lashed wooden plank boat building techniques.

After lunch, cruise through Pallathuruthy village and arrive at a small lake (Vattakkayal) amidst paddy fields. Take a relaxing walk, watch toddy tapping. Return to boat after beautiful sunset. Toddy will be served during the farewell theme dinner.

Overnight at the hotel (B)

Day 16: Cruise Alleppey - Cochin - Departure
The ancient Port town, criss-crossed by rivers, lakes, canals, lagoons and paddy fields, named as the Venice of the East, as per the visualization of the British. Check-out and take a guided tour of Heritage part of the town. Visit the old markets, temples, churches and mosques and the beach.

Thereafter, transfer to Cochin airport to connect with flight to onward destination or take an extension to Marari Beach resort for relaxation.

(B)