Karnataka with 7 nights Backwater Cruise (South to North)

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 - Alleppey & board RV Vaikundam (Backwater Cruise)
After breakfast, check-out from the hotel and drive to Alleppey (Alappuzha), a prominent ancient trade centre visited by the Greek, Arabs and Romans.

Alappuzha (Alleppey) or Venice of the East as visualized by the British, or the present-day Rice bowl of the State, Alappuzha is blessed with natural bounties. This coastal town is built on strips of land along a magical network of rivers, lakes and lagoons. Seafood, coir, rice and metals & minerals are the major resources of Alleppey(Alappuzha).

Upon arrival in the town, we take a walk along the old part of the town and the market.

Proceed to the jetty and embark on RV Vaikundam. Check-in and set sail to experience the serene and green world of meandering waters and expanses of paddy fields and coconut plantations. This spectacular   water world, of fertile land, tropical greenery and rich avian & aquatic species, at the Southernmost corner of Indian peninsula is disconnected from the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan life.

Passing by low-lying paddy fields and tiny hamlets, you may see country boats loaded with paddy or local produces or duck farmers herding schools of ducks, or local people criss-crossing by canoes.

We arrive in Kanjippadom village by evening. Take a leisure walk, visiting a dock for building or repairing of traditional wooden boats. It will be enjoyable to see how the coir rope tying process is used to lash the wooden planks of the boats together.

Explore the birds of the region. Return to boat and cruise till the fishermen lay their nets. 

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

Day 10: Cruise Kanjippadom - Naluchira Village
After breakfast, we sail to a quaint village. Here a statue of Buddha of 11th century is preserved in a tiny shrine.  Take a relaxing walk in the village indulging in the serenity of the surroundings. We cruise to Thrikkunnappuzha village till evening. The lunch will be served while cruising. The Enjoying calmness, soothing and refreshing, arrive in Thottappalli village close to the sea coast. Take a short walk to the beach to enjoy the sunset. Return to take a short cruise to Naluchira village.

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

Day 11: Cruise - Aranmula Village Excursion
After breakfast, drive to a temple inside a sacred grove where snakes are revered and worshipped with much piety. The cult of worshipping serpents is still prevailing in Kerala.

We continue the journey through the midland 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. 

Listen to the story of the ritualistic Snake boat regatta of the village.  Have lunch at a beautiful house of the village, located on the bank of the Holy River Pampa. Return to Thottappalli village to board the boat and cruise to Thakazhi village, interior village of Kuttanad- the expanses of land reclaimed from the shallow waters of lake and peripheries of rivers for cultivating paddy, during a period of famine in the beginning of last century. These paddy fields are at lower level than the sea and are protected from flooding by building dykes around them. It is very picturesque to sail in canals 10-15 feet above the surrounding paddy fields.

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

Day 12: Cruise - Changankari - Pulinkunnu Village
Arrive in Changankari village to take a leisurely walk. Stop by to watch toddy tapping.
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, skillfully and passionately craft biblical heroes.

On a dock on the shore you will find the Snake boat (Chundan Vallom) which is the pride of the villagers.   These types of boats 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. 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.  Return to the boat and cruise to Nedumudi. Lunch will be served while cruising.

Excursion:  Drive from Nedumudi / Mannar
Drive through the scenic expanses of greenery and waterways, 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 houses for ritualistic practices. The large utensils are for preparing food for feast.  Interact with the artisans; inspire them, watching the indigenous method of casting of lamps, utensils and locks. Return to Nedumudi. Cruise till dusk and arrive in Pulinkunnu village.

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

Day 13: Cruise - Kuttanad - Kavalam

Cruise to Kainakari. This village in Kuttanad is of vast stretches of paddy fields, dykes criss-crossed by narrow canals.

This day as we cruise through the interior yet vibrant village, we visit a traditional Ayurveda centre. Interact with Ayurveda doctors and get to know about this ancient knowledge on 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.  

You may also visit a toddy shop and see the various local cuisines like tapioca, duck and variety of fishes, which goes along with Toddy. 

Cruise to Kavalam.  Here we watch local folk dance (Kai kotti kali) performance by school children. We continue the cruise till dusk.

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

Day 14: Excursion - Kumarakom
Arriving from Kavalam, 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 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 try your hand at cooking and also ask for their story of family of three generations of hard workingmen, and equally strong women who supported their pioneering spirit.

We set out by Canoe to watch the migratory and endemic birds of Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, 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 and cruise to Thanneermukkom. 

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

Day 15: Cruise on Lake Vembnad
Arrive in Vechoor village. You may watch the morning prayers in an old church or take a leisurely walk. Breakfast will be served while cruising to Chenganda village.

The people of this village are engaged in coir making and fishing. Interact with them. The will demonstrate how to collect mussels and their indigenous methods of   fishing and farming. Return to boat for lunch. Our Chef will demonstrate the preparation of mussels. You may also try your hand at it.

By evening we arrive in an ancient village Vaikom, in Kottayam-the land of natural rubber, by early evening. Watch cultural performance at a cultural centre in Vaikom.

Visit the temple of Lord Shiva. 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. 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, 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. Vaikom temple is one of the biggest in Kerala. 

Overnight at the hotel (B)

Day 16: Cruise - Alleppey - Cochin - Departure
Cruise to Cochin through the serene Backwaters, passing by green and quite islands. Disembark by 9.30pm at the jetty at Marad in Ernakulam. Drive to the Kalari at Nettoor to watch authentic 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.

Visit the Folk lore museum at Thevara.

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

(B)