Southern Sojourn with 7 nights Backwater Cruise (South to North)

15 NIGHTS | 16 DAYS

Region, State: Mumbai, Ratnagiri, Goa, Hampi, Mysore, Cochin \ Kumarakom, Trivandrum, Backwater Cruise

Itinerary at a Glance:

Day Activities Activities
Day 1 Saturday, September 7, 2019 Mumbai – Board Maharaja Express
Day 2 Sunday, September 8, 2019 Maharaja Express
Day 3 Monday, September 9, 2019 Maharaja Express
Day 4 Tuesday, September 10, 2019 Maharaja Express
Day 5 Wednesday, September 11, 2019 Maharaja Express
Day 6 Thursday, September 12, 2019 Maharaja Express
Day 7 Friday, September 13, 2019 Maharaja Express
Day 8 Saturday, September 14, 2019 Maharaja Express – Trivandrum
Day 9 Sunday, September 15, 2019 Trivandrum – Backwater Cruise
Day 10 Monday, September 16, 2019 Backwater Cruise
Day 11 Tuesday, September 17, 2019 Backwater Cruise
Day 12 Wednesday, September 18, 2019 Backwater Cruise
Day 13 Thursday, September 19, 2019 Backwater Cruise
Day 14 Friday, September 20, 2019 Backwater Cruise
Day 15 Saturday, September 21, 2019 Backwater Cruise
Day 16 Sunday, September 22, 2019 Backwater Cruise - Cochin – Departure

DETAILED ITINERARY

Day 1: Saturday, September 7, 2019:
Mumbai – Board Maharaja Express - Ratnagiri

Assemble at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai by 0630 Hrs. After completing the registration formalities, board the train and enjoy a warm traditional welcome & a welcome drink. The train departs for its first destination, Ratnagiri as you settle in your cabins. Breakfast will be served on-board.

Post on-board lunch, disembark at Ratnagiri. This beautiful costal city has history, amazing sights and other excitements. Visit the Ratnadurg Fort ruins. Surrounded by the Arabian Sea from three sides, the horse-shoe shaped fort is a beauty to marvel at. The Thibaw Palace and Tombs are interesting to explore. The Government Museum added to the fun of the day's sightseeing. Return to the train by evening. Dinner will be served on-board.

Overnight on-board Maharaja Express (B, L, D)

Day 2: Sunday, September 8, 2019:
Maharaja Express - Goa

The train has entered the 'Queen of Beaches' Goa today. Savour breakfast on-board. Disembark from the train and visit the churches of North Goa including the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This church is the site where the mortal remains of Saint Francis Xavier have been preserved. Later, visit the Se Cathedral, located on the opposite road of the first church. This church was erected by the Portuguese after they defeated the Muslim Army. Next in line is the Walking Tour of the Old Panjim houses. The feel of this place is quite calming and peaceful. Observe the blend of the Portuguese and Goan culture. Return back to the train for lunch and brief rest.

Again, de-board the train at 1545 Hrs and proceed to witness a special dance and music performances by local artists. On the way, we halt to visit the Goa Chitra Museum. This wonderful museum is well-stocked with a private ethnographic collection of farming tools carts, pottery, palanquins and musical instruments. Later, proceed for a night of Goan carnival music followed by dinner at a special venue. Return back to the Maharajas' Express.

Overnight on-board Maharaja Express (B, L, D)

Day 3: Monday, September 9, 2019:
Maharaja Express - Hampi

In the morning, Maharajas' Express starts its journey to Hampi. Enjoy lip-smacking breakfast on-board while treating your eyes to the scenic beauty of the Indian landscape.

Lunch will be served on-board as you proceed towards your destination. The train chugs into the Hospet railway station and get down from the train to visit the Anegudi Village. Located across the River Tungabhadra, this scenic village finds its roots back in the Neolithic times. Explore the village, interact with the locals, and partake in their daily activities to get complete knowledge of their life.

Back to the comforts of Maharajas' Express, one of the leading Indian luxury trains. Dinner will served on-board.

Overnight on-board Maharaja Express (B, L, D)

Day 4: Tuesday, September 10, 2019:
Maharaja Express - Hampi

Today, after an early breakfast, de-board the train and proceed for a visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi. This is a sight with stunning manmade wonders. Observe the group of monuments made from stone, covering a vast expanse of an area. The temples are a wonderful proof of Dravidian style of architecture built by the rulers of the Vijayanagar Empire. Some of the most popular attractions at Hampi are Elephant Stables, Virupaksha Temple, Ganesha Statue, and Narasimha Statute. The next visit is to the sprawling Vittala Temple complex, with highlights like the Stone Chariot and the Musical Pillars Temple. You can also enjoy a ride in tuk tuks or battery operated carts.

Return back to the train and start the journey to your next destination, Mysore, as you enjoy your lunch. Dinner too will be served on-board.

Overnight on-board Maharaja Express (B, L, D)

Day 5: Wednesday, September 11, 2019:
Maharaja Express - Mysore

Morning breakfast is served on-board. Post breakfast disembark the train and proceed to visit the splendid Wodeyar Palace, also known as the Mysore Palace. One of the largest complexes in South India, it is the official residence of the royal family of Mysore. There are 2 ceremonial halls, well-maintained gardens, several courtyards and other wonderful structures.

Later enjoy a special lunch at the Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel, a stunning structure. Constructed by the Wodeyars in the 1920s, this heritage building was built for the Viceroy of India. The huge palace complex has a restaurant, a ball room and a Viceroy hall. Later, there are options to choose from. You can either return on-board train or can visit Srirangapatnam, the capital of Tipu Sultan. Enjoy dinner on-board Maharajas' Express.

Overnight on-board Maharaja Express (B, L, D)

Day 6: Thursday, September 12, 2019:
Maharaja Express - Cochin

Maharajas' Express chugs into Kerala - the God's Own Country today. Savour breakfast on-board. The day is at leisure so that you can enjoy the facilities offered on-board the train.

At around 1415 Hrs, get down from the train to visit a village where traditional arts of Kerala are practiced. You arrive here at the Model Eco Tourism village by enjoy a ride in tuk tuk. Later, head to the exclusive Chinese Fishing Nets (fixed land installation for fishing), industry making coir products and a traditional crab farm. Dinner at a special venue along with traditional South Indian dance performance. Return back to the Maharajas' Express.

Overnight on-board Maharaja Express (B, L, D)

Day 7: Friday, September 13, 2019:
Maharaja Express - Kumarakom

Enjoy breakfast on-board and proceed for a Canoe ride on the Kumarakom backwaters. As the canoe makes its way from the narrow canals. Savour the scenic views of coconut palm trees lined on the landscape. As you disembark from the canoe, get ready for enjoy lunch at a special lakefront venue. Thereafter, be a spectator of the exhilarating Snake Boat Race, where a boat has around 60 boatmen who row the boat in a wonderful manner, clubbed with drum beats and energizing songs. Return to the train, which is now a venue of a special Indian Evening of drinks and dinner. The train begin its journey to Trivandrum.

Overnight on-board Maharaja Express (B, L, D)

Day 8: Saturday, September 14, 2019:
Maharaja Express – Trivandrum & de-board

Early morning breakfast in the train. At 08:00 hours, disembark from this Indian luxury at the Kochuveli Railway Station, Trivandrum. Kerala's capital city. Morning breakfast at hotel. Later you will be transferred to your hotel in Trivandrum. Rest of the day is free at leisure.

Overnight at the hotel (B)

Day 9: Sunday, September 15, 2019:
Trivandrum – Alleppey - Backwater Cruise

Trivandrum to Alleppey by road: Approx. 160 Kms. & 5 Hrs. drive

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, 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 leisurely walk, visit 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, D)

Day 10: Monday, September 16, 2019:
Backwater Cruise

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 and short cruise to Naluchira village.

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

Day 11: Tuesday, September 17, 2019:
Backwater Cruise - 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: Wednesday, September 18, 2019:
Backwater Cruise – Champakkulam

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: Thursday, September 19, 2019:
Backwater Cruise – Kuttanad - Nedumudy

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: Friday, September 20, 2019:
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: Saturday, September 21, 2019:
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 on-board on RV Vaikundam (B, L, D)

Day 16: Sunday, September 22, 2019:
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. 

(B)

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