Kerala Backwaters + Kovalam Extension

Tea picker
Local Children
Houseboat on the Kerala Backwaters
Chinese fishing nets in Kochi
  • Overview
  • Itinerary
  • Dates
  • Explore!

Unwind with us on this relaxing exploration of Kerala, a corner of India known by its welcoming locals, as God's own country. We cruise tranquil backwaters by houseboat, trek in search of wildlife in Periyar National Park and visit hilltop tea and spice plantations. Along the way we discover colonial Kochi and spend a night in a family run homestay.

Houseboat - Drift through the backwaters on a traditional houseboat
Homestay - Enjoy a tasty homecooked curry whilst spending the night with a local family
Hill stations - Head for hills and spend time in the cooler climate perfect for cultivating tea
Kochi - Explore Kochi from the water, including Fort Kochi, St Francis Church and Mattancherry Palace
Why Book this Tour
This tour will suit anyone looking for a relaxed introduction to south India. It offers a chance to fully experience life in Kerala's beautiful backwaters by spending one night in a family home. With a slightly more relaxed vibe than India's northern states you can get a taste of Indian culture, and learn a little of the spices and tea that are exported from what is known as Gods own country.
  • India
  • Periyar
  • Kerala
  • Munnar
  • Asia
Tour Types
  • Active
  • Small Group
  • Cruise
  • Wildlife
  • Scenic
  • Cultural
  • Adventure
Day 1: Join tour in Kochi
Our tour begins this afternoon in the coastal city of Kochi (Cochin).

Day 2: Explore the fort and Jewish Quarter of Kochi
Kochi has been a gathering place of merchants since antiquity and is full of bustling traders. A half day tour by boat is planned for today. Fort Kochi is the oldest European settlement in India (1500), and has a mixture of English, Dutch and Portuguese influence. The Mattancherry Palace was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, but extensive renovations by the Dutch some hundred years later earned it the name the Dutch Palace. It has some of the best murals in India, depicting scenes from the Ramayana and other great legends. On our tour we visit the Jew town synagogue where Kochi's surviving Jewish community come to worship. Nearby are the interesting cantilevered Chinese Fishing nets. In the early evening we see a performance of Kathakali, which is thought by some to be the very essence of the culture of Kerala. Its origins may have come from traditional temple rituals and from an art form known as Koodiyattam. It is the face make up which makes this dancing so unique. The dancers can take up to three hours painting their faces - the features are heavily emphasised as it is the facial expressions and co-ordinated eye movements which are important in the dance. The dances usually portray events from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, great Indian epics.

Day 3: Drive through spice and tea plantations to Munnar and enjoy free time in the town
This morning we have a drive to Munnar of around 5 hours through an area of spice and tea plantations. Kerala has been renowned for its spices for at least 2000 years, the coast had been known by the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs and Chinese for its sandalwood and spices. There was also a flourishing trade in 'black gold' - pepper - which, along with the spices, was sent to Europe by the Jewish and Arab traders. In return, copper, brass and gold coins came to Kerala. It was this trading link which brought Christianity and Islam into Kerala - the first place in India to host these two faiths. Munnar is a pleasant place to spend time, with its green tropical forests, fresh mountain air and neat tea plantations. It is hardly surprising it has become a favourite for Indian honeymooners. The afternoon is free to explore this beautiful town.

Day 4: Visit tea and spice plantations; drive to Thekkady
Our day starts with a fascinating visit to a tea museum where we can learn how it is processed. It is the women who usually pick the tea because of their nimble fingers, their brightly coloured clothes contrast sharply with the greenery of the plantations. Leaving the tea museum, we drive for around 4 hours to Thekkady where we'll take a nature walk through delightful countryside and visit a spice garden, learning about how the spices are grown and processed.

Day 5: Take a walk in Periyar National Park
Our route this morning takes us past rubber plantations and varied spice gardens to Periyar wildlife sanctuary, close to the border with Tamil Nadu. One of 16 tiger reserves in India, Periyar is it is perhaps better known for its elephants. There are about 40 tigers living in the 777 sq km park but, as they are solitary creatures, the chances of seeing them are very slim. We go for a walk in search of other wildlife such as the wild boar, giant malabar, porcupine and the flying squirrel. The Park itself is made up of a variety of habitats, open grasslands, deciduous, semi-evergreen and tropical forests all of which have different animal species. The ecosystem of the tropical evergreen jungle is very interesting as the trees grow up to 40m, and the dense canopy only allows in limited sunlight. Therefore at ground level, there are abundant ferns, orchid and airplants- plants which need little light to survive.

Leaving the park we head back towards the coast and our homestay for the next two nights. We stay with local families within a village, and your tour leader will brief you on local customs and traditions. It is a great opportunity to spend time learning about the real life of Keralans as well as an opportunity to sample some delicious home cooking - perhaps a spicy coconut curry. The rooms are in the same style as a traditional Keralan home with mattresses made locally using coir fibres, a material taken from coconut husks which allows air to flow naturally - ideal in this humid region. All rooms are twin share and the majority of them have their own attached bathrooms, although there are some rooms with a private bathroom located in a corridor next to the room. Bathrooms are basic with a toilet and a simple shower, and hot water can be limited at times. All bedding and towels are provided.

Day 6: Take an optional cooking class or village walk
We spend today exploring the village and getting to know our host families. There will be a chance to take a cooking lesson, take gentle walks through the surrounding villages or just kick back and relax for the day.

Day 7: Board a houseboat and float through the backwaters
This morning we board our houseboats and begin our journey into the network of the Kerala backwaters. The traditional houseboats are simple vessels, with en-suite twin rooms. The pace is relaxed - enabling us to see riverside village life in its entirety. The industrious villagers survive on narrow spits of land, keeping cows, chickens and cultivating vegetable gardens. Even the shells from the fresh water mussels are burnt to make building lime, and the fibre from the coconut palm has many uses including coir products made from coconut fibre. The gardens are generally well tended often with brightly coloured flowers, such as hibiscus, contrasting sharply with the tropical greenery.

Day 8: Free time to explore Kochi
After a relaxed breakfast we disembark from our houseboats and return to Kochi where the rest of the day is left free for personal exploration.

Day 9: Take a train to Kovalam and relax on the beach
After breakfast this morning we take a short transfer to Ernakulam train station where we board the Kerala Express train to Trivandrum. The journey will take a little over four hours and we travel in air-conditioned carriages (subject to availability). On arrival a short transfer is provided to the hotel, our base for the next two nights just outside Kovalam. We are not travelling with an Explore Leader while in Kovalam, time is left free to relax on the beach or explore the nearby town.

Day 10: Free day to explore the town of Kovalam or enjoy the beach
Today is again left free for you to do as you wish. There is the option to book an excursion to Kanyakumari, the town located on the southern tip of India. The town is named after the godess Devi Kanya Kumari, the sister of Krishna, and as such is a popular site for pilgrims to visit and take a dip in the ocean. Alternatively you can take an afternoon tour of Trivandrukm with a local guide taking in the Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Napier Museum and the art gallery.

Day 11: Trip ends in Kovalam
The trip ends this morning after breakfast.

You will have the option to book your own flights independently with the operator.

Dates Price Single Availability
26-Oct-2019 for 10 Nights Visit Website


26-Oct-2019 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website


16-Nov-2019 for 10 Nights Visit Website


16-Nov-2019 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website


23-Nov-2019 for 10 Nights Visit Website


23-Nov-2019 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website


19-Dec-2019 for 10 Nights Visit Website


19-Dec-2019 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website


18-Jan-2020 for 10 Nights Visit Website
18-Jan-2020 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
25-Jan-2020 for 10 Nights Visit Website
25-Jan-2020 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
08-Feb-2020 for 10 Nights Visit Website
08-Feb-2020 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
15-Feb-2020 for 10 Nights Visit Website
15-Feb-2020 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
07-Mar-2020 for 10 Nights Visit Website
07-Mar-2020 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
14-Mar-2020 for 10 Nights Visit Website
14-Mar-2020 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
24-Oct-2020 for 10 Nights Visit Website
24-Oct-2020 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
07-Nov-2020 for 10 Nights Visit Website
07-Nov-2020 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
14-Nov-2020 for 10 Nights Visit Website
14-Nov-2020 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
21-Nov-2020 for 10 Nights Visit Website
21-Nov-2020 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
20-Dec-2020 for 10 Nights Visit Website
20-Dec-2020 for 10 Nights Flight Included Visit Website

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tour details

This tour is operated by Explore!

10 nights from pp; per Night
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Group Size:0 - 16
Suitable For: Adult
Meals:Breakfast: 10 Lunch: 2 Dinner: 3
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