Enjoy a four day trek in the lush Cardamom Hills, cruise Kerala's palm-fringed backwaters, see the magnificent temples of Madurai, go in search of wildlife in Periyar Nature Reserve and relax on Kovalam's beautiful beaches, on this exciting 13 day tour of Southern India.
Welcome to Kochi. A single timed group transfer is provided from Kochi airport to our start hotel in the morning. The rest of the day is free to relax or there's the option to join a sightseeing tour for those that arrive early this morning.
Kochi’s winding streets are crammed with 500-year-old Portuguese houses, synagogues, palaces and forts, spread over a charming cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas. With our knowledgeable city guide, we will visit the Mattancherry Palace and watch the Chinese fishing nets in action from the waterfront Vasco da Gama Square. There are plenty of opportunities to also scout out souvenirs while the rest of the afternoon is free for relaxing or further independent exploration.
Overnight: Kochi | Lunch, Dinner
Kochi - Munnar. This morning we set out on a 4 hour drive which takes us through beautiful lowland jungle, dramatic forested gorge and the waterfalls at Valara. After our lunch stop we'll arrive at the former hill-station of Munnar where you can view the lower slopes carpeted by emerald green tea plantations. Once we have checked into our hotel you have free time to explore the town which has a Hindu temple and a wonderful covered bazaar
Overnight: Munnar | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Trek to Kolukkumalai
Suryanelli - Kolukkumalai. Our trek today starts close to the village of Suryanelliat 1550m. Following a tea estate road through stands of eucalyptus trees we will arrive at a tea plantation village and come across local plantation workers and their children who are not shy when it comes to having their pictures taken. We'll continue on our trek through some local tea estates before we reach our camping place above the Kolukkumalai tea estate and factory. After setting up our tents, we'll visit the tea factory, reputedly the highest grown tea in the world, where you can see the various processes needed to achieve your "morning cuppa" Tonight we have dinner in the mess tent.
Overnight: Kolukkumalai (camping) | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Kolukkumalai - Rhododendron Valley. An early wake up this morning and hopefully clear conditions to catch the sunrise between the dramatic surrounding peaks. Again it's a day of trekking as we reach the open grassland to Meesapulimala's upper slopes. We'll trek through shola forest to the summit of Meesapulimala (2600m), Kerala's second highest peak, where we'll stop to admire the wonderful panoramic views. On our descent from the peak we'll find a sheltered spot for lunch and then the gradual make our way to Rhododendron Valley for our campsite for the night.
Overnight: Rhododendron Valley (camping) | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Rhododendron Valley - Ellapatti. Trekking through rolling grasslands and narrow tracts of forest, today we might encounter Nilgiri langurs, monkeys with jet black bodies and white faces, and Indian wild bison in the larger areas of shola forest. The area is wonderful for birdwatching and we may spot falcons and buzzards riding the thermals. After lunch we head towards the village of Ellapatti and then traverse around on the plantation tracks to reach our campsite for the night.
Overnight: Ellapatti (camping) | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Trek to Top Station
Ellapatti - Top Station. Today there is another chance to see a spectacular sunrise. After breakfast we head uphill on a small game trail before we reach an isolated grassy summit where we can admire the views and see where we started 2 days ago. We descend through forest and trek along the upper limit of the tea growing plantations before arriving at our camp - Top Station. Top Station was formerly the terminus of the Kundala Valley Railway and the top of a ropeway which descended all the way to Bodinayikkanur in Tamil Nadu. We have the afternoon to explore before our evening meal.
Overnight: Top Station (camping) | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Temples of Madurai
Top Station - Madurai. After breakfast we drive eastward into the state of Tamil Nadu. We'll leave the hills behind as we pass through rich flat agricultural plains with orchards and large rice fields. Early this afternoon we'll arrive at our destination Madurai which is one of southern India's great temple towns. After lunch we will walk around the temple area and visit the local Kashmiri-run handicraft emporia, where we can enjoy fabulous views of the town's towering temples from the viewing platforms on the roof. At 4pm, when it opens, we visit the unmissable Sri Meenakshi temple complex which is one of the most colourful examples of Indian religious architecture. Here we'll mingle with pilgrims who come to worship at the temple, bathe in the Tank of the Golden Lotus, and see gaze in wonder at the carvings of the Hall of a Thousand Pillars.
Overnight: Madurai | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Madurai - Thekkady. This morning we head back through the Western Ghats as we make our way into the state of Kerala. We arrive into Thekkay early afternoon and can spend the rest of the day at leisure. Thekkay is the gateway to Periyar Wildlife Reserve.
Overnight: Thekkady | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Today we visit the wildlife reserve at Periyar which stretches over 777 square kilometres of hilly and mostly forested country. Some estimates say there are as many as 40 tigers in the park as well as sambar deer, Indian wild dogs, leopard, monkeys, birds, and of course its most famous resident, the wild elephants who come down to the lake to drink and bathe. We will be accompanied by local forest guards who will be with us on a full day hike into the reserve. Later we return to Thekkady.
Overnight: Thekkady | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Thekkady - Alleppey. Today we start with a scenic morning drive westward to the town of Alleppey. Located at the southern end of Vembanad Lake, Alleppey is the gateway to Kerala's beautiful backwaters. Here we will board houseboats which will be our home for the night. The boats provide surprisingly luxurious accommodation with 2 or 3 twin-bedded rooms on each boat. There are almost 2000km of backwaters, interconnected lakes, lagoons and canals. We enjoy a scenic cruise along the palm fringed backwaters, spotting birds and watching rural life, before finding a quiet spot to anchor for the night and enjoying some traditional Keralan food using fresh local produce.
Overnight: Kerala Backwaters (houseboat) | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Alleppey - Kovalam. It's a peaceful start to the day, enjoying a tasty breakfast on board as we meander the backwaters. Arriving back at Alleppey we meet our transport for the drive south to Kovalam through forests of palm trees, farmlands and lots of small towns and villages. We'll check in at our resort-style hotel right by the beach and we can spend the afternoon at leisure.
Overnight: Kovalam | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Kovalam - Trivandrum. Our adventure ends today. A group transfer from Kovalam to Trivandrum Airport is provided in the early hours of the morning.
Is This Holiday For Me?
This holiday involves a mix of sightseeing and walking. The trek through the Cardamom Hills begins with a short introductory walk around the tea estates at Munnar and then involves 4 days where we will be walking for an average of 6 hours each day. The altitudes attained are never sufficiently high to cause problems with acclimatisation and the underfoot conditions are generally good, on tracks and trails through tea plantations and forest and between villages. There are 4 nights camping during the trek. We may encounter some slippery conditions on forest trails. The trip also includes several relatively short (up to 4-hour) vehicle transfers and one longer (5 hour) journey to visit the Menakshi Temple in the city of Madurai. Journey times are dependent on traffic conditions and these transfers are generally on good roads. Before booking this tour please refer to the Trip Notes for further information about the trek, including the distance covered each day.
Prices & Dates
Departure dates noted with a 'G' are guaranteed to operate. All other departure dates are guaranteed with a minimum of 2 persons. Prices shown are per person when there are 2 persons sharing a room. The 'Single supplement' applies for single travellers who require their own room and needs to be added to the per person price.Read More