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Holiday Overview


  • Touring and sightseeing from Kochi to the Cardamom Hills
  • Wildlife walking and waterway cruising
  • Overnight on a houseboat on the Backwaters of Kerala
  • Spend a day relaxing at Varkala Beach

From its Indian Ocean beaches to the highest peaks of the Western Ghats, Kerala is a land of surprises, with a distinctive cultural make-up, near-tropical climate and great south Indian cuisine, that make it perfect for a first visit to India. Our exploration begins in the coastal city of Kochi, home of Kathakali dancing and giant Chinese-style fishing nets. Driving up into the hills, we see elephants being bathed at Koadanadd and enjoy the diversity of Keralan landscape, as we progress to the town of Munnar (1700m), our base for market strolling and tea-estate hiking. Heading south along the ranges, we have a spice plantation tour, followed by a short morning's walk in the forest at Periyar - look out for elephants, sambur deer and giant squirrels. An overnight houseboat cruise and a second night at a village resort on the famous ‘backwaters' at Allepey gives us a real insight into this unique environment where the same industries of fishing and coir weaving practiced for centuries are still the way of life for local villagers. The holiday ends in true relaxing style at a resort on one of Kerala's finest beaches at Varkala, providing the perfect end to this fantastic South India touring holiday.

Is this holiday for you?

This is principally a touring and sightseeing discovery holiday and as such does not involve any strenuous activity. However, there are some easy walks in the hill country around Munnar and in the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and several of the visits to the interesting sights on the tour will involve some element of walking. Accommodation throughout the tour is in comfortable tourist class hotels with one night spent on a houseboat in private cabins and with shared bathroom facilities. This holiday should be accessible to any active person with a sense of adventure.

Brief Itinerary

View in full
  • Meet at the group hotel in Kochi. Transfers from the airport are provided.
  • Morning sightseeing tour of Fort Kochi, followed by free time for exploration.
  • Visit Kodanad elephant sanctuary and Thattekad bird sanctuary.
  • Drive to Munnar in the Western Ghats and explore the temples and bazaars.
  • Exploration walk through tea, coffee and cardamom plantations before visiting a a tea museum.
  • Scenic drive through the Cardamom Hills to Thekaddy.
  • Visit Periyar Wildlife Reserve, home to tiger, elephant, wild pig, buffalo and numerous bird species
  • Board a houseboat and enjoy a cruise on the famous Keralan `Backwaters` overnighting on the boat.
  • Drive to Coir Village Resort, an Ayurvedic Centre at Thrikunpuzzha, on the shores of the backwaters.
  • Arrive in Varkala, and our resort hotel on the coast at Papanasham Beach.
  • A full day to relax on the shores of the Indian Ocean near Varkala.
  • Departure day. Trivandrum Airport transfers are provided.
Sun 13 Nov - Thu 08 Dec Code BBK /05/16/ Adult$1,390 Status Available Book now
More information
  • Backwaters and Beaches of Kerala
  • The departure reference for this tour is BBK /05/16/
  • This tour begins on Sun 13 Nov and departs on Thu 08 Dec
  • This departure is available to book. Secure your place today with a deposit of $400
  • Single Supplement $475 - Includes all group hotel nights (n/a on houseboat)
Thu 22 Dec - Mon 02 Jan Code BBK /06/16/ Adult$1,495 Status Guaranteed Book now
More information
  • Backwaters and Beaches of Kerala
  • The departure reference for this tour is BBK /06/16/
  • This tour begins on Thu 22 Dec and departs on Mon 02 Jan
  • This departure is guaranteed. Secure your place today with a deposit of $400
  • Single Supplement $475 - Includes all group hotel nights (n/a on houseboat)
The LAND ONLY dates and prices are for the itinerary joining in Kochi (formerly Cochin). For clients making their own flight arrangements, Kochi airport is the most convenient for transfers to the group hotel. Please note that this holiday ends in Varkala and that airport transfers to Trivandrum Airport only are provided. Please refer to the 'Joining arrangements & transfers' further details.

Flights SHOULD NOT be booked until you have received your booking confirmation and the departure is showing 'Guaranteed to Run' or 'Limited'.

BOOK WITH KE CONFIDENCE - No surcharge guarantee

The price of our holidays can change depending on a variety of factors but unlike some other tour operators, KE have undertaken to guarantee the Land Only price of your holiday will not change after you have booked. The price when you book is the price you will pay, whether you are booking for this year or the next. Book early to avoid any tour price increases, get the best flight prices and take advantage of our 'No Surcharge Guarantee'.

KE Adventure Travel is a fully ATOL licensed and bonded tour operator with ABTA and AITO.


Map & Itinerary

The Route

  • airport
  • point
  • transfer

Holiday Itinerary

  • Meet at the group hotel in Kochi. Transfers from the airport are provided.

    Arriving at the airport in Kochi, KE Land Only package services begin with a transfer to the group hotel. After checking in and an initial briefing from the guide, the rest of the day is free to explore this fascinating city, with its palaces, forts and the strange spider-like fishing contraptions known as ‘Chinese nets’. This evening we have dinner and an evening visit to a Kathakali dance show. Kathakali literally means ‘story’ or ‘play’ and the dances generally depict stories from the great Hindu texts such as the Mahabarata and the Ramayana. The costumes of the dancers are very elaborate and the colourful, almost mask-like makeup is an internationally known icon of Kerala. The dances themselves are very stylized with very specific and precise movement and hand gestures accompanied by singers, drums and cymbals. Kathakali has been recognized as an art form since at least the 17th century and watching a performance is a must for any visit to this part of the world.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals d

  • Morning sightseeing tour of Fort Kochi, followed by free time for exploration.

    Kochi which was originally known as Cochin, has the distinction of being the oldest European settlement in India when it was settled by Portuguese traders in the 15th century. Its strategic position on trade routes and boasting one of the finest natural harbours in the world, ensured that Kochi became an important trade and military base for first the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British. Today the administrative capital city of Ernakulam is a vibrant cultural hub and is home to 13 different ethnic groups. This morning, we have a guided sightseeing tour of the harbour area by boat and we also explore Fort Kochi, a long spit of land adjacent to Ernakulam which contains the medieval Mattancherry Palace built by the first European settlers, the oldest Jewish community in India along with the oldest synagogue and the 16th century Saint Francis's Church where Vasco de Gama was originally buried. After the tour the rest of the day is free for further independent sightseeing and we meet up again for dinner and a second night at our Kochi hotel.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bd

  • Visit Kodanad elephant sanctuary and Thattekad bird sanctuary.

    After an early breakfast, we drive out of the city for approximately 30km to Kodanad on the banks of the Periyar River. There is an elephant rescue centre here and we can watch the elephants bathing, before continuing our drive for a further 25km to Kothamangalam, a very attractive hill town in the foothills of the Western Ghats. After checking in at our hotel, we will make a visit to nearby Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, one of the richest sources of birdlife in all of India. After the visit to the sanctuary we return to our hotel in Kothamangalam for dinner.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bd

  • Drive to Munnar in the Western Ghats and explore the temples and bazaars.

    From the foothills of the Western Ghats, we now drive for approximately 80km climbing on a series of hair pin bends to reach the hill station of Munnar, founded by the British during the period of colonial rule. At an elevation of 1600 metres, Munnar is pleasantly cool after the heat of the lowlands. Tea grows well here and the lower slopes of the hills are carpeted by orderly plantations of emerald-green bushes, tended by colourfully-attired tea-pickers. Kerala's highest peak, Anamudi (2695m), which is also the highest Indian peak south of the Himalayas, rises up above the town. After checking in to our hotel, we will go out to do some exploring in the bazaar and among the temples of Munnar.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bd

  • Exploration walk through tea, coffee and cardamom plantations before visiting a a tea museum.

    After breakfast, we drive to the nearby village of Nagarmudi and set off with a local guide for an easy morning’s walk through plantations of tea, coffee and cardamom, to reach a spectacular viewpoint. In the afternoon we can visit a tea museum to learn all about the history and processing of tea. We spend a second night in Munnar.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bd

  • Scenic drive through the Cardamom Hills to Thekaddy.

    Leaving Munnar we have another highly scenic drive through the Western Ghats in a part of the range known as the ‘Cardamom Hills’ on account of its importance as a spice-growing area, to the town of Thekkady where we check into our hotel. In the afternoon we have time for a short guided walk around a spice garden before dinner.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bd

  • Visit Periyar Wildlife Reserve, home to tiger, elephant, wild pig, buffalo and numerous bird species

    At the southern end of the Western Ghats, the Peryiar Wildlife Reserve extends over 777 square kilometres of hilly and mostly forested country. At its heart is an artificial lake formed by the construction of the Mullaperiyar Dam across the Periyar River. Declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978, some estimates suggest that there are as many as 40 tigers in the park, although that's not to say that they are easily seen. As well as tigers, the reserve is home to sambar deer, wild pig, dhole (Indian wild dog), gaur (Indian bison), leopard, several types of monkey and numerous species of birds. Undoubtedly, the greatest attraction at Periyar, however, are the wild elephants that come down to the lake to drink and to bathe. Rising very early, we will make the short drive to the park, where we meet the forest guards who will be our guides on a hike into the reserve. We may need to split the group into 2 parties and visit separate areas of the park, as group size is limited to no more than 8 persons. The guards will set an easy pace as we head into the forest and will be keen to provide an insight into the wildlife of this important reserve area. They are quick to spot elusive deer and rare giant squirrels and will point out colourful birds and many traditional medicinal plants. After the walk we return to our hotel for a late breakfast and later, we will have a boat ride on the Lake with the chance to get close to elephant, wild pig and buffalo. After an exciting day on safari we spend second night at Thekkady.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bd

  • Board a houseboat and enjoy a cruise on the famous Keralan `Backwaters` overnighting on the boat.

    Leaving the hills, we drive down to the warm coastal plains through tea and fruit plantations to Alleppey, which is one of the centres for exploration of the Keralan backwaters. There are almost 2000 kilometres (1250 miles) of 'backwaters', interconnected lakes, lagoons and canals, which are mostly just inland of the Kerala coast. This is a unique and fascinating water world, enclosed by palm trees and dotted with ‘island’ villages. At the jetty in Alleppey, we will board the houseboats which will be our home for the night. Based on the large traditional cargo boats known as kettuvalloms, these houseboats provide surprisingly luxurious accommodation. There are usually either 2 or 3 twin-bedded rooms on each boat and with room to sit up on deck and watch the world go by. Setting off on our cruise, we will traverse wide canals and shallow lakes, with isolated hamlets and houses on the banks. The way of life on the backwaters is based around fishing and the cultivation of rice, coconuts and cashew nuts. Birdwatchers will have a great opportunity to spot lots of exciting species, such as kingfishers, bee-eaters, bulbuls, darters, herons, cormorants and 2 types of kite. We will cruise for a couple of hours and then find a quiet spot to anchor up for the night. Each boat has its own cook. Meals are traditional Keralan fare, using fresh local produce. We stay overnight on the houseboat.

    • Accommodation Houseboat

    • Meals bd

  • Drive to Coir Village Resort, an Ayurvedic Centre at Thrikunpuzzha, on the shores of the backwaters.

    Awaking to the peace and tranquility of the backwaters is a special experience. After a relaxing breakfast on the houseboat, we will disembark and make a short transfer to Coir Village Resort located on one of the backwater islands at Thrikunpuzzha. This is a very comfortable as well as peaceful resort where relaxation is both an art and a science as practiced in the attached Ayurveda Centre. The remainder of the day is free to enjoy this special place. The inhabitants of Thrikunpuzzha make their living from fishing and Coir weaving, a major occupation of the woman of this island. The variety of coir products woven manually from the coconut husk fibre is quite surprising. It is very pleasant just to stroll around the island, to visit the villages and the temple and follow the canals which link the villages. Approximately 2km walk away is the coast which boasts a palm-fringed, black-sand beach. One option this afternoon or evening is to book a treatment or massage in the Ayurveda Centre. We will come together again for dinner in the traditionally decorated Oottupura restaurant with its thatched roof and cane furniture and we stay overnight in this beautiful setting on the banks of the backwater canals, surrounded by coconut palms.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bd

  • Arrive in Varkala, and our resort hotel on the coast at Papanasham Beach.

    This morning we have a scenic drive south down the Keralan coast. En route, we pass through forests of palm trees, rich farmland and lots of villages and small towns. We cross several rivers and have occasional glimpses of beaches and bays on our right hand side. After a couple of hours driving we reach the small town of Varkala and then continue for a further 5km to the coast where we check in at our resort hotel on Papanasham beach. We have the rest of the day to relax and enjoy the idyllic soft sandy beaches and warm water of the Laccadive Sea. We have dinner this evening at the excellent hotel restaurant.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bd

  • A full day to relax on the shores of the Indian Ocean near Varkala.

    We have a full day for swimming or to relax on the beach and to explore the surrounding area. A cliff-top path links the two main beaches and moving inland, we can visit the town with its 2000 year-old Shree Janardhana Swamy temple. It is also possible to hire bikes at the resort and spend a few pleasant hours pedalling through the quiet palm fringed lanes. We have dinner at the resort and spend a second night at Varkala.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bd

  • Departure day. Trivandrum Airport transfers are provided.

    KE Land Only package services end after breakfast. Transfers to Trivandrum Airport are provided

    • Meals b

Holiday Information

  • A professional English-speaking local leader
  • Airport transfers on day 1 and day 12
  • All land transport required by the itinerary
  • Specialist local guides as required
  • All accommodation as described in the trip dossier
  • Meals as detailed in the Meal Plan
  • Park and monument entrance fees
  • Kathakali show and tea museum entrance fees
  • A guided sightseeing tour in Kochi
  • Travel insurance
  • Airport transfers other than specified
  • Indian Visa
  • Tips for local staff
  • Some meals as detailed in the Meal Plan
  • Boat ride on Periyar Lake
  • Miscellaneous expenses - drinks and souvenirs etc.

Part of the experience of a visit to India is sampling the excellent local food. Indian cuisine offers a wide variety of dishes – much more than the curries we are used to in Indian restaurants at home - and South Indian food is a whole category of its own. The cuisine of Kerala is predominantly vegetarian with a strong emphasis on fish dishes. Traditionaly meals are served on a plantain leaf and consist of a number of vegetable, fish and meat dishes which are delicately flavoured with various spice mixtures. These are usually accompained by rice, dal and yogurt. In all the hotels we stay there will also be more familiar international dishes available if you prefer.

Breakfasts and dinners are included in the holiday price from dinner on day 1 of the Land Only itinerary to breakfast on day 12. The stay on the houseboat is on full-board basis and lunch is provided on this day. Since it makes sense on a tour of this nature to occasionally skip lunch or to take snacks at any time during the day, we have not included the cost of any other lunches in the price of the holiday. You will pay directly for any lunches or snacks other than on the houseboat and we recommend a budget around £50 should adequately cover your expenditure on lunches.
All clients arriving on day 1 of the 'Land Only' itinerary will be met at Kochi Airport by a KE representative who will arrange the transfer to the group hotel. At the end of the holiday, airport transfers will be provided for all clients departing Trivandrum on day 12.
The group will have a total of 10 nights in good standard hotels and 1 night in a very comfortable houseboat. All accommodation is allocated on a twin-sharing basis. If you are travelling by yourself, you will be paired up with another single client of the same sex. Depending upon availability it may be possible to arrange single rooms for the hotel nights. For hotel prices and single supplement costs please refer to the dates and prices page of the trip on our website.

View the gallery below for images of the style of accommodation used

A professional, English-speaking local leader will accompany the group throughout the holiday. There will also be support vehicle drivers as required by the itinerary.

Approximately £150 - £200 (or equivalent in Euros, US dollars etc.) changed into local currency (Indian rupees), should be allowed for miscellaneous expenses, including snacks or lunches, tips for your guides, beer and soft drinks, etc. There are several opportunities to buy souvenirs on this trip. It is not necessary to purchase local currency (Indian Rupees) before you travel. Sterling, US dollars and Euros are readily exchanged in Kochi. Since you will be changing the majority of your spending money into local currency on the day of arrival, we recommend taking this in cash.

Tipping is an accepted and expected part of Indian culture, although you should only tip for services which are well done. We recommend that tips to your local tour leader and driver be made from the group as a whole and that the group decides together on an appropriate amount. It is a good idea if the group asks the local guide to look after the day to day tipping of hotel staff and specialist sightseeing guides or Forest Service guides who are with the group for just a short time. This will do away with the need for you to be finding small numbers of rupees on a daily basis. Depending on how your tour leader wishes to organise this, he may ask for a 'tipping pool' from the group or he may just ask to be reimbursed at the end of the trip. As a rough guide we suggest that a contribution of around £30 - £50 (depending on group size) in rupee equivalent from each member of the group should provide for all tips including your tour leader and driver.

You should restrict your luggage to one main travel bag plus a small daypack to carry cameras, binoculars, water etc.. We recognise that for some of our holidays and for some of our travellers, the KE Trek Bag (see below) may not provide the best solution when packing for your trip. A bag with fitted wheels or a holdall with more than one compartment and more than one access zip can, in some circumstances, be more appropriate. Although it can be useful for our tour leaders when all members of the group have similar, identifying baggage, we have no problem if you choose to use an alternative bag.

All KE clients will receive a FREE KE trek bag.  These have been specially made to stand up to the rigours of adventure travel.  Your KE bag will be posted to you when your trip is guaranteed to run or on receipt of your booking if the trip is already guaranteed.  If you have travelled with us before and already have a KE trek bag you can select an alternative free gift in the booking process.

The following checklist should help you with your packing. As a general rule, you should always try to keep the weight of your equipment to a minimum.

The packed weight of your trek bag whilst trekking should be no more than 15 kgs.

You must bring the following items:

  • Lightweight walking boots

  • Trainers or sandals for sightseeing

  • Socks

  • Spare laces

  • Walking trousers

  • Lightweight waterproof overtrousers

  • Underwear

  • Casual shirts (2 short sleeve, 2 long sleeve)

  • Fleece jacket or warm jumper

  • Lightweight waterproof jacket

  • Sunhat

  • Sunglasses

  • Daypack 30 litres

  • Sun protection (including total bloc for lips, nose etc.)

  • Water bottles 1 litre

  • Washbag and toiletries

The following items are optional:

  • Trekking poles

  • Insect repellant – (DEET)

  • Travel clothes

  • Repair kit – (eg. needle, thread, duct tape)

  • Small padlock (to lock your KE trek bag)

  • Camera

  • Small towel

  • Antibacterial handwash

  • Basic First Aid Kit. Including: antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, diarrhoea treatment (Imodium), painkillers, plasters and blister treatment, Insect repellent, and re-hydration salts (Dioralite).


For each holiday there is a minimum number of participants required to enable it to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to run'. You can check the trip status for each departure in ‘Dates and Prices’ table. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we will not cancel a trip once it has achieved this guaranteed to run status and so you are free to proceed with your international flight booking and other travel arrangements.

A passport with 6 months remaining validity at the end of your stay is generally required. The information that we provide is for UK passport holders. Please check the relevant embassy or consulate for other nationalities. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas for your holiday. Visa requirements and charges are subject to change without notice. If you are travelling outside the EU you should have at least 2 blank pages in your passport for each country that you visit.

Visa India

All nationalities require a visa. The visa fee is $60 and you need to apply for this online prior to departure at Please download the detailed information document: Visa PDF India

You should contact your doctor or travel clinic to check whether you require any specific vaccinations or other preventive measures. You should be up to date with routine courses and boosters as recommended in the UK e.g. diphtheria-tetanus-polio and measles-mumps-rubella, along with hepatitis A and typhoid. Malarial prophylaxis is not usually required for trips in the mountains, however if you are visiting rural and remote low lying areas then they might be necessary. On holidays to more remote areas you should also have a dentist check up. A good online resource is Travel Health Pro.

The currency of India is the Indian Rupee.

We recommend you check if you require an adaptor for your electrical items at:

Although there is no strenuous walking on this holiday, there are several opportunities for short walks and it makes a lot of sense to get some additional exercise before coming on any active holiday. Walking, jogging, squash and swimming are all good for developing fitness and stamina. Some of the days it will get quite hot and you should be prepared for this. Before departure, we suggest that you do some reading about the country, its people and the wildlife you are likely to see.

As a reputable tour operator, KE supports the British Foreign & Commonwealth Offices ‘Know before you go’ campaign to enable British citizens to prepare for their journeys overseas, and we recommend that all KE travellers take a look at the FCO Travel Advice for their chosen destination on the official FCO website: North Americans can also check out the U.S. Department of State website: for essential travel advice and tips.

KE treat the safety and security of all clients as the most important aspect of any trip we organise. We would not run any trip that we did not consider reasonably safe.  Should the FCO advise against travel for any reason, we will contact everyone booked to travel to discuss the situation.  We receive regular updates direct from the FCO and are in constant touch with our contacts on the ground.  If you have any questions about government travel advice, please call our office.

The most important influence on the annual climate of the South Indian states is the monsoon, which brings a great deal of rain during the period from May to September. In late September and early October, the tail end of the monsoon can sometimes cause short-lived downpours, but generally the weather from this point on is fine and clear. Typical maximum daytime temperatures at sea level are between 25°C (November to February) and 35°C (September/October and March/April) falling to around 20°C at night. It is cooler at higher elevations, with daytime maximum temperatures of between 15°C and 20°C in Munnar. The hottest time in Kerala is generally just before the first monsoon rains in May or June when it can become very humid also. Although it is possible to enjoy a holiday in Kerala at any time from mid September to early May, probably the ideal time is November to February, although it will be chilly in the evenings up in the hills during December and January.

  • South India. Lonely Planet.

  • South India.

  • Rough Guides.

  • India Guide.

  • Footprint Guides.

  •  India. Fodor's Travel Publications

India: TTK State Road Maps Kerala

These are fairly basic maps showing main towns, roads and railways. Relief is not shown but administrative boundaries are marked. Intermediate driving distances are marked on major roads. In the jacket of each map is a reference booklet giving background information about the state's geography, history, cultural aspects and main towns.

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