Highlights of Karnataka and Kerala for 14 nights
Karnataka, located to the North of Kerala, is less developed as a tourist destination but offers a variety of interesting experiences, with the ancient city of Hampi, ancient Hindu temples at Halebid and Belur( if you wish to visit these places the tour would be extended) the interesting city of Mysore and excellent wildlife in the five National parks. The climate inland is less humid than Kerala. Karnataka has diverse scenery varying from the unspoilt coastline along the Arabian sea, the flat Deccan plains to the green hills of the Western Ghat mountains, make Karnataka a richly rewarding destination.
Mysore city with the ornate Maharaja’s palace, nearby fort at Srirangapatnum and Tipu Sultan’s Summer palace. Bangalore the capital city is served by an international airport with direct flights from the UK.
The tour starts in Mysore, then the Nagarhole National park staying on the banks of the Kabini river. From here to the Western Ghats to a home stay situated on a coffee plantation in the Wayanad district. Climbing higher to Coonoor, a hill station near to Ooty to catch the famous Nilgiri hill railway, pulled by a steam engine from Coonoor.
The tour continues into Kerala with a train journey on a local Indian train to Kottayam, a short drive to the backwaters to spend three nights relaxing on an island on Lake Vembanad. The relaxing continues as you are collected by a houseboat to explore the backwaters and an overnight stay. A perfect way to observe Keralan village life.
The tour finishes in Cochin, former spice capital of Kerala, with a busy port. You will stay on Fort Cochin, with many heritage buildings also excellent shopping.
The accommodation is a combination of home stays and heritage hotels, this will allow you to meet the local people and experience South Indian hospitality in different environments.
Day 1 /3
Bangalore/Mysore – Gitanjali farm. Arrive Bangalore from UK, drive to Mysore, this takes about four hours, there is little to see in Bangalore and the traffic is awful, I advise going straight to Mysore. Stay at Gitanjali farm home stay, this is located about ten minutes from the town in a peaceful spot looking towards Chamundi hill, run by Yamuna and her family, the food is excellent. The rooms are simply furnished and there is a lovely garden. First night half board 2nd night B&B
Things to do in Mysore
Mysore is a busy town but still retains a certain charm with many heritage buildings, the main City palace. In the evening take a drive up Chamundi hill, there is a Hindu temple at the top, and a large Nandi bull with his own priest, the view of Mysore from the top is lovely, en route visit the Lalith Mahal Palace, built in 1931 for the Maharajahs non vegetarian guests, it is now rather faded and run by the government tourist board, but has some fascinating rooms. Srirangapatnam is located 14ks north of Mysore, here on an island in the Cauvery river a major battle took place between Tipu Sultan and the British led by Colonel Wellesley, Tipu Sultan was killed on 4thMay 1799, the remains of the fort can still be seen and the beautiful Summer Palace built in 1784 has some fine murals. Tipu Sultan is buried at the Gumbaz with his family. The Ranganathittu bird sanctuary is situated 2 ks away from the fort; here boats can be hired to observe the birds and crocodiles. Mysore also has one of the best markets in Southern India, the Deveraja market.
Mysore/ Nagarhole – Serai Kabini. Transfer to Nagarhole National Park, the drive takes about 2 1Ž2 hours. Situated on the banks of the Kabini River in Nagarhole National park, Serai is a small resort with nineteen villas on a fifteen acre site, overlooking the Kabini river, over three hundred species of birds are recorded in the park and in summer many elephants congregate at the dam as the waters recede. Clients have been fortunate to see leopards and recently tigers here. Jeep safaris and boat safaris are taken twice a day from the resort. A boat safari is far more comfortable than a jeep and allows you to observe the animals at the waters edge.
Nagarhole/Wyanad – Tranquil Coffee Estate Home Stay. Transfer to Wyanad area, the drive takes about 3 hours. A former Plantation house that has been beautifully restored to provide nine spacious rooms, well tended gardens with a pool, hammocks and peaceful areas to sit and read, lovely walks around the plantation with good bird watching, hill top drives for afternoon tea can be arranged.Visit the coffee plantation next door, good food and a great atmosphere. Standard room Full board
Day 7 /8
Tranquil/ Coonoor -Taj Gateway hotel. The drive to Coonoor is very scenic, through forests and tea estates, the road is narrow in places and the journey takes about 4 hours.Rest of day at leisure. The Gateway is a lovely old hotel, part of the Taj group, originally built as a priory adjacent to the All saints church, with lovely grounds, Coonoor is located at 6,000 ft, and surrounded by tea estates. Garden Cottage B&B
Day 8 /9
Coonoor/Coimbatore – The Residency. Morning at leisure, I suggest getting to Coonoor station early to watch the steam engines being prepared, they are kept in the engine sheds here, the train changes from diesel engines to steam at Coonoor station, board the train to Mettupalayam at 2.30. The train journey takes about 4 hours and is one of the most scenic journeys in Southern India descending the Nilgiri hills. Your driver will meet you in Mettupalayam and transfer you to Coimbatore, the drive takes about 1 – 1.5 hours. Overnight at the Residency a modern 4 star hotel, ten minutes from the railway station. Premium room B&B
Coimbatore/Kotayam – Coconut lagoon. Early morning train to Kottayam, the journey to Kottayam takes about 4 hours,met at the station and transferred to Coconut Lagoon. The heritage resort is owned by CGH Earth group, a beautiful resort accessible only by boat. The resort has been designed as a re-creation of a traditional Kerala village and is situated on an island overlooking Lake Vembanad, the longest lake in India.
There is a large swimming pool, a gift shop, bar, buffet restaurant, and excellent Ayurvedic spa. Cultural events are staged regularly and there is live traditional music in the restaurant most evenings. There is a complimentary sunset cruise on the lake every evening, usually accompanied by a man playing the flute. Activities include village walks, boat and canoe trips on the lake, take a trip on a smaller day boat as they can access the narrower canals. The resort has a resident naturalist who accompanies the early morning bird watching trips, and helps identify birds, flowers, plants and butterflies in the resort grounds. There is a butterfly garden and organic farm, Vechur cows graze around the grounds. Heritage bungalow B&B
Kottayam/Lake Vembanad – House boat. The Houseboat collects from Coconut Lagoon. The converted rice barges were originally used for transporting rice and spices along the Backwaters. The boats are made from traditional materials but offer surprisingly spacious accommodation, Lakes and Lagoons operate a fleet of boats from just outside Allepey, they have won several awards and have an excellent reputation. The boat is exclusive to you during your stay apart from a three-man crew (captain, cook and driver). Air-con houseboat. Full board
Alleppey to Cochin – Old Harbour Hotel or Brunton Boatyard
The houseboat will deliver you back to their headquarters just outside Alleppey, transfer to Cochin, the drive takes about 2 1/2 hours. The Old Harbour hotel is a beautifully restored 300 year old building with thirteen spacious rooms. The original charm and character of the building has been retained and enhanced by delightful gardens and swimming pool. The rooms are furnished in a traditional Indian style with lovely bathrooms. The hotel has an excellent restaurant with tables set amongst the garden often with live traditional music in the evenings. The hotel looks across the green towards the Chinese fishing nets, making the location excellent for exploring Fort Cochin. Brunton Boatyard is in my opinion the best hotel in Fort Cochin, occupying a prominent position on the waterfront, the rooms all look out across the harbour, with a good pool, ayurvedic spa and rooftop restaurant. Note there will be a supplement to stay here during peak and high season.
Things to do in Cochin
The city of Cochin comprises of three main islands, historic Fort Cochin (where most of the places of interest are located) Ernakulam the commercial centre and Willingdon Island where the Naval port is located, all three islands are connected by road bridges and ferries. The main shopping area on Ernakulam is on MG road, the government craft shop with fixed prices is called Kairali, also Jayalakkshmi a department store devoted to saris, silks and fabric. Fab India is excellent for household accessories clothing and jewellery, there are two stores the main one on Old Thevara rd, just of MG rd and Fort Cochin in Napier St, 2 minutes form Malabar House.
It is easier to take a ferry from the Mattancherry jetty to Ernakulam as the traffic is very congested there; it is also very interesting to view the old buildings of Fort Cochin from the water.
Visit Jew town for antiques and gift shops, take a tuk tuk from the hotel – about 15 minutes away. Ten minutes walk from Brunton is the area around the famous Chinese fishing nets with the bustling fish market and curio stalls.
Depart from Cochin airport to the UK
Please enquire for current prices of this tour.