SOUTH INDIA: KERALA & KARNATAKA
23 January - 13 February 2011
with Richard Hunt
APPROXIMATE COST: £3259 to include scheduled flights, all internal travel by coach, accommodation in very comfortable and charming hotels in twin bedded rooms with half board; entrance fees, guides and tuition.
EXTRAS: Insurance; other meals and incidentals; single room -we regret that the charge is £945
This new tour is planned as a leisurely and gentle journey through the delightful variety of experiences Southern India offers. It is a green and beautiful land, with lush vegetation, brilliant green rice paddy, waterways lined with coconut palms, contrasting with dramatic hills growing spices or tea and coffee. The Dravidian people, tracing their origins from very ancient times, are hospitable, gentle and devout. They preserve their Hindu faith through traditional worship, music and dance, painting and sculpture. They are devoted to their deities residing in the many magnificent temples that frequently dominate the skyline. In the towns and cities the pace of life is slower and more relaxed than in the north, and often the main activities seem to be preparation for festivals or just selling flowers to offer the God or for ladies to wear in their hair.
During this tour we explore something of the diversity of this region and culture. We visit temples and beaches, music and dance, palaces and princely states, ancient monuments and the more recent history of the British Raj [in the hill stations of Coonoor and Ootacamund, high in the Nilgiri Hills]. We visit during the rice harvest and can observe patterns of agriculture in the varied landscapes of our journey. Moreover, our contacts will enable us to see something of "real India" - the India of people today - their homes, work, education and culture. We travel at a comparatively leisurely pace, allowing time to explore alone or simply relax at some very comfortable hotels. Many of the journeys are through very beautiful scenery and we have time to stop to look at the many fascinating scenes and activities along the way.
OUR TOUR HAS SEVERAL BROAD AIMS:
We visit some of the great monuments of Indian history and culture, hoping to provide insights to art, architecture and the decorative and folk arts of some of the great civilisations of India.
It caters for those who wish to understand something of the 'REAL INDIA' - the India of people who live in towns and villages. We hope to look at their domestic lives, their work, religions, and cultural traditions (including their houses and farm buildings; costume; music and dance); together with some advances aimed at improving their lives - the education of adults and children, the technical achievements in water supply, medicine, irrigation and farming. We have time to stop and look!
This is a holiday! There is so much to see, but we cannot see everything! So the itinerary is selective, yet offers great variety with some time to explore alone, go shopping or just relax beside a swimming pool. When we are not in transit you are perfectly free to include or omit any of the day’s activities. We stay in hotels chosen for their location, interest and personal attention rather than every western 5* luxury although the hotels on this tour are often the best available! We do our utmost to plan carefully, but frustrations can occur with flights or hotels, which may involve changes in our programme. Indians are most hospitable, friendly and helpful and any difficulties can easily be overcome if we are tolerant and adaptable.
We hope to offer very good value for money: this is not the cheapest tour to India as we use convenient scheduled flights, good ground services and appropriate hotels. The tour is rather longer, more varied and, dare we say, more interesting and better planned than some that are much more expensive!
KERALA BACKWATERS TO ALLEPEY & COCHIN (now called Kochi) Our tour begins with a flight to Kochi and immediate transfer to a luxurious and delightful hotel located on the backwaters near ALLEPEY. We stay at The Punnamada Lakeside Resort for 3 nights. This comprises a group of charming cottages, built in traditional Keralan style on the shore of Lake Vambanad, with indoor and outdoor dining and a lovely swimming pool. This provides some time for relaxation after the flight, with opportunities to cruise the backwaters, slowly passing waterway villages, with the brilliant green rice paddy on either side, visiting the waterway towns of Kottayam and Allepey.
A short coach journey takes us to COCHIN (now called KOCHI), a thrilling city on the Arabian Sea. Settled by Jews, Portuguese, Dutch, and British, as well as various Indian rulers, it is built on a series of islands connected by bridges and ferries. Shipping, fishing, coconut processing and religious festivals seem the main activities. We visit the harbour by boat, and see a variety of monuments including the old city, the rajah's palace (paid for by the Dutch as a gift, with excellent Indian murals), the Jewish synagogue, Chinese fishing nets, and St Francis church. An evening visit to the spectacular Katakali dance-drama of Kerala.
3 nights at the Old Light House Hotel. A luxury heritage hotel (at one time the Residence of Sir Robert Bristow, architect of Fort Cochin) conveniently located in Fort Cochin, overlooking the harbour, with an excellent outdoor restaurant, swimming pool and ‘beachside’ garden.
NILGIRI HILLS Leaving Cochin, we climb into the spectacular scenery of the NILGIRI HILLS, arriving at the small hill station of COONOR (in Tamil Nadu) for a night halt. We may walk through the fine Botanical gardens or make the final ascent by tiny toy train to "OOTY" - the "Snooty Ooty" of the British Raj. Created in the 1830's, it became the summer HQ of the Madras Government, with all the trappings of a classic hill station - club (where army officers invented snooker), library, race-course, golf, boarding schools and bungalows. Now rather run down!
1 night at the Taj Gateway, Coonor, a former British Guesthouse - lovely garden and views.
SULTAN’S BATTERY Crossing back into Kerala, we drive the 100 kms through the hills of tea, coffee & spice plantations to the small town of Sultan’s Battery, so called after the Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan, the ‘tiger of Mysore’, who was a serious thorn in the flesh of the British in the 18th century. Tipu seized a Jain temple and converted it to an ammunition store for a fort. The 13th century Jain temple still survives, there is a Syrian Orthodox church, Hindu temples and Muslim mosques in the town. About 12 kms away are caves with stone age paintings (accessible after a walk of 1 km).
2 nights at Tranquil Resort, a coffee and spice plantation of 400 acres. The rooms open on to a verandah overlooking the estate; for the more adventurous the tree houses are in the canopy at 35 feet! There is a pool, Ayurevedic massage, walks and bird watching. Above all this is a place for relaxation in tranquil surroundings.
NAGARHOLE WILD LIFE RESERVE We descend through more spectacular scenery to the Jungles on the Tamil Nadu/ Kerala / Karnataka border to stay in the reserve for jungle visits by jeep and & boat (or coracle). There are large herds of deer, wild elephants and Indian Gaur (wild cattle) and many species of birds. Recently our groups have seen several leopard, tigers and crocodiles. Shall we be lucky again?
2 nights at Orange County Riverside Lodge in the sanctuary. Comfortable & well organized, located on the shores of the Kabini River, with infinity swimming pool looking across the river, massage, bird walks.
MYSORE We drive through beautiful scenery before arriving at the lovely city of MYSORE, capital of the princely state until 1947. The palaces, temples and markets are delightful - a city well worth exploring alone or in small groups. We plan an orientation tour of the city [with a wonderful vegetable and flower market] and city palace, including an evening visit to the palace during the spectacular illumination with thousands of bulbs. Nearby is SERINGAPATAM where Tipu Sultan was finally defeated by the British in 1799. Tipu's painted wooden summer palace survives intact. Nearby, too, is the beautiful Hoysola temple of SOMNATHPUR, with some of the finest stone carving in South India [the Hoysolas were a ruling dynasty of 12th & 13th centuries].
3 nights at the LALITA MAHAL PALACE HOTEL, the magnificent former palace guest house of the Maharajah of Mysore - a spectacular white marble and stucco wedding cake in spacious grounds with a pool. Magnificent dining room with classical Indian music. Service does not always match up to the surroundings!
COORG is a region of hills between 800-1500 metres above sea level in the Western Ghats, with peaks reaching 2000 metres. Often called the ‘Scotland’ of India, it is noted for its beauty, with wild forests, waterfalls and (though Scotland is not well known for its plantations of coffee, oranges and spices) they are found here! Our hotel is quite near to Mandikeri, the local main town, and in the area are temples, the Raja Seat – a wonderful view point in a garden, and the famed and worshipped source of the River Cavery, one of the great rivers of South India which eventually flows into the Bay of Bengal
2 nights at Orange County – another working plantation of 300 acres located at 800 metres, with very comfortable rooms, 2 swimming pools, massage, bird-watching, elephant camp. A place for relaxation!
NEELESHWAR. Our last stop in South India is on an unspoiled beach in Northern Kerala, 95 kms south of Mangalore – the nearest airport. Although this has been a relaxing and relaxed tour, our last days are spent at a delightful and luxurious resort (just 16 rooms) with excellent service and food. For the more active there are yoga lessons, cooking lessons, bird watching, boat trips, cycles for exploring local villages, ashrams and temples. In the evening there may be lectures on the local culture or musical performances
3 nights at Neeleshwar Hermitage. Lovely thatched cottages looking out to sea or gardens, direct access to beach, but also an infinity pool
We fly from MANGALORE to BOMBAY for the onward non-stop flight to London arriving London on the same day.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONAL ITINERARY SOUTH INDIA 2011:
||Depart Heathrow by Jet Air 21.05 (Advance watches 5hrs 30 minutes)
||Arrive Mumbai 11.25. Optional lunch at hotel. Connect to Jet Air 9W 467 13.40. Arrive Kochi 15.25
Drive to Punnamada Resort (3 nights)
|25 / 26
||Visit backwaters, Allepey - Kottayam
||Drive to Kochi. Old Light House Bristow Hotel 3 nights
|28 / 29
||Sightseeing around Kochi. Evening Kathakali dance programme.
||Drive to Coonor.Taj Gateway Hotel 1 night
|31 - 2 Feb
||Drive to Sultan’s Battery, Tranquil Resort 2 nights.
||Drive to Nagarhole Wild Life Reserve. Orange County Lodge (2 nights) Evening game viewing
||Morning and evening game viewing
||After morning safari & breakfast Drive Mysore –. Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel (3 nights)
||Visit Mysore Palace and city. Evening illuminations at Mysore Palace
||Visits to Somnathpur - Seringapatam
|7 / 8
||Drive to Coorg. Orange County Resort 2 nights. Visits/at leisure.
|9 - 12
||Drive to Neeleshwar Beach. Neeleshwar Heritage 3 nights. At leisure
||Morning flight to Bombay to connect Jet Air to London 13.30 arrive 17.40 same day