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A walking holiday taking in the diversity of tropical Kerala in India's far south. Trek among the forests and grasslands of the mountainous Western Ghats, walk in search of wildlife in the Periyar National Park and meet the locals rambling through tranquil Backwaters' villages. Exploring on foot is the best way to discover the culture and landscapes of God's Own Country.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights simple boat
3 nights simple camping
6 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Our Kerala adventure starts today in the harbour city of Kochi, a gathering place for merchants and traders since antiquity. Built on several islands and criss-crossed with waterways, the city has a very cosmopolitan feel today and attracts artists and artisans from around the region.
Your Leader plans to meet everyone in the hotel reception at 6 pm for a welcome meeting after which, for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner as a group. There are no other activities planned today. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Cochin International Airport (COK), which is 40km, approximately one-and-a-half hour's drive from the airport.
Should you have time today, our hotel is located right in the centre of Fort Kochi not far from the famous Chinese Fishing nets. It's easy to explore this interesting area on foot.
Hotel Fort Queen (or similar)
This morning we take in a walking tour of India's oldest European settlement, Fort Kochi.
Beginning with the arrival of Jewish and Arab spice traders in the first century AD, Kochi's prosperity and importance increased with the arrival of the Portuguese, who were later followed by the Dutch and the English. This eclectic heritage has invested the city with a fascinating mix of styles and influences.
We take in the architectural charms of the Church of St Francis and some of the other notable colonial buildings - the site of the city's 16th century Jewish synagogue (closed on Friday and Saturday), the oldest in the Commonwealth and the exterior of the Mattancherry Palace, originally built by the Portuguese as a gift for the Raja of Cochin in 1555, but later extensively renovated by the Dutch.
In the afternoon we then drive inland to Munnar and the stunning vistas of the Western Ghats. The 140 kilometre drive takes us into the heart of tea country, where fresh mountain air and tropical forests share the landscapes with spice plantations and tea estates.
Our walking tour today is graded easy and we expect it to take approximately two hours.
Edassery Eastend (or similar)
Our first day's hiking in the Ghats begins from the small village of Nagarmudi (1500 m), just a short drive from old Munnar. Beginning with a gradual climb, we ascend through the tea plantations up into the Seven Malai Hills, passing crops of coffee and cardamom as we make our way to the summit (1700 m). The walk today will take us around four to five hours, but the views more than compensate for the hard climb, as we are presented with some spectacular panoramas across the Chittrapuram Dam and out towards the Anamudi Peak, Munnar and the local villages. Descending to our vehicle, we then drive back to Munnar for our second night.
Our 11 kilometre walk today is moderately-graded and we expect it to take approximately four to five hours.
It's an hours jeep ride via the forest office this morning to the start of our three day point to point hike. The walk proceeds through a landscape blanketed with tea plantations, sholas of eucalyptus and plantations of plane. The beautiful views and array of tea estates laid out before us give a real flavour of the area. Stopping to enjoy a picnic lunch in shade of a tea garden, we then continue climbing towards our camp at Silent Valley, situated in a meadow close to a small stream.
Ascending to a height of 2000 m, today's walk will cover around 12 kilometres, taking us between four and five hours to reach the camp.
Silent Valley Camp (or similar)
Leaving camp after breakfast this morning, we begin the ascent of Meesapulimala Peak, the second highest in South India. The trail towards the summit takes us from rough grassland and up onto the ridge line, where we continue climbing through patches of open grassland towards the peak. The journey to the top will take us around three to four hours and from its lofty heights, the views look down across Kerala and Tamil Nadu (if the summit isn't shrouded in mist). You might even pass the odd herd of Nilgiri Thar (a type of wild goat) on the way. After a chance to rest and enjoy the scenery, we then descend towards Rhodo Valley (2300 m), stopping off for a picnic lunch en route. As the camping area at Rhodo Valley is currently closed, we return by jeep for a second night at our Silent Valley camp.
Our walk today is moderately-graded and we expect it to take approximately six to seven hours to cover eight kilometres.
Today provides us with our longest day's walking, as we meander our way through a stunning backdrop of verdant plantations and vivid red rhododendron forests. This part of the Western Ghats is home to a staggering array of life, with wild boar and Atlas moths sharing the stage with a dazzling mix of local flora. As we climb, the views out across the local countryside take in villages and lakes, before we begin a gradual winding descent towards Ellapetty village where we enjoy a picnic lunch surrounded by vegetable gardens planted by the local tea workers. From here it's a 30 minutes transfer by jeep to our final camp at Top Station/Oorkad (1900 m).
Our walk today is moderately-graded and we expect it to take approximately seven hours to cover 16 kilometres.
Top Station Camp (or similar)
Breaking camp for the last time today we drive back towards Munnar and on to Thekkady, gateway to the Periyar National Park. Taking up much of the morning, the 160 kilometre drive weaves across the Western Ghats before reaching Thekkady later this morning. This part of India has long been renowned for its abundant spices. Indeed, it was to the spice rich shores of the Malabar Coast that Christopher Columbus was heading when he bumped into America by mistake. After lunch we take a short walk around a spice garden, enjoying an aromatic wander through crops of black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and clove. There should also be time to explore the local bazaar before dinner.
Hotel Grand Thekkady (or similar)
This morning we enjoy a walk in observation of the flora and fauna in the Periyar National Park. Set around the picturesque shores of Lake Periyar and one of the largest parks in South India, it is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife including elephant, tiger (although we don't expect to see one!), sambar, wild pigs, bison, monkeys and langurs. It also boasts some 112 species of butterflies and 246 species of birds including cormorants, darters, ospreys, kingfishers, hornbills and kites. The walk will take between two to three hours, after which there may be an opportunity this afternoon to enjoy an optional boat trip on the lake. Please be aware, tickets for the cruise are only available locally and are on a first come, first served basis.
Our walk today is graded easy, mostly flat and at a leisurely pace as we take in the flora and fauna of the park. We expect it to take approximately two to three hours.
Driving to the coastal town of Alleppey this morning we head for the myriad canals and channels that make up the Kerala Backwaters, boarding a traditional houseboat for an overnight cruise through the region. A time-honoured form of transport, these wonderfully characterful boats are made of anjili wood and bamboo and come with en-suite twin bedrooms and an on-board chef, providing the perfect way to enjoy the scenic and cultural beauty of this remarkable setting. Along theses narrow channels, the industrious villagers survive on narrow spits of land, keeping cows, pigs, chickens and even cultivating vegetable gardens. Nothing goes to waste: the shells from the fresh water mussels are burnt to make building lime and coir is used for just about everything. This evening we'll moor up along the banks of Vembanad Lake.
Kerala Houseboat (or similar)
After a relaxing breakfast on board, we then drive on to the village of West Chennamkary in the heart of the Backwaters for a short walk around some of the local villages, soaking up the atmosphere of a region that provided Arundhati Roy with the inspiration for her book, 'The God of Small Things'. We'll enjoy a traditional Keralan lunch with a local family before driving back to Kochi later in the afternoon.
Our walk today is graded easy and we expect it to take up to two-and-a-half hours at a very leisurely pace.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Kochi.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Kochi at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Cochin International Airport (COK), which is around 40 kilometres, one-and-a-half hour's drive from the hotel.
Total distance : 28 miles
There is considerable variation between the different regions of India but, in general, the climate is tropical. Summer temperatures on the plains are very hot, but cooled by the South-West Monsoon, which lasts from June- September. During these months it can be very wet and therefore very humid. At altitude, temperatures can become quite cool at night even in the summer and may drop below freezing between December and February so warm clothing is necessary. In the winter, northern and mid India can be very cool, with cold evenings, so warm clothing, including plenty of layers, are essential. The south of India remains warm and sunny during the winter months.
3 Pin Round
Catholicism, Hindu, Islam and Sikhism
Hindi and English.
Thekkady - cookery course - INR 700.00 Thekkady - Kalaripayattu (Keralan martial art) demonstration - INR 600.00
Due to the diversity of altitude encountered on tour, you will need to bring a range of comfortable lightweight clothing that can be layered according to the fluctuating temperature. On the coast and in the Backwaters you can expect both days and nights to be warm and humid and lightweight clothing is all that is needed. In the Ghats and especially on the 3-day trek, nights can be cold (possibly below freezing in Rhodo Valley). We recommend walking trousers and shorts, breathable T-shirtshirts, walking socks, fleece jacket, waterproof jacket, warm hat and gloves and sunhat. Whilst monsoon rainy season is from June through to early October, it can rain outside of this time. When it has rained there may be leeches in the Ghats and we highly recommend bringing your own leech socks which can be bought through outdoor equipment providers or online through retailers such as Amazon. Please bear in mind that shorts and tight revealing clothing worn by women can cause offence and unwelcome interest.
We recommend you bring lightweight walking boots with ankle support, make sure that your boots are worn-in and comfortable before the start of the trip. Also trainers or sandals for relaxing and general wear. We suggest that on international flights you either carry your walking boots in your hand luggage or wear them - should your luggage be lost or delayed, your own boots are the one thing that will be irreplaceable.
You will need a daypack and your main luggage.
Daypack: 30-35 litres recommended. During the course of the Western Ghats trek you do not have daytime access to your luggage which is transferred between camps by jeep. In any mountain region the weather can change rapidly and you must be equipped for this eventuality. Your daypack should therefore be large enough to carry waterproofs, fleece jacketweater, long trousers (if walking in shorts), warm hat and gloves, sun hat, sun cream, water bottle and your camera. It should be waterproof or have a rain cover.
Main luggage: As this will be transported between the camps by jeep and stored overnight in your tent this needs to be a kitbag, large rucksack or soft holdall style bag that is easily stored and transported.
Bring a 3-season sleeping bag (whilst on trek you will be provided with a 5 centimetre thick foam sleeping mattress), 2 litre water bottle, sun cream, sunglasses and head torch. Bring your walking poles if you usually use them. An umbrella is useful for both rain and as a sun shade.
\kerning220 Accommodation in India is as varied as the country itself. On this trip we stay in a mix of standard hotels, in a simple campsite and aboard an overnight train. Standards do not equate to standards in the UK and it's best to approach each type of accommodation with an open mind. Service can be slow in places especially when travelling with a group. For the most part hotels do not have heating so in the winter months it can be chilly and if you feel the cold you may wish to ask for extra blankets. Hot water is not always available 24 hours a day in some of the smaller properties, and with a group staying you might find if you are showering last you may miss out on the hottest water. Please also note that a number of hotels in India do not serve alcohol due to the complicated licencing laws or for religious reasons. On the backwaters we stay in traditional houseboats, a time-honoured for of transport. These characterful boats are made of anjili wood and bamboo, and come with a small number of twin share, en-suite cabins that are air-conditioned (only available at night). The houseboat has a dining area where the home-cooked, locally-sourced Keralan meals are enjoyed, and a large deck to sit and gaze on at river-side life. Depending on the group size we may have to split the group between two or three houseboats, but you will reunite for any disembarkation stops as well as the overnight stop. The houseboat moors at the side of the backwaters for the night, allowing the crew to hook up to an electricity supply to run the air conditioning and lighting. The tents used for the 3 nights on the Western Ghats trek are 2-man 'Alpine' brand Indian tents which will be erected and broken down for you by the camp crew. 5 centimetre thick foam sleeping mattresses are provided - you just need to bring your own 3-season sleeping bag. Kitchen and mess tent, table, chairs and all cutlery and utensils are also provided. A field toilet tent serves the camp and water for washing will be provided by the bucket. With India's ever-growing middle-class, domestic travel within India is booming and as such securing accommodation is becoming increasingly challenging. Whilst we will always try to stay at the accommodations we list, there may be occasions where accommodation is changed, sometimes at late notice. \kerning0
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;\red82\green82\blue82; India: Holders of passports endorsed British citizen, as well as Australian, New Zealand and US passport holders may be eligible for the e-Tourist Visa to enter India. The visa can be applied for through the official Indian government visa website only - https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html . Please check all eligibility criteria that can be found on the website but important points are listed below - You must be arriving into one of 29 selected entry points which can be found via the official Indian Government website link above. However, you can exit from any of the authorised immigration check posts in India. Passports must have at least 6 months validity from the date of arrival in India and at least two blank pages for stamping. Visa applications will take approximately 4 days to process. There are different validity visas and the costs are as follows: 30-day validity (travelling between April and June) - $10 30-day validity (travelling between July and March) - $25 1-year validity - $40 5-year validity- $80 Those applying for a 30 day electronic visa can only apply within 30 days of arrival for your visa to be valid. Furthermore double entry is permitted and you can only obtain two 30-day visas in a calendar year. Please note these costs are subject to frequent change so you should check on the official Indian government visa website mentioned above. Biometric data will be collected on arrival in India. If you are not eligible for the e-Tourist Visa, please refer to VFS Global to apply for your Indian visa - https://www.vfsglobal.com/india/uk/how_to_apply.html Whilst the online form offers a relatively quick way to apply for a visa, some applicants have reported difficulty in completing the form. If you do require assistance, then you may consider applying through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. They can complete the online visa on your behalf for a service fee + the visa cost. See www.travcour.com 20
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
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Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
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Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
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You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
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