India, Magic of Kerala

Overview

Length: 12 Days

Choose Own Departure Dates w 2 or more persons

Level: Easy-Moderate
Walking & light hiking

Price: $2,495

Day 1– Calicut to Wayanad
Day 2– Wayanad
Day 3– Nilambur
Day 4– Cheruthuruthy
Days 5-6– Munnar
Day 7– Periyar
Day 8– Backwaters
Day 9– Backwaters, Houseboat
Days 10-11– Fort Cochin
Day 12– Return


Summary

Truly one of the most gorgeous regions in all of India, it has earned the moniker – ‘God’s Own Country’. Kerala beckons you with verdant terraced tea fields, exotic spices, crisp highland evenings, the famed backwaters, tantalizing food, gorgeous lodges, Ayurveda massage, and welcoming people.

Responsible Travel – Make it Meaningful

Support income-generation projects for tea and spice farmers. Help empower marginalized and economically disadvantaged social groups. Help support and preserve traditional folk arts. Support conservation efforts.

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Itinerary

Note: Trip begins in Kozhikode (Calicut), India on Day 1. This is on India’s west coast and is not to be confused with Kolkata (Calcutta), which is on the east coast. Some US flights into India’s gateway cities arrive late evening and some travelers may need a hotel the night prior to meeting the group on Day 1. As there are no international flights into Calicut, a short domestic flight from a major gateway will also be needed.
Note: B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner

Day 1  Kozhikode (Calicut) – Wayanad
Arrival at Calicut airport, meet your representative and transfer to Wayanad (3 hours), stopping for lunch in route. Wayanad is a green paradise, nestled among the mountains of the Western Ghats. Undulating hills filled with tea, pepper and palm trees are enchanting. This land is filled with history, culture and nature. Friendly Neema and Rajesh welcome you to your secluded homestead resort and to Kerala – ‘God’s Own Country’.
L, D

Day 2  Wayanad
If jet-lag had you up early, that just means you’ve been sitting on the porch, breathing in the fresh, clean air, listening to birds, and enjoying ‘India’ welcoming you to your first full day. Hopefully, we can get you down off the porch to join us for breakfast. Take a morning hike down through the rainforest to explore the three-tiered Meenmutty Waterfall. (3-miles each way). On the way, become acquainted with the myriad of spices grown in this area. A sumptuous lunch awaits your return. An afternoon option may include a visit to the Uravu bamboo community project. Of course, swaying in a hammock amid palm trees while birdsong lulls you into a nap, is always a good choice too.
B, L, D

Day 3  Wayanad – Nilambur
Transfer to Nilambur (3 ½ hours). Your hosts greet you at Maranat Mana, a several hundred years old heritage property reflecting the age old traditions of a Kerala Brahmin family. Focusing on sustainable living, this place strikes an excellent balance between traditional life style and modern living. The two acres of sacred grove inside the farm is a representation of biodiversity that is still sustained. Explore and get to know your hosts. For dinner, have fun learning about the amazing cuisine of Southern India, and if inclined, jump in and lend a helping hand.
B, L, D (*vegetarian food only)

Day 4  River Nila / Cheruthuruthy
Transfer to Cheruthuruthy ( 2 1/2 hours). Check in at a gorgeous Ayurvedic resort on the banks of the Nila River. Get a massage, or Ayurvedic treatment, or lounge poolside. In late afternoon, visit a potter’s workshop and a bell-metal workshop.  In the evening, spend time with the Vayali group, local folk artists showcasing the folk heritage of the Nila River. The Vayali group was started in order to preserve the traditional art forms which were at risk of perishing forever. The young group went around to villages, sat with elders, documented the art forms, learned them, and today carry on the traditions in performances. The small initiative now has turned into one of the largest digital archive of folk music and local knowledge from the Malappuram, Thrissur and Palakkad districts. The original four member group has now grown into more than 30 active youngsters. Our visit helps provide financial support and helps the Vayali members pursue their passion for folk art.
B

Day 5  River Nila – Munnar
Munnar is a premium hill station of Kerala, situated around 5,400 feet above sea level… it’s cold! Munnar is a unique blend of misty hills and aromatic tea estates. The city is enriched by three holy rivers, Muthirappuzha, Chandavurai and Kundaly. In Malayalam, “Munu aar” means “three rivers”. Your gorgeous hotel the next two nights is a real treat and birders, photographers, nature-lovers, and all will enjoy relaxing here.
B, L, D

Day 6  Munnar
During British rule, Munnar was developed to cultivate tea plantations and because of its cool climate, it was a popular summer resort for British government officers. Visit the Tea Museum. Enjoy some down-time this afternoon.
B, L

Day 7  Munnar – Periyar
Drive to Thekkady / Periyar (4 hours drive). Enjoy the lush landscapes that lie along the border with the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu. This region is long famed for its spices, particularly black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and clove. We will visit a spice farm this afternoon.
B

Day 8  Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary – Kumarakom
Early breakfast, then join a park guide for a three hour walk through the natural beauty of Periyar National Park, set around the picturesque shores of Lake Periyar. One of India’s 16 Project Tiger Reserve’s, Periyar is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife including elephant, tiger, sambar deer, wild pigs, bison, and monkeys. It also boasts 112 species of butterflies and 246 species of birds including cormorants, darters, ospreys, kingfishers, hornbills and kites. With a forest floor covered in ferns and orchids, the tropical forests tower 120-feet above.  Afterwards, drive (4 ½ hours) to the famed Kerala Backwaters – a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast.
B, D

Day 9  Alleppey, Backwaters Cruise and Overnight
Close to Kumarakom is Alleppey – both of these areas make up one of most beautiful backwater stretches of Kerala. We will board our own ‘Houseboat’—long vessels that have been cleverly converted from the traditional rice barges. Staterooms have comfortable beds, separate bathrooms and AC. Cruise through the network of canals and channels enjoying the easy-paced clamor of riverside life. Enjoy a bountiful dinner feast and perhaps one of the most unique overnight accommodations in all your travels.
B, L, D

Day 10 Fort Cochin (Kochi)
Our houseboat returns and we proceed to Fort Cochin (Kochi), a jewel in the crown of Kerala with its European heritage, natural harbor and cosmopolitan temperament. Kochi was founded on trade, originally with the arrival of Jewish and Arab spice traders in the 1st century AD. Its prosperity and importance increased even more with the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th c., to be closely followed by the Dutch and then English, an eclectic heritage that helped produce a fascinating mix of styles and influences. Stroll the streets, see St. Francis Church and the massive Chinese fishing nets, watch the action on the cricket field, and enjoy some amazing shopping. Attend a 5 pm Kathakali performance – one of Kerala’s cultural highlights! Kathakali is one of the oldest theatre forms in the world. Performers in extraordinary costumes and elaborate make-up act out epics from Hindu mythology. Dinner is on your own, with a multitude of fantastic places to choose from.
B

Day 11  Fort Cochin
Enjoy a morning visit to the Jew Town Synagogue, Spice Market, and Dutch Palace. For lunch, we’ve arranged a cooking class. Our entire journey we’ve been eating amazing Keralan food – now let’s learn how to make some dishes ourselves! Your final afternoon is free to enjoy. Bring your tissues to our final celebration dinner as we say goodbye to this special part of India, and to all our new friends. (Note: Jewish Synagogue is closed on Fridays and Saturdays; Dutch Palace is closed on Fridays).
B, L (cooking class), D

Day 12  Cochin Airport
Transfer to Cochin (Kochi) airport. Tour concludes.
B

Although we do our best to adhere to the schedule listed above, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control.

Overview

Choose your own Date Departures:
Group Size: 2 – 10 persons

Minimum Age: 15 (see below)

Trip Cost:
2 – 10 persons: $2,495

Own Room: $475 (see below)

Airfare not included
Per Person, Double occupancy

What’s Included

  • Airport transfers on first and last day
  • Expert leadership
  • Accommodations, meals, sights, entrance fees as noted in itinerary
  • Ground transportation
  • In-country support team
  • Contributions to Viyali and other projects
  • Contribution to Global Giving

What’s Not Included

  • International airfare
  • Hotel costs prior to Day 1
  • Meals not noted on itinerary
  • Insurance
  • Tip for your guide (optional)
  • Excess baggage/airport charges
  • Cost of medical immunizations
  • Cost of obtaining a passport
  • Cost of tourist visa
  • Items of a personal nature (sodas, alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.)

Visa Information

U.S. citizens traveling to India DO need a visa.  A 6-month tourist visa costs $63.  In the United States, Indian visas are issued by Travisa Outsourcing.  You must have a passport.  Passport must be valid for 90 days after trip conclusion.  Stay up to date by checking US Department of State website:  www.travel.state.gov

Air Travel

International airfare is not included. Please always check with us before purchasing your airline tickets to verify your arrival and departure schedule and to ensure your trip has the necessary minimum number of participants required to operate. Contact your local travel agent, airline, or preferred on-line booking service for airfare needs.  Domestic flights to Calicut and from Cochi are not included.  However, our India Team can assist you in booking these internal segments for you.

Tier Pricing

Meaningful travel works best with a small group of people and some trips have tier pricing. We initially invoice you at the highest tier level price (the smallest group size we can operate). If the price drops due to an increase in group size, your final invoice will reflect the lower price. Note: trips are priced according to the number of full-price passengers on the trip. (MeaningfulTrip staff, travel writers and other discounted travelers are excluded from the count for this purpose.)

Single Travelers

If you specifically request single accommodations, you will be asked to pay the full single supplement noted above. If you wish to share accommodations, we will assign you a same-gender roommate if one is available. If a roommate cannot be found, you will be asked to pay a reduced single fee which is half of the full single supplement. There are only a limited number of single rooms available on most departures.  Note: Single supplement is for hotels only – there are no requested single accommodations during our Nilambur homestay, nor aboard the houseboat.

Choose your own Departure

Couples or small groups of two or more can pick their own desired departure dates, based on availability. So grab your family, your neighbors, or your best friends and call us.

Customized Private Groups

Family reunions, corporate groups, wedding parties, student groups, church groups, and any groups interested in a customized departure are welcome to contact us.

Go to India for FREE!

For private groups with nine full-paying passengers, the 10th person goes FREE!
(well, almost free… international and internal airfares not included and there is a $200 fee which is collected for contributions to our in-country projects).

Payment & Cancellation Policy

Payment
Deposit of $500 due at time of reservation.
Final balance due 90 days prior to trip departure.

Cancellation
If you cancel prior to departure (we need written notice), cancellation fees are:

91 or more days… $0
61 to 90 days… $500
31 to 60 days… 50% of Trip Cost
0 to 30 days… 100% of Trip Cost

Insurance

Meaningful Trip strongly recommends travel insurance. Our preferred travel insurance provider is World Nomads.  Their ‘Standard’ policy starts at $69 and covers Medical, Trip Cancellation, Baggage, and Emergency Evacuation.   Links can be found on our Deposit, Sign-up, and ‘Travel Resources’ pages.

Trip Level and Qualifications

Easy – Moderate
All welcome. Travel at a relaxed pace. May include driving of three to four hours on some days. Activity: easy walking and light hiking, one to three hours, at low elevation. May include less demanding, activities such as bicycling, but these activities are optional. Travel to India requires a certain flexibility and sense of adventure… While Kerala is absolutely green, gorgeous and spacious, in major gateway cities such as Delhi, it is typical to encounter pollution, traffic noise and delays.

Minimum Age: 15

As most all of our travelers are adults, our minimum age on this trip is 15 years old (unless on a specifically-designated ‘Family Trips’ or ‘Private Trips’). Ages 15 – 20, must be accompanied by an adult.

Weather

The ideal months to visit Kerala is winter, between November and February when its dry, sunny and comfortably warm. Daytime temperatures are warm (80 – 90 degrees) and 65 – 70 degrees at night. The hill station of Munnar sits between 6,500 and 8,000 feet in elevation and thus it is remarkably colder (50 – 55 degrees in daytime, and into the 30’s at night). June to October is rainy and wet; and March to May its hot and sultry.

Lodging

Our hotels were carefully selected for their comfort, service, staff friendliness and commitment to sustainability. Enjoy a mix of unique lodgings from historic, comfortable hotels to charming historic residences to a deluxe houseboat.

Food

Some people journey to Kerala just for the food! Both vegetarian and non vegetarian options are available. Typical dinner is Thali, served in a large plate or traditional banana leaf with rice at the center and surrounded by small portions of various curries, dal (lentils), vegetables and yogurt. Roti (thin, dried bread) and Paratha (fried flaky bread) are served at every meal. Biriyani (rice dish flavored with condiments and spices) is also common. In coastal areas tasty fish dishes are common. Coconuts grow in abundance in Kerala, and coconut cream and coconut milk are widely used in dishes. Typical spices found in Keralan cuisine are: black pepper, ginger, chilly, saffron and cardamom

General Information

This trip is subject to the booking information set forth in the Meaningful Trip Terms and Conditions. Please read this information carefully. Additional pre-departure information including a Packing List, Medical Form and Liability Release Form is emailed upon sign-up.

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What We Believe

At our core, we believe that meaningful and responsible tourism is a conduit for peace and global understanding. Way beyond tourism… we gain insight, discover new perspectives, develop lifelong memories, we become change agents for creating a better world.

In Wayanad, spice tours provide small time spice farmers an alternative, supplementary source of income. Tours provide a glimpse into the issues surrounding the economic struggles of spice farmers. We will also learn of ‘Green Gold’. Bamboo, as a timber substitute, helps conserve forests. Uravu NGO implements employment and income generation programs in rural areas helping marginalized and economically disadvantaged social groups, traditional artisans, women and indigenous people.

In Nila the boats used for Thoni Cruise as well as the oarsmen are from the local communities. This makes an alternative, supplementary source of income to coconut processing and sand mining. Fact: There is a ‘sand mafia’ along the river regions in southern India. Your guide will explain how the practice of illegal sand mining causes environmental and social damage.

In Cheruthuruthy, visit small workshops of local artisans. In the evening spend time with the Vayali group, local folk artists showcasing the folk heritage of the Nila River. The Vayali group was started in order to preserve the traditional art forms which were at risk of perishing forever. The young group went around to villages, sat with elders, documented the art forms, learned them, and today carry on the traditions in performances. The small initiative now has turned into one of the largest digital archive of folk music and local knowledge from the Malappuram, Thrissur and Palakkad districts. The original four member group has now grown into more than 30 active youngsters. Our visit helps provide financial support and helps the Vayali members pursue their passion for folk art.

In Periyar, the programs are operated by local community members belonging to the Eco Development Committees (EDCs). The benefits are transferred directly to the community members. Trekking assistants and guides were mostly poachers and the entire program in Periyar was designed to rehabilitate them.

Our Pledge

All our tours support environmental, economic and social endeavors in the areas we visit. We hire locally. We choose hotels based on their efforts toward sustainability. We promote women’s employment, education and empowerment with all our partners. We support local livelihoods on every element of our tours.

MeaningfulTrip’s Triple Give

In addition to all of the above, we:

  • Make contributions to selected global projects, NGO’s, or causes in countries we visit.
  • Make a contribution to Global Giving, a non-profit that connects donors with grassroots projects around the world. MeaningfulTrips is proud to partner with Global Giving and we will specifically target projects that support hunger and poverty needs in the USA.
  • Pledge 1% of our end-of-year net profits to a MeaningfulTrip Trust.


Lodging & Amenities

Embassies

US embassies abroad
Foreign embassies located in USA

Passports

US State Department (passports) – Everything you need to know about passports.

Visas Link

US State Department (visas) – Visa and entry & exit requirements

Visa Services

Zierer Visa Services – ZVS has offices in San Francisco, New York, Houston, Miami, Washington DC, and Florida

Destination Information

Geographia – This site contains concise profiles of major countries in Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Europe, and Latin America. Provides information on: geography, climate, culture, people, history.

World Time

TheTimeNow.com – Find out what time it is, anywhere in the world.

Money Matters

Currency Converter

Health Information

Information on vaccines and advice on how to stay healthy while traveling.

Center for Disease Control – Travel health information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Includes reference material and recommendations by geographic region.

High Altitude Issues

ISMM, International Society for Mountain Medicine – Comprehensive information on Acclimatization and Acute Mountain Sickness, including prevention, recognition, and treatment of altitude illness.

Weather

Intellicast Weather Site – This site gives current weather all over the world, as well as historic average temperatures and rainfall, and sunrise/sunset, moonrise/moonset, and the phases of the moon.

Clothing & Gear

Meaningful Trip’s recommended outdoor retailers specializing in adventure and responsible travel.

Altrec – The number one source for all your favorite outdoor adventure brands including Mountain Hardwear, Arc’Teryx, Mountainsmith, Oakley, Marmot and many more! A true leader in online shopping.

Columbia Sportswear – “Trying stuff takes us to places we never imagined”

Dana Design – At Dana Design, we seek comfort for those who travel far. It’s why serious trekkers aren’t just partial to Dana Design. They’re devoted.

EagleCreek – Eagle Creek offers the most comprehensive selection of packs, wheeled luggage, duffels, packing, and travel accessories.

ExOfficio – Ex Officio’s adventure travel and urban travel clothing collections are designed to play an active role in your comfort when traveling. The perfect blend of function, low maintenance and multi-climate comfort for everything from hiking, rafting, safaris and cultural tours.

Kelty – Manufacturer of quality outdoor apparel, backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, travel gear and child carriers.

The NorthFace – The North Face provides an extensive line of performance clothing, equipment and footwear.

Patagonia – Patagonia is world famous for its quality clothing and gear. MeaningfulTrip loves Patagonia for their environmentalism and their 1% for the planet program.

Salomon – Find out why their boots are the best in the business.

Teva Footwear – Teva Footwear. Buy your Tevas direct from Teva.com. Select from over 100 models.

Books & Maps

Lonely Planet – With content sections labeled The Thorn Tree, World Guide, On the Road, and The Scoop, you know Lonely Planet’s site is much more than just their terrific guidebooks.

Maps – An online World Atlas which covers 7 continents, 12 regions, 190 countries, and 50 US States.
Activity Levels and Qualifications

Activity Levels

Easy
All welcome. Travel at a relaxed pace. May include driving of 3 – 4 hours on some days. Activity: easy walking and light hiking, 1 – 3 hours, at low elevation. May include less demanding, half-day trips that may include: bicycling, sea kayaking, or rafting (Class I-II rapids), and these activities are optional. Minimum Age: 16* (see note below).

Moderate
Recommended for fit travelers with a spirit of adventure. Travel at a moderate pace. Activity: moderate walking and hiking, 3 – 4 hours daily, at elevations which may range from 5,000 – 10,000 feet. May include less demanding half-day or day-trips that may include: bicycling, sea kayaking, or rafting (Class I-II rapids), and these activities are optional. May include driving of 3 – 4 hours on some days.

Minimum Age: 16* (see below).

Vigorous
Recommended for fit travelers. Moderate hiking experience and conditioning are required. Activity: 5 – 8 hours trekking daily at high elevation, while carrying your own small daypack (water, essentials and warm layers). Surfaces: mountainous, exposed terrain with steep ascents/descents and uneven trails. Elevations: will range from 6,000 – 14,000 feet. It is important that you read our information about Altitude Mountain Sickness. A doctor’s release is required for persons age 60 or older. Minimum Age: 16 (see below).

Strenuous
Designed for very fit travelers. Typically, for extended high-altitude trekking or mountaineering. Activity: 8+ hours/day. Distances: Trek 10 – 12 miles most days. Elevation change: up to 4,000 ft/day. Altitude: may exceed 15,000 ft. Surfaces: remote, mountainous, exposed terrain with steep ascents/descents, uneven trails with loose features. Experience and conditioning required. A doctor’s release is required for all participants. Minimum age: 18.

Minimum Age

As most of our travelers are adults, our minimum age on all trips is 16 years old (unless on a specifically-designated ‘Private Group Departure’ or ‘Family Departure’). Ages 16 – 20, must be accompanied by an adult.