South India: slow beauty in Kerala
Spend the night on a luxury houseboat in Kerala’s backwaters, spot wildlife from a bamboo raft & embrace slow living with morning yoga
South India: slow beauty in Kerala
About your trip
Nicknamed God’s Own Country; spend any amount of time in Kerala’s picturesque Eden and there’ll be no questioning where the name came from…
From misty tea plantation to remote backwater village, elephant-inhabited nature reserve to hippy-favoured crescent beach; this 10-day adventure will see you discover serenity in India (yes, really) alongside a group of other peace-seeking adventurers.
You’ll take to Kerala’s famous backwaters aboard a luxury houseboat, complete with your own private chef, and kayak down a labyrinth of waterways to pass isolated villages. There’ll be time spent tea-picking with locals, mastering the art of Keralan cuisine at the home of a local family on their spice plantation and taking part in morning yoga sessions as the sun burns through the dawn haze.
And all those lush landscapes mean wildlife abound here, too. You could find yourself face-to-face with wild elephants, bison and langurs, be it on foot or from the vantage point of a bamboo river raft. And to finish? A stint on Kovalam’s idyllic beaches – some of the best in India, so we’re told.
A slower paced adventure, but an adventure all the same. This is God’s Own Country. Would you like to come in?
- Accommodation in twin rooms
- Max 14 travellers per group
- Exclusively for people in their 30s & 40s
- All activities mentioned on the itinerary
- 9 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners
- Stay in handpicked 3-5 star hotels
- Arrival airport transfer
- Experienced Pack Leader with you throughout the trip
Flashpackers are required to produce proof of COVID-19 vaccination 30 days before departure OR proof of a negative test within 72 hours of their adventure starting. Flashpackers must also provide evidence that they have purchased travel insurance for the duration of their adventure. Remember, flights aren't included and prices are based on sharing a twin room. If you'd like to upgrade to a single room, you can add this during the booking process or by contacting our Customer Experience team.
Day 01 The call of Kochi
Your adventure begins in Kochi, a colourful port-city that’s been attracting traders and travellers for over 600 years. A private transfer will greet you at the airport, ready to whisk you to your boutique hotel. After time to freshen up, you’ll meet your group before heading out together to explore the charming streets of this intriguing thumb-shaped peninsula. You’ll discover an eclectic blend of crumbling colonial relics, ancient mosques and Jewish synagogues, breathing history at every turn. Stroll along the natural harbour, where you’ll see fishermen casting giant Chinese nets out to sea, and weave through alleyways lined with galleries, boutiques and trendy cafes. You’ll enjoy a few sundowner drinks with your group, before making your way to a local restaurant for dinner.
Day 02 Sunrise city & Keralan cuisine
Sunrise in Kochi is the most fascinating time of day, and you’ll catch an early-morning ferry to Ernakulam as the city comes to life. After a delicious South Indian breakfast, you’ll set off to explore some of the city’s famous sites including the oldest European church in India. For lunch, you’ll be immersed in the spicy world of authentic Indian curries, with a bespoke cooking demo at the plantation home of locally renowned chef Nimmy Paul. Later, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at Kerala’s unique art form, Kathakali, as you watch the performers prepare their elaborate make-up and costumes. These ‘story plays’ are a fusion of Indian theatre and indigenous folk-dance, and you’ll witness a highly dramatic show, illuminated by towering brass oil lamps.
Day 03 Morning yoga & emerald mountains
Begin your day with a private yoga session. This ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice originated in India over 5,000 years ago. Feeling zen but energised, you’ll leave city life behind and set off for the terraced tea hills of Munnar. South India’s largest tea-producing region was a favourite summer resort of the British colonial government, its elevated climate providing relief from the heat of the plains. The journey here is incredibly scenic, winding through the emerald-green hills of the Western Ghats, dotted with waterfalls and sparkling lakes. High up in the mist-clad mountains, your beautiful hotel awaits. After checking in, you’ll have the rest of the evening to relax.
Day 04 Tea picking with a view
Rise at dawn to admire the highlands glowing with sunrise through the morning mists. You’ll start the day with a bike ride along the relatively flat road leading to the Letchmi Tea Estate. This is one of the most picturesque plantations in Munnar and the landscape as you cycle is a visual treat. Passing through the village, you’ll see everyday life playing out, with domestic animals on the side of the road, neatly lined homes of plantation workers and vibrantly coloured temples. After breakfast, you’ll travel by minibus to the Lockhart Estate, a tea plantation dating back to 1879. Here, you’ll follow a trail out to where the tea pickers are working, join them in picking the leaves before learning how the leaves are weighed and processed. To round off your visit, you’ll visit the home of one of the pickers and enjoy a special tea tasting before a relaxing evening back at the resort.
Day 05 Aromatic spices & ancient martial arts
After a leisurely breakfast, it’s time to continue your journey. The aroma of spices will fill the air as you cross the countryside towards Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary – one of the premier reserves of Southern India, home to wild elephant, bison, antelope, langur and sambar. After settling into your new hotel, you’ll spend the afternoon at a spice plantation in the Cardamom Hills, learning how the plants are grown, harvested and processed, including the painstaking peeling and drying of cinnamon and the hand pollinating vanilla. This evening, you’ll have a ringside seat at a Kalaripayattu performance. Dating back to the 12th century, this flamboyant martial art is fascinating to watch as the graceful masters perform acrobatic rolls, jumps and dives to defeat their opponents.
Day 06 Bamboo rafting & village crafts
This morning is all about wildlife and you’ll start your day with a nature walk accompanied by a local expert. As you explore the diverse habitats of the Periyar reserve, you’ll learn about the birds, butterflies and other exotic species inhabiting the hills while listening to the sounds of the forest. Next, you’ll take to the river on a raft made from bamboo. Jungle animals often come down to the water to drink and there’s a high chance of spotting giant squirrels, nilgiri langurs, elephants, gaur and sambar as you glide silently across the lake. Many of the guides are former poachers who now earn a living by protecting the wildlife they once hunted. This afternoon, you’ll catch your transfer to the sleepy backwater town of Kumarakom.
Day 07 Backwater kayaking & houseboat life
Work up an appetite for breakfast with an early-morning yoga session. Today, you’ll be embarking on a kayaking adventure through Kerala’s glistening backwaters – a vast network of canals, rivers and lakes extending hundreds of miles across the state. You’ll encounter peaceful scenes here, secluded from the outside world: groups of school children flying kites, crab fishermen reeling in their catch, women in vibrant saris spinning reels on the riverbanks. From here, you’ll travel to Alleppey where you’ll board your next accommodation: an ultra-luxury houseboat. Late afternoon, you’ll embark on a memorable sunset cruise before mooring up for a freshwater feast and a peaceful night on board.
Day 08 Lazy beachside living
Wake up to perfect stillness, the beautiful landscape reflected in the silent waters of Vembanad Lake. After breakfast on board, it’s back to dry land and onwards to the coast. The beach town of Kovalam gained notoriety as a 1970s hippy hangout – and it’s easy to see why. With its azure sea and endless white crescents of sand backed by cascading palms, this is Southern India at its most stunning. You’ll be staying just out of town in the fishing hamlet of Chowara – a luxurious beachside retreat nestled in 15 acres of lush tropical gardens. Once you’ve checked in, the rest of the day is yours to spend however you please.
Day 09 Sunsoaked charms & candlelit feasts
Another sun-soaked day lies ahead. There’s plenty to be savoured here, from volleyball and nature walks to poolside drinks and beachcombing. If you still have energy left for sightseeing, you might want to take the optional day trip to Kanyakumari at the southernmost tip of India. The meeting point of the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, it’s one of the few places in the world where you can watch the sunrise and the sunset simultaneously over the ocean. In the evening, gather with your group for a farewell candlelit feast, with a spread of fragrant curries and seafood dishes to tuck into. Raise a toast to your new-found friends and an incredible nine-day adventure.
Day 10 Goodbye, Kerala
After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, you might have time for a last dip in the pool before arranging your transfer back to the airport. Want to see more of India? Enjoy a prequel to this trip with our longer adventure in Rajasthan, Kerala’s majestic northern neighbour.
Our Favourite Hotels
Here's a taste of the hotels we sometimes use on this adventure. The hotels you'll stay in for your departure will be shared with you one month before you go.
Blue Jelly houseboat
What better way to explore Kerala’s vast backwaters than aboard a luxury houseboat. With a private crew to attend to your every need and prepare a fresh Keralan feast, you’ll be free to sit back with a cocktail and watch the world drift by.
Fragrant Nature, Munnar
With mountain vistas all around, you’ll be fully immersed in the landscape at this tranquil five-star hill retreat. The elegant rooms have fireplaces to keep you cosy and the state-of-the-art spa is known for its rejuvenating Ayurvedic treatments.
Perched on a cliff overlooking one of Kerala’s best beaches, this is a view you won’t forget in a hurry. Kick back in a hammock between swaying palms, find a quiet spot in the lush 15-acre gardens or wander barefoot along the pristine sand.
- Which airport do I need to fly into? Plus airport code
Fly into Cochin International Airport (COK) in Kochi. You’ll need to secure an open-jaw ticket as you’ll be departing from a different airport.
- Which airport do I need to depart from? Plus airport code
Depart from Trivandrum International Airport (TRV).
- What time should my flight arrive?
Before 2pm ideally. The welcome meeting and dinner will be from 7pm onwards starting at the hotel, which is located approximately 60 minutes away from the airport.
- What time should my flight depart on the last day?
There are no activities planned for the last day, so leave any time you wish. The airport is approximately 45 minutes away from the hotel, and your Pack Leader can help you book your transfers the night before if needed.
- Do you include airport transfers?
Your arrival transfer from the airport in Kochi is private to Flash Pack and will be in groups depending on flight times. Sometimes this means waiting in the airport for a short while until other flights have arrived so you can make your own way to the first hotel if you wish.
A departure transfer is not included, but taxis to the airport are good value, especially if you split the cost with others in your group.
- Do I need a visa?
Yes, most visitors to India will need a visa.
US, EU and Australian passport holders can apply for a visa online. The usual turnaround time is about three days.
UK & Canadian passport holders must apply for a paper visa. We recommend that you start your visa application at least six weeks prior to departure. You must arrange an in-person appointment at your local embassy and leave your passport with them until your visa has been processed. It can take up to three weeks to process your visa, so bear this in mind if you have other international travel plans. Also note that you may not be given an appointment date straight away; the current lead time is two to three weeks.
- What are the current Covid entry requirements?
Fully vaccinated travellers are allowed to travel to India.
- What level of fitness do I need for this trip?
A moderate level of fitness is fine. There are no difficult hikes on this adventure.
- Will this itinerary change?
Please be aware that the itinerary, activities and hotels are subject to change. These changes can happen with little notice due to availability, poor weather, seasonal changes, or other circumstances beyond our control – but we’ll always do our best to ensure it has little impact on your experience. From time to time, we may also make changes to your itinerary to try out new ideas and keep things fresh and exciting.
"Well organised trip, beautiful hotels, good tourist guides and varied activities."
"This was my second time using Flash Pack, and while not quite as slick as the first time they're still streets ahead when it comes to customer service."
"I would definitely recommend Flash Pack to anyone - they put together a great itinerary. The guides were great, and the group of people just fantastic."
" Flash Pack really give the personal touch from the advice I was given that made me book the trip in the first place to the emails after I’d been on the trip to find out how it went. It made me feel special and it really added to the whole experience."
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