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Cruising on the Kerala Backwaters

10 Day river cruise from £1,595 pp  

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Far Horizon Tours 10 Day river cruise on Vaikundam, Far Horizon Tours from £1,595 pp  

Departure 22 September 2019 | Cruising on the Kerala Backwaters

Fares are cruise-only unless otherwise stated. Contact us to add flights and tailor-make your holiday.

Destinations

  • Cochin
  • Vaikom
  • Vechoor
  • Veliyanad Village
  • Kainakary
  • Changankary
  • Thottappally
  • Vattakayal

All departures (14)

Cruising on the Kerala Backwaters

from £1,595 pp
Cruise offer
Special Fares

This itinerary operates north to south but also in reverse on select dates - contact us for details. Christmas and New Year dates will incur a supplement. Dates shown are cruise departure dates.

Includes:

  • Overnight hotel accommodation in Cochin on a B&B basis
  • Accommodation on twin sharing basis on board ship
  • All meals on board RV Vaikundam
  • All entrance fees at monuments as per the itinerary
  • All excursions and activities as per the itinerary
  • Services of English speaking local guides during the sightseeing as per the itinerary
  • Assistance at the airports
  • Mineral water during the road travel
  • All arrival & departure transfers with representatives at the airport and land transport by exclusive use (Cochin)
  • All currently applicable taxes

Kerala has an extensive network of water-ways that lace the interior coastline, almost along the entire stretch of around 600kms. This labyrinthine network of rivers, canals, streams and lagoons formed by the inimitable craftsmanship of nature is the Backwaters and these water bodies give life to its unique eco system.

The destination called by National Geographic as the Green Venice of the East due to the green coconut trees making the backwaters into a shade of emerald, with splashes of red setting sun offers a very serene tropical destination. The water-ways are teaming with a lot of life as most villages are connected only through wooden boats. Villages, temples, churches, coir handloom, cultural centers, paddy fields, market places, wooden boat building yards, long regatta snake boats, traditional toddy tapping, home hosted meals, beaches, homes of Catholic Saint Chavara, festivals, makes this experiencing a very living cultures destination.

Our experiential cruise from the modern port city Cochin (Kochi) to the ancient port town Alleppey (Alappuzha), passing through Kottayam, the land of latex and spices, will be enlightening as well as relaxing holidaying.

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Day by day itinerary

Day 1 — Cochin
Traditional fishing nets In Cochin Fort, Kerala, India

Traditional fishing nets In Cochin Fort, Kerala, India

You arrive at Cochin airport. After clearing India Immigration and Customs, step into the receiving area where you will be met by our representative.

Transfer and check-in to your hotel.

Day 2 — Cochin
Traditional fishing nets In Cochin Fort, Kerala, India

Traditional fishing nets In Cochin Fort, Kerala, India

We have a walking tour of Mattancherry, the bustling part of Old Fort Cochin and the epicenter of the spice trade for centuries.

Mattancherry is home to a small Jewish community whose origin dates back nearly 2000 years, during the period of King Solomon, when large scale trade took place between the Middle East and the Malabar Coast. Our touring today reveals Kochi’s multi-layered past, a rich brew of Arab, Portuguese, British, and Dutch influences.

Also visit the picturesque Chinese fishing nets that are unique to Kochi. These iconic land-based nets combine elegance and ingenuity, their massive frames balanced by counterweights manipulated by teams of up to six men. Long believed to have been introduced by the Chinese explorer Zheng He in the 14th century or possibly travelers from Kublai Khan’s court, these nets actually trace their origin to Portuguese settlers from Macau.


Day 3 — Cochin to RV Vaikundam

After breakfast, check-out of the hotel and proceed to witness the Kalaripayattu performance.

Regarded as the oldest and most scientific in the world, kalaripayattu, the martial art form of Kerala, is an integral of the Malayali culture. After the performance, transfer to Maradu jetty in Cochin to embark the river cruise Boat RV Vaikundam.

After having a traditional lunch on- board, we set sail to explore thEmagnificent network of waterways formed along the coastal belt by the rivers from the Western Ghats.  Amidst the rapid development in the city, the Backwaters of Cochin remains placid, giving life to many island villages. The serene and scenic sights are heartening. In the evening we arrive at an old town called Vaikom, in Kottayam–the land of natural rubber latex and spices.

 Vaikom got prominence in the history of Kerala during Indian independence movement when unity was of utmost importance.

We take a tour around the temple to get to know about its history and architecture. The architecture of temples in Kerala is unique. It is based on ancient science of construction and geographical features of the land. As per the traditional architecture, the each element of temple represents an element of human body, and, a temple is not only the space for spiritual enlightenment but also the venue for harmonious social networking.

Day 4 — Vaikom, Chenganda and Vechoor village

 After having breakfast on the boat, we visit the cultural centre in Vaikom to watch traditional dance performance Kathakali.

Next, we cruise to Chenganda village a rustic village along the Backwaters, where people are having a laid-back and peaceful life, occupied with coir making and fishing. Meet the people, the coir weavers, and coconut harvesters and mussel and prawns farmers and discus about life over a drink of tender coconut water. Watch various indigenous techniques of fishing: using shore-based ‘Chinese nets’, by drifting nets and or by hand.

Return to the boat for lunch.

Cruise through Thanneermukkom barrage. The barrage divides the lake into two– one half with perennial salty water and the other with fresh water enriched by the rivers. Arrive in Vechoor village. You may take a walk or relax on board.

Proceed to the farm house by evening. This house is located on an island which was made by the men of the house, by reclaiming land from Backwaters. A walk in the farm will be educative. Experience the cordial living of a mother and her daughter-in-law. The hostess will demonstrate the preparation of traditional Syrian Christian cuisine. You may also try your hand at cooking and also ask for their story of family of three generations of hard working men, and equally strong women who supported their pioneering spirit.

Day 5 — Vembanad Lake & Veliyanad village

Having an early and light breakfast, set out for escorted canoe ride to watch the migratory as well as endemic birds of Kumarakom, a cluster of lagoons on Vembanad lake with a backdrop of mangroves, paddy fields and coconut groves.

Waterfowl, cuckoo, owl, egret, heron and the water duck are some of the endemic species seen here. Parrots, teal, larks, flycatchers, wood beetle, and other birds are seen here during their respective migratory seasons.

Return to the boat where an elaborate breakfast will be served.

We cruise to the interiors of Kuttanad, the expanses of land reclaimed from the lake for paddy cultivation, when the region was severely hit by famine during the colonial period. These paddy fields are lying below sea level and protected by building dykes around them. The barrages in the region control the flow of sea water during tides. Watch a folk dance performance (Kaikotti kali) by the girls of the village.

Return to the boat and cruise till dusk, to further interior, to Veliyanad village. Relax onboard overnight

Day 6 — Cruise to Kainakari & Pulinkunnu village

This village in Kuttanad is made up of vast stretches of paddy fields, dykes and narrow canals.

This day we cruise to another interior yet vibrant village. En route we visit a traditional Ayurveda centre. Interact with doctor and get to know about this ancient knowledge on holistic way of life. You may try any of the wellness massages, as per the recommendation of the doctor.

A short cruise ahead we arrive at Chavara Bhavan, the ancestral home of Saint Kuriakose Chavara, the first canonized Catholic male saint of Indian origin.

Saint Chavara was an Indian Catholic priest and social reformer. He was the co-founder of the first congregation for men, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I.), and of a similar one for women, the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (C.M.C.) . The ancestral home of the Saint has now been preserved as a museum.

After having lunch, cruise to Pulinkunnu village. Get closer to the laid-back, yet harmonious, life, paddling along narrow canal by country boat, interacting with the villagers.

Day 7 — Mannar, Champakkulam village & Changankari

After having breakfast, we drive through the scenic expanses of greenery and water ways, to the village Mannar.

The village is famous for the traditional ornate locks, and lamps and vessels of different sizes and designs. These items are being used in temples and also in the houses for ritualistic practices. Inspire the craftsmen, interacting with them while they indulge in indigenous method of casting of lamps, vessels and locks.

Return to the boat and enjoy lunch on-board and relax.

In the afternoon, cruise to Champakkulam village. Kerala’s old spice trade used to pass through this town en route to Cochin and other ports on the west coast. Settled more than 1,000 years ago by Syrian Christian traders, the people chose to keep their syncretic cultural heritage. This can be seen in the monumental St Mary’s Church on the riverside. Built in 1550, the foundations are said to be as old as 8th century AD. Architecturally, it is a mélange of several European styles, from the Levantine altar and structure to the Dutch arches that tower overhead.

You may visit an old church, a school, the local artisans (open on week days) who skillfully and passionately craft biblical heroes. We come across the Snake boats (Chundan Vallom) of the villagers, gracefully docked on the shore. These types of boats which are being used for races today in modern days were once maritime war boats and their structure and design reflect the prowess of ancient Kerala architecture and are one of the icons of Kerala culture.

Cruise through canals and arrive Changankari till dusk, passing through the serene canals. You may relax on board or take a visit around a temple, watching the evening rituals.


Day 8 — Konni & Thottappalli

After having an early breakfast, drive to Konni to spend time with elephants at a shelter. Elephants have significance in Hindu mythology and culture. The trip leader will share interesting facts about role of elephants in temple festivals in Kerala.

Proceed to Aranmula village which is home to a family of craftsmen who are skilled at making mirrors out of a special combination of certain metals. The secret of the trade has been passed down through generations. Visit the mirror makers; see the ancient temple of Krishna, see the mural art of the local artists and meet a snake boat builder.

Lunch will be arranged at a local house of beautiful architecture and located on the bank of Pampa, the holy river of natives. The host will talk about the ritualistic annual regatta.

Drive to Thottappalli and board the boat. Refresh and have tea/coffee with snacks during a short cruise to a tiny settlement. Take a walk to the beach. On the way you may visit a toddy shop. Toddy is a local alcoholic beverage made from the sap of tender flower of coconut palm and had accompanied by tapioca.

Day 9 — Karumadi, Kanjippadom & Vattakkayal Lake

 Arrive in Karumadi village. Here 11th century statue of Buddha preserved in a small shrine. After taking a walk through this quiet and rustic village, cruise to Kanjippadom village to visit a dock where on week days you can watch building or repair of wooden boats. You might be able to see the art of traditional Kettuvallum or, coir rope lashed wooden plank boat building techniques.

After lunch, cruise through Pallathuruthy village and arrive at a small lake (Vattakkayal) amidst paddy fields. Take a relaxing walk, watch toddy tapping. Return to the boat after beautiful sunset. Toddy will be served during the farewell theme dinner.

Day 10 — Alleppey to Cochin

The ancient port town of Alleppey is criss-crossed by rivers, lakes, canals, lagoons and paddy fields, and named the Venice of the East, as per the visualization of the British.

Check-out and take a guided tour of the town. Visit the old markets, temples, churches and mosques and the beach.

After transfer to Cochin airport to connect with flight to onward destination.

Sailing on Vaikundam

RV Vaikundam has nine well-appointed cabins with attached bathrooms on the lower deck and, well-functional kitchen, air-conditioned and exquisitely set dining hall and open lounge on its upper deck.

See more about Vaikundam

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Included as standard...

  • 1 year complimentary Priority Pass membership
  • Complimentary airport lounge access *
  • Welcome Home Gift

* fly-cruise only

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