Indian Panorama with Backwater Cruise (South to North)

Introduction

Far Horizons take you on a special journey showcasing the traditional Indian culture imbibed in the vibrant streets and monuments throughout the Northern region of India with luxury on wheels. The mesmerizing Kathakali dances and multi-hued temples are the highlights of the tour. No trip to South India would be complete though, without a cruise along the beautiful backwater lagoons of Kerala on a luxury riverboat - the perfect way to end a holiday to this enchanting, and wonderfully relaxing, region.

Tour Highlights

  • Travel like a Maharaja on the leading luxury train of India “The Maharaja Express”
  • Explore the Serenity of Kerala backwaters while cruising on the Kerala River Cruise
  • Village visits and interaction with the local people
  • Cooking demonstration and home hosted meal
  • Experience Kathakali Dance, Martial Arts and Bronze Art work of Multicultural city “Cochin”

Destinations Covered

Detailed Itinerary

  1. Day 1 Arrive Cochin

    Kochi

    After clearing Customs and Immigration, step into the receiving area, where our representative will meet you and escort you to the hotel.

    Overnight at hotel (No Meals)

  2. Day 2 Cochin

    Kochi

    We have a tour of Mattancherry, the bustling part of Old Fort Cochin and the epicenter of the spice trade for centuries. It remains a densely populated place housing people from different ethnic groups and faiths in very close quarters. 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.

    We begin with the Dutch Palace, actually built by the Portuguese as a gift for the Raja of Kochi in 1555. The Dutch renovated and expanded it a century later, earning it its name. The palace also contains some of India’s finest mythological murals; the walls depict scenes from the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (Dutch Palace remain closed on Fridays and Saturdays). 

    Then we see St. Francis, India’s first European church (ca. 1510), famed as the original burial site of Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama, who died in Kochi in 1524 while on his third visit to India. Not immune to the turbulence of the colonial era, the originally Catholic St. Francis changed hands – and denominations – with each new power that took control of Kochi, becoming a Protestant Dutch Reformed church under the Dutch in 1663 then Anglican under the English in 1804.

    Next we pay a visit to the picturesque Chinese fishing nets unique to Kochi. These iconic land-based nets combine elegance and ingenuity with 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 travellers from Kublai Khan’s court, these nets actually trace their origin to Portuguese settlers from Macau.

    Lunch and dinner on own

    Overnight at hotel (B)

  3. Day 3 Cochin / Alleppey/ R.V.Vaikundham

    Alappuzha

    After breakfast, check-out and drive approx. two and half hour to reach Punnamada in Alleppey to board the Kerala cruise.

    The team on-board welcomes you to the boat and helps you with smooth check-in. Gather at the lounge for a safety briefing about the boat and about the cruise through Alleppey – the Granary/Rice Bowl of Kerala till Kochi. We set sail. Unwind, as the boat leaves behind the bustling township and cruises gently to the villages interspersed along the tranquil emerald green water world of rivers, lakes, lagoons, canals and coastal estuaries, expanses of paddy fields, swaying tall coconut trees, banana plantations and variety of tropical fruit bearing trees. Enjoy the traditional lunch and relax on-board.

    We talk about Alleppey – the Green Venice of the East, its geographical, cultural and social significance.We visit the village Kanjippadom for a leisurely walk. We meet the carpenters at the boat building yard and talk about the traditional method of building wooden boats (Kettuvallom), joining wooden planks using coir, cotton and natural resin. Return to boat and cruise till dusk. After dinner we retire for the night.

    Overnight on board RV Vaikundam (B, L, D)

  4. Day 4 Kanjippadom – Karumadi – Thottappalli

    Alappuzha

    Today after breakfast we sail to a quaint village Karumadi. We take a walk around a small shrine preserving the ruin of a sculpture of Buddha that belongs to the early centuries of current era.

    We cruise to the coastal village, Thottappalli, passing by the spillway at the southern area of Kuttanad preventing the saline water from flooding the low-lying paddy fields. We talk about indigenous practices of paddy cultivation in Kuttanad.

    We cruise to the interiors watching the indigenous practice cultivation of paddy on land below Sea level. Along the way we interact with toddy tappers, who are in to the occupation of collecting the sap of coconut palm to make the local alcoholic beverage -Toddy.

    Honoring your cruise with us, we plant sapling of coconut. Coconut tree is considered as the ‘Kalpavriksha ‘or the Divine tree of Kerala. All parts of coconut tree are useful in one way or the other: the water inside is a healthy drink; the fresh kernel and the oil extract from dried kernel are inevitable components of every cuisine; fiber from the coconut husk is used to make coir, mats and geotextile; the palm fronds are used for thatching roof; the wood suitable for making furniture and all the dried parts of coconut make good firewood. Last but not the least, the toddy – the boost for the laborers toiling in the fields.

    We take a short walk to the beach to enjoy the sunset. Return to boat and relax. After dinner, retire for the night.

    Overnight on board RV Vaikundam (B, L, D)

  5. Day 5 Excursion from Thottappalli

    Alappuzha

    Today we will have early breakfast and take a short drive to visit an ancient sacred grove where serpents are worshipped. This is the only temple in Kerala having female priests. You can take a walk inside and see the rituals going on. We continue the journey through the midland to Konni to spend time with elephants at a shelter at the backdrop of forest.

    Proceed to Aranmula village which is home to a family of craftsmen who are skilled at making mirror out of a special combination of certain metals. The secret of the trade has been passed down through generations. These mirrors have the distinctive feature of 100% reflection, unlike the common mirror. Local people consider it as auspicious to keep it at home to attract prosperity and luck.

    We visit the mirror makers and watch the different stages of the work. We will have lunch at a beautiful house of the village, located on the bank of the Holy River Pampa. We listen to the story of the annual ritualistic regatta of Snake boats of the village.

    Return to Changankari, relaxing in the serenity around. After dinner retire for the night.

    Overnight on board RV Vaikundam (B, L, D)

  6. Day 6 Changankari-Champakkulam-Nedumudy –Pulinkunnu

    Kavalam

    Enjoy a leisurely walk. After breakfast, we proceed to Champakulam 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 1000 years ago by Syrian Christian traders, who later converted to Roman Catholicism under the Portuguese, 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 5th century AD. Architecturally, it is a mélange of several European styles, from the Levantine altar and structure to the Dutch arches that tower overhead.

    We visit St. Mary’s church and a school and meet the local artisans (open on weekdays) who make biblical heroes.

    We can also see the Snake boat (Chundan Vallom) , the pride of the villagers, gracefully docked. These types of boats 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. Over a hundred oarsmen race the very narrow and long boat at high speeds to the beat of drums from the aft.

    Return to the boat and we cruise to Nedumudi. Lunch will be served while cruising. After lunch, we drive for over an hour through the quaint and scenic villages to Mannar which is famous for bell metal and brassware crafts. Interact with the artisans; inspire them, watching the indigenous method of casting of traditional lamps, utensils and ornate locks. Return to Nedumudi and cruise to Pulinkunnu village for over-night halt.

    Get closer to the life along the way, paddling along narrow canal by country boat, interacting with the villagers. Return to the boat. After dinner retire for the night.

    Overnight on board RV Vaikundam (B, L, D)

  7. Day 7 Pulinkunnu-Kainakari-Kavalam

    Kavalam

    This day after breakfast we cruise to Kainakari.

    Here we visit Chavara Bhavan, the ancestral home of Saint Kuriakose Chavara which is now preserved as a museum. Saint Chavara, the first canonized Catholic male saint of Indian origin, 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, Congregation of the Mother of Carmel C.M.C. While cruising lunch will be served on board. We arrive in Kavalam where river Pampa reverses its course and drain into Lake Vembanad. You may take the ferry to explore the region, walk along the dykes surrounding the expanses of paddy fields and interact with the farmers and women’s collective. We continue the cruise till dusk. Dinner on–board and retire for the night.

    Overnight on board RV Vaikundam (B, L, D)

  8. Day 8 Kavalam – Kumarakom

    Kumarakom

    After having breakfast, cruise to the expanses of lake Vembanad experiencing its wetland ecosystem. We visit a farmhouse.

    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. The hostess will demonstrate the preparation of traditional Syrian Christian cuisine. You may also try your hand at cooking and listen to the story of her family, of three generations of hard working men, and equally strong women who supported their pioneering spirit. We will have lunch at this house. Return to our boat and relax.

    We set out by country boat to watch the migratory and endemic birds of Kumarakom, which is a cluster of lagoons of lake Vembanad, at the 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 our boat and cruise to Thanneermukkom for overnight halt. The barrage at Thanneermukkom built across Vembanad, the largest lake of Kerala, divides the lake into two; one half with perennial salty water and the other with fresh water enriched by rivers.

    Relax on the boat, enjoying the gentle breeze and the beauty of the vastness and serenity of the majestic lake. After dinner retire for the night.

    Overnight on board RV Vaikundam (B, L, D)

  9. Day 9 Kumarakom – Chenganda – Vaikom

    Kumarakom

    After breakfast we sail to Chenganda village. The people of this rustic village are having a laid-back and peaceful life. Spend time with the coir weavers, the shell harvesters and farmers, engaging in conversation about the riparian life and watching various indigenous techniques of fishing. Return to boat and have lunch on-board.

    By evening we arrive in the ancient village Vaikom, By tuk-tuk we proceed to the cultural centre in the locality to watch the traditional dance performance – Kathakali, the traditional dramatic and mimetic dance form, which plays stories from epics. It is a unique blend of dance, music, action, literature and make-up.

    We take a tour around the temple to get to know about its history and architecture. The architecture of temples in Kerala 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.

    Tonight we celebrate our sojourn over farewell dinner on board.

    Overnight on board RV Vaikundam (B)

  10. Day 10 Vaikom/Cochin/ Departure

    Delhi

    After breakfast, we set sail, gently cruising by the islands interspersed along rivers, lake and coastal estuaries. We talk about Cochin, the Queen of Arabian Sea, its geographical, cultural and social significance.

    Arrive at Marad and disembark from boat. Drive to the nearby village Nettoor, to watch Kalaripayattu –traditional martial art of Kerala which is said to have given birth to all martial arts including Karate.

    Thereafter, transfer to cochin airport to connect with flight to Delhi.

    Arrive Delhi and transfer to the hotel.

    Rest of the day is free at leisure.

    Overnight at the hotel (B)

  11. Day 11 Board Maharaja Express

    Jaipur

    After breakfast, we will proceed to Safdarjung railway station to board the Maharajas Express Train, bestowed the "World's Leading Luxury Train" award at the World Travel Awards for five consecutive years from 2012 to 2016. The Maharajas' Express has redefined the luxury travel experience by offering guests the opportunity to explore fabled destinations providing a glimpse of rich cultural heritage of Incredible India which will leave you with fond memories of this train journey to be cherished.

    You will get to enjoy a traditional welcome and welcome drink. Enjoy your lunch while the train leaves for its first destination, Jaipur. Reach Jaipur and enjoy the dinner at an exclusive venue in Jaipur. Post dinner return back to Maharaja

    Express.

    Overnight on-board Maharajas Express (B, L, D)

  12. Day 12 Maharaja Express - Jaipur

    Jaipur

    Wake-up to a delicious on-board breakfast. Later, to take a closer look at the history of Jaipur, guests visit the ancient Amber Fort which is known for its artistic Hindu style elements. Post visiting Amber Fort return to train for lunch. Rest of the day is free at leisure. Evening enjoy dinner on-board as train leaves for Ranthambore.

    Overnight on-board Maharajas Express (B, L, D

  13. Day 13 Maharaja Express – Ranthambore & Fatehpur Sikri

    Ranthambore

    Early morning train arrives at Sawai Madhopur and you would then proceed for an exciting game drive at Ranthambore National Park. After an on board breakfast the Maharajas' express departs for the ancient Mughal capital, Fatehpur Sikri.

    Post on-board lunch, as train arrives in Fatehpur Sikri, proceed to explore the deserted city, Fatehpur Sikri where once the Mughal emperor, Akbar ruled.

    Return back to the comfort of Maharaja Express and enjoy dinner on-board.

    Overnight on-board Maharajas Express (B, L, D)

  14. Day 14 Maharaja Express - Agra

    Agra

    This morning train arrives at Agra and you would then proceed for a visit to Taj Mahal. Later, proceed for a Champagne Breakfast at Taj Khema.

    Post on-board lunch, you will have an opportunity En-route to witness Pietra Dura Marble Inlay Work.

    Return back to the comfort of Maharaja Express and enjoy dinner on-board.

    Overnight on-board Maharajas Express (B, L, D)

  15. Day 15 Maharaja Express – Orchha & Khajuraho

    Khajuraho

    Early morning train reaches its next destination, Orchha. Post on-board breakfast visit Orchha. Enjoy your lunch on-board as train proceeds to Khajuraho. Arrive Khajuraho and proceed to visit the Western group of Khajuraho temples, the beginning of spiritual escapade in our Indian luxury odyssey.

    Later return back to train for on-board dinner and train leaves for Varanasi.

    Overnight on-board Maharajas Express (B, L, D)

  16. Day 16 Maharaja Express – Varanasi

    Varanasi

    Enjoy breakfast & lunch on-board as trains continues for Varanasi. Reach Varanasi and visit the Silk weaving centre and Sarnath. Followed by boat-ride on Ganges to witness the magnificent evening Aarti ceremony at Ganges. Post dinner at exclusive venue proceed to Maharaja Express.

    Overnight on-board Maharajas Express (B, L, D)

  17. Day 17 Deboard Maharajas Express in Delhi

    Delhi

    After Breakfast, we will deboard the train at the Safdarjung Railway station at Delhi and will transfer to the hotel.

    This afternoon, explore the Old Delhi. On the tour of “Old Delhi,” you will head out to explore this exotic locale with its narrow dirt roads, myriads of people and inexpensive and colourful bazaars that keep alive the traditional workmanship for which Delhi has always been famous. Drive past the Red Fort, and visit the Jama Masjid, one of the largest Muslim mosques in India.

    A bicycle rickshaw would take you into the heart of Chandni Chowk (the silver square - so named because of the silver merchants).

    Overnight at the Hotel (B)

  18. Day 18 Departure

    Delhi

    After breakfast, transfer to Delhi airport to connect with flight to onward destination.

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