Treasure of India with Backwater Cruise (North to South)

Introduction

Soak in the heavenly bliss amid the charming network of waters as Far Horizon takes you on a special journey through the Kerala Backwaters, a one of its kind experience combined with the luxury on wheels. The experiences of the majesty of Taj, Agra and the wildlife richness of Ranthambore along with the royal city of Jaipur add onto the cultural and heritage aspects of your sojourn. 

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 / R.V.Vaikundham

    Kochi

    This morning from your hotel drive to the nearby village Nettoor to a Kalari centre – the authentic training centre of Kalaripayattu, the traditional martial art of Kerala said to have been the origin of all martial arts including Karate. Drive to the nearby village Marad and embark on our boat by noon. The team on-board welcomes you in the boat and help’s you with smooth check-in. Gather at the lounge for a safety briefing about the boat and about the cruise. We set sail, gently cruising by the islands interspersed along rivers, lake, coastal estuaries and lagoons, leaving the skyscraper lined horizon of the city of Cochin behind. Enjoy a traditional Kerala lunch and relax on-board.

    Our expert will talk about Cochin, the Queen of the Arabian Sea, and its geographical, cultural and social significance.

    By evening we arrive in the ancient village, Vaikom. By tuk-tuk or by foot we proceed to the ancient temple of Shiva. 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, 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. Return to boat. After dinner, we retire for the night.

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

  4. Day 4 Vaikom-Chenganda-Kumarakom

    Kumarakom

    After breakfast on the boat,by tuk-tuk or by foot 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.

    Commence the cruise 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 the boat for lunch.

    Cruise through Thanneermukkom barrage. 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 5 rivers flowing from the hills. We talk about indigenous practices of paddy cultivation in Kuttanad. 

    Cruise through the expanses of lake Vembanad experiencing its wetland ecosystem. We visit a farm house by evening.This house is located on an island which was made by the men of the house, by reclaiming land from the 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 dinner at this house. Return to the boat and retire for the night.Vaikom-Chenganda-Kumarakom.

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

  5. Day 5 Kumarakom - Kavalam

    Kavalam

    Having an early and light breakfast, we set out by country boat to watch the migratory and endemic birds of the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, which is a cluster of lagoons of lake Vembanad, with 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 the boat, refresh and while cruising a more elaborate breakfast will be served.

    While cruising the lake we get a glimpse of the rich wetland ecosystem of Lake Vembanad. Lunch will be served while cruising. 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.. Return to the boat and cruise till dusk, further interior to Veliyanad village. After dinner retire for the night.

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

  6. Day 6 Kavalam-Kainakari-Pulinkunnu

    Kavalam

    After breakfast cruise to Kainakari. We visit Chavara Bhavan, the ancestral home of the Catholic 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.

    Return to boat. After having lunch on-board, cruise to Pulinkunnu village. Get closer to the laid-back, yet harmonious, life along the way, paddling along narrow canal by country boat, interacting with the villagers. Return to the boat for dinner and overnight.

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

  7. Day 7 Pulinkunnu-Nedumudy-Champakkulam-Changankari

    Alappuzha

    After breakfast, cruise to Nedumudi. On arrival at Nedumudi we drive through the quaint and scenic villages for a little over one hour to Mannar, which is famous for bell metal and brassware crafts. We interact with the artisans and watch the indigenous method of casting of traditional lamps, utensils and ornate locks. Return, refresh and have lunch and relax on-board.

    We cruise 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 the old church, a school, the local artisans (open on weekdays) who skillfully and passionately craft biblical heroes. Take a look at the narrow and long Snake boat (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. Over one hundred oarsmen power these boats in races where they sail at speed generated to the beats of drums at the aft.

    Cruise to Changankary village till dusk, passing through the serene canals. You may relax on board or take a walk. After dinner retire for the night.

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

  8. Day 8 Excursion from Changankari

    Alappuzha

    After having early breakfast, we drive to the prosperous and picturesque midland to Konni village (You may have to wait near a railway crossing if the train is delayed), at the backdrop of the forest. Spend time with elephants at a shelter camp. Elephants are integral part of Kerala culture. It is the State animal and is featured on the State’s emblem. Pageant of gold caparisoned elephants accompanied with percussions is the highlight of all temple festivals in Kerala.

    Proceed to Aranmula village which is home to a family of craftsmen who are skilled at making mirror out of a special combination of 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 their work.

    The ancient temple of Krishna, snake boat building, the mural art, the school of traditional architecture are the other highlights of this old village of heritage value.

    Lunch will be arranged at a local house of beautiful architecture, located on the bank of Pampa, the holy river for the locals. The host will talk about the art of snake boat building and the ritualistic annual regatta in Aranmula.

    Arrive in Thottappalli village by evening. After refreshment, cruise through the picturesque and serene interiors. We take a leisurely walk to the beach. Return to boat. After dinner retire for the night.

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

  9. Day 9 Thottappalli-Karumadi-Kanjippadom

    Alappuzha

    Today we will have early breakfast and take a short drive to visit an ancient sacred grove near Harripad where serpents are worshipped. This is the only temple in Kerala having female priests. You can take walk inside and see the rituals going on. Return to Thottappalli.

    Honoring your cruise with us, we plant a coconut sapling for the village. Coconut tree is considered as the ‘Kalpavriksha ‘or 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 local alcoholic beverage that boost for the laborers after toiling in the fields.

    After a leisurely sail we arrive in a quaint village – Karumadi village.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.Along the way we interact with toddy tappers, who collect the sap of the stem of blossoming coconut flower and make the alcoholic beverage–Toddy. We learn from him the process of making toddy and may take a sip from his pot!

    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. Tonight we celebrate our sojourn over farewell dinner on board RV Vaikundam.

    Overnight on board RV Vaikundam (B)

  10. Day 10 Kanjippadom-Punnamada / Disembark at Alleppey / Deboard & flight to Delhi

    Delhi

    After breakfast we cruise to Punnamada Lake. This lake is the venue of the annual spectacular race of Snake boats of different villages of Alleppey and its neighboring places on 2nd Saturday of the month of August. We disembark by 9.30 AM. After taking a walk through the market place of Alleppey, transfer to the 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 - Agra

    Agra

    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 Brunch while the train leaves for its first destination, Agra.

    Reach Agra and proceed to Taj Mahal. Later, proceed for a Hi Tea with Champagne at Taj Khema.

    Return to the comfort of Maharajas Express, En-route you witness Pietra Dura Marble Inlay Work or You can choose optional activities such a spa at five star hotel or Mohabbat The Taj Show (On direct payment). 

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

  12. Day 12 Maharaja Express - Ranthambore

    Ranthambore

    Wake-up to a delicious on-board breakfast. Later, proceed to visit the Agra Fort or you may choose for optional activity to visit Itmad Ud Duala.

    Return on board Maharajas Express as it leaves for Ranthambore. On Arrival, you would then proceed for an exciting game drive at Ranthambore National Park.

    Return to the comfort of Maharajas Express. Enjoy an Indian Evening followed by dinner as The Maharajas' Express leaves for Jaipur.

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

  13. Day 13 Maharaja Express – Jaipur

    Jaipur

    After an on board breakfast, proceed to visit the Amber Fort or you may also choose the optional activities such as spa facilities at a Palace hotel or private shopping tour or Golfing at Rambagh Golf Club or visit to City Palace & Jantar Mantar.

    Return to the comfort of Maharajas' Express while returning from Amber Fort you have an opportunity to visit a local centre for polishing and cutting of precious and semi-precious stones.

    Lunch will be served on board.

    Later, procced for an exclusive venue where you can indulge with the Elephants –paint them, feed them or may take a joy ride followed by Cocktail Dinner at City Palace.

    Return to the comfort of Maharajas' Express. The Maharajas' Express leaves for Delhi.

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

  14. Day 14 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)

  15. Day 15 Departure

    Delhi

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

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