- be a privileged guest at the ‘Spice House’
- explore Karnataka’s spice plantations
- discover enchanting Mysore and the Maharaja’s palace
- stay with a family amid the coffee plantations of north Kerala
- venture along Kerala’s lesser-known backwaters by houseboat
- enjoy – and learn about – delicious south Indian cuisine
As you travel south from the melting pot that is Mumbai, the pace of life noticeably slows under wide, blue skies. To the first-time visitor, the tangible exoticism of Karnataka’s spice plantations, the Nilgiri Hills and the Keralan backwaters is enthralling, from the vibrant greens of the dense vegetation to the aroma of spices growing on vines and from palm groves and coffee plantations to ostentatiously coloured birds. This is India slowed down, all the more magical thanks to the verdant terrain, which spills down from the mountainous Western Ghats towards the Arabian Sea, creating a landscape of undeniable beauty.
This mellow region will entrance you like nowhere else, and your stays among rural communities are complemented by time in the enchanting city of Mysore and the historic port of Kochi to create an enticing adventure on which the exotically flavoured cuisine – from spicy vegetable curries to delicately flavoured fish dishes – is a real highlight.
We'd cruise for a couple of hours, settling in at the front of the boat, picking up our books, but really not managing more than a few sentences before looking up and being sucked in by the landscape.
Richard Eilers, The Guardian, February 2012
Surrounded by vast forests, spice villages such as Hulgol, your first base, seem worlds apart from Mumbai and are rarely visited by outsiders. To venture into these peaceful hills, however, is to experience a sensory bombardment: aromas wafting on the warm air, mounds of spices of seemingly every colour of the rainbow, delicious vegetarian curries and the tropical soundtrack provided by birds in the forest.
The captivating city of Mysore offers a very different experience – and a fascinating regal heritage – before you enjoy the privilege of staying with a family in their home amid the coffee plantations of the Nilgiri Hills.
Journeying further south, you reach the Keralan backwaters, the very embodiment of the south’s laid-back atmosphere. Trees overhang the blue-green water of the intricate network of rivers, canals and lagoons which nourish countless rice paddies and coconut groves. You can watch life being played out before you during a leisurely cruise on a specially crafted houseboat: women washing clothes, fishermen diving for mussels, buffalo grazing, duck herders punting, and more.
You finish in Kochi, a city renowned for its tastebud-tingling cuisine and which makes a fitting finale to your southern Indian adventure.
> Learn how this holiday benefits the rural communities