By riceboat on the backwaters of Kerala
Spice trails, jungles and waterways of South India | 18 days
India has a split personality: worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the busy north, the south offers you the most serene of experiences. Life here is extremely relaxed amid a landscape of lush green palms and paddies which thrive on plentiful rain. No sojourn in India is complete without a visit to a tea garden and a national park. You visit both, roving north to Nagarhole National Park, which borders Kerala and once encompassed forest reserved for the Maharajah, and climb steep hair-pin bends to the old British capital at Ooty before embarking on a private rice boat journey in Kerala’s backwaters.
Day 1: Fly to Chennai (Madras)
Day 2: Chennai
Day 3: Tour the 7th century shore temples at Mahabalipuram
Day 4: Visit Kanchipuram, the golden city of a thousand temples
Day 5: Fly to Bangalore and drive to Mysore
Day 6: Visit Mysore, the city of sandalwood and incense
Day 7: Drive to Nagarhole National Park
Days 8-9: Game drives in the national park to look for elephant, tiger, jackal, langur, spotted deer, wild dog, sloth bear and leopard.
Day 10: Drive to Ooty, a typical old British hill station
Day 11: Tour Ooty and take a local train ride
Day 12: Full day drive to Cochin through rubber plantations
Day 13: Enjoy the smell of exotic spices in the old trading port of Cochin
Day 14: Join the Rice Boat
Day 15: Cruise the ‘Backwaters’ in your own private Keralan houseboat
Day 16: Drive to Kumarakom
Day 17: Fly to Mumbai
Day 18: Fly to London
guide price £3,695 per person
Fiona’s travel tipsBEST TIME TO GO: Most of India is at its best from October to March, except Ladakh which is a summer destination. Visit Sri Lanka from September to April and the Maldives from December to April.
DON’T MISS: Ladakh’s festival season in July and August when the colourful gompas are especially vibrant.
FESTIVAL FACT: Maha Kumbh Mela or the Great Festival of Urn, is the biggest religious ceremony in the world and takes place four times every 12 years.
FROM DELHI: The great British hill station of Shimla makes a superb extension from Delhi.
GETTING AROUND: I love to travel by Indian trains. It’s a great way to meet the locals and I’ve often been invited to share food or conversation with ordinary families sharing my compartment. Also you can’t beat simply looking out of the window for a snapshot of daily life in the rural villages.
FOR THE ACTIVE: India combines well with Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal for great trekking.
WHEN YOU ARRIVE: We have a great in-country team who will be there to meet you at each airport, hotel, border or train station, so the first-time visitor will never feel overwhelmed.
READ: William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns, City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre and Liberty or Death by Patrick French.
“Eye-opening, exciting, enlightening, challenging, wonderful! A real adventure for the two of us, with some unexpected extras thrown in, like meeting the King and Queen of Bhutan! Everything worked like clockwork. All the right people were there at the right time to meet us, move us on, or take us somewhere - a great relief in strange countries.”Mr and Mrs Richard Watson, Bhutan and India
Glen Lorentzen and Jane Ellis, Northern India
“The trip was superbly organised and the ground operators excellent. In particular the drivers were of the highest standard and made our trip all the more enjoyable.”
“A very big thank you for organising our wonderful trip to Sri Lanka. You took great pains to accommodate our many exacting requests and the result was a huge success. Everything worked seamlessly and we loved it.”Mr and Mrs John Milton and friends, Sri Lanka
Geoffrey Dart, Earthchild charity trip to India
“Everything went very well thank you. The Windflower at Coorg was very nice - lovely setting in a coffee plantation with lots of mature trees. On the return trip the driver allowed us a couple hours in Mysore so that Cath and Karen could visit the market and palace. They were very impressed by everything.”
Henk and Gay van Baaren, India
“Fiona helped us prepare the itinerary and organised the entire trip through Rajasthan. Her in depth knowledge of the country and the impeccable organisation at the other end helped ensure that we had great and memorable trip. Her selection of Palace Hotels and the guides and company representatives that met us at every destination, as well as our ever-present air-conditioned car with driver, made it not only very comfortable, but also enabled us to see all the sights we wanted to see and gave us complete freedom in whatever else we chose to do on any given day. This was definitely a 5 star experience!”
“Very well planned and organised trip – well looked after in Delhi and Leh, excellent drivers and guides, trekking was a big challenge and it went extremely well.”Katherine Sellon and party, Ladakh
“We did lots of family history things which made us feel we were not just tourists but were also tracing our routes. We seemed to be the only European tourists in many places and that made me feel we were well and truly off the main tourist beat.”Catherine Baines, India
“It was fabulous – a good mixture of comfort and adventure with lots of unexpected happenings which made it all the more exciting!”Kate Fraser and friends, India
“Very friendly, informative and enthusiastic service. Fiona’s reactivity to my requests for the trip on short notice and her feedback and suggestions about the itinerary were very much appreciated. All in all, it was enjoyable and my primary goal of seeing Indian wild tigers was achieved, however brief it was. I’m glad that India finally seems to get its act together in protecting its last few wild tigers, in particular in involving the local people in tourism. The naturalists/guides provided by the lodges were excellent and instrumental in promoting the protection of wild tigers.”Gilles Lafue, National Parks of India
“Thank you so much for the part you played in arranging our wonderful first visit to India. We had an absolutely fantastic time. Punctuality and reliability of your local staff were excellent and it was a treat to have the undivided attention of such well informed and knowledgeable people for whom nothing was too much trouble. Our driver was exemplary and we felt very safe and well cared for with him".
Roger and Fiona Hennah, India
“We had the most wonderful trip! Thank you so much for organising it so well – all the travel arrangements and transfers worked seamlessly. The guides were all excellent and one or two were really outstanding, with a good knowledge of English history too, which gave an extra perspective to the places we visited, particularly Delhi. I loved riding at dawn from Rohet Gargh, and by amazing co-incidence discovered that my god-daughter's beautiful Marwari horse was stabled there, so I was able to send her photos!”.
David and Diana Fisher, Northern India
“Wow, quite a day — we thought we’d seen everything but then we met Raj, another fantastic local guide. He found places we didn't even know existed. The newly qualifying World Heritage Site, the Observatory in Jaipur was nothing short of incredible… All the local representatives we met were helpful, informed, very punctual and a real pleasure to be with. The tour was very well arranged and the choice of hotels was exemplary. What a wonderful holiday, thank you so much. We will be returning to Far Frontiers Travel at the first opportunity and recommending you to our friends and family”.
Charles and Elizabeth Godfrey, Rajasthan
“We left from Delhi today which was very sad. The trip you planned for us was faultless and we were so grateful for all your help. Having all our trains booked was amazing and we would both like to say a huge thank you! We are both in love with India and I’m sure we will be asking you to plan another trip in the near future”.
Ginny Neill and Molly Williams, India
“It is a testament to Far Frontiers Travel that as soon as we got home, we went to look for your brochure to see where else we could go with you!”
Gaskell and Jennifer Jacobs, India