Best of Kerala Tour: Elephanta Island, Cochin, Alleppey, Periyar & Kovalam

A 12 day trip to India 
5 out of 5 stars
2 reviews

Experience the best of Kerala on this custom 12-day tour of India, as you visit temples that have been carved into island caves and traverse lush jungles where exotic tigers roam. Relax on the beaches along the turquoise water of the Arabian Sea then cruise through charming canals that lead to untouched villages. A rolling greenery of tea plantations surrounds you as you explore Cochin's rich history, filled with grand palaces and jewels. Travel through the endless wonders of the south where there is always more majesty to discover on this personalized tour. 

Customize This Trip For Me
Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Small boats float along the waters of Mumbai.
Fishing nets at the black waters of Kerala.
Rocky beach at Kovalam.
Vibrantly colored spices in a traditional street market.
Closeup of a bengal tiger in India.
Large houseboat glides along the river.
Elephanta island caves.
University of Mumbai, India.
Railway station in Mumbai.
Traditional statues of gods and goddesses in a hindu temple.
Houseboat in Kochin, India.
Beautiful tea plantation in Munnar.
Sinking temple in Varanasi.
Munnar tea plantation.
Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai.
Tea plantation Munnar, Kerala.
The sun begins to set over fishing nets in Cochin.
Elephant bathing in the waters of Kerala.
Traditional spices in a market.
Tiger in a golden field.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Mumbai, Cochin, Munnar, Kovalam, Kumarakom, Periyar

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Mumbai - Highlighting the Start

The image of flamboyant Bollywood dance scenes have been playing in your head over and over again, filled with effervescent clothing and opulent jewelry dangling and jingling as the lead actress twirls her wrists during the fast moving, foot tapping main number. You arrive in Mumbai to a city where the modern world is at odds with the unique, where skyscrapers look over hidden cities that are almost separate from the rest of the streets. The ambiance of the city is tangible, sitting in the air with its constant energy, filled with a grandiose mixture of lavish western dress and traditional graceful saris. 

You are met at the airport by a private transfer and whisked to the luxurious comforts of your hotel. The Gateway of India rises over the wide streets of the city, constructed to commemorate the visit of King George V in 1924 and the first thing anyone sees when drifting along the water, welcoming visitors and locals to the shores of the city.  The monument mixes both Islamic and Hindu artistry, offering a Moorish arch and concentric minarets, and looking like the gateway to a place that has invited you in for a while. 

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation 

Day 2: Cochin - Measuring the Sea

The delicate scent of breakfast rouses you from bed and brings you down into the city ready for the journey. After a sweet and spiced chai you will have a private transfer to the airport where you will soon find yourself in Cochin, also known as Kochi, an energetic city sitting on the Arabian Sea. In the 14th century the city was the center of the spice trade and was eventually occupied by the Portuguese in the early 16th century which had a tremendous influence on the city which remains one of the most eclectic in India. The waterfront promenade of Marine Drive has a distinct European feel in the warm mid-morning. The water rushes against the seawall adding a splash of mist to the air now and again. 

Within the old Jewish Quarter is the remarkable Pardesi Synagogue. Constructed in the 16th century, the interior is a masterpiece of design, from the ornate gold pulpit to the elaborate hand-painted willow pattern on the floor tiles. The gas lamps add to the spectrum of the cities colors which seem to be apparent all over the city, whether in the lighting fixtures of the synagogue or draped over the benches on the promenade, and even in the endless bags of color at the Spice Market. In the evening you will enjoy a Kathakali dance show, where classical Indian drama comes to life through movement and costumes that tell stories of culture, tradition, and more. 

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, show, accommodation

Day 3: Munnar - A Simple Taste of Tea

With the sounds of last night’s dance swimming through your head you wake up from your pleasant dreams and, after breakfast, depart for Munnar. The region houses the largest collection of tea plantations in all of South India giving unsurpassed greenery to the rolling hills that are sculpted and outlined making the countryside look more like an expansive royal garden. After you settle into your accommodation the afternoon is at your leisure. The scent of the mountains is filled with a lush aroma that sits within the meandering mist, reaching mountains, and tiered landscape. Birds call in the distant trees and a rushing waterfall spills over the sloping countryside beneath the sweeping greenery. The quiet reaches of nature create a contrast to the vibrant life of the city.     

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 4: Munnar - The Unforgotten Green

The savory and slightly bitter flavor of the morning tea is a tremendous taste of the coming day, where the highlights of the plantations are yours to experience. After breakfast you will venture to various tea plantations. Venture to the top hills of the landscape; within the fields that are overrun with tea, the cool air is a welcome drape. The view of the valley below is like a series of crescents, weaving in and out of the sloping hillside. Wind through the fields with the local workers as they pick each leaf. The scent of cardamom is alluring, while each step takes you deeper into the lavish and aromatic fields. The manicured plantations are vivacious if and bring the elegance of every sense to light. 

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation 

Day 5: Periyar - From Wild Tea to Wildlife

The outstretching hills of Munnar soon give way to the openness of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary on the banks of the Periyar Lake. The rocky outrides of the Western Ghats Mountain Range are overrun with an emerald canopy and verdant grasslands. After you settle into your accommodation you will have the cool air of the mountainous plains and lavish forest at your back. The movement of the Periyar River winds around the reddish banks.  The remarkable world of India’s wilds comes back to you, or you come back to the marvelous world of India’s wildlife as you notice the deep blue fur and red patches of the grizzled squirrel, whose coloration looks as graceful as a bird’s plumage. Within the town of Kumily the aromatic trees change to the perfumed scent of spices and chocolate drifting from the local shops, as you ready yourself for another deep exploration of the Sanctuary.   

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, transfer, accommodation 

Day 6: Periyar - The Private Lives of Wildlife

Nature is at its most poignant in the morning, just as the sunlight comes over the ridge. You venture out on a guided tour of the sanctuary in search of the lives that will captivate you with their various natural states. The trees are overrun with the calls of lion-tailed macaques, there grunting hoots emanating from behind their mane-like hair. In the cold air of early morning you can see elephants traipsing through the savannah, lingering on the shores of the lake, spraying themselves with water and enjoying the welcoming atmosphere. Each step they take is somehow graceful and calculated as they sway from one side to another; their calm and collected demeanor is hypnotic. In the afternoon you will venture through the forest with a guided escort or visit the spice plantations that are well known for their rich scents and flavorful enhancements. But for now you can watch the elephants stroll along the lakeside without a care in the world.       

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, transfer, accommodation 

Day 7: Kovalam - Along the Fisherman’s Way

The daybreak is bright, shining the vibrant sun along the greenery at Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. The sweet scent of guava brushes through the air and, after breakfast, you leave Periyar behind and come to the crescent beaches of Kovalam. Oftentimes you can see surfers resting on the water waiting for a break and yoga enthusiast practicing their contortions along the sand. The candy-striped lighthouse brings circular light to the sand and horizon where a spiral staircase leads the way to beautiful panoramas. The salty and sweet sea drifts along the sand and brings a restful evening over the city. 

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, accommodation 

Day 8: Kovalam - A Café Culture 

The waves break over the beach in a lovely white froth and the palm trees brush the sky near the lighthouse. The warm morning air adds to the refreshment of the water. Whether at lighthouse beach or Samudra Beach, where the sand is a powdery soft and the water glows emerald, you relax in Kovalam and let the sounds of the shore soothe you. For a taste of the city, which has come to combine global cultures with local tradition, you can find Waves, a German bakery set on a sun-crisp balcony where the scent of freshly baked, flakey pastries mixes with rich coffee and the ever-present scent of the sea. 

What’s Included: breakfast, accommodation 

Day 9: Kumarakom - Venice of the East

Outside of Kovalam are the sleepy backwaters that drift and meander, lazily making their way along the romantic shores of hidden villages and swaying coconut trees. The scent is a bright, creamy, tropical flavor that calls for relaxation as you climb aboard a boat to explore. Over 1000 houseboats decorate the waterways, creating a comfortable way to traverse the network of canals. The lushness of rice paddies float past off the shore, while canoes and markets crowd certain areas, bringing the shore to you, from tea to fruit, with all the colors of nature on display. The delicate aromas of seafood and spices bring you back to the coastline ready for the night as the moon sparkles over the sea. 

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 10: Kumarakom - The Richness of Farming

The sleepy waterway never fully comes to life beyond its stunning luster with drifting leaves and sensual aromas; however, houseboats and canoes glide past sporadically as you board a boat and make your way to Philipkutty’s Farm. The family-owned farm offers a slice of organic paradise in Kerala’s countryside. Built in the early 1950s, the farm reaches the fringe of Vechoor village and maintains a dyke to keep the lake water from rushing over the land that is around six feet below water level. 

The uniqueness of the plantings is due to the same canals that add the active infrastructure to the region, where each crop is planted along the edges of the water; from nutmeg to cocoa, banana to coconut. There is peace and elegance at the farm, different than that of the cities and the beachside. When you return to the coast, the remainder of the day is at your leisure to do as much or as little as you desire or, if you wish, you could stay a little while longer on the farm, seduced by the scent of a Middle Eastern and Keralan combination of spices. 

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation 

Day 11: Mumbai - Returning Highlights 

The morning whisks you upwards against the coastline, returning you to the eclectic city of Cochin, where you have the morning at leisure to wander through the remarkable history of the cityscape or to once again stroll along the promenade. The Chinese fishing nets continue to serve as an official icon of the city, remarking on the relationship between the old Kochi Kingdom and the Chinese Empires dating back to the 14th century. The netting is fixed on land, around 60 feet across and more than 10 feet high. The balanced weight helps people walk along the main beam, which causes the net to dip into the water. The scent of freshly grilled seafood fills the air from the local street vendor who immediately cooks the fish after it is caught by the fishermen, creating a delicious symbiosis. In the afternoon you will return to Mumbai and enjoy the luxuries of the city. 

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, accommodation 

Day 12: Mumbai - Illustrious Caves

There is always more wonder to see in India. Today you are taken from the bustling streets of Mumbai and into the captivating majesty of Elephanta Island. The remarkable landscape is covered by thickly wooded palms and mango trees, making the surroundings delightfully aromatic. Within the caves are temples that date back to the 10th century, hidden within the cover of bedrock. You can see the pillars to the entrance from a distance, the overhang of the island almost dipping past. Once inside, the statues burst forth from the rocks including that of Shiva, paying homage to the gods while also telling of legends carved within the artistic heart of the island. As the day moves forward you will return to Mumbai and have a private transfer to the airport ready to take you home. 

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, transfer

Browse the India travel agent reviews for additional ideas on how to customize your trip.


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.