A luxury culinary extravaganza in the most culturally diverse part of India
This 11 day program is prepared with a primary focus on culinary experiences to dispel the notion that this gastronomically colourful and diverse nation can only offer rich and spicy food.
N.B. This itinerary is a guide only. You can add time and places to this and upgrade, reduce, or change travel and accommodation with us to make this a truly personal journey. Just click ‘enquire’, submit your own personal itinerary request at the end, or simply phone us.
To many in India the best dishes are quite often the simplest. The intention of our tour is to show that real down-to-earth Indian cuisine is not only delicious but quite approachable as well. The tours combine eating wonderful Indian food and visiting some of the best parts of this region.
An Executive Chef from one of India’s leading hotel groups will travel with the tour along with an English Speaking Tour Escort. The tour offers culinary demo’s at each destination as well as gastronomical experiences at local restaurants during your journeys; in addition to meals at the hotels.
We sit down at restaurants and take our time to enjoy the food and each other’s company. We hope that you join us so that we can show you, what makes this country and this region so special.
DAY 1 : Arrival Cochin
Arrive Cochin and Check-in at the Brunton Boatyard, Fort Cochin.
This is a beautifully stylish hotel that reflects the Dutch colonial heritage of Fort Kochi and has been completely redeveloped and refurbished to meet modern day standards whilst retaining the patina of age. We found it a delight to walk away from the buzz of Cochin into the tranquility of Brunton Boatyard.
A special brunch has been laid out for you. Kerala means “Land of Coconuts“. So don’t be surprised if you find coconut in various forms in almost all dishes.
The Welcome Brunch will generally consist of a spread of South Indian and Keralan specialties.
Dosas served with Coconut Chutney and Sambhar is best when prepared fresh in front of you as well as Appam (Lace & String Hoppers) served with lamb or Veg Stew, Steamed Banana with Puttu (Rice flour steamed in Coconut Shells or bamboo) delicious with golden syrup from the coconut palms, tropical fruits and of course South Indian coffee to wash it all down.
Now is time to relax by the pool side and recover from your flight.
Later, you’ll start your exploration of the fascinating port city of Cochin and marvel in its culture and architecture, a result of centuries of various European, Chinese and Arab influences combined with rich indigenous history. The guided tour begins from the Jewish Synagogue which was built in 1568 (Closed on Saturdays) and is still an active house of worship for the few remaining Jews in the area. Adjacent to the Synagogue is Cochin’s ancient and colourful Jew Street with its antique stores and souvenir shops and innumerable spice shops. Stop by at the Church of St. Francis established by the Portuguese Franciscan Friars in 1503. This is the first European Church built in India. Vasco Da Gama the Portuguese sailor who discovered the sea route to India was buried in this church whose mortal remains was shifted to Portugal a few years later.
Enjoy dinner at the local restaurant where you will be served a selection of fresh local seafood. Enormous nets (or their design) were brought here by the Chinese explorer Zhang He almost six centuries ago. These nets are still in use. Walk back to the Brunton Boatyard for a well-earned good night’s sleep.
DAY – 02: Cochin
After breakfast of ‘Poori Baji’ puffed bread with vegetable curry, Aloo Paratha with chutney and Yogurt and Egg Roast you are ready for another day of walking in Fort Cochin.
Visit the Dutch Palace also known as the Mattancherry Palace; built by the Dutch for the Cochin Kings.
David Hall is another must see – owned by the Dutch P & O was one of the oldest surviving buildings. It is now a Café Gallery. Move on to the old Moslem quarter, it’s almost stepping back in time and an amazing spectacle.
Lunch is at one of the Cochin’s oldest eat-out. ‘Kai-Ikka’, still a very popular Moslem eatery. Just stick to the Biriyani (a Rice & Meat preparation). No Alcohol served here.
Return to the Brunton Boatyard, relax by the pool side before embarking on your sunset cruise followed by a Kathakali culture and dance performance at the local theatre.
Dinner at Brunton Boatyard will be gala event with choice of Indian Wine and selection from the ‘History Menu’. It’s a collection of old recipes from Fort Kochi homes. Every item on offer is a classic.
DAY 3: Cochin Backwaters
DISTANCE: 60 KM DRIVING TIME: 01 HRS 20 MINS
After breakfast, check out and proceed to Puthenangadi, it’s a little hamlet on the banks of the Lake Vembanad. Enjoy a freshly plucked Tender Coconut before boarding the ‘Kettuvallam’. They are the old rice barges now converted into live on boats. They come in One and Two bedrooms with attached loo. It has a galley and three crew.
The Cruise is a once in a life time experience as you gently glide along the amazing lakes; also called the back-waters. Rice paddies, narrow canals, villages, schools, church and temples – you pass them all in this water world. Be prepared for two amazing meals prepared freshly for you on board. Don’t be surprised if the emphasis is on sea food. Freshly caught Scampi grilled in curry sauce, Karimeen a variety of fish peculiar to the backwaters, Backwater Duck roast, tapioca and big red rice.
There’s plenty of chilled beer and wine on board. Drop anchor for the night.
DAY 4: Backwaters/Kumarakom
Wake up on board the Kettuvallam and enjoy a sumptuous Indian breakfast before arriving at Coconut Lagoon.
Disembark at the lagoon and check-in at this amazing Coconut Lagoon History Hotel.
Old Keralan homes from all over have been dismantled and re-built here creating a celebration of Keralan architecture. Check out the Ayurveda centre and enjoy a full body massage, take a stroll along the rice paddy or enjoy a village walk.
A very special curry lunch has been prepared for you. An amazing feast served on a Banana Leaf, leaves you spell bound. Try using just your fingers to eat in the traditional Indian way.
Late afternoon try your hand on the little canoe and explore up-river. The sunset cruise on the Kettuvallam is also an amazing experience unless you prefer something else to tempt you away from the water.
A cooking demo by the Coconut Lagoon kitchen team with hands-on experience followed by Dinner with the chefs.
DAY 5: Kumarakom/Periyar
DISTANCE: 124 KM DRIVING TIME: 03 HRS 30 MINS
After breakfast take a short boat transfer to the car park and drive to Periyar. Stop by at Planters residence and your host will gladly show you around his plantation, which mainly grows rubber, coco and nutmeg. This is followed by a traditional lunch at the bungalow, along with the family. It’s non hotel authentic Keralan food at its best.
The landscape begins to change as you journey over the flat lands and rice fields, changing to hills and rubber plantations, then tea, cardamom and coffee plantations. You finally arrive at Spice Village, adjacent to the Periyar National Park and Tiger reserve, located at an altitude of 1500 mtrs above sea level. The weather here is cool. You may even need light woolens for the late evening and early mornings.
The Spice Village is built as a tribal village thatched with elephant grass, spread out within a spice garden and is a perfect example of living in harmony with nature.
Watch a cultural show followed by dinner at the 50 Mile restaurant – unique experiment by the Chef at Spice. They source the entire product range used in this kitchen from within a radius of 50 miles. You’ll be surprised with the selection.
DAY 6: Periyar
Today before breakfast, just after a cup of tea, or coffee and some toast, we proceed on a morning walk in the jungle. Accompanied by a naturalist from the hotel and a guide from the local tribal community it’s time to explore the secrets of the forest. Listen to the songs of numerous birds, the calling of deer and monkey as they inform the other inhabitants of the jungle about our presence. The guides will show and explain you the ways of nature and if lucky, you might spot the mightiest owner of the forest, the elephant, or the biggest member of the cattle family, the Gaur.
After the return to the hotel, we indulge in a tasty brunch, prepared with spices and herbs from the same mountains that we’ve just visited.
After a rest, we’ll visit one of the spice farms, listen to the history of spices and the riches it brought to the Land of Spices.
Later in afternoon, go for a walk in Kumily town; browse quaint shops selling fresh spices grown in the neighborhood. Kumily is also an important trading centre as it is on the border of Tamilnadu.
you’ll be given an introduction to spices by the Spice Village chefs; an interactive session followed by Dinner.
Dinner is followed by a visit to the Woodhouse Bar, one of Kerala’s best kept secrets.
DAY 7: Periyar/Chettinad
DISTANCE: 225 KM DRIVING TIME: 06 HRS
After the breakfast, drive to Madurai. Madurai is famous for its colourful Menakshi Temple. No other temple in India is decorated so richly like the four incredible entrance towers to the temple. Visit the different halls and areas, all with their own fascinating story.
Time to explore the temple, to see various ceremonies and the prayer halls with their beautiful stone ornaments and statues of gods and goddesses.
After the visit, we lunch in a typical Tamilnadu restaurant in Madurai.
Continue to Visalam and book into the Chettinad Visalam Hotel
It’s been a long day, enjoy the pool before dinner. A classical music concert has been arranged for you.
DAY 8: Chettinad
Chettinad cuisine is one of the spiciest and the most aromatic in India. A variety of spices are used to prepare the dishes. The most important spices are marathi mokku (dried flower pods), anasipoo (star aniseed) and kalpasi (a lichen known as the “black stone flower”, also known as dagad phool). In addition, tamarind, whole red chillies and saunf (fennel seed) are also used along with cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, peppercorn, cumin seeds and fenugreek.
After breakfast, visit the weekly Market, called Vaara Sabdhai. Visiting these markets is simply a delightful experience. The weekly markets are unspoiled and a great treat. Vegetable and fruit vendors display their wares under colourful canopies, bantering with customers and tourists alike. There is also a fish market and a section for household and farm utensils. The market is set up on a temporary basis to be moved to the next place for the next day. Accompanied by our chef you will learn about the local products and their use in the kitchen.
Of course you will have to visit one of the local tea stalls and savour the locally made tea, called “chai”.
After returning to the hotel, you have the option of enjoying the pool, or partaking in the kitchen whilst they prepare lunch. In Visalam it’s tradition that lunch is served in the kitchen.
This afternoon you’ll visit the Chettinad Handlooms Their styles are unique in the dramatic and spontaneous use of colours and patterns with bold checks, stripes and contrasting hues. Its an experience to visit one of the local units and observe the weavers exhibiting their skills on these old style looms, which require special experience and skills. There’s the possibility of carrying one of these skillful works of art back home.
Chettinad is rich in cultural heritage, art and architecture. It is well known for its houses, embellished with imported marble and Burmese teak. These 18th century mansions have wide courtyards, spacious rooms and rich wood carvings. The walls were made with a paste made out of plaster and egg whites and then polished to give a smooth texture and a glossy shine. Some of the mansions possess several courtyards and cover the ground between two streets.
Athangudi tiles are named after the village of manufacture in Chettinadu and come in myriad colors and patterns. The designs and colours used in Athangudi Tiles are traditionally those of a bygone era. However, of late new designs and patterns are being incorporated. The tiles are hand-made in a slow process. Its a enriching experience to visit the local tile makers while in the area.
Special Chettinad wedding feast with 21 dishes.
DAY – 09: Chettinad/Pondicherry
DISTANCE: 280 KMS DRIVING TIME: 06 HRS
Today’s drive will take us to the east coast; to the city of Pondicherry.
After leaving Visalam we visit Thanjavur, an important place to see. Most of the great and still active Chola Temples are located in and around this area. The foremost and most impressive among the great temples, the Brihadeshwara temple, is located in the centre of the city. This temple is considered to be a storehouse of art and architecture. The temple has some exquisite stone carvings.
En-route, stop for a typical South Indian vegetarian lunch.
The great Chidambaram temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in his form of the cosmic Dancer. It is said to be the birthplace of Shiva as the dancer (Nataraja) and therefore one of the most important temples in India. The place where the temple is located is the centre point of world’s magnetic equator and thus considered to be the centre of the world. The Shiva temple in Chidambaram is also one of the very few shrines in South India, where foreigners are allowed inside without any restrictions. It is a great experience to witness one of the many rituals held daily in the temple.
After check in at the Pondicherry Palais de Mahe Hotel
You’ve now time to relax. Later we’ll walk down to one of the popular local restaurants for Dinner.
The city has a long and interesting history of trade and war. There is a strong French influence in the city, with Rues and Boulevards lined with Mediterranean style houses and bakeries. Bright plaster houses, neat narrow lanes and blue-enamelled street signs mark the French Quarter. The Tamil Quarter of Pondicherry is a place where cultures not only meet, but melt. Rich markets and busy lanes give birth to a way of life found nowhere else in India.
DAY 10: Pondicherry
Pondicherry is a wonderful town to be explored by foot or on cycle. Take a cycle at the hotel and explore the city. Visit the Aurobindo Ashram, the French and Christian, Hindu and Muslim quarters, the incredible colourful main market, the beach promenade and the Ganesha Temple. Drop in at the Aurobindo paper factory, and the Auroville Store, full with oils, incense sticks, fashionable cloths and more. Have a cup of coffee at the Kafe Express, or some French food at La Maison Rose, a treat that reminds you of old Europe.
The visit to Auroville provides guests with a insight into the project of the Sri Aurobindo Society. The experimental ‘universal township’ was established to contribute to the progress of humanity by bringing together people of goodwill and aspirations for a better world. As a vision, Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, politics and nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity and harmony across cultures.
We’ll lunch at a small guest house in the Tamil Quarter (Maison Perumal)
Gala farewell dinner at Palais de Mahe.
DAY – 11: Pondicherry/Chennai Airport/Departure
DISTANCE: 150 KM DRIVING TIME: 03 HRS
After Breakfast, you will be provided with your transfer to the Chennai Airport to connect with your onward journey.
Based on two people sharing accommodation; exc. Flights
The above itinerary is a guide only and can be adjusted to meet your exact requirements (phone us on 01202 030443, click ‘enquire’, or submit your own personal itinerary request at the end)
Some of the Small Print:
Included in the program:
Full board in all hotels and on the house boat.
Chef on the entire journey from Cochin to Pondicherry.
Cooking classes and lectures from seasoned Chefs (One exclusive session on each of 10 days with CGH)
Alcoholic drinks( wine & beer only) during meals.
Arrival and departure transfers at Kochi and Chennai airport
All transfers between places for sightseeing as shown.
Entrance fees at monuments and national park
Indian attire for dinner in Chettinad.
Full time English speaking Tour Escort.
All non-alcoholic drinks
Price as per current conversion rate of pound sterling (£) If variance is more than 3% (plus or minus) at the time of invoicing, we will make adjustments accordingly.
The price is subject to revision if any additional taxes or price increases are introduced by government or suppliers.
Cost is provisional and subject to change depending on the season and hotels confirmed. The exact cost will be confirmed after hotel reservation confirmation.
Hotels proposed in the itinerary/quote may not be available at time of booking, in this event suitable alternative accommodation will be offered.
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