Cultural Journey Through Southern India

Chilly, Spice and Culinary in India

Incredible India

India – a land of contrasts.  North, South, East, West. Technicolor. Spices.  Tea. Coffee. Natural remedies. Culturally Diverse.  Multiple dialects. Mountainous.              Crazy traffic. Old traditions. New ideas.  Urban. Natural beauty. More than anything, India is a country where the heart is king. So follow your heart and join us!

Pick your path! Start with the Golden Triangle India tour – from the markets in Old Delhi to the breathtaking architecture in Agra and finally to the Pink City of Jaipur and back. 

Watch a Kathakali performance at Fort Kochi, walk along the tea fields of the Western Ghats as your click pictures on the way and ride an Elephant together through the plantation at Thekaddy! Get a taste of the authentic momos at Darjeeling; explore the coral reefs and active volcano at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and check out the botanical garden in Ooty. 

South India is the freshness that balances the tropical subcontinent. The backwaters of Alleppey offer the most serene houseboat-journey through the sleepy villages, green paddy fields, and colorful floating canoes. The South celebrates its untouched nature while welcoming modernization. Wander through the spice plantations in Kerala to learn the history behind India’s most aromatic pepper and cinnamon, and delight in the South Indian kaapi (filter coffee). Visit the rainbow-colored Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, and experience the ceremony of Shiva. Meet the traditional handloom weavers and walk through tribal villages. From rich experiences through historic landmarks to an ordinary day of watching the sunset over hills on a breezy day, South India is an essential highlight of tourism in India.

North India is what brings all the technicolor glory and fried-food goodness that the country is known for. Dense with a fascinating history, this region will have you realize your newfound zest for life. Floating across Dal Lake in a houseboat, strolling along with strawberry fields in Kashmir, listen to the sounds at the street-shops in Chandni Chawk. Find yourself mesmerized during the Ganga Aarti at the riverside in Varanasi. From surreal landscapes to scrumptious and diverse cuisines – North India has it all!

The opportunities are endless – join us as we travel, eat and connect throughout Incredible India!

 

South India is simply stunning, with its spice ports, colonial towns, and magnificent temples nestled in a lush tropical landscape. Escape from the mad rush of the cities, and enjoy an in-depth exploration of South India’s many wonders during this 15-day journey of discovery. Start in Kochi (formerly Cochin), with its stunning location along the Arabian Sea, head to Wayanad, the green paradise, nestled among the mountains of the Western Ghats, clean and pristine, enchanting and hypnotizing, this land is filled with history and culture. Continue to Ooty, the perfect getaway for nature lovers, so renowned for its beauty that it is popularly referred to as the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’ and the ‘Switzerland of India’. Discover Madurai, a temple town like no other, and end your journey in Thekkady, a beautiful little city that is home to the largest tiger reserve in India, where you will visit the wildlife sanctuary and explore the region’s abundant wildlife. 

This is a fascinating journey through India’s laid-back tropical south, to experience the diversity in scenery, architecture, culture, and most importantly…the people.

Highlights: 

  •   Explore the colonial heritage city of Cochin (Kochi), home to a fusion of Portuguese, Dutch, Arabic, and British influences and the storied Jewish quarter
  •   Discover the rich heritage of India, one of the world’s oldest civilizations
  •   Visit temple towns, all with their own distinct style and prominence
  •   Tour in places blessed with abundant natural beauty that gives you immense energy
  •   Savor legendary cuisine along the way, differing in look and taste in every state of India
  •   Experience an organic eco-farm, immerse yourself in all elements of farm life
  •   Absorb the atmosphere of Hinduism
  •   Take part in disappearing cultures like hand-looming
  •   Meet locals and visit tribal villages

Day 1: Arrive Kochi

Arrive Kochi international airport, drive to your hotel and check-in. 

Day 2: A day in Kochi

Enjoy a wonderful day of sightseeing tour of Kochi, visit Dutchpalace, Paradesi Synagogue, and Jew Street. Explore the Fort Kochi area to understand Kochi’s rich history and heritage. Visit a home of a local family for a cooking demonstration followed by lunch on banana leaves. In the evening experience, a tuk-tuk ride and visit the Chinese fishing nets.

Day 3: Board train to Kozhikode & drive to Wayanad

After breakfast, you will be transferred to Ernakulam Junction to board your train to Kozhikode

Arrive at the Kozhikode railway station, stop for a truly local lunch along the way, and then drive to the hotel in Wayanad, making an en-route stop in Beypore and see the centuries-old craft of boat making. Arrive at your hotel and check-in. 

Day 4: A day in Wayanad 

After breakfast, experience a walking tour of tea plantations. Proceed to Thrikkaipetta village and visit Uravu indigenous sciences and technology center that works to the upliftment of the tribes in the area and runs a successful bamboo crafts design and production center along with a bamboo nursery. Later visit Kurumar and Paniyar tribal village. Meet and interact with the locals and learn archery. 

Day 5: From Wayanad to Ooty 

Check out from the hotel and drive to Ooty. Drive to your hotel and check-in. 

The rest of the day is free for independent activities. 

Day 6: A day in Ooty

After breakfast, proceed to visit the town of Ooty. You will be visiting the Doddabetta peak. 

Later, visit Ooty lake and St. Stephen’s Church for the day’s sightseeing.

Day 7: Board toy train to Coonoor and drive to Pollachi 

After breakfast, transfer to Ooty railway station and make your way to Coonoor on the historic “toy train”. Arrive in Coonoor, and drive to Pollachi. Check-in at your hotel, and head to experience the ‘Cotton trail’ located near the hotel. 

Day 8: A day in Pollachi 

After breakfast, experience ‘Top Slip Trek’. This moderate trek through the thick, dense tropical evergreen forests of the Ulaandy range is the best opportunity to explore the bio-diverse rich forests of Anamalai’s. The trek starts from Topslip towards Anaimalai Wildlife Sanctuary. The Topslip is home to more than 250 species of birds of 49 families and the habitats found here are vast and varied and its richness in flora and fauna is extremely impressive. 

Day 9: From Pollachi to Madurai 

After breakfast, check out and drive to Madurai. Take an en-route stop at Dindigul and relish a plate of popular ‘Biryani’, you will have an option to interact with the local shopkeeper to understand the recipe of Biryani. Later continue your drive to Madurai. In the evening attend the ‘night’ ceremony at Meenakshi Temple – where during the final prayer, GodShiva, husband of Meenakshi would typically be carried in a palanquin from his shrine and escorted to his residing place, where Goddess Meenakshi waits in her shrine for her husband to come home. This lively divine procession is followed by a piece of music along with a gathering of devotees. 

Day 10: Excursion to Karaikudi

After breakfast, take an excursion to Karaikudi, where you would proceed on a tour of the painted Chettinad mansions along with your guide. Later experience a cooking demonstration of Chettinad cuisine followed by lunch. 

Day 11: From Madurai to Thekkady

After breakfast, visit Meenakshi temple, the Tirumala Nayak Palace– an architectural feat, pass by the MariammanTeppakulam the tank with a mandapam in the center. Arrive at your hotel and check-in. 

In the evening visit local markets and attend the ‘Kalaripayattu show’. 

Day 12: A day in Thekkady 

After breakfast, leave for Periyar National Park and experience jungle activities in the Periyar wildlife sanctuary. Apart from Elephants, the other animals that can be found in the Periyar Sanctuary are Wild Pigs, Sambar, Gaur, Mouse Deer, Dole or Barking. Return by the afternoon and proceed for the spice plantation tour. 

Day 13: From Thekkady to Kumarakom 

After breakfast, drive to Kumarakom, arrive at your hotel and check-in. 

In the evening, visit a local school to understand the Indian education system. 

Day 14: A day in Kumarakom 

After breakfast, proceed for an excursion to the village of Vaikom. Here you will walk around the village and see the various daily life activities of the villagers. Also, see the process of extracting coconut oil and the Palm and coconut leaf weaving. The evening will be free for independent activities.

Day 15: From Kumarakom to Kochi for international departure

 After breakfast, private transfer to Kochi airport to board your international flight. 

 

India — the land of ancient civilizations, the land of many cultures, the Land of Pepper, Chilies, Spice and Spicy Foods. It’s the spice that binds a diverse culture of India, with chilies being an integral part of every spice. These chilies are cultivated, blended and consumed in a variety of forms and cuisines, complex and simple, just like India. 

This 12-day luxury exploration is designed to distinctly acquaint, understand, cook, smell, taste and most importantly experience this world of spices, chilies, and cuisines as we travel, eat and connect through different regions of India. Beginning with north-eastern India, the states of Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya are well-known for their clean villages, pristine natural landscapes, organic farming methods and the most fiery chilies of the world — King Chilly and Bird’s Eye Chilly. We continue on the south – to the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala – going through Chennai, Chettinad, Thekkady, Kumarakom, Alleppey, and Cochin.  The journey comes to its final destination, the big, dynamic and multicultural metropolis — Mumbai or Bombay, as previously called. Rumour has it that the first Portuguese explorers when they arrived ashore, after a long voyage, they found this bay very beautiful, that they term it as ‘Bom’ (meaning beautiful in Portuguese) – Bay; hence, the name, Bombay. 

Just like a well-prepared balanced Indian meal, this culinary journey combines a well-measure of all tastes, flavors, and experience with great comforts. This odyssey expresses, through various services and cooking skills, the story of great Indian culture — the foundation of a strong ancient civilization and the recent multi-cultural blend to an Indo-Western society. India — a historical exploration through the tastes, aromas and dynamic culture. 

 

Highlights

  • Explore farms, markets, and plantations
  • Interact with locals, farmers, and chefs for an in-depth understanding of how spicy chilis are grown and consumed
  • Experience the changes in flavors as you travel to different regions
  • Discover the rich heritage of India, one of the world’s oldest civilizations
  • Cultural visits in all the cities
  • Interactions with the celebrated chefs & personalities related to food & farming industries
  • Cooking sessions with local families/chefs
  • Meals at authentic local restaurants & much more

 

Day 1: Arrive Guwahati (1 night) 

Arrive at Guwahati airport, check-in to your hotel in Guwahati. Visit the local fish and vegetable market with a top Assamese chef. Learn about the different types of locally grown chilies, including King Chilli, Bird’s Eye Chilli, etc., their hotness levels, their benefits. Local sightseeing (prominent places only) including Kamokhya Devi temple. Evening cruise in the river Brahmaputra. Evening, at the hotel, chef introduces cooking with these chilies and spices. Guests will also get a chance to recreate these dishes.

Day 2:  Guwahati – Dimapur – Kohima (1 night) 

Today we will take a charter flight from Guwahati to Dimapur and then drive* (4 hrs) to Kohima (Nagaland). En-route we will experience a guided educational tour of an organic chili farm where we will interact with farmers and plantation owners to learn about the variety, heat levels, cultivation and consumption, production, challenges, medicinal usage of the chilis. 

Day 3: Dimapur – Shillong (2 nights) 

This morning we will visit King Chilly farm and interact with farmers, and enjoy local markets and meet the sellers in Kohima, guided by a Naga Chef. Then off to Shillong. Upon arrival and freshening up in our Shillong hotel, take part in a special culinary exposure and practical experience evening program offered by the senior chef of the hotel. The chef will present an in-depth discourse and demonstration of the local cuisines, tribes, and culture. 

Day 4: Shillong 

Today we will dive deeper into the world of chilies as we gain an understanding of the complexity of this little spice.  Later, visit Mawlynnong to visit the villages and the natural root bridges.

 

Day 5: Shillong – 2h — Guwahati – 3h — Chennai (2 nights) 

Morning drive* from Shillong to Guwahati to catch a flight to Chennai. This evening we will enjoy a local Tamil Nadu and Chettinad culinary demonstration and cooking workshop by a prominent local chef. Time to relax and overnight in Chennai. *Charter helicopter can be arranged from Shillong to Guwahati. 

Day 6:  Chennai 

Chennai — the land of music, dance and colorful temples. The food tastes widely different from the north-eastern regions because of different kinds of spices and chilies used. The combination of bolder spices and distinctly tangier chilies bring unique smacks in the vegetarian authentic Iyengar Brahmin Sambhars, simple Chutneys, meaty delicacies of the Chettinad region and many others. Observe these diversities amongst the people and their colorful nature while traveling through some of the sites of Chennai too.

 

 Day 7: Chennai to  Kochi (2 nights) 

Morning flight to Kochi, arrive and check-in to your luxury hotel. Proceeding further south, to God’s own country, land of coconut, paddy fields and fish curries — Kerala — offers a gamut of recipes from mild and simple coconut-based to peppery-hot and spicy amalgamations of vegetarian and non-vegetarian gourmets. The dishes of this coastal state also effuse a lot of historical international influences, from the ancient explorers, traders and cavalries of Dutch, Portuguese, French, Jews, Arabs and British, some of them have interesting historical tales of their evolution to articulate as they got Indianised over time. 

We will also have a short introduction to Kochi Biennale 2021 – a regional celebration of the arts. 

 

Day 8: Kochi – Alleppey – Kochi 

Today we will enjoy a full day experiencing the backwaters of Kerala in a luxury houseboat through paddy fields, palm tree groves, beautiful landscape and a lot of sightseeing in the Alleppey, Kumarakom regions. Experience the natural coconut liquor of Toddy. Enjoy the lip-smacking Kerala fish for lunch. We will end the day either with a culinary workshop or, alternately, Kerala Ayurvedic massage can be arranged. Enjoy this ancient spa treatment that is practiced from 1000s of years of the Hindu tradition using essential oils of various spices, herbs, flowers, roots, and plant extracts. 

 

Day 9: Kochi to Thekkady (1 night) 

This morning we will drive to Thekkady, one of the major spice growing regions in India. Upon arrival, enjoy an informative and interactive guided spice plantation walk – understand the cultivation of a variety of spices, challenges, benefits, medicinal uses, cooking insights of different types of spices. 

At dusk, we will take a short jungle trip. And no day is complete without a culinary exposure of cooking with fresh locally grown spices and chilies with a self-cooking practical cooking experience using local spices. 

 

Day 10: Thekkady – Kochi airport – 2h — Mumbai (2 nights) • Early morning wildlife safari tour. Get a chance to spot the great Indian tiger and elephants, bison and other animals and birds. • Drive to Kochi airport (approx..4h), fly to Mumbai. Arrive by late afternoon. • Get a glimpse of life in Mumbai en-route to your iconic hotel. • Refresh & meet the top chefs who would demonstrate and practical experience of local Maharashtrian and some north-India cuisines using Indian spices and chilies. 

Day 11: Mumbai • Sightseeing of some prominent places of Mumbai along with a guided visit to vegetable, fish and spice markets. • Soirée with the team of chefs of the hotel with food and drinks 

Day 12: Mumbai Departure • On the final day as the great Indian culinary tour comes to conclusion, after a whole lot of experience and learning about chilies, spices, their cultivation, challenges, uses in dietary and medicinal purposes and cooking, we bid adieu with a drop to Mumbai airport. We anticipate once again to have your company for another insightful great Indian adventure & experience (or any global destination).