Culinary Flavors of South India

ITINERARY

This tour is a discovery of beautiful art-filled temples, magnificent mansions of Tamil Nadu and the mist shrouded hills, palm fringed beaches, spice plantation of Kerala that complements each other perfectly. Taste an authentic slice of South Indian cuisine as you travel from Chennai to Cochin.

Explore Chennai and the sea shore temples at Mahabalipuram before heading to Chettinad. Stay in a glorious old mansion where original teakwood pillars, tamilnadu tiles and teakwood furnishing are restored to perfection. Wander through the markets and savour the area’s delicious food. View the splendid temple architecture with its colourful gopurams painted in tomato red, cobalt blue, parrot green and sunflower yellow at Meenakshi temple in Madurai.

Discover aromatic spice trail at Thekkady. Learn about the Indian spices and organic farming techniques as you walk through the spice plantation. Enjoy the warm hospitality at a traditional Keralan home stay at Kumarakom. Cruise through the serene backwaters in a converted rice barge and see village life that has remained unchanged for decades. Spend a few days by the beach on the Malabar Coast before ending your tour in India at the ancient city of Cochin which is famed for its spices and has a history of trading that goes back to the Roman times.

South India Cuisine:

South India has hot, humid climate and all its states are coastal. Rainfall is abundant and so is the supply of fresh fruit, vegetables and rice. On this tour we will savor the Chettinad cuisine of Tamilnadu that perhaps is the fieriest of all Indian food. In Kerala, we will savor Malabari and Syrian Cuisine.

Day 01 – Chennai

On arriving at the Chennai Airport, you will be welcomed and assisted to your hotel.

Chennai is located on the south-eastern coast of India, and has an interesting architectural mix reflecting different cultural influences.

The origin of Chennai is still a mystery with very little historical background. Various historians have different views on its origin. Originally, Madras consisted of several small villages and temple towns. Once a part of the ancient kingdom of Thondaimandalam and ruled by the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas and the Vijayanagar Empire it was slowly united by the administrators. Chennai was the first city established by the East India Company (375 years ago) and was capital of southern part of India.

Today, it is the fourth largest metropolitan city in India.

Overnight:     Deluxe Room – The Park POD Chennai or similar

Meals:                        None

Website:        www.theparkhotels.com/chennai-park-pod/chennai-park-pod.html
Day 02 – Chennai

In the morning drive to Mahabalipuram (an hour drive one way) – once the major port city for the 7th century Pallava dynasty. Mahabalipuram is home to over 500 stone carvers and is known for its rock-cut caves and monolithic shrines called Rathas.

We will see fine examples of stone carvings at the Shore Temples and also see ‘The Ganges’, a 20 ft high and 90 ft long bas relief sculpture depicting the descent of India’s sacred river.

After sightseeing drive back to Chennai.

Lunch break at a local South Indian restaurant, where we can enjoy light Indian savouries such as dosas (a crisp crepe optionally stuffed with spicy potatoes), accompanied with sambar (lentil curry) and coconut chutney; idlis (puffed steamed dumplings made of rice and lentils); or vadai (deep fried lentil dumplings often referred as salty doughnuts, because of their doughnut shape) 

Afternoon take a guided tour of the well-preserved architectural legacy of the colonial period in Chennai including Fort St. George, St. Andrew’s Kirk and The Church of St Mary, the first Anglican Church in Asia. We will visit Presidency College, a fine example of mid 19th century Indo – Saracenic architecture.

End the tour as you stroll through the Mylapore markets and your guide peels off the layers of dust into a living history, museum and a repository of the culture and heritage of Mylapore. Also visit the famous 9th century Kapaleeshwar temple and its beautiful tank monuments.

Dinner at Dakshin beckons connoisseurs from all over to savour the delights of South Indian cuisine in its entire ancient and yet vibrant glory. Sample dishes from the four southern states of India prepared by culinary experts, cooked in its own distinct spices and style. Try home-style Kerala stew, cooked in coconut milk or a red-hot Andhra mutton curry. Many of these dishes are served with rice. Others come with spongy and crisp Appams, or string hoppers idiappam gracefully complimented by freshly grounded chutney

Overnight:     Deluxe Room – The Park POD Chennai or similar

Meals:                        Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 03 – Chennai to Madurai

Post breakfast assisted transfer to Chennai airport to board your flight to millennia old city unique with its rich heritage – Madurai.

Jet Airways, 9W2343                        Departing Chennai at 10:35hrs      Arrival Madurai at 12:00hrs

Upon arrival you will be transferred for check-in at the hotel.

Madurai, the temple town or the city of nectar is one of the oldest cities in South Asia. Located on the Vaigai River, it was the once an important cultural, commercial centre and the capital city of Pandya Kings. Legend has it that when city was being named, Lord Shiva blessed the city and its people. On this auspicious occasion some divine nectar (“Madhu”) fell from the hair of Shiva and hence the city was named “Madhurapuri”.

After a quick wash and change, we will have an interactive cooking lesson with a culinary expert on Thalavainadu food (traditional Tamil food) and the chef will prepare authentic Madurai dishes using local ingredients like Ragi (millet), palm jaggery (seasonal) etc;

After lunch take a guided tour of Madurai including a visit to Tirumalai Nayak Mahal – an Indo-Saracenic palace built on a grand scale with a beautifully sculpted dancing hall. Walk through the bustling city, chaotic and crowded but nevertheless offers some remarkable sights and a fascinating taste of Tamil culture.

In the evening visit the lifeline of 2500 year old city of Madurai – the famous Sri Meenkashi temple that houses 14 magnificent Gopurams and thousand pillared hall where each pillar carved is a fine example of the Dravidian sculptur.

In the evening dinner at the hotel

Overnight:     Deluxe Room – The Heritage Madurai or similar

Meals:                        Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Website:        www.heritagemadurai.com

Day 04 – Excursion to Chettinad

Early morning visit to South India’s largest fresh flower trading centre, bustling with activity and filled with seasonal flowers – Madurai’s flower market that forms a great start to exploring Madurai’s cultural heritage. Almost 95% of the jasmine grown across 900 acres in Madurai is used in garlands for ceremonies, weddings and so on; the rest of the 489-tonne annual yield is used for extraction by the global fragrance and spa industry. “It’s like a stock market; prices fluctuate daily depending on the season.” Time permitting we will visit India’s largest manufacturing units in flower processing, most of it jasmine producing high-quality jasmine extracts such as essence, wax and oil that go into the making of several well-known perfumes around the world, including Chanel No.5, and Dior J’adore;

 

Post breakfast drive to Chettinad (90 kms) / approx for two hours drive / one way;

Authentic 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 (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.

Let the culinary expedition take over as you relish 7-course meal at the Bangala where every meal is an elaborate affair running into several courses resembling a typical chettinad festive or wedding feast. The courses are repeated as many times as you want to.

At the Bangala, the cooks use grinding stones to pulverize regional spices, deploying them in masalas for dishes like a sinus-clearing black-pepper chicken, sour-scented tamarind crab curry, king prawns flavored with spring onions, and, in a nod to the nursery palates of British memory, Raj-era dishes like mint-and-potato croquettes. Meals there are taken communally at a teak dining hall and eaten from banana-leaf with one’s hands.

It’s an innate sensitivity to the tastebuds, an inherited sense of economy and thrift and a deep concern that food should be tasty and healthy that’s enabled generations of “Achis” to evolve the Chettinad cuisine of today.

After lunch you may like wander the narrow streets of Karaikudi enveloped in an ancient inheritance, stately villas, colonial style bungalows and rambling ruins. Interact with the silversmiths, stone carvers and wood carvers as you stroll through quaint markets. For collectors with a keen eye, the antique shops can throw up some delightful bargains.

In the evening dinner at the hotel

Overnight:     Deluxe Room – The Heritage Madurai or similar

Meals:                        Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 05 – Madurai to Periyar

Post breakfast at the hotel, drive to Periyar for 3 hours (145kms); upon arrival check-in to the hotel.

The charms of Periyar are many – the timeless wilderness of Periyar Tiger Reserve with 925 sq. km sprawl including forests, marshes and aquatic habitats that together support 62 species of mammals, 320 species of birds, 27 species of amphibians, 45 species of reptiles, 38 species of fish. Innumerable medicinal plants and many spice plantations around the region round off this incredibly rich collection of biodiversity.

Upon arrival check into hotel.

Lunch is at Aanavilasam plantation house, surrounded by a pristine Cardamom and Pepper plantation! Pepper still remains the king of Kerala spices, but the state also has a very rich produce in cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, ginger and turmeric; it has a rich cultivation of cashew nuts, and is India’s native state for coconut! It is ideal place to see how the spices are grown, harvested and processed.

In the afternoon enjoy an Elephant ride for 30 minutes through the spice plantation.

Dinner today is planned at 50 miles – spice village where the master chef sources the fresh fish is from the river, local ingredients within a 50 mile radius to benefit the locals. All this is perfectly combined with the fresh spices available from 14 acre organic farm of spice village

Overnight:     Cardamom County – County Cottage or similar

Meals:                        Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Website:        http://raxacollective.com/the-resort/

Day 06 – Periyar to Kumarakom

After breakfast drive for 130 kms / 3 hours to Kumarakom – a sleepy little village tucked away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

A lovely amalgamation of mangroves, paddy fields, coconut clusters, network of criss-cross canals, rivers and natural water bodies – all this makes Kumarakom a destination of distinction and character, indeed something very special. The vibrant community life on its banks, the flora and fauna, the indigenous methods of fishing, the handmade country boats which are works of art, the coir fibre production and finally the locally-sourced, delicious cuisine adds to the uniqueness of Kerala’s backwaters.

Rest of the day is at leisure

Lunch and dinner at the hotel

Overnight:     Vembnand Cottage – Lake Song Kumarakom or similar

Meals:                        Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Website:        http://eastend.in/lakesong.html

Day 07 – Kumarakom

Day is designed for independent activities. You may take a yoga lesson or indulge yourself in traditional ayurveda spa. Adventurous one can opt for birding tour or cycling in the surrounding villages.

Today lunch is planned with an authentic Kuttanadan (backwater) family at Philipkutty farm – the largest farm on the island, about 535 acres. It is a unique eco friendly hideout where one experiences real backwater and the rural India in its simplest and pure natural format. Everything here is solely based on the concept of sustainability and social responsibility. 

An escorted farm walk leads to the farming techniques below the lake level as well as the different crops cultivated here.  

Organically grown farm vegetables, fruits, freshly caught fishes, duck and chicken supplemented with rice and rice based local substitutes are the basic ingredients for your appetite.

Being a traditional agrarian household, lavish meals are more or less the norm and pretty much a way of life. The cuisine is predominantly Syrian Christian with a strong ‘Backwaters’ influence. Try hand-on experience along with the master chef of the house

In Syrian Christian – most of the dishes served are centred around fish, farm vegetables and fruits, duck, chicken and occasionally other meats, supplemented with rice and rice based local breads like appam, string hoppers etc. Some of the specialities are Karimeen (pearlspot), fish fry, fish molee, prawn and scampi preparations, duck roast and curry, and red hot Kerala fish curry to name a few.

Dinner is at the hotel

Overnight:     Vembnand Cottage – Lake Song Kumarakom or similar

Meals:                        Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 08 – Kumarakom to Mararikulam via Alleppey

Post breakfast continue for an hour’s drive to Alleppey and enjoy day cruising through the fabled backwaters – the undisputed highlight of the region. You’ll pass the backwaters, as well as tiny, colourful towns that typically export coconut-husk products, and fishing villages, while being surrounded by tall coconut trees

Before embarking Ketuvellam, we will take a guided walking tour of Alleppey – the only town in Kerala that has retained its old charm. Backwaters, water canals, old settlements and warehouses make it a unique place and worth a visit

The best way to glimpse village life and the scenery along the lushed lined backwaters of Kerala is to ply the region’s intricate web of rivers, lagoons, canals, and lakes in a kettuvallam – traditional Keralan houseboat. Embark ketuvellam – these slender vessels constructed from jackfruit wood beams with thatched roof have for centuries been the primary means of transporting cargo—mainly Kerala’s staple crops of rice and coconuts.

In more recent times these traditional boats have been refurbished to provide the travelers with a comfortable bedroom, modern bathroom along with a small crew that includes a chef.

After lunch on houseboat, transfer to ther fishing village of Mararikulam. Upon arrival check into hotel

Dinner is at hotel where the master chef will introduce you to Ayurveda cooking at the evening cookery classes. Here you will learn the secrets of traditional Ayurveda cuisine and seafood cooking.  

Overnight:     Garden Villa – Marari Beach Resort or similar

Meals:                        Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Website:        www.cghearth.com/marari-beach

Day 09 – Mararikulam

Day is to relax and unwind by the beach. You may flop on Marari Beach for a wholesome dose of sand, sea and sizzling fish curry or take a guided tour of the local villages, which also includes visits to churches, temples and coir factories

Lunch at the hotel

For those looking forward for for complete rejuvenation may try various ayurvedic massages.

Dinner is at the hotel. Learn to cook an authentic coastal dish, starting with – picking of the vegetables from organic garden, buying fresh fish / shell fish from the fisherfolk by the sea. Get directions from master chef who will help you to combine it right with the fresh ground coconut and aromatic spices.

Overnight:     Garden Villa – Marari Beach Resort or similar

Meals:                        Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 10 – Mararikulam to Cochin

After breakfast, drive to Cochin. Also known as Kochi, Cochin is most attractive towns with a rich history and culture. It has been a trading port since at least Roman times when it was on the main trade route between Europe and China, and is still orientated around the bay whose neck is lined with the enormous cantilevered cheenavalas (Chinese fishing nets)

The town has had a Jewish community since at least the 6th century, and has been occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch and British before independence.

Upon arrival, check into the hotel.

Lunch at local restuarant

In the evening enjoy a sunset boat cruise around the sights of the waterfront.
Dinner tonight is planned at the specialty seafood restaurant – Rice Boat. This restaurant features ultra-fresh seafood, hauled from the backwaters and displayed in a show kitchen where in the guests can interact with chefs to create customized specialities. The menu offers cuisine from regions where the original Rice boats travelled. It also showcases three distinct seafood styles: Kerala backwater cuisine, featuring local sweet water fishes and seafood cooked in authentic Kerala curries and grills; exotic ocean catch with Lobsters, Scampi, Mussels, and more; and Internationally-renowned seafood including Norwegian Salmon, Octopus, Oysters, and Clams. The restaurant’s new, extended windows offer panoramic views over the water to the colonial warehouses of Fort Cochin, towards the open ocean and beyond – truly a unique experience among hotels of the region.

Overnight:     Superior Room – Spice Fort or similar

Meals:                        Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Website:        www.duneecogroup.com/our-hotels/spice-fort

Day 11 – Cochin

After breakfast, take a guided heritage walking tour of Fort Cochin that is home to several historic sights, including Jewish Synagogues, St Francis Church and the Portuguese built Mattancherrry Palace.

Lunch today is organized at Nimmy Paul’s residence. Nimmy and Paul have been involved in ‘At Home’ hospitality for more than twelve years. Nimmy, a professional cookery instructor for more than twenty years, and her stockbroker husband Paul, offers food and hospitality to foreign guests. Nimmy and Paul belong to traditional Syrian Christian community in Kerala. In keeping with the tradition of their families they enjoy having guests and serving good food. Nimmy conducts cookery classes. She teaches guests the nuances of traditional Kerala recipes. She is also a food consultant to writers, chefs and magazines. Articles by her and about her have appeared in magazines and newspapers. Nimmy, Paul, and their son Joseph live in Kochi.

Afternoon is at leisure or you may like to explore Jewish Town.

In the evening enjoy a Kathakali dance performance

It will be Buffet dinner at the hotel tonight.

Overnight:     Superior Room – Spice Fort or similar

Meals:                        Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 12 – Cochin

Early morning transfer to the International airport for the flight to destination onwards.

***End of Tour*** 

HOTEL ENVISAGED:           (MIX – BOUTIQUE AND LUXURY)

DateCityHotelRoom   Category

Day 1 – 3ChennaiThe Park PODDeluxe Room

Day 3 – 5MaduraiHeritage MaduraiDeluxe Room

Day 5 – 6ThekkadyCardamom CountyCounty Cottage

Day 6 – 8KumarakomLake Song KumarakomVemnand Cottage

Day 8 – 10MararikulamMarari Beach ResortGarden Villa

Day 10-12CochinSpice FortSuperior Room 

Flight Sector:

DateSectorFlightTimingsClass

* Only for guests joining from North India Tour

*Day 1Jaipur – ChennaiIndigo Airlines, 6E 23808:50 – 13:05Economy

Day 3Chennai-MaduraiJet Airways, 9W234310:35 – 12:00Economy

PRICE INCLUSIONS:

  • Accommodation on twin-share or single occupancy basis for 11 nights in the mentioned hotels /similar
  • Meals: Buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner as mentioned in itinerary
  • Transportation by an air conditioned mini coach (10-14 pax per vehicle) and air-conditioned large coach (15-30 pax)
  • Accompanying English speaking guide throughout the itinerary
  • Portage at airports and railway stations
  • Entrances for monuments (single entry) as per itinerary
  • Half day tour of Chennai including Mylapore walk
  • Excursion to Mahabalipuram
  • Half day tour of Madurai
  • Half dat tour of Chettinad
  • Plantation Tour including 30 minute Elephant ride at Periyar
  • Guided walk of Alleppey Town
  • Day Cruise from Alleppey to Alleppey
  • Guided heritage walking tour of Cochin
  • Cooking demonstration in Madurai, Chettinad, Periyar, Marari and Cochin
  • One single room as per plan for Australian Tour leader on 15 paying pax
  • Tips, Gratuities, Still Camera fees, Bottled water; portage at airports, hotels and railway stations
  • All currently applicable taxes

PRICE EXCLUSIONS:

  • Airfares in economy class for sector, quoted as supplement
  • International airfare, visa fees, airport tax or any kind of insurance cover
  • Any pre/post dinner drinks or drinks of any nature along with the meals unless specified
  • Any vehicle arrangements on free days or days at leisure.
  • Still and video camera fee at monuments
  • Items of personal nature like drinks, laundry, telephone calls, tips, camera fees etc
  • Any other meals than those mentioned in the itinerary
  • Liability for change in itinerary due to reasons beyond our control like change in flight and train schedule; cancellation of flights, political disturbances, natural phenomenon, etc
  • Any other item not specifically mentioned above as ‘INCLUDED’