A wonderful introduction to this part of the Western Ghats, an area of sub-tropical forests, spice plantations, villages, rivers, waterfalls and temples. You discover the magic of spice, wander through aromatic plantations with the cultivators themselves, and learn ancient culinary and medicinal uses. Walk along the shady forest paths to the Shalmala river to see the astonishing carvings on rocks in the river, returning through banana and spice gardens.
Pre-departure planning is important. Here are certain things you should watch for and plan for.
Check with the appropriate consulate or embassy in your country to find out if you will need a visa to visit the country of your destination, especially for an extended period of time. Some countries have extremely detailed and complicated entry/departure laws, and treat visits of a week or two very differently from longer stays.
If you’re traveling to one area, check the cost of living there. If it’s high you’ll probably want to budget more carefully and save some money before leaving. The lower the cost of living the less you’ll have to save, but be sure to have a back up reserve in emergency cases.
Talk to other people who have done a similar trip.
If you don’t know anyone personally, try any of the dozens of online travel web sites full of first-person travel stories covering every possible type of trip.
Plan big and loose. Read everything you can about the area.
There may be sights and attractions you didn’t know about. A rough outline of your trip might have three or four target points and a variety of ways to get between them.
Some trips will allow you more leeway than others. Travel plans in Asia can often be made day-by-day while summer travel in Europe should be organized at least a few weeks ahead, unless you’re prepared to hunt around for hotel rooms and train seats.
Set up a pre-trip time-line so you don’t end up with a full todo list your last week of work or school.
Things to consider are doctor’s visits for a check up, inoculations, and prescription refills; purchasing plane tickets; renewing passports and obtaining visas and other documents.
The longer the trip, the lighter you should pack. This might seem strange, but it’s true you can afford to lug a heavy bag around for a week or two, but do you want to have anything extra for a year?
Stick to the absolute basics and know what you can and cannot buy at your destination(s). There’s no point in bringing 6 months of toothpaste to Europe or buying a sarong at home to take to the tropics. If you are visiting several climates, try to arrange it so you visit the warmer places first and coldest last. That way you can purchase sweaters and long pants and not have to carry them any more than needed. Alternately, visit cold climates first and then ship unneeded layers home — or sell them off.
Make sure everything goes with everything else (if that’s important to you), and remember that layers are always best.
Be prepared for uncomfortable trips. You will often find yourself in a busy, cramped, economy class environment and it could be for many hours – especially long plane trips.
If you want to arrive at your destination refreshed and able to enjoy the sights, then try a good quality travel pillow to support your head, some ear plugs to block out the screaming babies, and an eye cover to block out the sun or cabin lights.
Make contact with the locals before you go.
Maybe you have a friend-of-a-friend or a foreign exchange student from high school you remember, or just found a friend through a travel web site; almost everyone is happy to welcome a foreign visitor to their home town. This might be as elaborate as a home-stay for a few weeks, or just coffee in their home town or dinner at a locals restaurant.
A perfect city for exploring on foot with a shop around every corner. Much of the inner city can be walked without trouble, however, in parts walking include crowds, uneven streets, heavy traffic, and skinny sidewalks. If that’s a problem, there are plenty of taxi’s to ride in and scooters to rent.
How to Travel
- Subway – The metro is the fastest transportation. Running 5am to 10pm every day.
- Bus & Train – Operated by an independent organization, busses and trains include wifi access for the public. You can take any bus or train marked with the (B Public) sign for free.
- Taxi – Available in all parts of the city. From a restaurant or hotel you can have them call the city taxi service.
- Car – Rental cars are easy to get and hotels have good parking prices. Once in the main city, you can often walk so we suggest returning the when you arrive.
- Bike – The best way to get around, other than walking, is by bike. If you don’t mind hills, you can bike anywhere. If that’s not for you, stick to the inner city with your bike.
Just a few miles away you can explore the history and legacy, drink wine and relax. You can wander the hills or be lulled by the fountains. If you have time, the attractions can fill 3 days. We’ve highlighted the best ones here.
Because of the number of sights to see, some first-time visitors should start with an organized tour. Some things can be covered in depth, other are just useful for getting your bearings.
The leading tour operators use local historians to lead their tours. Guides offer walking tours, including visits to monuments, museums, and historic locations, as well as eating tours. Tour prices can be high, but most participants consider them a trip highlight. In addition, there are many family related tours, sights and more appealing activites to children.
Walking tours, like the 3 hour ghost tour, is an exclusive in the early evening. A bus excursion ruins special tours like you’ve never seen. Also worth consideration, a group of art historians and architects do a theatrical retelling from dramatic scripts. Go on a tour, expect guides to break out into a rendition of “Singing in the Rain”, it’s a lot of fun.
- Sirsi – Spice Plantations & Temples of Hampi
- Pavinakurva – Vistits to see the Daily Life of Fishermen on the Western Ghats
- Mysore – Mysore Palace &Chamundi Hill Temple
- Wayand – Natural Beauty & Visits to the Villages
- Valayar – Overnight on a House Boat
- Cochin –
- Banks – Open Monday to Friday 9am to 2pm. Some banks are closed for lunch.
- Emergencies – For police, dial a local phone number; for ambulance call a hospital.
- Internet Access – Wifi is standard in most hotels and free in many coffee shops.
- Mail – Buy stamps at the Post Office. Convenient post offices are located all cities. Most are open Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.
- Safety – Pickpocketing can be a common problem. It is suggested for men to keep wallets in their front pocket. Purse snatching also occurs at times.
This site contains information with a very personal and friendly structure. It also has great links to other related sites online.
Information, internet access, maps, and train passes are available at local Tourist Information terminals. These are located at various sites around the city. Expect a wait if you arrive late in the afternoon or during lunch time. Local travel agencies are also helpful for quick information and finding hotels. There is no service charge for these services. Hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, and Saturday 10am to 2pm.
Getting in from the airport and other arrival locations. Travel planning is about more than just knowing where you’re going. Prepares to navigate, take control and be ready for anything. This section helps you steer clear of disaster and stay open enjoy the unexpected.
- Plane – Flights arrive at the main airport near city center. If flying from European cities, you might land at a connecting airport. There is a tourist information office at the Terminal E, international arrivals, open 8am to 6pm.
- Train – A train station is on the lower level of the airport. To get into the city, follow the marked signs.
- Taxi – From the airport there is a flat-rate for the 1-hour trip, depending on traffic. Hotels charge up to $80 for shuttle service.
- Train & Bus – Trains and buses arrive a city center. This is the transportation hub for the city and is surrounded hotels.
A perfect place for exploring on foot, with local shops around every corner. You will eventually walk somewhere, it’s just going to happen. If you don’t like crowds, uneven cobblestones, heavy traffic or narrow sidewalks, take a taxi or rent a scooter.
Upon arrival In the morning, you are transferred to the airport for the short flight to Hubli, from where you are transferred by car (2-3 hours) to the spice-growing village of Hulgol, near the market town of Sirsi. Surrounding the village is a landscape of grassland and lush plantations, lakes and waterfalls, that is home to an array of birds such as hornbills, parakeets, peacocks, bee-eaters, jungle babblers and mynahs. All manner of spices are cultivated on these hills: vanilla pods, peppercorns, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom, to name but a few. You have three nights at the aptly named Spice House.
Your guide will be happy to show you around the local area, where there is much to see and do: pay a visit to farmers amid their hillside plantations to learn about spice cultivation; watch a demonstration of spice cookery by village women (one of whom has more than a hundred recipes for curry alone!); and witness the colourful and aromatic market in Sirsi – it’s great fun to see how the spice auction is carried out. Meander on guided walks along shady paths through the exotic-feeling forest, admiring betel nut production methods. On day 3 of the program visit the ornate Banvasi Temple and Yana Caves, or to take a trip east to Hampi where you can wander amid the ruined palaces, statues and elephant stables of the ancient city of Vijayanagara.
You are transferred by car (3 hours) to the quiet fishing village of Pavinakurva on a secluded stretch of coast lined with palm trees. You arrrive at the Coast House your base for a night, in time for lunch, and can spend the rest of day relaxing or exploring. The village is home to a friendly community of farmers and fishermen, dependent on land and sea for their livelihood. The main crops are cashew nuts and rice, which feature strongly in the cooking, along with the fresh fish that is landed early each morning for the market. Pavinakurva is accessible by a wonderful wooden footbridge where you will be sure to meet fishermen, children on their way to school and women carrying baskets of cashews. It’s a perfect place to relax as you slowly melt into the rhythms of village life – take time out to sit on the beach and watch the waves rolling in from a deep blue sea; wander round the remarkable Parameshwari Temple; or bask in the sunshine as you watch a local game of cricket. Discover, too, the Tarabligi Estuary where the river meets the sea, and visit the nearby fishing village of Honavar where you can see boats being made using traditional crafts.
After lunch, you are transferred to Talguppa (1 hour) in time to catch the afternoon train to Mysore. Arriving here at night, you are met by a driver and car who will take you to your hotel, where you stay two nights.
Enjoy exploring this flamboyant city and its fascinating regal heritage, ably guided by your friendly and knowledgeable driver. You will no doubt wish to take in the staggeringly opulent Mysore Palace – lit by 100,000 light bulbs on certain nights – though you are just as likely to find yourself captivated by the bustling markets selling sandalwood and silk. You may also wish to venture out of the city to the nearby Chamundi Hills to admire the beautiful hill-top Sri Chamundeswari Temple.
Leaving Mysore after breakfast, you are taken by car to the village of Mothakkara in the hills of Wayanad (4 hours). The village consists of pretty houses scattered amid dense forest and spice and coffee plantations. You have three nights at Wayanad.
Accompanied by your guide, you explore the local area, perhaps paying a visit to farmers amid their hillside plantations to discover the secrets of banana and pepper growing; enjoying spectacular walks towards Banasura Mountain; or taking a day trip to the nearby village of Thrikkaipetta to visit the cooperative of wonderfully skilled ladies who make bamboo handicrafts.
After a three-hour transfer to Kozhikode, you take the day train to Ernakulam (4 hours). You are met here for the hour-long drive to Vayalar, amid the enchanting backwaters of Kerala. Intricate networks of rivers, canals and lagoons nourish countless rice paddies and coconut groves, among which entire communities live out their lives. In Vayalar, you board a Kettuvallam, which – through its unique construction – allows you to visit areas that remain ‘off limits’ to the larger tourist vessels. (You can also use its canoe to travel even deeper into this magical land.) This boat is your home for the next two nights as you embark on a slow-paced, leisurely and laid-back cruise that you will never forget.
You see quiet, rarely visited backwaters, mooring each evening at a different village where you are welcomed enthusiastically before enjoying Keralan specialities for dinner. The three villages are all strikingly beautiful, but each has a very individual character and focus, whether it be coir-rope making, in the case of Vayalar, or the fish and seafood farming of Kodamanthurthu. Morning and evening you are free to explore with your guide, perhaps witnessing farmers herding their ducks down the backwaters or learning how prawns are cultivated. The cruise itself takes place during the heat of the afternoon, a chance for you to sit back and watch the world go by as you drift languidly beneath a shady canopy to your next port of call.
You bid goodbye to the Kettuvallam after breakfast and are taken by car to Kochi (1 hour), where you spend your final two nights in the centre at a Hotel Resplendent and serene on the Malabar Coast, Kochi was once the centre of India’s lucrative spice trade where Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama set up the first European trading post.
Spend your final day taking in more of the historic splendour of Kochi. Where else could you find enormous, cantilevered fishing nets from China; a 400-year-old synagogue; ancient mosques and Portuguese houses –Combined with some of the most tastebud-tingling cuisine in the whole of India, this makes for a suitably grand finale to your memorable southern Indian adventure.You are transferred from your hotel to Kochi airport for your flight back home.
- Shirdi Bombay Tour
- Jewish Heritage Tour of India
- Churches of South India
- Christian Pilgrims Tour
- Jyotirlinga Darshan
- Ardh Kumbh Special at Allahabad
- Kathmandu and Chitwan
- Buddhist Tour in Nepal