“Our only walking holiday in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, rambling in a small guided group, along beaches, backwaters, flora and fauna filled forests, and splendid mountain ranges. ”
Munnar | Silent Valley NP | Western Ghat mountains | Thekkady | Periyar Lake | Madurai | Sri Meenakshi Temple | | Alleppey backwaters | Night on houseboat | 5 full days hiking | Cochin
Description of Kerala walking holiday in India
A two week walking holiday in India which takes you along spice trails, into backwaters, through the Western Ghat Mountains and through the hill stations not only of Kerala but also parts of Tamil Nadu. Starting in Cochin, we transfer up to the region’s magnificent mountain range and hike in and around Munar where the coffee and spice plantations have been thriving for generations. We gain superb views over this region summiting to 1900m in the Seven Malai Hills. Other such elevated, exquisite landscapes include Meesapulimala Peak (2630m), and we are able to hike through this rich, luscious terrain for a few days, camping along the way. In fact, we do this point to point trekking for five days, with full porterage throughout, traversing other beauty points such the fecund forests of the Silent Valley, the streams of the Rhodo Valley and the Kolukumalai Tea Plantation. Camping is fully serviced, with mattresses, twin sleeping tents, dining, kitchen and toilet tents all part of the service provided.
Our next hotel stop after all that wild camping is in the state of Tamil Nadu, where we spend some city time exploring the state’s wonderful cultural hub of Madurai. Located on the banks of the River Vaigai, this is one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities and nowhere demonstrates this heritage better than Sri Meenakshi Temple at the heart of the city. Before heading back to Kerala’s Cochin for another city must visit, we take a few more days out in the wilder and more tranquil areas of this stunning state. First of all, Periyar National Park which is home to elephants, monkeys and a few elusive tigers, and then to the famous backwaters, starting at Alleppey and spending a night cruising on a traditional houseboat through its myriad waterways. Finishing on the coast, first at a Malabar homestay and then finally in the vibrant fort and port city Cochin, this is the perfect place not only to absorb the state’s multi cultural and coastal ambiance, but also one to do some gift shopping, as this is one of the world hubs of spice and many other trades going back centuries.
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This is the land of Ayurveda. Treat yourself to one of the best massages in the world after all that hiking and camping.
Small group holiday. Max. 16 people, min. age 16.
5 nights camping, 8 nights standard hotels, 1 night houseboat.
Accommodation, equipment, all breakfasts, 6 lunches, 6 dinners, transport, activities.
Many meals included, but budget £12/day when not.
Solo travellers welcome. Surcharge for own tent/room.
Small group holiday
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Kerala walking holiday in India
Activity: Few holidays have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a walking trip. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints, although we hope to have a positive effect by engaging with locals, using their businesses and visiting cultural sites. Also by taking guided tours, we support employment levels in the areas we visit, whilst enriching our experience and understanding of Kerala.
Water: Water is a really important issue with walking trips and whilst we must stay hydrated, it is also vital that we have a system for providing clean water without causing lots of waste with plastic bottles. Lack of recycling is already a massive problem in India so we suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle. Water is safe to drink at the accommodation, which facilitates re-using one bottle.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Accommodation and Meals: You will spend 8 nights in hotels with en suite facilities, 5 nights in full service camps and 1 night on a houseboat. By using locally owned and run accommodation in the Western Ghats and staying in a local fisherman’s houseboat, we can ensure that the people in the community benefit from our business. By camping for a large portion of the trip, we also drastically reduce our carbon footprint by saving on energy. Where meals are included, fresh and local produce is used to make delicious and plentiful food. Free meal times are a valuable opportunity to explore Keralan cuisine and to support local vendors, restaurants and cafes in the area. Keralan specialties include biriyani made with Khaima rice, fish and chicken curries and Sadya – a vegetarian spread of side dishes served on a large banana leaf.
Local Craft and Culture: Much of our time is spent walking through cardamom, coconut, mango and tea plantations. These large areas are not just a source of beauty and interest for our clients, but they provide an insight into rural life, agriculture and cuisine in the area. The Periyar area is a centre for spice growing, and here there will be opportunities to visit the local bazaar, where there are numerous shops selling cardamoms, vanilla, peppercorns, chillies, turmeric and other locally grown ingredients. There are cottage industries and souvenir opportunities in Cochin, Periyar and Madurai. At Madurai, the great Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar Temple, most of which was built during the Nayak period between the 16th and 18th centuries, is at the heart of the city and the life of the town revolves around it. It is a hive of activity and religious celebration, so this is a great place for Hindu culture.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.
Reviews of Kerala walking holiday in India
You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.
I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
Reviewed on 03 Jan 2017 by Leila Suwwan
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Reaching the top of the Meesapuli Mountain, after days of trekking, was an amazing feeling of accomplishment! The whole camping half of the trip allowed for complete de-stress, with great staff, food and equipment to support long hours of hiking during the day in beautiful and extremely varied scenery. Waterboat and warm waters of Marari Beach were also amazing!
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Some of the hotels were not very clean and I would recommend lowering expectations in this sense. Also recommend independent reading since some of the guides not that knowledgeable/fluent.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Not sure if some of the hotels had this preoccupation, although I understand it must be a tough balance with quality. Eating at the hotel restaurants almost exclusively was also unlikely to help locals.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
It was a great holiday but not consistently so.
Read the operator's response here:
We are pleased that Leila had an enjoyable holiday, but we were sorry to read that she was disappointed with some of the accommodation and local guides. We use locally owned and run accommodation to help ensure that the local community benefits from our business. We endeavor to include free time for meals during this trip so that clients are not restricted to eating in hotels only; all the properties used during this tour are on a Bed and Breakfast plan only, other than when on the houseboat and during the trek (camping).
We usually explore the Keralan cuisine and visit local vendors, cafes and restaurants in the area as it is a great opportunity to delve into the local cuisine; there is a good selection of restaurants in most of the towns we visit. We are glad that Leila enjoyed much of her holiday and we value all feedback and ensure we act upon it.