Immerse yourself in the colors & sounds of South India:
20-day group journey to Kerala & Tamil Nadu,
Dates: 20th January – 8th February 2020
We will once more offer a week’s extension tour volunteering at Animal Aid Unlimited in Udaipur, Rajasthan, and visiting some of the main sites in the area, including the impressive Kumbhalgarh Fort and the intricate Jain temple of Ranakpur. A vegan cookery class and a visit of a Rajasthani folk show are also included. Please get in touch with us for more information. The price depends on the number of participants.
- Fort Cochin & the Malabar Coast
- The Kerala Backwaters
- The Periyar Tiger Reserve near Kumily and the Western Ghats
- The Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai
- Community Tourism in rural areas near Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu
- Varkala Beach
- The Amritamayi Ma (Amma) Ashram in Amritapuri
“We had an incredibly beautiful, interesting and diversified trip in India. It enabled us to collect enchanting experiences and deep insights. The organization was great and so was the tour leader. The trip went entirely according to my wish. Once again I would like to thank you. If possible I would like to do another trip with Oda in the future.” Brigitte, Switzerland
Experience India as an Insider:
We invite you to experience the vibrant cities and tranquil backwaters of South India, with its ancient temples, coconut groves and off the beaten track places. Watch for wild elephants, deer, monkeys, and birds as you hike the beautiful cardamom hills of Kumily in the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Stay in the ashram of one of modern-day India’s most famous saints, Amma (known as the hugging saint), and if lucky receive Darshan from her. Watch Pujas (ceremonies) at the beach of Varkala or treat yourself to an ayurvedic massage. You will meet and interact with locals; spend time visiting schools, women’s empowerment programs, elderly care programs and the bio-digester and organic garden. A large part of the proceeds of your journey directly benefits some of the most disadvantaged sectors of the population in Tamil Nadu that are supported by the Indian NGO SCAD (Social Change & Development). Among its many projects, SCAD offers aid to disabled children and gypsy children, including schools; provides education up to university level; supports leprosy rehabilitation programs; grants microloans for village artisans; assists women’s self – help groups and promotes organic farming. This trip might just beat your wildest travel dreams!
Your Tour Leader:
This tour is led by Oda Seedhouse de Romero, the founder of Vegetarian Peru Adventures and the Andean Spirit Lodge near Cusco, Peru. Oda is an ethnologist, a professional guide (culture and nature) and a certified Sivananda Yoga instructor. Having extensively visited and lived in India, Oda has a deep passion for Indian cultures and peoples. She will help you understand the fascinating world of sights, colors, sounds, and lifestyles of southern India. Wherever space and circumstances allow, Oda will lead will lead a Yoga class before our day’s activities begin.
The tour price is calculated on the basis of two people sharing a twin or double room. We use comfortable mid-range hotels and guesthouses with private facilities and air conditioning (except on the backwater houseboat) throughout the trip. The accommodation at the ashram does have private facilities but is otherwise basic.
Some single room upgrades may be available at an additional cost (except on the backwater houseboat where everybody will share in doubles).
Great Vegetarian & Vegan food:
All our included meals are 100% vegetarian. Vegan food will be available on request. Please state your preference in your booking.
South Indian food is delicious but it may be a little spicy for some taste buds. Many places offer alternatives of European style food which is much blander. In the guesthouse of the Indian NGO where we have the privilege of staying several nights all food is home cooked especially for us. It is very wholesome and healthy food and not too spicy. Typical for South Indian fare are the dosas (a type of rice crepe) with sambar (lentils with vegetables) and coconut chutney. Be prepared to sample some new culinary delights!
Included In The Tour Price:
- 17 nights in double or twin rooms with private bathrooms in mid-range hotels or guesthouses
- 1 night on a houseboat in double or twin room with private bathroom
- 1 night in the Amma Ashram in a twin room with private bathroom
- Vegetarian/vegan meals as described
- English speaking tour leader
- Local English speaking guides and support by staff members of SCAD, the Indian
- All land transport as indicated in the itinerary
- Entrance fees to the sites included in the itinerary
- Optional Yoga sessions in the morning led by our tour leader (wherever available)
- Donation to SCAD projects
- All taxes (the VAT charge is not applicable in this case)
- Internacional flights
- Indian visa or any transit visas you might need for your flights
- Travel insurance (obligatory)
- Transfer in from Kochi airport to your hotel in Ernakulam and vice-versa
- Meals not included in the itinerary
- Soft drinks and alcoholic drinks
- Optional activities marked (X) like additional Yoga classes, massages, dance shows etc.
- Tips and gratuities
Prices per person in US Dollars: USD 3,495.- in double or twin room. Single Room Supplement may be available at USD 745.- (except on the houseboat and at the SCAD guesthouse where everybody will be sharing).
Early bird discount: Book by 31st June 2018 for the 2019 tour and get USD 100 off your trip! Book by 31st March 2019 and get USD 100 off your 2020 trip!
Arrival in Kochi, Kerala. Welcome at the hotel by your tour leader. Free time to rest, acclimatize, currency exchange and explore. Dinner at the hotel. Hotel in Ernakulam. D
After a leisurely breakfast, we shall transfer to our guesthouse in the heart of Fort Cochin. We will visit the historical center of Mattancherry with its Dutch palace and Jewish quarters (X) and have the opportunity to explore the narrow ancient streets with their charming colonial buildings and churches. Hotel in Fort Kochin. B
Free day at Fort Cochin. Try fresh coconut milk, book an optional Yoga class, shop for souvenirs in quaint Mattancherry, visit an evening of Kathakali dance or classical Indian music. Hotel in Fort Kochin. B & D
A short train journey (one hour) brings us to Alleppey where we shall board our houseboat for a 20 hour trip through the backwaters of Kerala. During the relaxing journey, you will be able to watch numerous birds, including herons, storks, and raptors. L & D
We will travel by private bus to Kumily (5-6 hours), a jungle resort in the Western Ghats. On the way, we shall stop at a tea plantation and learn about the fascinating production process. In the afternoon we reach our guesthouse in Kumily. Overnight in Kumily. B & D
Guided hike (8 hours) through the jungle of the cardamom hills. The area belongs to the Periyar Tiger Reserve and harbors plenty of wildlife, including wild elephants, sambar deer, gaurs (Indian bison), langurs and macaque monkeys. Overnight in Kumily. B & D
Free time in Kumily. Opportunity to visit the Spice Garden and Thekkady Lake or book an ayurvedic massage. Your evening options are to view either Kalari (martial arts) or Kathakali dance performances (X). Overnight in Kumily.B
Day 08 Mon–
Travel by private bus to Madurai in Tamil Nadu (approx. 4 hours). We arrive at our hotel in Madurai just in time for a late lunch. The history and traditions of Madurai reflect the culture of South India. Take an afternoon stroll through the busy streets, in the shadow of the Meenakshi Amman Goddess temple. Here you will be able to witness a blend of millenary rites with modern day 21st century India. Hotel in Madurai. B & D
Guided tour of the fabulous Meenakshi Amman Temple of Madurai, one of the most important shrines of the Hindus. In the afternoon you may opt to visit the Tirumalai Nayak palace constructed in the Islamic Dravidian style (X). We finish our day with a delicious dinner at the rooftop restaurant of our hotel, famous for its Dosas (South Indian savory rice pancakes). Overnight in Hotel in Madurai. B & D
A 3-4 hour train journey takes us to Tirunelveli. Transfer to the SCAD campus in Cheranmahadevi, a 100% Indian NGO that supports the poorest sectors of rural Tamil Nadu. The comfortable SCAD guesthouse will be our base during the next few days. It is located on the SCAD campus in a beautiful rural area of Tamil Nadu, close to the city of Tirunelveli. Here we will have plenty of opportunities to sample rural village life off the beaten track and learn about the many ways this all Indian NGO is making a real difference. During our stay at the SCAD guesthouse, you will try wonderful home cooked food and you may also do some exploring on your own steam borrowing a bicycle. We shall be welcomed by delegates from SCAD. Full board.
Today we spend a relaxing day at the SCAD campus, learning about a variety of the organization’s projects, such as the ‘green generator’ that converts organic wastes into methane gas for cooking and fertilizers. We may also visit the organic garden and the school for children with special needs and learning difficulties, a marvelous project that saves many children from a sad future as beggars in the streets. Overnight at the SCAD guesthouse. Full board.
Today we have the opportunity to learn about further development projects organized by SCAD. We shall visit some remote villages, such as a gypsy community with its school, women’s groups and the leprosy station and hospital. Overnight at the SCAD guesthouse. Full board.
We spend another day learning about the different SCAD projects, visiting local artisans’ projects like the textile producers (sarees), carpet producers and potters. Overnight at the SCAD guesthouse. Full board. Please note that the projects visited might be determined by the specific interests of our group as well as the prevailing circumstances.
Free time on the SCAD campus. If you wish you may visit the ancient temple of Tirunelveli and shop for textiles at the local bazaar. Near the SCAD campus, there is the birthplace of the great Indian Yogi Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, which you may reach by bicycle. Overnight in the SCAD guesthouse. Full board.
After breakfast we travel by private bus to Varkala, a beach resort on the coast of Kerala and an ancient pilgrimage site, (approx. 5 – 6 hours). After checking into our hotel we shall have free time to explore the sandy beaches, dip into the sea or relax with an optional ayurvedic massage (X). Hotel in Varkala. B
Free day in Varkala. There will be the opportunity to watch pujas (ceremonial offerings) on the sacred beach, visited by thousands of devout Hindus every year. You may also enjoy an extended walk on the coconut tree-lined clifftops over the beautiful beach. Sometimes dolphins and sea otters are spotted swimming very close to the coast. Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of one of Kerala’s loveliest sandy beaches. Overnight at Hotel in Varkala. B
Free day in Varkala. Practice Yoga, spoil yourself with an Ayurvedic massage or explore the beautiful temple tank of Janardhana Swamy Temple that can be reached by foot. Stroll the local Tibetan market or join an optional cookery class and learn how to prepare delightful Keralan dishes. Overnight at Hotel in Varkala. B
By private bus to the Amritamayi Ma ashram in Amritapuri. Amritamayi Ma is also known as Amma or the hugging saint. Our experience at the ashram provides us with a glimpse of life in an Indian spiritual community. If we are in luck we may meet Amma in person and experience one of her famous embraces. Full board is included (simple meals). There are also coffee shops and restaurants on the ashram grounds. You may participate in meditation sessions and kirtan in the evening. Overnight in the Amma Ashram (in twin rooms with private attached facilities).
We spend the morning in the ashram participating in the activities of your choice. You may also explore the local beach or the backwaters which are very close to the ashram. After lunch, we return to Ernakulam (Kochi) where we spend the night in a Hotel. Full board.
Breakfast at the hotel. End of all services.
Included in the tour price:
- 17 nights in twins or doubles with private attached bathrooms in comfortable mid-range hotels or guesthouses
- 1 night on backwater houseboat in double or twin with private bathroom
- 1 night in the Amma ashram in doubles or twins in private bathrooms
- Vegetarian/vegan meals as described in the itinerary
- English-speaking tour leader
- Support from local tour leaders and staff members from SCAD
- All land transport as described in the itinerary
- Entrance fees to the sites visited
- Optional Yoga sessions in the mornings (wherever possible)
Not Included in the tour price:
- International flights
- Indian visa
- Travel insurance (mandatory)
- Transfers from/to the airport of Kochi to Ernakulam and vice versa
- Meals not included in the itinerary
- Cold beverages and alcoholic drinks
- Optional activities marked (X) like additional Yoga sessions, massages, dance shows and concerts
- Tips and gratuities