From the mist-shrouded spice plantations of the Western Ghats down to the palm-studded beaches that stretch out into the Arabian Sea, Kerala fittingly deserves its moniker – ‘God’s Own Country’. In between, there’s that mesmerising web of waterways that plies coconut groves and evergreen rainforest – the famous Keralan backwaters. Explore it all with starry nights spent in houseboats, tours of the state’s diverse colonial history, national park cruises in search of native wildlife and guided walks through hillside farms that continue a millennia-old trade-route heritage.
Start in style with premium lounge access – the ideal way to relax before your overnight flight.
A private transfer will greet your arrival into Kochi. The perfect introduction to your stay in Kerala, it’s here that schoolboys play cricket on green squares and giant Chinese fishing nets are cantilevered by cheerful teams. Your private guide will shed some light on the town’s 16th-century sights: there’s the humble Mattancherry Palace first built by the Portuguese as a gift to the local king, one of the country’s only synagogues, Paradesi, and the ornate spires of St. Francis Church, the oldest church in India.
In a Hindu tradition dating back to the 1600s, today you’ll be treated to a Kathakali dance-drama from performers who spend a lifetime perfecting its art.
Wind through Kerala’s rice-paddy verdure up into the Cardamom Hills where stream-fed tea plantations are neatly arranged into terraced farms. It’s the idyllic setting for your eco-accommodation, a tribal village re-imagined with modern luxuries. Your first experience of Periyar National Park will be an evening boat cruise on its lake – a green-fringed shimmer used by elephants, tigers and jungle cats as a watering hole.
The region has history too. For more than 3,000 years its verdant contours have produced cardamom, rubber, vanilla and coffee for the world, grown in plantations you will have explored on your private morning tour and guided countryside walks.
Swapping back to the coast, your private transfer will bring you to Kumarakom – a cluster of tiny islands on Vembanad Lake. It forms an untouched slice of the Keralan backwaters – a network of rivers, canals and lagoons lined with swaying palms and bright-green fields of rice. It’s also a birding paradise – marvel at psychedelic kingfishers and golden-backed woodpeckers on a bird sanctuary visit.
Your hotel is the best in the region and you'll stay right on the lakeside in a luxury teak pavilion or villa complete with private Jacuzzi. You might also make use of the range of Ayurvedic treatments on offer for a truly indulgent experience.
Today you’ll board your own private luxury houseboat. Termed kettuvalloms or ‘stitched boats’, their great thatched curves recall the original rice ferries that plied these waters. Relax in a world of traditional opulence – constructed from bamboo and local timber – as you gently drift down the verdant waterways, watching as punting locals herd ducks and pick coconuts while the colourful birdlife swoops overhead.
Along the way, your personal chef will prepare veritable feasts of local ingredients, with highlights including white prawns, pearl-spotted fish, crabs and mussels.
Stay: Luxury houseboat
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included
After a private transfer down the coast, you’ll arrive at your Relais & Châteaux home for the next three nights – the Niraamaya Surya Samudra. From its location on Kovalam’s cliffs, expect the likes of indulgent Ayurvedic spa treatments and gourmet dining spanning local Keralan delicacies and sumptuous international favourites, all served to spectacular coastal views. It’s the perfect conclusion to your trip.
After a delicious breakfast, a private transfer will take you to the airport for your flight home.
"This is India at its most relaxed. Here you get to see Kochi’s fishermen tending to their nets, lush tea plantations, calm lakes and riverside life aboard a private houseboat in Kerala’s backwaters where it feels as though time has stood still. End it all with a few days of indulgence at a luxury beachfront property, for me the perfect way to unwind"
Low Season from: £3,370 pp
High Season from: £4,280 pp