kerala houseboat india cultural tour

Houseboat, Kerala

Exploring the  tranquil waterways of Kerala by private houseboat is just one of the features of our South India journey. We also discover the ancient temples of Tamil Nadu and look for Indian wildlife at Nagarhole National Park.

Photo by James Sydney / AGE Fotostock

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Treasures of South India route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $7595  
Length: 14 days
Arrive: Cochin, India
Depart: Chennai (Madras), India
Lodging: 12 nights first-class hotels, 1 night aboard private houseboat
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Walking, Archaeology, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: Overland travel with walking tours, cultural explorations


  • Ancient trading port of Cochin on the Arabian Sea
  • Private houseboat with an on-board chef
  • Madurai’s colossal temple, French colonial Pondicherry by the sea
  • South India’s savory cuisine, from curries to dosas

One of the best trips we've ever taken.Judith L.—San Jose, CA

Recent Photo Blog Posts

A Passage to India, Anne & Ian Gray

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

South India is simply dazzling, with its spice ports, colonial towns, and magnificent temples nestled in a lush tropical landscape. Our hand-crafted journey delves deeply into this colorful realm as we watch an ancient dance-drama performance, explore by houseboat on tranquil Kerala waterways, and discover Tamil Nadu’s sacred architecture, where carved temples soar high above palm forests. Along the way, we savor legendary cuisine, from coconut-infused fish curries to tangy rasam.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-2, January 8 - 9, 2017

In Cochin, with its stunning location along the Arabian Sea, our walks reveal the legacies of its European past, from British mansions and Dutch cottages to a 16th century synagogue.

Days 3-6, January 10 - 13, 2017
Kerala Houseboats / Periyar / Madurai

As we glide by deluxe private houseboat, Kerala’s picturesque rural scenes are all around us. Our journey on waterways through this quiet region reveals the life of people working their fields with water buffaloes and fishing with nets from traditional longboats. We may even see some school boats (no school buses here). After heading through tea plantations to Periyar in the Cardamom Hills, we continue to Madurai. The vast, fortress-like Shri Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar temple dominates this city, and we immerse ourselves in the fascinating temple scene, with its Shaivite priests and ongoing weddings.

Days 7-10, January 14 - 17, 2017
Karaikudi / Thanjavur / Pondicherry

Crossing a green landscape of rice paddies and coconut palms, we discover Chettinard mansions and ancient temples in wayside villages. Bustling Karaikudi, with its antique shops, and famed Thanjavur, a center for art and music, are wonderful highlights. On Day 10, we walk the lanes of the French Quarter of Pondicherry.

Days 11-14, January 18 - 21, 2017
Mamallapuram / Chennai

From our beach resort, we marvel at Mamallapuram’s rock-cut temples by the sea and visit an open-air museum of traditional Tamil culture. Depart on Day 14.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

What the Trip is Like

This trip is Level 1+, easy, according to our trip grading system. It is a vehicle-based cultural and natural history adventure. Accommodations are in hotels and lodges.

Although this is not a difficult trip, please remember that travel in India is an intense experience. The essential requirements are flexibility, a sense of humor, curiosity, enthusiasm about new peoples and places, and an openness to the unexpected.

Explanation of Trip Levels


Departures & Leaders

Jan 8-21, 2017   Hashmat Singh

Trip Cost

Prices valid through Spring 2016
$7595 (13-16 members)
$7895 (10-12 members)
$8295 (7-9 members)
Single supplement: $2295
Forced single supplement: $2295
more on pricing

Extension Costs
Taj Mahal and Jaipur Extension
   from: $2495
Varanasi and Khajuraho Extension
   from: $1395
Kanha National Park Extension
   from: $2195

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $600
90 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

Up to 91 days prior to departure: No charge!
61-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
46-60 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Accommodations
  • All meals included
  • Sightseeing as noted in the Full Trip Brochure
  • Land and boat transportation
  • Arrival and departure airport transfers
  • Baggage handling

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare to and from India or flights within India, airport departure taxes, any meals not specified after each itinerary day in the Full Trip Brochure, optional gratuities to leaders and staff, additional hotel nights made necessary by airline schedule changes or other factors, expenses such as immunizations (if any), travel insurance, and other items of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, bottled water, etc.).

Arrival & Departure Information

You are responsible for your own transportation to the arrival and from the departure cities listed below. For more detailed information, including transfers, please download the Detailed Itinerary.

Please do not purchase your tickets until you are confirmed on the trip. Once your tickets have been purchased, please send us a copy of your airline schedule.

Fall 2015-Spring 2016 Departures

Cochin, India
Date: Day 1

Suggested Arrival Airport:
Cochin, India (airport city code: COK)
Suggested arrival time: afternoon
Chennai (Madras), India
Date: Day 14

Suggested Airport for Departure:
Chennai (Madras), India (airport city code: MAA)
Suggested departure time: anytime

Brunton Boatyard

Brunton Boatyard

Days 1 to 2 (2 nights), Cochin, India

Set by the water's edge in Fort Cochin, the Brunton Boatyard is a 19th century shipyard that was converted into a charming 22-room hotel that ...
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Traditional Houseboat

Traditional Houseboat

Day 3 (1 night), Alleppey, India

The beautiful houseboats of Kerala, called kettuvallams, were once used to transport rice, spices, and other goods to the port of Cochin. ...
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Elephant Court

Elephant Court

Days 4 to 5 (2 nights), Periyar, India

Set in a lush, hilly landscape near Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Elephant Court is a peaceful retreat for nature lovers, with its grounds full of ...
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Heritage Madurai

Heritage Madurai

Days 6 to 7 (2 nights), Madurai, India

The environmentally-friendly Heritage Madurai sprawls across 17 acres in Madurai, allowing for a pleasant respite after exploring this vibrant city. ...
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Bangala Hotel

Bangala Hotel

Day 8 (1 night), Karaikudi, India

The Bangala is a family-run heritage hotel in Karaikudi, the main town in Chettinard country. It has been in the same family for 100 years and was ...
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Mantra Veppathur

Mantra Veppathur

Days 9 to 10 (2 nights), Kumbakonam, India

This eco-friendly hotel is spread over landscaped acres along the banks of the Veera Chozha River. It has comfortable air-conditioned guest ...
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Hotel de L'Orient

Hotel de L'Orient

Day 11 (1 night), Pondicherry, India

The Hotel de L’Orient is a heritage building in the heart of  Pondicherry's French district.  A restored mansion, it has the feel of ...
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Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay

Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay

Days 12 to 13 (2 nights), Mamallapuram, India

Spread across 46 acres along a stretch of private beach, this resort complex has spacious, well-kept  rooms, either beachside or poolside, as ...
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Extension Accommodations

If you would like to view the accommodations offered with our extensions options:

Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Our Trip Leaders

Here are the Trip Leaders scheduled for this journey (please note that leader assignments are subject to change).

Devendra Basnet

Devendra Basnet was born in the foothills of the Himalayas in Darjeeling, India, and makes his home in Kathmandu, Nepal with his wife and two children. A WT Trip Leader since 1987, “DB” leads our cultural and hiking journeys into the Himalayas, across India, and along the ancient silk ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

Hashmat Singh

Departure Dates: January 8-21, 2017

Hashmat Singh has led over 150 journeys on three continents for us since 1990. He holds a BA in History from Delhi University and is a noted photographer. His book, Trekking in the Himalaya (Roli Books), features photographic essays from Ladakh to Bhutan. Born an army brat, Hashmat traveled ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:


Kanha National Park Extension

Gameviewing in one of India’s Great Wildlife Reserves

Wildlife & Natural History
5 days  -  Level 2

taj mahal agra india cultural tour

Taj Mahal and Jaipur Extension

Romantic Rajasthan, Land of Princes

Cultural Adventures
4 days  -  Level 1

Varanasi and Khajuraho Extension

Holy City Along the Ganges, Magnificent World-Famous Temples

Cultural Adventures
4 days  -  Level 1

Client Comments

One of the best trips we've ever taken. Judith L., San Jose, CA One of the best trips my husband and I have taken—a feast for the senses and the intellect. Fabulous temples, beautiful countryside. I especially appreciated our many glimpses into village life, religious practices, and traditions. Joanne C., Pittsboro, NC One of the best trips we’ve ever been on. Joe K., Mission Hills, CA
Hashmat's enthusiasm for his country is infectious, his enjoyment of people unending, and his work and efficiency unbelievable. I'm looking forward to another trip with him. Roberta R., Woodstock, VT An extremely well thought out and well executed itinerary and the best Trip Leader I’ve ever had. William N., Long Beach, CA

Recent Photo Blog Posts

A Passage to India, Anne & Ian Gray