Cochin International Airport is well-connected to Indian metros (return flights from Rs. 5,500). Kochi has two train stations – Ernakulam Town and Ernakulam Junction – with the latter being the major station.
We travelled with Karmic Seven United (00-91-98460 89546; email@example.com; Near Abad Nucleus Mall, Ernakulam; from Rs.22,000 for a AC car for 11 days/ 10 nights).
KSU has a pretty informative website ( karmictourism.com ).
The popular Solar Café at the Draavidia Gallery serves tasty and organic vegetarian food in a bright, relaxed space. The art gallery also holds regular music performances (Bazaar Road; 10am – 6pm; from Rs. 200 for a meal for two).
Fort Kochi and Mattancherry offer really interesting curios and art by local painters. These shops also offer interesting insights into the local culture and general ‘Mallu‘ family life. Be sure to bargain, but, of course, as with antiques and art everywhere, there is no right price.
Things to Do in…
MUNNAR : Covering almost 100 sqkm in area, the Eravikulam National Park’s landscape is a mix of grasslands and forest, ensuring a variety of plants and animals – orchids, Niligiri tahr, smallclawed otters and birds like the Kerala laughing thrush (eravikulam.org; 15km from Munnar; 7am – 6pm; entry: Rs. 15, vehicle: Rs. 50).
PERIYAR : The hour-long boat trip on the Periyar Lake is unmissable because the birds, gaur, elephants and otters will make it a really memorable experience (available in the morning and evening; Rs. 200 pp for 1.5 hrs). A jungle walk is the best way to experience the forest and in Periyar, the forest itself is more than half the attraction (walks daily at 7am, 7.30am and 10am; Rs. 200 pp, min four people for 2.5hrs, entrance fees extra). Bamboo rafting (right) at the Periyar Tiger Reserve is a full-day trekking and rafting programme that takes you through the landscapes the Periyar Tiger Reserve encircles. Tea, snacks and lunch are provided (8am – 5pm; Rs. 1,500 pp, min two people, all-inclusive).
CHETHY : Get a real, village-style ayurvedic massage at Ayur Niketan. The people at Azheekan’s can organise it for you (00-91-478-2573298; Ayur Niketan, Arthunkal PO, Cherthala, Alleppey District; Rs. 1,000 for a one-hour massage).