South India Culinary Tour
Type: Culinary Tour
Duration: 15 Days
Best Time to Travel: September – March
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South India Culinary Tour - Itinerary
Discover the amazing diversity and flavours of southern India on this magical culinary experience. Beginning in Fort Cochin we sample Kerala cuisine, rich in spices. The Seafood is renowned for its quality and variety.
From Cochin we head inland to the ancient city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, whose origins date back more than two and a half millennia. Here we can enjoy rich aromatic vegetarian dishes. The tour finishes on the east coast with Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram, famed for its shore temples and splendid seafood dishes such as tuna and grilled barracuda.
Arrival and transfer to hotel in Cochin. European influences are instantly apparent in this charming town picturesquely located on a number of islands squeezed between the Arabian Sea and the Kerala backwaters. The maritime history of Cochin is reflected in its blend of Dutch, Portuguese and British architecture.
Have dinner at The Malabar Junction, Malabar house. This is a superb, open-sided restaurant with a garden and is known throughout India for its exceptional food (probably the best pasta in India!). The seafood is the best in this region offering a blend of Mediterranean, Indian and local cuisine. Later we enjoy a Sunset cruise in the Cochin Harbour.
After breakfast, we have a cooking class with Nalini Verma. Nalini Verma is a professional cooking instructor with over 25 years’ experience and has written 4 cook books. She allows us a unique opportunity to get acquainted with the subtleties traditional Keralan cuisine. We will visit a local vegetable and spice market to see where the ingredients can be found. We will also have a meal with an Indian family
Meander through the old districts of Mattancherry and Fort Cochin where the various European influences are most apparent with merchant houses and old warehouses cramming the waterfront. Explore the Pardesi Synagogue in Jew Town, St Francis Church, the oldest European church in India, and the highly decorated Santa Cruz Basilica. Admire the colourful murals, including depictions of the Ramayana, in the 16th century Dutch Palace. Linger in the aromatic spice markets before moving on to the much-photographed Chinese nets that line the shore of Fort Cochin.
KERALA CUSINE: Kerala is known as the “land of Spices”. Even the Kerala cuisine is known for its spicy and hot foodsThe cuisine of Kerala is characterized by the use of coconut, either chopped or grated and used as garnishing, coconut milk or paste is used to thicken gravies and coconut oil is used for cooking. Though one can’t imagine Kerala food without chilies, curry leaf, mustard seed, tamarind and asafetida. Seafood is very popular in Kerala and consumed with every meal. Various fish including sardines, mackerel, tuna, rays and shark are eaten, as are crabs, mussels and oysters. “Karimeen” or fried fish is a popular dish as is fish curry called “Fish Moilee.”
Various locally available vegetables such as tapioca, cassava and yam form part of the cuisine of Kerala. Seasonal fruit such as papaya, jackfruit, mangoes and lime are eaten at different times of year. Bananas and coconut are available year round and are a staple of the Kerala diet. The refreshing juice of the tender coconut is a delightful drink, which you can enjoy on Kerala Tours with Kerala Backwater.
Cochin – Kumarakom
Take a scenic drive (90km) to the Kumarakom backwaters and check into the hotel. The labyrinthine network of rivers, canals, streams and lagoons which form the famed backwaters offer stunning views and is an ideal place to relax.
Rest of the day at leisure.
ABOUT KUMARAKOM: Located 14km from Kottyam is Kumarakom, justifiably known as the rice bowl of Kerala. A huddle of tiny islets on the Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom is a picturesque, unspoiled village. The scenery is one of mangrove forests, green paddy meadows and coconut coppices intermingled with waterways and canals.
Kumarakom – Periyar
Drive to Periyar (135km), an area known for its undulating hills, spice plantations, and elephant sightings. One of 27 tiger reserves in India, the Periyar valley in Thekkady is the oldest.
Go for a spice plantation tour today and be enticed by the aroma of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, pepper and nutmeg. Discover how they are grown, harvested and processed before they reach the supermarkets. We also have an elephant ride this afternoon.
ABOUT PERIYAR: The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is the main attraction of Thekkady. Spread over an area of about 777 sq km with about 360 sq. km of which is thick evergreen forest, the sanctuary was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978. However, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is also home to rare species of flora and fauna.
Board a small boat for the chance to cruise the lake at the heart of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. From the tranquility of the lake, enjoy the lush scenery all around you and keep a look out for animals that may come down to the water’s edge – maybe a family of elephants, scurrying Wild Boar or the magnificent Sambar Deer.
In the evening, take part in another cookery demonstration at the resort. Here we will have the chance to try our hand at making our own variations of Kerala dishes.
Periyar – Madurai
Drive to the ancient temple town of Madurai (165km) .This vast, pulsating city, one of the oldest in South India, dating back 2,500 years, is sprawled along the banks of the River Vaigai.
Wander through the fun, packed streets which are full of pilgrims, wandering cows, open-air kitchens and colourful bazaars.
We explore the main sites including the famous Meenakshi Temple (excluding the inner sanctum). Get right under the skin of this fascinating city and take a leisurely rickshaw ride through the maze of streets. Take in the sights and smells that surround you; pass through vegetable markets and see the locals haggling; stop to admire the 17th-century Thirumalai Nayak Palace, a fusion of classical Indian and European styles and visit the Gandhi Museum.
Enjoy street food as we walk the streets and witness how life unfolds on a day-to-day basis.
TAMIL NADU CUISINE: Tamil Nadu is famous for its hospitality and its deep belief that serving food to otervice to humanity, as is common in many regions of India. The region has a rich cuisine involving traditional vegetarian, as well as non-vegetarian dishes. It is characterized by the use of rice, legumes and lentils. Its distinct aroma and flavour is achieved by the blending of herbs and spices including curry leaves, mustard seeds, coriander, ginger, garlic, chili, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, coconut and rosewater. Tamil Nadu is also renowned in India for its filter coffee. Most Tamils have ahers is a s subtle disliking for instant coffee; therefore filter coffee is more popular.
Madurai – Karaikudi
We drive to Karaikudi stopping en route at a village market. Our accommodation in Karaikudi is a traditional house which has been converted in to a hotel. Karaikudi’s Muniswaran Kovil Street has several antique shops selling stuff from local home furnitures, lots of junk, glass objects, glass with art works etc.
Today we will sample authentic Chettinad cuisine which is synonymous with spicy fare even to the Indian palate. Chettinad cuisine is influenced by the hot, arid nature of the region. Chettiars trace back their origins to the coastline and their cuisine includes many great seafood dishes. The much travelled Chettiars also brought back overseas influences and their cuisine was popular with the British during the time of the Raj. Chettiars are legendary for their hospitality and the size of their kitchens and their lavish banquet halls are testimony to this.
ABOUT KARAIKUDI: Karaikudi is the largest town in the Chettinad region. The name Karaikudi originated from the plant’s name karai that abounds in the area, and kudi meaning settlement. The Nagarathars, a Chettiar community, are the predominant people of the region flourishing in trade and commerce and are known as wealthy benefactors, establishing educational institutions, temples, festivals and maintaining traditional ceremonies.
Karaikudi – Kumbakonam
Drive to Kumbakonam (150km) often known as ‘Temple Town’ due to its volume of temples.
We have a village walk which includes the Mahamaka Tank, where thousands of pilgrims come to bathe every 12 years. They believe the tank was formed when Shiva broke a pot and the water poured out. There are temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, as well as a rare Brahma temple. The Kumbarashwara temple contains a lingam, said to be made from the broken pieces of pot and placed there by Shiva. Most famous of all are the superb Chola stone sculptures in the Nageshwara Swami Shiva Temple.
Kumbakonam – Pondicherry
Drive to Pondicherry (220km).
Free time to explore the town.
ABOUT PONDICHERRY: Attractively set on the Bay of Bengal with pristine beaches, this surprising town is a throwback to colonial times when it was a French enclave. Those used to British colonial architecture will enjoy the Gallic imprint with the profusion of Catholic churches and distinctly French buildings such as the beachfront Hotel de Ville and excellent French restaurants. “Pondi”, has a charm and a style of its own. Many of its houses are painted in Mediterranean colours. Shopping is excellent (taxes are low), with specialties being doll making, silk weaving and papermaking. It is also home to the exceedingly rich Sri Aurobindo Ashram, whose buildings sprawl throughout the town: they also make paper and books, often beautifully bound in silk. The old seafront – Beach Road – makes a lovely morning stroll, there is a museum, several elaborate Catholic churches and 19th century Botanical Gardens. Pondicherry cuisine is a vibrant fusion of Tamil and French cooking with hints of Indian, Portuguese and Malaysian cuisine.
Pondicherry – Mahabalipuram
Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Pondicherry such as Shri Aurobindo Ashram, the Ganesha Temple, the Church of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and the Gandhi Statue on the boulevard. There’s also time to munch on French baguettes for lunch before we set out for Mahabalipuram (220km).
En route we stop at Auroville, the city of Dawn, started in 1968 as a unique experiment in international living, where people live and work in total harmony. Visit an organic farm and cheese factory and learn about local farming techniques and cultivation methods. Arrive latter in Mahabalipuram on the Coromandel Coast.
ABOUT MAHABALIPURAM: Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram lies along the Bay of Bengal 60km south of Chennai. The town’s religious centre was founded by a 7th-century Hindu Pallava king, Narasimhavarman also known as Mamalla, for whom the town was named. Ancient Chinese, Persian, and Roman coins found at Mamallapuram point to its importance as busy port. The area boasts 7th- and 8th-century Pallava temples and monuments, chief of which are the sculptured rock relief known as “Arjuna’s Penance” and “Descent of the Ganges,” a series of sculptured cave temples, and a Shaiva temple on the seashore. The town’s Five Rathas, or monolithic temples, are the remnants of seven temples, for which the town was known as Seven Pagodas. The entire assemblage collectively was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
We explore Mamallapuram by auto rickshaw, visiting the Arjuna’s Penance with its wonderful bas-reliefs covering two huge boulders and the Five Rathas. Each of the five temples is dedicated to heroes from the great epic of the Mahabharata. Later visit the Shore Temple overlooking the Bay of Bengal. Dedicated to both Vishnu and Shiva, the decorative beauty of the temple, built in Dravidian style, has suffered erosion due its proximity to the sea.
This evening we have a cooking class with Chef Chindi Varadarajulu. Chindi will reveal fresh insight into how food is closely influenced by both the country’s religion and culture, and how each region’s character comes into its own in the kitchen. Chindi has a passion for food and adventure, along with a deep love and respect for her Indian roots. Originally from Singapore, Chindi spent several years in Vancouver as owner and chef of Chutney Villa, a beloved South Indian restaurant.
Mahabalipuram – Chennai
Depart for Chennai, the former economic and political capital of the East India Company. Among the highlights of the city is Fort St George. Within the fort is St Mary’s Church, the first English church in India and the oldest British building to survive.
Enjoy lunch at Annalakshmi, a voluntary organization supporting the charitable projects of The Shiva Shantha Trust where food is not just for the body but also for the soul. It was started with an ideal of providing traditional Vegetarian Indian cuisine in an Indian cultural ambience. Enjoy a sumptuous unlimited vegetarian meal with a blend of North and South Indian dishes. The meal is served in three courses in beautiful Silver coated plate lined with fresh banana leaf.
Transfer to Mumbai international airport to board the flight for your onward destination. Included: Breakfast
- 14 nights’ accommodation on twin/double sharing room basis at listed hotels above or equivalent
- All internal travel by private chauffeur driven air-conditioned car as per the itinerary
- Entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- Meals as specified in the Itinerary
- Sunset cruise in Cochin
- Kathakali dance show in Cochin
- Qualified English speaking guide at Cochin, Madurai & Mamallapuram
- Cookery demonstration at Cochin, Periyar, Karaikudi & Mamallapuram
- Bicycle Rickshaw tour in Madurai
- Common Boat ride in Periyar
- Spice Plantation tour in Periyar
- Elephant ride in Periyar
- Food tour in Madurai
- Auto Rickshaw tour in Mamallapuram
What's Not Included?
- Any special meal other than those specified in the itinerary
- Meals except those listed in above inclusions
- Camera fees, if any
- Expenses of personal nature such as laundry, telephones, etc.
- International / inland flight charges
- All other than those listed in above inclusions
|City||Standard Hotels||Superior Hotels||No of Nights|
|Cochin||Pepper Route||Tissa Inn||2|
|Kumarakom||Abad Whispering Palms||Backwater Ripples||1|
|Madurai||Astoria Hotel||GRT Regency||2|
|Karaikudi||Chettinadu Court||Chettinadu Mansion||1|
|Kumbakonam||Quality Inn Viha||Mantra Vettapur||2|
|Pondicherry||The Richmond||Maison Perumal||1|
|Mahabalipuram||Mamalla Heritage||Grande Bay Resorts & Spa||2|
|Chennai||The Accord||Hotel Rain Tree||1|