Journey through culturally-unique Southern India to visit a wildlife preserve, enjoy splendid beaches, travel overnight in a houseboat, visit a synagogue near the tip of India. Expect the unexpected in Cochin and Kerala! Purple Dragon pioneered LGBT travel to India.
On the very tip of India, Cochin and Kerala have are among India's favorite destinations because of its gorgeous beaches, fascinating history, colorful villages and friendly people.
Day One: The Strategic Queen of the Arabian Sea
Arrive in Cochin and, on arrival, assistance and transportation to your hotel. In the evening, an optional walk through the Jewish Colony and a fascinating boat ride through the Cochin Harbor.
Popularly known as the "Queen of the Arabian Sea," Cochin is rich both in culture and tradition. Because of its strategic location a the tip of India the city has been colonized by both armies and merchants from China to Europe. Cochin casts a magical spell on you, transporting you down the lanes of history to Dutch, Portuguese and British merchant houses to a land of lagoons, swaying coconut palms and Chinese Fishing nets silhouetted against the sunset. The fishing villages at the mouth of the harbor are especially interesting as they have not change much in centuries.
Another interesting place is the Bolghatty Island, a narrow stretch of island where you visit Bolghatty Palace, built by the Dutch in 1744. The building was once a governor's palace and later the home of British governors. Just as interesting is the Dutch Palace, which was built by the Portuguese and presented to the Cochin Raja in 1555. (Confused yet?) The glory of the palace lies in the murals, which are in the best traditions of the Hindu temple art. There are scenes from the Indian epics--Ramayana and Mahabhartha--depicted on the walls.
The Jewish Quarter - in the Mattancherry, is one just street long. The original residents here sold fruits, vegetables and spices or worked as oil prossers or carpenters. The Spice market is still located on the narrow street. Out of seven Synagogues that graced this street only the Paradeshi is open. You can also visit the nearby Jewish Cemetery, with stone sepulchers above ground, inscribed in Hebrew and Malayalam. From the burial ground, a walk through several blocks will bring you to the Magen David decorated, wrought iron gates of the Paradeshi Synagogue. Along the way one can identify buildings that once housed synagogues and prayer halls, as well as many very old homes.
The Synagogue also contains silver and gold decorated Torah Scrolls, an oriental carpet in front of the Ark (gift from Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie), two brass columns, two bimot and Torah crowns of solid gold set with gems given to Cochin Jews by neighboring Rajas. The greatest treasure however is - The great scrolls of the old testament, copper plates in which the grant of privileges made by the Cochin rulers to Joseph Rabban in 379 A.D, were recorded. They are stored in an iron box called a pandeal and carefully guarded by elders. Advance notice is required to arrange a visit here.
Day Two: High Energy Indian Epics
Full Day visits in Cochin. In the evening, a visit to the performance of Kallaripattu - the ancient form of Martial Art, and Kathakalli, a dance form unique to Kerala that retells the story of Mahabharata, Ramayana or Bhagwat Purana - the three epics of India. The dance form is unique in the sense that they always depict lessons of good prevailing over evil and is enacted by dancers in outrageous make-up and only through facial and body expressions accompanied by musical instruments. Never a word is uttered. One has to see it to believe the high-energy performance.
Day Three: Tigers and a Lake
Cochin to Periyar. Periyar is located in the Thekkady district of Kerala. Here in the heights of Western Ghats Mountains is the vast lake formed by the dam across the Periyar River.
Created during India's British period, the place originally was a lowland and today, you can see the tell-tale signs – rotten tree stumps sticking out of the water like knobbed fingers reaching out to the sky! Around this lake is one of the most fascinating wild life sanctuaries as well as an important tiger reserve. Covering an area of 777 square kilometers of lush green tropical forests, it is the natural habitat of the small Indian Elephant, bison, spotted deer, sambar, wild boar, bear and other unusual beasts. A variety of colorful of birds like the Malabar Grey hornbill, Grey jungle fowl and the Jungle Myna can be seen here. A late afternoon boat ride is one of the best times for game viewing. Do remember that it is not so much to see the animals but to enjoy the scenery. Return to Serenity for overnight.
Day Four: Heart of the Kerala Backwaters
Periyar to Kumarakom. A leisurely breakfast and leave for Kumarakom – a four-hour drive away.
Kumarakom is the heart of the backwaters of Kerala, a network of canals, inland lakes, lagoons and estuaries. The waterways link remote villages and islands with the mainland. It is a wonderful experience to cruise the serene backwaters, getting a glimpse into the peaceful life of the rustic village folk who live along the water. Small canoes ply these waters, ferrying people and goods. As you sail through the shimmering aquatic highway we are sure you will enjoy breathtaking beauty of endless green paddy fields and dancing coconut palms along the shimmering waterways is the best way to get a glimpse of its day to day life. On the way your boatmen could take you into the thatched country shops if you wish to sample “Toddy” (locally brewed fermented Coconut nectar), which is served with delicious fried crab or Karimeen (carp fish), the local specialties. Women dive into the water and catch fish with bare hands and feet, and harvest mussels from the lakebed. Historic monuments, temples and churches can be seen along the banks.
Day Five: Hang Out in Kumarakom
Today is day is free for you to enjoy Kumarakom on your own.
Day Six: Onward
Transportation to Cochin for your flight to your next destination. An easy addition to Kerala would be Mahabalipuram, with its splendid temples and magnificent beaches.