Joe Thottungal, Executive Chef at the popular Coconut Lagoon restaurant in Ottawa and silver medal winner at the 2017 Canadian Culinary Championships, will be leading his fourth small group tour through South India for a select group of gourmands. The 18-day itinerary not only explores the culture and culinary practices of this tantalizing region, which includes Joe’s home state Kerala, but also provides intimate insight into the preparation and traditions surrounding the area’s world-famous cuisine.
Throughout the tour, Chef Joe will personally escort his guests in sampling and cooking up local specialties, touring fragrant spice plantations, demonstrating bargaining at local markets and introducing us to some of the country’s top chefs, as well as exploring some of the regions most stunning cultural gems. This unique tour is interactive and intimate every step of the way, with hands-on cooking demonstrations from award-winning instructors, lessons in bargaining with fish mongers to buy the catch of the day, and a once-in-a-lifetime family experience as Joe’s parents Joseph and Mary invite us into their home and welcome us into the family to prepare and share an Indian feast.
Other highlights include tiger-spotting at the world renowned Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, soaking in the rolling green hills and relaxed ambiance of British hill town Munnar, explore the cultural highlights of vibrant Chennai and bustling Cochin as well as cruising through the scenic backwaters of Kerala.
|Tour Duration||:||18 days|
|Min. Tour Size||:||15 persons|
|Max. Tour Size||:||24 persons|
|Includes international air|
|Tour Price (from)||:||US$|
Day 01: March 01, 2019: Depart for India
We depart our home city for Chennai, India.
Day 02: March 02, 2019: Arrive Chennai
Namaste! After clearing immigration, baggage collection and customs, we are met by Bestway Tours & Safaris’ ground staff, in traditional Indian way with hands clapped together. We are warmly welcomed and transferred to our hotel.
Overnight: Taj Coromandel, Chennai (3 nights)
Day 03: March 03, 2019: Chennai/Mahabalipuram/Chennai
Our morning is free to relax and recover from our jet lag. Time to meet Joe and the participants on this exciting tour.
We start our experience of South India in the late afternoon with an exciting excursion to visit the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram*. Carved out of the coast in the 7th and 8th centuries, this group of ancient archaeological wonders is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is known for its stunning rathas, temples in the form of chariots, and mandapas, intricately decorated cave sanctuaries. A highlight is Rivage temple, which contains thousands of sculptures celebrating Shiva, and the famous giant open-air relief ‘Descent of the Ganges’. Afterwards, we join Chef Joe and his team for our first cooking class, followed by a delicious welcome dinner at Vivanta by Taj Fisherman’s Cove Mahabalipuram. After dinner, we return to our hotel in Chennai. (B, D)
Day 04: March 04, 2019: Chennai
Enjoy a sumptuous breakfast at the Taj Coromandel. Later we visit the National Art Gallery & Museum, home to some of the best bronze collections in the country dating from the 7th century to the present day, including the famous icon of Natraja. Also worth a visit are India’s oldest surviving British church, St. Mary’s Church, the People’s Park, the clock towers, and beautiful Marina Beach, the second longest beach in the world. Afternoon is free to enjoy the city and visit the bustling local bazaar. Later we return to our hotel. For those who are interested, Chef Joe may arrange a special tour of the kitchen and opportunity to meet the chefs at our hotel’s famous Southern Spice restaurant. This will be followed by special dinner at the restaurant itself. With its temple and palace-inspired decor, lavish interior, artistic presentation and authentically South Indian dishes, Southern Spice is rated as amongst Asia’s top dining experiences. (B, D)
Day 05: March 05, 2019: Chennai/Mysore (Train)
Early morning, we take a scenic train ride on the deluxe Shatabdi train to Mysore. Breakfast is served on board. On arrival, we are transferred to our hotel. Afternoon is free to rest or enjoy Mysore’s many attractions. With its rich heritage, magnificent palaces, beautiful gardens, broad shady avenues and sacred temples, this city never fails to mesmerize the visitor.
In the evening, a fascinating experience as we visit the Brindavan Gardens, famous for its dancing musical fountains and symmetric design. Spread over 150 acres, Brindavan Gardens is one of the most famous gardens in South India. It has been used as a setting for many Bollywood films.
Overnight: Radisson BLU, Mysore (2 Nights) (B, D)
Day 06: March 06, 2019: Mysore
We start our day with a visit to the Maharajah’s Palace. Once the seat of power of the ruling Wodeyars, this Indo-Saracenic building is one of the largest and most splendid of its kind in India. Admire its elaborate stained-glass ceilings, intricately carved solid gold throne and gallery of exquisite art. We also visit Shri Chamundeswari Temple and Nadi Shiva’s Mount. Our tour ends with an exploration of Srirangapatnam, an island fortress that was once the seat of warrior kings Hyder Alli and Tipu Sultan, known as the Tiger of Mysore. (B, D)
Day 07: March 07, 2019: Mysore/Coorg (Drive)
After breakfast, we journey on to Coorg, known for its verdant scenery and lush plantations. On arrival, we check in to our resort. Afternoon is free to relax or explore the nearby coffee plantations and spice estates. In the evening, we take a cooking class followed by dinner arranged by Chef Joe and the chefs at our world-class hotel, VIvanta by Taj Madikeri.
Overnight: Vivanta By Taj Madikeri, Coorg (1 night) (B, D)
Day 08: March 08, 2019: Coorg/Calicut (Drive)
Another adventure begins today with a journey to Calicut. Also known as Kozhikode, this bustling town is famous as the spot where Vasco De Gama, the first European to land on Indian coasts, set foot in 1498 AD. A port city located amid the lush green spice plantations, Calicut takes us on a momentous journey through beautiful backwaters, picturesque beaches and ancient palaces.
Overnight: The Gateway Hotel, Calicut (1 night) (B, D)
Day 09: March 09, 2019: Calicut/Guruvayur/Thrissur/Cochin (Drive)
An exciting day ahead as we drive to Guruvayur after breakfast, visiting the famous Guruvayur Temple dedicated to lord Vishnu. This is one of the most important spots of worship for Hindus in Kerala.
From here, we drive to Thrissur. This rural town is not a usual stop on tourist itineraries, but for our group, it will undoubtedly be the most memorable, interactive and personal highlight. It is here that Joe’s parents, Joseph and Mary Thottungal, reside. We have been invited into their home for a lovingly prepared lunch with the group. As we sit down to a magnificent feast, we will get a rare insight into Indian family traditions, and their generosity and kindness towards guests. Joseph and Mary’s pride for what Joe has achieved is palpable. Joe had his first cooking lesson at his mother’s knee and Mary will share many stories from Joe’s childhood with us. We will also be shown around the massive garden where the family grows and processes their own spices. During this incredible firsthand experience, we will meet many members of Joe’s extended family and be embraced as one of their own. Few visitors to India are privy to such an intimate and personal touch! We bid farewell to the senior Thottungals as we drive to Cochin.
Overnight: Courtyard by Marriott Cochin Airport, Cochin (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 10: March 10, 2019: Cochin/Kothamanagalam/Munnar (Drive)
After breakfast, we drive to Munnar. En route, we stop at Kothamanagalam for another intimate and homely experience, this time with Chef Joe’s in-laws Peter and Pushpamma Jose. They will be our guides as we explore their scenic rubber and coconut plantation. After lunch, we take a scenic drive to Munnar, a hill station located 1600 meters above sea level. Once the summer resort of South India’s British administration, it retains its colonial charm. Munnar is famous for its spectacular scenery, full of emerald tea plantations; sprawling estates, sparkling waterfalls and picture perfect postcard hamlets. Balance of the day is at leisure to explore Munnar’s relaxed ambiance and stunning panoramas.
Overnight: KTDC Tea County Munnar, Munnar (2 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 11: March 11, 2019: Munnar
We start the day with a visit to the Tea Museum and take a short trip to Mattupetty Dam, located 13 kilometers from Munnar town. This imposing dam has created a beautiful lake where wildlife flourishes. Boat rides are available, allowing one to enjoy an amazing view of the surrounding green hills and plantations from on top of the pristine water.
After enjoying a walk through the enchanting tea estates, the rest of the day is spent at leisure. Enjoy the tranquil surroundings or indulge in an Ayurvedic massage (at own expense) before dinner. (B, D)
Day 12: March 12, 2019: Munnar/Thekkady (Drive)
Our day begins with a scenic drive, this time to Thekkady, also known as Periyar after a dam of the same name constructed by the British in 1895. This tropical region is a wildlife reserve, offering an ideal spot to track wild elephants, bison, deer and numerous varieties of birds.
Later in the afternoon, we board a small boat and cruise the lake at the heart of Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. From our tranquil spot on the lake, we enjoy the lush scenery surrounding us and look out for animals coming to the edge of the water for a drink. Here we can often spy herds of elephants, scurrying wild boars and magnificent Sambar deer.
In the evening, we enjoy a cooking session followed by an informal feast at Spice Village. The dishes will be chosen by Chef Joe and specially prepared by a team of master chefs brought in from various parts of the region. Chefs at Spice Village specialize in popular regional cuisines, and each chef will cook delicacies from their region, treating us to an incredible variety of authentic flavours.
Overnight: Spice Village, Thekkady (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 13: March 13, 2019: Thekkady
Early morning, we embark on a unique adventure with a guided jungle walk through Periyar Tiger Reserve and National Park. This three-hour easy to moderate walk will give us a chance to see wildlife at close range. If we are lucky, we may even spot the rarely sighted leopards and tigers. Afterwards, we will return to our hotel for breakfast.
In the afternoon, we visit a native family home and spice plantation, which grows both common as well as unusual spices and herbs for culinary and medicinal purposes. This plantation is entirely organic and uses only natural forms of pest control. The owner and his family are very knowledgeable about their produce, and are keen to show us the various spices and herbs, encouraging us to smell and taste many different clipping. Our visit to the family-owned spice plantation includes a demonstration of home-cooked meal using the spices grown here, after which we are invited to stay for lunch with the family!
Evening, we attend a KALARIPAYATTU SHOW, which is the oldest form of martial arts and is celebrated as the mother of all martial arts. Legend says this 3000-year-old art form began with sage Parasurama, known as the master and guru of all martial art forms. Kung-Fu traces its ancestry to Bodhi Dharma, an Indian Buddhist monk and Kalaripayattu master. (B, L)
Day 14: March 14, 2019: Thekkady/Kumarakom (Drive)
Following breakfast, a scenic ride to our next destination, Kumarakom, a beautiful paradise of mangrove forests, emerald green paddies and coconut groves interspersed with enchanting waterways and white-lily filled canals. Upon arrival, we check in to our hotel. The remainder of the day is free.
Overnight: Coconut Lagoon, Kumarakom (B, D)
Day 15: March 15, 2019: Kumarakom
Morning is free for personal activities. In the afternoon, we board our private Lakes & Lagoon houseboat and take a four-hour cruise along the famous backwaters of Kerala from Kumarakom to Alleppey. Lunch is on board our houseboat. Our journey begins through the picturesque backwaters and small lakes relaxing in the tranquility of Kerala's beautiful scenery. As we cruise, we come across many boats, canoes and other crafts and observe the traditional way of life and activities of the local people. After enjoying the cruise, we are transferred to our hotel. (B, L, D)
Day 16: March 16, 2019: Kumarakom/Cochin (Drive)
After breakfast, we drive to Cochin. This charming town is picturesquely located on a number of islands squeezed between the Arabian Sea and the Kerala backwaters. Reflecting the maritime history of Kochi, the old buildings are a blend of Dutch, Portuguese and British architecture.
In the evening, we savour a cooking class at the house of Nalini Verma, a professional cookery instructor for the last 26 years who has authored four cook books. Nalini Verma offers tourists from across the globe a unique opportunity to get acquainted with the finer nuances of traditional Kerala cuisine through her special cookery classes. These classes are conducted at her residence in Panampilly Nagar, Kochi.
Overnight: Vivanta by Taj Malabar, Cochin (2 nights) (Breakfast, Dinner with cooking class at the House of Nalini Verma)
Day 17: March 17, 2019: Cochin
Today we explore this waterfront gem, starting with a visit to St. Francis Church, the oldest European church in India. The remains of Vasco De Gama, the first European to find India by sea, were buried here before being taken back to Portugal. Next we visit the Roman Catholic Santa Cruz Cathedral, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and the stunning harbour, where we see the famous Chinese fishing nets in action. We wander the old districts of Mattancherry and Fort Kochi, admiring merchant houses, old warehouses, narrow streets and the beautiful waterfront. We end our tour with visits to the 16th century Dutch Palace, which boasts colourful murals, and the Pardesi Synagogue in Jew Town. After the tour, we return to our hotel for lunch. Post lunch, we stop at the local fish market, where Joe will teach us how to recognize and bargain for the fresh catch of the day and fresh prawns. After careful selection and much haggling, a variety of local fish and other seafood will be purchased for our dinner, which will be prepared by Chef Joe and the executive chefs of our hotel.
Later in the evening, we cruise on a chartered boat to enjoy the sunset. On this excursion, we explore Bolghatty Palace and observe the fascinating Chinese fishing nets in action, a sight coveted by photographers internationally. After the boat cruise, we attend a Kathakali show where the epic Ramayana comes to life. Classical dancers use larger than life gestures to tell the story, while wearing unique costumes and elaborate make up. The day ends with a memorable mouth-watering dinner put together jointly by Joe and hotel chefs. (B, L, D)
Day 18: March 18, 2019: Depart Cochin
After an interesting and unforgettable culinary tour of South India, we are transferred to Kochi International Airport in time to connect our flight back home. Or an opportunity here to extend our adventure with one of Bestway’s many other India holiday tour packages to different regions of this unique subcontinent.
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
English Speaking Departures (Please contact us for information on French, German, Italian and Spanish speaking departures).
Tour PriceWe accept payment in US $ (US Dollars), CA $ (Canadian Dollars) or equivalent EURO (for clients outside North America). Bestway Tours & Safaris offers conversion rate protection. Once full payment has been received, and no modification has been made to the tour itinerary, we will honour that rate. For complete payment procedures, please click here
|Departure(s)||Per Person on Twin Sharing||Single Room Supplement|
|Mar 01, 2019||CA$ 7595||CA$ 1850|
Estimated International Airfare (International airfare is included in this tour)
This tour operates on a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 24 participants
If you would like to have a tour on dates other than the above ones or with a customised itinerary, please contact us and we will be happy to work out an exclusive program for you.
You may e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-604-264-7378. Residents of U.S.A./Canada may call us toll free at 1-800-663-0844.