Culinary & cultural tour of India
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Joe Thottungal

Joe Thottungal, Excecutive Chef at the popular Coconut Lagoon Restaurant in Ottawa is hosting this third culinary tour to India. This time the destination is South India with special emphasis on Kerala - Joe’s home state. The 18 days itinerary is designed exclusively to showcase the tantalizing cuisine of South India but also give a real insight into the food and historical culture of India.

Joe personally escorts his guests sampling local delicacies, visiting local fruit and vegetable markets, spice plantations, fish markets as well as historic heritage sites, cultural and religious monuments interacting with locals along the way. The unique features of this tour include live and hands on cooking demonstrations, lessons in haggling with fish mongers to get the best price for their most fresh catch of the day and some unique experiences including an afternoon spent with the senior Joseph Thottungal and his wife Mary -Joe’s Mom and Dad. The Thottugals have invited us to their home where Joe got his first cooking lessons from his mom and Mary has very graciously agreed to share and cook some of her best recipes for us to enjoy-truly a once in a life time experience for anyone visiting India!

Accompanied by a local English speaking guide highlights also include an overnight cruise on the famous and ecologically clean Backwaters of Kerala, cultural shows and comprehensive sightseeing with free time for Spa or Ayurvedic treatments, relaxing and shopping.

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Tour Information
Tour Duration : 18 days
Min. Tour Size : 15 persons
Max. Tour Size : 24 persons
Includes international air
Tour Price (from) : US$
Day 01: March 05, 2017: Depart for India
Day 02: March 06, 2017: Arrive Mahabalipuram
Day 03: March 07, 2017: Mahabalipuram
(B, D)
Day 04: March 08, 2017: Mahabalipuram/Chennai
(B, D)
Day 05: March 09, 2017: Chennai/Mysore (Train)
(B, D)
Day 06: March 10, 2017: Mysore
(B, D)
Day 07: March 11, 2017: Mysore/Bekal
(B, D)
Day 08: March 12, 2017: Bekal
(B, L, D)
Day 09: March 13, 2017: Bekal/Thalasseri/Calicut
(B, L, D)
Day 10: March 14, 2017: Calicut/Thrissur (Drive)
(B, L, D)
Day 11: March 15, 2017: Thrissur/Munnar (Drive)
(B, L)
Day 12: March 16, 2017: Munnar
(B, D)
Day 13: March 17, 2017: Munnar/Thekkady (Periyar)
(B, D)
Day 14: March 18, 2017: Thekkady
(B, L)
Day 15: March 19, 2017: Thekkady/Kumarakom
(B, L, D)
Day 16: March 20, 2017: Kumarakom/Cochin
(B, D)
Day 17: March 21, 2017: Cochin
(B, L, D)
Day 18: March 22, 2017: Cochin/Home
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner

Day 01: March 05, 2017: Depart for India

Our exciting and unique journey of South India begins today as we board our flight to the southeastern city of Chennai previously known as Madras. We are using the award winning Qatar Airways from Montreal. For those wishing to connect from other cities kindly contact us.

Day 02: March 06, 2017: Arrive Mahabalipuram

Namaste! We are welcomed at Chennai Airport the traditional Indian way with hands clapped together.  We take a short drive to Mahablipuram and are transferred to our Taj hotel.
Overnight: Vivanta By Taj Fisherman’s Cove, Mahabalipuram (2 Nights)

Day 03: March 07, 2017: Mahabalipuram

Morning free time to rest.  Late afternoon, we take an interesting excursion to visit the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram*. This group of sanctuaries, founded by the Pallava kings, was carved out of rock along the Coromandel Coast in the 7th and 8th centuries. It is known especially for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air reliefs such as the famous 'Descent of the Ganges' and the temple of Rivage, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva. Evening we join Chef Joe and his team for a cooking class followed by welcome dinner. (B, D)

Day 04: March 08, 2017: Mahabalipuram/Chennai

After breakfast, we proceed for Chennai. Located on the Bay of Bengal coast, Chennai is the capital of the State of Tamil Nadu. It is home to Fort St George built in 1644 and grew up as a, major trading seaport. At Chennai we visit the National Art Gallery & Museum, which contains some of the best collections of bronzes in the country including the famous icon of Natraja. St. Mary’s Church, Peoples Park and the beautiful Marina Beach that is the second longest beach in the world as well as the clock towers are worth visiting. Afternoon free. Evening we enjoy dinner at the famous Southern Spice restaurant at Taj Coromandel. With it’s temple and palace inspired décor, richly laid interiors and food artistically presented, it remains the most authentic location for a real taste of South India and is recognized amongst Asia’s top restaurants.
Overnight: Taj Coromandel, Chennai (1 Night) (B, D)

Day 05: March 09, 2017: Chennai/Mysore (Train)

An early morning scenic train ride to Mysore on the deluxe Shatabdi with breakfast on board. With it’s rich heritage Mysore has never failed to mesmerize us with its magnificent palaces, beautiful gardens, imposing buildings, broad shady avenues and sacred temples. With midday arrival at Mysore we have the afternoon free to rest. Evening we visit the Brindavan Gardens famous for its dancing musical fountains. Brindavan Gardens is one of the best gardens in South India. Spread over 150 acres, Brindavan Gardens provided the backdrop for many Bollywood movies. Special attractions include the 'Dancing Fountains'.
Overnight: Radisson BLU (2 Nights) (B, D)

Day 06: March 10, 2017: Mysore

We start our day with a visit to the Mysore Maharajah's Palace. Once the seat of power of the ruling Wodeyars, this Indo-Saracenic building is one of the largest of its kind in India and one of the most splendid. Admire its stained-glass chamber ceilings, a carved silver door, a solid gold throne and a gallery of exquisite art. Next we visit Shri Chamundeswari Temple and the Nadi Shiva's Mount. From here we continue to visit Srirangapatnam, the island fortress that was once the capital of the warrior kings Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore. (B, D)

Day 07: March 11, 2017: Mysore/Bekal

Another scenic drive this to Bekal, known for the largest preserved fort in Kerala, the Bekal Fort. Perched atop a hill this fort covers the area of 40 acres. The magnificent structure of fort has cannon emplacement, observation towers, water reservoir with long flight of steps and a magazine for storing ammunition. Bekal is also famous for exotic beaches such as Kappil beach and Pallikere Beach.  After rest at our hotel we visit Bekal Fort which appears to have been built up from the sea since almost three fourth of its exteriors is drenched and the waves continually stroke the citadel. The Mukhyaprana Temple of Hanuman and the ancient Muslim Mosque nearby bear testimony to the age-old religious harmony that prevailed in the area. The zigzag entrance and the trenches around the fort show the defense strategy inherent in the fort.
Overnight: Vivanta By Taj, Bekal (2 Nights) (B, D)

Day 08: March 12, 2017: Bekal

Late morning we experience an interesting cooking class passionately conducted by Joe and the hotel chefs jointly followed by lunch.  Balance of the day is free to enjoy the beach and the many other optional activities offered at this magnificent resort.  Vivanta by Taj – Bekal, Kerala is one of the best-kept secrets. Just like a game of hide and seek, you will discover some of the most amazing pleasures and experiences life has to offer here. Soak in the space that spreads over 26 acres and reflects the spirit of the sea and backwaters stylishly woven together. (B, L, D)

Day 09: March 13, 2017: Bekal/Thalasseri/Calicut

A scenic drive to Thalasseri. We visit Ayisha Manzil a Heritage Home belonging to the Moosa family.  Built in 1862, Ayisha Manzil is a colonial guesthouse once known as Judges Bungalow”. As we enjoy our lunch we will experience the warm hospitality, the traditional cuisine with emphasis on the fresh seafood and local culture of Tellicherry.  Continue to Calicut. Calicut also famous as Kozhikode, is the third largest city in Kerala. The place is famous as Vasco De Gama, the first European to land on the Indian coast, arrived here in 1498 AD. A port city located amidst the lush green spice Plantations, Kozhikode takes you on a momentous journey through beautiful backwaters, picturesque beaches and ancient palaces.
Overnight: The Gateway Hotel, Calicut (1 Night) (B, L, D)

Day 10: March 14, 2017: Calicut/Thrissur (Drive)

We visit the famous Guruvayur Temple dedicated to lord Vishnu. Here Vishnu is worshipped in his incarnation of Lord Krishna. Our next stop is Thrissur – certainly not a routine stop on any tourist itinerary. Here in this village we will have a traditional Indian welcome by none other than Joseph and Mary Thottungal – Chef Joe’s parents. It will be a one of its kind and remarkable interactive experience. Mary Thottungal will serve us her own lovingly prepared lunch giving us a rare insight into Indian family traditions, including the love, respect and consideration family members share among themselves. Joe got his first cooking lessons at his mother’s knee and Mary will share stories of Joe’s childhood! We are shown around their huge garden where the family grow and processes their own spices. We will also meet members of his large joint family and interact with them and within no time become be one of them! Few visitors to India are privy to such an intimate and personal experience.  After an unforgettable experience we are transferred to our hotel.
Overnight: The River Retreat, Thrissur (1 Night) (B, L, D)

Day 11: March 15, 2017: Thrissur/Munnar (Drive)

The day starts with a leisurely walk through the town seeing the typical Kerala bazaars, interacting with shopkeepers and residents of Thrissur many of who are Joe’s childhood friends.  Another highlight will be when we visit a rubber and coconut plantation – our hosts this time are Peter and Pushpamma Jose, Chef Joe’s parent’s in-law. They will be our guides as we walk through the plantation. After lunch we take a scenic drive to Munnar, a hill station located 1600 meters above sea level. Once the summer resort of the erstwhile British administration in South India, it retains its colonial charm and is famous for its tea plantations once owned by the British they are now mostly privately owned. Sprawling estates, rolling hills, sparkling waterfalls, picture postcard hamlets and undulating valleys, Munnar is an ideal holiday destination. Balance of the day is free and take in the ambience of Munnar.
Overnight: Mountain Club Resort, Munnar (2 Nights) (B, L)

Day 12: March 16, 2017: Munnar

Munnar is the showcase of some of the exquisite and interesting aspects on the tea plantations in Kerala's high ranges. We start the day with a visit to the recently established Tea Museum which houses images and machineries depicting the turning points of the flourishing tea industry. From here we take a short trip to Mattupetty Dam located about 13kms from Munanr town. Situated at a height of 1700m above sea level. Mattupetty is known for its storage masonry dam and the beautiful lake, which offers pleasurable boat rides, enabling one to enjoy the surrounding hills and landscape. Mattupetty’s fame is also attributed to the dairy farm run by an Indo – Swiss livestock Project where one comes across different highly yielding breeds of cows. We enjoy a walk through the enchanting tea estates. Balance of the day is at leisure to enjoy the tranquil and serene surroundings or indulge in an optional Ayurvedic message before dinner. Evening is another special treat - a sumptuous Barbeque dinner. (B, D)

Day 13: March 17, 2017: Munnar/Thekkady (Periyar)

A whole different world as we drive to Periyar (also known as Thekkady_. A wild life reserve, it is an ideal place to track wild Elephants, Bison, Deer and numerous varieties of birds. The landscape here is very tropical and tea, coffee & other spices will surround you. Later in the afternoon we board a small boat and cruise the lake located at the heart of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. From the tranquility of the lake, we enjoy the lush scenery all around us as we look out for animals that come down to the water's edge for a drink – often it is a herd of elephants or scurrying wild boars or the magnificent Sambar Deer Evening we enjoy a cooking session at the Spice village followed by an informal feast at the Spice Village with dishes personally chosen by Chef Joe and prepared by a team of master chefs from various parts of country. Chefs at the Spice Village specialize in popular regional cuisines.
Overnight: The Elephant Court, Thekkady (2 Nights) (B, D)

Day 14: March 18, 2017: Thekkady

Early morning, we take a guided Jungle walk through the Periyar Tiger Reserve/National Park. This three hour relatively easy to moderate walk will give us a chance to see wildlife from close proximity. If we are lucky we may even spot the otherwise rarely sighted leopards & tigers. Breakfast at the hotel with time to rest. Afternoon we visit a native family home and spice plantation growing common as well as unusual spices and herbs, used both for culinary and medicinal purposes. This plantation is totally 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 various clipping. Our visit to the family owned spice plantation includes a demonstration of home cooked meal using the spices grown here and we are invited to stay for lunch with the family! Evening we are entertained to a Kalaripayattu show - the oldest form of martial arts celebrated as the mother of all martial arts. Legend traces the 3000-year old art form to sage Parasurama-the master and guru of all martial art forms who is credited to be the re-claimer of Kerala from the Arabian Sea. Kung Fu, popularized by the monks of the Shaolin Temple traces its ancestry to Bodhi Dharma-an Indian Buddhist monk and Kalaripayattu master. (B, L)

Day 15: March 19, 2017: Thekkady/Kumarakom

Enjoying rural scenery we arrive at Kumarakom and board our private houseboat to take a four-hour cruising along the famous backwaters of Kerala. 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 in heritage hotel in Kumarakom.
Overnight: Coconut lagoon (1 Night) (B, L, D)

Day 16: March 20, 2017: Kumarakom/Cochin

Short drive to Cochin. European influences in the architecture of this charming town picturesquely located on a number of islands squeezed between the Arabian Sea and the Kerala backwaters are instantly apparent. Reflecting the maritime history of Kochi, the old buildings are a blend of Dutch, Portuguese and British architecture. Evening we have a cooking session at the home of Nalini Verma - a 26 year veteran in cooking. Nalini has authored four cookbooks and is a celebritu in her own rights. She will give us a unique opportunity to get acquainted with finer nuances of traditional Kerala cuisine through her special cookery classes. The session takes place at her residence in Panampilly Nagar, Kochi and is followed by dinner where we get yet another opportunity to experience Indian home and culture.
Overnight: Eighth Baston, Cochin (2 Nights) (B, D)

Day 17: March 21, 2017: Cochin

Our day in Cochin and we take full advantage of it. After breakfast we visit Fort Kochi visiting St. Francis Church the oldest European church in India, the highly decorated Santa Cruz Basilica followed by visit to the harbor where we see the famous Chinese fishing nets in action. We wander through the old districts where we see various European influences, merchant houses and old warehouses, the beautiful waterfront and narrow streets. Allow time to admire the colourful murals, including depictions of the Ramayana, in the 16th century Dutch Palace, visit the Pardesi Synagogue in Jew Town. After lunch we visit the local fish market where Joe will teach us how to recognise and buy (bargain first) the fresh catch of the day and fresh prawns. After a careful selection and bargaining, a variety of local fish and other seafood will be purchased for our dinner - prepared by Chef Joe assisted by the executive chef of our hotel.
Evening we cruise on a chartered boat to enjoy the sunset and visit Bolghatty Palace and observe the fascinating Chinese fishing nets in action, a photographers delight. After enjoying the boat cruise, we attend a Kathakali show where the epic Ramayana comes to life. Classical dancers use larger than life gestures; wear outstanding and 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 22, 2017: Cochin/Home

After an interesting and unforgettable culinary experience of South India, we are transferred to the airport for our flight back home. (B)

B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner

Departure Dates
English Speaking Departures (Please contact us for information on French, German, Italian and Spanish speaking departures).


March 05

Tour Price

We 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 05, 2017 CA$ 7395 CA$ 1650




Tour Price Includes
  • International economy class airfare ex Montreal
  • 17 nights accommodation as mentioned or similar, including hotel taxes
  • 36 Meals as mentioned (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
  • All sightseeing and transfers as per the itinerary
  • Services of local English speaking tour escort cum guide
  • Entrance fees to museums and sites included in the itinerary
  • Cooking classes at Mahabalipuram, Cochin, Thekkady and Bekal
  • Private Harbor Cruise at Cochin
  • Kathakali dance performance at Cochin
  • Day cruise with Lunch at Alleppey
  • Visit to Keralan family spice garden with lunch cum cooking demo
  • Kalaripayattu (traditional martial art) show at Thekkady
  • Spice Plantation tour, Thekkady
  • Boat ride on Lake Periyar, Thekkady
  • Guided Jungle Walk at Thekkady
  • Visit to Tea Museum in Munnar
Not Included
  • Airport taxes and airline surcharges (Approx CA$ 540)
  • India visa fees
  • Travel Insurance (highly recommended)
  • Tips and gratuities to guides and drivers

Estimated International Airfare (International airfare is included in this tour)

CANADA(West Coast)

USA(West Coast)

CANADA(East Coast)

USA(East Coast)


This tour operates on a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 24 participants

Customised Itinerary

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.

Contact Info
You may e-mail us at or call 1-604-264-7378. Residents of U.S.A./Canada may call us toll free at 1-800-663-0844.