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Culinary cultural tour of India with Chef Joe Thottungal

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Joe Thottungal

Join award-winning chef Joe Thottungal on an intimate small group tour through the culinary secrets of India.

As Executive Chef at Ottawa’s popular Coconut Lagoon and Thali Coconut Lagoon restaurants, Chef Joe has earned numerous accolades, including a silver medal at the 2017 Canadian Culinary Championships, top prize at Ottawa’s Gold Medal Plates competition, and the Ottawa Chef of the Year award.

On the 7th edition of this regularly sold-out tour, Chef Joe guides us through a mouthwatering combination of his lush home state of Kerala, and, for the first time ever, the famous sun, sand and spices of Goa.

We start with an intimate visit to Mumbai, which is where Chef Joe began his cooking career. Then, spend the next 12 days exploring the cultural and culinary traditions of the tropical Malabar Coast, including touring the scenic tea plantations of Munnar, spotting tigers in the lush jungle of Thekkady, and cruising the famous backwaters of Kumarakom. We then explore rich and regal Hyderabad. Here, we enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience staying at a luxurious and historic royal palace, with the horse-drawn carriage, opulent service and incredible dining experiences to match! We end our journey with three days in the renowned Goan paradise, sampling the tasty local cuisine, experiencing the Portuguese influenced Indian culture and Goa’s incredible beaches.

Throughout the journey, 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. The tour will be accompanied by an English-speaking tour guide who will help us explore India’s 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 at Joe’s in-laws invite us into their home and welcome us in traditional Indian style.

Tour Information
Duration : 17 days
Minimum : 18 persons
Maximum : 24 persons
Price (From) : CA$ 9850
Includes international air
Day 01: Feb 22, 2021: Arrive Mumbai
Day 02: Feb 23, 2021: Mumbai
(B, L, D)
Day 03: Feb 24, 2021: Mumbai/Cochin (Flight)
(B, D)
Day 04: Feb 25, 2021: Cochin/Kothamanglam/Munnar (Drive)
(B, L, D)
Day 05: Feb 26, 2021: Munnar
(B, D)
Day 06: Feb 27, 2021: Munnar/Thekkady (Drive)
(B, D)
Day 07: Feb 28, 2021: Thekkady
(B, L, D)
Day 08: Mar 01, 2021: Thekkady/Kumarakom (Drive)
(B, D)
Day 09: Mar 02, 2021: Kumarakom (Back Water Cruise with Lunch)
(B, L, D)
Day 10: Mar 03, 2021: Kumarakom/Cochin (Drive)
(B, D)
Day 11: Mar 04, 2021: Cochin
(B, L, D)
Day 12: Mar 05, 2021: Cochin/Hyderabad (Flight # SG 3603, Dep: 16:55 Hrs, Arr: 18:35 Hrs)
(B, D)
Day 13: Mar 06, 2021: Hyderabad
(B, L)
Day 14: Mar 07, 2021: Hyderabad/Goa (Flight)
(B, L, D)
Day 15: Mar 08, 2021: Goa
(B, L, D)
Day 16: Mar 09, 2021: Goa
(B, D)
Day 17: Mar 10, 2021: Goa/ Depart Mumbai
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, Sn=Snacks, HT=High Tea, D=Dinner

Day 01: Feb 22, 2021: Arrive Mumbai

Namaste! We are welcomed to Mumbai in the traditional Indian way with hands clapped together. After clearing immigration, baggage collection and customs, we are met by Bestway Tours ground staff and transferred to our hotel.

Overnight: The Taj Mahal Tower, Mumbai (5-Star Deluxe – Superior City View Room) (2 nights)

Day 02: Feb 23, 2021: Mumbai

Souvenir vendor by Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India After breakfast, our first incredible cooking experience is ahead of us as we drive to the President Hotel. Here, we attend a cooking class at The Konkan Café. We will be introduced to Konkan cuisine, previously only found in the homes along India’s western Konkan coast. Focused on staples of rice, fish and coconut, the fragrant combinations of these ingredients will tantalize our senses! Our cooking class is followed by lunch. Afterwards, experience vibrant Mumbai on a city tour. Our first stop is Mani Bhawan, where Mahatma Gandhi stayed during the Freedom Struggle. The house is now converted into a unique museum. We continue on to the Hanging Gardens, the Zoroastrian Towers of Silence, and bustling Crawford Market. We also drive past Haji Ali, the tomb of a wealthy Muslim merchant who is revered as a saint by both Hindus and Muslims. We end our tour at the Dhobi Ghat, where workers handwash the clothes of Mumbai residents at the world's largest outdoor laundry.

In the evening, we enjoy a welcome dinner at Masala Kraft, a specialty Indian restaurant that offers delectable combinations of hand-ground spices and traditional recipes that will create magic on our plates! (B, L, D)

Day 03: Feb 24, 2021: Mumbai/Cochin (Flight)

Mahadeva the three faces of Sadashiva sculpture at Elephanta Island, Maharashtra, IndiaAn exciting day ahead as we visit Mumbai’s most famous landmark, the Gateway of India. Under this towering monument, we will embark on our excursion to Elephanta Caves, located on an island in the Sea of Oman. The caves contain a collection of rock art linked to the cult of Shiva. Here, Indian art has found one of its most perfect expressions, particularly the huge high reliefs in the main cave. We return to Mumbai by motor launch and transfer to our hotel. In the afternoon, we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Cochin.  On arrival, we are transferred to our hotel, Courtyard By Marriott Kochi Airport.

Overnight: Courtyard By Marriott, Kochi Airport (4-Star – Deluxe Room) (1 night) (B, D)

Day 04: Feb 25, 2021: Cochin/Kothamanglam/Munnar (Drive)

Dinner table at the Somatheeram Ayurveda Beach Resort, Kerala, IndiaWe continue to Munnar, a scenic hill station that was once the summer resort of the British administration of South India. Munnar retains its colonial charm and is famous for its tea plantations, sprawling estates, rolling hills, sparkling waterfalls and picture-perfect hamlets. En route, we stop at Kothamangalam for an intimate and welcoming experience. Here we will visit a rubber and coconut plantation – our hosts this time are Peter and Pushpamma Jose, Chef Joe’s in-laws. They will be our guides as we walk through the plantation. Balance of the day is free in Munnar.

Overnight: KTDC Tea County, Munnar (4-Star – Deluxe Room) (2 nights) (B, L, D)

Day 05: Feb 26, 2021: Munnar

We start the day with a visit to the Tea Museum, where we learn about the fascinating history of tea production in the area. Afterwards, we drive to one of the tea estates in Munnar, witnessing tea pickers at work. We enjoy a walk through the enchanting tea estates and, later, visit a tea factory. We also take part in a tea tasting session. Balance of the day is at leisure to enjoy the tranquil and serene surroundings or indulge in an Ayurvedic message (at own expense) before dinner. (B, D)

Day 06: Feb 27, 2021: Munnar/Thekkady (Drive)

Parakeet and sculptures at the Vaikuntha Perumal Temple, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, IndiaOur day begins with a scenic drive 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 bird. Later in the afternoon, we board a small boat and cruise the lake at the heart of the 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 boards 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 country. Chefs at the Spice Village specialize in popular regional cuisines and each chef will expertly prepare delicacies from their region, treating us to an incredible variety of authentic flavours.

Overnight: Spice Village, Thekkady (4-Star – Spice Garden Cottage) (2 nights) (B, D)

Day 07: Feb 28, 2021: Thekkady

Cocoa bean, Thekkady, Kerala, IndiaEarly 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 a 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, D)

Day 08: Mar 01, 2021: Thekkady/Kumarakom (Drive)

Following breakfast, take 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 (Heritage Hotel – Heritage Bungalow) (2 nights) (B, D)

Day 09: Mar 02, 2021: Kumarakom (Back Water Cruise with Lunch)

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, observing 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 10: Mar 03, 2021: Kumarakom/Cochin (Drive)

Boat in the Kollam backwater, Kerala Backwaters, Kerala, IndiaAfter our morning meal, we drive to Cochin. This city is rich with European architecture, picturesquely located on several islands 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. Evening, we are welcomed at the home of local culinary icon Mrs. Nimmy Paul (http://www.nimmypaul.com). Nimmy is recognized for her authentic and healthy recipes, as well as her knowledge of the medicinal properties of spices and herbs used in everyday cooking. She has been widely featured in many international publications, including Saveur and New York Magazine. Nimmy will tell us about the nuances of traditional Kerala recipes as she prepares four dishes in front of the group. The dinner that follows will be a “Sadhya”, a traditional banana leaf lunch consisting of vegetarian preparations and payasam (sweets) along with favourite Kerala condiments. Chef Joe will teach and encourage you to try eating the traditional Indian way - with your fingers!

Overnight: Taj Malabar, Cochin (5-Star Deluxe – Superior Room) (2 nights) (B, D)

Day 11: Mar 04, 2021: Cochin

Chinese fishing nets (Cheena vala) at sunset, Kochi, Kerala, IndiaToday 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 at Brunton Boatyard. Later in the evening, we cruise on a chartered boat to enjoy the sunset. 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 and mouth-watering dinner put together jointly by Joe and the chefs at Brunton Boatyard. (B, L, D)

Day 12: Mar 05, 2021: Cochin/Hyderabad (Flight # SG 3603, Dep: 16:55 Hrs, Arr: 18:35 Hrs)

Chef Joe Thottungal talks about his culinary journeyWe are transferred to the airport for our flight to Hyderabad. On arrival, we are transferred to our luxurious hotel, Taj Falaknuma Palace. Built in 1894, this is the former palace of the Nizam, rumoured to be the one time richest man in the world. Set 2,000 feet above the twinkling city of Hyderabad, this enchanting palace exudes romance and grandeur and allows us to retrace the steps of Nizams, European royalty and distinguished Heads of State. Upon arrival at the palace gates, we are warmly welcomed by the staff. We then board the traditional carriage used by the Nizam rulers of Hyderabad and are driven to the main porch. At the porch, we get a taste of royal hospitality as butlers in their traditional outfits meet us with a “khas sharbat” welcome drink, which the Nizams used to offer to royal dignitaries. We check-in to our palace rooms, rich with luxurious fabrics, gleaming oak wood floors and hand-painted walls. Afternoon is free to enjoy the palace’s 32-acre facilities, including a spa and pool. We then enjoy a lavish evening. First, take in a Sufi Qawwali traditional performance at the hotel, performed by local artisans. Afterwards, we take part in an exclusive dinner hosted for us at the Gol Bungalow. This bungalow forms the tail end of the palace, with a beautiful dome structure and stained glass work. With breathtaking views of the old city, this location is a quintessential venue for romantic dinners, with butlers serving mouth watering Nizami and Muglhai cuisine.

Overnight: Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad (5-Star Deluxe – Palace Room) (2 nights) (B, D)

Day 13: Mar 06, 2021: Hyderabad

After breakfast, we visit the house of Begum Mumtaz Khan for a cooking session. Begum Mumtaz Khan is considered a living legend and is a member of the Jagirdhar families of the last Nizam. During the session, we get to learn about the traditional Hyderabadi recipes and the spices used to cook them, followed by lunch

Afterwards, we embark on a captivating tour of Hyderabad. We visit the old part of Hyderabad, including its most famous monument, the 180-foot-tall Charminar. Built in 1591 in the memory of the eradication of plague, the Charminar is a tribute to the fighting spirit of mankind.  It has four imposing minarets and houses a mosque which is well decorated with lotus buds and petals. The rest of the day is free to relax. (B, L)

Day 14: Mar 07, 2021: Hyderabad/Goa (Flight)

Morning is free to enjoy the grounds and amenities of Taj Falaknuma Palace. Later, we check out and enjoy lunch at a famous restaurant in Hyderabad called Paradise, renowned for its Hyderabadi biryani. After lunch, we are transferred to the airport to board our flight to Goa. On arrival in Goa, we are transferred to our hotel. Dinner is at the hotel.

Overnight: Taj Holiday Village Resort, Goa (5-Star Deluxe – Superior Room Garden View with Balcony) (3 nights) (B, L, D)

Day 15: Mar 08, 2021: Goa

Authentic indian food dishes on displayFollowing an early breakfast, we attend a cooking class on Goan cuisine at Rita’s Gourmet Goa. This venture in culinary excellence was created by Rita Shinde, who learnt her skills in Goan cuisine from her mother and attending various courses. Her demos have been attended by up-and-coming chefs from France, Japan and United Kingdom. Rita was chosen as a woman of inspiration through the power of cooking on the television show “Maggi Kitchen Journeys”. We start our full-day Goan cooking experience with a traditional Indian breakfast. We learn to make the famous masala chai drink using flavourful spices such as cardamom, ginger, star aniseed, pepper, clove and lemongrass. Next, we visit the local famers’ market with our tour guide to source vegetables, fruit and spices. We return to the cooking facilities and are briefed on the spices and ingredients that will be used in today’s dishes. We will then cook five classic dishes, including sumptuous masalas and flavourful chutneys. Before we depart for our next activity, we are gifted with gourmet aprons! In the afternoon, experience Old Goa, the former capital of the Portuguese Indies. The churches and convents here were instrumental in spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art in all the countries of Asia where Christian missions were established. We will visit the 16th-century Basilica of Bom Jesus, where the remains of St. Francis Xavier are enshrined, and the Se Cathedral, the most imposing of all churches in Old Goa. Its vaulted interior will overwhelm us with its sheer grandeur. The cathedral has five bells, including the famous Golden Bell, the biggest in Goa and one of the best in the world. The remainder of the day is free to relax on the beach and enjoy Goa’s many bazaars. (B, L, D)

Day 16: Mar 09, 2021: Goa

The day is free to relax on Goa’s beautiful beaches. In the evening, we enjoy a tantalizing farewell dinner at Martins’ Corner, complete with a cocktail. (B, D)

Day 17: Mar 10, 2021: Goa/ Depart Mumbai

After an incredible journey experiencing the cuisines and cultures of India, we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Mumbai. From Mumbai, we depart for our onward destination. (B)

B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, Sn=Snacks, HT=High Tea, D=Dinner

Departure Dates & Prices

We accept payments in US$, CA$ as well as in other convertible currencies like EUR, AUD and GBP. Tour prices have been costed in US$. CA$ price shown below is an indicative amount reached at by using the conversion rate at the time of web posting and will be applicable if there is no change in the conversion rate. Should the currency conversion rate change, the US$ pricing will prevail. Bestway Tours & Safaris offers a 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

Stay tuned for future dates! If you want to be the first ones to know click here



Tour Price Includes
  • Within India airfares: Mumbai-Cochin-Hyderabad-Goa-Mumbai
  • Accommodation as mentioned or similar, including hotel taxes
  • 35 Meals as mentioned (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, Sn=Snacks HT=High Tea, D=Dinner)
  • All sightseeing and transfers by private transportation
  • Services of local English speaking guides
  • Entrance fees to museums and sites included in the itinerary
  • Cooking class followed by lunch at the Konkan Café in President Hotel – Mumbai
  • Cooking class followed by dinner at the home of Nimmi Paul – Cochin
  • Cooking demonstration with special dinner at Spice Village – Thekkady
  • Cooking class followed by lunch at the home of Mrs. Praveen Khan – Hyderabad
  • Cooking class followed by lunch in Goa
  • Chartered harbour cruise – Cochin
  • Kathakali dance performance – Cochin
  • Day cruise with lunch – Alleppey
  • Kalaripayattu show – Thekkady
  • Spice Plantation tour – Thekkady
  • Boat ride on Lake Periyar – Thekkady
  • Guided jungle walk – Thekkady
  • Visit to Tea Museum – Munnar
Not Included
  • International airfares
  • India visa fees
  • Travel Insurance (highly recommended - see here)
  • Tips and gratuities to guides and drivers


This tour operates on a minimum of 18 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 bestway@bestway.com or call 1-604-264-7378. Residents of U.S.A./Canada may call us toll free at 1-800-663-0844.

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