kerala houseboat india cultural tour

Houseboat, Kerala

Exploring the  tranquil waterways of Kerala by private houseboat is just one of the features of our South India journey. We also discover the ancient temples of Tamil Nadu and look for Indian wildlife at Nagarhole National Park.

Photo by James Sydney / AGE Fotostock

display information about this photo
Treasures of South India route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $7595  
Length: 14 days
Arrive: Cochin, India
Depart: Chennai (Madras), India
Lodging: 12 nights first-class hotels, 1 night aboard private houseboat
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Walking, Archaeology, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: Overland travel with walking tours, cultural explorations


  • Ancient trading port of Cochin on the Arabian Sea
  • Private houseboat with an on-board chef
  • Madurai’s colossal temple, French colonial Pondicherry by the sea
  • South India’s savory cuisine, from curries to dosas

An extremely well thought out and well executed itinerary and the best Trip Leader I’ve ever had.William N.—Long Beach, CA

Recent Photo Blog Posts

A Passage to India, Anne & Ian Gray

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Pre-Departure Information

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

South India is simply dazzling, with its spice ports, colonial towns, and magnificent temples nestled in a lush tropical landscape. Our hand-crafted journey delves deeply into this colorful realm as we watch an ancient dance-drama performance, explore by houseboat on tranquil Kerala waterways, and discover Tamil Nadu’s sacred architecture, where carved temples soar high above palm forests. Along the way, we savor legendary cuisine, from coconut-infused fish curries to tangy rasam.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-2

In Cochin, with its stunning location along the Arabian Sea, our walks reveal the legacies of its European past, from British mansions and Dutch cottages to a 16th century synagogue.

Days 3-6
Kerala Houseboats / Periyar / Madurai

As we glide by deluxe private houseboat, Kerala’s picturesque rural scenes are all around us. Our journey on waterways through this quiet region reveals the life of people working their fields with water buffaloes and fishing with nets from traditional longboats. We may even see some school boats (no school buses here). After heading through tea plantations to Periyar in the Cardamom Hills, we continue to Madurai. The vast, fortress-like Shri Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar temple dominates this city, and we immerse ourselves in the fascinating temple scene, with its Shaivite priests and ongoing weddings.

Days 7-10
Karaikudi / Thanjavur / Pondicherry

Crossing a green landscape of rice paddies and coconut palms, we discover Chettinard mansions and ancient temples in wayside villages. Bustling Karaikudi, with its antique shops, and famed Thanjavur, a center for art and music, are wonderful highlights. On Day 10, we walk the lanes of the French Quarter of Pondicherry.

Days 11-14
Mamallapuram / Chennai

From our beach resort, we marvel at Mamallapuram’s rock-cut temples by the sea and visit an open-air museum of traditional Tamil culture. Depart on Day 14.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

What the Trip is Like

This trip is Level 1+, easy, according to our trip grading system. It is a vehicle-based cultural and natural history adventure. Accommodations are in hotels and lodges.

Although this is not a difficult trip, please remember that travel in India is an intense experience. The essential requirements are flexibility, a sense of humor, curiosity, enthusiasm about new peoples and places, and an openness to the unexpected.

Explanation of Trip Levels


Departures & Leaders

Jan 8-21, 2016*  Hashmat Singh

*Please note: date change since catalog publication

Trip Cost

Prices valid through Spring 2016
$7595 (13-16 members)
$7895 (10-12 members)
$8295 (7-9 members)
Single supplement: $2295
Forced single supplement: $2295
more on pricing

Extension Costs
Taj Mahal and Jaipur Extension
   from: $2495
Varanasi and Khajuraho Extension
   from: $1395
Kanha National Park Extension
   from: $2195

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20% of trip cost
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

More than 90 days prior to departure: No charge!
90-46 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Accommodations
  • All meals included
  • Sightseeing as noted in the Full Trip Brochure
  • Land and boat transportation
  • Arrival and departure airport transfers
  • Baggage handling

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare to and from India or flights within India, airport departure taxes, any meals not specified after each itinerary day in the Full Trip Brochure, optional gratuities to leaders and staff, additional hotel nights made necessary by airline schedule changes or other factors, expenses such as immunizations (if any), travel insurance, and other items of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, bottled water, etc.).

Arrival & Departure Information

You are responsible for your own transportation arriving to Cochin, India, and departing from Chennai (Madras), India. For more detailed information, please download the Detailed Itinerary.

Please do not purchase your tickets until you are confirmed on the trip and have reviewed your proposed air schedule with our office. Once your tickets have been purchased, please send us a copy of your airline schedule so we can reserve your airport transfers.

Cochin, India
Date: Day 1

Suggested Arrival Airport:
Cochin, India (airport city code: COK)
Suggested arrival time: afternoon

Chennai (Madras), India
Date: Day 14

Suggested Airport for Departure:
Chennai (Madras), India (airport city code: MAA)
Suggested departure time: anytime

Brunton Boatyard

Brunton Boatyard

Days 1 to 2 (2 nights), Cochin, India

Set by the water's edge in Fort Cochin, the Brunton Boatyard is a 19th century shipyard that was converted into a charming 22-room hotel that ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Traditional Houseboat

Traditional Houseboat

Day 3 (1 night), Alleppey, India

The beautiful houseboats of Kerala, called kettuvallams, were once used to transport rice, spices, and other goods to the port of Cochin. ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Elephant Court

Elephant Court

Days 4 to 5 (2 nights), Periyar, India

Set in a lush, hilly landscape near Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Elephant Court is a peaceful retreat for nature lovers, with its grounds full of ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Heritage Madurai

Heritage Madurai

Days 6 to 7 (2 nights), Madurai, India

The environmentally-friendly Heritage Madurai sprawls across 17 acres in Madurai, allowing for a pleasant respite after exploring this vibrant city. ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Bangala Hotel

Bangala Hotel

Day 8 (1 night), Karaikudi, India

The Bangala is a family-run heritage hotel in Karaikudi, the main town in Chettinard country. It has been in the same family for 100 years and was ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Mantra Veppathur

Mantra Veppathur

Days 9 to 10 (2 nights), Kumbakonam, India

This eco-friendly hotel is spread over landscaped acres along the banks of the Veera Chozha River. It has comfortable air-conditioned guest ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Hotel de L'Orient

Hotel de L'Orient

Day 11 (1 night), Pondicherry, India

The Hotel de L’Orient is a heritage building in the heart of  Pondicherry's French district.  A restored mansion, it has the feel of ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay

Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay

Days 12 to 13 (2 nights), Mamallapuram, India

Spread across 46 acres along a stretch of private beach, this resort complex has spacious, well-kept  rooms, either beachside or poolside, as ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Extension Accommodations

If you would like to view the accommodations offered with our extensions options:

Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Hashmat Singh

Hashmat Singh has led over 100 journeys on three continents for us since 1990. He holds a BA in History from Delhi University and is a noted photographer. His book, Trekking in the Himalaya (Roli Books), features photographic essays from Ladakh to Bhutan. Born an army brat, Hashmat traveled extensively as his father was posted in various remote regions of India. His first big Himalayan trek was at age 12, with his school group, and during college, he headed into the Himalaya to take mountaineering courses. “Big mountains of the world, whether they are in the Himalaya, Alps, or the Andes, hold a special fascination for me, as do the people living amongst them, holding on to their ancient cultures in a world where everything is rapidly changing.” A passionate traveler, Hashmat has been instrumental in designing new adventures for us throughout Asia. The profession of Trip Leader combines several of his interests—hiking, exploring the mountains, photography, and meeting new people. Hashmat lives in Delhi with his wife and two children.

Upcoming Trips:

Great Alpine Traverse, August 25-September 8, 2015
Kanchenjunga!, October 11-November 8, 2015
Royal Rajasthan, November 13-23, 2015
Sikkim, Darjeeling and Bhutan, December 2-15, 2015
Treasures of South India, January 8-21, 2016
Royal Rajasthan, February 8-18, 2016
Total Solar Eclipse of 2016: From Bali to Borneo, March 1-15, 2016
Himalayan Mountain Kingdoms, April 11-25, 2016
Journey to Ladakh, June 26-July 7, 2016

Recent Photo Blog Posts

Client Testimonials:

This is my fifth trip with Hashmat. He is affable and unflappable. Lisa C., Seattle WA Hashmat was terrific. He is so knowledgeable and proud of his country. He made India come alive for all of us. We loved his enthusiasm and encouragement. Barbara C., Toronto, Canada This is our second trip with Hashmat–he’s a great leader. Betty R., Lexington MA
Royal Rajasthan
This is my fourth WT trip and second with Hashmat. He is the best! Matthew H., Ukiah CA
Treasures of South India
Again, Wilderness Travel exceeded my expectations! Hashmat and Ang Tsering took extra care to locate beautiful, quiet, set-apart campsites off the main trail. Amy S., Denver CO
Ultimate Evereset
We couldn’t have asked for a better trip leader than Hashmat Singh. This trip raised our standards to a new high! Ann and Fred S., Wyoming OH
Royal Rajasthan
Hashmat is simply the best! Mary C. Farnsworth, Fort Mills SC
Royal Rajasthan
I can’t tell you how comfortable I feel traveling with Hashmat. The experiences he provided for us were unforgettable. Melinda M., Berkeley CA
Treasures of South India
As always Hashmat organized a rich and full trip experience. Not only was he, as usual, an incredibly well organized and knowledgeable leader, but added to our experience by keeping away from the usual tourist crowds and arranging special events to entertain, relax, and teach us. He remains an ideal leader who deserves his superb reputation. Michel and Deborah W.
Hidden Rajasthan
Hashmat Singh is without question the best leader, hiker, and friend any WT client could hope to have. His enthusiasm and curiosity is contagious. Stephanie B., Cambridge, MA Hashmat Singh’s knowledge, experience, and professionalism are of the highest order. Philip and Sally M., Wersham, Wrexham Hashmat Singh is a remarkably effective leader. I think I have joined the Hashmat Fan Club. John N., Monarch Beach, CA Hashmat is always on task, behind the scenes as well as during events. Nancy W., Prescott AZ
Himalayan Mountain Kingdoms Photo Expedition
What can I say? He’s the best! Fulton W., Prescott AZ
Himalayan Mountain Kingdoms Photo Expedition
I understand why Hashmat has a committed group of fans who will follow him anywhere, who choose trips according to his leadership. He is knowledgeable, passionate, wonderful. Andrea L., Brooklyn NY
Annapurna Adventure
Hashmat is simply the best. Knowledge, communication, attention to detail, adding special experiences, and he’s a really fun person to be with. William N., Long Beach CA
Treasures of South India
I cannot imagine a better guide...always helpful and knowledgeable about the history and culture of the trip! Craig K., Sewickley, PA
Royal Rajasthan - Pushkar Fair
Hashmat is an inspiring trip leader, extremely knowledgeable, both in terms of cultural and historical aspects and the area traveled, and very supportive of staff and trekkers. It was a real privilege to trek with him and I hope I have the opportunity to do so again. Henry P., Boston, MA
Around Manaslu
Hashmat is truly one of your 'stars!' Jeff P., Paradise Valley, AZ
Hidden Kingdom of Mustang
Hash is a terrific guide in every way, the consummate professional, concerned with individual's needs. His passion for India is palpable and contagious, and his leadership is an integral part of what makes this trip so special. Kristin E., Morristown, NJ
Royal Rajasthan - Nagaur Fair
Wow—best trip leader I've ever encountered! Always personable, informative, organized yet spontaneous, thorough, pro-active. A real treasure. Elizabeth L., Santa Barbara, CA
Royal Rajasthan - Nagaur Fair
Eleven trips with Hashmat so far. What more is there to say? Jack H., Cockeysville, MD
Hiking the Haute Route
Once again Hashmat knocked one out of the park! So many wonderful sights and new experiences all brought to life with his brilliant leadership. Can hardly wait to travel with him again. Peter F., Cambria, CA
Sikkim, Darjeeling and Bhutan
This man is an amazing treasure! He made the trip so memorable, and made us crave more. Abbe L., Melbourne Beach, FL
Royal Rajasthan - Nagaur Fair
Hashmat was simply the very best. He has great knowledge, knows how to share it to the group, interacts with us on a personal basis, is considerate of our needs, and has personality second to none. Mark L., Melbourne Beach, FL
Royal Rajasthan - Nagaur Fair
Hashmat always brings all his heart to his trips, teaching history, culture, the sense of India. Debra B., Jackson, WY
Expedition to Hampi and Ajanta
Hashmat is a treasure. He knows the country, loves it, makes everyone around him enthusiastic and comfortable, and gets along with an incredible variety of personalities. Lisa T., Hamden, CT
Treasures of South India
I get why so many people go on journey after journey with Hashmat. He is knowledgeable, professional, and always knows just what to do. Mary M., Superstition Mtn, AZ
Sikkim, Darjeeling and Bhutan
Twelve trips with Hashmat so far. Need I say more? Jack H., Cockeysville, MD
Sikkim, Darjeeling and Bhutan
One could not ask for a better guide than Hashmat: knowledgable, kind, funny, resourceful. Priscilla H., Cockeysville, MD
Sikkim, Darjeeling and Bhutan
My fifth trip with Hashmat, all of which have been outstanding. His knowledge and experience are unsurpassed, and he is a great trip companion. I'm looking forward to the next trip! Marilyn H., Barnstable, MA
Snow Leopard Trek to Shey Gompa
Hashmat is a great trip leader—there are very few individuals who are as knowledgeable about culture and natural history of the region. Henry P., Boston, MA
Snow Leopard Trek to Shey Gompa
Just a consummate professional. Would rate him at the top of his field. Incredible enthusiasm, energy and knowledge. Most importantly, the man cares about his people and clients. Karen W., Greenwich, CT
Ladakh: The Tso Moriri Trek
Hashmat is an incredibly talented leader and it's no wonder clients follow wherever he goes. We are now Hashmat groupies! Ann & Jon S., Orlando, FL
Royal Rajasthan - Pushkar Fair
Cannot say enough about what an excellent leader Hashmat is. That a number of our group had been with him on several other trips is a testament to his guiding prowess. Ed F., Annapolis, MD
Tribal India
Hashmat is an exceptional leader. His love and knowledge of Indian history, culture, religions, current events, etc. gave me a deeper appreciation of the country. His warmth, high spirits and wit made the journey all the more delightful. Sandi H., New York, NY
Royal Rajasthan - Nagaur Fair
Hashmat is a wonderfully knowledgeable and enthusiastic leader. James S., Washington, DC
Royal Rajasthan - Nagaur Fair
Hashmat remains one of your "superstars." His helpfulness and knowledge are unsurpassed and I'd recommend him as a guide to anyone. Jeff P., Paradise Valley, AZ
Treasures of South India
Hashmat is the best trip leader we have had on our 10 trips with WT. He knows culture, religions, food, nature—you name it. He is simply outstanding. Tom A., Urbana, IL
Treasures of South India
Hashmat was a terrific guide and host. His passion for the area was contagious and his knowledge invaluable. David R., Port Alberni, British Columbia
Abbott Trek to Upper Dolpo
Hashmat is the best guide we have ever had. His enthusiasm and friendliness were never-ending. I felt like I was his special friend (but I'm sure everyone else in our group felt the same!). Susan C., Alamo, CA
Royal Rajasthan
Hashmat is fabulous (but you already know that!). We were so fortunate to be able to enjoy his expertise and learn from him. Barbara B., Redmond, WA
Journey to Ladakh
As always, Hashmat was the perfect leader! His sensitivity, compassion, patience, and humor are second to none. Elizabeth P., Santa Fe, NM
Hidden Rajasthan and the Holi Festival
Hashmat is a marvelous leader—knowledgeable, sensitive, funny, and passionate about his country. Andrew L., Bridgewater, CT
Hidden Rajasthan and the Holi Festival

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:


Kanha National Park Extension

Gameviewing in one of India’s Great Wildlife Reserves

Wildlife & Natural History
5 days  -  Level 2

taj mahal agra india cultural tour

Taj Mahal and Jaipur Extension

Romantic Rajasthan, Land of Princes

Cultural Adventures
4 days  -  Level 1

Varanasi and Khajuraho Extension

Holy City Along the Ganges, Magnificent World-Famous Temples

Cultural Adventures
4 days  -  Level 1

Client Comments

An extremely well thought out and well executed itinerary and the best Trip Leader I’ve ever had. William N., Long Beach, CA Hashmat's enthusiasm for his country is infectious, his enjoyment of people unending, and his work and efficiency unbelievable. I'm looking forward to another trip with him. Roberta R., Woodstock, VT One of the best trips we’ve ever been on. Joe K., Mission Hills, CA
One of the best trips my husband and I have taken—a feast for the senses and the intellect. Fabulous temples, beautiful countryside. I especially appreciated our many glimpses into village life, religious practices, and traditions. Joanne C., Pittsboro, NC One of the best trips we've ever taken. Judith L., San Jose, CA

Recent Photo Blog Posts

A Passage to India, Anne & Ian Gray