- Explore charming Cochin by bicycle
- Learn to cook kid-friendly curries
- Enjoy quality family time as you float serenely along the backwaters on a private houseboat
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This eleven-day family foray to Kerala offers plenty of chances for little ones to learn about Indian culture, whether cooking up a storm in the kitchen, catching fish with a local, or floating along the backwaters watching daily life unfold along the riverbank.
Sadly there are no direct flights to Kerala, but several airlines offer slick connections. When travelling with children we think it's best not to connect in the middle of the night so we'd suggest an overnight flight to Mumbai. These tend to leave in the late evening and take around nine hours.
In to Cochin
You will arrive into Mumbai in late morning where you will connect onwards to your flight to Cochin - your bags will be checked straight through. This flight takes two hours and you will arrive into the Keralan capital at tea time. Your family will be met after baggage reclaims for the hour and a half transfer to Cochin itself. The children will catch a glimpse of the lush waterways for which Kerala is famous, before arriving into the attractive city of Cochin. We work with a couple of charming boutique hotels, both of which are located along the waterfront of the entrance into Cochin's navigable Vembanad Lake, and near the iconic Chinese fishing nets. There should be just enough daylight to enjoy a quick stretch of the legs walk along the waterfront to get your bearings before you enjoy a welcome dinner and well-earned early night.
Cochin on Two Wheels
This morning, after breakfast at the hotel, the family will have a morning bicycle ride around the charming Fort Cochin and Mattancherry parts of the city. Your guide will meet you at your hotel and first of all you cycle past the Chinese fishing nets, open air laundries and temples, churches and mosques that stand as a reminder of the city's multi-ethnic history. Your guide will regale you with the colourful history of the city as a major spice trading port that has, over the last 500 years, been colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch and Brits, all of whom have left their mark on the city. By now you'll have worked up an appetite so it's time for lunch; we can recommend the best places to eat, drink and shop (the Jewish Quarter is perfect for this) in the city so you can choose somewhere family-friendly for lunch. This afternoon you can indulge in a spot of shopping or simply relax by the pool at your hotel.
Day at Leisure in Cochin
We recommend another day at leisure in Cochin. The children can relax or swim in the pool, and the parents might find the time to sign up for an indulgent ayurvedic massage in the spiritual home of the technique. Come evening, we have arranged a sunset boat trip so you and the children can see the city from the water, and - hopefully - catch sight of some of the dolphins and porpoises that call these waters home. Then return to the dock and have a supper somewhere in the city. If they're not already curry connoisseurs, this might be the time to try and introduce your children to some of India's finest. Probably best to avoid the hotter varieties, though, which Kerala is famed for!
Lake Life - Day 1
After breakfast at the hotel it's time to bid farewell to Cochin and head south to Vembanad Lake proper, and a stay in one of our recommended properties right on the water. The pace of life on the lake is deliciously slow, and you and the children can enjoy some proper R&R here, but there are plenty of tempting activities on offer as well. As the area is so flat, this makes for excellent bicycling territory again, but we can also pre-arrange cooking classes where you and the children can learn about the region's spices and cook with superbly fresh local ingredients (and moderate heat levels, obviously!) or introduce the youngsters - who are presumably already enviably flexible - to the wonders of yoga. Then there's fishing, boating, kayaking and even bird watching, where the children can learn about the local species such as kingfishers and egrets, and try to spot them in action. Come evening, and dependent on weather conditions, you might also see hundreds of fireflies creating a magical nocturnal light show.
Lake Life - Day 2
Another day to appreciate the slow life, and this morning we have arranged for you and the children to experience an ancient skill on Vembanad Lake. You will be taken on a private boat to the middle of the lake with a guide where you will be joined by some local fisherman who will explain the local way to catch fish in the backwaters. Watch as two fishermen with a reflective cloth wade through the water to frighten your quarry - the karimmen or pearl spot fish. When disturbed, the fish instinctively dive to the bottom of the lake and dip their heads in the sand, and as they do so two other fishermen will jump from the boat, swim to the bottom of the lake to catch the motionless pearl spot. Aside from seeing an ancient form of fishing in action, this is also a chance to appreciate a particular type of fishing boat that is now rarely used except for these displays. You can now take your catch of the day back to the lodge where the culinary team can create a mild version of a classic Keralan fish curry. After lunch, enjoy an afternoon relaxing or exploring (such as a private walking tour of Alleppey) before your last night on the lakeside.
Back to the Backwaters
After breakfast this morning you will be transferred to a local dock to board your luxurious converted 'kettuvallam' (rice barge) for a day and night cruising the beautiful backwaters of Kerala. The backwaters are a stunning ecosystem of canals, lakes and rivers that sustain thriving rice paddy fields and plantations of banana trees and other crops. A cruise on the backwaters is a magical experience, with all meals served aboard, but the region really comes into its own in water photographers call 'the magic hour' - at sunset and sunrise - when an already attractive place becomes stunningly beautiful. The rice barge progresses at a very sedate pace, so the children can put their new found birdwatching skills to the test, and learn about local life as you pass working boatyards and watch villagers separating coir - the course fibres from coconut husks - and spinning it into one of the world's roughest threads, used to make mats, ropes and even fishing nets. Your on board chef will rustle up a delicious traditional meal and you can then retire to bed with the sound of water gently lapping against the hull of the boat.
Which Way's the Beach?
It's worth rising early again this morning to see the sunrise over the waterways because this is when the birdlife is at its best, and you can see local communities start their day, all while nursing a warming cup of tea, and furiously snapping away with your camera. This is prime Instabrag time, basically. When you glide elegantly back into Alleppey, you will be met at the dock by your driver for the half hour drive to your next stop - a lovely coastal retreat set in 55 acres of gardens and coconut groves overlooking the beach. Kerala has hundreds of miles of wide sandy beaches but the waves and current mean they are not always suitable for swimming. The good news is that when this is the case the hotels have their own pools, and there's nothing to stop little ones enjoying the lovely fine sandy beaches and watching as fishermen launch their brightly coloured long boats through the waves. It's time to break out the bucket and spade and enjoy a few sun-drenched (hopefully) days by the ocean.
Spend two days enjoying the Keralan coast. This is another good opportunity for the children to learn about local life. Kerala has one of the highest literacy rates in the world and a very interesting and distinct culture of its own which the children can learn about. Meet local fishermen on the beach as they empty their nets of the cay's catch; see a local festival if there's one on when you're there; visit a coir producing village to see the process up front and maybe buy some local coir-crafted handicrafts or wander around a local market so the children can marvel at the sights, sounds and smells. All of this is available, but the hotel also boasts an Olympic-sized swimming pool, lovely gardens where guinea fowl roam (and the children can play cricket), tennis, badminton, beach volleyball and bicycles. There's also a lovely spa for mum and dad, yoga classes and evening demonstrations of Keralan musicianship and also "kalari" - a balletic martial art featuring shields and swords. The children can also learn how to wear a sari or dhoti - the traditional male garment much like a sarong.
It will be an early start this morning for the one hour and forty-five-minute private transfer from the hotel to Cochin Airport. Once there you can check your bags the whole way through to London before your two hour morning flight to Mumbai, where you will transit on to the onward flight to London, which takes nine and a half hours, arriving back in t the UK in the late afternoon.
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