Spirit of the South

16 nights

  • South Indian discovery
  • Spice gardens and coast of Karnataka
  • Wayanad hills and secret backwaters of Kerala

Stay in the hills of Karnataka overflowing with spice plantations. Experience the life of fisher-folk from a village on shores the Arabian Sea. Explore the rubber, coffee and banana plantations in highland Kerala. Cruise gently from village to village in the backwaters south of Cochin. Experience all this on a holiday of discovery and unique insight, staying as guests of charming village communities. Zig-zag from hills to ocean, to hills, to lagoons. With delicious food and gentle days, lose yourself in the relaxed and timeless charms of southern India.

Leisurely walks through leafy forest

A stay in Hulgol offers a wonderful introduction to this part of the Western Ghats, an area of sub-tropical forests, spice plantations, villages, rivers, waterfalls and temples. Discover the magic of spice, wander through aromatic plantations with the cultivators themselves, visit the co-operative market to witness the colourful scene, re-enacted in Sirsi market town for centuries, and learn ancient culinary and medicinal uses. Borrow one of the house cycles or walk along the shady forest paths to the Shalmala river to see the astonishing carvings on rocks in the river, returning through banana and spice gardens.


Sandy, palm-fringed beach

From Pavinakurva, your fishing-village home, wander through the palm-shaded village to the extensive sandy beach, 400 m from the guesthouse, over-looking the mysterious island. Stroll along the beach at sunset. Rise early to see the local in-shore fishermen sort their overnight catch for market. With over 100 species observed, enjoy bird watching around the village, the mangrove swamps and along the coastal strip; see the many useful plants and trees, as well as fish and crab species.  Watch the traditional craft of the boat builders, help with the cashew harvest and relax in the afternoon warmth.


Into the hills of Wayanad

Journey into Kerala and the Wayanad region of the Western Ghats to the delightful hillside village of Mothakkara. Explore the rubber, coffee and banana plantations and twining vines of pepper and vanilla in the company of your own guide. Enjoy walks towards Banasura Mountain with views across splendid tea gardens towards the lush hills.


Drift along the Backwaters

In coastal Kerala, enjoy gently cruising on the Goodearth houseboat around the network of peaceful waterways, fringed by coconut palms and secluded villages. Moor each night at a different village, lulled to sleep in you cabin. Guests have universally loved their experiences on the Goodearth, so much more authentic and intimate than a ‘standard’ backwaters experience. Navigate dense, narrow canals and open waterways, while on the banks busy village life takes place. Watch duck herders on a punt, buffalo grazing at the water's edge, fishermen in dugout canoes, coir weavers and coconut harvesters. 


Deep into village life

Throughout your stays in the village-owned guesthouses and houseboat enjoy tasty vegetarian and local fish dishes, delicately presented and served. Enjoy traditional meals using local ingredients including banana, mango, jackfruit and cashew and if you wish, try your hand at some local recipes. With the attentive local guides you meet the villagers and share their way of life, learn about the wildlife and visit local temples, markets and fishery harbours. Meet village friends and share an understanding of riparian life over a cup of tea. Take part in fishing, from shore-side ‘Chinese” nets, or from hand-paddled traditional boats using drift nets, help with prawn catching or even diving for brackish water mussels.

For this holiday we recommend an outward flight to Mumbai and a return flight from Kochi via Mumbai. Spicejet offer a flight from Kochi to Mumbai.

Your holiday itinerary

Outward Journey

Day 1 Welcome at Mumbai airport, transfer to guesthouse for a freshen up then onwards to the train station for overnight express to Kumta, 2nd class a/c sleeper berth.

Karnataka landscape

Day 2 Meet at Kumta station; road transfer to Hulgol (2-3 hours). Relax at the Spice House guesthouse; introduction to the area. Your guide will meet you to plan the days ahead and help you make the most of you stay.

In the Spice Gardens of Karnataka

Night 2 - Night 4 Spend three nights in the Hulgol Spice House. Your stay will include visits to spice plantations and the auction market in Sirsi. Enjoy guided walks or borrow the guesthouse bicycle for further exploration through the forest. You stay in simple twin rooms in the Spice House with breakfast, picnic lunch and dinner.

Spice house homestay, karnataka

On the Karnataka Coast

Day 5 After breakfast, road transfer to the fishing village of Pavinakurva, nestled amid coconut palms.

Night 5 - Night 7 With three nights in Pavinakurva, you will have time to unwind on the secluded beach, explore the Tarabagli estuary and watch the fisherman land their catch. Stay in simple twin rooms with breakfast, picnic lunch and dinner. 

Karnataka coast

Please note, your stay in Hulgol and Pavinakurva can be done in either order and will be arranged according to availability at the guesthouses. You will be notified of this at the time of booking. 

South via the Western Ghats

Day 8 - Night 8 After a final morning in Pavinakurva, a road transfer takes you to Karwar to catch the overnight train to Kozhikode.

tea gardens, Wayanad

Day 9 From Kozhikode, a road transfer takes you to Mothakkara, a charming village in the Wayanad region of the Western Ghats.

Night 9 - Night 11 Spend three nights in the village of Mothakkara in Wayanad. Explore the coffee and pepper plantations, enjoy forest walks and get to know your welcoming village hosts.

houseboat holiday Kerala

Day 12  Following your stay in Wayanad, you return to the coastal town of Kozhikode to catch the day train to Ernakulam, further south along the Kerala coast. You are met from the train and transferred directly to Vayalar, the first backwater village of your three night stay onboard the Goodearth houseboat. The Goodearth is owned and crewed by the village communities that you visit and was built by the village team in Valayar, from local materials. The houseboat has two pretty twin cabins with private facilities. If there are fewer than four in your party, you may wish to upgrade and have exclusive use of the houseboat.

In the Backwaters of Kerala

Night 12 - Night 14 Spend three nights onboard the Kayal Kettuvallam, stopping at each of the four communites; Vayalar, Chenganda, Perumbalam and Kodamthuruthu. Your mornings and evenings will be spent in the villages, getting to know the communities and discovering the customs and traditions, or exploring deeper into the backwaters in the houseboat’s own canoe. During the hotter, central part of the day the boat progresses gently through the backwaters to the next village. Local villagers prepare the fresh food, which they serve for guests on board. 

Mural in Cochin

Fort Cochin

Day 15 After breakfast, short transfer to Fort Cochin.

Night 15 - Night 16 Two nights in a hotel in Fort Cochin allows you time to explore the exciting port city of Kochi and the wonderful old fort district.

Day 17 Transfer from the hotel to Kochi Airport for your homeward flight.


We ask our guests to make their own arrangements for international travel to India. For this holiday we recommend an outward flight to Mumbai and a return flight from Kochi via Mumbai. Spicejet offer flights from Kochi via Mumbai.

For travel information to India, click here.


We look after you from the moment of your arrival at Mumbai airport. Your holiday includes transfers and rail journeys, accommodation in the village guesthouses and on the houseboat with all meals provided during your stay with communities. We have devised each of our holidays to provide a good balance between activity and relaxation; please feel free to tailor your holiday to your exact requirements. The suggested itinerary can be extended if you wish to spend more time exploring the Karnataka and Kerala, or shortened if your time in India is limited. Choose to upgrade to 1st class on the trains, add extra nights in Mumbai or the villages, or have the houseboat exclusively for your party. Our knowledgeable staff will be delighted to help fashion the holiday to suit you.

Extra nights during your holiday

Each of the villages in Karnataka and Kerala has its own charm. You may wish to prolong your exploration of the spice gardens, coast, Wayanad hills or backwaters. Extra nights can be arranged with any of the communities; there is so much to learn and appreciate about village life and the host communities would love to keep you for a day longer. Add nights in Mumbai and explore this fascinating city.

Your own houseboat 

The houseboat has two twin cabins with private facilities. If there are fewer than four in your party, you may wish to upgrade and have exclusive use of the houseboat. This can be arranged at a supplement of £96 per person (£192 for a single traveller).


To the east of Hulgol, the village of Hampi lies at the heart of the once flourishing city and imposing capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is an awe-inspiring and important cultural and religious site with ancient remains of palaces, forts and temples spreading over a vast area.

Magnificent architecture juxtaposed with unusual, delicately-balanced boulder formations creates a surreal landscape. Stroll through Hampi Bazaar, explore the scattered remains of palaces and statues and visit Vittala Temple. Add a stay here and explore these wonderful, ancient remains.

Contact our bookings team

Our experienced reservations team will be happy to talk you through your options and help you to create your ideal holiday to south India.

From UK or other countries:
+44 (0)1223 750049

From France:
+33 (0)5335 20774

From India:
+ 91 9920882409 or +91 9869005642

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Booking enquiries: 01223 750049