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Join renowned Chef Vinod Lohtia and Tour East Holidays on this exclusive South India culinary tour. India’s cuisine is popular the world over, and for good reason, but dining out and actually cooking and learning the tricks of the trade are as different as the North of India is from the South. Being with Chef Vinod, a friendly, hospitable, and outgoing tour leader, you are sure to get more than your share of tips not only on the culinary trade but also about India's culture, history, and people.
The relaxed rooms and suites offer city views, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and desks, as well as minibars and tea and coffee making equipment. Suites add separate living areas. You will be staying here for two nights.
The airy, polished rooms come with contemporary furnishings and en-suite bathrooms with bathtubs. There are no TVs. Amenities include an outdoor pool, flanked by a yellow colonnade and a poolside lounge. There's also a rooftop restaurant, a cafe, and a spa. You will be staying here for one night.
All rooms are different and unique in its own way and geographically distributed In different zones within the estate. While the suites in the ancient heritage village offer the old world's charm, the palace block exhibits sheer luxury of space and ambiance whatever the mood, space, and the charisma.
The rooms around the home of the late Hindu pontiff, Sankaracharya of Kanchi have its share of divinity. There are over 80 individually and ethnically designed comfortable suites at Indeco Hotels Swamimalai and no two rooms are similar in size, decor, and feel but the experiences will be the same. You will stay here for two nights.
The airy, sophisticated rooms and suites feature free Wi-Fi, satellite TV, and minibars, plus tea and coffee making facilities. Upgraded rooms and suites add bay windows with city and pool views. Room service is available 24/7. You will stay here for two nights.
If you need evidence that comfort is easily obtained without intruding on nature, you don't need to look further than Spice Village's cottages. No fancy carpets. Just coir mats on bare stone floors. There are modern bathrooms and interiors but with a spartan elegance based on simple, natural materials, and local woodcraft.
There is no artificial air-conditioned spaces there. Just cool, naturally lit rooms, and airy private porches. So open a window, and your mind as well. And let your senses be enveloped by the sounds and scents wafting in on the forest air. You will be staying here for two nights.
Villas will have different beds, cupboards, and chests of drawers that they've sourced, not from a store but slowly from traditional homes and of course, the famed craftsmen of the region. Furnishings too rely on local materials, offset with linen, rough-woven cotton, and other natural fabrics. You will be staying here for two nights.
The airy, cosmopolitan rooms and suites feature minibars, flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. Upgraded rooms feature sea views. Suites add four-poster beds, furnished balconies, and marble bathrooms. Room service is available. There's an outdoor pool, a gym, and a business center. You will be staying here for two nights.
This tour covers the must-see sights as you would on a guided tour but mixed nicely with the underlying tone of culinary curiosity. Get your hands dirty, watch renowned chefs, and ask the questions that matter most to you.
Upon arrival at the airport in Chennai, you will be met for transportation to the hotel for a traditional Indian welcome, followed by check-in. The remainder of the day is at your leisure. You will stay two nights in Chennai.
Depart on your full day city tour to visit Fort St. George and the St. Thomas Cathedral. You will then proceed to Mylapore, which was inhabited in the 16th century by the Portuguese and visit the San Thome Church, named for the Christian disciple who lived and taught here in the first century.
A Tamil vegetarian lunch is included during your tour giving you your first taste of South Indian cuisine. In the afternoon, visit Chennai’s government museum and its bronze gallery, and in the evening, experience the rich taste of Southern India at a famed local restaurant.
Today, you will depart for Pondicherry and visit Auroville en-route. It is an international community developed around the ashram of the Indian yogi, Sri Aurobindo. On arrival in Pondicherry, you will check-in before your afternoon city tour. Pondicherry is a former French colony presenting an unusual combination of European culture and Indian traditions.
Visit the Pondicherry museum, which has sculptures, archaeological finds, and memorabilia of the French colonists. See the Sacred Heart Church with its Gothic architecture, and in the evening, walk along the sea front to view the architecture, a legacy of the French, who governed this town until 1957. Tonight, learn South Indian specialty dishes during a cooking class.
This morning, drive to the town of Swamimalai, a haven for Tamil culture for centuries, and settle here for a two-night stay to begin your insight into the regional culture and culinary arts. Amma in Tamil means mother, and for centuries, Amma’s have provided the best meals in the region. These ammas will be your culinary teachers with their years of experience and intuitive style of cooking.
You will also meet a family of sari weavers, spend time in their humble home, and watch them weave an intricately designed sari of splendorous colors. Meander through the local village, meeting the locals and learning about their lifestyles and ways of cooking.
After breakfast, visit the Kumbakonam circle temples, famous as the location for the Mahamaham festival, occurring once every 12 years. Visit the famous Darasuram Airadheeswarar Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site. The four large temples - the Sarangapani, the Kumbeswarar, the Nageswarar, and Ramasamy located here are noted for their excellent sculpture and carvings. This evening, enjoy a cooking demonstration of South Indian dishes followed by dinner.
Today, you will depart to Madurai after breakfast and visit Trichy en route. In Trichy, visit the landmark Rock Fort. A climb of 434 steps leads to the ancient temple of Ganapati on top and a further climb takes you to a Shiva Temple.
After lunch, drive to Madurai, one of the oldest cities in South India, and the center of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. This evening, proceed for dinner at a roof-top vegetarian restaurant with a view of Meenakshi Temple. Late evening, visit the Meenakshi Temple to attend the night ceremony.
Tour the great Meenakshi Temple, one of the most notable in all of South India, dedicated to the consort of Lord Shiva. Also visit the Tirumala Nayak Palace, a gracious 17th-century building in the Indo-Saracenic style famous for stucco work on its domes and arches. Enjoy lunch at the Meenakshi Temple, a traditionally served but delectably flavorful meal of vegetarian cuisine, and then have the afternoon at your leisure.
This evening, a culinary expert will take you on a visit to the popular restaurants and roadside eateries which serve traditional Madurai food. On the walk, you will get the opportunity to sample local delicacies with a pinch of the city's cultural history thrown in. Included during your tour in Madurai is a rickshaw ride to admire the city amongst the hustle and bustle at street level.
Drive uphill through the Western Ghats for Periyar and then check-in to your hotel. Periyar is the “land of the spices” Columbus was seeking when he stumbled on the new world, and Kerala’s Malabar Coast is famous for its fabulous spice crops.
Walk to the neighboring pepper plantation to see traditional plantation techniques walking amidst the rows of vines creeping upwards on trellises. This is the starting point of the centuries old spice trade. Dinner will focus on Kerala cuisine with an emphasis on the flavors created by fresh spices.
This morning, take a nature trek in the Periyar National Park with a naturalist. There are different nature trails traversing diverse habitats that form the trekking routes, generally four to five kilometers in length. This is an interpretive program offering excellent opportunities to watch birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.
The trails often pass through evergreen and moist deciduous forests interspersed with marshy grasslands. Later today, enjoy a guided visit to the spice market in the town of Thekkady. The afternoon is free to explore the local surroundings, take a light walk, or do some bird-watching at your leisure.
This morning, drive to Kumarakom, a sleepy little village tucked away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Visit a tea plantation en route and learn the process of planting tea. You will stop in Kanjirappally for lunch to sample the best of authentic Kerala cooking as made in a traditional home.
Lunch will be served on the large front lawn. Savor the flavors of estate life under a large mango tree, surrounded by birdsong, gentle breeze, and friendly conversation. After lunch, continue to Kumarakom.
Enjoy the facilities at the hotel from yoga, meditation, and the Ayurveda wellness center. In the early afternoon, depart for the Kanjirakkatu home-stay in Kottayam to have a sadya lunch, a traditional vegetarian feast of Kerala. Later, the group can walk around the Meenachil River through some villages and return for high tea at Kanjirakkatu.
In the evening, you will visit Phillipkutty’s Farm, an excellent effort on a part of a local Keralite family who showcase the backwaters of Kerala and real rural India in its simplest and purely natural form. Dinner at Phillipkutty’s Farm is a lavish affair with local home cooked dishes on the main menu.
This morning, depart for Cochin stopping en route in Alleppey to enjoy a day cruise on a Kettuvallam Houseboat on the Vembanad Lake and backwaters. The backwaters are a network of canals, lakes, lagoons, and estuaries stretching over almost 1,000 square miles. There, palm-fringed narrow canals wind through a vast expanse of paddy fields.
As you float along, enjoy the picturesque hamlets that line the banks, migratory birds in abundance, water lilies, and coconut groves. Later, continue the drive to Cochin and check in to the hotel. This evening, enjoy dinner accompanied by a renowned chef.
This morning, proceed for your city tour of Cochin including a visit to the Dutch Palace, the Synagogue, St. Francis Church, and the Chinese fishing nets, including a short boat cruise in the sea-backwaters. The group will visit some markets during the tour including vegetable and fish markets. Lunch today is organized at Nimmy and Paul’s residence.
Nimmy and Paul have been involved in 'at home' hospitality for more than twelve years. In keeping with the tradition of their families, they enjoy having guests and serving good food. Nimmy conducts cookery classes and she teaches guests the nuances of traditional Kerala recipes.
This evening, enjoy cultural entertainment at the Kerala Kaleidoscope show. Dinner will be at a venue whose layout and decor is inspired by a traditional Kettuvallam rice boat. With a show kitchen, guests can interact with chefs to create customized specialties.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and the morning at your leisure. Check out at 12:00. At the appointed time, you will be met at the hotel for your transportation to the airport for your departure flight.
Experienced in leading culinary groups, wonderfully personable, and a gem of a chef, Chef Vinod Lohtia is a restaurateur, personal chef, instructor, and family man. Born and schooled on the Indian subcontinent, he trained in Europe and honed his skills in central Canada where he currently resides.
During this culinary tours in India, you will be visiting some of the most important cities in South India known for its culture, history, and of course its culinary delights. These include Chennai, Pondicherry, Swamimalai, Madurai, Periyar, Kumarakom, and Cochin.
Daily breakfasts, lunches, and dinners as indicated in the itinerary are included in the price.
India’s cuisine is considered by many to be among the worlds most diverse and unique. Each region of India has a wide assortment of culinary dishes and cooking techniques making the diversity of food a sensory adventure. The majority of India’s cuisine is characterized by a refined use of herbs and spices. From local eateries to fine dining and street side stalls, the gastronomic discoveries in India are hard to match.
India is a shopper’s paradise. Regional specialties and local craftspeople create various works of art. Should you be looking for carpets, silks, silverware, fabrics, leather work, or antiques, India has you covered. Textiles remain one of India’s main industries. Of the silks, the woven brocades from Varanasi are among the most famous.
Rajasthan and Chennai cottons are brilliant. Block printed tunics, colorful saris, and pashmina shawls are also an Indian specialty. Pottery, stoneware, cooper, and brass ware to spices and paintings, shopping is popular pastime in India. State-run emporiums have good quality products are reasonable prices. Your tour guides can direct you to the most reputable shops and advise you on the specialties in the regions you are visiting.
Please book your flights to arrive at Chennai International Airport (MAA). Transfer from this airport is included in the price. Tour East Holidays will pick you up at the airport. For the departure day, you will be dropped off at Cochin International Airport (COC).
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