Tour: Hampi & Kerala 

Date: 1 - 15 Feb 2020

Duration: 15 Days*

*12 day option available without Hampi

Fri 10 Jan - Day 1 - Hubli Arrival

Day 1 is arrival day in Hubli. In terms of booking flights, the nearest airport is Hubli (HBX), if flying from the UK, the best route is usually to fly into Bangalore International Airport (also known as Bengaluru - BA offers a direct flight), and then a domestic flight from Bangalore to Hubli (Air India offers a direct internal flight). Once you have booked your flight, email through your flight details and your airport to hotel transfer will be arranged for you. To allow for different arrival times and to give you an opportunity to recharge following your journey, the first meet is at 18:30 for an introduction to your tour leader and the rest of the group prior to dinner.

Sat 11 Jan - Day 2 - Hubli to Hampi (Sacred Centre)

Following breakfast on day 2, we will spend the morning driving to Hampi, a fascinating collection of ruins and the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, until it was destroyed in 1565, by Deccan Sultanates. In its heyday it was described as a beautiful city, with lush gardens, water pools, temples and palaces. On arrival we will check into our hotel and have lunch, before heading out for an afternoon visit to the Sacred Centre. As the name suggests this is regarded as the most spiritual area in Hampi and contains one of the oldest functioning temples in India, the Hindu Virupaksha temple. The temple was built in honour of Shiva and has been receiving devotees since the 7th Century. The Sacred Centre is also the site of the Hampi Bazaar, making it a hive of activity during the day. Following our walk around the Sacred Centre, we will head up the boulder strewn Hemakuta Hill for a sunset capture of Virupaksha temple.

Sun 12 Jan - Day 3 - Hampi (Royal Centre)

On day 3 we will head back to Hemakuta Hill for a sunrise capture, as there are numerous vantage points from which to photograph sunrise and sunset from this hill. Following breakfast we will explore the Royal Centre in the morning, focusing on the most intact ruins, which are the Lotus Mahal Temple, a geometric stone step well, the queens bath and the elephant stables. Following lunch we will visit the Vittala Temple Complex, containing the stone chariot. Following the Vittala complex we will take a gentle coracle boat ride on the Tungabhadra River and for sunset explore the scenes along the river bank. 

Mon 13 Jan - Day 4 - Hampi to Bangalore

On day 4 there is an optional sunrise capture from Matunga hill and a short early morning exploration, before breakfast and returning to the hotel for check out for our transfer to Bangalore in the afternoon.

Tue 14 Jan - Day 5 - Bangalore - Mysore via Nrityagram Dance Village

We will begin day 5 with a morning visit to Nrityagram Dance Village (if time we will visit KR Market on route), which sits close to Hesaraghatta Lake and is approximately an hour away from Bangalore. The Village is a renowned collective of traditional dancers, who live in a holistic community where they are taught, yoga, meditation, martial arts, Sanskrit and literature, whilst contributing to the running of the centre. Many of the dancers came to the school as children and have remained into adulthood, with some becoming teachers. The students focus on a classical form of dance known as Odissi, which is over 2000 years old and was revived around 75 years ago. They have become so proficient, they now travel the globe giving performances and even Mick Jagger popped in whilst he was on tour in India. If we are lucky enough to catch the troupe, we will have the opportunity to capture the dancers as they go through their rehearsals. Following Nrityagram, we will drive to Mysore, which will take approximately 3h 30 mins. On arrival we will check into our hotel and reconvene for dinner

Wed 15 Jan - Day 6 - Mysore - Nagerhole / Kabini Nature Reserve

On day 6 we will start with an early morning visit to Devaraja Market, piled high with fruit, vegetables and flowers, ideal for street photography. Following the market we will visit Mysore Palace. The Palace was built by Maharaja of Mysore, who commissioned the British architect Henry Irwin, in 1897 to re-design the structure, following a fire.  The palace was completed in 1912 and is built in an Indo-Saracenic architectural style, employing influences from Hindu, Mughal, gothic and neo-classical architecture. Its ornate interior, offers a fascinating window into the lifestyle of the Maharajas up until the mid 20th Century. Although photography is not permitted within the interior of the Palace, it is permitted in the expansive grounds, which contain no less than 12 temples. On completion we will drive to Nagerhole National Park, also known as Kabini, as it sits on Kabini River, which will take approximately 1h 20 mins.

Thu 16 Jan - Day 7 - Nagarhole Reserve

Day 7 is reserved for a safari in Nagarhole National Park, which used to be the private hunting reserve for the Maharaja of Mysore, before being protected area in 1974. It covers 2300 sq miles of a mainly forested biosphere, known as the Nilgiris. The type of wildlife roaming the park, are  tigers, leopards, elephants, deer, bison, macaques, antelope and over 200 different species of birds. Safaris are conducted on a first come first serve basis, which is why we have opted to drive straight from Mysore Palace on the previous day. Depending on availability we will undertake as a minimum either a morning or afternoon land safari, and depending on availability we will include a second safari by either land or boat.

Fri 17 Jan - Day 8 - Nagarhole Reserve to Ooty

On day 8 following breakfast, we will drive to Ooty, which will take approximately 4 hours. Ooty is a charming hill station and tea producing region, so in the afternoon we will explore the area and visit one of the local tea estates to learn about the production tea process from initial picking, sifting and drying, as well as stop off when we see classic tea harvesting or pruning scenes.

Sat 18 Jan - Day 9 Ooty to Coimbatore

We will begin day 9 with continuing our exploration of the Nilgiri hills, and depending on their schedule, include a visit to the charity we will be supporting on this tour, The Keystone Foundation, which was set up in 1993, to support 11 indigenous communities across 15 hill ranges. Today it has expanded to working with 135 tribal communities, supporting local people through improving water & sanitation and offering avenues to earn a living through selling organically produced farm goods, including honey. Following our exploration, we will drive to Coimbatore where we will stop overnight before continuing our journey south into Kerala.

Sun 19 Jan - Day 10 - Coimbatore to Athirappilly Water Falls

On day 10 we will check out of our hotel and head to the Athirappilly Water Falls, which are approximately 3 h 30 mins away. On arrival we will have lunch and meander to the falls in the afternoon and in time for sunset. 

Mon 20 Jan - Day 11 - Athirappilly Water Falls to Kochi (Cochin)

On day 11 there will be an optional early morning capture of Athirappilly falls before we checkout out and drive approximately 1 h 45 mins to Kochi (also known as Cochin). On arrival we will check into our hotel, before heading out to explore the main attractions. We will focus our time around the Mattancherry district, a fascinating area ideal for street photography, consisting of the spice district (including a ginger factory), the large community laundry (where clothes are scrubbed by hand in huge concrete vats), the Jewish quarter (including the oldest Synagogue in India built in 1568), Mattancherry Palace and finally Cochin Fort with the iconic Chinese fishing nets. On completion we will attend an early evening classical dance performance, unique to Kerala, before having dinner. 

Tue 21 Jan - Day 12 - Kochi to Alleppey

On day 12 there is an optional sunrise capture of the fishing nets at Fort Kochi. Following breakfast, we will check out and drive 1 h 30 mins to Alleppey, to board a traditional Kettuvallam house boat for lunch on which we will spend the remainder of the afternoon touring the backwaters of Kerala. Kettuvallams were traditionally rice barges, as before the industrial age, they were the most effective way to transport rice to Kochi Port. The name Kettuvallam translates as 'tied boat', which reflects that no nails were used during their construction, instead their planks are tied into place. We will enjoy sunset from the boat prior to dinner, and depending on size of group and the comfort level of the boat overnight, we will either remain moored overnight or retreat to our resort.

Wed 22 Jan - Day 13 - Alleppey

On day 13, there is an optional sunrise capture of Alleppey beach / pier, before returning to the hotel for breakfast. Following breakfast you can choose to either relax and enjoy the resort facilities or head out on a small boat (shikara or canoe) tour through the backwaters, which will offer further opportunities to photograph local life on the river banks and surrounding rice fields, banana plantations, coconut farms and fishing villages. On return we will have some relaxation time before we reconvene for dinner. 

Thu 23 Jan - Day 14 - Alleppey to Kochi

On day 14 we will have a relaxing morning at the resort before checking out and driving back to Kochi which is approximately 1 h 30 hours drive away depending on how close to the airport we stay. In the evening we will reconvene for our farewell dinner prior to departure the following morning.

Fri 24 Jan - Day 15 - Departure Day - Cochin Airport

Day 15 is departure day. There are no activities planned on departure day and you can elect to leave at a time that suits you. Breakfast is complimentary so you might want to time your departure in line with having breakfast which is usually served from 8 am and before check out which is usually around 11 am, however every hotel operates their own system. Once you have booked your flights email through the details and we will ensure your hotel to airport transfer is booked. 

The ethical bit...

For each tour we select a charity or not for profit, that works in the area we visit to donate £25 per person to. For this tour we have selected The Keystone Foundation. The foundation was set up in 1993, by four founding members, including a socio-economist and ecologist, following an extensive on-foot geographical survey through Tamil Nadu. The survey exposed the group to fascinating ancient hunter gatherer activities, such as practised by the rock face scaling honey hunters, juxtaposed against an overzealous introduction of chemical fertilisers and tree harvesting. On completion the group committed to support 11 indigenous communities across 15 hill ranges. Today this has expanded to working with 135 tribal communities covering 15,000 people, on eco development initiatives including, non timber forest produce, land and water management and the revival of traditional agriculture. If you are interested in finding out more about the foundation please do not hesitate to visit their website www.keystone-foundation.org

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