Wonders of Southern India
15 - 30 September 2018
$4,999, not including airfare
This is a special invitation to join us on a journey to southern India. A land of scenic wonders, it is a treasure house of rich cultural heritage, beautiful traditions and captivating history. It is truly the Soul of India.
In the cities we will explore temples and palaces, botanical gardens and the vibrant urban life of the region.
Then we will spend several days in the Western Ghats, a mountain range that runs parallel to the western coast of the Indian peninsula. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, these mountains are one of the eight "hottest hot-spots" of biological diversity in the world. Older than the great Himalayan mountain chain, they are of immense global importance with an exceptionally high biodiversity, especially native plants and animals.
You'll be able to experience the richness of these mountains when we stay at two luxury eco resorts, where we will enjoy nature walks, safari drives, tour tea, coffee, and spice plantations, visit a local tribal village, and explore the Kabini River in a coracle, a small, round boat made of wickerwork covered with a watertight material, propelled with a paddle. These two resorts won the National Geographic magazine's 2015 World Legacy Awards.
We also will visit several of the British Hill Station towns, high-altitude villages where the the British went in summer to escape the hot temperatures at the lower elevations. To get from Ooty to Coonoor, we'll travel on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway Toy Train. Built by the British to have quicker access to the Hill Stations, this railway is particularly picturesque because of the surrounding rocky terrain, ravines, tea plantations, and forested hills.
If we’re lucky, we’ll also experience the rare flowering of Strobilanthes kunthiana (Neelakurinji), a shrub that blooms once every 12 years, turning the Nilgiri hills of this mountain range blue. It last blossomed in 2006; botanists believe it will bloom again in September 2018. The peak flowering season is expected to be between August and September.
Finally we'll travel to the coast to experience the rich history of Cochin (also known as Kochi). Called the "Queen of the Arabian Sea," Cochin/Kochi was an important spice trading center on the west coast of India from the 14th century onward, and maintained a trade network with Arab merchants from the pre-Islamic era. On the way to the city, we'll stay overnight on a traditional houseboat, exploring region's the famous backwaters.
Our hosts for this fantastic adventure are Catriona Tudor Erler and Karni Singh.
Catriona fell in love with India when she first visited the country in 2013. She took a group of members and friends of the Garden Club of Virginia to Rajasthan in 2016, and is excited to explore the wonders of southern India. Best known for her nine popular garden books, she is also a sought-after, inspiring speaker on garden history and design. She has spoken to garden enthusiasts in America and England both in person and through radio and television programs. Her lectures are illustrated with vibrant photographs she has taken in various parts of the world. Her pictures also grace several book and magazine covers, and her articles and photographs have been published in periodicals including Virginia Living, Architectural Digest, and Garden Design.
Karni Singh has travel in his blood. He grew up traveling around India due to his father's job. He has been a Tour Manager, Tour Guide & Tour Planner for more 10 years but as he says, "I am merely a mirror of all that his country has to offer."
With his post graduate degree in history, his deep knowledge of the art, architecture, religion and culture of his country, plus his superb English, creative mind, and delightful sense of humor, he transforms the travel experience. His goal for each tour he leads is to give at least one memorable, heart warming experience to each of his guests. Travelers return home from their travels with Karni with India in their hearts.
With folded hands, he eagerly awaits your arrival in India. Namaste
“We each came for different reasons, but our guide Karni said that no matter why we thought we were there, it was really because Mother India had called us.” ~ Lea Shuba, Alexandria, VA
“It was a trip of a lifetime with enough education, sights, sounds, and marvelous experiences to last a long time! I still wake up thinking about that fascinating country and its wonderful people.” ~Mary Page Hickey, Alexandria, VA
Remember to sign up early because space is limited!