Back to India – Spices & More 2024

July 31, 2023 posted in General


16th February – 10th March 2024

Travel the length of India with Herbie and Liz from south to north, as they re-visit their favourite places, sniffing out all manner of spices as they go.

Friday 16th February- Day 1:   Depart Sydney or your closest major city, destination Cochin via Singapore, arriving somewhere around midnight.  Our bus meets us at the airport and takes us to our waterside hotel.

Saturday 17th February – Day 2*:  Known as the Venice of India, this city was visited by Arab spice traders as early as 1,500 BCE, and has been a hub of spice trade ever since.  This morning we visit the historic area of Mattancherry. We’ll check out the old Jewtown area with its famous synagogue, and explore  Fort Kochi, Kerala’s historic colonial trading centre. We can look into some of the spice go-downs whilst walking in the narrow streets. In the tropical evening, we’ll take a cruise to see the traditional fishing nets as the sun goes down, where the Kochi Lagoon opens into the Arabian Sea.  Dinner and overnight at our historic hotel.

Chinese Fishing Nets on the Vembanad Sea

Kathakali Dancer in Cochin

Sunday 18th February – Day 3: * After breakfast, we’ll have a half day tour of Ernakulum, where the spice and fresh produce markets supply the locals, and we’ll see where the locals shops for textiles, jewellery and household items.   We’ll lunch on Marine Parade then have some free time at the hotel before going to see the unforgettable dance-drama of Kathakali, with green-faced kings and fantastic costumes.

Monday 19th February – Day 4:  We check out of our hotel and head for the famous waterways of Kerala.  You will really feel your holiday kick in as we navigate the peaceful channels beside rice fields.  Our boat will take us right in to the lobby of Coconut Lagoon, our tropical resort, where the worries of the western world will fall away as we take in the rich bird life and enjoy delicious South Indian food.  We’ll take a little sunset cruise to enjoy the peaceful surrounds before dinner.

Rice Boat on the Alleppey Waterways

Pepper Vines in Spice Village Gardens

Tuesday 20th February – Day 5:  Our boat carries us, relaxed and refreshed, away from Coconut Lagoon to meet our bus which will take us up to the mountain village of Kumily, right in the heart of pepper, cardamom and tea plantations.  We check in to Spice Village, and identify our own little cottage within the extensive grounds, dotted with all manner of spice plants.  Later, we’ll walk a few blocks to visit a local home for a cooking demonstration.

Wednesday 21st February – Day 6: *  Today we visit some spice farms, see how pepper grows and maybe find a nutmeg fruit to split open to find the nutmeg and mace inside.  Make sure you bring your walking shoes! In the afternoon, we’re taking a motorised trek through Periyar National Park, where there’s the chance of seeing elephants, sambar deer, mongoose, possibly the elusive tiger.

Nutmeg Fruits (Nutmeg and Mace inside)

Tamarind Seller

Thursday 22nd February – Day 7:*  We’ll get up close and personal with an elephant and her mahoot this morning, to see how much practical work the elephant does in the farming community.  After lunch there’s some free time to explore this pleasant and accessible village, and we’ll give you some pocket money and set you free to purchase some spices. It’s the regular Herbie’s Spice Challenge, and over dinner, we’ll evaluate your purchases for quality and value.  Best shopper gets the prize!

Friday 23rd February – Day 8:  We farewell the lovely Spice Village and make the bus our home for an interesting trip down the eastern side of the mountains and into the rich farming lands of the state of Tamil Nadu. We’ll try to stop to look at coir-making and brick-making areas along the way.  You have free time in the afternoon, and after dinner we visit the Meenakshi Temple which, unlike a western cathedral, is crowded, noisy and vibrant whilst still being a holy destination for pilgrims. After the evening ceremony we return to our hotel.

Inside Meenakshi Temple in Madurai

Saturday 24th February – Day 9: *

A city tour of Madurai shows us the beautifully restored palace built in the 16th century by the Nayaka king Thirumalai Nayaka. It was constructed in 1636 and the architecture of the palace is a perfect blend of Hindu and Arabic style. After visiting the palace we will jump on rickshaws and see the local market around the bustling temple.

Sunday 25th February – Day 10:  It’s a day of travel today, and we head for the airport and take off for Chennai.  Because domestic flights are unreliable, and because connections can be difficult, we’ll have a night in Chennai before making the flight tomorrow to Hubli.  It gives us a chance for a quick look at this historic city which was a stronghold of the British East India Company – think Madras cotton, and the classic Madras curry powder.

Monday 26th February – Day 11:  Another day of travel, with a flight to the town of Hubli, where we are met by our bus for a drive to the remote area of Hampi.  Hampi is a place of cultural and architectural heritage, once the seat of power for the Vijanagaras Empire, and an important archaeological site.  We check in to our beautiful Hotel Evolve Back and relax after our long drive.

Hampi Monument

Tuesday 27th February – Day 12*:  Today we set off to explore the famous ruins of Hampi.   Ruins of the erstwhile capital are spread over many acres, which we will traverse partly by bus, and they are truly spectacular.  It’s a lot to take in, and we’ve scheduled an afternoon of rest for us all.  The hotel is luxurious, and there are plenty of pampering options for those who want to indulge.  A massage is recommended!

Wednesday 28th February – Day 13:*   We have another morning of exploring – there’s the elephant stables, stepped tank, Lotus Mahal and more still to see.  Afternoon is at leisure, or you can go into the town of Hampi for an independent stroll if you wish.

Thursday 29th February – Day 14*:  The days at Hampi mark the middle of our tour, and we treat everyone to another day in this splendid location.  You can choose to go back for one more look at the ruins, have a morning or evening guided tour with a naturalist through the countryside, or just lie by the pool and read or snooze.  In the evening, the hotel’s historians bring the history of the Vijayanagara Empire alive through the ancient art of storytelling.

Friday 1st March – Day 15:  Today we have a long drive to Bangalore – a chance to look out from our bus to see the day-to-day lives of the country people.  Arriving into Bangalore, the home of India’s IT industry, will give you a good idea of the growing middle class and the sophistication of modern India.  We’ll have lunch en route, and arrive in Bangalore in time to check in to our hotel, have dinner and fall into bed in preparation for an early wake-up call.

Desert Scene

Jaisalmer Fort at Sunrise

.50am flight to the Rajasthan city of Jodhpur – the palms and rice paddies of the South are now well behind us!  We have a long drive on an excellent highway through the Thar Desert to our destination, the far western city of Jaisalmer.  We’ll have lunch along the way, and after arrival, we’ll watch the sunset over the city from a good vantage point before dinner.

Sunday 3rd March – Day 17*:  After breakfast, we set off for a half-day city tour, taking in the majestic Jaisalmer Fort, beautiful havelis, the museum, and more.  After lunch back at our hotel, we’re heading for the dunes – camel ride optional!  As evening falls, we settle ourselves at a comfortable desert camp to be fed and entertained under the stars by Rajasthani folk dancers and musicians.

Monday 4th March – Day 18*:  If your head is spinning from sensory overload, now’s the time to take a breather.  It’s a free day to do whatever you like – another look at the Fort, perhaps, or some shopping for a bedspread, or maybe silver, a specialty of Jaisalmer?  Take your camera and take back lots of images of the elegant architecture.

Tuesday 5th March – Day 19:  It’s back on the bus today, to spin along the highway back to Jodhpur to board a flight to Delhi.  (It’s a zig-zag route to avail ourselves of the best flight options.) On arrival, we head for our Delhi hotel.  Dinner at nearby Chor Bizarre Restaurant.

Silver Sellers in Jaisalmer


Thursday 7th March – Day 21*:  Early morning optional yoga. After breakfast we will visit the iconic suspension bridges over the Ganges River. We’ll take a walk across the bridges and enjoy the panoramic views of the river and the city. We will visit the Parmarth Niketan ashram and then have lunch at a local restaurant. Then we’ll be off to visit the Beatles Ashram, officially known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram. This historic place served as the meditation retreat for the Beatles during the late 1960s. Later, we drive to Mansa Devi temple, where the daring and agile can go to the the top by ropeway. After visiting the temple we return to Rishikesh for dinner and overnight.

Friday 8th March – Day 22*:  For those who are early risers, there’s an optional visit to Kunjapuri Temple to see the sunrise. It’s a short trek to reach the temple but the sunrise from here is beautiful. Later visit the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple (Shiva Temple) and after the blessing spend some time at the market area before returning to the hotel. Afternoon is free to relax – maybe try a massage, or go exploring.

Saturday 9th March – Day 23:  Today we prepare for the long flight home.  A mid-afternoon flight to Delhi will give us plenty of time to transfer for our Singapore flight.

Herbie’s Tours are fully escorted bu Ian “Herbie” and Liz Hemphill with a full-time Indian Tour Manager, Mr. Manoj Atri who has accompanied us on tours for the last 25 years!

All meals and tips are covered, drinks are extra.

All international and domestic flights.

For more information, and costs for twin share and single travellers, please contact:

Samantha Hills

[email protected]

Ph: 0412 177 161       ABN 84 120 080 542

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