Here’s our day by day outline of the tour:
Welcome on arrival at Kochi International Airport and transfer to your hotel for a three-night stay in the centre of historic Fort Kochi. After a late breakfast and introduction to the tour, the rest of the day is free to rest or acclimatise and to explore the atmospheric old streets of Fort Kochi. The glorious faded architecture is evidence of the various European trading nations who occupied Cochin in the 17th and 18th centuries. This old trading port has always been where spices have left the Malabar coast for global destinations. Fort Kochi enjoys a tropical climate, with temperatures in January around 31C. In the evening, we invite you to an inclusive welcome dinner at one of its excellent waterfront restaurants.
Our first textile expedition takes us by ferry from Fort Kochi to Vypin Island followed by an hour’s drive to a Gandhian weaving co-operative in Chendamangalam. This area was once the home of the weavers to the Rajah of Cochin, now providing income for a small community of artisans, producing hand-woven cotton for everyday use. An inclusive Keralan lunch will be provided at a resort alongside the 7km long Cherai Beach. In the afternoon there will be a chance to buy Khadi and handloom cloth to use in your natural dyeing and block printing workshops later in the tour.
In the evening you may want to shop for gorgeous, lightweight ethically produced dresses, tops, skirts and trousers to wear on your tour from Anokhi, Fab India and other excellent boutiques in Fort Kochi.
Today we offer a choice of activities. Continue to explore Fort Kochi and it’s fascinating history, or take an optional six-hour, rice boat trip on the serene local backwaters south of Fort Kochi. Float silently through the lush vegetation of the lagoons in a sustainable motor-less rice boat, and enjoy a delicious Keralan style lunch. In the evening, we will meet up to discover the colour and skill of Kathakali Theatre with its intricate make-up, flamboyant costumes and subtle gestures, followed by dinner at a recommended restaurant.
FORT KOCHI to MUNNAR
After breakfast, we take a wonderfully scenic drive up into the mountains of the Western Ghats to the old British hill station and tea-growing centre of Munnar. Our hotel for three nights is set in the lush green of the tea gardens with mountain views from the rooms and the gardens. Dinner will be at our hotel tonight.
We take part in the first day of a two day workshop with Aranya Natural at DARE, an initiative that helps the differently-abled to lead an independent and fulfilling life. Natural dyes are used to create beautiful scarves and shawls using decorative techniques such as block printing, shibori and clamp dyeing. We will be trying our hands at wax resist block printing and learning some of the techniques of natural dyeing in our hands-on workshop with Aranya. After the workshop, you will be able to browse the bustling Munnar town bazaar, selling spices, teas and much more before enjoying dinner at one of Munnar’s authentic Keralan restaurants.
Today is spent finishing our natural dyeing and batik printing projects, at Aranya Natural. A visit to their extensively stocked on-site shop is also highly recommended! An inclusive dinner will be provided at the hotel tonight ready for an early start in the morning.
MUNNAR to POLLACHI
Today is a travel day through the most diverse and stunning scenery so far, through Munnar’s tea gardens and into the mountains that divide Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Stopping en route at Maryoor, the sandalwood forests in Kerala, with the opportunity of buying authentic sandalwood oil at the government outlet. We will then continue through the Chinnar Wildlife Reserve and Adimali Tiger Reserves and down into Tamil Nadu. This is a beautifully scenic drive with the possibility of spotting some wildlife, if we are lucky! Late afternoon takes us to our hotel in Tamil Nadu, Great Mount Coco Lagoon Resort for one night.
Ethicus, in Pollachi, is a company dedicated to creating high-end artisan-produced sarees, stoles and garments in organic, locally grown, locally spun cotton. The collections are designed in house with two distinct looks per year. Half of their business is in homegrown cotton on their farm. Today we will learn the story of organic cotton from seed to sari. The day starts with a visit to the farm to understand how organic cotton is grown, processed, and spun in the nearby spinning mill. After lunch at Ethicus we will have the chance to see the yarn being handwoven in Ethicus’s weaving workshop into beautifully coloured sarees, in stunning designs. Ethicus are now teaming up with artisans in other states of India that specialise in regional forms of hand decoration, that embellish the textiles to create sumptuous effects. Visit the studio’s showroom to see if you can resist buying one of their dazzling pieces.
We start the day with a visit to the Kerala Kalamandalam, school of traditional performing arts, to witness the rigorous eight to ten year training that the students undergo to learn Kathakali theatre performance, Bharatnatyam classical dance and other traditional Keralan performance skills. The afternoon continues with a visit to a traditional Keralan weaving village to see how the weavers create the unbleached cotton Kerala sari with its traditional gold and silver zari borders. Families here have been weaving this particular form of sari and men’s dhoti for hundreds of years. We return to the Eco Garden Resort, Cheruthuruthy, for dinner.
CHERUTHURUTHY to KANNUR
Today we travel five hours to stay at a remote and unspoilt beach resort for four nights, from where we will explore the rich cotton weaving heritage of the Kannur area and have time to unwind. On the way, we’ll call in at Sargalaaya Craft Village, where artisans from all over India sell beautiful handmade craft items and some handwoven textiles. An authentic Keralan ‘meal’, or thali, is included to enjoy in the café for lunch. During our stay, there may be a chance to experience the extraordinary and unique ceremony known as Theyyam, taking place in local villages at this time of year.
A free day to relax and explore miles of unspoilt beaches, enjoy a massage or reflexology session at the resort before watching the sun set over the Arabian sea followed by an inclusive dinner.
This morning we will visit a thriving co-operative handloom factory in the nearby city of Kannur, the heart of the handloom industry in Kerala. The warping, winding, dyeing and weaving processes will all be explained as we tour the factories. After Lunch at a nearby restaurant, we call in at our second factory where there may be a chance to see warp printing in action. Both factories have shops on site to browse for handwoven cloth and linens. Travel back to our beautiful beach resort for another sunset stroll and inclusive beachside dinner.
A morning to enjoy exploring the bustling old market area of Kannur and do a shop-hop to call in at the best fabric and clothing outlets in Kannur. The well known fabric and clothing shop The New Store; Fab India, selling ethically produced clothing and jewellery; The Khadi shops selling hand spun and handwoven cloth and traditional clothing and more. After lunch at a local seafood restaurant, we have the opportunity to call in at a small handloom weaving workshop which specialises in handwoven bed linen and Keralan towels. They will also ship linens to Europe for a reasonable price. The rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy the tranquillity of empty beaches before an inclusive beachside dinner.
KANNUR to MYSORE
Today we journey over the mountains dividing Kerala from Karnataka, one of its neighbouring states, taking us on to the next stage of our exciting textile adventure, to the city of Mysore. This city of the plains enjoys a less tropical climate than Kerala with pleasant temperatures around 30F in December. For centuries a city of the Wadiyar dynasty of Maharajahs, Mysore retains the unspoilt charm of another age as many of the buildings have survived and give the city a unique charm. After checking in at our hotel, the rest of the afternoon is at leisure to wander through the vibrant and colourful flower and spice market and to investigate the many sari and fabric stores in the centre. Dinner at a recommended restaurant.
Travel one hour to the atmospheric and sacred temple town of Melkote, for a one day spinning taster workshop at the Janapada Seva Trust Gandhian weaving centre just a mile or so from the village. Here, the Koulagi family are producing khadi cloth and promoting a sustainable and self-sufficient community lifestyle from their small workshops. At Janapada Seva Trust, the hand-spun cotton yarn is dyed with natural dyes, using locally available materials wherever possible. You will be taught to spin using a box charkha of the kind that Gandhi used daily as he travelled India and the world, promoting self-governance for India. A simple vegetarian lunch will be included. There will also be opportunities to watch the weavers at work at the centre and visit the centre’s small khadi shop in Melkote. In the late afternoon explore the exquisitely carved Hoysala temple buildings scattered around the village and climb the steps to the Yoga Narasimha hill temple overlooking the town, with its ornate gopura and fabulous views, accessible only on foot. Return to our hotel in Mysore for dinner.
The government run silk factory, a time capsule from the mid 20thC, is a fascinating opportunity to watch commercial, mechanised production of the famous Mysore sari silks, extremely popular for wedding saris all over India. In the afternoon you are free to explore more of Mysore’s many sights. Top attractions include the Chamundiswari Temple at the top of Chamundi Hill, making an offering to the great bull god Nandi half-way up the 1000 steps. Take a tour of the Maharajah of Mysore’s opulent 19th Century palace, built in the exuberant Indo-Saracenic style. Alternatively, enjoy shopping for silks and fabrics in the excellent city centre emporiums. Dinner at a recommended restaurant.
Meet the spinners who produce the cotton yarn that the weavers use to make Khadi in Melkote. The once thriving Gandhian centre at Badanavalu employs local spinners and weavers who are producing simple khadi and where there’s always a warm welcome for visitors. On the way, we’ll explore the temple town of Nanjangud with its ornate temple and gopura and bustling bazaar area. Alternatively, take a gentle cycle tour to discover the history of the fascinating island of Srirangapatna, set in the middle of the sacred river Cauvery. Once the heart of power in 18thC Mysore, it’s palace monuments and riverside shrines stand as a record of its rich history. Accompanied by a knowledgeable English tour leader now living in Mysore. As a complete contrast, we’ll finish our visit to Mysore with our inclusive farewell dinner in the grand dining room of the magnificent Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel, once the guest house of the Maharajah of Mysore. Cycling hours approx. 4.5 with breaks for refreshment and optional riverside lunch.
MYSORE to BANGALORE
A travel day from Mysore, through rural Karnataka to Bangalore. Visit the Ragi Kana Sunday market in Bangalore, with organic produce, khadi and handloom clothing and other hand made sustainable craft items. Dinner at our hotel, Lemon Tree Ulsoor Lake.
Today you can try your hand at block printing in our full-day workshop at Tharangini creative printing studios in a beautifully lush and green district of Bangalore. If you bought khadi fabric in Chendamangalam or Kannur, you will now be able to block print onto it, or onto fabric provided by Tharangini. Our artisan instructor will start the day with some background to the history of Tharangini and its’ collection of over 4,000 historic and modern wood blocks! We’ll learn about the creative processes involved in block printing and discharge printing. This is followed by a technical demonstration and then it’s over to you to experiment with your choice from the huge library of blocks available. Dinner at a recommended restaurant.
The end of our Textile Travels South Indian Threads tour. We hope you enjoyed your textile journey with us. Thank you for your contribution to raising the value of hand made fabrics in India, by choosing to travel with us, and allowing us the privilege of introducing you to the quiet joys of textiles in South India. An inclusive minibus transfer to Bengalaru International Airport is available for those who are returning home today. For any group members who are continuing their trip in India, we will say Namaste and wish you a wonderful onward journey. We look forward to welcoming you all back soon for another exciting Textile Travels adventure.