Spice, Trade and Botanicals: Histories of the Malabar Coast

20 Feb - 6 Mar 2023
  • Cultural Tours

About the tour

The Malabar Coast has been a meeting place of cultures throughout history. Its lush landscapes were fragrant with the precious spices that brought traders from far and wide, making this coastline rich in both wealth and culture. This tour takes you through the most evocative parts of Malabar, taking inspiration from Hortus Malabaricus (meaning “Garden of Malabar”).

Hortus Malabaricus, with its beautiful illustrations, captured the flora of the Western Ghats. It brought Malabar’s indigenous plant knowledge to the attention of the world. Nearly thirty years in the making, it was published in Amsterdam from 1678 to 1693. K. S. Manilal, the respected Cochin botanist, translated the Latin Hortus into English and Malayalam. Each day on the tour has a botanical theme, which will be discussed briefly before dinner on the previous day.

Travel from Bangalore to Mysore, known for its glittering royal heritage, a city of sandalwood, spices and silk. Continue into the highlands of Ooty and Coonoor and explore the pristine high montane forests of the Blue Mountains, before continuing to the Cardamom Hills to Madurai and the low lying spice plantations of Periyar, with its verdant landscapes and rich birdlife. Continue to Cochin, a melting pot of culture and religion through the ages, and onto the tranquil backwaters of Kerala, where you will cruise the backwaters on a luxury houseboat. Learn about the trade in spices, plants and ideas with expert talks and visits.

Your tour leader

Picture of JBT tour leader, Carolyn Fry

Carolyn Fry

Carolyn Fry is an author and journalist specialising in science, conservation, natural history and adventure travel. She has written and contributed to 11 books, covering botanical explorers, the origins of plant-based foods and climate science. Carolyn has won many awards for her work, including the 2016 Garden Media Guild Award for Best Environmental Book for 'Seeds: Safeguarding our Future.'

A former editor of Geographical, the magazine of the Royal Geographical Society, Carolyn has contributed to New Scientist, BBC Wildlife, BBC History, The Times, Sunday Telegraph, Independent on Sunday and Kew Magazine, among others. Her work has taken her far and wide; from visiting the world’s most remote post office in Antarctica, to following in the footsteps of Livingstone in Zambia and wandering ancient palm forests in the Seychelles.

She has appeared on two BBC documentaries, to discuss the role of plants as commodities during the British Empire and the resurgence of tropical gardens.

Need more information?

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  • Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
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Itinerary at a glance

  • Day 1: Bangalore (Mon, 20 Feb)
    Botanical Discovery in the Land of the Hortus Malabaricus
    Arrive Bangalore and transfer to the hotel
  • Day 2: Bangalore (Tues, 21 Feb)
    Botanical Art of the "Company School"
    Visit the Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens and the library, with its fine collection of botanical art. Visit Amruthavana Ayurvedic botanical garden.
  • Day 3: Bangalore / Mysore (Wed, 22 Feb)
    Silk: Made with Mulberries
    Drive to Mysore, stopping en route to visit the Sri Rangapatna – Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace - and the silk workshop. Arrive Mysore and check into the hotel. Visit Dervaraj Market. Return by tonga (horse and carriage) to the hotel
  • Day 4: Mysore (Thurs, 23 Feb)
    Sandalwood: The Scent of Mysore
    Visit Mysore Maharaja's Palace. Take afternoon tea on the balcony of the Lalitha Mahal Palace with views over Mysore.
  • Day 5: Mysore (Fri, 24 Feb)
    Ayurveda and its Botanicals
    Visit a temple and a traditional Ayurvedic pharmacy factory. At leisure.
  • Day 6: Mysore / Ooty (Sat, 25 Feb)
    Gin and Tonic, Cinchona Bitters
    Drive into the Blue Mountains and up to the hill station at Ooty. Stop to see the Naduvattam old cinchona planation. Visit Ooty Botanical Gardens. Dinner at the Savoy.
    Day 7: Ooty / Coonoor / Ooty (Sun, 26 Feb)
    Tea: Two Leaves and a Bud in the South
    Take the toy train to Coonoor. Visit the old cinchona factory and residence of William Graham McIvor, the founder of the Ooty Botanical Garden. Lunch and visit the tea plantation and tea factory
  • Day 8: Ooty / Madurai (Mon, 27 Feb)
    Planting Gardens
    Meet with Mr Bose, an ecologist at the indigenous plant nursery at Ooty, before driving across the lush Cardamom Hills to Madurai. Arrive and check into the hotel and have dinner that evening.
  • Day 9: Madurai (Tues, 28 Feb)
    Hill Stations: Healing Nature
    See the vividly coloured Madurai Temple - one of the oldest and most significant Hindu temples in India. Take a rickshaw tour followed by street food trails.
  • Day 10: Madurai / Periyar (Wed, 1 Mar)
    Curry: Making the Dish
    Drive to Periyar past vivid green tea, coffee, rubber, pineapple and spice plantations. Arrive and transfer to the hotel. See a traditional Kalaripayattu performance
  • Day 11: Periyar (Thurs, 2 Mar)
    Pepper: Kerala's Gift
    Visit a spice garden on a guided tour and enjoy lunch at the house of local planters, Mr and Mrs Abraham, with locally grown spices.
  • Day 12: Periyar (Fri, 3 Mar)
    Spice Plantations: Export Riches
    Morning nature walk in the Periyar National Park. At leisure.
  • Day 13: Periyar / Backwaters (Sat, 4 Mar)
    Rubber: Tapping for Wealth
    Drive to Alleppey, stopping at a rubber plantation en route to observe rubber tapping. Board a houseboat and cruise the beautiful Keralan backwaters. Continue to Cochin.
  • Day 14: Cochin (Sun, 5 Mar)
    Trade: Why the World Came to Cochin
    Explore old Fort Cochin and visit the Dutch Palace and learn of Cochin's long history. Visit Cochin's old spice houses before a farewell dinner in the evening.
  • Day 15: Cochin (Mon, 6 Mar)
    Transfer to airport for departure flight OR take the Ayurvedic Resort extension in southern Kerala.

Marari Sands Beach Resort Extension

  • Day 15: Cochin / Marari Sands (Mon, 6 Mar)
    Check out and transfer to Marari Sands Beach Resort. Arrive and at leisure. This charming small beach resort consists of 13 intimate bungalows nestled within lush, palm studded gardens that lead down to a pristine white sand beach. The service is warm and friendly and the restaurant provides freshly cooked delicious local food. Relax in a hammock on the beach or by the pool, or treat yourself to a soothing Ayurvedic treatment in the spa. This low-key resort is quiet and relaxed and the perfect retreat after a busy tour.
  • Day 16: Marari Sands (Tues, 7 Mar)
    At leisure at the resort.
  • Day 17: Marari Sands (Wed, 8 Mar)
    Check out and transfer to the airport.

Tour cost

USD $4,043 per person sharing (excluding international flights and transfers)

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