Spice, Trade and Botanicals: Histories of the Malabar Coast

29 Jan - 13 Feb 2024
  • 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 each 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, Bill and Helen  Bynum

Bill and Helen Bynum

Bill Bynum is Professor Emeritus at University College London. A Yale graduate in medicine, he began his career in the history of medicine with a Cambridge PhD before moving to the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine. His 'History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction' and 'A Little History of Science' have been translated into 14 languages. Bill also edited the Penguin 150th anniversary edition of The Origin of Species.

After a PhD in the History of Medicine from University College London, Helen Bynum lectured at the University of Liverpool before beginning a freelance career as a medical historian and popular science writer. Together with Bill she edited 'Great Discoveries in Medicine' before turning their attention to the world of plants and their histories in 'Remarkable Plants that Shape our World' and 'Botanical Sketchbooks'. ‘Team Bynum’ have led and lectured on successful tours and cruises for Jon Baines Tours.

Need more information?

  • Tel: (Toll Free) 1-8777-398-764
  • Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
Contact us

Itinerary at a glance

  • Day 1: Bangalore (Mon, 29 Jan) Botanical Discovery in the Land of the Hortus Malabaricus Arrive Bangalore and transfer to the hotel.
  • Day 2: Bangalore (Tues, 30 Jan) 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, 31 Jan) 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, 1 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, 2 Feb) Ayurveda and its Botanicals Visit a temple and a traditional Ayurvedic pharmacy factory. At leisure.
  • Day 6: Mysore / Ooty (Sat, 3 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, 4 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, 5 Feb) Planting Gardens Meet with Vasanth Bosco, 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, 6 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, 7 Feb) 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, 8 Feb) 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, 9 Feb) Spice Plantations: Export Riches Morning nature walk in the Periyar National Park. At leisure.
  • Day 13: Periyar / Cochin (Sat, 10 Feb) Trade: Why the World Came to Cochin Depart the cooler highlands and drive down through the Western Ghats to the coast and the port of Cochin.
  • Day 14: Cochin (Sun, 11 Feb) 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 before returning to Cochin.
  • Day 15: Cochin (Mon, 12 Feb) Take a walking tour of old Fort Cochin, visiting the oldest church in India, 500-year old Portuguese houses, the old spice houses and areas that could be lifted from an English country village. Enjoy a farewell dinner with the group.
  • Day 16: Cochin (Tues, 13 Feb) Transfer to airport for departure flight OR extend your stay at Marari Beach resort. It is also possible to extend at the lovely Trident Hotel in Cochin.

Marari Sands Beach Resort Extension

  • Day 16: Cochin / Marari Beach Resort (Tues, 13 Feb) Check out and transfer to Marari Beach Resort with rest of day at leisure.
  • Day 17: Marari Beach Resort (Wed, 14 Feb) At leisure.
  • Day 18: Marari Beach Resort / Cochin (Thurs, 15 Feb) Check out and transfer to the airport.

Tour cost

The cost of the tour per person sharing is USD $4,116 (excluding international flights and transfers). The cost of the tour with a room to yourself is USD $4,914

Book now