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Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala

We cannot add much to fellow traveller Mike's excellent and comprehensive review except to echo our own enjoyment of this tour. It was so different from the well known magnificence of the north so many of us had also experienced with Riviera - in many ways more relaxing with the added interest of frequent visits and brief stops at places en route. The spontaneous photo stop for a tree covered in fruit bats and another to buy freshly roasted cashew nuts by the roadside come to mind - small moments but will not be forgotten. Great variety of interest all round.

The accommodation in small units among trees at several hotels gave a relaxed atmosphere and all were well fitted out.

Riviera tour managers are always of an exceptionally high standard - but Matt was above even that. He impressed us with his obvious huge respect for the local people, their lives and their culture - visits to small craft co-operatives, a laundry and a village school (not to mention the blessing of our coach so appreciated by our driver and assistant), clearly showed this.

We had total confidence in driver Gokul. Thanks also to Suresh, the local assistant for ensuring the coach was spotless - as were we with all the hand sanitising on re-entering it! Alex, the local guide was a joy - his local knowledge and views made a good balance with those of Matt. Thanks all round to the team - Riviera should be rightly very proud of all of you.

Review by: Sue and John Green on 28/02/2019

Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala

We have just returned from our 11th wonderful tour with Riviera, this time to Southern India and the backwaters of Kerala. It has to be said that we got off to a slow start thanks to delays by Oman Air which meant we had to be on two consecutive night flights and arrival at Chennai 12 hours late at 4 a.m. However, all was soon forgotten when we were met by Tour Manager Matt at the airport to be told he had adjusted the schedule so that we would have a few hours sleep and not miss any of the planned itinerary. This just about summed Matt up as he spent the whole of the next two weeks being totally efficient, approachable and determined to give the whole group the very best holiday possible. We felt that his tweaking of the schedule and many little treats made a big difference. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole tour which gave a wonderful insight into life in this part of the world, and our local guide Alex was a fund of knowledge in all things religious, political, architectural and botanical. His commentary on the coach between stops brought the whole area to life. We saw some wonderful temples, palaces, etc, and enjoyed our cruise on a houseboat on the backwaters of Kerala. We stayed at some superb hotels, our favourites being Chidambara Vilas with a four-poster bed with punkah above, Spice Village and Coconut Lagoon. We were a happy group of 31 and all appreciated the dream team on the bus of driver Gokul and gofer Suresh who kept us well supplied with water for the journeys and beer, etc, for our rooms, always with the biggest smile. We will now enjoy planning our next trip with Riviera.

Review by: Mike and Pat Smith on 28/02/2019

Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala

This was our first visit to India and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone considering the southern region. Our tour manager, Matt and local guide, Biju were both excellent at telling us about the culture and explaining the wonderful sites we visited. They were great company as were all our fellow travellers as we toured through Tamil Nadu and into Kerala. In spite of the recent floods the hotels in Kerala were fabulous. Tourism is important to their economy and they have worked hard to restore facilities. The Spice village was delightful and the trip on the backwater dreamy. The only change to the itinerary was the ‘B’ Road through the mountains which our driver Gunar managed brilliantly. The extra miles provided us with more stunning views across the mountains even if it was a bit longer. From start to finish the hotels were great, the sites fascinating, and the planning perfect.

Review by: Frances Julie on 18/10/2018

Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala

This tour was so much more than I could have imagined and showed us the diversity of 2 areas of India. Only a few months after the devastation of the monsoon in Kerala and the people are working hard to restore their lives. Not quite everything is repaired as we found on the fabulous hairpin bends of the alternative ‘B’ Road we took over the mountains. The spices will continue to grow and the infrastructure can be repaired so I really hope that tourism also flourishes. It is a vital part of the local economy and I feel so lucky to have been on this wonderful tour. The driver, guide and manager ensured we had a fabulous time and the hotel staff lovely.

Review by: Julie on 18/10/2018

Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala

Just back after a fantastic trip to Southern India. Too many wonderful memories to relate but elephant riding and drenching, crossing a river on a bamboo raft and the amazing houseboat are just a few. Incredible food and hotels especially the Spice Village with its outstanding staff and the Coconut Lagoon. What a location and both eco friendly. A special mention for Sri, our guide, who had the most impressive knowledge of, well everything! Also Ramu the most amazing driver and his assistant who went out of their way to make everything perfect including decorating the coach to celebrate a birthday and finally Gill, who made everything run smoothly with good grace and care in spite of concerns regarding adverse weather reports. This is my third trip to India with Riviera and I can't wait for my next.

Review by: wyn chambers on 04/10/2018

Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala

This was our second visit to India with Riviera. We had an great holiday and saw some fascinating places and wonderful scenery.

India is an amazing place with so much variety. What a contrast between the North (our first trip), and the South!

I can't speak highly enough about our tour "team."

Manager Matt organised everything so well, and despite a pretty arduous outward flight, which warranted a complete reshuffle of our first day, the tour went very smoothly. Long journeys were broken up with interesting short breaks taking in local sights and customs - flower markets, rope making etc.

Our local guide Shri was excellent and I can't speak highly enough of the skill and patience of our driver Gokul and his assistant Raju - always unfailingly cheerful.

The hotels were all good, the stars perhaps being Spice Village and Coconut Lagoon. We also enjoyed our stay at the Ideal River Resort and Ideal Beach.

As Indian food fans we enjoyed it all. For those who might get bored with a daily buffet, there was an 'a la carte' option in most of the hotels.

We always carry an adaptable sink plug if we go overseas. It came in useful on this holiday as most wash basins didn't have one.

Review by: Ann Eskins on 01/03/2018

Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala

This was an amazing holiday made even better by our excellent guide Matt. A true professional in every sense, he made sure the whole holiday ran as smoothly as it could. The sights, colours and smells of India have to be experienced to be appreciated. The hotels, food and wonderful friendly people made this a unique experience I would definitely recommend.

Review by: Lorraine Turner on 01/03/2018

Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala

Travelled to Southern India and Kerala in November 2017. Our tour manager Matt met us at Heathrow and ensured that checking went smoothly. We were impressed by Sri Lankan Airlines for the overnight flight to Columbo and then onwards to Chennai. Our hotels were all excellent but you saved the best until last, the beautiful Coconut Lagoon in Kerala with its stunning scenery and colony of fruit bats! Really enjoyed the beachside hotels, tuk tuk tour, temples and especially the house boat trip with freshly prepared food by our own cook. As usual Riviera shone through (my 5th time with Riviera) but I cannot stress enough how much Matt made the holiday. He was so helpfull but also funny, a mine of information and ensured that everything ran smoothly. Of course it helped that everyone in the group was like minded, everyone was on time and we all bonded as a group. I would have no hesitation in recommending this tour.

Review by: Stephen Rowley on 16/11/2017

Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala Tour

We found the tour fascinating and most enjoyable and would happily recommend it to anyone interested in the sights, sounds and scents of India. The itinerary covers a vast variety of cultural and religious venues and gives great insights in day to day life. Hotels are of varied standards from mid-range to genuine five star properties and are well selected, albeit at times outside of towns or cities. A special thank you to our Tour Manager Matt Purse and his team. Matt is an enthusiastic host who makes it all look easy and always keeps his calm and profound sense of humour.

Wolfgang & Majella Hofmann, Dublin

Review by: Wolfgang Hofmann on 30/03/2017

Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala Tour

Hi, A big thank you to the Rivier team for another wonderful experience. We found the tour fascinating and most enjoyable and would happily recommend it to anyone interested in the sights, sounds and scents of India. The itinerary covers a vast variety of cultural

Review by: Wolfgang Hofmann on 30/03/2017

Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala Tour

My wife and I have just returned from this tour and want to say what an interesting and informative tour this was. Both Matt from Riviera, and Pradeep the local Indian guide were brilliant, and inspired confidence from the start. Their faultless information; great sense of humour; and immense patience with a large group, enhanced the sites, sounds, smells and experience of southern India. This was a very different tour to that which we experienced with Riviera in northern India and Shimla two years ago. The 'wow' factors were fewer than in Northern India, but the tour was more relaxed and had subtle, interesting, surprises throughout. The trip was well worth doing and I would not hesitate to recommend it.

Review by: Richard Lawton on 09/02/2017

Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala Tour

We have just returned from an excellent holiday to Southern India and Kerala. Great trip and full of the things Riviera do so well....exciting itinerary, busy days, great hotels and still the chance to relax.

The first week was hectic, full of towns, temples and tuk-tuks! A much calmer second week in Kerala; fertile friendly and fabulous! Well done to the team at Riviera who put together such an exciting and interesting itinerary.

We were well looked after every step of the way. Pradeep, Shankar and Ramu, our driver, were outstanding. Matt, our tour manager, was extremely efficient giving us just the right amount of information enabling everyone to prepare for the day ahead. What a difficult job to look after so much luggage! Thank you Matt. A few maps would have been nice, perhaps next time?

Thank you Riviera Travel. That's 14 trips with your company and you never disappoint us. Well done!! Here's to CHINA in September!!

Review by: Richard Butterfield on 26/01/2017

Southern India & the backwaters of Kerala Tour

We have just returned from your above holiday, which exceeded our expectations. The itinerary was excellent and we had so many amazing experiences.

Review by: Carol Butcher on 17/11/2016

Southern India & The Backwaters Of Kerala Tour

This was our first visit to India, and we have been left with a profound respect and admiration for this wonderful country. Our local tour guide Pradeep’s knowledge of the history, spiritual insight into Hinduism and love of his country was inspirational.

Matt, our tour guide was organised, witty and made us all feel safe and respected. Unfortunately a cough virus made its presence felt for quite a few in the group, but Matt was attententive in distributing a huge jar of cough sweets to those who required them - luckily not us!

The tour itself ( although demanding in terms of early starts) was well planned, balancing insights into culture, history, every day life and nature.

We loved the variety of hotels- one or two were a little lacking in service, but this was made up by local charm. We could have stayed a week at the Spice Village…

Review by: Carolyn and Rob Desforges on 28/02/2016

Southern India & The Backwaters Of Kerala Tour

I am writing to say than you to all concerned for this wonderful trip, particularly our guide Matt Locmelis who was superb throughout. He was organised conscientious and funny, a pleasure to travel with especially as I went on my own knowing no one when I started. A great group and an unforgettable holiday.

Review by: Jane Barton on 08/03/2016

Southern India & The Backwaters Of Kerala Tour

Back from another super trip with Riviera and trying to restore normal time to my brain and dispel the usual horrid cold that is the free gift of long haul flights.

What a terrific time in Southern India, visual delights, excitements, smiles, heat, good company and lovely hotels. It was a fortnight well organised and very well run by our guide Matt Locmelis, a man of tremendous patience & good will. The driver Panni and his help were excellent and drove with skill and knowledge of the route.

The food was tasty and plentiful, but a Colombo cough picked up en-route spread like the plague and was the sound track of all film clips.

The local Indian guide was top class. Visiting temples with the scholarly Pradeep required attention & my brain sometimes drifted away as tales of all the deities were told, never mind the elephant god, I had an elephant ride.

I saw spices growing, tea plantations & the tomb of Vasco Da Gama (my 6th form history teacher would be pleased).

People were almost always delightful and smiling to the visitors, & we were photographed by THEM a few times too for our European strangeness.

We chugged around the waterways of Kerala sipping cold Kingfisher beer & feeling pretty lucky. Left Cochin & 22 hours later back at my front door.

Worth every minute.

Now I’m back to the endless news of Brexit, Trump et al .........it’s great to get away. Thank you Riviera.

Review by: Vicky Morley on 08/03/2016

Southern India & The Backwaters Of Kerala Tour

I’ve just returned from another excellent tour, this time to Southern India. Everything was very well organised by our witty tour guide Matt, along with our knowledgeable Indian guide Pradeep. Matt dealt with the needs of the group in a professional and caring way, even by supplying everyone with cough sweets who needed them! This is my 3rd trip with Riviera & I was not disappointed. I’m looking forward to booking another trip before not too long! The Spice Village was an exceptional stay & would have liked an extra night there!

Review by: Eliz Miller on 09/03/2016

Southern India & The Backwaters Of Kerala Tour

We recently returned from our first tour with Riviera and it will not be our last. The tour was fantastic, well organised, well structured and with fabulous hotels. The initial part of the tour was with Matt and the Indian guide Dennis. Unfortunately Matt was taken ill in Madurai and had to leave the tour. The tour was taken over by Dennis who was excellent continuing to provide endless facts and information about the Southern Indian way of life and culture. He effortlessly guided us through the latter part of the tour. Nothing was too much trouble and he was always approachable and pleasant and certainly went the extra mile to compensate for the loss of Matt. We would highly recommend this tour to anyone interested in visiting and learning more about Southern India.

Review by: David Alston and Carolyn Brewster on 18/03/2016

Southern India & The Backwaters Of Kerala Tour

Just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed the tour.

We were very sad to lose Matt so early in the tour but were most anxious for him to get the best care possible. We have done, I think, seven tours with you & Mat is one of the best, probably the best, tour guide we have had. I am sure he & you were guiding from the wings but the local guide, Denis, did a superb job in looking after us - we can’t speak highly enough of him.

Also just wanted to let you know that in our opinion the overnight stay (a newish introduction I gather) at the Pondi beach hotel was very much appreciated - a superb situation on the beach & a welcome break to help recuperate from the long flight.

Please pass on our very best wishes to Matt for a speedy recovery.

With many thanks

Review by: Paul & Susan on 21/03/2016

Southern India & The Backwaters Of Kerala Tour

Have just returned from a fantastic holiday in southern India and Kerala and we could have not been more pleased. This was solely due to the effort put in by Riviera Travel and the arrangements made. We would without doubt use you company again. Of particular mention is the matter of the guides. Matt, the main guide was taken ill, ended up in hospital for surgery and all further arrangements fell upon the local guide - Dennis. In all respects he was excellent, from local knowledge to arranging onward travel - we would commend his to you. Throughout the tour the provided accommodation was most suitable and of a high standard. Thank you.

Review by: Trevor Sturgess on 21/03/2016

Southern India & The Backwaters Of Kerala Tour

We just wanted you to know that we have sent a big thank you to both Matt and Dennis for the way they looked after us on the recent Southern India and Kerala tour. Matt was clearly in a great deal of discomfort and pain before he eventually went to hospital and is a credit to your company for the way in which he “soldiered on”. Dennis took over the running of the tour in a seamless manner and from our perspective everything went without a hitch.

This was our first trip with Riviera and we thoroughly enjoyed it - we are now booked for Italy in June and Vietnam in September!

Review by: Peter and June McWilliam on 21/03/2016

Southern India & The Backwaters Of Kerala Tour

I would like to acknowledge with your selves just what a fantastic trip we have had recently to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Both of us really enjoyed it, there was good variation and the guides and tour manager were always alert to what was going on, and we had several ad hoc stops to enjoy. The Hindu festival of Shiva’s marriage was one such stop. Any criticism, the days where lunch was organised for us, we (or at least my husband and myself) didn’t really need something so substantial in the middle of the day.

Also I would like to commend our Tamil guide, Dennis, who took over from Matt Purse so ably, when Matt was taken so seriously ill and needed hospital attention. He was able to manage both being tour manager and guide, at times with very little sleep, when he was sorting out Matt’s health problems. I can’t compliment him enough on his skill, not only as a guide, but tour manager and his English was superb. Just how lucky we were as a group to have him on board.

We will certainly use Riviera again, we have used your services in the past, and will continue to do so.

Review by: Patricia Howorth on 24/03/2016

Southern India & The Backwaters Of Kerala Tour

My husband and I recently returned from India. We had been on your Southern Indian holiday starting in Chennai and returning from Kochi between Feb 25th and March 9th. The holiday was enjoyable and made more so by the very hard work, sunny personality and organisational skills of the Indian guide called Dennis. Dennis coped very well while Matt Purse, the Riviera Guide unfortunately had to be hospitalised. If the opportunity ever ariss to employ Dennis again, then I am sure he would do another thoroughly good job.

Review by: Viv and Don Fleet on 31/03/2016

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