The best reason for traveling by riverboat through the lush tropics of Kerala, the country’s agricultural heart and where many of its most distinctive spices are grown, is that it’s the only way. The region’s vibrant-green rice paddies, dirt-road villages, and palm-shaded fields of cardamom, ginger, and black pepper are crisscrossed by a maze of rivers and lakes; boats are the main mode of transport here. While locals get around in canoes and thatch-roofed barges, you can opt for a spot on the Oberoi’s eight-cabin luxury riverboat, the Vrinda. A four-day, three-night itinerary (from $2,250 per person; oberoihotels.com/oberoi_vrinda) in-cludes daily excursions to Hindu temples and riverside communities where miniature markets sell tea and bananas and local carvers display their wares, and a guided tour of a docked “snake boat” (a traditional wooden racing canoe more than 100 feet long). Nightly onboard entertainers perform regional music and dance, and meals incorporate local seafood and produce. (If it’s on the menu, try the karimeen pollichathu, a Keralan specialty of fresh-caught pearl spotfish cooked in banana leaves). In between, you can catch rays on Vrinda’s sun deck, watch the passing parade of motorboats and duck farmers herding their feathered charges, or retire to your comfy cabin with its king-size bed and giant glass windows.
The thrill-o-meter: No more unnerving than a TSA pat-down.