Here is your short guide to Kerala Backpacking trip.
Are you dreaming of the beautiful backwaters of Alleppey, rolling hills of Munnar, Spices of Thekkady, intriguing colonial history of Fort Kochi and the pristine beaches of Varkala? If so, looks like you are planning a trip to Kerala. If you are not planning a trip to Kerala yet, above given are some of the reasons why you should consider planning a trip to Kerala.
Maybe you are planning your first Indian trip and looking forward traveling the lengths and breadths of India. If it is your first trip to India, starting your trip from Kerala is a very good idea. Here is why.
For international travelers who come to Kerala, the best option is to fly down to Kochi International airport.
So in short, you will have a better first Indian experience, if you are planning to come to Kochi first.
So I assume that you have made up your mind to start your Indian adventure or Kerala trip from Kochi. Now let us plan a Kerala Itinerary.
Get the airport bus or a taxi from Cochin International Airport to Fort Kochi. Government AC Volvo bus will cost you less than ₹100 for this 40km / one and half hours drive, while a small taxi would cost you around ₹1300. Airport bus timings can be found from here.
Fort Kochi used to be the center of colonial activities and had seen the Portuguese, Dutch and the British invading the land. Even before these European forces, Kochi had seen Arab, Jewish and Chinese traders as well. All these people have left their marks in this land.
The best way to experience them all is to explore the area by walking.
Below is a small suggestion for a walking route.
This route kind of starts from and end at Fort Kochi beach. But you can join this route from anywhere. It includes St. Francis church : first European church in India, Chinese fishing nets : a possible gift from Chinese traders, walk through Bazar road : a place filled with the present smell and past stories of spices, Jewish synagogue : the only active Synagogue in the whole Commonwealth countries, Dutch palace : Once home to King of Cochin and a short Masala dosa break at Sri Krishna cafe. Resume the walk, through Palace road to Santa Cruz Basilica to finish the walk at the beach again.
This route is best done by walking or by bicycling without losing the charm of the place. You have alternative options of taking a tuk-tuk or a car, but the experience won’t be the same. You can also choose to take a bicycle tour offered by Raw Adventure. Highly recommended.
Fort Kochi is kind of the homestay capital of India. One can find a homestay in almost any streets in Fort Kochi. So if you are more than one person, homestays and budget hotels will be the best option. Sowparnika Hermitage is one such lovely homestay that I personally know.
If you are a solo traveler or a hostel person, Happy Camper Hostel is a good choice. (Unfortunately due to unavoidable situations Happy Camper in Fort Kochi has been shut down. ) I used to co-manage the place. These are my top 2 recommendations. But you can find more places from the below.
Booking.com : If you want to book a place without paying in advance or cancel it later.
Hostelworld.com can give you suggestions regarding hostels. Though many of the hotels have also started to list their properties.
I will list down very few options here.
Cafe: Kashi Art Cafe | Oy’s cafe | Loafer’s corner | Teapot cafe | Qissa cafe
Seafood: Oceanos | Malabar Junction
Beer, food, and ambiance: Seagull | XL bar
North Indian: The Roti | Rasoi Fort Kochi
Italian: Pizza Italia | Porta Rosa
Local people’s choice: Lucky Star | Hotel Arafa
You can chill at Fort Kochi on Day 2 if you want to take it slow.
Update : The direct AC Volve KSRTC bus from Fort Kochi to Munar at 7.30 AM is no longer in service after the floods. Hopefully they will restore the service soon.
There is one direct bus from Fort Kochi to Munnar at around 7.30 from Fort Kochi bus terminal. This AC Volvo bus will take you to Munnar after about 6 hours.
Probably you just want to find a place to stay and chill a bit after the long journey through the winding roads to Munnar.
Another option if you miss this bus, is to go to K.S.R.T.C. The bus station in Eranakulam to find a bus to Munnar. During the daytime, there are buses at almost every hour. Out of them a few of them are AC Volvo bus.
Probably once you reach Munnar, you just want to find a place to stay and chill a bit after the long journey through the winding roads to Munnar.
If you are using public transportation, it is a good idea to stay in Munnar town itself. Since it is a hilly area, at times it will be hard to find transportation once it becomes dark, if you are away from the town. Also, there are many interesting accommodation options in Munnar which include camping, tree houses etc. Some of those options are away from the main Munnar town. So it is up to your convenience and preference to choose those options.
If you have your own vehicle, it will be great to experience Munnar. The drive/ride to Munnar is really amazing. But do not experiment with your driving skills if you do not have much experience in driving on Indian roads.
You can rent out Motorbikes either from Munnar or from Kochi and ride all the way to Munnar. You can also rent a car from Avis from the airport itself.
Here is a number of guy who rents out motorbike in Munnar. I used it in 2016. Sudheer : +91-9447237165
Though Munnar doesn’t have as much options as Fort Kochi, there quite a few places to eat out. Try Saravana Bhavan for the longest dosa you will ever eat! Try Rapsy restaurant and leave a feedback in your own language, they will post it on their walls.
Mostly the place you are staying will arrange activities in and around Munnar. Soft and hard trekking, tea factory visit, walk through tea plantation and taking a lot of pictures are the usual activities to do near Munnar town. You have options of camping, trekking, rock climbing and other adventure activities as well.
There are really beautiful places in and around Munnar town. Almost all those nice places are at least an hour of drive away. Top Station, Mattuppetty, Devikulam etc offers beautiful views and certain activities like boating etc. But those are completely touristy activities. So you can expect long lines during the peak season times.
I personally recommed a drive/ride from Top Station toward Vattavada. You have to go through a checkpost where you have to give your contact details. After that point, the route is quite dreamy for the next few couple of kilometers!
There are buses that goes to Thekkady from Munnar. You will find both Kerala and Tamil Nadu government-run buses to Thekkady. Usually the buses will be carrying a sign that says “KUMILY’. Kumily is the town where Thekkady is located. Bus journey will be around 4 to 5 hours.
There is a Government run KSRTC bus starting from 06:50 AM from Munnar which reaches Thekkady by 11:35 AM.
There are plenty of places to stay in Thekkady depending on your budget. A couple of places I have stayed and liked are Chrissie’s Hotel and Hotel Green View. These place are good as all the forest related activites can be easily accessed from here. But if you are looking for more beautiful stay, get ready to spend a bit more on places which are in the woods and inside the plantations. Search for such properties if you are looking to splurge a bit!
If you want to stay inside the forest in Bamboo huts and enjoy trekking, boating and feel the nature, check out the package provided by the Forest Department.
Thekkady is the Spice capital of Kerala. So a spice plantation walk would be perfect during your stay at Thekkady. But the main attraction of Thekkady is the Periyar Tiger reserve and the activities offered by the Forest Department.
You can use this link to book Periyar Tiger reserve activities online. Online Booking for Periyar Tiger Reserve Activities
You can choose from Bamboo rafting, tiger trail walk etc. More information regarding Periyar tiger reserve activities can be found at this link. Check under “Eco Tourism” tab or this link for the pricing of each activity.
Jeep safari is anothe popular activity in Thekkady. The skilled jeep drivers will take you for an off-road jeep drive. Evenings in Thekkady can be spend by going for Kathakali show or Kalari, Kerala martial art show. These activities are quite touristy and one can expect a good crowd.
Hotel Ambady has a nice restaurant. Thekkady Cafe is a busy place, quite popular with the locals. Dosa de Thekkady is one place I like to eat. There are options for Gujarathi and Jain food as well in Thekkady town.
It would be a better idea if you spend a relaxed time at Thekkady enjoying the nature and the good climate. You can fix up a plan to go for a spice plantation walk on this day. If you are in a rush, you can skip this day and proceed to the next day’s plan.
Buses will be available from Thekkady to Alleppey. There are direct Kerala state transport (KSRTC) buses from Thekkady to Alleppey at 05:50 hrs, 06:40hrs,13:00hrs, 13:40hrs. The drive will take 3 to 5 hours.
After a couple of days in the mountains with a cooler climate, you are going to a more humid and hotter climate of backwaters of Alleppey also known as Alappuzha. So be prepared for a change in climate as well as a change in the landscape.
After another long journey, maybe you want to chill a bit in a cool place. Art Packer Life hostel in Alleppey would be a good choice for the backpacker that you are. There are many homestays as well to choose from. Another accommodation option is to stay in the famous House boats of Alleppey. We will discuss about the house boats of Alleppey in a bit.
There is one more hostel I have found recently through social media is Nomad’s Hostel. It sounds like a fun place just next to the backwaters. If anyone of you is staying there, let me know about your experience. You can check the reviews and book it from here. Or Here is the direct contact number. Cellphone no: +91-8848286449
The #1 thing to do in Alleppey is to experience the backwaters, everyone would agree. There are a few ways in which you can experience it.
Thaff restaurant, Indian Coffee house in Alleppey, Sisir palace are some of the good options you have in Alleppey. Like I said earlier, if you are up for really hot and spicy fish curries and tapioca, you should try one of those toddy shops.
If you are NOT planning to stay one more day in Alleppey, you can head towards Varkala beach. You can find buses from Alleppey either to Varkala or to Trivandrum.
But if you fancy an Indian train ride, you can try that too. Look for Varkala-Sivagiri train station. Every day there are trains from Alleppey to Varkala at 06:25, 14:40, 17:55 and 18:20hrs. It takes less than 3 hours to reach there.
This beach is sort of backpacker’s paradise. Due to the very fact, this beach has become quite popular and became “not so well kept secret of Kerala”.
Most of the fun things are happening near a place called Helipad or North Cliff. Yes, this beach has a cliff and the view of the beach from the cliff is really nice. So for a better experience of the beach, you should be somewhere near the cliff.
Since Varkala has a quite volatile business scene, I am not listing any recommendations (The ones I have listed in 2017 has already closed down!)
Due to high competition, most of the places work on Price competition. So the best way to get a cheaper place is to walk around bargaining!! But to get an idea try looking for places near Varkala cliff. You can search here to get an idea before you go and bargain. If it is a good deal, don’t wait till its gone. Book it! Don’t be greedy. Places near the beach won’t stay vacant for too long!
Find some lovely places near the Varkala cliff from here.
Coffee temple is a good place which I tried and liked. There are many shacks on the North cliff for the travelers to choose from. Every new season, something new comes up!!
Chilling at Varkala beach can be a good way to end your Kerala trip. Varkala is only an hour or around 40kms away from Trivandrum international airport, if you are planning to fly to your next destination or planning to fly back home. Else you can find a train to your next destination.
The Kerala backpacking itinerary given here is just small percentage of actual Kerala. You are not actually visiting all the nicest places. But you are getting an overall feel of Kerala tourism.
Kochi – Munnar – Thekkady – Alleppey – Varkala is one of the most popular tourist route available in Kerala. The advantage of this route is that, it is well equipped to receive and accommodate travelers. And at the same time, the disadvantage is it could be quite crowded due to the very reason.
There are so many other beautiful places too in Kerala like Backwaters, beaches and forts of Kasargode, Cultural extravaganzas like Theyyam of Kannur, delicious food and colonial history of Kozhikode, Forest and football of Malappuram, vibrant heritage and thick forests of Palakkad, celebrations, temples and elephants of Thrissur and many more. But mentioning them all is out of scope for this blog post. But if you get time, you should totally do a North Kerala to South Kerala trip!
Hope this Kerala itinerary help you in planning your next Kerala trip. If you have any questions / need help with anything in any of these places, do get in touch. I will try to help you in the best possible way I can. Do send me an email or facebook message, tweet or Instagram DM for a faster reply. Instagram works better out of these options.
Happy travels. Hope you enjoy the Kerala trip.