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Kerala Trip Planning for Backpackers
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.
Why Starting your Indian Trip from Kerala, A Good Idea?
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.
- Kerala has an international airport that would perfectly fit in your travel itinerary. Why Kochi is the perfect starting point for your first Indian adventure is explained later on this post.
- Kerala is a less chaotic than many other parts of India, which means you won’t have an instant cultural shock as soon as you land your flight.
- Most people in Kerala can understand and communicate in English to a good extent.
- Kerala is one of the must-see places during your Indian trip. Even the Indians would agree to the fact.
- Making your way from South to North of India is a better idea in many ways.
Why Kochi is the perfect starting point?
For international travelers who come to Kerala, the best option is to fly down to Kochi International airport.
- During daytime, one will find a direct bus from the airport to Fort Kochi. Again, one of the must-see places while in Kochi is Fort Kochi. (During odd hours, best way to get to Fort Kochi is to get a taxi, which would cost you around 1300 INR )
- Fort Kochi is a hot tourist destination in Kerala, so it is well equipped to welcome a new traveler. In that way you can make sure, you have a great first experience in India.
- Tourist scams are very less in this part of India.
- You will find many accommodation options in Fort Kochi. Homestays are plenty in Fort Kochi. There are at least 4 good hostels here. For the less budget-conscious travelers, there are many Hotel options as well.
- Similarly to eat out, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants.
- Since Fort Kochi is comparatively calmer than many other parts even in Kerala, you will have a good time walking around or cycling around enjoying this place. Again a good start for your Indian adventure.
So in short, you will have a better first Indian experience, if you are planning to come to Kochi first.
How to plan your Kerala trip from Kochi
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.
Day 1 : Kochi / Fort Kochi
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 or one and half hours drive, while a small taxi would cost you around ₹1300. Airport bus timings can be found from here.
Things to See in Fort Kochi
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.
Here 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.
Where to stay in Fort Kochi
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. I’ve been associated with them for some time as well. Booking.com, Airbnb, hostelworld can give you a good idea about where to stay in Kochi.
Where to Eat in Fort Kochi
I will list down very few options here. Cafe: Kashi Art Cafe | Seafood: Oceanos | Beer, food, and ambiance: Seagull | North Indian: Dal Roti | Italian: Upstairs | Local people’s choice: Lucky Star
Day 2: Off to Munnar
You can chill at Fort Kochi on Day 2, if you want to take it slow.
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.
Places to Stay In 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 convinience 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.
A place I stayed when I was in Munnar town was JJ Cottage. The place is nice and near to the KSRTC bus station in old Munnar town.
Where to Eat in Munnar
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.
Day 3 : At Munnar, experiencing Munnar
Things to do in Munnar
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.
Day 4 : Going To Thekkady
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.
Places to Stay In Thekkady :
There are plenty of places to stay in Thekkady depending on your budget. One place I have stayed and liked is Hotel Green View.
Things To Do In Thekkady :
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 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.
Where To Eat In Thekkady :
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.
Day 5 : At Thekkady
It would be a better idea if you spend a relaxed time at Thekkady enjoying the nature and the good climate. If you are in a rush, you can skip this day and proceed to the next day.
Day 6 : Going to Alleppey (Alappuzha)
Buses will be available from Thekkady to Alleppey. There are direct Kerala state transport buses from Thekkady to Alleppey at 05:50 hrs, 06:40hrs,13:00hrs, 13:40hrs. The drive will take 3 to 5 hours. After 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.
Places to Stay in Alleppey
After another long journey, myabe 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 accomodation option is to stay in the famous House boats of Alleppey. We will discuss about the house boats of Alleppey in a bit.
Things to Do in Alleppey
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.
- Take a canoe ride : Canoes are the smaller boats which can take you to the narrowest channels of Alleppey to experience the “Venice of the East”. Though these boats don’t offer a protection from the hot sunlight.
- Take a Shikhara boat ride : These boats are a bit bigger than the canoes but still capable of maneuvering through the narrow canals of Alleppey. Also it has an engine and roof to protect you from sun.
- Take a houseboat ride : There are again two options
- House boat day cruise : In this option one can cruise in the houseboat during the day time, if staying overnight in the houseboat is not your thing.
- Stay in the houseboat overnight : This is one of the accomodation options while in Alleppey. Probably a bit expensive one for the backpackers. It includes day cruise, lunch, dinner, overnight stay and the next day’s breakfast.
- Enjoy the local alcohol, toddy! Try toddy shop food also, if you are up for the Hot and Spicy challenge. 😉
Places to Eat in Alleppey
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.
Day 7 : Head towards Varkala
If you are NOT planning to stay one more day in Alleppey, you can head towards Varkala beach.You can find busesfrom Alleppey. But if you fancy an Indian train ride, you can try that too.
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”.
Things to Do in Varkala
- Best thing to do in Varkala beach is to chill, with or without a book or beer. Though alcohol is not as inexpensive as Goa.
- Beach hop : Just walk along the beach and if you walk long enough, name of the beaches will change at times.
- Take a surfing class from Soul and Surf.
Places to Stay in Varkala
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. Pagan backpacker hostel, which is run by a friend of mine is near the cliff. Another hostel option is the Vedanta wake up hostel. These two hostels are quite near to the major areas of attractions.
Places to Eat in Varkala
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.
Ending the Kerala trip at Varkala
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.
About this Kerala Trip Planning
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 accomodate travellers. And at the same time, the disadvantage is it could be quite crowded due to the very reason. And there are so many other beautiful places too in Kerala like Mountains and waterfalls of Wayanad and Idukki, Beaches of North Kerala, backwaters of Bekal in Kasaragode and many more. But mentioning them all is out of scope for this blog post.
Hope this Kerala itinerary help you in planning your next Kerala trip. If you have any questions or need help with anything in any of these places, do ask. I will try to help in the best way I can. Do send me an email or facebook message, tweet or Instagram DM for a faster reply.