The first thing that comes to mind when someone says Kerala is backwaters amongst the coconut trees. However there is much more to Kerala than that – beautiful architecture, tea estates, spice plantations, wildlife sanctuaries landscapes filled with coffee farms and virgin beaches. Kerala is power packed with a plethora of things to do, see and experience for all kinds of travelers. Dive in to this ultimate Kerala travel guide to assault your senses as I help you plan a 12 day road trip across some of the some popular destinations.
Where to start: The Kerala travel guide
It is ideal to start at Kochi (formerly Cochin) which is on the south west coast of India. All modes of transport – domestic and international are easily available to reach here. Hire a car for self driving or with a driver from the airport or with a travel company to start the itinerary.
How to reach Kochi
Direct flights are available from all major domestic cities of India as well as Gulf countries. There are trains and AC buses available to and from Kochi.
Best time to visit Kerala
The Indian winter months between October and March are the best time to visit.
The average summer temperature is 24°C-37°C; while the average winter temperature range from 17°C-33°C. It rains quite often around the year.
Food is a mix of vegetarian and non vegetarian meals majorly cooked in coconut oil. Do try the delicacies like ‘appam-stew’, ‘puttu-kadala curry’, ‘Avial’ (my favorite – thanks to my malayali best friend) and ‘iddiyappam’ for breakfast or lunch. You will find the regulars like Idli, Dosai and Uttapam or even Punjabi and Indian-Chinese dishes in most of the places.
What to wear
Comfortable clothing like t-shirt and jeans is recommended. Women can choose a knee length dress. Try to wear camouflaged colours during safaris.
Kerala is extremely safe for all kinds of travelers and even if you are a solo woman.
An ultimate Kerala travel guide and road trip itinerary
Kochi – 1.5 days
Munnar – 3 days
Thekkady – 2 days
Kumarakom – 1 day
Alleppey – 1 day
Varkala – 2
Trivandrum – 1.5 day
Kochi, the largest city in Kerala, has historically been an important port city from earlier times. Reach Kochi by afternoon and after a sumptuous lunch, head over to see the Chinese fishing nets – iconic to Kochi which are said to be in use since 500 years! Walk to Mattancherry to make your senses drool over Indian spices.
Spend the next day at Fort Kochi, Mattancherry Palace and Pardesi Synagogue. If time permits visit the beautiful churches – St Francis and Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica.
For a luxurious experience, stay at: Holiday Inn, Kochi
If you are a backpacker choose: Zostel, Kochi
On day 3 start early for the 5 hour road trip to Munnar. Famous for the lush tea estates which you can romance along the way, while hoping that there is no road block due to elephants crossing the highway. Relax and enjoy the valley views while sipping on Chai after reaching!
On day 4 head towards the Eravikulum National Park to sight the endangered Nilgiri Tahr or the mountain goat. The 15 km journey, the waiting line and a small hike up the Kannan Devan hill will consume over 4 hours. On the way back you may stop at the Mattupetty dam and head towards its catchment area if you want to try some water sports.
On Day 5, a hike is possible to Echo point which 15 km one way. Or you may choose some adventure sports like rock climbing and rappelling in other nearby towns of Munnar
For a luxurious experience, stay at: Spice Tree Munnar
If you are a backpacker choose: Vedanta Wake up
Gear up for another hill station of Kerala which is 4 hours away from Munnar. Spend the afternoon in spice gardens knowing and sniffing on the organic produce. You can visit tea factory to know the production and taste some of the indigenous teas. A visit to the traditional dance – Kathakali is a must in evening
Day 7 is all about what Thekkady is famous for: Periyar National Park. The safari is done on a boat and you pray that a wild animal gets thirsty to come on the river banks. I saw a heard of wild elephants really far and some water birds. No tiger in sight! *sigh* But the views were so gorgeous.
For a luxurious experience, stay at: Greenwoods Resort
If you are a backpacker choose: Jungle Paradiso
Move over to lakes from hills by visiting the town of Kumarakom. Popular as a spa destination, Kumarakom is so gorgeous thanks to the lake and backwaters. Spend the evening watching the sunset by the Vembanad lake or choose to visit the Vembanad Bird Sanctuary.
For a luxurious experience, stay at: Kumarakom Lake Resort
If you are a backpacker choose: Nallathanka Nest Homestay
Alleppy or Alappuzha
The backwaters paradise of Kerala should be experienced by not spending the time on houseboat which is expensive but choosing a homestay on its banks! Take a canoe ride which will take you to small alleys wherein you can also do a village tour and watch the sunset over paddy fields.
Watch the sunrise and check out late on Day 10. Just chill at the backwaters and watch the boats go by listening to the birds sing on the coconut tree near you.
For a luxurious experience, stay at: Lake Palace Resort
If you are a backpacker choose: Nomad’s Hostel
This is Day 10 and time for some Vitamin Sea! Varkala is a famous beach town with beautiful virgin beaches – Papanasham and Bekal. Take a dip or just relax by the beach listening to the waves crash.
On day 11 visit the picturesque Kappil Pozhi Lake which approximately 6 kilometers from Varkala town is Surrounded with coconut trees this peaceful and tranquil lake will give you serious wanderlust vibes. On the way back visit the red laterite cliff which is one of the most popular tourist places.
For a luxurious experience, stay at: Green Retreat Varkala
If you are a backpacker choose: The Lost Hostels
Trivandram or Thiruvananthapuram
Drive from Varkala to Trivandrum, the Kerala state capital which is a 2 hours journey. It has a lot of influence of British architecture and can be seen in many buildings. You may choose to visit Napier museum which has historical artifacts, Kerala science and technology museum or Kanakakkunnu Palace.
You can take a flight back on the same night or the next day morning.
For a luxurious experience, stay at: Vivanta by Taj
If you are a backpacker choose: Vedanta Wake Up
Sustainable tips for being an ultimate Kerala traveler:
- It is one of the cleanest states in India, inspite of the tourist influx so let’s try to maintain the same and be disciplined.
- If you come across a wild animal crossing the road/highway, give them time and space. Do not encroach it by trying to get a selfie.
- Do not write on the palace walls or rocks at the beach. Let’s maintain the pristine heritage.
- Avoid wearing perfumes or hand sanitizers while going in the sea water or national parks.
- Blend in the culture by wearing the right clothes and eating the local food.
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