South India - 3 unique ways to experience Kerala
by Nidhi on 18.02.
Tips from a local
Of all the places I’ve been to, Kerala holds a special place in my heart. It’s my home! And most of my summers I have been on road trips to different parts of it. Houseboats in Alappuzha, stargazing in Munnar, trekking in Wayanad...So many wonderful experiences and each one unique in it’s own way. If you are planning to visit Kerala, I want to share all my special recommendations for the most amazing trip to my home state with you. Let’s start exploring.
Day 1: Getaway to Fort Kochi for a day
Fort Kochi can be described in three words: Great seafood, tons of heritage and a community that welcomes all. Here’s all the things you HAVE TO do when in Fort Kochi.
Traveler’s To-do list for Kochi
- Attend a Kathakali Performance: When in Kerala don’t miss out on it’s famous traditional art form Kathakali. This genre of art is known for the drama, costumes, music and make up and is one of the best ways to get to know Indian mythology and stories from yore. Fort Kochi’s Kerala Kathakali Centre is a great place to watch a show in the evenings.
- Visit the Chinese Fishing Nets: A legacy of the Chinese trades from the 1400’s these structures are still up and running. And they’re simply gorgeous during sunsets.
- Go for a Food Fiesta: Dotted with cafes and hotels to tickle your tastebuds, Fort Kochi is known for its great seafood (prawns and shellfish galore!) and delicious desserts. I love to eat at: Kashi’s Art Cafe, Teapot , Xandari, Kaikka's and Fathima’s
- Fit some Spa Time: Indulge in some self care with an Ayurvedic massage. This ancient and natural healing science has been practiced in India for over 5000 years and Keralites continue to carry on this tradition. Just book yourself a session at any spa or hotel in Fort Kochi and just relax!
How to get there: From Cochin city you can get to Fort Kochi by ferry, bus or cab. Ferry: A lot of travellers do not know about this service and miss out on the fun ride! It starts from Boat Jetty and offers scenic views of the blue waters and surrounding islands. The ride will cost you around 10-20 INR (Less than 1 EUR)
Day 2-3: Breathe in the mountain air at Munnar
The chilly weather and lush greenery of Munnar makes it one of the most popular hill stations in Kerala. It’s easily accessible from most parts of Kerala and is perfect for a two-day getaway!
Traveler’s To-do list for Munnar
- Enjoy the mountain views: Munnar has always been my favorite road trip destination with beautiful views over the mountains and tea plantations scattered along the winding roads. You can easily rent a car from Kochi and make it to Munnar in 4 hours. You should definitely try to make it on time to watch the sunrise!
- Seek out hidden treks: For the more adventurous souls, there are plenty of offbeat treks in Munnar. My personal recommendation: The Chokramudi peak. I found it hard to find the place the first time because it’s not located on the usual tourist circuit. But no worries, with a little help from the locals, you’ll make it. Just watch out for some pesky mountain goats!
- Do some sightseeing: When in Munnar, make sure you go Mattupetty Dam where you can go for a super fun boat ride. This is a great way to relax after the trek.
- Camping: There are a lot of campsites in Munnar where you can set up your tents and enjoy your time in nature. A great spot I discovered is Mankulam which is located at the banks of a river. Stunning waterfalls and mountain views no matter where you look.
- The perfect end of the day at Mankulam: Set up a bonfire and do some stargazing!
How to get there: Munnar is a 3-4 hour journey from Kochi and can be reached by cab or bus from Cochin.
Day 4: Sail down the serene backwaters of Alleppey
Exploring Kerala through its backwaters is a truly unique experience. You can take in the village life along the shores and enjoy the calm of sailing down the water in charming houseboats.
Traveler’s To-do list for Alleppey
Camp out in a houseboat: You can book yourself a private houseboat from either Alleppey or Kumarakom as your starting points. Prices for houseboats start from 5000 INR a day for two people. If you're looking for a more authentic and budget friendly option then you can also try the public ferries which take you through local canal systems which are just as beautiful and come priced at below 50 INR. You can also rent valloms (canoes) from the locals who will take you around for a quick trip.
How to get there: It is accessible by bus, train and car from all parts of Kerala.
Day 1-2: Kochi
Day 3: Waterfall Pitstop at Athirapally
On your way to Wayanad, you can stop by Kerala's largest waterfall which stands at 80ft. Vazhachal is located right next to Athirapally so if you plan on extending your visit the waterfall is a great option. You can go for a jungle safari in the forest filled with a variety of flora and fauna. Remember to watch out for the Great Indian Hornbill!
How to get there: There are buses to Athirapally from places like Angamaly and Chalakudy. The easiest way for you to get there is from either Cochin city or Thrissur.
Day 4&5: Discover nature at its best in Wayanad
Nestled in the Western Ghats, Wayanad is one of nature’s best and a favorite among adventure enthusiasts. And the best part is that it still remains untouched by flocks of tourists.
Traveler’s To-do list for Wayand
- Trek through the mountains: Wayand treks will excite the nature lover in you- winding trails through forests, crossing gurgling streams and the hopes of spotting some wildlife. Here are some of the more offbeat treks you can go on- Edakkal Caves, Chembra Peak, Pakshipathalam, Thusharagiri Waterfalls and Kalladi Forest.
- Try out Adventure Sports: Most of Wayanad’s rivers pose as great river rafting spots. So, get your adrenaline pumping and choose from any of these rafting sites- River Anoth, Mananthavady or Pazhassi Park.
- Discover the Wildlife: Being a part of the Western Ghats Nilgiri Biosphere, Wayanad has a huge variety of flora and fauna. Step out to the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and you may just spot langurs, deers, elephants and maybe even a tiger.
How to get there
You can take a train to the closest railway station and then travel by cab or bus to Wayanad
Day 1-4: Varkala, Kovalam, Ponmudi
Day 5: Enjoy the sights and sounds of Thiruvananthapuram
Thiruvananthapuram is the perfect place to indulge in some idyllic sightseeing with temples from yore, walks along the beach and nature trails! It never fails to surprise and has retained all of its charms through the years.
Traveler’s To-do list for Thiruvananthapuram
- Start your beach trail at Varkala: Varkala is like a mini goa hidden away in Kerala. A cliff runs along the beach and is lined by cafes and bars to chill and have a drink or two. Be sure to grab yourself a seat at one of the bars to watch the sunset (or the stars!). Going paragliding in Varkala is another way to catch a glimpse of the seemingly unending blue! With easy waves and good weather conditions it’s also a great place to learn surfing.
Note: Varkala hosts huge New Year galas with bonfires and some big parties! So, if you’re in Kerala during the end of the year and are looking for a party to go to, then make sure to head to Varkala.
- Get some sun and smiles at Kovalam- There are three main beaches you can visit- Ashok, Hawah and Lighthouse beach.There are also great Ayurvedic and Yoga spots for self-care enthusiasts. What I enjoyed the most were long walks and sundowners at the little bars along the beach.
- Go on History Tours- The spiritual centre of Thiruvananthapuram is the 8th century Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple, showcasing Kerala and Drawidian architecture from the 8th century. For all the history buffs out there, Kanakakunnu palace, Museum of History and Heritage and Napier museum are some more places to visit.
- Road trip to Ponmudi- This one calls for a fun road trip along the mountain roads and frequent stops along the way for some kattan (black tea) and pazham pori (banana fritters). The peak might be a bit crowded with tourists but the road leading up and the views are totally worth it.
How to get there: Thiruvananthupuram is accessible by cab, bus and train from all parts of Kerala.
Local Flavour: Feast on lots of seafood and coconut based dishes. For the real taste of Kerala, you can also check out “thattukadas” (the Kerala version of street food).
OOTD: Try not to wear exposing outfits when roaming around. You can even try fitting in with the locals by putting on mundus.
Lingo Useful vocabulary: Here’s some basic Malayalam to help you out-
Ivide engane ethum - How to get there
Shopping: Kerala is a great place to pick up kasavu saris (Sari is a traditional draped garment worn widely by women in India. Kerala is home to beautiful kasavu saris decorated with golden borders.), coir products, herbs and spices.
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