Stretching along the Indian Ocean on the south-western corner of India for more than 600 km and often called ‘Gods own Country’, Kerala is slowly but surely making its name as the most beautiful state of India. The rich history, lush landscapes and beautiful beaches along with one of the most diverse and healthy cuisines will without a doubt bring peace to your mind and body. And everybody knows India is one of the cheapest places to travel too. A perfect start for a life as a backpacker.
I have listed the 11 best ways to spend your time here. Be it as a first timer or seasoned traveler, traveling solo or with friends, Kerala offers something for everyone.
1. Fort Cochin
This old town nestled on a peninsula between the Indian Ocean and New Cochin should be everyone’s first visit. That is also how it was hundreds of years ago. To this day you can see the remains of Dutch, Portuguese and British colonialism. But there is more, the Jewish quarter with a 500 year old synagogue as well as Chinese fishing nets. Or the St Francis Church, the oldest European church in India. Fort Cochin melts it all together.
Many places around Fort Cochin will offer yoga courses and give traditional ayurveda experiences. From low budget to the high end spa, you are bound to find something. Our hotel offered yoga lessons every morning at sunrise and it cost only 4$ per person. It took place on the roof top of the Cochin Culture Center. To add to the peace we were the only students each time.
The famous ayurveda massages will focus on the energy flows in your body. It is rather to promote good health than fight specific pain in your body. That simply means you don’t need a reason to get one. Just go for the joy of it. Combined with the healthy diet of fresh vegetables, sea food, fruits and rice , the time in Kerala can be a welcoming detox destination.
3. Cherai Beach
Just 30 km north of the city you will find the first beautiful beach. Calm waves and a clean beach are plus the frequent Dolphin sightings make it the perfect day trip from Cochin. It is also the only beach where you can have the sea and the famous Kerala Backwaters in one photo. From Cochin City a tuktuk or taxi will bring you there for not more than 350 Rupees (around 4$)
4. Kathakali Dance
This 300 year old dance style (its roots dating back almost a thousand years) is nothing you have ever seen before and unique to Kerala. On a small stage and with barely any requisites 1 to 3 actors will perform while an ensemble of also 3 musicians plays the tune along. Melody and acting are perfectly matched, and it doesn’t stop there. The actors don’t just dance and move, their faces can tell complete stories for many minutes while everything else is still. Imagine a frown with eyes facing to the left while the tongue is out, you better find out yourself what it means. I admit I cannot remember. Nevertheless the experience is something you wont forget soon and and in my opinion a must see in Kochi.
This little city is around 1 hours drive south of Cochin and will be your entry to the beautiful backwaters of Kerala. The scenery turns from lush to lusher and traffic lightens along with your mood. Every wallet will be satisfied. Overnight tours in bigger cruise boats can be arranged for 100$ while a 3 hour tour on a smaller boat comes at already 5$ which will be able to navigate also the smaller canals. You will see farmers along the shores, eagles in the sky and little huts where home brewed alcohol lets the locals chill out after a long work day. The Indian government kindly turns a blind eye to those.
If you want to arrange the day tour by yourself, just venture down to the canal and haggle for a good price. And after the tour I highly recommend you to visit the Thaff Delicacy Restaurant next to the canal and try the incredible Paneer.
6. Marari Beach
This serene beach lies in perfect distance to Allepey. Travelers can come here before or after a peaceful experience in one of the houseboats. Well known for endless stretches of sand and beautiful sunsets it is also home to the Marai Beach Resort. Entangled in a garden of coconut trees and lotus ponds it offers ayurvedic treatments and yoga courses on the beach.
This former British hill station is the main pull for visitors to Kerala to travel inland. It lies on a height of about 1600m nestled between coffee and tea plantations. Rich in flora and fauna that clings to the many valleys and hills, it is often called the Kashmir of the South. Around 4 hours from Cochin Munaar is well worth it to spend a couple of days there. Hikes to waterfalls as well as visits to any kinds of the plantations. And if you missed your cultural experience in Cochin, you can find plenty of offers in Munaar. Another tip: on the road from Cochin to Munaar ask your taxi driver to stop at the Valara Waterfall, a splashing sight in the Idukki district.
8. Silent Valley National Park
In the north of the state the Nilgiri Hills make up the Silent Valley National Park. Home to rare animals and plants it also offers some of the last undisturbed Mountain Rain Forest in the South Western Ghats, a mountain range in south India. A 4×4 car expedition through the park with a 2 hour hike afterwards is the best way to experience it. Tigers, Leopards and other mammals including elephants and monkeys still roam the jungle along with an abundancy of birds and insects. Make sure to book your visit in advance. From Cochin buses and taxis take you there within 5 hours, prices ranging from 15$ to 30$.
9. Chembra Peak
The highest peak in the Western Ghats at 2100m it is a tough and steep hike. However you will be rewarded with a beautiful view and a one of a kind lake in heartshape form. During the rainy season the track is usually closed as it gets too slippery. Even during other times bring a rain jacket or umbrella as a light drizzle can be expected anytime.
10. Garudan Thookkam
Nothing for the faint-hearted, this religious practice also called Eagle Hanging takes place in Kali temples of South India. On different festive days during the year, up to 100 performers first dance in masks and coloured bodies before they get literally hooked to a structure and then paraded thrice around a Kali Temple. This uncommon ritual is performed every year at Elamkavu Devi Temple in Vaikom and at Airapuram Temple in Perumbavoor. The second location is only 1 hour away from Cochin.
11. Stay in a tree house
With all the lush jungles, wildlife to spot and views to take in, the next one is a must. Anight in a tree house. As a new trend they have come up in almost every area of North Kerala where the forests are thicker and the hills higher than in the south. As usual budget options as well as luxury tree houses let everyone craft their own trip. I suggest booking one that stands remote from other houses and lets you access the entry via bridges through the forest. Recommended are the Vythiri Resort Treehouse in Wayanad and the Vanya Treehouse in Thekkady. Both of them are eco friendly but come at a cost of around 200$ a night for 2 persons. The Hiliya resort in Wayanad offers slightly less standard for half of that.
Kerala has still much more to offer and I am sure once you travel there the friendliness of the people, the good weather and the amazing food will make you want to spend as much time there as possible. It is one of the safest states in India and so easily recommendable for Solo Travelers as well.
Take a look here to see how much fun we had in Kerala:
Please follow and like