Kerala – that small strip of land you see on the map is quite astounding, geographically and culturally. With the seas, the inland waterways and the mountains surrounding this beautiful land, there is something here for every soul. A travel around in Kerala is refreshing and an epic addition to your big backpacking adventure around India.
Though there is a lot to do here, we thought we could sum it up and put up a thing or two about how to travel around in Kerala while you are backpacking India.
Rustic Fort Kochi
Start here. Spend a day in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry – well known for the ancient spice market, the iconic fishing nets, gothic cathedrals, the only active Synagogue in the Commonwealth nations and the exotic antique markets of Jew Town. However, there is more to Fort Kochi than these well-known tourist attractions. Go hunting for the stories of intrigue about the different communities living here; stories of the precursors to the modern day concepts of globalization and communal harmony. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that every street and alley of Fort Kochi has an intriguing story attached with it and vivid street arts to captivate your imagination.
If you can, try to stop by a tiny fishing village bustling with activity to understand how the fishing community in Kerala spin cast their nets and rake in the money – this is something worth doing when you travel around in Kerala.
One cannot ignore the bustling cosmopolitan city of Ernakulam – the mainland area and the administrative hub. It is well connected with Fort Kochi by road and ferries across the backwaters. Tucked into a side alley, a museum features the private collection of a gentleman who spent 25 years of his life collecting some rare artefacts – the testimony of a flourishing civilization of a bygone era. These are the things that were used by the common man of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. You will also find the exquisite mural paintings. These masterpieces are created by a father son duo, one of the last families who are into this rare and dying art form of mural paintings. Even to this day they create exquisite murals using traditional and natural dyes.
The museum itself is an architectural delight in itself. There are three stories in the building and each floor is designed to reflect the three architectural styles of Kerala.
As the sun goes down, walk around the old Mattancherry to get a glimpse of life of the locals in Mattancherry. Walk through the markets lined with shops selling groceries, vegetables, fruits and flowers. Stories and legends are aplenty while walking around this place.
Discover Heaven in Munnar
Kerala is known as God’s own country; and you will believe it when you discover heaven in Munnar. Munnar is the embodiment of all that is beautiful. Cascading waterfalls, lush green tea plantations as far as your eyes can see, white clouds floating around just giving you the illusion that you can touch it if you stretch out your hands; this is Munnar for you!
Moon-Aar (three rivers), anglicised to Munnar has three major rivers flowing through its hill ranges.
The must-do activity in Munnar is to walk through the tea plantations and visit a tea factory. Better still; go for an off-road jeep ride to the highest organic tea plantation in the world. Tea was introduced in India by the British to break the Chinese monopoly in tea trade. Visit the tea factory to understand how different varieties of tea are made and learn the art of brewing the perfect cuppa.
If you are a bit of explorer then there are numerous trekking paths. Try going on an early morning trek in Munnar for that spectacular view after an arduous trek.
A Whiff of Spice in Thekkady
After treating your eyes to the enchanting charm of the never ending tea estates of Munnar drive down to Thekkady, the home of spices. It was the abundance of spices that brought traders from different parts of the world to Cochin; and Cochin got its spices from the hills of Thekkady.
Thekkady, in the middle of the Western Ghats, is abode to all the majestic wildlife and plant life. The best quality of spices being exported from India originates from the hills of Thekkady. Needless to say, a visit to Thekkady is incomplete without visiting a spice plantation.
Kerala is also known for being as “the place” for Ayurveda (natural science of medicine originating from India). No visit to Kerala is complete without getting a traditional Ayurvedic massage; and most of the medicinal herbs for Ayurvedic treatments are found in Thekkady.
Thekkady also has an amazing variety of wildlife. When in Thekkady, one will always be enthralled by the variety of birds chirping around. The Periyar Tiger Reserve, which gets its name from the perennial river Periyar, offers wildlife safari through the Periyar Tiger Reserve on a bamboo raft. It is indeed a unique experience to glide along the Periyar River soaking in all the beautiful things that nature has to offer.
Kerala is renowned for Kalaripayattu; the mother of all forms of martial arts. It originated from Kerala during 13th century AD and has evolved from replicating the movements of animals. In fact, Kung-Fu originated from Kalaripayattu. Kalaripayattu is not only a martial art form, but is also a science. It includes not just fighting but also a thorough understanding of the human body and physiology. Hence, the knowledge of Kalaripayattu combined with the knowledge of Ayurveda has led to the unique physiotherapy treatment form which is known as the “Marma Chikitsa” (pressure point healing therapy). When in Thekkady it is fitting to wind-up the evening by witnessing a stunning display of martial arts skills by trained Kalaripayattu artists.
Languish in the Backwaters of Alleppey
After the enchanting mist covered tea plantations of Munnar and pristine evergreen forests of Thekkady, head to Alleppey. Alleppey has one of the most extensive and beautiful networks of backwater. Hop onto one of the traditional houseboats and cruise along the vast expanse of backwaters. The backwaters are banked by lush green paddy fields, and tiny houses of the paddy farmers. As you glide by, you can witness the life of the villagers; giggling kids chasing each other, some casting their fishing line and the women folk going about their daily chores. Hop off on the banks and walk along the paddy fields walk into one of the shacks run by the local people who dish out scrumptious meals served on a banana leaf. Pick a fish from the day’s catch and get it cooked the traditional way- curried, fried, or simply cooked over hot coals wrapped in banana leafs. Buy and relish on some freshly extracted toddy (a local form of natural alcohol extracted from the coconut palm).
As the sun sets the whole place assumes a surreal tinge of orange and then it is time to snap away and freeze those precious moments for eternity.
One may choose to stay on the houseboat or check into the many homestays, hotels, resorts or simple backpackers’ hostel. If you choose to stay on a houseboat, then the staff on board will dish out delectable local delicacies for dinner; if you choose to stay on the shore then do head to the main town of Alleppey to check out some cools local food joints.
Get tanned in Varkala
A befitting way to wind your Kerala tour would be to chill out at the famed cliff-side beaches of Varkala. Though not as popular as Kovalam beach or the beaches of Goa, Varkala has a very long beach and is slowly gaining popularity. This beach is getting more and more popular with the crowd looking for sunbathing or swimming; but the major reason people are flocking to the beaches of Varkala is for the spectacular surfing waves on the coast of the Arabian Sea.
It is quite possible that after spending a considerable time in Kerala and eating all the local delicacies, you crave for something different. Fret not, Varkala has quite a number of restaurants dishing out impressive European, American, Chinese and Italian food. Dig into some succulent steaks, juicy burgers, cheesy pizzas, schnitzels, salads and some awesome watermelon smoothies to go with it. Oh! And if you ask for some beer, don’t be surprised if it is served in a massive coffee mug.
Apart from just chilling out at the beach and surfing, Varkala also offers some offbeat activities like backwater boat rides and paddle boarding in the backwaters. Also do not forget to check out the Golden Island, it might require a bit of asking around and haggling with tuk-tuk drivers, but eventually it a place worth a visit, particularly during the sunset.
Kerala has so much to offer to the discerning traveller. A couple of week spent to travel around in Kerala could just be a fragment of the myriad wonders this magical land has to offer. The hills, waterfalls, forests found everywhere; the awesomeness of Malabari food and hospitality; the marvellous temples and the plethora of folk arts performed during temple festivals, the palaces and temples of Trivandrum are definitely some of the noteworthy attractions that Kerala has to offer.
Well! Now you have the perfect Kerala itinerary. But if you are looking for the plan without the need to worry about booking trains, buses and accommodation, we, goMowgli can help you with your travel around in Kerala. And this is how we do it.
We conduct Hop on Hop off tours across Kerala making your travel around in Kerala fun and easy. So here are few reasons as to why you should do a Hop on Hop off tour with us:
- The essence of travel is not just to visit a place but to participate in the place. You could choose to look out from the window of the bus while going from one place to another. But how about stopping by, taking a walk to the nearby stream or meeting the locals on the way? This is what we believe in – to travel is to become a part of a place. Because it is the journey that matters.
- Travel is hard work – you have to plan your days, how you plan to reach from Point A to Point B, food, shelter and everything that you need to live. We make things easy for you. The travel is sorted and we help you with the rest. But at the same time, you are free to plan your own itinerary your way, stay at a particular destination for as long as you want, do your stuff and be assured that we will be there to pick you up to move to the next destination whenever you are ready to go.
- Travel is about meeting new people and making friends along the way. Some of them will become your friends for life. And when you travel together for a week or two, share stories with each other, eat together, face the challenges and come up with solutions together, there is nothing that can stop each other from bonding. In a few days, you feel like you are travelling with your closest friends and exploring places.
- Our tour guides are locals from the regions where we do tours. Not just they know about a particular place, they are amazing storytellers. They do not provide you commentary about a place but they tell you the tales that locals know. Because what is travelling in India without the story of the kings, queens and the Gods to go with it? Also, the guides are your walkie-talkie FAQs. Ask them anything about food, history, culture, mythology or the best drinking place in town – they know it all.
- It is not just us but people who have travelled with us say that they have loved travelling with us. Anna from Global Gallivanting (read review here) and Rachel from Hippie in Heels (read review here) absolutely loved what they experienced. Travellers also rate us and drop some reviews on tripadvisor. Check our reviews for Kerala and reviews for Mysore
Just like the traditional Kerala meal served on a banana leaf, we promise to offer you more and more. As we grow and evolve we will keep adding more and more places to our itinerary, the essential as well as the offbeat experiences.
You can book a Kerala Hop on Hop off tour with us here which we fondly call the Kerala Parota Pass. We also conduct city tours in Cochin and to know more about what we do, please check our blog on the ‘Non-touristy things to do in Kochi’. Also, do check more about the different places we go to.