14
Feb-2016

Backpacking Kerala: Top 10 Things to do


 

Kerala: Top 10 Amazing Things to do

I usually don’t pick favorites, but Kerala definitely stands out as one of my top choices in travelling India. It’s such a chill and diverse place, and every time I go I just feel at home. Jammed into this tiny state are leafy-green river ways, 2,000 year old Hindu temples, breathtaking hill station views, jungle treks, great unique food, and great little backpacker beaches. And the people! The people are just so chill and friendly. As someone who’s TRAVELED extensively throughout India, I would highly recommend Kerala as your gateway to South India

And so without further ado, below are in my opinion the Top 10 things to do in Kerala:

1) Munnar’s breathtaking scenery

 

Munnar

Around the foothills of Munnar…

 

WHY: Munnar is a photographer’s dream, and a great place to soak in a different part of rural India. Being the most elevated tea plantation in the world, the tea plantations outside Munnar offer crisp fresh air blowing through lush green hilly landscapes. It’s really out of a scene from Lord of the Rings.

HOW: Munnar is a little off the beaten path, being a 5 hour drive inland from Kochi. However, this ride is part of the fun and full of breathtaking views, and also ensures Munnar’s silence and isolation from over-tourism. State buses also leave from Kochi and the Backwaters fairly regularly.

Click here for my blogpost on being blown away in Munnar

2) cruise the Kerala jungle waterways in a houseboat

 

Kerala Backwaters

A typical houseboat, anchored for the night

WHY: Its a fun was to experience the backwaters, and completely worth the value. Grab a friend or two and cruise the Kerala backwaters in style, by getting a private two-level houseboat, fully staffed and catered. I highly recommend two nights minimum to take the time to really soak in the quiet lush riverways and observe village life in Kerala.

HOW: Many hotels in Alappuzha (Allepey), Kottayam, or Kochi and help arrange a trip for you. But I recommend the full experience by just showing up to one of the many houseboat dockyards and inspecting and negotiating a boat for yourself! We paid Rs 11,000 for a 2 bedroom boat for 2 nights, including all meals (including a freshly caugh eel… though booze was extra). Totally worth the one-of-a-kind experience.

Click here on my 2-day houseboating experience

3) explore the more narrow jungle riverways in a rowboat

 

Kerala Backwaters

Cruising at a leisurely pace…

WHY: The only downside of the overnight houseboats is that they’re too big to go through the most narrowest of lush-green waterways, and are also engine-powered which can take away from the true jungle experience. Luckily there are also very cheap day-tripper rowboats that provide a great backwater experience, at a very affordable price. It’s hard to describe how amazing the experience is…silently cruising down narrow streams in a thatched-roof boat…the massive lush palm tree leaves scraping against the wooden sides. For endless miles….

HOW: Many hotels in Alappuzha (Allepey), Kottayam, or Kochi and help arrange a trip for you. I arrange a day-trip from my hostel in Kochi for Rs 1000, including transportation, a day of boating, and lunch. A pretty awesome deal, and a must do, especially if the two-night houseboat option is elusive for you.

Click here on my backwater day-trip post

4) Eat fresh seafood in kerala

 

Kerala Seafood

Tiger Shrimp…cooked to perfection

WHY: Kerala has a massive stretch of coastline and long-time fishing tradition (see fish-nets of Kochi). I mean really, would you say no to a freshly caught tiger prawn shrimp or red snapper marinated and battered in a variety of amazing curries, served with chips and a large beer…all for $7? No, you wouldn’t. So feast yourselves on an amazing variety of seafood in Kerala my friends. Feast it up.

WHERE: pretty much any coastal town in Kerala. I experienced freshly caught seafood in various restaurants in Kochi, Verkala Beach, and the Backwaters

Click here on a little tidbit I wrote about some fresh fish at Verkala Beach

5) stroll through the streets of fort Kochi

 

The fishing nets of Kochi

The fishing nets of Kochi

WHY: Kochi is a historic seaport offering a mix of colonialism, great eating and shopping and a generally quiet coastal atmosphere. Traverse the city at a leisurely pace, observing the Chinese fishing net in action, popping in 400 year-old churches and synagogues, and even ancient graveyards. I would highly recommend a couple of nights in Kochi at a quiet guesthouse in the colonial “Fort Cochin” area.

Click here on my first thoughts on Kochi

6) take a backpacking break in Verkala Beach

 

Verkala beach: great spot, though I could have used more sun

Verkala Beach: great spot, though I could have used more sun

WHY: A great place to post up for a few days to recharge, Verkala Beach might as well be another beach in Goa. And this is a good thing. Reconnect with other travelers on the backpacking trail, soak in some rays, get in some yoga, and of course lots of western food and beer while watching an amazing sunset. Basically, just do your India beach thing in Verkala.

HOW: Kerala’s excellent north-south passenger train line passes right through Verkala. Just show up and check out the many cheap accommodations that line the main strip (cliff).

Click here on my snippet on Verkala Beach

7) trek into inner Kerala

 

Kerala trekking

Hiking in the hills of Eravikulam National Park

WHY: If you’ve ventured to Munnar, why not venture just a little bit further into the jungle-lined hills of inner Kerala? Explore the one-of-a-kind scenery with guided treks having a variety of options and lengths. Also close by to Munnar is Eravikulam National Park, home of a bunch of elephants! We did a beautiful day-trek into the park with a local guide…but unfortunately we didnt see any elephants the day. Although we did find massive loads of elephant dung. So I guess that’s something.

HOW: The various tourism offices in Munnar can help you arrange various types and lengths of treks. Pricing depends on how many people join the trek, as usual.

Click here on my day adventure into Eravikulam National Park

8) Nurture your soul at a Yoga retreat

 

Kerala Yoga

Landed the Headstand

WHY: How could you possibly deny yourself some yoga in one of the chillest parts of India? It’s jut not right. Get in a session or two at Verkala beach, Munnar or Kochi – or visit one of the many proper Yoga retreats peppered throughout the state like Somatheeram.

HOW: Remember: in the end, yoga is all about breathing….

9) VISIT The ancient temples IN Trivandrum

 

Kerala temples

A typical set of carvings high above South Indian Hindu temples in Kerala

WHY: Trivandrum (aka Thiruvananthapuram) is home to the beautiful ancient Hindu temple of Padmanabhaswamy temple dating back to almost 500BC, and peppered with classic South Indian Hindu temples with amazing views to soak in. Just keep in mind that visitors are required to adhere to special dress code before entering these temples (long sleeve shirts and pants), and don’t be surprised or offended at the signs within the temple that read “Hindus only beyond this point”. Padmanabhaswamy is also the richest Hindu temple in the world.

HOW: I wouldn’t recommend Trivandrum as a tourist destination on its own. But, if it’s your gateway in or out of Kerala, then by all means romp around for a day, see the ancient temple and soak in the urban greenery.

10) Shopping in kerala

 

Shopping in Kochi, Kerala

The puppeteer and his wares….

WHY: If you’re looking for some great clothing, jewelry, knick-knacks, or just toys for the nephew, Kochi is full of some great affordable touristy shopping. The streets in the Fort Cochin and Synagogue area are lined with stalls selling handbags, necklaces, paintings, wood carvings, shalls, whatever, you name it!

HOW: Brush up on your Negotiation 101 skills, so that you can get that item you’ve been eyeing for at 1/5 of the listed price…

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