Kerala Travel Blog - A first Timer's Travel Guide

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Kerala, a state on the Malabar coast in southern India is probably one of the most popular Indian tourist destinations. It has been popular among tourists - couples, families & backpackers alike for the longest time - perhaps because geographically it is the complete travel package - It has everything from serene beaches to scenic hills, from tea & spice plantations to dense forests & calm backwaters. Apart from scenic beauty, it is popular for Ayurvedic treatments, classical dances - Kathakali & Mohiniattam, Kalaripayattu & of course, its delicious cuisine.

To celebrate their wedding anniversary, Roshni and Vikram traveled to Kerala for a week. This is Part I of their story in Roshni's own words. Over to her now :)

Update: Read Part 2 here Kerala Tips for Couples!

The legendary tea gardens of Munnar...

Planning our trip

Planning a trip can get overwhelming, from narrowing down to the place to selecting what to see & do, to all the bookings. Having received mixed reviews from friends & acquaintances, when Vikram & I were planing a holiday, we turned to lonely planet, trip advisor & many travel blogs.

Weve had Kerala on our bucket list for the longest time, Not wanting to miss out on anything, we planned a tight 9 days trip covering Kochi, Munnar, Thekkady, Allepy & Poovar, planning to stay in each place 2 days & in Poovar for a day

Kerala itinerary for couples
Kerala travel itinerary

TripAdvisor became my planing bible & I stalked Cleartrip, Yatra.com & Goibibo for best prices, I ended up booking hotels & flights from a combination of the sites.

In the first of the two series guide, we will be sharing our experiences from two major tourist attractions - Kochi and Munnar.

Kochi 

Kochi, the largest city in Kerala, has historically been an important port city right from the 14th century - colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch & British at different times in history, the city still preserves an intriguing mix of architecture from its varying colonial past. Ernakulam is the citys  cosmopolitan part where as Fort Kochi is the tourist hub.

fort kochi kerala map
Checking out the map...
fort kochi elephants
Elephants on Kochi streets

We chose to stay in fort Kochi area which is almost 40 Kms from the airport, luckily there are hourly AC buses from airport to fort Kochi.

The fort Kochi area has it own quaint charm, It is buzzing with tourists, but each at their own pace - this part of the city has a homestay in every corner! We chose to discover this area on foot since all the places we wanted to see were close to each other.

We first walked to the Chinese fishing nets - Iconic to Kochi, these cantilevered fishing nets are said to be in use since 500 years! these are fixed land installations & each of them is about 10M high operated by a team of 5-6 fishermen. If you wait around, you might get to watch them in use!

fort kochi chinese fishing nets
Chinese Fishing nets
We wanted to visit the folklore museum but being shut on Sunday, instead we walked on; stopping from time to time taking pictures of interesting street art - we also visited David hall & OED galleries on the way. Do stop by if you are an art lover, I had an interesting conversation with Mr. Dilip, who spent time with us & showed us the gallerys diverse contemporary art collection, you can also check the gallery website if the current exhibition is of interest to you before going there (galleryoed.com).

Mattancherry is known for spice markets, we visited a local spice store called All spices market & were in awe of the variety of spices,oils,teas & coffees & felt like a kid in a candy store! I even bought chocolate tea! (which I dont recommend!). Some of the street stores also sell spices, herbs, soaps & oils.The Mattancherry (Dutch) palace museum is definitely worth a visit. The Murals in the bedchamber part of the palace depict scenes from the Ramayana. It is said to cover an episode from the epic in 48 paintings. Another part of the museum documents the portraits & lifestyles of the rajas of Cochin. One can also find a few items of furniture gifted to the rajas from the Portuguese. The museum captures a small part of Kochis Traditional, Portuguese & Dutch history.

fort kochi old house
An interesting building on the way to Mattancherry
fort kochi all spices market
All Spices market
fort kochi antique shop mattancherry
Antique Store at Mattancherry

Jew street has some very interesting antiques & gifting items, once can find painted cow heads, little house boats & hand made soaps everywhere. Many antiques sold here are not traditionally from Kerala though, I was surprised to find many shops selling handicrafts from Kashmir & Rajasthan not just here but at most tourist attractions in Kerala. The Jewish or Pardesi synagogue is a highlight of this area. This entire area preserves parts of its Jewish heritage. One can also purchase lace & needle work pieces like table runners & matts locally made by the residents of the area.

fort kochi pardesi synagogue
The Pardesi Synagogue from outside
fort kochi jew street
Shops at Jew Street

Kochi also has some interesting Churches, here one finds a unique blend of European architecture (introduced by the Portuguese, Dutch & British respectively) & Kerala architecture in terms of motifs, mural painting or wood carving & there isnt a standard layout for these churches either. I found the churches of St Francis & Santa cruz basilica particularly interesting.

fort kochi our lady of hope church
Our Lady of Hope Church
At night  we ventured out to princess street - it is a great place to shop & eat! It rained that evening & being unprepared, we were drenched (it often rains in Kochi, be sure to carry your umbrella when you visit!) One can see pretty houses with flowers on their windowsills & more street art across this area. We ate at Kashi cafe (& art gallery - another recommendation if you are an art buff like us!) Every cafe we visited in the city had great cold coffee & homemade cake.

fort kochi rain in night
It rains often in Kochi...
 
If you enjoy seafood, Kochi has some pretty great restaurants & cafes - My favourites are Fort house restaurant without a doubt as it  had the best food we had in the entire trip; evenings are the best time to visit since it has a great view as well. Kashi cafe (Art & food) & Oceanos (seafood) If you like Art & Seafood - I bet youll like Kochi as much as I did!

Here's another article to know more about Fort Kochi: India. Fort Cochin, Kerala

fort house restaurant fort kochi
Fort House Restaurant
fort house restaurant food thali
Lunch at Fort House restaurant

Munnar

Munnar is a Hill-station on the foothills of the western ghats, One of the most sought after tourist spots of Kerala owing to its scenic beauty - lush carpeted plantations of tea & spices around its hills. It is also the largest tea growing region of the south.

munnar kerala tea gardens
Tea Gardens at Munnar
We took only AC KSRTC  volvo bus from Kochi to Munnar, Starting from Ernakulam bus depot at 9AM. The journey was scenic but nearly 5 hours long! and all through the way, our bus driver played 90s Bollywood music! So our playlist comprised of - songs from Raja Hindustani, Ashiquie, Darr & other nineties hits! quite a nostalgic journey if you ask me!

munnar kerala tea gardens
View from the bus
I found taxis quite expensive in Munnar & realised the need to bargain (luckily, I had Vikram for this!) Kerala is hot during February, & as I found out much later, its not the best time to visit Munnar - the waterfalls start to dry up & the wildlife sanctuaries are shut due to breeding season (Eravikulam national park was shut) so we werent able to do any wildlife activities! 

munnar rope bridge
An old rope bridge
Though Scenic, with large properties, resorts in Munnar are far away from the market & tourist spots, we had to plan our entire day well before leaving the hotel. While we were not able to make it to all the places on our list - My favourite was the Kanan Devan Tea factory & museum. Vikram & I have become green tea converts with this trip & ended up buying a lot of tea from the factory store (make sure you carry a big bag here ;) )

One of the things I enjoyed most in Munnar, was stopping on the way & walking through tea gardens, there are many many scenic places to discover by chance & If you are lucky, youll get to see tea pickers in action!
munnar kerala tea gardens
A rock and tea plantations
munnar kerala tea gardens
Walking through tea gardens
munnar kerala tea gardens vikran tej
Vikram picking tea :)
munnar kerala tea gardens
Tea picker Jothy...

The Mattupetty dam was extremely scenic! beautiful, calm & serene. Though it was quite sunny around 4pm, (the Kerala sun is quite harsh, during the day & it gets hot by 9 am! dont leave your hotel without a hat & sunglasses & carry appropriate sunscreen). Boating at Mattupetty dam is one of the main attractions here.This whole stretch is scenic, one can walk around, boat or even shop for home made chocolates in the stretch of stalls by the lake. A completely commercialised tourist spot now - it has all the street food one would expect corn, coconut water,peanuts, snack stalls & even Passion fruit vendors! One can club visiting Mattupetty dam with Top station as both these are only a few kilometres apart. On the way back, our cab driver stopped by many places, claiming that these were Shooting points or points where some Bollywood film shooting has taken place. although truth be told all of it was equally scenic!

munnar kerala mattupetty dam lake
Mattupetty Dam
elephant ride in munnar kerala
Elephant ride at Munnar
I found the elephant ride in Munnar to be short & over rated & would recommend the one in Thekkady since its in the forest! We also chose to visit spice plantations in Thekkady Instead of Munnar.

I didnt enjoy the food in Munnar all that much. I also surprisingly found the coffee & tea very mild & milky here. Munnar was not my favourite of the Kerala trip for sure, but I do plan to come again in the monsoon or winter to visit all the places Ive missed out on!

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Roshni and Vikram are my close friends and almost like family members. This is their story from a recent trip to Kerala. Stay tuned for Part II of the story :)

Do you also have an interesting story to share from your town/ city? Something unusual that not many people may know about? Write to me and perhaps you could be published next here :)
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16 comments:

  1. Interesting and very nice places. Beautiful pictures. It is a pity that so far from Poland.

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  2. Nice post on Kerala! Waiting to read part 2 :)

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  3. Beautiful photos and post :) Thanks.

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  4. Very interesting and lively narration and beautiful pictures too! Will wait for part 2 ☺

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  5. Very interesting and lively narration and beautiful pictures too! Will wait for part 2 ☺

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  6. I want know, what will tej say about my land :)

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  7. Nice pics especially the night shot in the rain.
    It is sad to say that the activity on the Chinese net is slowly dwindling.

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  8. Mascot Beach Resort @ Kannur is one of the best beach resort. Enjoyed staying there full of greenery and water surfaces. Had good scenic view of beach during sun set in evening. for more details http://www.mintyholidays.com/2016/10/25/mascot-beach-resort-kannur/

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  9. include other places like alleppey,poovar etc

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  10. Alappuzha, Andhakaranazhy beach all are really wonderful options too...

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  11. nice to read your article specially the image that you insert in it

    we also deals in kerala tour packages

    honeymoon Packages For Kerala

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  12. love to visit in Kerala.
    if i got a chance to go on tour, i love to go to Kerala.

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  13. Kovalam beaches and the beach resort are a must visit when traveling to Kerala. A bit pricey but you will love it.

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  14. You do know that elephant-riding is a barbaric tourist industry and should not be promoted by any travel blogger?

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  15. I went through your post and I find very interesting to know all the facts and beauty of Kerala. Tea gardens, waterfalls, wildlife sanctuaries, cuisines (basically seafood), and glimpse of European architecture are the foremost things to do in Kerala.

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  16. Hi Sid,

    I had written an article on one of the travails that North Indians have to cope with in Kerala. You may find it an interesting read.
    I was in the Navy for forty years. Hence the references to the Indian Navy. Here's a dropbox link

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/3thncconbldlsqt/Tongue-tied%20in%20God%27s%20Own%20Country.pdf?dl=0

    Ganesh Mahadevan, gmnavy9@gmail.com

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