Travel Kerala

April 13, 2020


Kerala, famously known as God’s own country is a beautiful state located in South India. It is one of the most visited places in India. This state, is as diverse as you will get, from the cities, to the beaches, to the backwaters right up to the hills. As you travel Kerala, you will feel like you’ve just about seen as much as nature has provided, all in one state.

kathakali performance fort kochi cochin kochi kerala india

We travel to Kerala once every few years, because, why not? It’s a fantastic place to chill out and relax. The Ayurveda massages are super relaxing. It is packed with places to get good food especially fresh seafood. We tend to try new places when we head to Kerala. The last trip, brought us from celebrating the New Year in Fort Kochi, to the beaches of Mararikulam, to the backwaters of Alleppey and right up to the mountains in Munnar. 


Fort Kochi


On our last trip to Kerala, we decided to visit during Christmas and New Years. We heard about how Fort Kochi is the best seen during this period and we were not disappointed. Fort Kochi during this period was the highlight of our trip. The area is bustling, people are out and about celebrating, every house is decked out and decorated. The carnival is the most interesting thing we have seen in the longest time. Fort Kochi otherwise, on any other time during the year is still a great place to visit, it is just quieter.

The fair that comes up during New Year’s eve was definitely worth the wait. Ever heard of EDM in Malayalam? Well, stay for the concert that comes up during this time and you’ll get to experience that. The best part of it all is, the safety for women. Unlike other parts of India, Kerala is safe. You could be a group of women out and about during the carnival and you’d not be harassed at all.

fort kochi festival new year eve kerala india

The fair covers a large distance and ends with an area that has a stage and an effigy that gets burnt at midnight. You'll find just about anything at the fair. From food to toys to handicraft. While the crowds are large, it never ever feels unsafe. 

tapioca chips seller fort kochi kerala india

There are a few street food sellers selling items like peanuts and tapioca chips. The tapioca chips near the fishing nets pictured above is to die for. We came back every day just to eat it.

Fort Kochi on any other day besides the New Year is all about the Chinese fishing nets, the fish market and the shopping. There’s a bustling market every morning as the fishermen boats come in with their catch every morning. You’ll also see fishermen wading out into the water trying their luck at catching fish close by the shore area. As you stroll through the area, you’ll see all kinds of activity going on. Walk by people playing chess. Groups of people lounging around and chatting. People coming in to buy the catch of the day. These are just normal day time activities around the Chinese fishing nets area of Fort Kochi.
 chinese fishing nets fort kochi kerala india

While visiting Fort Kochi, there are numerous hotels and guest houses to consider. Hotels in the area are Forte Kochi Hotel, The Tower House, Dutch Bungalow and Old Harbour Hotel to name a few. Guest houses are also a great alternative while in Kerala. These are cost effective with places ranging from just around 30 USD a night right up to 80 USD a night. We have found that generally, Kerala guest houses tend to be clean. The level of cleanliness and the standards here are generally higher than other places in India. You’ll also get some great Airbnb places around Fort Kochi as well. 

Another interesting area around the Fort Kochi area is Mattencherry. The area was once filled with wholesale warehouses and is now slowing being transformed into an upscale area with sea front hotels. There are a few hotels in the area that are being refurbished from warehouses to 4 star hotels. You’ll find shops selling spices and Ayurveda items dotted around the area. There are still a few warehouses in the area and the place can get a little crowded during the weekdays. But with hotels overlooking the water and a very industrial feel to the area, it is definitely worth a visit or stay. Jew town is walking distance from this area as well. There is a church called the Mattencherry Cross in the area.  The local people believe that the church has the power to grant wishes to those who come here.

Mattencherry is also walking distance from Fort Kochi area if you are staying here and want to access Fort Kochi. A few hotels to consider in the Mattencherry area are The Ginger House Museum Hotel, Xandari Harbour and The Waterfront Granary Museum Hotel.

Going to a Kathakali performance while in Kerala is an absolute must do. The best Kathakali theatre in Kerala is located in Fort Kochi. Kerala Kathakali Centre runs performances daily. They also do extra performances during the month of December and January. They usually run a packed house each night during these months. 

On New Year's day, Fort Kochi has a parade scheduled on the main road. It starts at around 6 pm and you'll see floats being paraded down the street for a few hours. These floats are judged and prizes are given out. The best way to view the parade is on the second or third floor of houses along the street. Some houses will charge a small fee for you to access their rooftops. Some will allow you to just be there. It is the best vantage point to get a view of the procession.

fort kochi festival new year parade kerala india


  Mararikulam


After a few days of exploring Fort Kochi and the festive atmosphere, we headed off to the Marari Beach to spend a few restful days by the beach. Instead of doing a hotel or resort stay, we decided to try the famous beach guest houses dotted on Marari Beach itself. This entailed us carrying our luggage, walking on the sand towards the houses along the beach. We enjoyed every moment of it. We woke up every morning to a hearty breakfast from the guest house owner and then literally just walking off onto the beach. We ate lunch and dinner at the shacks along the beach every day. Mornings were interesting as we watched the fishermen taking their boats out at 5 am and returning at 7 am with their catch of the day. Swimming is something that is left up to the individual. There are people swimming daily but no lifeguard on duty. 

fishermen in the morning at mararikulam marari beach kerala india

We stayed at an Airbnb cottage run by a great guy named Sebastian. He did everything from giving us breakfast daily to arranging a bike for us to roam around on. The cottage was economical, it had an AC, it was clean and it was comfortable. The Airbnb listing can be found at: Cottage with View of Marari Beach. 

We hired a bike and decided to head over to Alleppey Town, approximately 15 kilometers away and roamed around the town. While in Alleppey, we highly recommend eating at Halais Restaurant. Their prawn biriyani is worth the trip. They usually run a full house and are very popular with the local crowd too. 

halais restaurant alleppey kerala india


House Boat in Alleppey Backwaters


houseboat alleppey backwaters in kerala india

A trip to Kerala will almost certainly entail at least a one or two night stay in a houseboat. We have been on two houseboats and we have had totally different experiences. The initial one left us feeling sad as the boat wasn't clean and we had cut our trip short. We decided to give it another try on this trip and we had such a great time. We opted for a single bedroom boat as we were a couple travelling. It was clean. The guys manning the boat were super friendly and sweet. They even got us fresh toddy from a shop nearby when our boat was parked for the night.

Generally, a houseboat trip will take you cruising the backwaters all day. The boat will be parked at night from around 7pm to 7am. They provide all meals on board albeit simple ones. Above and beyond this, if you wish to add on more items like seafood, they will take you to a shop along the backwaters where you can purchase more items to add on to your meals. You'll get varieties like fish, prawns and crabs which will be cooked up for you.

The houseboat experience is worth every penny you'll pay. These trips don't come cheap. The single bedroom ones could set you back as much as 150 to 200 USD a night. I'd recommend the option to do a two night stay at least. The best way to go about this is to choose a company who will book the boats for you. This will ensure that you get a good, clean boat for your stay. We decided to spend a little more and booked our stay with a company called Alleppey Houseboat Club. They were always prompt with their replies and answered all my queries via WhatsApp.

Our houseboat trip will stay with us for a lifetime. It was romantic. It was calming. It was the best way to just enjoy the natural beauty around us as we cruised along slowly along the backwaters. I reckon we'd do another trip again in a heartbeat.


Munnar


tea plantations munnar kerala india

Munnar, a hillstation in the Idukki district in Kerala is hauntingly beautiful. I've been to a few hill stations in India but Munnar has been the most beautiful I've seen. Located at an altitude of 6000 feet, it is an unending expanse of tea estates. As far as you travel, beyond the main town, all you'll see is undulating hills and valleys filled with tea plantations. Did you know that technically, the tea plant is actually a tree? I had no idea but thanks to the tour at the Tata Tea Museum, I'm now more appreciative of the humble tea leaves we so casually throw into our cups in the morning.

Munnar is best reached by taxi. It is about 108 kilometers from the airport but it took us about 4 hours to reach Munnar. The general cost of a taxi from the airport to Munnar could set you back approximately Rs 4000 depending on which company you went with. Places to stay at Munnar include Blanket Hotel and Spa and KTDC Munnar which we have tried and found to be pretty good. You'll also get hotels ranging from high end resorts, boutique resorts to budget accommodations.

The best way to appreciate Munnar is to stay in a resort set among some lush surroundings. The thing we treasured the most about our trip was waking up to a beautiful view every morning. The weather even in summer months is cool. In January, we found the need to wear a sweater at night as it got pretty chilly once the sun went down. The downside to staying in a resort set away from the town is the need to hire a car or a bike to take you around. We usually prefer being on our own to experience the area so we usually tend to hire a bike. There are a few bike rental places you can contact in Munnar who will deliver the bike to your hotel. 

Touristy things to do around Munnar include the Tata tea museum where you can pick up some green tea, incense sticks and other merchandise. Top station is the top most point in Munnar. You'll get a panoramic view of the area from this vantage point. Most of the touristy places here include a lot of vantage points and photo points to get to your photo taken. We have found that its best to take drives through the beautiful area and stop and enjoy the views as you go along.


Restaurants are not a strong point in Munnar. There are a few small restaurants dotted around the main town area but unlike the south of Kerala, where you'll get fresh seafood and variety in your meals, Munnar has a rather North Indian selection when it comes to their menu. The time tested Saravana Bhavan is located in the main town and serves good vegetarian food. Other than that, I'd advice you take a option to have your meals or at least one meal, dinner, at your hotel or as part of your package. 

The highlight of Munnar is the views and the beauty of the area. This place is best experienced with the smaller things like a hike around the area and enjoying the nature and beautiful views.


football at tea plantation in munnar kerala india

We have been travelling to Kerala for the last few years and we still feel like there's more to see and do in this beautiful state. Kerala is one state that has everything to offer a traveler, be it whether you are a beach person or a hike in the mountains person. 

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