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This article contains a Kerala itinerary for 10 days as well as a Kerala travel guide for backpacking Kerala for travelling through the state with ease.
Backpacking Kerala is on the list of any visitor to India who is backpacking through South India. And rightly so. Kerala is one of the unmissable places in India. If being termed as ‘God's Own Country’ isn’t the proof of the beauty that Kerala holds, then what is. This article contains a guide to backpacking Kerala as well as a suggested Kerala itinerary for 10 days.
Backpacking Kerala & Kerala Itinerary for 10 Days
Inside this Kerala travel guide and a suggested Kerala itinerary for 10 days, I’ve tried to compile all the relevant information about backpacking Kerala. What I love most about Kerala is its lush greenery, the amazing backwaters, tea plantations and the varying landscapes scattered across the entire state. Every place has something special of its own. In this article, first, I’ve made a list of all the best places to visit in Kerala - the must-visit places, how to get there and what to do. After you’ve gone through it, you should be able to choose the places to visit in Kerala during your Kerala backpacking trip. If in case you’re unable to pick an itinerary for yourself, I’ve included a Kerala itinerary for 10 days to help you plan your Kerala trip.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Kerala Map
- How to Reach Kerala
- Getting Around Kerala
- Best Time to Visit Kerala
- How Many Days to Spend in Kerala
- Food to Try in Kerala
- Best Places to Visit in Kerala, India
- Kerala Itinerary for 10 Days
- Kerala Itinerary for 14 Days
- Ready to Plan Your Trip to Kerala?
- Did You Enjoy this Backpacking Kerala Travel Guide & Kerala Itinerary?
Backpacking Kerala Map
How to Reach Kerala
Train to Kerala
Every popular sightseeing place in Kerala has a connecting railway station. Since India has a large heavily connected railway network, you’ll find trains within India quite easily. For short train journeys, you can buy a general class ticket at the station itself and travel in the general compartment. For longer distances, if you need a dedicated seat, you will have to reserve a seat via the IRCTC app or visit the nearest railway station.
Bus to Kerala
Kerala KSRTC runs numerous buses within Kerala. These buses don’t require advance booking. You can just show up at the bus stand, enquire about bus timings and board the appropriate bus. On the other hand, for longer distances, you can use the redBus website or app to check the availability of buses and to make a booking.
Airports in Kerala
There are two major airports in Kerala - the Kochi international airport and the Thiruvananthapuram international airport. Both of these airports have domestic and international flights both ways. Most people prefer to fly in and out of Kochi international airport because Kochi is closer to some of the most popular places to visit in Kerala. Not only that, flights to and from Kochi are plenty in number and cheap in cost as well.
Getting Around Kerala
The Kerala KSRTC buses are a widely used and popular choice of transportation for getting around Kerala. Train travel is another popular means of going from one place to another in India. While you are sightseeing within a city, tuk-tuks or auto-rickshaws, as they are called in India, are a common way to get around.
Best Time to Visit Kerala India
There are 3 main seasons in Kerala - summer, monsoon and the high season. April to June are the summer months in Kerala. This is when the temperature soars along with increased humidity. On the other hand, while the monsoon brings relief from the heat, lately Kerala has been experiencing flooding during these months. October to March is the best time to visit Kerala. This is when the temperature and humidity aren’t as high and the other months.
How Many Days to Spend in Kerala?
So how many days should you spend in Kerala? The answer mainly depends on the number of days you have, and the places you want to visit in Kerala. I personally felt that 14 days were required to visit all the best sightseeing places in Kerala. However, if you don’t have that much time on your hands, then 10 days should be sufficient to cover all these places. This is the reason why I’ve included a Kerala itinerary for 10 days and not 14 days.
Food to Try in Kerala
There are a wide variety of tasty South Indian dishes that you must try in Kerala.
- Appam - Soft thin pancake made out of rice batter; eaten with a curry
- Idiyappam - Noodles made out of rice flour; eaten with a curry
- Puttu - Rice cake made of steamed rice flour; cylindrical in shape
- Kerala parotta - Layered flatbread made from refined flour
- Karimeen fish - Freshwater fish local to Kerala
- Sadhya - A feast consisting of a variety of vegetarian dishes served on a banana leaf
If you’re a fussy eater, no worries, you’ll find cafes serving vegan, vegetarian and regular continental dishes as well as fast food almost everywhere in the major cities.
Best Places to Visit in Kerala India
Kerala has a number of beautiful places to choose from. The best part, though, is that each of these places has something special about them that makes them all unique. For example, while Alleppey is famous for the Kerala backwaters, Munnar is well-known for the tea plantations. Similarly, on one hand, Varkala is known for its iconic cliff beach whereas Kovalam is famous for the lighthouse beach. Thus, take a look at all the places to visit in Kerala so that you can choose the places to visit during your backpacking Kerala trip.
Kochi or Cochin is one of the biggest cities in Kerala. While Kochi in itself is a plain old city, it is Fort Kochi that is of interest to travelers. Fort Kochi used to be a former fishing village that came under the Portuguese, then later Dutch and then British colonization. This area still retains the heritage and architecture of the yesteryears, which is visible in the sleepy lanes. One of the best parts of this area is the many top art cafes in Fort Kochi. You can gorge on a variety of cuisines while staring at magnificent pieces of art!
How to Reach Kochi
Kochi has one airport called the Kochi or Cochin International Airport. There are a number of domestic and international flights to and from Kochi daily. What's more, there is an air-conditioned bus service between the airport to Kochi city and to Fort Kochi as well. Moreover, there are two railway stations in Kochi city - Ernakulam Junction (South) railway station and Ernakulam Town (North) railway station. Kochi is also well-connected to other nearby cities by bus.
Places to Visit in Fort Kochi
Among all the things to do in Fort Kochi, watching the fishermen at work on the Chinese fishing nets at sunrise is the most popular activity. Apart from that, you can take a heritage walk around Fort Kochi, visiting the Dutch cemetery, St Francis church, Jew town, Dutch palace, spice market, and the Fort Kochi beach, among other things. There are a number of amazing places to visit in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry so rest assured, you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied here.
Where to Stay in Fort Kochi
There are innumerable great hotels and hostels in Fort Kochi. I've stayed at Neemrana's The Tower House which is a heritage hotel that comes with a pool and is located directly in front of the Chinese fishing nets. I've also stayed at Zostel Kochi which is a backpacker hostel with dorm rooms as well as private rooms.
Munnar is one of the most popular places to visit in Kerala due to the countless hills laden with tea plantations. The town of Munnar is located in the Western ghats of India. Not only is Munnar known for its tea plantations, but also the magical sunrises, the freshness in the air and the lush greenery found all around.
How to Reach Munnar
There are many buses all throughout the day from Kochi to Munnar. Moreover there are regular buses from Alleppey to Munnar and Kottayam to Munnar. While there are buses from Thiruvananthapuram to Munnar as well, it's a very long journey and buses are fewer in number.
Places to Visit in Munnar
One of the most popular things to do in Munnar is to go on a sunrise trek where you get to walk through the Munnar tea plantations to end up at a viewpoint to witness the sunrise. Another popular activity to do in Munnar is to visit a tea factory and to see the entire process of manufacture of tea - right from plucking tea leaves to the packaging. There are many more popular sightseeing viewpoints, dams and other places to visit in Munnar. Also, don't forget to sample and buy chocolate and tea in Munnar.
Where to Stay in Munnar
Munnar town has a lot of stay options to choose from. However, the main town is very crowded. Thus I recommend finding a stay slightly away from the main Munnar town. I stayed at Lost Hostel which is located at Anachal. I also stayed at Gruenberg Tea Plantation Haus which is a stunning hotel located inside a tea plantation. Bliss!
Alleppey is one of the most popular sightseeing destinations in Kerala due to the backwaters. While one can witness the Kerala backwaters in Kumarakom as well, Alleppey remains the number one destination to-date. You might recognize the iconic pictures of the Alleppey houseboats gliding seamlessly through the backwaters of Alleppey.
How to Reach Alleppey
Kochi to Alleppey is a short distance of roughly 53 km which can be covered by road or rail. There are buses from Kochi to Alleppey throughout the day. Numerous trains pass between Ernakulam railway station in Kochi to the Alleppey railway station. Munnar to Alleppey is a 5-6 hour bus journey. Similarly, Alleppey is well-connected to other cities in Kerala by train, bus or both.
Places to Visit in Alleppey
There isn’t a whole lot to do in Alleppey besides exploring the backwaters and visiting Alleppey beach. In order to visit the backwaters of Alleppey, you can either take a houseboat (which is the most expensive option) or take a shikara boat, tourist ferry, public ferry, canoe or kayak. I’ve explained the difference between each of these types of boats and their pricing in my blog post on the cheaper alternatives to explore the Alleppey backwaters. Give it a read to understand your options.
Where to Stay in Alleppey
I stayed at Zostel Alleppey which is located at the Alleppey beach. It's a backpacker hostel that has private as well as dorm rooms, a common room area and a terrace overlooking the beach with hammocks. Apart from that, there are many stay options in Alleppey that include hotels, homestays and resorts.
While Alleppey may be the most popular place to witness the backwaters of Kerala, Munroe island is one of the best offbeat places in Kerala to see the backwaters. The island is surrounded by a river on 2 sides and a lake on the other 2 sides. There is hardly any commercialization on this tiny island which makes it an ideal place to stay in a homestay, meet locals, take long strolls and enjoy the slow life.
How to Reach Munroe Island
Munroe island is connected to the mainland via road, rail, and ferry. The easiest and cheapest option to reach Munroe island is to take a passenger train. I took the Ernakulam-Kollam passenger train, which I boarded at Alleppey railway station and got down at Munroturuttu railway station in Munroe Island.
Things to do in Munroe Island
The beauty of Munroe island lies in the fact that there’s nothing to do here. Apart from the absolutely spellbinding sunrise canoe tour, bicycle rides across the island and sipping mocktails at the surprisingly great little place called Munroe island, there's nothing much to do here at Munroe island except to take a step back and just live in the moment. Read my complete travel guide to Munroe island to get all the travel info you need to visit the island.
Where to Stay in Munroe Island
There aren't a whole lot of hotels or resorts in Munroe Island. Since it's a small island with little commercialization, you'll only find lovely homestays here. I stayed at GreenChromide Homestay which was located on the riverside. This homestay is run by a wonderful family that takes good care of you, organizes activities and serves the most delicious local food. I could not recommend this place more!
Varkala is a well-known tourist destination for a number of reasons. Firstly, the iconic cliff beach and the many shops and cafes lined across the cliff make Varkala a picture-perfect destination. Secondly, Varkala is one of the few beaches in India where one can go surfing. Thirdly, there are quite a few yoga training ashrams here. This and a number of other reasons make Varkala one of the must-visit destinations during a backpacking Kerala trip.
How to Reach Varkala
If you're coming from either Kochi or Alleppey, take the train to Varkala since it's a longer route. On the other hand, if you're coming from Thiruvananthapuram, you can either take the train or bus to Varkala.
Places to Visit in Varkala
You can try surfing, find a yoga ashram, visit the many beaches in Varkala, hang out at the Varkala cliff beach or sit at one of the many cafes on the Varkala cliff. There are clearly plenty of things to do in Varkala. If you're keen on sightseeing in Varkala, visit the temples, lighthouse, and the fort.
Where to Stay in Varkala
There are innumerable hotels and hostels in Varkala located in close proximity to the Varkala cliff. I stayed at the relatively new Zostel Varkala which was close to the cliff beach but also away from the hustle-bustle of the cliff. Moreover, the new Zostel is spacious, comes with a nice terrace and overlooks the Black beach.
Kovalam is a small beach town located just half an hour from Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram (also known as Trivandrum). Kovalam is predominantly famous due to the iconic lighthouse beach and the promenade along the beach which is lined with appealing stores, cafes, and restaurants.
How to Reach Kovalam?
No matter where you’re coming from, in order to reach Kovalam, you need to go to Trivandrum first. From there, get into a tuk-tuk and ask the driver to take you to the bus stand where you can catch a bus to Kovalam. The bus takes about 30 minutes and drops you off very close to the beach.
Things to do in Kovalam
Just like Munroe, there aren't a whole lot of things to do in Kovalam. Kovalam’s lighthouse beach is mainly frequented by foreigners, and the only thing to do here is to either go for a swim, laze around on the beach lounge chairs or sit back in a cafe and read a book. The whole purpose of a visit to Kovalam is to just chill out.
Where to Stay in Kovalam
All the places to stay in Kovalam are in the vicinity of the lighthouse beach. I booked a stay at Wilson Ayurvedic beach resort which was located at the lighthouse beach. It has rooms for different budgets and a nice big pool with lounge chairs to relax in.
Kerala Itinerary for 10 Days - A Suggested Kerala Itinerary
Day 1 - Reach Kochi
Whether you arrive at Cochin airport or at the railway station, you can find buses to the city. Take a bus or cab to Fort Kochi, check-in to your hotel and get some rest. Later in the evening, you can walk around Princess Street and Burgher Street and grab something to eat at an art cafe.
Day 2 - Sightseeing in Fort Kochi
Start your day at the Chinese fishing nets. Then continue walking towards St Francis church, Dutch cemetery, and Bishop's Palace. After breakfast, head to the Mattancherry side to visit the jew town, Jewish synagogue and discover the street art of Fort Kochi. Watch the sunset at Fort Kochi beach.
Day 3 - Kochi to Munnar
After grabbing breakfast at a cafe in Fort Kochi, check-out and head over to the Ernakulam bus stand to find a bus to Munnar. The bus to Munnar from Kochi takes approximately 4-5 hours. Once you're at Munnar, take a tuk-tuk to your hotel or hostel and get some much-needed rest.
Day 4 - Sightseeing in Munnar
To start your sightseeing in Munnar, you can either go for a sunrise trek or start early to visit all the sightseeing places in Munnar. Do not miss taking a tour of a tea plantation and factory.
Day 5 - Munnar to Alleppey
Today, after catching the sunrise at Munnar and having a nice big breakfast, catch another bus from Munnar to Alleppey. The bus to Alleppey from Munnar goes via Kochi and takes 5-6 hours. When you reach the Alleppey bus stand, take a tuk-tuk to your hotel or hostel.
Day 6 - Sightseeing in Alleppey
Start your day early because you do not want to miss watching the sunrise at the backwaters of Alleppey. Spend the day cruising around the backwaters. Head over to Alleppey beach for sunset and drinks.
Day 7 - Alleppey to Varkala
Once you've had your breakfast, take a train from Alleppey to Varkala. I do not recommend taking a bus for this route because it's a long journey so train travel is faster thus better.
Day 8 - Sightseeing in Varkala
Time to hit up all the beaches in Varkala. Hit the waves for a surf session, do some yoga, go hopping along all the beaches of Varkala or simply chill at the Varkala cliff beach.
Day 9 - Varkala to Kovalam
Take a bus or train from Varkala to Thiruvananthapuram (aka Trivandrum) and then catch a bus from Trivandrum to Kovalam beach. check-in to your stay, grab your swimsuit and head over to the beach for some chill time.
Day 10 - Kovalam to Trivandrum and Onward
After breakfast at a cafe overlooking the lighthouse beach in Kovalam, take a bus back to Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram). From here, head to the airport or railway station to head back home or to move onward to our next destination.
Kerala Itinerary for 14 Days
In case you're looking for a Kerala itinerary for 14 days, instead of 10 days, use the itinerary mentioned earlier then add at least 1-2 nights in Munroe island, after you've visited Alleppey. For the other 2 nights, you can either go to Thekaddy from Munnar to visit the Periyar National Park or you can spend an extra day or two at any place that you like.
Ready to Plan Your Trip to Kerala?
Since a single Kerala travel guide isn’t enough to explain all the amazing things that Kerala has to offer, I have a few more articles on places within Kerala. If you're looking for in-depth guides to all the best places to visit in Kerala, then take a look at my other articles on Kerala (links open in new tabs):
- Places to Visit in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry
- Top 10 Art Cafes in Fort Kochi, Kerala
- Ultimate Guide to the Munnar Tea Plantations - Visiting Tips and Tricks
- The Cheaper Alternative Guide to the Alleppey Backwaters
- Munroe Island Kerala - Why You Must Go
- Lighthouse Beach Kovalam - Everything You Need to Know
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