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Coming Home to Kerala: A 10 Day Itinerary Through God's Own Country

Updated: Jun 16

Kerala is one of my favourite places on Earth. In this 10-day itinerary for Kerala, we will go over everything you need to know to explore the southernmost state of India, aptly named 'God's Own Country'.


There is a reason so many people linger on in Kerala, as after the chaos of the rest of India, this is where you can feel like you can just BREATHE. Read on to find out why Kerala is so amazing, where to stay in Kerala, things to do in Kerala, how to get there, when to go, and how to get around.



CONTENTS




 


About Kerala


Kerala is so vastly different from the rest of India. For a start, they have a democratically elected communist government (enjoying semi-autonomy from the central government of India), which means they don't have the same rules as the rest of the country (notably being allowed to eat beef).


Whilst they have the best healthcare and education in the country, Keralites are still often looked down upon by the northern states because of their darker skin. The official language is Malayalam, although many people speak English and some speak Hindi too. Kerala is the home of Ayurveda, Kathakali dance, tranquil backwaters and sprawling tea plantations.


The dreamy backwaters and the Arabian Sea can be captured in one lens; and if you're lucky you will see dolphins play in the ocean and Eagles and Kites soar above you as you bob around in the warm, balmy water. Local fishermen take advantage of the cool of the evenings, sitting on the rocks by the water in their lungi (a traditional dress that resembles a sarong), chatting and relaxing.


Now, I'm not saying the beaches of Kerala are as vast and as beautiful as those of Goa, but they are also not swarmed with tourists and littered with endless beach bars, as Goa can be. The real charm of Kerala lies within her people. They'll go out of their way to help you with anything, their eyes glistening with pride that you're choosing to visit their home. I have never once been bothered here,


Things tend to quieten down here at about 10 pm and prices can be a little higher than elsewhere. But, as I said, there is a reason why so many linger on here. I myself have spent more than one year on and off at a little place called Cherai Beach on Vypin Island, which is where I'll start this 10-day Kerala itinerary.



 


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A Chinese fishing net and the backwaters of Cherai
The backwaters of Cherai


 

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When to Go to Kerala


This is really important!


I normally enjoy travelling off-season, as the prices are better and there are fewer people, however March-June in Kerala is STIFLING. I wouldn't wish it upon anyone, even the local people struggle. It's almost 100% humidity.


In March I stayed in Kerala for several weeks, and even though I was drinking more than 7 litres of water a day, I never ever peed...I found it impossible to stay hydrated! Maybe that's too much information, but I'm really trying to emphasise this point! It was so so hot that the ocean was like a jacuzzi...


Kerala has also been hard hit by monsoons and flooding these past few years (June-Aug).

Long story short: Visit: September-February.



 


A 10-DAY ITINERARY THROUGH KERALA



1. Cherai Beach, Vypin Island (2 Nights)


Getting there:


Located 1 hour from Cochin International Airport, a taxi will cost approx. 1300rs


Where to stay at Cherai Beach


My friend Shibu has a few villas on Cherai Beach and by the backwaters. His beach-side villa can be found here on booking.com- or if you're looking for more budget-friendly options you can contact him directly at +91 99611 65994. Shibu also runs Ayurveda retreats if that tickles your fancy!



What To Do on Cherai Beach


The first stop on this 10-day Kerala itinerary is the paradise of Cherai Beach, a small fishing village on a sandbar island called Vypin. It's quite a sleepy place, they have a few good restaurants, but my favourite thing to do is hire a bicycle and get lost in the many trails around the backwaters.


You can hire a bike here for 75rs a day from KJV Enterprises Cycle Showroom Cherai.


You can also hire a driver (message me for the contact details of a couple of trustworthy guys) to take you around. There are plenty of sights to see, depending on your interest.


I visited a coconut oil factory, a silk scarf workshop, and the Chinese fishing nets, to name a few. A whole day with a driver and car/rickshaw will set you back 2500 rs (roughly).


Where to Eat on Cherai Beach


  • Ocean View: A boat-shaped restaurant that has homely food at a good price. I love the Tomato Fry and Kerala Parotta, actually anything! They catch the fish fresh that day. They'll also rent mopeds to you for 250rs a day if you ask nicely. (Or Rajeev/your guest house owner can arrange it)


  • Lilliput: A bigger selection of cuisine from all over Kerala. The service isn't as good as Ocean View but the fish Pollicathu is wonderful.


  • Chilli Out Cafe: A decent pizza joint if you want a break from Indian food, with the best views of that amazing sunset over the Arabian Sea.


Cherai Beach is my favourite place in the world, so I could talk about it forever. I don't think there is a greater feeling than cycling over the bridges between the backwaters and the ocean, with friendly waves from the locals and stopping for a fresh coconut.


Bliss! You may meet a few long-timers who came here by chance and never left. And who knows, you may become one of them!



An extra note:


If it's at all possible, avoid visiting on a Sunday. This is when all the coaches come with families from other parts of Kerala to enjoy the beach. It gets quite rammed and noisy in the afternoon and bunged up with traffic.



I Dream of Mangoes Munnar
Making shapes in Munnar

 


2. Alapphuza (Alleppey) (2 Nights)


Getting to Alleppey


The second stop on this 10-day Kerala itinerary is Alleppey! And to get there my best piece of advice would be to take a moped!


You can rent a scooter casually (via your guesthouse or a local restaurant) for 400rs daily, or if you want something flashier like a Royal Enfield that'll set you back about 800rs a day.


Once you get past Ernakalum the A66 hugs the shoreline pretty much the whole way down to Varkala, it's a beautiful route and there is no traffic. (Don't get this confused with the 66 - it's a bigger main road that stays inland, much more dusty and much less interesting).


Caution: If a bus is behind you, pull over to the side and let it pass. They are big and scary and drive very fast. Also, use your horn for everything! Every turn and every manoeuvre, it's an important form of communication to let people know that you're there.


If this mode of transport is not your thing, there are options for trains from Aluva and sometimes even boats. Your guesthouse owner will help you arrange this, or you can buy a ticket directly from the station. Be sure to check out RailYatri for train times.


You can buy a 'General Class' ticket from your station of departure for peanuts, and then once you're on the train choose the class of your choice and pay the wandering conductors the difference in the ticket price.


For the full guide on how to buy a train ticket and take the train in India, check out my article: Train Travel in India for Tourists (& Train Classes).


I would not advise taking a car/bus. The roads are not very wide, you could get stuck in a stand-off on a one-way road and be jammed for half a day (I've seen it) - while all of the mopeds are zipping past you.


Cherai Beach - Alapphuza = 2.5 Hours driving


I paid 600rs per night for a double room, which I shared with my travelling companion at the time; Marie. They had cold showers, western toilets, and free Wifi. The owner was really helpful and he arranged a backwater boat tour for us for the next day.


This was 700rs per person, for a 4-hour boat trip - in a shared 'big canoe' with a lovely father and daughter duo from Australia. We had such a great time with them, that we ended up meeting up with Annie and Simon again at our next stop: Varkala.



The famous houseboats of Alleppey:


There are options to sleep on houseboats if you're after a bit more luxury. However, the way I understood it was that choosing a canoe allowed you to weave into the smaller canals, whereas the houseboats could only stay on the main waterway.


Another factor for me was that this was part of a 4-month trip around India, so I was keen to stretch my money further and always chose budget-conscious options.


Caution: Avoid the beach in Alapphuza after dark. They have a huge stray dog problem and at night, they form packs on the beach and can get aggressive. (During the day they are fine).


This is not the fault of the dogs, territory = survival and if they were fed regularly the aggression would not exist. So yes, feed street dogs whenever you can, they rely on human kindness.



The bow of a canoe in the backwaters of Allapphuza
The backwaters of Allapphuza

 

Not sure what to pack for your trip to India? Check out the I Dream of Mangoes article:



 


3. Varkala (2 nights)


Getting there:


It is a 3-hour drive from Alapphuza to our third stop on this 10-day Kerala itinerary, Varkala, and in fact, it is the prettiest section of the road trip; if you remember to shift back onto the coastal road.


There were election parades at the time of my journey, so Marie and I had to pull over a few times to let them pass. Everyone was good-spirited and just having fun, so we didn't feel any discomfort. Elections elsewhere in the country can get volatile, so be mindful of when these are happening when planning your trip to India.


Varkala is perhaps the most touristy part of Kerala and there is a reason why. The hotels and shops sit along a cliff top overlooking the beach. It's very picturesque. There are heaps of hotels, we normally use booking.com. Book ahead in high season (Nov-Jan).



Things to do in Varkala:


  • Surf lessons (only lessons, surf-board hire is not a thing sadly)

  • Ayurvedic Massage (fully naked FYI)

  • Yoga classes

  • Beach Walks

  • Jewellery Making (and shopping!!)

  • Temples (It's hard to feel the significance without a guide, if you're interested in this side of things try to find someone to show you around. I had a fantastic experience in Hampi with a tour company called 'Krishna Bicycle Tours', and it's one of my fondest memories.



I really enjoyed just relaxing here with my newfound friends. Eating great seafood and having a few beers whilst watching the dolphins, a lovely part about travel is these brief but sweet connections with like-minded people.



I Dream of Mangoes cycling in Kerala
Cycling around the backwater trails

 


*Bonus Stop: Sivananda Ashram, Neyarr Dam


Neyarr Dam

If you have more than 10 days to travel around Kerala you can stay at Sivananda Ashram. It is located 2 hours from Varkala, situated in a really wild forested part of Kerala on the border with Tamil Nadu.


We came to practice yoga for one week here (780 rs a night, meals, classes, and accommodation included.) It's a very traditional Ashram, there are plenty of rules - so please read their website carefully before deciding to go. Dress modestly and don't forget your passport.



If you like Yoga, check out my post on where to practice Yoga in India!



 


4. Munnar (2 nights)


Getting to Munnar


Munnar is the fourth stop on this 10-day Kerala itinerary - and it is a beastly Journey, I'm sorry!


It is a good 7 hour's drive, so take plenty of ass-breaks! (Once you've been on a moped for 7 hours you'll know what I mean). Parts of the road are really beautiful, winding and mountainous, we took plenty of tea stops and we even saw a wild elephant on the way!


Munnar is stunning. We stayed in a hostel which was 13km outside of Munnar Town. The views were incredible, but unfortunately, we were let down by the behaviour of the owner and would not stay there again.



What to do in Munnar


  • Top Station - the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the drive here is actually better than the top, so enjoy it!

  • WALK - I apologise for being completely useless here, but I didn't take note of any of the places I walked. I just ambled randomly. The tea plantations are gorgeous so you can see why I was so distracted.


These guys seem to have a much more comprehensive guide on hiking in Munnar:




Where to eat in Munnar


  • 'Hotel Sri Nivas Restaurant' (Town centre): This was potentially the best Thali in my life, ever! Thali means 'plate', it's a workman's lunch, designed to fill you up for the whole day (a bit like a full English breakfast for you British folks.)



*There is an evening street food market with no name, it's on the main road coming out of Munnar, I saw only locals dining there. You can get a fab meal for 50 rs - Try the KOTHU PAROTTA!



Munnar scenery
Tea Plantations

 


5. Fort Kochi (1 Night)


Fort Kochi last stop on this 10-day itinerary through Kerala, and okay so you could definitely stay here longer as Kochi is gorgeous!


I'm a stroller, so I could spend days navigating the streets. Heaps of Portuguese architecture, the Old Palace, the Jewish Quarter, shops, restaurants, I could go on. It's not like a lot of other Indian Cities - it's well-planned, clean and quiet (if you've acclimatised to the endless car horns by now).


So again, this is a place to be walked. Get lost in it!



Where to eat in Fort Kochi


  • Mary's Kitchen - a lovely little rooftop place with excellent service, which can be pretty awful in India, and beautiful food. All are homemade and fairly priced. A veg curry, 2 sides and a soft drink will set you back about 300 rs.


  • Sri Krishna Cafe - an institution! Locals and tourists are mashed up together. The waiters don't have English but there is an English menu. The food is cheap and traditional, I came here almost every day for lunch. Have the dosa! (Coconut chutney FTW). Lunch and a chai: 80rs.



South India Thali
Thali!

If you have rented a moped, you can go back to Cherai Beach by taking the ferry from Fort Kochi (5rs) and driving 40 minutes along the beach road on the other side.


And Voila, you have completed your 10-day itinerary through Kerala!



 

Cherai Tails


Want to stay longer?


Why not volunteer at Cherai Tails Dog Sanctuary? An organisation that rescues street pups, sterilises them and helps them find loving homes. Peshna Turakhia is an Indian/Irish lady who runs the charity from her home on Cherai Beach.



I Dream of Mangoes with a puppy
Volunteering with pups at Cherai Tails HQ

Things you can help with:


  • Walking and bathing the permanent canine residents.

  • Building monsoon shelters 'Barney Bennets' out of tyres and tarpaulin for the street dogs.

  • Making feed runs to strays, supply shopping, responding to emergency calls, vet visits + 1000 other things.




It's free to volunteer, accommodation is included, and you just need to sort your own food. Do it - Travel isn't just about receiving - and these little scamps will break your heart!



 


Thank you for reading Coming Home to Kerala: A 10-day itinerary through God's Own Country (it is called that for a reason!) If you enjoyed the read, please consider subscribing to my blog where I post articles once per week about my current travels.


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Happy Travels! xx



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