India has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember – I couldn’t wait to experience its vibrancy, exotic landscapes and, most of all, the delicious food. I finally made it there late last year and, as I only had two weeks, Kerala – located in India’s sleepy south – was my choice of destination, known for its chilled-out vibe and reputation as one of the most lush, green and beautiful parts of all of India. It was the perfect choice for the variety we were after from relaxing along the Arabian Sea coast in Varkala, to trekking through emerald-green tea plantations in Munnar.
It was a magical trip and has only strengthened my desire to see more of the amazing country (and eat much more curry; Indian takeaways in the UK will never be the same).
Here are some of our highlights from our trip:
Take a hike in Munnar
Munnar is known as the Switzerland of Kerala and it’s easy to see why, with undulating mountains for as far as the eye can see. However, instead of farms there are verdant tea plantations and instead of cows, you have wild elephants… The best way to see the area is take a hike. We arranged one at our hostel and withing a few hours of climbing up steep jungle (and removing the odd leach), we were gazing out over the landscape from one of the region’s largest peaks. Stunning doesn’t even cover it.
Chill in Varkala
If there’s one thing Kerala does well, it’s utterly blissful escapism. And escapism doesn’t come better than at Soul & Surf, a short drive away from the hustle and bustle of Varkala’s clifftop strip of bars and restaurants. A surf and yoga retreat, you can easily spend weeks here without the desire to ever leave, thanks to its stunning garden, delicious healthy food and surf and yoga classes. Perfect days were spent learning to surf on uncrowded beaches, with only local fishermen for company, to sunset vinyasas overlooking the sea from their rooftop yoga space. The welcoming atmosphere and wonderful staff was the cherry on the Keralan cake.
Explore the backwaters
Arguably Munnar’s number one ‘must-do’ is exploring the Keralan backwaters by houseboat, which you can hire for one to several days (one is best). Think cruising through canals, fringed by palm trees, and huge expanses of perfectly calm water dotted with thatched houseboats. The best part was the epic feasts the crew of our surprisingly luxurious houseboat cooked up, with plenty of fresh fish, curries and melt in your mouth poppadums.
Culture in Kochi
Although just a stop-over for us, Kochi was a great place to visit to see another side to Kerala. The Chinese fishing nets are the big attraction here and you can see the fishermen at work if you’re up early enough. We stayed at Fort House, a beautiful old building in the colonial centre, where we looked over the fast-flowing water as we tucked into a fresh catch of fish.
Top tips for travelling in Kerala:
- Choose your route carefully. Some of the distances are large (especially Munnar to Varkala)
- If you get a private transfer, it’s likely that your driver will persuade you to use them for the rest of the trip. Our driver chose to stay around for a few days for our next transfer, but we declined on using them for the whole trip
- The driving is… interesting. Drivers also get commission for taking you to local attractions and shops – something to be aware of
- Kerala is a dry state so don’t expect to find beer and wine easily outside of normal tourist areas. Varkala is very touristy, so most bars and restaurants sell alcohol
- The world and his wife will try and organise a houseboat for you, however as long as you know your budget as long as the boat is nice and includes food you can’t go too wrong
- Yoga is a must and you’re spoilt for choice in Varkala. I particularly recommend the morning classes at Krishnatheeram Ayur Holy Beach Resorts
- Haggling is welcomed!
Do you have any advice tips or recommendations to add? Let us know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading 🙂