Kerala, a state on the Malabar coast has always been a unique place for tourists visiting India. Kerala is the gateway of Southern India. Also called God’s Own Country, it has been popular among tourists, travellers, families and backpackers as it has so much to offer. The beauty of nature, the famous backwaters, coffee plantations of Munnar, the portugal style architecture in Kochi, the hidden treasure of Munroe island, the beachside cliffs in Varkala, the carvings on the tall temples in trivandrum and the list goes on and on. In this guide, you will find information, tourist places in kerala, itineraries, places to visit in kerala, food, stays, transportation and many more of the state of Kerala in India. Kerala tourism is in great form and has boomed in recent years.Here is the full plan to explore the entire state of Kerala.

Best time to visit Kerala:

The main tourist season in Kerala is from November to February when the weather is dry and cool in India. This is the best time to visit the whole of north India. By March, the temperature rises rapidly and it becomes really hot and you will not enjoy visiting the country in this hot weather. June to October is the rainy season. Although Kerala has some great nature during monsoon, if you are like me who does not enjoy travelling in the rains, then avoid this period.

Backwaters of Kerala

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Transportation in Kerala:

By Air:

Kerala has 4 airports in the state:

  • Cochin airport (near Kochi)
  • Trivandrum airport (in Trivandrum near Varkala)
  • Calicut airport (near wayanad)
  • Kannur airport

Flights operate from all over India to these airports. Some airports also operate international flights. This could be a good option to enter the state.

By Railway:

Indian railways are well connected throughout India, especially in South India, it is widely spread. Most of the places are accessible by trains which makes it the best option for transport. This is also a cheap and effective way of transportation. Trains from all over India pass through Kerala and you will not have any problem reaching Kerala. Also trains run through most parts of the state, do this will the main mode of transport for you within Kerala. But, note that most trains are fully booked and you can have a tough time to get a seat booked at the last moment. However there is a tourist quota in railways where you may get a ticket even at the last minute if you are lucky. 

By road:

Many public as well as private buses run to various parts of the state. From Bangalore, the IT hub of India, buses are available in plenty as those people often visit Kerala for vacation. Internal public transport is also good in Kerala and will also be helpful most of the time where there are no trains in hilly regions.

By ferry:

Yes, Kerala has public ferries as a mode of transportation. Many public ferries operate through the backwaters of Kerala as it is a very convenient mode of transportation for the locals. These ferries are a great way to observe the lifestyle of the locals living there. 

Ferries in Kerala

Map of Kerala:

We will be covering these places on the map:

Map of Kerala

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Wayanad:

Wayanad, often called as the spice garden of India is the ultimate destination to escape the heat of North India. This place does not only offer cool temperature but is untouched in the Hills of Kerala.  Wayanad is laid with many tourist places and washed plantations Of Spices like cardamom, black pepper, black cumin, fenugreek and much more.  Having so many trees around it there are numerous wildlife habitats in this region. There are numerous Wildlife sanctuaries you could visit and spot animals and birds of various species. You can trek to India’s largest Earth Dam, Banasura Dam or trek to the Wayanad highest peak Chembra peak. A heart shaped lake is on the trail to the peak.  You can also explore the ancient  Edakkal caves where you will find carving on the rocks. Other than that, you can visit some of the hidden waterfalls in the nature of Wayanad.

Heart shaped lake in Wayanad

How to reach Wayanad:

The closest airplane terminal is Calicut Airport which is just sixty-five kilometres from here. You can get a private cab from the airport to Wayanad.

Kozhikode is the nearest train station from Wayanad and also a major city for transportation in North Kerala. You can either take a public bus or private taxi from Kozhikode to Wayanad.

Many state transports are accessible from Mangalore, Kochi and Trivandrum that will take you to Wayanad. The road journey is delightful with great views of Western Ghats.

Top attractions in Wayanad:

  • Trek to Chembra peak and Heart shaped lake
  • Visit Banasura Dam
  • Spot wild animals in some of the wildlife sanctuary
  • Visit the spice plantations

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Wayanad

Places to Stay in Wayanad:

Accomodation options are plenty in Wayanad. You can get a room in a guest house for as low as ₹500/night. There are also many private villas available here starting from ₹7000. Luxury resorts are also available. As of now, there are 2 hostels in Wayanad, Adri Chembra and Zostel. Both are a good option for budget backpackers.

Kochi:

Kochi is one of the main cities in Kerala. It was under Portugal and Dutch control for many years. Their influence can still be seen in the architecture of the buildings in the Fort Kochi area. Fort Kochi is somewhat the old town of Kochi. Kochi was also under Jews control for some years. There is still a Jews town in Kochi which has become a tourist attraction now. Kochi has a rich history with a perfect blend of Portugal, Dutch and Jewish culture. The famous Chinese nets at Fort Kochi beach used for fishing are not to be missed.

If you are craving some beach time, visit the Cherai beach in Vipin Island. It is bit outside the city and you can enjoy a ferry ride to the beach. Cycle around the roads of Fort Kochi and click vibrant pictures on the streets. Visit the Jewish town to experience some authentic Jewish culture. At Mattancherry market, you can see a mixed culture of people from all of India. Visit the St. Francis Church to get a glimpse of Portugal style churches. Sit and enjoy evenings at the cutest looking cafes in the old town.

Chinese fishing nets in Kochi

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How to reach Kochi:

Kochi has an airport (Cochin International Airport) and flights are available from various parts of India and abroad. Kochi lies in Ernakulam District and it is just outside Kochi city. So, all the transportation options are available from here. Ernakulam Junction is the main train station here and most of the trains in Kerala pass from here. You can also find direct buses from big south Indian cities like Chennai and Bangalore.

To explore the city, you can either walk through the places inside the city or rickshaws(tuk tuk) are available here. The best way is to rent a bicycle for a day (₹100-200/day) and cycle through the city or rent a bike.

Top attractions in Kochi:

  • Cycling in Fort Kochi
  • Visit the Chinese nets
  • Cherai beach
  • Jew town
  • St. Francis church
  • Mattancherry market

Places to stay in Kochi:

Choose your stay in Fort Kochi as most of the places are in this area. Kochi has a range of luxury hotels starting from 5000/night and budgets options starting from ₹1000/night too. There are also some hostels in Kochi from ₹300/night and it is the best option for solo travellers.

Munnar:

Munnar is no less than a Heaven on Earth. The famous tea plantations of Munnar are a must see. Visit the tea factories here and get to know more about chai (tea). Go for jungle safari in  Eravikulam Park to spot some animals. Visit the Mattupetty dam. Trek to Anamudi Peak, the highest peak in the entire South India and be astonished with the clouds moving below the peak. Look out for various waterfalls in the hills of Munnar.

Tea plantations in Munnar

How to reach Munnar:

As Munnar is a hilly region, trains are not available here. Buses are a good mode of transportation. You can even hire a private cab from Kochi or other cities. 

To travel within Munnar, rickshaws (tuk tuk) are available. Local cabs are also available if you are in groups. 

Top attractions in Munnar:

  • Tea plantations & museum
  • Eravikulam Park
  • Mattupetty dam
  • Anamudi
  • Meesapulimala Peak
  • Various waterfalls in Munnar 
A random waterfall in Munnar

Places to stay in Munnar:

Munnar has some great places to stay. You can opt for some accommodations right in the middle of tea plantations for around ₹5000/night or even less. Some luxury options are available starting ₹6000/night and budget accommodations starting ₹1000/night. There is Lost Hostel in Munnar for all the enthusiastic backpackers for only ₹300/night.

Vagamon:

Vagamon is not as touristy as Munnar and it is not that famous. Hence, it is a much more peaceful town than Munnar. Vagamon has some mind blowing places to visit. The Barren hills are a must visit as they change their landscapes with every climate cycle. Trek to Marmala waterfalls and enjoy a dip here. The Pine forest is yet another prime attraction in Vagamon with many movie shoots taking place here. Take a boat ride in Vagamon lake with hills covered in coffee and spice plantations on the sides.

Green Meadows of Vagamon

How to reach Vagamon:

Vagamon is similar to Munnar and there are no trains here. Public transport is available here. You can also hire cabs for Vagamon. Rickshaws are available here for smaller distances.

Top attractions in Vagamon:

  • Marmala waterfalls
  • Pine forest
  • Barren hills
  • Boating in Vagamon Lake
  • Sceneries of Green Meadows
Pine forest in Vagamon

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Places to stay in Vagamon:

Good accommodations are available for ₹1500/night. There are not that many options like Munnar, but decent stays are available. There is also a zostel in vagamon for travellers and backpackers.

Thekkady:

Thekkady is a place full of Nature. Periyar National Park is the main attraction here. Opt for a Jungle safari and try spotting some rare wild animals.Trek in the Jungles of Thekkady and try bamboo rafting. You can also spend time boating at the Periyar Lake. Kumily, located close to Periyar Tiger Reserve, is a heaven on Earth with its spice plantations on the Cardamom hills.

Elephants in Periyar National Park

How to reach Thekkady:

Thekkady is close to Vagamon and Munnar. Buses are available from both the places. You can also hire a taxi for a day trip to Periyar National Park. Apart from that, there are also buses from various cities to Thekkady.

Top attractions in Thekkady::

  • Safari at Periyar National Park
  • Boating at Periyar Lake 
  • Enjoying the nature at Kumily 
  • Nature photography at Pandikuzhi

Places to stay in Thekkady:

As this a jungle, accommodation here is a bit expensive. Budget hotel range starts from ₹1500/night. There are also some luxury accommodations starting ₹5000/night. Some government owned hotels are also available here and they will cost bit less.

Alleppey:

There is no need for any formal introduction to this place. The most important tourist destination in Kerala or should we say entire South India is Alleppey (also called Alappuzha). This is the main place for backwaters and it is known as “The Venice of India”. You can either take a canoe tour in the backwaters on small boats or kayak in the backwaters. Cycling the narrow roads along the backwaters is a good option to experience the local life.

Other than backwaters, visit Alleppey beach and the Alleppey lighthouse near to the beach. Marari beach in the outskirts of Alleppey is a quiet and peaceful place to enjoy. There are various churches and temples to see. Visit the Pathiramanal island, a must visit for bird watchers. Vembanad Lake is not to be missed. You can rent a houseboat for a day and cruise along the small villages along the backwaters.

houseboat-kerala
Houseboats of Kerala

How to reach Alleppey:

Alleppey is well connected by roadways and railways. Most trains in Kerala stop at Alappuzha station in Alleppey. Public buses are also available in plenty from all major towns. Alleppey is also well connected with the backwaters and ferries operate from Alleppey to some nearby villages. Tuk tuks are available locally and you can also take public ferries that operate in the backwaters.

Top attractions in Alleppey:

  • Backwaters tour/ kayaking/ houseboat
  • Alleppey beach
  • Marari beach
  • Vembanad lake
  • Temples and churches in Alleppey
Alleppey beach

Places to stay in Alleppey:

Alleppey being a major tourist place, accommodation is available in plenty. From large villas near the backwaters costing   to cheap hostels, there is everything. Budget accommodations and guesthouses are available for   ₹1200/night and rates changes according to seasons. Hostels are also available here for around ₹600/night. Zostel and artpackers are famous among the backpackers visiting Alleppey. 

Munroe Island:

Munroe Island is situated on the way to Varkala from Alleppey. This small village is a hidden gem in the backwaters of Kerala. Here, you get to see the most clear and beautiful backwaters. Alike Alleppey, it is not that famous and that is why it has remained a hidden gem. Spending a day here will definitely bring you closer to nature. The locals are very friendly here which adds cherry to the cake. But, it is risky in monsoons, as there are floods in this region and people suffer a lot due to this.

Boating at Munroe Island

How to reach Munroe Island:

As it is surrounded by backwaters, there are ferries that take vehicles to and fro Munroe island. There is a railway station here, but only few trains halt here. So, check the train schedule for halts, before boarding the train. It is a village, so you will not need to travel too far here. 

Top attractions in Munroe Island:

  • Kayaking/boating in the calm backwaters
  • Cycle along the backwaters.
  • Walk in the village
  • Talk with the friendly locals

Places to stay in Munroe Island:

There are few hotels to stay here and they are obviously a bit costly. But, they are worth the price. Homestays are available here and you can easily find them. Homestays start from ₹800/night and hotels from ₹2000/night. 

Varkala:

Also known as “Surfing town”, Varkala is another blessing after Alleppey. It is a cliff town on the coast of Kerala and is also famous for Yoga. Spend some time practising yoga and calm down our soul. Visit the Jatayu Earth centre, a few kilometers outside Varkala. This is a must visit place with a giant bird statue in the middle of the Jungle. Spend some time soaking in the sun at Varkala or Kappil beach. Enjoy food at some of the cliff cafes in Varkala. Visit the lighthouse and go surfing here. Try some water sports in Varkala too.

Varkala cliff

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How to reach Varkala:

Varkala being close to Alleppey, there are a lot of trains running between these places. Buses are also available in plenty from Trivandrum and Alleppey. You will not have any problem finding transportation to Varkala. Private taxis are also available from most of the towns to Varkala.

Top attractions in Varkala:

  • Varkala beach
  • Varkala Cliff
  • Practise Yoga
  • Surfing and water sports
  • Varkala culture centre
  • Anjengo Fort
  • Varkala Lighthouse

Places to stay in Varkala:

There are a lot of great options in budget accommodations in Varkala. Try to stay near the beach and cliff. Good hotels start from just ₹1000/night and hostels are available for just ₹300/night here. Luxury hotels range from ₹5000-12000/night. Zostel and Lost hostel near the cliff are some great options for solo travellers and backpackers.

Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram):

Thiruvananthapuram also known as trivandrum, is the administrative capital of Kerala. It is not very popular for tourists, but the main attraction to visit this town is the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. It is a very old temple of Hindu God, Vishnu. The architecture and the carvings of the temple are worth noticing. There are some strict rules for dressing to enter the temple. Kovalam beach is just half an hour drive from here. Ponmudi is a hill resort near Trivandrum and is worth a visit.

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum

How to reach Trivandrum:

Trivandrum has an international airport. So it is a good starting or ending point for your trip. There is also a major train station here and public buses are also available frequently. Overall, being an administrative capital, it has a good transport network.

Top attractions in Trivandrum:

  • Kovalam beach
  • Padmanabhaswamy temple
  • Agasthyakoodam
  • Poovar Island
  • Ponmudi
Ponmudi near Trivandrum

Places to stay in Trivandrum:

Luxury beach hotels are available for around ₹10000/night. There are lot of budget options for tourists and they range from ₹1000-5000/night. Very dorm options are available for ₹300-500/night.

Itinerary for visiting Kerala

5 days itinerary for Kerala:

  • Day 1: Arrive at Kochi early morning and explore this portugal city. (Kochi info here)
  • Day 2: Take an early morning bus to Munnar as it takes 5 hours to reach. Explore Munnar for the day. 
  • Day 3: Leave for Alleppey in the morning. There are direct buses for Alleppey. Explore Alleppey beach and some other places. Leave the backwaters for the next day.
  • Day 4: Visit the backwaters, the highlight of Kerala trip. You can either go kayaking in the backwaters or can explore them through tours in small boats. As the backwaters are widely spread exploring may take upto 4 to 6 hours. If possible take an evening train to Varkala which takes 2-3 hours or a bus which takes around 4 hours to reach. If not in the evening, travel early morning.
  • Day 5: Wake up in beautiful Varkala. Enjoy breakfast at one of the cliff cafes. Go for surfing, explore the beach. Take an overnight train back to your place.

10 days itinerary:

Same as the 12 days itinerary exclude day 6 and day 12.

12 days Itinerary for Kerala:

  •  Day 1: Arrive in Wayanad and explore nature for the day.
  • Day 2: Leave early morning for Kochi. It is a 7 hour journey. Explore a few places in the evening.
  • Day 3: Explore the city and the outskirts of Kochi.
  • Day 4: Take an early morning bus for Munnar. The journey is 5 hours long. 
  • Day 5: Explore the tea plantations. Hike to some hidden waterfalls.
  • Day 6: Take a bus to Vagamon and have some peaceful time here. Enjoy the mountainous green meadows.
  • Day 7: You can either have a one day trip to Periyar National Park in Thekkady or choose to stay overnight in the park.
  • Day 8: Leave for Alleppey (Alappuzha) in the morning by bus. Journey of around 3-4 hours. Explore places in Alleppey. Leave backwaters for next day.
  • Day 9: Explore backwaters of Alleppey
  • Day 10: Take a train to Munroe Island. It takes around 2.5 hours. Stay at a local guest house and be surprised by the hidden beauty of this place.
  • Day 11: Take a train to Varkala and reach in 1.5 hours. Stay near the Varkala Cliff. Explore varkala backwaters or enjoy the beach and other places.
  • Day 12: Take a train to Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) and explore the temples here. End your trip at the non touristy beaches in Trivandrum. Take an overnight train to your place.

I hope this Kerala guide helped you plan your travel for Kerala. Do share your views in the comment section below

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