If you are unsure about where to go when backpacking Kerala for 7 days / a week. We have put together this 7-day itinerary for travelling in Kerala, India based on our own experience from the many times we have visited AND lived in this southern Indian state.
How to travel in Kerala
One of the main questions is, how do I travel around in Kerala? We have done the research, and there are quite a few options from Fort Kochi.
- You could use a Travel Agent, who will arrange your whole seven-day itinerary, including your stay and transportation in private vehicles. Although this is the easiest option, but also the most boring and expensive.
- Another option is to arrange private transportation from place to place yourself and then explore the area in rented vehicles like tuktuks/auto-rickshaws, bicycles or scooters. This would be cheaper than the former option, but you could be limited in the availability of options sometimes.
- The cheapest way to travel is by local bus. It does not cost much and is also not the most comfortable. The main downside is that you will miss all the fantastic places in between, as the bus doesn’t stop for your personal sightseeing requests.
- Self-drive is also an option, cars and motorbikes are available mainly from around the Airport.
- But did you know that you can also RENT A TUKTUK in Kerala? It is now possible to rent your own tuktuk/auto/rickshaw from Fort Kochi and drive around God’s Own Country yourself! The only requirement needed will be an International Driver’s Permit with class B endorsement on it and for you to make a booking through www.tuktukrental.com. We will take care of the rest!
Day 0 – Touchdown in Cochin
How to get from the Cochin Airport to Fort Kochi?
Once you reach Cochin International Airport, one of the most famous places to head out to will be Fort Kochi. Located around 40km away from the Airport, there are multiple ways for you to reach Fort Kochi depending on the time of arrival.
The AC Volvo bus is the cheapest and comfortable mode of transportation to Fort Kochi. It is available from morning 6:30 am to 6:00 pm evening at an interval of every 40 minutes. It will cost you around Rs.75 and between 45 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes depending on the city traffic. The end stop is in the centre of Fort Kochi, where most of the resorts and homestays are in walking distance.
There are two options for a taxi either using a prepaid airport taxi or an Uber. The charges may vary depending on the time. Uber charges from $13 – $16. The prepaid airport taxi charge will be 25-30% higher than Uber. The prepaid taxi counter is located just outside the main exit of the Airport.
Day 1 – Fort Kochi
Fort Kochi is also known as the Queen of Arabian Sea, it has quite the history and is thus a touristy place. It also is the burial ground of Vasco da Gama, the explorer who connected Europe and India via ocean.
Fort Kochi is quite small, it’s great to just stroll around and enjoy the historical monuments, shop and of course the delicious food which you will find in the streets. At the end of the day, don’t miss out out the amazing sunset, which often forms a beautiful colour spectacle in the sky.
In and around Fort Kochi, you can find a variety of places to stay. Ranging from high-end hotels to social backpacker hostels. Here are a few accommodations we recommend:
Exploring Fort Kochi
It’s best to start your day early, around 7 am, and walk along the beach walkway and Chinese nets. Here you can witness local fishermen taking their fishing boats and seeing the characteristic Chinese fishing nets in action.
You can continue your walk towards the Dutch Cemetery, which is built around 1724 in old Dutch Colonial style. The epitaphs and tombs, in total 104, carry the authentic records of hundreds of people of Dutch and British origin.
The cemetery is maintained by the St. Francis CSI Church, which was constructed in the year 1503 by the Portuguese Franciscan Friars. Even though it’s admired for its structural beauty, it’s also where the famous explorer initially was buried but was then returned back to Portugal in 1539.
You can head towards Santa Cruz Basilica, constructed in gothic style. It is a place of devotion as well as a centre of historical significance. The foundation stone of the Santa Cruz church was laid in 1505 by the Portuguese. The current structure, as we see it today, was renovated by the British in the year 1887.
Before exploring more of Fort Kochi, it will be an excellent time to have some breakfast. Some of the recommended places would be Kashi Arts Cafe, East India Street Cafe or Sutra Restaurant.
After your delicious meal, you can either walk or take a tuktuk to Jain Temple in Gujrati Street. It’s a very modest shrine dedicated to Shri Dharmanath. The construction might not be as impressive as the majestic ones in Rajasthan, but the pigeon feeding ritual that happens between 12:15 pm to 12:30 pm catches quite some attention! Hundreds of pigeons gather around the spires of the temple every day around 12:15 pm and wait for a gong to strike.
After being witness to this spectacle, you can head down to the Mattancherry Palace which was constructed by the Portuguese in 1545 for Veera Kerala Varma, the then King of Kochi. This beautiful structure is built as a combination of Keraleese and Dutch architecture. The Palace is home to a museum with murals and articles used by the royal family.
Exiting the Palace, you enter Jew Street, the vibrant area of Kochi. The Jews here are said to have settled in Kochi from 52 AD, also the oldest Jewish settlement in India. Jew Street is filled with shops selling spice, antiques, clothing and much more.
The Jewish Synagogue is the only one which is still in use for prayers to this day. This Synagogue was built on a land gifted by Raja Varma, the Raja of Kochi and shares a common wall with the Palace. The main hall of the Synagogue has a collection of enormous crystal chandeliers hanging from its high ceilings.
If you’re an enthusiast of Indian sweets, you might want to make a short stop at the Shantilal Mithaiwala, which is on your walk back to Fort Kochi. Ask for the delicious Jilebi or Ladus!
One of the experiences you shouldn’t miss while in Fort Kochi is the cultural experience at Greenix Village. This is where they showcase the fantastic dances performed in Kerala. The show usually starts at 5 pm, but you can also see the artists getting ready beforehand with an intricate makeup procedure, especially for the Kathakali dance. The performance includes Kathakali, Theyam, Kalaripayattu and Mohaniyattam. The village also has a museum, cafe and curio shop for travellers.
Besides the many touristic places that can be visited in Fort Kochi, it is also a place to be experienced. By just walking the streets, playing games with locals, enjoying a beautiful sunset while strolling the beach. You have the opportunity to interact with the local community, which makes your experience in this old city even more memorable.
Day 2 – Kumarakom
Kumarakom is a small village where you can get engulfed in the backwaters of Kerala. This picturesque village gives a chance to explore the real village life of Kerala. There are two recommendations for accommodation here.
Firstly, by getting settling in one of the amazing homestays or resorts, with the latter being on the more expensive side. Some recommended homestays would be Aqualillies Waterfront Heritage Homestay, Brookside Heritage Homestay and Coconut Creek Farm and Homestay. These homestays are located right at the waterfront, which is a highly recommended place to stay!
Once you’re settled in, you can hire a Shikara (a small boat) to take you around the village canals. They charge about Rs.600 (INR) per hour and carries a maximum of four people.
Another option is to visit the Tourism Department Office and book a Village Experience Tour in a Shikara. A very local activity which gets you involved in real village life activities like coconut climbing, toddy tapping, visiting local schools and coir making. They charge about Rs.1600 (INR) per person for a 3-hour experience package inclusive of a traditional Kerala meal.
The second way to get accommodated in Kumarakom is in a houseboat. Prices for this start at Rs. 6500 (INR) per night and as you are on a boat, it also includes three meals. The journey starts at 12:00 noon till next day morning at 8:00.
Our personal advice is to go on the Village Tour, as you get more interaction with locals and an authentic experience. Rather than having an expensive place to stay, which is quite touristy.
Day 3 – Vagamon
Vagamon is a tiny hill station in Kerala that is located at the borders of the Idukki district and is famous for its lush greenery. Vagamon is still quite untouched by tourism, so a highly recommended place to visit.
One of the most beautiful natural sights in the area is the Vagamon Pine Forest. A human-made forest created during the British era which overlooks the entire Vagamon valley. It’s an excellent place for long walks and gives you quite the photograph opportunities!
The other one is Marmala Waterfalls, which is located deep in the forest after a short trek through the hillside, the best escape from the chaos of the city.
One of the best viewpoints of the Vagamon Valley is Thangalpara. Which is also a pilgrimage location as it was once the resting place of Hasrath Sheikh Fariduddin Baba, a revered Sufi Saint.
An activity you definitely should not miss when in Vagamon is paragliding! The operator offers daily flights from 11 am to 4 pm and charge Rs.3500 (INR). You can fly for 20 minutes and see a breathtaking view of the Vagamon valley from the sky!
If you are looking for a great place to stay, check out Vagamon Zostel. Located right in on the hill, in the middle of the grassland. Offering stunning views and great amenities.
Day 4 – Reaching Munnar via Ramakkalmedu
This less famous road to reach Munnar is one we highly recommend. Even though the distance is more, the scenic view that you are presented along this road is worth travelling the extra mile. To enjoy the trip to the fullest, depart from Vagamon early and enjoy the ride!
The first significant destination along this route is Ramakalmedu viewpoint, which gives a fantastic view of the neighbouring state, Tamil Nadu. Popularly known as the land of wind, it’s one amongst the best offbeat destinations in Idukki.
From here, the roads that lead to Munnar is called the Lockhart Gap Road, which will be one of the best routes you will be taking during this trip! The drive takes you through huge tea estates and misty hills. The Lockhart Tea Museum allows you to indulge in various activities of a tea factory. There are few trekking options along this road called Chokramudi, Kurusumalai Lockhart and Shivamudi.
The most important thing to keep in mind when in Munnar, is to make sure you don’t book accommodation in the centre, as it becomes very chaotic and noisy. There are many great resorts and homestays in Munnar located on the hills around. Another option is to find yourself a campsite and sleep more adventurous!
Day 5 – Munnar
For the first day, we are going to go adventurous and go camping at Top Station. The morning view from your tent is something you do not want to miss! On route, there are some breathtaking points to get down and watch some amazing views. Mattupetty dam, Echo point, Kundala Dam and Elephant Viewpoint are some of them. If you don’t feel like camping, you can head down to some beautiful homestays along the Vattavada village.
Day 6 – Munnar
After watching a beautiful sunrise from Top Station, we are heading down to a village called Kanthalloor. This tiny village with amazing landscapes has a wide variety of tropical crops. This also will be the perfect destination for your last day in Munnar. On route, we will pass Eravikulam National Park, which is the home to the endangered mountain goat Nilgiri Tahr. The sanctuary is spread across 97 square kilometres and has many trekking and hiking trails. This is also one of the spots where the blooming of Neelakurinji flower could be spotted, which happens only in 12 years!
One of the most famous jaggery (kind of natural sugar) is produced closeby in a village called Marayoor. The sugar cane used for the process is said to have a different flavour. You can visit the sugarcane farm and be a part of the production of this famous jaggery.
A few kilometres from Marayoor is a historical site where you can see Muniyara or Dolmens, which are megalithic monuments dated back to 2nd or 3rd BC. The best time to visit this place is during the evenings. For your last day around Munnar, we recommend staying in the village Kanthalloor.
Other activities in which can be done Munnar:
- Jeep safari at Kolukkumalai
- Trekking to Meesapulimala
Day 7 – Journey back to Fort Kochi or Airport via Idukki
On the last day of your trip, you can head down to Fort Kochi or Airport via Idukki. The Idukki Arch Dam is the biggest arch dam in India and is built in between two granite hills.
For a fantastic panoramic view of the surroundings, head over to a place called Calvary Mount, which will be the last destination in your trip. An inspiring place which will give you the extra energy for the final leg of your journey back to Fort Kochi!