Kerala, “God’s Own Country”, brings in SO many tourists each year and I am going to share my Kerala backpacking tips & Kerala itinerary. It’s one of the most popular states in India and is considered less touristy than Goa and more “real India” (although in my opinion, all of India is “real”). I love when I get to take time to backpack India and Kerala is one of my favorite places.
I’ll use the goMowgli map to show you where each place is in the state. The popular spots to stop are Kochi, Alleppey, Thekeddy, Munnar, Kovalam, Trivandrum, Varkala, and Waynad. It’s a lot to see and we covered it on the tour in just under 10 days. I recommend more like 20 days to be honest if you’re going to hit all these places. We didn’t go to Wayanad, Kovalam, or Trivandrum, although I’ve been to 2 of those 3 before so will still discuss them.
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Kerala Backpacking Tips & Kerala Itinerary
UPDATE: As of 2018, goMowgli is currently no longer in service. For tours of India, I recommend G Adventure. Please see my list of the best G Adventures tours here.
Most likely, if you’re flying this will be your port of entry. The other option is Trivandrum but Kochi makes the most sense for most itineraries.
If you’re coming from Goa it might make sense to take the train to Kochi which I’ve done many times. It’s 17 hours from Thivim station. From Chennai as well you can take the train.
Kochi’s hot backpacking zone is called Fort Kochi and that’s where you’ll meet people. Marine Drive is cool but more residential. I used to stay there and have written quite a bit about Kochi which I’ll link below.
- With goMowgli, we did a few more things that I hadn’t tried yet which included a cooking class! The class was with Leelu, who is sited in Lonely Planet. It was great, although more of a demonstration than a class to participate. We had 6 girls, so perhaps if you are alone, it will be even better. The food was great. Leelu details: you can email to join a class at email@example.com. Located in Fort Kochi.
- Exploring Jew Town is not to be missed in Kochi. Although in the past there were many Jewish people living here, now there are only 6, and 70 in all of Kerala. Back in the day, the Maharaja (great king) built a synagogue right next to his palace and temple. He even crowned the torah. 5 Rs. entry fee to synagogue and very small museum, tips appreciated.
- You can check out Theyyem performances all over Kerala, just ask around.
- We also checked out a Kathakali traditional show at the Kerala Kathakali center. I’ve seen this a couple times, but it’s always different so feel free to check out more than one to see more stories. If you go half an hour early, you can watch them put their makeup on. Kathakali details: Near Santa Cruz Basilica, Fort Kochi. Buy tickets ahead of time which are 300 Rs.
- We went to the Kerala Folklore Museum, something I’d been wanting to do. It was unique for sure, but if you’re not into museums, it’s okay to skip. It’s 200 Rs. entry fee or extra if you take in a camera.
- They took us to a local fishing village was is the BEST thing to do in Kochi, and one of my favorite things I’ve done in Kerala. Read more here: Top secret #1 thing to do in Kochi
For a great hostel, check out Happy Camper which everyone in our group seemed quite pleased with and was centrally located. The cost was 450 Rs. per person for a hostel bed. I stayed in a private room with another girl.
If you’re staying in Fort Kochi, you’ll find many “intercontinental” restaurants are the same and can quickly use TripAdvisor to see the top ranked ones. We drove a little ways out to the most famous “puttu” place called Dhe Puttu which serves this famous Kerala dish of which I was not a fan, but everyone else loved.
For more on Kochi, check out these articles I’ve written in the past.
–Backwaters and Backalleys of Kochi
–But seriously, where’s the fort in Fort Kochi?
Alleppey is the place where people take houseboats on the backwaters. It’s one of the must do tourist attractions in India for Indian nationals and foreigners alike. Typically, a backpacker doesn’t miss doing this while in India. I wrote about what to expect on a houseboat in Alleppey.
This is where you can do your Indian Safari at Periyar National Park. You can trek, camp, and get into nature. The road here from Alleppey or Kochi is very windy! It takes about 4 hours from Kochi.
We stayed at Vedanta hostel which are all over Kerala and a decent option. It was 350 Rs. per night. They did forget to do my laundry, then try to pretend like it was clean but in the end I didn’t have to pay and it was fine.
For food, we tried Kuttanadu for local and the beef stew was SO GOOD! For western food, we hit up the pricey Cardomom Country which had really good pizza and burgers and a swimming pool! The hotel looked amazing here. Our Place is meant to have the best pizza but they were closed when we stopped by. The lady who owned it was really nice. I think she was English. She offered to make us anything we missed from home, even off the menu, when they opened that evening but we weren’t there to try it.
- You can ride elephants here but I don’t think it’s good as they are there only for tourists, are tortured to be as tame as they are, and unlike places like Dubare in Karnataka, they aren’t there for working in the forrest.
- Seeing the martial arts show was the coolest bit. My Kovalam friends call it “Keralan dance fighting” and it’s very unique – a must see! One second they are doing cartwheels and acting tame, the next a guy is tackled and pretending to have his head cut off, all to the tune of music. There’s also fire. Amazing. The cost here is 200 Rs.
- In the National Park you can trek, camp, and take boat safaris. We did a trek for 450 Rs. & bamboo boat safari. On the trek, they give you covers for your legs as pictured. Absolutely wear them to protect from leeches. The bamboo rafting was okay because we saw a wild mama elephant and her baby, but if you were unlucky to see nothing, it’s pricey at 1,500 Rs. There are government prices that cannot be negotiated. The trek lasted about 1.5 hours there and 1.5 back with the boat ride in between. A packed lunch was included and one water per person.
- Abraham’s Spice Plantation is available and was part of the goMowgli tour. The girls loved it, I skipped to catch up on work & because I’ve seen about 10 by now. The cost is 200 Rs.
- If you’re going to be adventurous in India, do get travel insurance. I use World Nomads which is what Lonely Planet recommends
The hill stations in the tea fields are really popular in Kerala, like everything else on this list. We actually went to Chinnakanal which is 20 km East of Munnar and escaped all the crowds. Read more about seeing the Kerala tea plantations here.
On the road, make sure to try a traditional Indian coffee house to get a dosa and chai! I also had a tasty omelette.
On the road between Munnar & Varkala we stopped at Aranmula Parthasarathy which is a temple that probably doesn’t have tourist bus access. It was one of the offbeat things goMowgli offered and was very cool. We were lucky enough to see the procession where each day for a month a different village is represented at the temple and shows up on a Keralan boat putting on a show for the crowd. It’s something not a lot of people will get to see! This temple is one of 108 that Hindu’s are meant to visit and it was neat to walk around the town as well. The tradition is over 1,000 years old.
The other place we stopped with goMowgli was a little mirror shop, unique in the fact they are the ONLY family left who makes mirrors this way, out of all metal. It was really cool to watch them work. If you want the perfect souvenir, this is it, and when you see how much work is put into it, 2,000 Rs. for a small one is a steal.
Kovalam is the top beach hangout and the closest you’ll get to Goa in Kerala. It’s a chilled out place but to be honest if you are spending a lot of time in Goa, my opinion is you can skip here. I’ve stayed a week in the past and wrote about it here: Kovalam beach tips. The best things to do in Kovalam to me is body surf on the huge waves and have half off sunset drinks at the Leela, which has the best view in town.
6. THIRUVANANTHAPURAM (Trivandum)
I am only mentioning this as a hub that you can fly in and out of and will maybe be your point of destination on the way to Kovalam if you go by train. The big thing to see here is the Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the richest place of worship in THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD, according to the Wikipedia page. Only Hindus can go inside.
I loved Varkala & wrote all about it on this article: Adventure sports in Varkala. It’s definitely a hotspot on the tourist trail, and is full of hippie backpackers surfing and partying the nights away.
This is my favorite green bikini from L*space which is my go-to brand for sporty stuff!
This is somewhere I haven’t been, but it didn’t feel right to not mention. It’s on my “must go” list in India mainly because there are treehouses in the jungle. There are indigenous tribal people living here, it’s high altitude in the Western Ghats, and is the least population region of Kerala. It borders Tamil Nadu & Karnataka and I actually saw a glimpse when I was in Karnataka at the Kabini River Jungle Lodge .
Prepare for your big Kerala backpacking trip:
I hope you enjoyed these tips and the 10 day Kerala itinerary! If you’re coming to India, make sure to start with planning out your itinerary, getting a visa, and packing the right things.
GETTING TO KERALA VIA FLIGHT: I recommend using Kiwi. They search all the low cost Indian airlines but give you European customer service. I am obsessed with them.
You’ll also want to read up on why you might want a Trabug phone, and these 100 tips for India travel. Don’t forget about these 7 off the beaten track places in Kerala, too. Click here to see my step by step guide to plan your India trip from scratch.
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This is somewhere I haven’t been ! nice blog.
I love your blog. I am an Indian but haven’t seen India really. I am here for a year before i go back to the west to continue studying, and I am kind of on a budget. Could you please tell me a little more about GoMowgli? How do their passes work? How much do they cost? Did you use gomowgli pass through out or did you have to take a car somewhere? I am thinking of leaving my job and taking up traveling for the next few months.
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I spent a month in Kerala back in January & I loved it! Didn’t see all of these places, but it gives me an excuse to go back :)
I also spent February & early March in Arambol, Goa as well. It was amazing!!! I could live there for sure :)
Awesome, it’s always good to have a reason to go back somewhere!
Your blogs help alot! Thanks. Going to India in August. Do you have a fb account?
I read your blog religiously last year when travelling around Northern India solo!
I am now wanting to go to Kerela with a group of friends and we were thinking of October/ November – is October still too rainy?
And if you had just 10 days with a group of 6-8, which places would you prioritise?
Yes it’ll be a great time to go! You can do this whole post in 10 days :) varkala, alleppy, and munnar are don’t misses.
I loved your blog, it was an eye-opener for me as I am travelling to Kerala for the first time .
It would be lovely if you could give some suggestions for solo-travelling/backpacking.
I am keenly interested in visiting the periyar national park and do some adventurous water activities, if you could elaborate about these two.
Oh no. Do know any other agency that provides similar services like gomowgli provides? Gomowgli provides hop on and off transportation only right, no accommodation and no food (for the 7-10 days kerala tour).
For me the transportation is the most important since it will be my first time in India and i have heard a lot about how unsafe it is for solo female traveler.
Hey – no sadly they were the first in India to try this and I think it didn’t take off as people wanted instead to do full tours. If you are worried about transportation read my posts on bus and train safety and booking tips. After the first one which can be nerve wrecking you’ll see it’s really easy and fun!
Hey Rachel! Are you able to disclose the location or any further details about the mirror shop you visited??
Hope you are great. I find your blog very useful in planning my solo trip to kochi/kerala. I checked out your post on the budget briefly and you mentioned that the cost would be about 1200 rupees a day. But the cost for goMowgli tour alone would be 16,000 for the 7-10 days excluding meal and accommodation. I reckon the total cost of my 9 days of travelling (excluding flight tics) there would be about 30,000 rupees?
The budget of 1200 Rupees a day is if you are an independent traveler staying in cheap guesthouses, eating local, and using local buses as transportation. Using gomowgli is a tour company, so yes it’ll increase your budget a lot. They are actually no longer around as a company (gomowgli) as of a couple months ago.
Hello! I am planning a trip to Kerala at the end of March for 2 weeks – will it be too hot and humid? Thanks :)
No March will be okay :)
Hey there! Thanks for your article (: I have 2 nights to spare between Munnar and Alleppey and I can’t decide between Kovalam and Varkala. Also, could you advise the best mode of transport from Munnar to either towns?
Taking a bus would let you be a little more flexible as you won’t have to book as far ahead as a train
All right, will check. Thanks!
Simply superb….I like the way you put up every minute information and experience with different people and tradition…I am going to start in next few days and you blog is my guide…ha ha thanks again…
hi Rachel, we are flying to Kerala from New Deli and need to return to New Deli for our flights home to Ireland. We will have around 10/12 days to explore Kerala. We were thinking of flying into Kochi and out of Trivandum airport back to New Deli. What do you think? is it a good idea?
I have plan to go for summer vacation and search for where to go and reached on your blog where I see Kerala is best place for holiday destination and I will plan for kerala in next week. Thanks for sharing amazing content and photos.
Kerala is truly God’s own country. Thank you for the great article.
Hi Rachel, I just love your post. Thanks for sharing all the important details about Kerala that will help others to choose the best destination in Kerala. Kerala tourism is purely based on its tradition and culture and you successfully pictured it in your blog.
Excellent write up Rachel. I am planning a 8-9 day trip in August. Will this be a good time to visit?
Hey, Nice blog. I really loved to read your post.
Thanks for sharing with us
Details are soo Good and very useful as im planning for a tour to Kerala.
Thank you for your great blog, it really helps my to plan my backpacking trip in december.
May can you give me some tips where I should go for some new year party or something like that? I’m backpacking alone in Kerala area.
Looking forward to hear from you, thank you!
Everything you have mentioned here about the Kerala. If anyone decided their trip toward Kerala so it is wonderful decision and you guidelines help them for making trip success.
Awesome post! In Kerala there have many beautiful places to visit for sightseeing, it’s very interesting and informative. Thanks for your amazing travel guide and your photos are mind-blowing.
Nice blog… I am proud to be a keralite
The blog is very interesting and informative.Through this blog we can get an idea about how to plan a vacation trip to Kerala.There are different tour operators in Kerala provided different tour packages for helping visitors.