Kerala is not for nothing known as God's own country, which has also discovered the tourism industry and with the slogan competes vigorously. Whether for a one day trip in Kerala or more there are a variety of tourist places that offers wonderful landscapes. The Kerala backwaters are an absolute highlight of every round trip through south India.
Day 1 - Arrival
We took the plane from New Delhi to get to Kerala. The plane takes off on time. Although the plane is half empty and I am comfortably stretched I do not close my eyes. On the flight, we were seated next to another couple. They were here on their honeymoon and after touring Rajasthan with an organized group, they now go for absolute relaxation in Kovalam, in an Ayurvedic resort a few steps from the sea.
The flight went very quickly, thanks to the wonderful conversation. With them, we shared our experiences, our impressions of the places we visited and the people we had met. Finally, they gave us some news that we were afraid of receiving. Just in these days on Kerala, a small monsoon is falling out of season.
From the window of the plane we see that the ground is wet, so it must not have rained long. We go down and the humidity, despite being 23, is really oppressive, as we had never heard in recent weeks. We requested the taxi service from the hotel and a guy was waiting for us outside the small Trivandrum airport. It's evening. Surely we have not even touched a main street of the capital, but we have not seen almost anyone on the street.
In the North, we have always met people on the street at any time and it is strange now to see the deserted streets and the dark houses. We immediately noticed that the asphalt here is in excellent condition and that the edges of the roads are definitely cleaner than anywhere in the North, where the only area that can be called clean is the Thar desert.
Coming down from the car we already hear the sound of the sea in torment, with a wonderful sound. Our room in the resort in Puthenthope is really very spacious and there is an outdoor area with deck chairs that seems to be right on the beach. But it's so dark that we cannot see more than a few inches of the patio. We decide to take a shower, which unfortunately proves to be freezing. We go immediately to sleep because we cannot wait to discover the view from our room. After turning off the light, a strong wind begins to blow and rain comes.
Day 2 - Trivandrum
At five o'clock we get up for breakfast and fortunately, on the table, there is some delicious fresh fruit and a freshly squeezed pineapple juice. We taste a local dessert, Kozhukkatta, wrapped in a leaf. It is made with steamed rice, coconut and cane sugar inside. It is very sweet but very good. I take the camera and walk barefoot in the stretch of palm forest that leads to the beach.
There are some fishermen right in front of us. I watch them from afar, they greet me. I move and they continue to untangle the net. Now it's sunny, it's very hot and a light breeze blows on the beach. The sand is fine, golden and inhabited by many small crabs that escape below the surface, as soon as I try to get closer. Finally, I put my feet in the sea, in the ocean. The water is hot too, but the sea is too rough to go for a swim.
The beach is wide and deserted, except for boats and fishermen. I keep walking for a while. Then I come back under the palm trees to protect myself from the scorching rays of the sun. I spent the day in total relaxation under the coconut trees, watching the slow flow of life of the fishermen on the beach.
We were not the only ones to follow carefully the meticulous work of the fishermen! Among the small animals in the sand, those in the sky and the boats there is always something to be observed on this beach, which even though it seems deserted is never really.
From the resort, we take a tuk-tuk which takes about half an hour to reach the city center (on the return it is necessary to negotiate a lot on the price). During the trip we had confirmation of the impression received the first evening. The roads are much cleaner and the traffic can be tackled even by ordinary mortals (even if you rent a scooter or a motorcycle).
The people are welcoming and almost all greet us with a smile. In the city, of course, the traffic situation becomes much more intense, but at least it seems that the rules of the road are mostly followed and there are no animals to complicate it all. We continue on Mahatma Gandhi Road to reach the Kerala tourism office, which is located in front of the entrance to the Trivandrum Zoo.
It did not take long to find it and for the first time, we managed to end up in the government tourist office and not in some self-styled tourist agency. Here the official filled us with brochures, maps, and information. He also went out on the street to stop a tuk-tuk that would take us to the train station (where we had to book tickets for the next day) asking him to do it at the right price!
Incredible India, finally we felt really welcome and serene! Arriving at the station we line up. After several minutes, dripping with sweat, jostling, we managed to ask for our ticket and the girl at the counter, abruptly, tells us that we cannot book. I try to ask if there is an office for reservations and the girl treats me worse than before saying to go away.
Definitely unmotivated we decide to resume another tuk-tuk to return to the zoo, hoping to find some shade in the trees. Shortly after the departure, I ask the driver if he knows an agency to book train tickets, and he tells us that it is not possible to book in the agency, but he has a friend at the station who can help us. He calls him and lets us know that the 6 o'clock train still has seats available, but in the lower class, the one without air conditioning.
We decide to go back and make the tickets with this friend of the driver. We arrive at the parking lot and the driver's friend hands us the paper to fill in with all the personal and travel data. Then he takes the money and after a while returns with the tickets. The whole thing lasted at least half an hour during while we were getting boiled under the sun. But he came back after a few minutes to announce that now even those tickets were not available.
We returned to travel to the zoo and at the end of the race, the driver asked us for a tip for the ticket service. Despite the humidity we found the strength to visit the Trivandrum Zoo. The entry price per person is only 10 Rupees and we have to pay a fee of 25 rupees for each camera.
Here we saw the beautiful Lion-tailed Macaque, many birds, a rhino, hippos and finally the tiger, but of course, I forgot to photograph it! All the animals seem well kept, but at the end of the visit, we were definitely dehydrated! Returning to the resort was an epic. The tuk-tuk driver did not even know where the resort area was. It took almost an hour to get back, but at least we took a trip around Trivandrum.
After arriving back we take our backpacks and moved towards Varkala. At our already booked resort, we go into our room and headed straight for dinner. In addition, we wanted to drink a cold beer, which proves quite cumbersome. Two hours later we left the restaurant satisfied and looked forward to the night in Varkala.
Day 3 - Thekkady
The next morning after breakfast we set off again. Our next destination was the Periyar National Park which was 200 km and 6 hours drive away. During the trip, we stopped at a bamboo grove where we could observe Hanuman langurs and passed paddy fields, forests, lakes and met cows and macaques on the road. We take accommodation in Thekkady at the resort which is really fantastic.
We were able to freshen up and went straight to a spice plantation. Here we were shown the many spices of the country like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and much more. Then we could ride for an hour on an elephant. The ride went through the spice plantation and through a wall area. In the hotel, we had a huge room with a great roof terrace. We have a shower, and dinner with the spicy noodles with vegetables! And then go to bed, as the visits begin tomorrow.
Day 4 - Periyar National Park
We start climbing towards the mountains. We begin to glimpse plantations of coffee and then tea, forests, and monkeys. We had booked a jeep safari, jungle walk, and a boat tour. Unfortunately, we were a bit disappointed with this day tour. After we got up at five, we drove for a long time only on the road to have at least one or two other jeeps in the reserve. Of course, the animals prefer to stay somewhere where it is quiet.
After breakfast we went to the jungle walk. That was more to our liking, as we moved slowly and quietly through the forest in a smaller group. The walk leads us along the elephant paths, which were surprisingly narrow, devoured and above all steep. Alone we have nothing but a few butterflies and lizards. We hiked for 2 hours through the nearby jungle where there is still a small occurrence of tigers, but you have to be very lucky to find it.
Unfortunately, we were not lucky, but we still got the proof that the tigers still exist. We found a footprint of a tiger, which I thought was really cool. Otherwise, we encountered some sambar deer. We make the excursion on Periyar lake seeing elephants, bison, deer, antelopes, and in short, different animals.
We spent the rest of the day in town and bought some souvenirs. In the evening we looked at something, which sounded a bit strange at first. From the roof of our hotel, we see a huge procession of bats. And indeed, the sun was almost gone when the first came. And there were more and more. It was very impressive how the bats flew over us in their somewhat lanky style.
We looked forward to the night, for which we wanted to do a patrol from 10 to 1 o'clock. And that was really worth it. We had two guides with us. In addition to the beautiful starry sky, we see the Sambar (usually the eyes), a giant porcupine, a mongoose, a civet cat and finally a super sweet owl, who looked at us with her big eyes, and probably wanted to know who bothered her in her night's sleep.
Day 5 - Alleppey Backwaters
Around six we take an elephant ride! We got up half an hour before the others and went to the reserve and they loaded us on these mastodons! I enjoyed myself even if in narrow paths. After a 4 hour drive, we reach Alappuzha or Alleppey, the main gateway to the famous backwaters. At the bus stop, we are approached by innumerable houseboat landlords and are very glad to have already booked one.
Since we are to check in at noon on our houseboat, we still have time to explore Alappuzha. Our driver brings us to the lighthouse, which was built in 1862 and is considered the main attraction of the place. We take off our shoes and climb up the steep stairs. From the top, there is a wide view of the sea with the ruined pier and lush vegetation, from which stands out here and there a church tower, a minaret or an antenna.
On the way to the boat, we stop at a shop. We see how the delicious Kerala banana chips are made. They are seasoned with spices. These are also a kind of sweet jelly fruits. After tasting we buy 2 large bags and then go to the meeting point for the houseboat.
We are already expected and immediately we board a small boat that brings us to the houseboat. We are surprised when we refer to "our" kettuvallam (typical boat of the place). It is huge, 2 storey high and has a viewing deck in the upper area with comfortable sun loungers in the front area. All around are upholstered benches. In the lower area is a large dining table and also upholstered benches on the sides.
The crew consists of the captain and cook. The cook shows us our bedroom with bathroom. The bathroom has a bathtub and running hot water. The bedroom has air conditioning, which is only turned on when the ship anchors. Then there is electricity from the shore. I like the kitchen. It is sparkling and tidy and the young cook is about to prepare the lunch.
However, my favorite spot is the sundeck. We also see many other houseboats. Occasionally raindrops fall and the light airstream is very pleasant in the oppressive sultriness. A few hours on the water vehicle and we seem to be in a land of slow-flowing time. Every now and then, the brightly colored facade of a residential building or shop in the green thicket flashes on the shore.
At a leisurely speed, our houseboat chugs along the channels of the backwaters. We lie on soft mats enjoying the scenery of glistening water, rolling palm trees and little houses on the shore. We are supplied on board with typical dishes of Kerala. In a small shop by the canal, we buy big prawns and mango juice for dinner and our cook even gets bottles of beer for us!
We have lunch on board with food cooked by sailors (rice with dal, potato curry, zucchini, and carrots). For lunch we anchor briefly, then it goes on leisurely. We pass rice fields with big bird swarms. Just before dusk, we anchor at an anchorage where we will spend the night with a few other houseboats. We get into a conversation with the neighbors. We use the last daylight to go ashore and stretch our legs.
People live and work on the narrow causeway between rice fields and the canal. Small shops and an Ayurveda massage center are waiting for customers. After experiencing a spectacular sunset on the backwaters there is dinner on our houseboat. Delicious curry with rice and papadam and a cold beer are already waiting for us. The chef is really good.
Without the sun, it quickly gets dark around us and the atmosphere is different again than during the day. The crickets chirp. Here and there a fish jumps out of the water and otherwise it is very quiet. We talk a bit more with the neighbors before going to sleep. At night, the motor boats are not allowed to drive. So our boat is quiet on the shore and nothing disturbs the idyll.
Day 6 - Alappuzha
At sunrise, everybody gets awake at the same time. It is raining and we are happy to have a roof over our heads. The breakfast is like the other meals lovingly prepared and very sumptuous. We pack our things and then we leave already and go towards Alappuzha. The driver is already waiting for us at the dock and we go towards the hotel. We have a great time to do some sightseeing on the way.
We visit the Thiruvilakku Kshethram temple. Then the Kidangamparambu Sree Bhuvaneswari Temple and the Holy Family Church. We arrive at our hotel in Alleppey. It is very spartan, but we do not need more than a bed, a fan, and a bath. At the hotel, they welcome us with delicious mango juice. Finally, we can relax a bit, because the marches we had done in recent days in the heat had tired us a lot.
It is really fantastic even if the humidity of the place is scary. We are on the 35 degrees of very wet heat that makes us sweat profusely. We strolled towards the harbor promenade and got to see our first Bollywood film shoot. There was a lot going on, loud music, and a beautiful actress, and a lot of dancing. For lunch, we were served on a banana leaf. After lunch, I gnawed at the bark of a cinnamon tree, clove, cardamom and tasted the fresh pepper.
Before dinner, we attend typical dances and then we go to bed, permanently shredded by the heat. A small gecko gives us company in the bathroom.
Day 7 - Kumarakom
We see a fantastic sunrise, amidst fog and tall palm trees. At 8 o'clock, after breakfast, (it's the first morning that we do not get up at 6) we take the boat that brings us back to Alleppey pier. We reached the others and left for Kumarakom where we arrive after going through tea and coffee plantations, and visiting a Catholic church.
Before arriving at Kumarakom I have a very spicy masala chai that was really good. At Kumarakom, we stay at the hotel. It is very nice and very clean, where we eat very well. It's a hotel on the lake and in the afternoon we start navigating in the waters of the lake itself. I also drive the boat. The scenery is really enchanting even if the humidity is just as remarkable.
It is all full of wild hyacinths that bloom in a thousand blue flowers. Herons stalk through the water in the shallow shore regions, always in search of crabs and shells. From time to time, a kingfisher flies past with metallic blue shiny plumage and suddenly jump out of the water. There are a few ibis and egrets and a swarm of bees (which suddenly appeared above us).
We have abandoned the temples and now we begin to see the inland waters, the backwaters, which are channels where life takes place daily on the water.
Day 8 - Kochi
The minibus takes us to Kochi, a city on the Arabian sea. We reached Kochi after about two hours by bus. We arrive in Cochin around noon and our driver is on hand to take us to Fort Kochi. We immediately notice how green everything is here. We drive past Cochin and catch a glimpse of the skyline in the distance. It is a beautiful and very clean city.
We drive from the Bolgatty island with a ferry directly to Fort Kochi. After checking in at the hotel, we do not waste any time and after a quick refreshment and snack, explore Fort Kochi. We visit the Jew Town, the synagogue, and the St. Francis church where the remains of Vasco de Gama were kept. We stroll through the old Jewish quarter where there are many nice little shops.
Almost all salespeople talk to us and try to get us into their store. They are very polite and leave us alone if we go further. Later, on the way to the hook in Andhakaranazhi, we see Chinese fishing nets that we find far more attractive. We visit the Mattancherry Palace, a Dutch museum that shows the art as well as some portraits, stories, and relics of the kings of Cochin. Unfortunately, it is not air-conditioned, so we break off at some point completely sweaty.
Around 18 we go to attend the sacred kathakali at the dance theater that uses the art of mudra (the composition of expressions made with hands). The show is fascinating for lights, colors, and sounds but it takes a little longer. Positive characters have the face painted green, while the negative ones are painted black.
Back at the hotel we first drink a beer on the terrace overlooking the harbor entrance. After a lengthy internet search, we ended up booking a homestay at Munnar for the next day that offered a really interesting package. The package included a taxi transfer from Cochin to Munnar but we choose the bus. The place is not as cheap as the one here, but the description of the host family was inviting.
Later, at dinner in our hotel restaurant, we enjoy a colorful sunset overlooking the incoming and outgoing ships and fishing boats. The dinner at the hotel is good and then we sleep early at 9.30 because the alarm is at 3 am! Munnar is our next stop.
Day 9 - Cochin - Munnar
The taxi came to pick us up at four o'clock. At the last second, we reached the bus station in Ernakulam (the modern part of Cochin). In the pouring rain, we drove high into the mountains and the journey to reach Munnar became more and more tortuous as we climbed. On this road, we see some spectacular villas. During the trip, we also met a colorful religious procession with strange mythological characters.
From the beginning, we understood that the manager is a very precise and professional person. An SMS text arrived asking us if we thought about having dinner at the homestay or not. I loved his way of working right away. There are different waterfalls in the area and we have seen one, the Attukad Waterfalls, just as we arrived in Munnar.
When we arrived it was already dark. They gave us the time to settle down in the cozy room and then they served us dinner on the terrace. The view was not that great. After dinner, the manager brought us a map to show us what were the points of greatest interest and to help us plan the following day. We could visit the Eravikulam National Park.
We had booked a trekking tour for the next morning at 5 o'clock on the mountains and in the tea plantations. It includes watching the sunrise from high on the mountain. We immediately started to get to know each other by telling each other's experiences of travel and in less than no time, it was already time to go to sleep.
Day 10 - Munnar
Punctually at 5 o'clock the next morning, we waited with another couple for the arrival of our guide, who was already there at 5:45 o'clock at the agreed meeting place. His late arrival saved us the passage to the mountain and a considerable part of the first ascent. The morning of our tour began with the spectacular view of trees full of huge beehives.
It is very common to see them so impressive and it is an opportunity for some local sellers to position themselves at the base of these trees in order to sell their honey. The first place we have stopped is the Mattupetty Dam. With calm, we then moved to go to the Echo Point. As soon as we arrived, the large number of stalls suggested that it is difficult to find the uncrowded place.
Every ten seconds a tourist screams something and another echoes it. Is the most popular gag, observable dozens of times in a few minutes. The line to try to test their ability to produce the echo is long, but it is fun to watch others. After the performance one is awarded the title of success or sad loser that is covered with laughter and teasing.
Instead, we decided to try coconut water. The gentleman did not have a reassuring expression and seeing him handle a machete did not improve the situation! The coconut we tasted, or rather the coconut water, had no particular flavor, just a slight sweetish aftertaste.
After the sunrise, we went along the ridge from peak to peak. Every now and then we were interrupted by small breaks to search the legs for leeches. There was plenty of that up there. Back in Munnar we looked for another room with a wonderful view over the valley and settled there before we made our way back to the coast. We got back in the car and on our way we saw another part of the lake, plantations, a greenhouse garden open to the public.
Then we passed also near the valleys where the local farmers grow vegetables. From above the geometric vision is really colorful. Within a few meters, the landscape has completely changed! From sunny and lit it has become hazy and gloomy. The change was almost sudden and we asked to stop and fully enjoy this magical show. Standing in the clouds, with the geometry of the plantations that surrounded us was a fantastic feeling.
Of course, without the fog, it gains the landscape in the distance, but so it was a really fascinating way to see these hills. We also spotted a cow between a cloud and another and we also met a little horse that was eating some grass on the side of the road. Starting again the driver had warned us that almost certainly there would be fog at the Top Station, but we decided to try the same.
The so-called "Top Station" is the highest point (1700 meters above sea level) of the Munnar-Kodaikanal road. From here we can enjoy a breathtaking view of the neighboring state, Tamil Nadu. In addition, this region is home to the Neelakurinji, a plant that blooms only every twelve years, coloring the hills with blue. The cars stop a certain point. We have gladly done this little route, despite the fog.
The descent even if it can sometimes be dangerous is certainly not tiring. But to make it even more exhilarating were a group of boys who stopped halfway to take a little breath, singing and dancing! We set off again and it did not take long to reach the observation point, obviously at that moment completely immersed in the fog.
We waited several minutes in the hope that the sky would open, but there was no way to see over a few dozen meters. The return, uphill, was really challenging. Personally I thought several times to abandon myself on the edge of the path, but slowly, stop after stop, I made it to reach the entrance again.
Going down we stopped at the second lake, the Kundala Dam. The particularity of the woods surrounding the lakes and other regions of the area is given by the presence of very tall and slender paper trees. The last stop of the day was the tea museum designed by Tata. At the end of the tour a glass of chai is offered that we did not like very much. But we were really satisfied by the demonstration of the process of processing the leaves.
We left the museum and it was already past closing time and we headed back to the homestay. For dinner we had a great meal in the company of the few boys and a couple. We spent the time after dinner with an exchange of opinions. We had the opportunity to taste some very good local fruits like chikoo, which we could not have discovered without their help.
Day 11 - Calicut
We leave Munnar after breakfast and reached Calicut around 19:00 clock. From there the journey to the resort at Wayanad took another 3 hours. Despite our very late arrival, we were greeted well in the resort and even prepared a dinner for us. After the meal we were taken to our very special accommodation. We were supposed to stay in a tree house built 20m in a treetop.
From the front desk it was another 10 minutes drive in a jeep to the tree house. After arriving at the tree house that stood at the foot of the tree, a small cage with a pulley pull us up. The tree house was huge and equipped with a large bed, a bathroom with shower and toilet and a telephone. Since it was already dark and after the long journey we fell asleep quickly.
Day 12 - Wayanad
The next day we hiked through the mountains of Wayanad where the resort is located. The landscape is really beautiful and varied. We passed tea plantations, dense rainforest, crossed small rivers and removed leeches from our legs. So the exhausting day before was forgotten very quickly. Back at the resort, we were able to see how beautiful it is.
Every time we wanted to leave the tree house we had to call the front desk and the staff hurried over to pull us down. Through the terrain flows a river over which an adventurous suspension bridge was stretched. The dining room has been integrated into the landscape in classic Indian style. It is an oasis of peace in the middle of the rainforest. The delicious dinner was served by a campfire. It was a perfect end to the holiday.
Day 13 - Back Home
I slept very well till the alarm rings. We get up and had the shower. Then we have breakfast at 3.30 and at 4 go up on the bus that will take us to the airport where we arrive at almost 8.