Three weeks in Kerala
This itinerary gives you some interesting ideas on what to do in Kerala. It can be easily done in three weeks. If you are in a hurry, skip one or two destinations and it will fit into two weeks. Take it easy and it might take you forever.
Pack a tube of mosquito repellent cream - you may need it occasionally.
Kochi is the most preferred option as it is well connected by air, rail and road. See the Kerala page for more information on how to get in.
All the travel legs between the destinations can be done by bus and taxi or sometimes by rail. If you are on a low budget and have plenty of time, bus and rail will be fine, although sitting in a bus for five hours on a winding mountain road is not the most comfortable thing to do Kerala. Taxi is by far more comfortable than the buses but considerably more expensive (approx. 15 times). The itinerary will give you the mode of transport between the destinations, but feel free to substitute it by any other if you feel like it.
The itinerary leaves you enough time to discover all the destinations and stay at all for at least two nights.
Arrive at Kochi. Prepare to spend two days here as it is the second most important city on Western coast of India after Mumbai, with lots of sightings.
To continue the itinerary: Take the bus from the KSRTC or Kaloor bus terminal to Alappuzha (Alleppey), the starting point for the backwaters. Bus takes approx. two hours.
The best way to experience the backwaters is by renting your private house boat for a couple of days. Just imagine sitting on deck under the sun gliding through the canals and watching the palm trees, the rice fields, the birds, the forests, the small villages and the quietness. Or waking up at dawn looking out the window across the canal and seeing the palm trees beyond the fog, the sky slowly getting light and the sun coming out. What more do you want?
If possible book your boat through the Internet or a travel agent. It should be approx. €100/day for a decent boat including crew and all meals, though you can spend much more. One thing to look for is a boat with a solar panel to produce electricity, instead of a generator. It adds a lot to the romance if no noisy generator is on all night long.
Visit the Periyar Tiger Reserve near Thekkady. Though you won't see a tiger, there is plenty to see. Go on one of the early morning boat rides on the lake. The morning fog and dead trees in the water will form an eerie atmosphere. Be sure to book a seat on the roof, not inside. You will have a much better view from the top and they will check your tickets when entering the boat.
Get up early on the next day and do a three hour guided walk through the park. You are likely to see loads of different animals. If you are a little fortunate you will see elephants, the great Indian hornbill (bird), the giant squirrel, black monkeys and other animals. In the afternoon visit a spice garden and see where all these exotic spices grow. It will also be a pleasant walk through the forest.
Thekkady seems to be a good place to buy cashmere shawls. An 80% cashmere, 20% silk will be offered at 1200 INR, before bargaining. In other places they start at 2500 INR.
To continue the itinerary: Take a taxi to Munnar. Plan plenty of time, the route to Munnar is very scenic. If you like a spot or a view just ask the driver to stop for a while and enjoy it. Driving time is approx. four hours
Munnar is a sleepy town in the midst of tea plantations. Watch an actual tea factory in operation, from plucking the leaves to processing. Spend some time watching the Nilgiri Tahrs at the Eravikulam National Park. Enjoy the beautiful views from Top Station. Travel to these areas is best done by hiring a local Taxi/Jeep. Plan a full day to visit Top Station.
To continue the itinerary: Take a Munnar to Madurai Taxi (Tamil Nadu) and enjoy the scenic drive across the mountains (and pray the breaks won't give out) and through the low lands of Madurai. Travel time approx. six hours.
Along the route you will see many thatch roofed buildings where they make bricks. If you are going to stop to visit one be careful! If they offer to show you how they produce bricks make sure you ask if they will charge you for the two minute 'show.' After haggling the price down it was still the same as you pay for a 60 km taxi ride and you will be happy to still have your camera.
Kovalam is a beautiful stretch of beach near Trivandrum where rocky hills merge with the seashore, creating an area of unsurpassed beauty. The area has good quality hotels and Ayurvedic massage centers. Try a freshly made fruit salad right on the beach. Delicious!
Varkala beach is as beautiful, if not more beautiful than Kovalam beach. Laterite cliffs drop sharply into the sea, with a small strip of sandy beach at the base. The beach is less frequented by the tourist crowd and is an ideal location if one wants a quiet getaway.
To continue the itinerary: Back to Kochi by bus or taxi
Why not combine your Kerala trip for example with the Maledives, Sri Lanka or Dubai and spend all the money you saved in India? Or take a train to one of the many other exciting places in India, like Goa.